That Whole Rigamarole

Sunday, May 04, 2003

The WMD Game

In a Mr. Helpful post that I found via Andrea Harris, Mr. Helpful expresses some reasonable worries about not finding Iraq's WMD. I happen to have been puzzling about this issue myself for a couple of weeks, and while sitting around this afternoon I had an insight that I decided I must share with the world.

Actually, I had the main part of the insight a couple of weeks ago, when I heard Tommy Franks say in an interview (it may have been the one with Tony Snow on Fox News Sunday) that he was "certain" that we would find said weapons. Now, when is the last time you heard a CENTCOM General make such an unequivocal statement about the future? So I immediately thought "we've already found some." But as a guileless person, I couldn't quite reason out why we would keep that information so secret. Today, I thought of some reasons:

1. The various Ba'athists we have captured are trying to make deals to stay out of a war crimes tribunal. We could use information about WMD that we already know (but which they don't know that we know) to more reliably determine who has really "turned" and who is just shucking and jiving in order to save his own skin. I think President Bush's decision to publicly call Tariq Aziz a liar supports this theory. It's a not-too-subtle way to give these guys (major Ba'athists) something unpleasant to think about.

2. In a similar vein, I think we can use non-public information that we have to more quickly and completely "roll up" the Iraqi WMD complex. There are probably a lot of leads from a lot of sources, giving rise to a difficult problem in sorting liars and apple-polishers from people who were in the loop and deserve more of our attention. It would be handy to be able to ask questions about things we already know (to people who don't know what we know) and evaluate their answers in that environment. Sources with credibility proven in such a way can probably lead to quicker, more thorough discovery of the capabilities that most concern us.

I know that seems like only one reason, but it's not. The first example uses secret WMD knowledge as a general lie-detector test on captured big fish. The second example is using the secret WMD knowledge as a wedge to get more WMD knowledge and to take down the WMD apparatus. I guess the spooks call that last bit "exploitation." They probably have a special word for the first one, too.


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