It's the shoe that hasn't dropped in the war in Iraq.
Since U.S. forces began making their way to Baghdad, they have been searching for weapons of mass destruction. But even now, as U.S. soldiers and Iraqis celebrate victory in the streets of Baghdad, there is still no solid evidence that any exist.
Some experts say that this is only because Saddam Hussein hid them well, and soldiers haven't looked in the right places.
"The areas that we've invaded so far — the area that we came into from Kuwait, southern Iraq, and the area in northern Iraq, neither one of those areas are necessarily the kinds of places that if I were Saddam Hussein I would be storing weapons of mass destruction," said Kyle Olson, a consultant to the U.S. government on chemical and biological agents.
Only False Alarms So Far
Even though no so-called smoking gun stash of deadly weapons has been found, there have been several false alarms. First U.S. soldiers found chemical protective gear left behind by Iraqi soldiers, but no chemical weapons.
Last week, the U.S. Army found thousands of vials of white powder, which turned out to be explosives. Then Monday, soldiers found drums near Karbala that — according to early testing — may contain nerve gas. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the administration will await the results of lab tests in the United States before drawing conclusions.
Early reports can be misleading, he said.
"Dozens and dozens of instances where the first report comes in. Perfectly good reporting — but it's wrong," Rumsfeld said. "Therefore — we don't do that."
The Terrorist Connection
The Bush administration said that regardless of what is in the drums found in Karbala, the prime rationale for the war was to disarm Iraq of tons of chemical and biological agents that could end up in terrorists' hands. Even if nothing has been found, it doesn't mean that weapons of mass destruction do not exist, the president said.
"Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised," President Bush said.
But now, as U.S. soldiers and some Iraqis celebrate, the question is still out there: Where are Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction?
Hidden in Iraqi Heartland?
Olson says that if Saddam made a political decision not to use these weapons — which would only prove U.S. charges — the last place he would hide them is where his opposition has always been strongest.
Instead the deadly weapons are likely in the areas north and west of Baghdad, the same areas where the weapons were researched and produced, he suggested.
"If you go back and look at the first Gulf War and the aftermath, we found the majority of their chemical and biological weapons facilities in, if you will, the Iraqi heartland," Olson said. "Those are areas that for the most part we have only just begun to enter. We are just now getting into the really prime real estate."
But even with access to prime real estate, the coalition forces may run into another problem. After the first Gulf War — even with satellites and other intelligence — inspectors usually needed Iraqi informers to show them where weapons were hidden.
Former U.N. weapons inspector Jonathan Tucker says the United States will need help again.
"I think our best hope for finding the weapons is to offer carrots to members of the regime's security organizations who were responsible for their custody," Tucker said.
By carrots, Tucker means offering lenient treatment or even money to Saddam's security people. If the Bush administration doesn't find the weapons, the stakes are high, Tucker said.
Namely, much of the world may not celebrate along with the United States.
"It will make it look like a war of choice, that is an aggressive war rather than a defensive war, in response to a clear and present danger to the United States," Tucker said.
Arms experts also tell ABCNEWS that in addition to the weapons, the United States will have to find the scientists who developed them. If not, those researchers may take their knowledge to other countries — or terrorist groups — and make their weapons all over again.