In today’s edition of Slate Magazine, Christopher Hitchens chides The New York Times for getting the story about systematic looting at Iraqi weapons sites “upside down”. Hitchens argues that while the failure of coalition forces to secure the arms is problematic, the real story is that Saddam did posesss WMD. He asks:
How can it be that, on every page of every other edition for months now, the New York Times has been stating categorically that Iraq harbored no weapons of mass destruction?
Now, if one didn’t understand the situation in Iraq from the 1980s to the present, this certainly would sound like a good question. However, if one doesn’t understand such things, it’s usually better not to let it be known through a widely-read column.The answer, by the way, to Hitch’s question: after the Gulf War, critical components of the sites were disabled, destroyed, or removed, and UN monitoring began. Thus, not only did Iraq not have weapons of mass destruction, but the facilities for developing WMDs were useless to Hussein. He simply could not have used them to create WMDs. This position is even supported by the Bush administration, which has both noted Hussein’s desire to obtain WMDs and admitted that after an exhaustive search, none could be found.
As though that weren’t enough, Hitch offered another stupid question:
The U.N. inspectors, who are solemnly quoted by Glanz and Broad as having ‘monitored’ the alarming developments at Al Hatteen and elsewhere, don’t come out looking too professional, either. If by scanning satellite pictures now they can tell us that potentially thermonuclear stuff is on the loose, how come they couldn’t come up with this important data when they were supposedly ‘on the ground’?
Answer: The materials in question were present prior to the American invasion. They disappeared between the removal of the inspectors one day prior to the invasion and the securing of the facilities by American forces months later. The inspectors don’t look stupid– we do.