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WMDs: Did Iraq ever have them?

By Wolf Blitzer

President Bush told reporters Monday, "The larger point is and the fundamental question is, did Saddam Hussein have a weapons program? And the answer is absolutely. ..."

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Washington (CNN) -- In the weeks and months leading up to the war with Iraq, President Bush and his top advisers were categorical in warning of a threat.

"The United Nations concluded that Saddam Hussein had materials sufficient to produce more than 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin; enough to subject millions of people to death by respiratory failure. He hasn't accounted for that material. He's given no evidence that he has destroyed it," outlined the president in his State of the Union address.

Top U.N. weapons inspectors, in contrast, were much more nuanced in their bottom line assessments.

In January, Chief U.N. Weapons Inspector Hans Blix told reporters at the United Nations, "In the course of these inspections, we have not found any smoking gun."

"No prohibited nuclear activities have been identified during these inspections," International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei told the U.N. Security Council on January 29.

On the eve of the war, Saddam Hussein and his loyalists insisted they had no weapons of mass destruction -- period.

Iraqi Ambassador to the United Nations Mohammed Aldouri insisted in January, "The bottom line ... is: One, you can accuse as much as you like, but you cannot provide one piece of evidence."

Now, nearly four months after the start of the war, even some previous supporters are openly expressing their doubts.

Former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski said Sunday on CNN's "Late Edition," "It's clear that they weren't armed with these weapons. They didn't use them. We defeated their army in the field. We have control over their arsenals. We haven't found them."

Brzezinski had been a hawk on the war but now dismisses the notion the Iraqis hid the weapons -- calling that comical.

"If they had them, and they were armed to the teeth with them, why didn't they use them?" Brzezinski went on to say. "If they didn't use them and hid them, that means they were deterred. And how do you hide all of these hundreds and hundreds of weapons with which they're armed?"

No sign the White House is backing away at all from Mr. Bush's pre-war warnings about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

Today the president told reporters, "The larger point is and the fundamental question is, did Saddam Hussein have a weapons program? And the answer is absolutely. And we gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in and he wouldn't let them in. And, therefore, after a reasonable request, we decided to remove him from power, along with other nations, so as to make sure he was not a threat to the United States and our friends and allies in the region. I firmly believe the decisions we made will make America more secure and the world more peaceful."

The best way for the White House to resolve the matter once and for all -- of course -- is for the Bush administration actually to locate weapons of mass destruction. Short of that, the debate will not only continue but is likely to intensify in the weeks and months to come.

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