When WMD isn’t WMD

21 October 2005, 1922 EDT

Brad DeLong criticizes Dan Drezner thusly,

danieldrezner.com :: Daniel W. Drezner :: Blog: [Colonel Larry] Wilkerson also points out, however, that there was a stronger pre-war consensus on Iraqi WMD intellgence than many want to believe…

“WMD” means chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. Nearly everybody in the intelligence community was confident that Saddam Hussein had chemical and biological weapons. But there was no consensus that Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons, or an ongoing nuclear weapons program–as indeed he did not.

Nukes are the big deal. Nukes can justify an invasion. Chemical weapons–not

A more precise response is that most “people who should know” thought that Hussein had some biological and chemical agents, but not necessarily weapons of mass destruction.

For those of you who just asked “what?” or merely grunted “hunh?”: the distinction isn’t difficult to understand and is pretty important for anyone who still cares about how whether or not the administration misled the United States into the war.

One can have biological or chemical weapons without having WMD. Take anthrax, for example. A state can have lots and lots of anthrax. If it isn’t weapons-grade and/or the state lacks an effective delivery system, though, it doesn’t constitute a WMD. As one of my colleagues put it (I paraphrase): “the bioweapons capability we assumed Hussein had would be very deadly if you lined up lots and lots of people in the desert and injected each of them with a syringe.”

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