On Thursday night, George W. Bush and Tony Blair conducted a joint press briefing–which was a joint defense of their decision to invade Iraq. It seemed like Bush’s advisers crafted his remarks to show that Bush is in touch with reality, for he acknowledged that things haven’t gone entirely as expected in Iraq. Still, he repeatedly said “we’re making progress,” and his comments included assertions that were indeed reality-challenged. Here’s a brief annotation of a portion of his statement.
The decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power was controversial. We did not find the weapons of mass destruction that we all believed were there — and that’s raised questions about whether the sacrifice in Iraq has been worth it.
Not everyone believed that significant and threatening amounts of WMDs were in Iraq. UN inspectors said they were concerned that previous weapons and weapons-related materials had not been fully accounted for, but they noted that did not mean that stockpiles of WMDs existed. The State Department’s intelligence bureau did not believe that Iraq had revived its nuclear weapons program. Biological weapons experts were skeptical of the claim that Iraq had developed mobile bioweapons labs. Department of Energy experts disagreed with the Bush administration’s contention that Iraq had purchased aluminum tubes for a centrifuge that would produce enriched uranium for nuclear weapons. Practically every individual claim that the administration put forward before the war in making its WMD case was challenged before the war.
Despite setbacks and missteps, I strongly believe we did and are doing the right thing. Saddam Hussein was a menace to his people; he was a state sponsor of terror; he invaded his neighbors.
None of these were the primary reasons Bush gave for invading Iraq.
Investigations proved he was systematically gaming the oil-for-food program in an effort to undermine sanctions, with the intent of restarting his weapons programs once the sanctions collapsed and the world looked away.
The oil-for-food program was corrupt. But at the time of the invasion, the world was not looking away from Saddam. Thanks to Bush’s bellicose posturing, the UN had passed a resolution that led to the return of inspectors to Iraq. Saddam’s weapons programs–as minimal as they were at this point–were even more restricted (due to the inspections and the world’s attention) than they had been in years. The UN process was working–in terms of checking Saddam’s power and ability to develop chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. The world was hardly ignoring Saddam’s potential threat when Bush ordered the invasion.
If Saddam Hussein were in power today, his regime would be richer, more dangerous and a bigger threat to the region and the civilized world. The decision to remove Saddam Hussein was right.
Given the inspections that were underway in March 2003–and given the potential that existed then to hinder Iraq further with more intrusive inspections and more severe restrictions–there is no telling if Saddam would have been more “dangerous” today had Bush not invaded.
But not everything since liberation has turned out as the way we had expected or hoped. We’ve learned from our mistakes, adjusted our methods, and have built on our successes. From changing the way we train the Iraqi security forces to rethinking the way we do reconstruction, our commanders and our diplomats in Iraq are constantly adapting to the realities on the ground.
Is that why the military and police forces of Iraq are now thoroughly infiltrated by sectarian militias? Or why the Bush administration has cut off new money for reconstruction in Iraq? The learning curve seems to be not steep but a flat line.
….With the emergence of this government, something fundamental changed in Iraq last weekend.
We can only hope. But after all this, should one have any faith in Bush’s assessment of reality in Iraq?