Charles Krauthammer points his keen analytical mind toward David Kay's resignation, and briefly and accurately makes the case -- as others have -- that despite Kay's finding no massive stockpiles of WMDs in Iraq, that which Kay actually found justified deposing Saddam Hussein:
First, and most trumpeted, he did not find "large stockpiles of newly produced weapons of mass destruction." He did find, as he reported last October, WMD-related activities, from a very active illegal missile program to research and development ("right up until the end") on weaponizing the deadly poison ricin (the stuff London police found on terrorists last year). He discovered "hundreds of cases" of U.N.-prohibited and illegally concealed activities.
* * * *
Secretary of State Colin Powell correctly makes the case that this very fact -- the concealment of both the weapons and their possible destruction -- clearly justifies the legality of the Iraq war, since the terms of the 1991 cease-fire placed the positive obligation on Iraq to demonstrate its own disarmament. It clearly and repeatedly failed to do that.
But beyond the legal question is the security question. People forget that when the Bush administration came into office, Iraq was a very unstable place. Thousands of Iraqis were dying as a result of sanctions. Containment necessitated the garrisoning of Saudi Arabia with thousands of "infidel" American troops -- in the eyes of many Muslims, a desecration (cited by Osama bin Laden as his No. 1 reason for his 1996 "Declaration of War" on America). The no-fly zones were slow-motion war, and the embargo was costly and dangerous -- the sailors who died on the USS Cole were on embargo duty.
Until Bush got serious, threatened war and massed troops in Kuwait, the U.N. was headed toward loosening and ultimately lifting sanctions, which would have given Hussein carte blanche to regroup and rebuild his WMDs.
Bush reversed that slide with his threat to go to war. But that kind of aggressive posture is impossible to maintain indefinitely. A regime of inspections, embargo, sanctions, no-fly zones and thousands of combat troops in Kuwait was an unstable equilibrium. The United States could have either retreated and allowed Hussein free rein -- or gone to war and removed him. Those were the only two ways to go.
Krauthammer also rightly dispells the meme that Bush simply made up the WMD story ("cooking the books") about the to justify the war:
But Kay makes clear that President Bush was relying on what the intelligence agencies were telling him. Kay contradicts the reckless Democratic charges that Bush cooked the books. "All the analysts I have talked to said they never felt pressured on WMD," says Kay. "Everyone believed that [Iraq] had WMD."
That includes the Clinton administration. Kay told The Post he had found evidence that Hussein had quietly destroyed some biological and chemical weapons in the mid-1990s -- but never reported it to the United Nations. Which was why President Bill Clinton in 1998 declared with great alarm and great confidence that Hussein had huge stockpiles of biological and chemical arms -- "and some day, some way, I guarantee you he'll use the arsenal."