OK, so here's my crackpot theory on why we've stepped into this cowpie in Iraq. Turns out, we invaded Iraq precisely because they didn't have any WMD and we knew it. If we really thought they had some big, scary arsenal of WMD we might have been a bit more cautious about poking them with a stick. I mean, we're not exactly falling all over ourselves to invade North Korea, are we? And why not? Because they might nuke us, or South Korea, if we did. Plus, twenty years of war and a decade of harsh sanctions meant that Iraq's economy was in the tank, their army was in tatters and they couldn't even get eBay to ship the plutonium to directly to them. After 9/11, Bush and Cheney were looking for a way to assert American military dominance in the Middle East, just like they had been planning for years. Iraq was actually the easiest target: evil dictator that no one likes, plenty of oil revenues to pay for the clean-up, the army's a pushover, and we get to move our military bases out of Saudi Arabia but still keep a military presence in the region.
The hard part would be convincing the American Public that up is down, hot is cold, etc. etc. Obviously, I'm exaggerating, but only a little bit, really.
If you really read about who does have WMD, it sure seems like Iraq is the only kid on the block without the new toys. The case of the Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan got a little bit of press (from the New Yorker) last year when it came out that he (with tacit support of the Pakistani military) had for decades been selling highly sensitive nuclear technology on the black market to North Korea, Iran, Libya and probably others. Khan, a hero in Pakistan, may be the world's expert at wriggling out from under the world's non-proliferation rules. The Pakistani nuclear program got its start when Khan stole centrifuge designs from a European consortium, and it succeeded despite sanctions and international opposition. Nicholas Kristof opined that "if a nuclear weapon destroys the U.S. Capitol in coming years, it will probably be based in part on Pakistani technology." However, Khan was officially pardoned by Musharaff, and since Pakistan is a key ally in the War on Terror, the U.S. is looking the other way. Goes to show ya, our guys can do no wrong, and when you're drumming up support for war, sometimes you gotta bend the rules.
So now let's compare and contrast. In Thomas Friedman's latest apologia for the Iraq war, he theorizes that Saddam's foolishness regarding the U.N. inspectors was actually a stab at deterrence. By making it appear that he was hiding WMD that he did not actually have, Saddam was actually putting on an act to persuade his enemies (both internal and external) that he was dangerous and not to be messed with. Still, Bush and Cheney had to scrape the bottom of the barrel to find even lousy forged evidence for Iraq's (apparently non-existent) nuclear program and yet took the nation to war over it, all the while next door our good buddies in Pakistan are running a free-for-all nuclear shopping spree. What gives? Obviously I'm not saying we should invade Pakistan next, but a little perspective and some accountability would be nice.