Nukes are the only WMDs. This is a contentious notion, but I think the definition of weapons of mass destruction to include chemical and biological weapons is highly misleading. The whole concept is pretty fuzzy, as a matter of fact. Consider that the allied powers killed more people in Dresden than in Hiroshima (it just took longer). So clearly, the whole weapons of mass destruction thing isn't directly about how many people might be killed. Be that as it may, Bush relied on high-ball estimates of death-tolls to make his case that we have to go to war over the possibility that Saddam might have components which could be used to make chemical and biological weapons. We don't have a whole lot of direct historical evidence of the practical potential of these weapons. We had the subway terrorists in Japan, and the Anthrax letters here, neither of which killed as many people as the D.C. Snipers. The kinds of high-ball estimates war-hawks come up with are pretty clearly ridiculous. Sure, if 100,000 people were locked in an unventilated domed football stadium, they'd have a problem. [Does it matter that some of them would probably be trampled to death rather than killed by chemical weapons? No, probably not.]
Clearly, nuclear weapons are serious business. North Korea has some, which is precisely the reason why the Bush administration is not threatening to attack him. Certainly, preventing a madman like Saddam from getting nukes is an important goal. [Preventing a madman like Gen. Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan from getting them is also an important goal, but we blew that one. Preventing a madman like Kim Jong Il from getting them was also an important goal, and Bush really screwed the pooch on that one.] So, why not war? Well, is war really necessary to prevent Saddam from developing nukes? Maybe, but I doubt it. The inspectors have as yet found no evidence that Saddam has restarted his nuclear development program. They will continue looking, unless US bombs start getting in the way. Even if we assume that there is a nuclear program idden somewhere in Iraq, the fact that it must be hidden not only from satellites but also from a team of dedicated inspectors specifically looking for it, means that it won't be making a lot of progress. Similarly, so long as international pressure and attention are focused on Iraq, it won't be easy for him to acquire materials and transport them to their intended destination. [As opposed to North Korea, which can move reactor rods and things like that literally in broad daylight, cheerily waving to the US spy satellites as they go.]
As far as all of the stuff in the speech showing that Saddam is a really bad guy... well, no shit. Fact is, all of those horrible things Saddam has done he was doing back when he was our ally. In fact, all of those things have been done by people who are now our allies. As Micahel Kinsley recently argued in Slate, this argument is complete bullshit. Bush doesn't even believe in it, or he'd be arguing for going to war against other bad men all over the world. He just threw it in to strengthen the rhetorical argument, but it completely misses the point of the real debate.
The biggest shortfall of Bush's presentation is that he completely ignored the policy argument, which is crucial (at least to me). Even if you agree that the United States has a moral and legal right to invade Iraq on whatever pretext they eventually come up with (if any), based on whichever justification you choose to accept, you still have to show that it's a good idea. In order to do that, you have to balance the benefits and the costs. The benefits are potentially very large, but vague. I mean, you're not going to make America any safer from Iraq. The United States couldn't be safer if it were on a different planet. Iraq can't get his weapons, if he has them, to the United States, end of story. [I know, he could sell them to terrorists, but he never has before, and our own CIA reports that he's never shown any inclination to do so. Of course, terrorists could buy from Pakistan, couldn't they? Or North Korea?] So what are the benefits? Well, you've got the neo-conservative faction in the White House having wet dreams every night about a pro-US democratic stronghold smack in the middle of the Middle East, sitting on a huge oil reserve to boot. Hey, if that happened, it would be wonderful. I mean, seriously, that would be a fantastic result. This can't justify war in a legal or moral sense, but it would in a policy sense, if we thought we could pull it off.
I have serious doubts that we can, and the point hasn't been adequately addressed by the White House. I mean, there are difficulties. This administration has been very explicit on its disdain for "nation-building". Well, you're never going to establish a viable pro-Western democracy in Iraq without nation-building on steroids, and it'll probably take a pretty long time even with that. Just take a look at how the half-assed approach has worked in Afghanistan. Warlords, terrorists, and the Taliban are still around causing mischief, and the new government is not exactly stable, or even established throughout the entire country. And if the administration doesn't get it right in Iraq, it could be a disaster. A literally bloody disaster.
Of course, then you have the distinct possibility that an occupation of Iraq, even more than simply an invasion, would stoke anti-American fervor such that we've never known. This brings with it an increased risk of further terrorist attacks directed against this country, which could actually make us less safe. Surely, that has to count against the policy support we're talking about.
On balance, if the goal is to protect Americans from threats posed by Saddam Hussein, I think a continuing system of inspections, backed by international support and the credible threat of force, is perfectly adequate. Indeed, sometimes the threat of force is more effective even than force. Consider that our own intelligence agencies have stated publicly that a "get Saddam" invasion might compel the bastard to use whatever nasty weapons he might have (which he declined to do in the first Gulf War), because, face it, what's he got to lose? It's nothing that fits neatly on a protester's sign, but this is my reasoning for opposing war in Iraq.
It's moot, naturally, because we're absolutely no doubt about it going to be at war in Iraq before the end of March. [I say that hoping that my terrible recod of prognistication, i.e. the 2002 elections, will work in my favor for a change.] I just hope that, for once, Bush doesn't fuck it up.