It is conventional wisdom that there were no WMD in Iraq. Yet there remains a dissenting minority who don't accept this. Their views may be easily dismissed, but cynicism about Iraq's WMD should not feed complacency about the continuing threats from the regionby Tom Chatfield / April 27, 2008 / Leave a comment
Published in April 2008 issue of Prospect Magazine
Discuss this article on First Drafts, Prospect’s blog
Five years after the invasion of Iraq, what do we know about those weapons of mass destruction whose shadowy existence played such a large role in the justification for war and such a controversial role in its aftermath? It is a story that remains significant largely because the reconstruction of Iraq has been so much bloodier, more chaotic and politically damaging—both in the middle east and the west—than was dreamt of in 2003. “There were no WMDs” seems likely to be the enduring epitaph of both a two-term president and a three-term prime minister. Their absence is, for many, emblematic of the gulf between the realities of the middle east and the ill-planned optimism with which western powers entered Iraq in March 2003. Yet the story of the search for WMD is more than simply a catalogue of intelligence errors and political manipulation; it has also become a story of competing narratives about middle eastern power politics, and the deepest global security concerns we face today.
On 20th March 2003, Iraq was invaded by a US-led coalition of forces, which included British, Australian, Polish and Danish troops. “Operation Iraqi Freedom” intended, in the words of President George W Bush, “to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein’s support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people.” In Britain, particular emphasis was put on the first of these aims. The British government’s infamous Iraq dossier was published on 24th September 2002, and opened with a personal statement by Tony Blair which claimed that “Saddam Hussein attaches great importance to possessing weapons of mass destruction, which he regards as the basis for Iraq’s regional power… He is ready to use them, including against his own population, and is d…