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Tom Daschle's Fantasy World

The Senate minority leader seems to think--get this--that Saddam Hussein voluntarily disarmed years ago, and just hasn't told anyone.

5:41 PM, Jan 29, 2003 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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SOME PEOPLE will believe anything. Take Tom Daschle, for instance, who thinks that the president's case against Saddam Hussien is flawed.

The logic behind George W. Bush's argument for disarming Saddam is simple: After the Gulf War, Saddam agreed to disarm. He didn't live up to that agreement. For the seven years that United Nations weapons inspectors were in his country, he not only concealed his existing weapons of mass destruction arsenal, he continued to develop it. When he kicked the inspectors out of the country in late 1998, the United Nations reported that Saddam had not accounted for vast majority of these weapons. These same weapons were not accounted for in the "full, complete and final" declaration Iraq submitted to the United Nations on December 8, 2002.

According to Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz: "There are also gaps in accounting for such deadly items as 1.5 tons of the nerve gas VX, 550 mustard filled artillery shells, and 400 biological weapons-capable aerial bombs that the U.N. Special Commission concluded in 1999 Iraq had failed to account for. There is no mention of Iraqi efforts to procure uranium from abroad. Iraq's declaration fails to account for its manufacture of missile fuel for ballistic missiles Iraq claims it does not have. Nor is there information on 13 recent Iraqi missile tests cited by Dr. Blix that exceeded the 150-kilometer limit. Iraq has not verifiably accounted for, at a minimum, two tons of anthrax growth media. There is no explanation of the connection between Iraq's extensive unmanned aerial vehicle programs and chemical or biological agent dispersal. There is no information about Iraq's mobile biological weapon production facilities."

The inescapable conclusion, of course, is that Saddam has retained these prohibited weapons.

To believe otherwise requires a curious set of propositions: (1) Yes, Saddam Hussein retained and developed weapons from 1991-1998, while inspectors where in Iraq. (2) Once the inspectors left Iraq, between 1999-2002, he disarmed unilaterally. And (3) for whatever reason, Saddam chose not to notify the United Nations of this disarmament so that the sanctions crippling Iraq's economy would be kept in place.

That supposition, of course, would seem absurd--but not to Senate minority leader Tom Daschle, who today left open the possibility that Saddam Hussein has no weapons of mass destruction because he got rid of them on his own:

After a press conference this afternoon Daschle took questions from reporters. He continued his criticism of President Bush on Iraq, saying, "I don't think the administration has presented adequate, convincing evidence to say that [Iraq] can produce weapons to share with terrorist," he said.

Confused, I asked Daschle to clarify.

"You don't think Saddam disarmed unilaterally, do you?"

"We don't have any concrete evidence that he has not," Daschle replied. "And that's the issue."

Stephen F. Hayes is staff writer at The Weekly Standard.