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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Washington File

02 May 2003

"Relax, Celebrate Victory," by Richard Perle

(Op-ed article in USA Today) (520)
(This byliner by Richard Perle, a member of the Defense Policy Board,
first appeared in USA Today May 2 and is in the public domain. No
republication restrictions.)
(begin byliner)
Relax, Celebrate Victory
Richard Perle
From start to finish, President Bush has led the United States and its
coalition partners to the most important military victory since World
War II. And like the allied victory over the axis powers, the
liberation of Iraq is more than the end of a brutal dictatorship: It
is the foundation for a decent, humane government that will represent
all the people of Iraq.
This was a war worth fighting. It ended quickly with few civilian
casualties and with little damage to Iraq's cities, towns or
infrastructure. It ended without the Arab world rising up against us,
as the war's critics feared, without the quagmire they predicted,
without the heavy losses in house-to-house fighting they warned us to
expect. It was conducted with immense skill and selfless courage by
men and women who will remain until Iraqis are safe, and who will
return home as heroes.
In full retreat, the war's opponents have now taken up new defensive
positions: "Yes, it was a military victory, but you haven't found
Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction." Or, "Yes, we destroyed
Saddam's regime, but now other dictators will try even harder to
develop weapons of mass destruction to make sure they will not fall to
some future American preemptive strike."
We will find Saddam's well-hidden chemical and biological weapons
programs, but only when people who know come forward and tell us where
to look. While Saddam was in power, even a hint about his concealment
and deception was a death sentence, often by unimaginable torture
against whole families. Saddam had four years to hide things. We have
had a few weeks to find them. Patience -- and some help from free
Iraqis -- will be rewarded.
The idea that our victory over Saddam will drive other dictators to
develop chemical and biological weapons misses the key point: They are
already doing so. That's why we may someday need to preempt rather
than wait until we are attacked.
Iran, Syria, North Korea, Libya, these and other nations are
relentless in their pursuit of terror weapons. Does anyone seriously
argue that they would abandon their programs if we had left Saddam in
power? It is a little like arguing that we should not subdue
knife-wielding criminals because, if we do, other criminals will go
out and get guns. Moreover, this argument, deployed by those who will
not take victory for an answer, confuses cause and effect: Does any
peaceful state that neither harbors terrorists nor seeks weapons of
mass destruction fear that we will launch a preemptive strike against
it? Who are they? Why would they?
Iraqis are freer today and we are safer.  Relax and enjoy it.
(Richard Perle, assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan
administration, is a member of the Defense Policy Board, which advises
the Pentagon on military affairs.)
(end byliner)
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site:

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