- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 28, 2003

Starting in the summer of 2002, our “allies,” the French, Germans, and most of “Old Europe” used every forum they could find to stay “the rush to war” in Iraq. Encouraged by massive anti-American protests on the streets of European capitals, French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder repeatedly urged the United States and Great Britain to delay plans for military action against Saddam Hussein until the U.N.’s super-sleuth, Hans Blix, had “completed” his search for Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) in Iraq.

U.S. frustration with the snail’s pace at which Mr. Blix was pursuing his mission was dismissed as “saber rattling” in Paris, Berlin, Brussels and the U.N. cocktail party circuit. Now, those same voices that preached patience before going to arms are unwilling to wait for a full and careful search for Saddam’s WMD stockpiles. If we are to believe Mr. Blix, Sen. Robert Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, most of the Democratic candidates for president and the New York Times, significant stockpiles of nerve agents, biotoxins and nuclear weapons must be found in the next few days or it’s curtains for American credibility.

As might be expected, the amiable, bumbling, and soon-to-be-retired Swedish diplomat has become the hero of the moment for the “Blame America First” crowd. As he prepares to vacate his posh digs overlooking the East River, Mr. Blix has been conducting a series of exit interviews and soirees in Manhattan. He has found sympathetic audiences at the New York Times, and the Council on Foreign Relations and now threatens to publish his memoirs. And he is using the occasions to take a few parting shots at the “bastards” in the Bush administration. “I have my detractors in Washington,” Hans huffed, while courageously claiming indifference. He then whined that “the [Bush] administration leaned on us,” told “a lot of fairy tales” that were “totally unfair” and accused the administration of believing the U.N. Security Council is “a hopeless institution.” Well, at least he got that part right.

Mr. Blix may indeed have his detractors in Washington, but his animosity for the administration is matched in fever and pitch by Democrats searching for the president’s Achilles’ heel. The cheerleader in charge is Mr. Byrd, who claims the president is “intent on revising history” and suggests the administration “bent, stretched, or massaged” intelligence reports “to make Iraq look like an imminent threat to the United States.”

The former Ku Klux Klansman says he wants an “immediate investigation,” because “the administration’s rhetoric played upon the well-founded fear of the American public about future acts of terrorism,” and such statements are “just sound bites based on conjecture.”

Messrs Blix and Byrd sound a lot alike — and one wonders if they’re suffering from the same malady — a detachment from reality. Part of that reality is that by the time Operation Iraqi Freedom was launched on March 20, 2003, it was, in the words of one of the Marines I interviewed outside of Baghdad, “the most telegraphed punch in military history.”

Saddam Hussein had more than five months to destroy, remove or hide anything he wanted before U.S. and British troops arrived on his doorstep.

But even with all the time Saddam had to dispose of the evidence, there is still much that has been found to validate prewar claims by the Bush and Blair administrations. In several live broadcasts on Fox News, I reported on the terror-bomb jackets, terrorist training manuals and large numbers of foreign terrorists at Salman Pak. I also showed the chemical protective equipment, atropine injectors and chemical warfare manuals that U.S. forces found in numerous places in Iraq.

Other embedded correspondents described trace elements of chemical agents in the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. A thoroughly cleaned bioweapons lab, found by U.S. Army troops, matched the prewar description offered by Secretary of State Colin Powell. Significant quantities of castor beans have been found, which can be used among other things, to produce ricin — a deadly biological toxin.

The Blix & Byrd dynamic duo have allies in their effort to discredit the administration. U.S. Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, as part of his outreach to antiwar Democrats, called for “regime change” in the White House, and now insists he too is the victim of a misinformation campaign orchestrated by President George W. Bush. “He misled every one of us,” Mr. Kerry claims — as he backpedals from his vote in favor of using force to bring down Saddam. The Massachusetts liberal is joined in the attack by former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich, and Florida Sen. Bob Graham — all hoping to punch holes in President Bush’s approval ratings.

Those who seek advantage in trying to diminish the threat Saddam once posed to the United States — whether it be for personal presidential ambitions — or their upcoming memoirs — may yet want to bite their tongues. This week, U.S. forces turned up more proof Saddam continued to covertly pursue nuclear ambitions while Mr. Blix headed the International Atomic Energy Agency. The evidence — hardware and documents — were found in the backyard of Mahdi Shukur Obeidi, an Iraqi scientist who was at the heart of Saddam’s efforts to enrich uranium before the first Gulf war.

While this “find” may not be the “smoking gun” critics are looking for, it underscores the belief Saddam went to great lengths to hide, destroy or relocate his weapons before we arrived. Before we leave, it’s more than likely we will find much more.

Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist and the founder and honorary chairman of Freedom Alliance.

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