1) George Bush lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. This is a charge that has been repeated ad nauseum by opponents of the war, but the claim that Bush “lied” about stockpiles of WMDs doesn’t hold up to the least bit of scrutiny.
Once you understand one crucial fact, that numerous prominent Democrats with access to intelligence data also openly declared and obviously believed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, it becomes nearly impossible for a rational person to believe that Bush lied about WMDs in Iraq. We’re not talking about small fry or just proponents of the war either. The aforementioned Democrats include Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, John Edwards, Robert Byrd, Henry Waxman, Tom Daschle, and Nancy Pelosi among many, many others. Just to hammer the point home, here’s a quote from the 800 pound gorilla of the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton, that was made on Oct 8, 2002:
“In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members, though there is apparently no evidence of his involvement in the terrible events of September 11, 2001. It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons. Should he succeed in that endeavor, he could alter the political and security landscape of the Middle East, which as we know all too well affects American security.”
To believe that George Bush lied about WMDs is to believe that there is a vast conspiracy to lie about WMDs that goes to the highest level of both parties & that stretches across both the pro and anti-war movements.
It’s just not possible — and that’s before we even consider the numerous other pieces of exculpating evidence like: all the non-American intelligence agencies that also believed Saddam had WMDs, CIA Director George Tenet famously saying it was a “‘slam-dunk’ that Hussein possessed the banned weapons”, the once secret Downing Street Memo which certainly proves that our allies in Britain believed Saddam had WMDs…
“For instance, what were the consequences, if Saddam used WMD on day one, or if Baghdad did not collapse and urban warfighting began? You said that Saddam could also use his WMD on Kuwait. Or on Israel, added the Defence Secretary.”
…and of course, that we did find warheads designed to carry chemical warfare agents and artillery shells filled with mustard gas & sarin (even though they were small in number and weren’t recently made).
When you add it all up, it appears that George Bush, like a lot of other people, was wrong about Saddam Hussein having stockpiles of WMDs. But without question, he did not lie about it.
2) A study released in March of 2003 by a British medical journal, the Lancet, showed that 100,000 civilians had been killed as a result of the US invasion.To be perfectly frank, it’s hard to see how anyone who has even a passing familiarity with statistics could take Lancet’s numbers seriously. Fred Kaplanfrom Slate explains:
“The authors of a peer-reviewed study, conducted by a survey team from Johns Hopkins University, claim that about 100,000 Iraqi civilians have died as a result of the war. Yet a close look at the actual study, published online today by the British medical journal the Lancet, reveals that this number is so loose as to be meaningless.The report’s authors derive this figure by estimating how many Iraqis died in a 14-month period before the U.S. invasion, conducting surveys on how many died in a similar period after the invasion began (more on those surveys later), and subtracting the difference. That difference�the number of “extra” deaths in the post-invasion period�signifies the war’s toll. That number is 98,000. But read the passage that cites the calculation more fully:
We estimate there were 98,000 extra deaths (95% CI 8000-194 000) during the post-war period.
Readers who are accustomed to perusing statistical documents know what the set of numbers in the parentheses means. For the other 99.9 percent of you, I’ll spell it out in plain English�which, disturbingly, the study never does. It means that the authors are 95 percent confident that the war-caused deaths totaled some number between 8,000 and 194,000. (The number cited in plain language�98,000�is roughly at the halfway point in this absurdly vast range.)
This isn’t an estimate. It’s a dart board.
Imagine reading a poll reporting that George W. Bush will win somewhere between 4 percent and 96 percent of the votes in this Tuesday’s election. You would say that this is a useless poll and that something must have gone terribly wrong with the sampling. The same is true of the Lancet article: It’s a useless study; something went terribly wrong with the sampling.”
Bingo! What Lancet was in effect saying was that they believed 98,000 civilians died, but they might have been off by roughly 90,000 people or so in either direction.
Moreover, other sources at the time were coming in with numbers that were a tiny fraction of the 98,000 figure that the Lancet settled on. From a New York Times article on the Lancet study:
“The 100,000 estimate immediately came under attack. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw of Britain questioned the methodology of the study and compared it with an Iraq Health Ministry figure that put civilian fatalities at less than 4,000. Other critics referred to the findings of the Iraq Body Count project, which has constructed a database of war-related civilian deaths from verified news media reports or official sources like hospitals and morgues.That database recently placed civilian deaths somewhere between 14,429 and 16,579, the range arising largely from uncertainty about whether some victims were civilians or insurgents. But because of its stringent conditions for including deaths in the database, the project has quite explicitly said, ”Our own total is certain to be an underestimate.”
Via GlobalSecurity.org, here’s another Iraqi civilian death estimate:
“On 20 October 2003 the Project on Defense Alternatives estimated that between 10,800 and 15,100 Iraqis were killed in the war. Of these, between 3,200 and 4,300 were noncombatants — that is: civilians who did not take up arms.”
Given all that, how any informed person can buy into Lancet’s numbers is simply beyond me.
3) The Bush Administration claimed Iraq was responsible for 9/11. It’s always difficult to prove a negative, but that simply never happened.
Many people may believe this was the case because in “Fahrenheit 9/11,” Michael Moore truncated a comment by Condi Rice in order to deliberately give viewers of his movie that false impression. Here’s the quote as it appeared in the film:
“There is a tie between Iraq and what happened on 9/11″
Now here’s the full quote:
“Oh, indeed there is a tie between Iraq and what happened on 9/11. It�s not that Saddam Hussein was somehow himself and his regime involved in 9/11, but, if you think about what caused 9/11, it is the rise of ideologies of hatred that lead people to drive airplanes into buildings in New York.”
Setting aside Moore’s little deceit, there just aren’t any quotations I’ve ever seen from anyone in the Bush administration saying that Saddam was responsible for 9/11. That’s why, in a piece called “Answering 50 Frequently Asked Questions About The War On Terrorism,” which incidentally was written about a week before the war began, I wrote this:
The Bush administration has never claimed that Iraq was involved in 9/11…
Furthermore, after the war had begun, in September of 2003, President Bush himself publicly & explicitly said:
“We have no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with the 11 September attacks.”
It doesn’t get much clearer than that.
4) The war in Iraq was actually planned by people like Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz back in 1998 at a think tank called the Project for the New American Century. The problem with trying to claim that the war in Iraq was preordained during some 1998 PNAC meeting is that the United States government has been trying to find a way to get rid of Saddam Hussein since the Gulf War. In an interview I did with him back in January of 2004, David Frum, went into detail on this subject:
“The idea that overthrowing Saddam Hussein sprung out of the minds of a few people in Washington forgets an awful lot of history. In the 2000 election, both candidates spoke openly about the need to deal with Saddam Hussein. Al Gore was actually more emphatic on the topic than George Bush was. In 1998, Congress passed and President Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act. Just to show how conspiratorial they were, they put it in the Congressional record. In 1995, the CIA tried to organize a coup against Saddam Hussein and it failed. The coup was secret, but it has been written about in 5 or 6 books that I know of. In 1991, representatives of President George H. W. Bush went on the radio and urged the Iraqi people to rise up against Saddam Hussein. So America’s policy on Saddam has been consistent. What we have been arguing about for years are the methods. First, we tried to encourage a rebellion in Iraq, that didn’t work. Then we tried coups; that didn’t work. Then in 1998, we tried funding Iraqi opposition. That might have worked, but the money never actually got appropriated. Then, ultimately we tried direct military power. The idea that Saddam should go has been the policy of the United States since 1991.”
The reality is just as Frum pointed out: overthrowing Saddam Hussein by hook or crook was the de facto policy of the US government for more than a decade before the war in Iraq and the disagreement was over how to do it. That argument was settled in many people’s minds by 9/11, not by people conspiring in a think tank back in 1998.
5) The war on terror has nothing to do with Iraq. This is another historical rewrite. The reality is that the pro-war movement in this country since 9/11 has plainly spoken of dealing with Saddam Hussein as part of the war on terrorism almost from the very beginning. Here’s George Bush in a speech given on 9/20/2001:
“Our response involves far more than instant retaliation and isolated strikes. Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign unlike any other we have ever seen. It may include dramatic strikes visible on TV and covert operations secret even in success.We will starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place until there is no refuge or no rest.
And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation in every region now has a decision to make: Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.
From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.”
Iraq certainly was a state that harbored and supported terrorists and the approach Bush discussed, the Bush Doctrine, was adopted and talked about often in relation to Iraq during the lead up to the war. As proof, look to a column called “Answering 50 Frequently Asked Questions About The War On Terrorism” that I wrote back on March 13, 2003:
Why are we going to invade Iraq? Nine days after 9/11, George Bush said,“(W)e will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation in every region now has a decision to make Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.”
That definition fits Iraq and since they happened to be the easiest nation to make a case against at the UN and in the court of World Opinion, they were our next logical target after Afghanistan — although they’re not our last target.”
The war on terrorism cannot be won as long as there are terrorist supporting states out there. So one way or the other, we need to get those rogue regimes out of the business of supporting terrorist groups of international reach. Saddam led one of those regimes and now, happily, he’s gone — perhaps before the US was hit with an Iraqi based terrorist attack:
“I can confirm that after the events of September 11, 2001, and up to the military operation in Iraq, Russian special services and Russian intelligence several times received … information that official organs of Saddam’s regime were preparing terrorist acts on the territory of the United States and beyond its borders, at U.S. military and civilian locations.” — Russian President Vladimir Putin as quoted by CNN on June 18, 2004
Even John Kerry, the flip-flopping Democratic candidate for President last year, seemed to at least agree that the fate of Iraq was crucial to the war on terror:
“Iraq may not be the war on terror itself, but it is critical to the outcome of the war on terror, and therefore any advance in Iraq is an advance forward in that and I disagree with the Governor [Howard Dean].” — John Kerry, 12/15/03
Kerry even pointed out that he thought Saddam might give WMDs to terrorists:
“I would disagree with John McCain that it�s the actual weapons of mass destruction he may use against us, it�s what he may do in another invasion of Kuwait or in a miscalculation about the Kurds or a miscalculation about Iran or particularly Israel. Those are the things that – that I think present the greatest danger. He may even miscalculate and slide these weapons off to terrorist groups to invite them to be a surrogate to use them against the United States. It�s the miscalculation that poses the greatest threat.” — John Kerry, “Face The Nation”, 9/15/02
Now if even John Kerry of all people is willing to admit that Iraq is “critical to the outcome of the war on terror” and that Saddam was the kind of guy who might use terrorist groups to attack the US, we should be able to at least agree at this point that it’s not the least bit disingenuous to suggest that Iraq is an important part of the war on terrorism.
6) Saddam Hussein had no ties to terrorism. It’s amazing to me that today in 2005, people are still trotting out that oft-disproven quip. Christopher Hitchens was also apparently surprised when Ron Reagan, Jr. made a similar assertion recently and you may find his response to be most enlightening:
“CH: Do you know nothing about the subject at all? Do you wonder how Mr. Zarqawi got there under the rule of Saddam Hussein? Have you ever heard of Abu Nidal?RR: Well, I’m following the lead of the 9/11 Commission, which…
CH: Have you ever heard of Abu Nidal, the most wanted man in the world, who was sheltered in Baghdad? The man who pushed Leon Klinghoffer off the boat, was sheltered by Saddam Hussein. The man who blew up the World Trade Center in 1993 was sheltered by Saddam Hussein, and you have the nerve to say that terrorism is caused by resisting it? And by deposing governments that endorse it? … At this stage, after what happened in London yesterday?…
RR: Zarqawi is not an envoy of Saddam Hussein, either.
CH: Excuse me. When I went to interview Abu Nidal, then the most wanted terrorist in the world, in Baghdad, he was operating out of an Iraqi government office. He was an arm of the Iraqi State, while being the most wanted man in the world. The same is true of the shelter and safe house offered by the Iraqi government, to the murderers of Leon Klinghoffer, and to Mr. Yassin, who mixed the chemicals for the World Trade Center bombing in 1993. How can you know so little about this, and be occupying a chair at the time that you do?”
Mr. Hitchens is entirely correct. Saddam provided “safe haven” for terrorists with “global reach.” Among them were terrormaster Abu Nidal, Abdul Rahman Yassin, one of the conspirators in the 1993 WTC bombing, “Khala Khadr al-Salahat, the man who reputedly made the bomb for the Libyans that brought down Pan Am Flight 103 over…Scotland,”Abu Abbas, mastermind of the October 1985 Achille Lauro hijacking and murder of Leon Klinghoffer,” & “Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, formerly the director of an al Qaeda training base in Afghanistan” who is now believed to be leading Al-Qaeda’s forces in Iraq.
Without question, Saddam Hussein had extensive ties to terrorism.
7) Saddam Hussein had no ties to Al-Qaeda. A couple of quotes by the 9/11 Commission, which were often used out of context during the polarizing 2004 election cycle, have fueled the ridiculous claim that Saddam Hussein had no ties with Al-Qaeda. Here’s an excerpt from an article at MSNBC called “9/11 panel sees no link between Iraq, al-Qaida,” that should give you a good idea of the anti-war spin that was put on the Commission’s comments:
“It said that reports of subsequent contacts between Iraq and al-Qaida after bin Laden had returned to Afghanistan �do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship,� and added that two unidentified senior bin Laden associates “have adamantly denied that any ties existed between al-Qaida and Iraq.”The report, the 15th released by the commission staff, concluded, �We have no credible evidence that Iraq and al-Qaida cooperated on attacks against the United States.�
However, the spin doesn’t match the reality.
What the 9/11 Commission was trying to get across was that there was no evidence that Saddam and Al-Qaeda collaborated on specific attacks, not that they didn’t have a working relationship. 9/11 Commission Vice-Chairman (and former Democratic Congressman) Lee Hamiliton echoed exactly that point in comments that were largely ignored because they didn’t fit the anti-war storyline some people were pushing:
“The vice president is saying, I think, that there were connections between Al Qaeda and the Saddam Hussein government. We don’t disagree with that. What we have said is what the governor (Commission Chairman Thomas Kean) just said, we don’t have any evidence of a cooperative, or a corroborative, relationship between Saddam Hussein’s government and these Al Qaeda operatives with regard to the attacks on the United States.”
While there may not be evidence that Saddam and Al-Qaeda cooperated in attacks on the United States, the evidence that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and Al-Qaeda worked together is absolutely undeniable.
For example, no one disputes that Abu Musab al Zarqawi, who once ran an Al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan and is leading Al-Qaeda terrorist attacks in Iraq today, was in Iraq BEFORE the war started getting medical care. In and of itself, that would seem to strongly suggest a significant connection.
But wait, there’s more!
Consider this comment by former CIA Director George Tenet in a letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee on October 7, 2002:
“Credible reporting states that al Qaeda leaders sought contacts in Iraq who could help them acquire WMD capabilities. The reporting also stated that Iraq has provided training to al Qaeda members in the areas of poisons and gases and making conventional bombs.”
Here’s more from Richard Miniter, author of “Losing Bin Laden: How Bill Clinton’s Failures Unleashed Global Terror“:
* Abdul Rahman Yasin was the only member of the al Qaeda cell that detonated the 1993 World Trade Center bomb to remain at large in the Clinton years. He fled to Iraq. U.S. forces recently discovered a cache of documents in Tikrit, Saddam’s hometown, that show that Iraq gave Mr. Yasin both a house and monthly salary.* Bin Laden met at least eight times with officers of Iraq’s Special Security Organization, a secret police agency run by Saddam’s son Qusay, and met with officials from Saddam’s mukhabarat, its external intelligence service, according to intelligence made public by Secretary of State Colin Powell, who was speaking before the United Nations Security Council on February 6, 2003.
* In 1998, Abbas al-Janabi, a longtime aide to Saddam’s son Uday, defected to the West. At the time, he repeatedly told reporters that there was a direct connection between Iraq and al Qaeda.
* Mohamed Mansour Shahab, a smuggler hired by Iraq to transport weapons to bin Laden in Afghanistan, was arrested by anti-Hussein Kurdish forces in May, 2000. He later told his story to American intelligence and a reporter for the New Yorker magazine.
Here’s more from Weekly Standard columnist Stephen Hayes, author of “The Connection : How al Qaeda’s Collaboration with Saddam Hussein Has Endangered America“:
“Evan Bayh, Democrat from Indiana, has described the Iraq-al Qaeda connection as a relationship of “mutual exploitation.” Joe Lieberman said, “There are extensive contacts between Saddam Hussein’s government and al Qaeda.” George Tenet, too, has spoken of those contacts and goes further, claiming Iraqi “training” of al Qaeda terrorists on WMDs and provision of “safe haven” for al Qaeda in Baghdad. Richard Clarke once said the U.S. government was “sure” Iraq had provided a chemical-weapons precursor to an al Qaeda-linked pharmaceutical plant in Sudan. Even Hillary Clinton cited the Iraq-al Qaeda connection as one reason she voted for the Iraq War.”
So is there proof that Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda worked together to hit targets in the US? No. But, is there extensive evidence that they had ties and worked together at times? Absolutely.
8) The Downing Street Memo proves Bush lied to the American people about the war. The left-side of the blogosphere has been bleating ceaselessly about the Downing Street Memo since the beginning of May which might lead you to wonder why the reaction to the memo has been so tepid in the scandal loving mainstream media. Well, the problem with the DSM is that there’s no “there, there.”
Some of the anti-war crowd’s rantings about the memo have hinged on its acknowledgement of increased bombings in the Iraqi no-fly zones (“spikes of activity”) during the run-up to the war. However, the increased frequency of bombings was common knowledge even back in 2002 (See here, here, & here). We had already been bombing the Iraqis in the no-fly zone and we increased the pace to soften them up a bit just in case we had to go in. It probably saved the lives of some of our soldiers and almost no one except members of Saddam’s government seemed upset about it while it was actually going on. So why should it be a big deal now in 2005? The carping about it at this point is pure political gamesmanship.
Moving on to another jejune point in the memos that has led to hyperventilation among Bush foes, take a look at this line:
“C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable.”
Note that no particular person in the Bush administration said war is “inevitable,” it’s just the perception that C, AKA Sir Richard Dearlove, has. Again, we’re talking about something that was common knowledge back in July of 2002, as even liberal Michael Kinsley pointed out in a notably unenthusiastic LA Times column about the DSM:
“Just look at what was in the newspapers on July 23, 2002, and the day before. Left-wing Los Angeles Times columnist Robert Scheer casually referred to the coming war as “much planned for.” The New York Times reported Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s response to a story that “reported preliminary planning on ways the United States might attack Iraq to topple President Saddam Hussein.” Rumsfeld effectively confirmed the report by announcing an investigation of the leak.A Wall Street Journal Op-Ed declared that “the drums of war beat louder.” A dispatch from Turkey in the New York Times even used the same word, “inevitable,” to describe the thinking in Ankara about the thinking in Washington about the decision “to topple President Saddam Hussein of Iraq by force.”
Why, it almost sounds as if many people who weren’t passing around secret documents saw the invasion of Iraq as “inevitable,” even back then! I guess those “secret” memos aren’t as as chock full of sensitive information as you’d think.
But, let’s move on to the meat of the DSM. Via Wikipedia, here is the part of the Downing Street Memo that has caused the most “excitement” on the left:
Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime’s record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.
Basically the charge here is supposed to be that Bush “fixed” the evidence for the war.
When the word “fixed” is mentioned in the memo, it’s obviously not being used as Americans would use it if they were talking about “fixing” a horse race. Instead, the writer was trying to get across that the Bush administration was attempting to build a solid case to justify its policy publicly. That’s certainly not a unique way of looking at it either. For example, John Ware, a reporter at the very liberal BBC, seems to have roughly the same interpretation:
“Several well placed sources have told us that Sir Richard Dearlove was minuted as saying: “The facts and the intelligence were being fixed round the policy by the Bush administration.” By ‘fixed’ the MI6 chief meant that the Americans were trawling for evidence to reinforce their claim that Saddam was a threat.”
Furthermore, to even try to interpret the Downing Street Memo as supporting the idea that Bush was making up evidence — presumably about weapons of mass destruction — is extremely difficult to square with the fact that the DSM itself makes it absolutely clear that the British believed Saddam had WMDs. From theDSM:
“For instance, what were the consequences, if Saddam used WMD on day one, or if Baghdad did not collapse and urban warfighting began? You said that Saddam could also use his WMD on Kuwait. Or on Israel, added the Defence Secretary.”
If the Bush administration and the Brits believed Saddam had WMDs and was capable of using them, what exactly is supposed to have been forged? Nothing of course, because that’s not how the person taking the notes meant it to be interpreted. If he’d known his notes were ever going to be read by the public, I’m sure he would have been more careful about ambiguous phrasing that could be willfully misinterpreted for political gain.
On top of all that, there have already been investigations that have cleared the Bush administration of doing anything shady on the intelligence front. As Cassandra at Villainous Company correctly pointed out:
Quote (the DSM) all you want. Is there some evidence to back this up? Say, to refute the conclusions of the Butler Report (British), the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, or the 9/11 Commission, which all concluded that there was no improper manipulation of intelligence? Or are we now willing to disregard the conclusions of three official inquiries on the strength of one (word in an) unattributed set of minutes from a single foreign staff meeting?”
The Downing Street Memo is a lot of hullabaloo over nothing of note.