Yesterday I was talking to a friend of mine about Saddam Hussein and she said in part,
FOH: …I just don’t agree with being lied to in order to take (Saddam) out.
John Hawkins: What lie do you think you were told?
FOH: That we were in imminent danger of being destroyed by weapons of mass destruction.
My friend isn’t very political, but some left-winger apparently got to her and convinced her that Bush was lying about WMD. While her belief is erroneous, it’s understandable that some people might buy into the idea that “Bush lied about WMD” because they’re not political junkies who remember every detail of the build-up to the war. That’s why it’s so important for conservatives to remind people of what really happened even as the left tries to rewrite history.
To begin with, this argument that Bush kept emphasizing that we were in “imminent danger” can be quickly and easily disposed of. That’s because the whole concept behind making preemptive strikes runs counter to the idea of waiting until a threat is “imminent”. As Bush said in his 2003 State of the Union speech,
“Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option. (Applause.)”
Secondly, while Bush certainly made it very clear that he believed that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, that was not the sole reason Bush gave for invading Iraq. To the contrary, Bush hit several themes consistently in the year before the invasion of Iraq including WMD, Saddam’s violation of 17 United Nations resolutions (which did not deal with WMD alone), Hussein’s mistreatment of his people, & his cooperation with terrorists. To prove that I’m not just blowing smoke, let me go back to Bush’s widely covered Sept 12, 2002 speech to the United Nations General Assembly. In that speech which made front page news all around the world, Bush explained what Saddam needed to do to avoid war. If the anti-war critics are right and Bush predicated his whole case on Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction, it would be logical to think that Bush simply told Saddam to get rid of his WMD. But to the contrary, Bush said the following,
“If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will immediately and unconditionally forswear, disclose, and remove or destroy all weapons of mass destruction, long-range missiles, and all related material.
If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will immediately end all support for terrorism and act to suppress it, as all states are required to do by U.N. Security Council resolutions.
If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will cease persecution of its civilian population, including Shi’a, Sunnis, Kurds, Turkomans, and others, again as required by Security Council resolutions.
If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will release or account for all Gulf War personnel whose fate is still unknown. It will return the remains of any who are deceased, return stolen property, accept liability for losses resulting from the invasion of Kuwait, and fully cooperate with international efforts to resolve these issues, as required by Security Council resolutions.
If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will immediately end all illicit trade outside the oil-for-food program. It will accept U.N. administration of funds from that program, to ensure that the money is used fairly and promptly for the benefit of the Iraqi people.”
Ok, so we’ve now shown that Bush wasn’t claiming the threat was “imminent” and that Bush’s case against Iraq wasn’t built exclusively on showing that Saddam had WMD. Even if that’s so, we haven’t found the WMD yet. Doesn’t that mean Bush “lied”?
No, it doesn’t. What you have to understand is almost EVERYBODY in the know thought Saddam had WMD. For example, just listen to what “Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., ranking member of the House intelligence Committee” had to say about this subject,
“Some are suggesting, certainly, that (Saddam) destroyed the weapons after 1998 or maybe even sooner. It’s just counterintuitive that he would have done that. His would have been the greatest intelligence hoax of all time, fooling every intelligence agency, three presidents, five secretaries of defense and the entire world into thinking he still had the weapons.”
Furthermore, Harman wasn’t the only Democrat who felt that way. There are many examples I could cite, but here’s one from the current golden girl of the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton, making virtually the same case to the American people that Bush did on weapons on mass destruction,
“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.” – Hillary Clinton, October 10, 2002
Since Bush’s position on whether Saddam had WMD was indistinguishable from that of most of the VIPs in the Democratic Party, no intellectually honest person can claim that “Bush lied about WMD” unless he also believes that the majority of the US government on both sides of the aisle, along with intelligence agencies and leaders from many other nations, also lied about Hussein’s WMD.
At worst, those who are knowledgable about the situation and who aren’t blind partisans can say that Bush’s allegation that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction was in error. But to be truthful, we can’t even definitively say that’s the case yet. I tell you that because there are a variety of theories about what happened to the weapons of mass destruction. Some people believe that the WMD have been; shipped to Lebanon or Syria, destroyed at some point, hidden and not yet found, carried away in the looting, given to terrorists, not built for years by scientists afraid to tell Saddam the truth, or some combination thereof. At this point, it’s difficult to rule any of those possibilities out. But as David Kay pointed out in his interim report, Saddam at the very least intended to procure WMD,
“Saddam, at least as judged by those scientists and other insiders who worked in his military-industrial programs, had not given up his aspirations and intentions to continue to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Even those senior officials we have interviewed who claim no direct knowledge of any on-going prohibited activities readily acknowledge that Saddam intended to resume these programs whenever the external restrictions were removed. Several of these officials acknowledge receiving inquiries since 2000 from Saddam or his sons about how long it would take to either restart CW production or make available chemical weapons.”
So we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Hussein once had and used weapons of mass destruction. Moreover, at the time of the invasion, Saddam either had WMD or planned to acquire them. So all this quibbling over WMD is in a very important sense, irrelevant. Worst case scenario, it’s like we stopped a serial killer before he could kill again as opposed to actually catching him with a body in the basement. In any case, sensible people who are concerned about what an anti-American tyrant like Saddam might have done with his WMD should be happy that the “Butcher of Baghdad” is now permanently out of business.