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Moment of truth's equation

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This is, in a very real sense, the moment of truth. A top priority for the invading forces is to establish on the ground, in Iraq, the existence of weapons of mass destruction. This, President Bush held, was what left him no choice but to intervene without further delay and without UN authorization.

Mobile laboratories and teams of specialized experts have been deployed in the hope that weapons caches will be uncovered in the first days of the invasion - before they can be diverted to other countries or into the hands of terrorists.

Mr. Bush remains convinced there are chemical and biological weapons stores in Iraq. The nuclear weapons picture is more clouded. Atomic weapons inspector Mohamed ElBaradei has said, "There is no indication of resumed nuclear activities." He has dismissed US intelligence about uranium purchases in Africa as based on forged documents.

Still, on television Sunday, Vice President Dick Cheney insisted, "We believe [Saddam Hussein] has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons." President Bush, on television Monday evening, was more cautious. He spoke of the danger of chemical and biological, "or, one day, nuclear weapons."

Any discovery by the invading forces of banned weapons that UN inspectors missed, or had been barred from seeing, would, of course, be a triumph for Bush. It would also be a world-class embarrassment for the French, the Germans, and others who've opposed use of force.


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