Honesty about WMDs remains best policy

The top U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq, David Kay, quit this week, sending the domestic administration – as well as British officials – into a tailspin. On his departure, Kay stated his conviction that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq after 1991. “I don’t think they exist,” he said. For many, including Mohamed El Baradei, head of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency, the so-called revelation is anything but. However, Vice President Dick Cheney continues to assert weapons of mass destruction will be found, despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary.

In coming years, the United States will continue to suffer economically and socially from the war. Actions in Iraq were initiated with, at the very least, weak evidence that does not withstand rigorous scrutiny. As a result, Americans were not able to properly weigh the costs and benefits of a pre-emptive attack and subsequent long-term military presence in Iraq. Despite initial findings of the U.N. atomic energy agency, President George W. Bush insisted pre-emptive U.S. actions were needed to address an imminent threat requiring immediate action. “Imminent” is the key word. Clearly, if Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction or was only in the very beginning stages of developing them, it was not an imminent threat requiring immediate action.

Cheney still loudly contends weapons might be found after inspectors look in “all of the cubby holes and the ammo dumps.” Other administration officials now focus on removal of the “outlaw regime,” as Bush called it, as the reason and defense of war in Iraq.

Each time Cheney reiterates his untenable convictions, he chips away at his administration’s credibility. In the future, the United States might face verifiable threats from weapons of mass destruction. The Bush administration might be unable to muster public support if real defensive action becomes imperative. To re-establish trust with his constituents, restore our enduring security and reunite allies, Bush must begin admitting the faults in his drive for war.