Editor’s note: You can now hear Ilana Mercer every Thursday as a weekly regular on the Mark Scott Show!

Publicly available CIA reports offer no fresh incriminating evidence against Iraq, but a lot of innovative variations on the Bush Bafflegab. To wit: “Saddam will probably …” “Give him time and he will eventually …” “With sufficient weapons-grade fissile material, he’ll doubtless …” “He doesn’t have the capability to develop enriched uranium or plutonium to fuel a nuclear bomb, but hang in there …”

This is obviously not the letter of the text, but close enough to its spirit. How the CIA cobbles evidence for an “interest in acquiring,” or “an effort to procure” considering that these purchases never seem to materialize isn’t clear. What proof do we have that they were even initiated? CIA language is manifestly intended to exempt the writer from having to substantiate much of the claims.

What a relief it is, then, when a real incriminating event finally occurs. A North Korean vessel was not allegedly – but actually – apprehended in the Arabian Sea, carrying 15 well-concealed Scud missiles. All in all, Baghdad is suspected of hiding about 60 Scud-variant missiles. Here we have the equivalent of a fourth of the entire Iraqi arsenal on one ship!

While Iraqi palm dates are subject to trade embargoes, it’s comforting to know that North Korean Scud missiles are not. About the North Korean commitment to free trade Donald Rumsfeld effused: They “continue to be the single largest proliferator of ballistic-missile technology on the face of the earth, putting into the hands of many countries the technologies and capabilities which have the potential for killing hundreds of thousands of people.” Joy!

Nothing is more admirable, however, than a nation that uses its trading advantage with discretion: North Korea doesn’t sell missiles to Iraq – it only sells them to “friendly nations” like Pakistan, Syria, Egypt, Iran, Libya and Yemen, to which its latest shipment was headed.

Iraq, as the administration insists, may be jam-packed with Jihadists, but Yemen doesn’t exactly have to outsource for its Islamist assassins. Like Americans, they have plenty of homegrown homicidal talent. Recall the Yemeni port of Aden was the site of the attack on the destroyer USS Cole, which killed 17 sailors. Off the coast of Yemen, a bomb recently damaged a French oil tanker, killing a Bulgarian sailor. Right now, British Special Forces are searching for Osama bin Laden in … Yemen, where al-Qaida is said to be regrouping.

The North Korean missile crisis must have left Saddam bitter about the favoritism that allows said nation such generous maneuverability on the axis of evil (Although his initial frazzled reaction was probably: “Could this be something I ordered for the New Year celebrations and forgot about?”). North Korea has been welcomed out of the closet with its ongoing uranium enrichment program. And, evidently, the North Koreans are permitted to freely trade in deadly weapons, albeit with peaceniks like the Yemenites.

Honorary axis member Iran, a gaily-open supporter of terrorism, also remains unhindered by threats of a U.S. invasion, as do the rogue states of Saudi Arabia, Syria, Libya and Sudan. While the CIA is adamant it has no Iraqi smoking gun, evidence for these other nations’ hospitality to terrorism abounds.

As luck would have it, under the Bush Iraq Doctrine, evidence against a theory constitutes evidence for a theory. No smoking gun means there’s a hidden gun somewhere or a plan to acquire a gun, or a hidden plan to acquire a gun and hide it.

Whichever’s the case, it’s reason enough for an attack. Never mind that Saddam’s visibly antiquated and crumbling infrastructure is being crisscrossed and closely watched by weapons inspectors. And no matter that he is being bombed illegally – and immorally – by the U.S. over the unilaterally-established No Fly Zone.

More poignantly, Saddam is by now also acutely aware of Washington’s not-so-secret Nuclear Posture Review. The NPR was crystal clear about this administration’s justified willingness to use lower-yield, precision nuclear weapons on Iraq if Saddam attacks the U.S. with nuclear, biological or chemical weapons. Given the administration’s wise re-embracing of the deterrence principle as articulated in the NPR, Bush’s lockjaw on Iraq doesn’t make sense.

Washington clearly hasn’t been as dyslexic about the lessons of history as it would appear – at least implicitly, there’s an acknowledgement that Cold-War restraint is no folly.

Why then is the president behaving as if Saladin the Second is scheming on what the former USSR didn’t dare do with more than 10,000 strategic nuclear warheads; some 30,000 nonstrategic nuclear warheads; more than 6,000, ready-to-go nuclear warheads mounted on more than a thousand intercontinental ballistic missiles – not to mention thousands of submarine-launchable nuclear weapons, and more than a thousand nuclear bombs carried by long-range jet aircraft? (The tally is courtesy of the Independent Institute’s Robert Higgs).

Can Saddam really be hell-bent on doing what the many times more evil and powerful former USSR avoided at all costs? Is Saddam suicidal? The facts suggest not.

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