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Saturday, October 9, 2004
[ OUR OPINION ]
Iraq’s ‘unique’ threat
When the Bush administration sought United Nations approval to attack Iraq two years ago, it cited international law -- Sen. John Kerry calls it a "global test," a term mocked by Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney in this week's debates -- allowing the use of preemptive strikes for nations to "defend themselves against forces that present an imminent danger of attack." Bush's National Security Council broadened that doctrine to include threats by "rogue states" that "rely on acts of terror and, potentially, the use of weapons of mass destruction."
Former weapons inspector David A. Kay reported his findings earlier this year that it was "highly unlikely" that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction at the time of the U.S. attack. Bush responded that Saddam Hussein posed "a grave and gathering threat to America and the world" because of his potential to develop and use such weapons.
It turns out that the threat from Iraq was neither imminent nor "grave and gathering." Following a report released earlier this week by Charles E. Duelfer, a top American inspector appointed by Bush to investigate the situation, the president was reduced in yesterday's debate to calling Iraq "a unique threat" at the time U.S. troops invaded the country.
The 15-month inquiry concluded that Iraq had destroyed its illicit weapons stockpile within months after the 1991 Persian Gulf War, and its ability to produce such weapons had significantly eroded by the time of the U.S. invasion 18 months ago. Duelfer said Iraq could not have produced militarily significant quantities of chemical weapons for at least a year, and it would have required years to produce a nuclear weapon. Hussein's ambiguity about whether he had such weapons was intended as a deterrent to Iran, Iraq's enemy in an eight-year war in the 1980s.
Duelfer suggested that Hussein had sacrificed Iraq's illicit weapons in order to end U.N. sanctions while laying the groundwork for a plan to resume weapons production in the event they were lifted. It was that possible scenario sometime in the future that Bush now says constituted the threat that warranted sending troops to Iraq. That explanation of why America was justified in going to war is indeed "unique."
Martin would have been the first Air Force general to fill a post that normally has gone to a Navy admiral. Senator Inouye says he was surprised at the nomination of "a non-naval admiral to an area that was traditionally the domain of the Navy," but that was not the problem.
The general came under heated questioning by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a retired Navy officer and the son of Adm. John S. McCain Jr., who headed the Pacific Command from 1968 to 1972. Chief of the Air Force Materiel Command since last year, Martin worked in the late 1990s with civilian Air Force procurement officer Darleen A. Druyun, who recently was sentenced to nine months in prison for providing what McCain called a sweetheart deal to Boeing Co. before she went to work at the company.
Martin said he had nothing to do with the Boeing deal, which involved the Air Force leasing of Boeing 767 refueling planes, and saw nothing "inappropriate" about Druyun's handling of the Boeing contract.
McCain has pressed the Air Force for e-mail communications about the deal but said he found resistance. "In response to repeated requests by Congress for tanker-related records, the Air Force stonewalled for months," he said. The Air Force provided documents under threat of subpoena and then "only after doctoring them," McCain said.
McCain, calling the Boeing deal "a national disgrace" costing billions of dollars, said he would hold Martin's nomination in the Senate Armed Services Committee "until we get all of the e-mails and all of the answers." Committee Chairman John W. Warner, R-Va., appeared to support McCain, leaving Martin with no realistic option but to use the exit door.
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