In the 18 months since President Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq, justifying the decision by saying that Saddam Hussein was "a gathering threat" to the United States, Americans have come to realize that Iraq had no chemical, nuclear or biological weapons. But the report issued yesterday goes further. It says that Iraq had no factories to produce illicit weapons and that its ability to resume production was growing more feeble every year. While Mr. Hussein retained dreams of someday getting back into the chemical warfare business, his chosen target was Iran, not the United States.
The report shows that the international sanctions that Mr. Bush dismissed and demeaned before the war - and still does - were astonishingly effective. Mr. Hussein hoped to get out from under the sanctions, and the report's author, Charles Duelfer, loyally told Congress yesterday that he thought that could have happened. But his report said the Iraqis lacked even a formal strategy or a plan to reconstitute their weapons programs if it did.
And the UNPROFOR weapons inspectors could have discovered all of this in another few months, at most, if Bush hadn't preemptively ordered them out of Iraq -- so he could start bombing, secure in the knowledge that he'd only be killing Iraqis.
It's always seemed to me that the best reply to charges of "flip flopping" might be to just quote Keynes: "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?" If there were ever a time to use that line, this is it.