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February 3, 2003

The Real Smoking Gun

By

President Bush and his detractors may not agree on the answer to the problems posed by Iraq and its genocidal leader, Saddam Hussein. But at least they agree on the question: Where is the smoking gun?

The detractors mean that, unless United Nations inspectors defy all odds, overcome a near-complete lack of cooperation by Iraq and find weapons that threaten the United States, we have no reason to attack.

President Bush asks the question in a more literal sense: Where have the 25,000 liters of anthrax gone? What about the 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin and the 500 tons of mustard, sarin and VX nerve gas? And how about the 30,000 missiles and short-range rockets Iraq has failed to account for? We know Saddam had all of this. The report he submitted to U.N. inspectors, which was to have declared all weapons of mass destruction, doesn't mention them. What gives?

We could, of course, wait till terrorists attack again. Then, we'd know for sure.

Thankfully, President Bush wants to find and eliminate the weapons without thousands more Americans having to die on their homeland. He knows Saddam would be more than willing to use nuclear weapons against American interests or allies-or sell them to others to use against us.

The president knows Saddam has attacked three neighboring countries, gassed 5,000 of his countrymen and tortured, raped and mutilated thousands more Iraqis. He knows Saddam cares not a whit about the United Nations, its inspection regime or its resolutions that call for him to disarm. He knows-from U.N. inspectors and defectors from Iraq's weapons-of-mass-destruction program-that Saddam thinks nothing of lying and hiding stockpiles of weapons where inspectors can't find them.

The detractors want more inspections, more time. But even now, U.N. inspectors say the Iraqis aren't cooperating and that their attempts to talk candidly with Iraqi scientists have been thwarted at every step. We can't blame the scientists. They've been told they and their families will be killed if they cooperate with inspectors. And unlike President Bush's misguided critics, they know Saddam is evil enough to do it.

Saddam knows that if his scientists don't cooperate, inspectors must search an area the size of California for a cache of chemicals small enough to fit inside a suitcase and powerful enough to kill millions.

President Bush-responsible for the lives of the American people-can't afford to cross his fingers and just "be patient." He knows what havoc these weapons could wreak if deployed against the United States.

According to Department of Defense computer models, a small fraction of Iraq's suspected stockpile-about 440 pounds of anthrax-released from a plane above Manhattan would spread for more than 100 miles, kill more than 1 million people and send millions more to hospitals with injuries from which they may never recover. Similar scenarios hold true for VX nerve gas, botulinum toxin and sarin.

And President Bush knows better than to rely on the good humor or good sense of Saddam or his family. Saddam's eldest son, Uday Hussein, said recently that the Sept. 11 tragedies "will look like a picnic" should Iraq feel threatened.

No one wants war. My brother, sister and father all have served or now serve in the military, and I certainly don't want to see any of them in harm's way. I enlisted in the U.S. Navy when I was 18 years old, and many of my shipmates are in the Persian Gulf today, ready to do what must be done if called upon.

And it need not be war. If only Saddam would honor the commitments he made to the international community and declare his weapons and de-activate them, war could be avoided. America has no imperial designs on Iraq and has promised Russia, France and others that postwar Iraq will be made to honor the financial commitments and oil leases made by Saddam's regime.

It's one thing to hope against hope that Saddam will come around and that war can be avoided. But President Bush must live in the real world, and that means we have reached the point where some tough decisions must be made.

And the choice is clear. This is about life and death. It's about finding and eliminating the smoking guns that threaten our lives. If we wait to find the smoking guns the president's detractors keep clamoring for, we may have far, far fewer lives left to defend.

Dexter Ingram, a former Naval Flight Officer, is a database editor and threat-assessment specialist in the Center for Media and Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation (www.heritage.org), a Washington-based public policy research institute.

Originally appeared the Boston Herald

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