A recent Spectator article making the rounds claims that we found WMD sites in Iraq after all, but a bipartisan conspiracy has worked to hide this fact, since it vindicates the original case for war, but also makes the administration look even more inept, as it turns out we failed to secure said sites in time, allowing their contents to fall into the hands of Nefarious Parties. Glenn Greenwald notes that there’s plenty of reason to doubt this. Beyond its facial implausibility (that’s a fairly big secret to keep), the lone source for it, David Gaubatz, appears to be batshit insane.
But if it were true, would it, in fact, vindicate the case for war? I doubt it: I think it may seem that way because the administration has been proven so much more wrong and incompetent than even war critics anticipated that we’ve forgotten the shape of the pre-war debate. Back in 2002, recall, many (and perhaps most) mainstream war critics were willing to stipulate that Iraq either had or at least might have chemical biological weapons—somewhat misleadingly lumped in with nukes under the rubric of “WMD.” The argument, rather (concordant with the CIA’s own analysis, as I recall) was that Hussein was highly unlikely to either use these weapons directly against Americans or to transfer them to terrorists, except in the event of invasion, in which case they might be passed off in desperation or seized amid the chaos by non-state actors. So in the unlikely event that this nutjob is on the level, the only thing it validates is… what opponents of the war were saying in 2002. The only thing that could make this seem remotely like a vindication of the case for war is what Bush has so memorably dubbed “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” It looks as though expectations, even among the president’s most ardent supporters, have fallen low indeed.
Update: I think Megs is glossing over the crucial step in this argument: I’m not saying “the war would’ve been a mistake even if there were WMD, so who cares?” I’m saying that since this particular “there were WMD!” narrative includes the idea that the invasion led to the stockpiles falling into the hands of Syria (at best!) and God-knows-who-else, it would confirm the predictions of the doves even if it were true. I realize I’m not the modal voter, and that many people didn’t share my view that Iraq, even with WMD, was not a serious threat. But I’m also supposing that many of those folks would have opposed the war if they had agreed with the assessment that invasion had a high risk of resulting in the transfer of any such weapons from a bad-but-deterrable state to crazy-and-undeterrable terrorists.