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22.9.02

Invade and Unleash?

The question no one in the administration wants to ask -- or answer -- is whether an invasion would guarantee the elimination of Iraq's biological weapons arsenal. An even more delicate question that has not been addressed publicly is whether an invasion might actually increase the likelihood of terrorist access to and acquisition of Iraq's deadly biological weapons assets.


This article addresses the possibility that an attack would make Saddam more likely to use weapons of mass destruction against the US. It makes sense -- his weapons program is very likely based on prestige and asserting control. He wants to be able to wave them around to prove nobody can mess with him (much like the US). So he'd be likely to use them only when he's got nothing left to lose.

What the article raises, but doesn't address, is the possibility of Iraq selling WMDs to terrorists. At the moment, that possibility, though a favorite of the Bush administration, is unlikely. Saddam wants WMDs so that he can show them off, not so that he can sell them for a quick buck. And it's highly unlikely he'd do any sort of deal with al Qaida, since Osama is as likely to nuke Iraq (he hates Saddam's Baath party for being secular and for oppressing its Muslim citizens) as nuke the US. But if the Iraqi regime collapses -- and it's certain to collapse before US troops have rooted out every cache of weapons -- we could easily wind up with a situation like post-Soviet Russia. With the Soviet regime gone and the new one too poor to support the weapons scattered around the republics, they started getting sold off to whoever could pay enough to keep bread on the weapons-holders' tables. Most of the guns used by the Chechen rebels, for example, were bought from Russia. It's clear from the example of Afghanistan that the US can't and won't set itself up as the government of Iraq. Therefore, there will be a dangerous period (which could last indefinitely) when there will be no authority in Iraq powerful enough to secure the WMD caches. This means that nuclear scientists could sell their goods and services to the highest (terrorist or warlord) bidder, not as part of any grand geopolitical strategy, but just to pay the rent.

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