Dick Cheney commemorated the fifth anniversary of 9/11 by sticking to the MO that he and his running-mate used to lead the nation into the current mess in Iraq.
Appearing on Meet the Press on Sunday, Cheney encountered a decent grilling from host Tim Russert, who pressed him on how Cheney and George W. Bush had justified the war in Iraq. “Based on what you know now, that Saddam did not have the weapons of mass destruction that were described, would you still have gone into Iraq?” Russert asked. Yes, indeed, Cheney said, hewing to the company line. And he pointed to what appeared to be evidence that supported that no-regrets stance:
Look at the Duelfer Report and what it said. No stockpiles, but they also said he has the capability. He’d done it before. He had produced chemical weapons before and used them. He had produced biological weapons. He had a robust nuclear program in ’91. All of this is true, said by Duelfer, facts.
Well, let’s look at the report of Charles Duelfer who headed up the Iraq Survey Group, which was responsible for searching for WMDs after the invasion. (Duelfer took the job following David Kay’s resignation in late 2003.) It just so happens that in our new book, Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War, Michael Isikoff and I quote from that report, and it noted that Saddam’s WMD capability
was essentially destroyed in 1991.
That is the opposite of what Cheney told Russert the report said. Cheney went on to remark,
Think where we’d be if [Saddam] was still there…We also would have a situation where he would have resumed his WMD programs.
Yet Duelfer reported that at the time of the invasion, Saddam had no
plan for the revival of WMD.
Cheney even justified the invasion of Iraq by citing an allegation that was just debunked in a Senate intelligence committee report released on Friday. Claiming there was a significant relationship between Saddam’s regime and al Qaeda, he cited the case of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (who was recently killed in Iraq). After the US attacked the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan, Cheney said, Zarqawi
fled and went to Baghdad and set up operations in Baghdad in the spring of ’02 and was there from then, basically, until basically the time we launched into Iraq.
The implication here is that Baghdad sanctioned the terrorist activity of Zarqawi, a supposed al Qaeda associate. But the Senate intelligence committee report–released by a Republican-run panel–noted that prior to the invasion of Iraq Zarqawi and his network were not part of al Qaeda. (That merging came after the invasion.) More important, the report cites CIA reports (based on captured documents and interrogations) that say that Baghdad was not protecting or assisting Zarqawi when he was in Iraq. In fact, Iraqi intelligence in the spring of 2002 had formed a “special committee” to locate and capture him–but failed to find the terrorist. A 2005 CIA report concluded that prior to the Iraq war,