If you picked up a paper in the last week or so, you probably got the impression that George Bush spent a year demanding an Iraqi invasion based on claims that Saddam had reconstituted nuclear weapons with uranium bought in Niger. But now that the war is over, we’ve found out that it was all a lie & there were never any weapons of mass destruction to begin with. So far, nobody has suggested putting Saddam back in power, apologizing, and sending him a fruit basket, but just give them time.
Of course, that wasn’t how it actually happened. While the Bush administration certainly talked extensively about weapons of mass destruction, they also continuously discussed Iraq’s breaking of UN Resolutions, freedom for the Iraqi people, and Iraq’s ties to Al Qaeda & terrorism. But I’m sure many of Bush’s critics were too busy screaming about a “war for oil” & “US imperialism” to pay attention to what the Bush administration was actually saying; so we’ll have to forgive them.
However, I want to address these claims that Bush lied in the build-up to the Iraq war. So let’s take on the big issues, one by one. First off, Bush certainly said that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Here’s just one of Bush’s quotes on the subject,
“The community of nations may see more and more of the very kind of threat Iraq poses now: a rogue state with weapons of mass destruction, ready to use them or provide them to terrorists. If we fail to respond today, Saddam and all those who would follow in his footsteps will be emboldened tomorrow.”
Whoops, I’m sorry! That was actually Bill Clinton in 1998. Gosh, it just sounds so much like what President Bush was saying during the build-up to the Iraqi war that it must have just slipped in. So let’s try this again. Here’s just one of Bush’s quotes on the subject of WMD & Iraq,
“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.”
Shoot, I did it again. That’s actually Hillary Clinton in October of 2002. How did that get in there?
OK, OK…that’s enough shenanigans for one editorial. The point is that there was very little dispute between the GOP & Democrats over whether Hussein had WMD or not.
So why haven’t we found them already? Since just about everyone expected to have already run across WMD by now, that’s hard to say. But that doesn’t mean there never were any WMD in Iraq. After all, we haven’t found Saddam yet, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t exist. Besides, as I said before the war, every sign points to the fact that Iraq had WMD,
“To come to the conclusion that Hussein doesn’t have WMD, you have to believe that after the inspectors left in 98, Saddam Hussein destroyed all of his WMD and then decided that he’d lose billions of dollars in oil revenue because of the sanctions rather than tell anyone about it.
Furthermore, Saddam has refused to let his scientists and their families leave the country, defectors have talked about Hussein’s WMD, rockets with empty chemical warheads have been found, and the inspectors have actually foundartillery shells tipped with mustard gas. So yes, Saddam does have WMD, and to be honest, that has been patently obvious since the Gulf War.”
So where are the weapons? They may still be buried in Iraq, or perhaps they were destroyed before the war, given to Syria or terrorists, looted, or some combination thereof. I still believe we will find WMD in Iraq, but we’re just going to have to be patient & see what turns up.
Next up on the agenda is a throwaway line from Bush’s state of the Union speech that is now getting a lot of attention. Here’s what Bush had to say about Uranium coming out of Africa / Niger during his 2003 SOTU address,
“The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”
At first glance, that would seem to be relatively uncontroversial given that to this day, the British government stands by its reports that Saddam tried to buy uranium in Africa. However, the US based its intelligence assessment not only on what the Brits said, but on other data including a document that turned out to be forged . Without that document, the Bush administration didn’t feel sure of the claim that Hussein bought uranium in Africa, so they withdrew it.
Well this has sparked ceaseless caterwauling on the left. Democrats are claiming Bush lied and are falling all over themselves to call for an inquiries and investigations. I’m sure they’re working on a flashy name for the whole thing too. There are probably focus groups out there right now trying to decide whether “Nigergate” or “Uraniumgate” would make a better name for a scandal.
But like the other “scandals” the Dems have tried to cook up since Bush came into office, this one has very little to it. In short, the CIA gave Bush a piece of intelligence info and told him it was genuine, Bush shared it with the American people, then the administration was told it was bogus, and they later told the American people about it. Had the CIA done a better job of keeping the President informed of what they knew, it would have never made the SOTU speech in the first place. But as the Washington Post reported back on June 12th of 2003,
“A key component of President Bush’s claim in his State of the Union address last January that Iraq had an active nuclear weapons program — its alleged attempt to buy uranium in Niger — was disputed by a CIA-directed mission to the central African nation in early 2002, according to senior administration officials and a former government official. But the CIA did not pass on the detailed results of its investigation to the White House or other government agencies, the officials said.
The CIA’s failure to share what it knew, which has not been disclosed previously, was one of a number of steps in the Bush administration that helped keep the uranium story alive until the eve of the war in Iraq, when the United Nations’ chief nuclear inspector told the Security Council that the claim was based on fabricated evidence.
A senior intelligence official said the CIA’s action was the result of “extremely sloppy” handling of a central piece of evidence in the administration’s case against then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. But, the official added, “It is only one fact and not the reason we went to war. There was a lot more.”
Democrats should understand that the CIA sometimes makes mistakes, especially since Bill Clinton once bombed an aspirin factory in Sudan based on bogus intelligence info he received. In any case, this is a lot of hot air over one relatively unimportant sentence in a 5000 word speech. The fact that the anti-war left is trying to make a huge stink over it lets you know how desperate they are to distract the American voters from how many of them were on the wrong side of history when we went into Iraq.
But there’s one more subject we’ve got to cover and that’s Dick Cheney’s claim that Iraq had nuclear weapons. From Eason Jordan’s CNN, here�s Wolf Blitzerwith all the dastardly details,
“Two months after the President’s address to Congress, Vice President Dick Cheney appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and went further than the president in alleging Saddam Hussein’s nuclear weapons program.
“He’s had years to get good at it and we know he has been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons. And we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons,” Cheney said.”
Wow, so the vice president said Saddam had nukes before the war? Isn’t it funny that we didn’t hear more about that at the time? I mean after all, you’d think that would have been a hot story. So where were the articles at the New York Times that began, “Iraq has been confirmed to be a nuclear power! If a nuclear war erupts, women and minorities are expected to be the hardest hit”?
That can be answered by actually going to the March 16th, 2003 transcript of “Meet the Press”. First off, Blitzer’s quote above is correct. However, Cheney also said,
“…I think that would be the fear here, that even if he were tomorrow to give everything up, if he stays in power, we have to assume that as soon as the world is looking the other way and preoccupied with other issues, he will be back again rebuilding his BW and CW capabilities, and once again reconstituting his nuclear program.”
So as we can see, earlier in the same interview Cheney said Saddam was “reconstituting” his program, not that he had “reconstituted nuclear weapons”. Later in the interview, Cheney says,
“We know (Saddam)’s out trying once again to produce nuclear weapons and we know that he has a long-standing relationship with various terrorist groups, including the al-Qaeda organization.”
Again, notice that Cheney says Saddam is “trying…to produce nuclear weapons”, not that he has them.
So at best (from the anti-war left�s perspective), what we have here is Cheney misspeaking. At worst, the transcript is simply wrong. You almost have to wonder if that’s the case given that it’s hard to imagine Tim Russert blithely ignoring the VP of the United States revealing for the first time that Iraq had nukes. But Blitzer and the other people who are using this quote are so desperate to nail the Bush administration that they’re willing to deliberately mislead their audiences by leaving out the context of the situation. I would say “for shame”, but anyone who’d try to trick their audience the way Blitzer & his ilk are doing probably isn’t capable of being shamed.
Unfortunately, Americans are fighting two wars right now. Conservatives are focused on fighting a war against terrorists who want to murder Americans. While on the other hand, the anti-war left is spending much of its time and energy trying to rewrite history and find minutiae it can distort in its never ending quest to smear the President. If they spent all that energy coming up with ways to fight against America’s real enemies instead of nipping at the ankles of the President, all Americans would be better off.