Thursday, March 17, 2005

This Was Not Looting - How did Saddam's best weapons plants get plundered? By Christopher Hitchens

This Was Not Looting - How did Saddam's best weapons plants get plundered? By Christopher Hitchens

My first question is this: How can it be that, on every page of every other edition for months now, the New York Times has been stating categorically that Iraq harbored no weapons of mass destruction? And there can hardly be a comedy-club third-rater or MoveOn.org activist in the entire country who hasn’t stated with sarcastic certainty that the whole WMD fuss was a way of lying the American people into war. So now what? Maybe we should have taken Saddam’s propaganda seriously, when his newspaper proudly described Iraq’s physicists as “our nuclear mujahideen.”

My second question is: What’s all this about “looting”? The word is used throughout the long report, but here’s what it’s used to describe. “In four weeks from mid-April to mid-May of 2003 ... teams with flatbed trucks and other heavy equipment moved systematically from site to site. ... ‘The first wave came for the machines,’ Dr Araji said. ‘The second wave, cables and cranes.’ ” Perhaps hedging the bet, the Times authors at this point refer to “organized looting.”

But obviously, what we are reading about is a carefully planned military operation. The participants were not panicked or greedy civilians helping themselves—which is the customary definition of a “looter,” especially in wartime. They were mechanized and mobile and under orders, and acting in a concerted fashion. Thus, if the story is factually correct—which we have no reason at all to doubt—then Saddam’s Iraq was a fairly highly-evolved WMD state, with a contingency plan for further concealment and distribution of the weaponry in case of attack or discovery.

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