With the anniversary of the war in Iraq (or, as I like to call it when I'm feeling formal, the Iraq Campaign of the War on Terror), I think it's long overdue time to actually LOOK at some of the anti-war crowd's charges and give them the slightest shred of credence, for at least long enough to rip them to pieces.
I don't recall the original source of the statement "if you repeat a lie often enough, people will eventually believe it," but it's a fair observation of human nature. The anti-war crowd has taken that concept and proven it beyond their wildest dreams: they've chanted their mantras so often that they're accepted as gospel by their compatriots (I heard Liane Hansen of NPR repeat the two following as factual on Sunday). But as they say in sports, let's go to the tape:
1) President Bush claimed that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) prior to the invasion, and that was the primary reason for the attack.
President Bush sketched an expansive vision last night of what he expects to accomplish by a war in Iraq. Instead of focusing on eliminating weapons of mass destruction, or reducing the threat of terror to the United States, Mr. Bush talked about establishing a ''free and peaceful Iraq'' that would...
Obviously, I don't feel like forking over $3.95 for the full article. But that was enough to find the actual transcript of Bush's speech, as delivered to the American Enterprise Institute. The sole mention of the threat Iraq posed is contained in one paragraph:
In Iraq, a dictator is building and hiding weapons that could enable him to dominate the Middle East and intimidate the civilized world -- and we will not allow it. This same tyrant has close ties to terrorist organizations, and could supply them with the terrible means to strike this country -- and America will not permit it. The danger posed by Saddam Hussein and his weapons cannot be ignored or wished away. The danger must be confronted. We hope that the Iraqi regime will meet the demands of the United Nations and disarm, fully and peacefully. If it does not, we are prepared to disarm Iraq by force. Either way, this danger will be removed.
The rest of the discussion on Iraq was on how the rebuilding of Iraq would take place, and his vision of freedom blooming in the Muslim world. And as far as WMDs being found -- at least one artillery shell containing sarin has been used in an IED, as well as one containing mustard gas -- the latter being one of over 1,000 mustard gas weapons, totalling over 80 tons of mustard gas -- that was never accounted for in 12 years of Saddam's "compliance."
And never, NEVER forget that no one was obligated to prove Saddam was out of compliance with the 1991 surrender. Under its terms, the onus was solely on him to prove his compliance, and he deliberately and willfully failed to comply. Like a parolee required to undergo regular drug screening, he was presumed guilty until he proved his innocence -- and failure to cooperate nullified his parole.
2) Bush told the American people that Iraq posed an imminent threat to the US.
Once again, let's go to the tape. More specifically, President Bush's 2003 State of the Union address, delivered almost three months before the invasion:
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.
And later, he specifically says the threat is NOT imminent:
America will not accept a serious and mounting threat to our country, and our friends and our allies.
What WAS imminent was the collapse of the sanctions on Iraq, fed by Saddam's bribery through the Oil For Food program and other means. Our ears were being filled with the tales of the thousands of Iraqi children dying daily because of the sanctions, and the pressure to "ease up" and "allow Iraq to rejoin the community of nations" were growing more and more intense. The threat of Iraq being able to renew its quest for WMDs -- which it had possessed and used in the past, both on its own people and its neighbors -- was there.
3) Bush lied when he said Iraq possessed WMDs.
First, let's break out the dictionary on this one. To lie means to knowingly and willingly state a falsehood as truth. There is a mountain of difference between lying and being mistaken. For centuries, folks said the earth was flat. Others said that the sun revolved around the earth. Nobody says they were liars, they were simply speaking what they believed was truth.
Likewise, Saddam DID possess WMDs -- so far discovered in far smaller quantities than expected. But the assumption was an eminently fair one, considering several indisputable facts:
- In the 12 years between the first and second wars, Saddam was supposed to account for and destroy all his nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, along with all research and development materials. Literally TONS of contraband was never accounted for properly, with a great deal of it being covered by Saddam's "we burned it, but we lost the receipt" excuses.
- Saddam was trying to balance two competing interests against each other: convincing most of the world that he indeed had not WMDs, in accordance with the 1991 ceasefire, and convincing some of his neighbors (mainly Iran and Israel) and certain elements of his own people (mainly the Kurds and Shiites) that he did, and was willing and able to use them against those people if necessary. He thought he could count on his bought-and-paid-for allies in Fance, Germany, Russia, Great Britain, and the UN to provide enough cover to block the US from rigorously enforcing the 1991 terms -- a miscalculation that proved in the post-9/11 world to be fatal.
- Saddam's own generals and forces thought they would have access to WMDs for any possible US-led invasion. Captured battle plans referred to using chemical weapons against the invaders, and several key units had protective gear on hand.
Yes, there were flaws in the intelligence before the invasion. But intelligence is not a precise science. Based on the best information available, and the existing legal state (the repeated violations of the 1991 ceasefire, and the Congressional authorization of the use of force), the invasion of Iraq and deposal of Saddam was the least worst of the available options. And those who wish to rewrite history based on their own lies and prejudices need to be confronted and defeated with the most powerful weapon available: