SOMETIME earlier this month a man packed his bags and quietly left Baghdad. It was Charles A Duelfer, the director of the US Iraq Survey Group whose 1'200 men and women spent more than a year looking for the weapons of mass destruction over which the United States and Britain went to war. They did not find them, and reported as much last October, but Mr Duelfer had been clearing his desk before leaving. We would not have known but for a sharp-eyed reporter on the Washington Post.
There was no announcement from Washington or London about this ignominious end to the WMD fraud. Neither President Bush nor Prime Minister Blair wants to draw attention to his part in misleading his country about the existence of the weapons and in overestimating the threat they would have represented to the security of his country had they existed. Neither Bush nor Blair wants to admit that he took his country to war on a false premise and without understanding of the difficult post-war task that would follow. Neither wants to admit that the sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council and monitored by the UN Weapons Inspectors had effectively stopped Saddam Hussein's weapons programmes and could have continued to do so. Neither wants to take responsibility for perhaps 100'000 Iraqis killed since the war was launched, although they cannot avoid responsibility for the deaths of their own servicemen.
Yesterday, in a leading article, the New York Times noted that members of the Iraq Survey Group are now fighting Iraqi insurgents, and concluded: We hope they succeed. If they do not, large swaths of Iraq could become a no man's land, where terrorists will be free to work on WMD projects and United Nations weapons inspectors cannot go to thwart them.
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