The Saddam WMD tapes: smoking gun or cap pistol?
The WMD tapes story that aired last night contained no smoking gun. In fact, as presented on Nightline, it was almost a nonevent. Sandwiched between Dick Cheney's hunting accident and another feature, the story was given short shrift.
So, how are we to evaluate whether the tapes have any meaning or not? The people behind the release of the tapes--a former weapons inspector named Bill Tierney and attorney John Loftus--have both been labeled as having a few skeletons in the closet.
Loftus's official bio, found on the website of the group with which he's affiliated ("The Intelligence Summit"), seems on the up and up. But then again, so did Ramsey Clark's--for a while. A quick Googling of Loftus reveals only vague charges of sketchiness from various critics on the left (if you have something more specific, please let me know).
As for Bill Tierney, the situation is similar, although there's a bit more to go on there. He's been fingered as a demonstrator on the right during the Schiavo affair (oh, no![/sarcasm off]), and as a believer in his own ESP. His biography seems otherwise rather impressive, but that doesn't really tell us much about the man.
So I'll just stick to what I heard on Nightline. Brief though the presentation was, it indicated the following (assuming the tapes are authentic, which they so far appear to be):
(1) Saddam had the will, determination, and ability to reconstitute his WMD programs, just as the Duelfer Report alleged.
(2) Saddam had the will, determination, and ability to deceive the weapons inspectors.
Most reports on these tapes are short, and emphasize the fact that they contain no information about events immediately prior to the Iraq War. That is certainly true. Nightline indicated (without being extremely precise on the matter) that the tapes were made mainly during the mid-90s. And this very short Newsweek piece emphasizes the age of the tapes. However, the Intelligence Summit website states that the tapes continue into the year 2000, which certainly would make some of them far more relevant to the question of later events.
I will be interested in knowing whether there is anything further these tapes will end up revealing. According to the Intelligence Summit website, there will be an unveiling and discussion this coming Saturday. But don't expect that event to be covered by the MSM in any more depth than the original Swift Vets' news conference was.
I have no idea how this will pan out. It may wind up like so many previous WMD "smoking guns"--a cap pistol.
But if all that the tapes ever reveal is what was shown on Nightline last evening, I think they still tend to bolster the WMD argument rather than negate it. Certainly, they substantiate the Duelfer report's conclusions about the dangers of the fact that Saddam could easily reconstitute his weapons programs.
For me, this is actually enough. For me, the combination of the human rights benefits of liberating (yes, I do still use that word) the Iraqi people from Saddam's violent and tyrannical regime, coupled with his clear intent to restart his weapons programs as soon as his European friends helped the sanctions to be lifted, coupled with his clear violations of UN resolutions and inspections, were enough to justify the invasion.
But hey, that's just me--and after all, what would you expect? I'm a neocon.