- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 7, 2003

Last week, David Kay, the head of Iraqi Survey Group (ISG) presented its interim findings on Saddam Hussein’s weapons programs to Congress. Several newspapers headlined the ISG’s failure to find illicit arms, and some members of Congress used that claim to attack the administration’s credibility. While the unclassified portion of the ISG report does indicate that some of the administration’s prewar claims were wrong, it also vindicates the substance of the reasons it gave for launching the war — that Saddam was intent on acquiring weapons of mass destruction in defiance of U.N. resolutions.

ISG teams were not able to corroborate the mobile biological weapons production efforts referenced by Secretary of State Colin Powell. Nor did Mr. Kay make reference to either smallpox or Ebola. However, ISG teams found evidence of research on Congo Crimean Hemorrhagic Fever, which is related to Ebola. They also found a vial of living Clostridium botulinum, which could have been grown to produce the bacteria’s nerve toxin. Perhaps most importantly, ISG teams uncovered a network of facilities and laboratories within the Iraqi security regime which contained “key elements for maintaining a capability for resuming production” of biological weapons.

ISG teams have found much less in the way of chemical weapons (CW). While they discovered evidence that Iraq continued to work on two toxins, ricin and aflatoxin, Mr. Kay reported, “Iraq did not have a large, ongoing, centrally controlled CW program after 1991.”

While Mr. Kay found Iraq’s nuclear program to be rudimentary, his report is strikingly confident that Saddam intended to acquire nuclear weapons. Many converging lines of evidence led Mr. Kay to that conclusion, ranging from the testimony of Iraqi scientists to Iraq’s missile programs.

ISG teams found evidence that the Iraqi regime was attempting to develop a land-attack cruise missile with a range of 1,000 km. They also have stacks of evidence describing Iraq’s attempt to further its missile programs with foreign parts and foreign expertise.

Ultimately, the ISG interim report suggests a battered and battened-down regime, set on a course of acquiring deadly weapons after the storm of inspections had passed. That in turn suggests that although the administration was wrong on some of the specifics of Iraq’s weapons programs, it was still justified in launching the war. As Andrew Sullivan recently pointed out on his blog, “The casus belli was not proof of Saddam’s existing weapons, but proof of his refusal to cooperate fully with U.N. inspectors or account fully for his WMD research. Nothing we have discovered after the war has debunked or undermined any of these reasons.”

Nor is anything that is likely to emerge from Mr. Kay’s office. What might be further undermined is the credibility of the news organizations that misrepresent Mr. Kay’s findings, and the credibility of Democrats who attempt to use his work to attack the administration.

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