- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 5, 2003

Immediately after the Japanese surrender, Capt. Gordon H. Dinsmoor poured his U.S. Army ordinance company onto an LST in Okinawa and headed for the Japanese home islands. Ordinance specialists were among the very first U.S. forces assigned to the occupation since it was their assignment to find and destroy Japanese arms and munitions as soon as possible.
Capt. Dinsmoor's company was assigned to Sendai, a moderate-sized city 200 miles north of Tokyo on the Pacific coast. Their center of attention was a Japanese army ordinance factory at Sendai, but they also were responsible for cleaning up whatever was hidden away in the area. The Japanese people were under a requirement to turn in anything lethal, and Capt. Dinsmoor's company disposed of that.
What surprised the Army ordinance team was the sheer volume of what they found. Before they arrived, Army intelligence had given them the best data they had and what to expect. In fact, the ordinance team found roughly 10 times what Intelligence said was in the area. The munitions factory had been making artillery shells for the Japanese army and literally tons of explosives were still in place. With Japan about to be flooded with American servicemen, the opportunities for crude land mines and homemade bombs was almost endless.
When the ordinance team set off some explosives hidden away in a cave, it turned out this batch was connected to a much larger cache. When they set off their charges, the entire mountain almost went up.
It now appears the United States is about to repeat this operation disarm a dangerous foe. In retrospect, Capt. Dinsmoor had it easy. He had his orders: "You're in charge. You find it. You destroy it." His successors may or may not have similar orders.
After Saddam Hussein falls, there will be a lot of attention paid to the U.S. humanitarian mission in Iraq. However, that is not why we are putting our finest young men and women in harm's way or asking the American taxpayer for $100 billion. We believe the Suddam regime is a life-or-death threat to the American people, our allies and friends abroad. Even with Saddam and his closest cronies in custody or otherwise gone from the scene, the hidden weapons of mass destruction they leave behind are still extremely dangerous. As Secretary of State Colin Powell demonstrated at the U.N. Security Council, it doesn't take much, a little vial, to cause mass murder. Saddam's weapons of mass destruction must be found, they must be contained, they must be destroyed, and it all has to happen quickly and thoroughly.
Unless President Bush takes early, decisive action, all our sacrifices may be in vain and Saddam's WMDs will live to see another day in other equally treacherous hands. The critical question is this: Who is in charge of the WMD postmortem? The United States and Britain or Hans Blix and Co.?
To put it bluntly, we are at this moment of historical peril precisely because the "international inspections regime" has failed spectacularly over the past 2 decades. And, equally bluntly, Mr. Blix is the poster child for the triumph of process over substance as we approach critical mass. The international inspections regime is incompetent, it is tainted and it is penetrated. One only has to listen to former U.N. inspector David Kay discuss his problems with Mr. Blix in 1991 to know what is amiss.
Why would Mr. Blix have a claim to be in charge of finding Iraq's WMD programs after Saddam? Because possession is nine-tenths of the law. Mr. Blix and the International Atomic Energy Agency have had the U.N. mandate to walk around in Iraq and report what they find. To some people, success or failure is beside the point. It's process that counts.
Who would want Mr. Blix in charge? Certainly those with the guiltiest consciences will be his promoters. If a country is worried that a real inspection would find something it shipped to Iraq ended up in a WMD plant or a conventional military facility, then Mr. Blix and Co. should have the assignment.
What could we anticipate from a Blix-run inspection regime in a post-Saddam Iraq? The great likelihood is that a real inspection of post-Saddam Iraq would be a rerun of Sendai in 1945: We would find tons of dangerous materials and weapons we didn't expect and weapons programs we never knew existed. Mr. Blix and his colleagues would be under enormous conflicts of interest. There would be great temptation to (1) not find things and (2) declare inconsequential whatever was found.
If the post-Saddam inspection/destruction program is not done thoroughly and competently, there is every risk of his WMDs being smuggled out and used by someone else.
Mr. Blix is not the man for post-Saddam Iraq.

William C. Triplett II is a defense writer in Washington.

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