Sunday, February 01, 2004

Hoagland, 2/6/03

Powell and the CIA have come in for criticism in this column over the past two years for seeming to misjudge the dangers of Saddam Hussein's drive for weapons of mass destruction and Iraq's support for international terrorism and its links to al Qaeda in particular. But the secretary and the spies assembled as powerful a case as the most exacting critic could expect and backed it up impressively yesterday.

Speaking as "an old trooper," the ex-general showed, through technical detail, the illogic of Iraq's protestations that it has been importing aluminum tubing for short-range rockets and not for nuclear weapons. Nobody uses this kind of tubing for rockets, Powell said convincingly. He then made the obvious point that so many are intent on rushing past: In any event, the act of importing this specific tubing -- for any purpose whatever -- is illegal and further proof of Iraq's deliberate and material breach of sanctions and U.N. resolutions. How is that not a smoking gun?

The foreign ministers, U.N. senior officials and others in the Security Council chamber yesterday did not get there by being dummies. They already knew the grand outline of the evils and dangers that Powell was describing in compelling detail. They have been following the familiar pattern of reasoning backward -- of determining the political outcome they desire first and then choosing or ignoring the facts that fit that outcome.

Powell has made that callous approach much more difficult for them and for all others who have claimed not to see the threat that Saddam Hussein and his terrorist henchmen have become to international order, the United Nations and American citizens.

To continue to say that the Bush administration has not made its case, you must now believe that Colin Powell lied in the most serious statement he will ever make, or was taken in by manufactured evidence. I don't believe that. Today, neither should you.