updated 1/9/2004 12:54:51 PM ET 2004-01-09T17:54:51

“The New York Times” reported that a 400-member military team is pulling out of Iraq.  The team was part of the effort to find Iraq‘s secret weapons. 

I was generally supportive of this administration‘s efforts to oust Saddam Hussein and to go to war to Iraq.  Before the war, I regularly took on the administration‘s critics.  While I wasn‘t convinced that we needed to go in immediately, I was convinced that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.  And that in and of itself was too great a threat to the U.S.  and the world. 

In history, after weapons inspectors were effectively kicked out of Iraq, a 1998 U.N. special report found that Saddam had not accounted for tons of nerve gas and other weapons.  He played cat and mouse with inspectors right before the war, and the administration claimed to have additional proof of weapons programs.  It was by far the most persuasive case for war. 

The problem?  So far no evidence that there was an active major weapons program underway.  And now, at the least, Americans deserve to know more. 

It is not good enough to say that the Iraqi people are better off than they were under Saddam‘s rule.  There are scores of dictators around the world persecuting their people—and yet hundreds of Americans are not dying in those countries, nor are billions of taxpayer dollars funding the effort. 

Even without weapons of mass destruction, there still may be a strong case for war.  Terrorists had free reign in the northern part of the country.  Saddam may have been actively funding other type of terrorists in the region.  He was an international menace. 

And while much of this will likely come out in Saddam‘s trial, our troops and citizens deserve to know more now.  It‘s not OK to just avoid the topic and claim that the weapons programs are beside the point.  They were the point.  They were the reason most Americans supported the war. 

If we were wrong, let‘s say so.  And if there are other justifications, let‘s hear them.

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