Earth to Bush, Earth to Bush.
There were no WMDs in Iraq. There were no active WMD programs. So says the report submitted by WMD hunter Charles Duelfer. (For my selection of the report’s greatest hits, go to www.davidcorn.com and scroll down.) The report demolishes Bush’s prewar argument that Iraq was an “immediate,” “direct,” and “gathering” threat. Sure, Saddam Hussein, a brutal, ruthless, tyrant who yearned to possess biological, chemical and nuclear weapons presented a problem. But if he did not have WMD stockpiles or active WMD programs, what made the threat he posed “immediate” or “direct.” Since his WMD programs were, according to Duelfer’s report, moribund, what made this threat “gathering.” There was nothing “gathering” about it. But “gathering” is the buzzword that Bush used before the war, and he has relied upon this speechwriter’s find ever since, as it has become apparent no WMDs will be found in Iraq. The Duelfer report shows that whatever threat Iraq posed was rather static. It was not becoming more serious. That means there was no “immediate” and “direct” reason on March 19, 2003, to head into an elective war, with few major allies, not enough body armor and reinforced Humvees, and little planning for the aftermath.
Bush, though, will not–and cannot–concede this. Grim-faced, he read a short statement today about Duelfer’s 1,000-page-long report. Bush noted that the report concluded that Hussein was “systematically gaming the system,” using the oil-for-food program in an “effort to undermine sanctions.” Pointing to the report, Bush declared that Hussein had the “intent of restarting his weapons programs once the world looked away.” Well, no shit, Mr. President. But at the time Bush ordered US forces to invade and occupy Iraq, the world was not looking away. In fact, the world was quite engaged. The inspections process was under way. UN inspectors had gained access to suspicious sites. They had discovered a few missiles that were prohibited. Hussein had begrudgingly agreed to destroy these weapons. The nuclear inspectors had declared they had found no evidence of a revived nuclear weapons program. (Bush and Dick Cheney had repeatedly claimed Iraq had revved up its nuclear weapons program.) And at the United Nations, countries looking to prevent a war were discussing even more intrusive inspections and other means to hold Hussein accountable and to force him to heed UN resolutions. So it’s disingenuous to state that the war was justified because Hussein could have kick-started WMD programs once the world got off his back. If Bush was indeed worried the world would one day tire of keeping Hussein in check–and then Hussein might revive his WMD programs–he could have developed a strategy to maintain the international pressure on Hussein. Instead, he chose war.
In defending his war, Bush today tossed out the usual rhetoric: “America and the world are safer today” with Hussein locked in a cell. That is a wishful statement. The world may be safer. It may not be. If terrorists are now using a safehouse in Fallujah to plot an attack outside of Iraq using a loose nuke that originated in the former Soviet Union, then parts of the world may not be safer. This is pure speculation. But until the mess in Iraq is resolved, there is no way to know whether the world is safer because of the invasion of Iraq. When the Afghan rebels–backed by the CIA–forced the Soviets out of Afghanistan, Cold Warriors could have pronounced the world safer. But that “victory” led to chaos in Afghanistan, which led to the rise of the Taliban, which led to the creation of a safe haven for Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, which led to….You get the picture.
When you’re done reading this article,visit David Corn’s WEBLOG at www.davidcorn.com. Read recent entries on the latest WMD report, my debut in The Onion, and how the media covers for the Bush campaign.
Arguing that we can all sleep more soundly now, Bush said that Hussein “retained the knowledge, the materials, the means and the intent to produce weapons of mass destruction.” So do many other leaders. And, Bush added, Hussein could have “passed that knowledge” to anti-American terrorists. The evidence to date, though, is that Hussein had no operational relationship with the terrorists who threaten America directly and immediately: al Qaeda. And while know-how is important, it often is not the most crucial element in building, say, a nuclear weapon. In that case, obtaining the necessary fissile material is more difficult to obtain. In any event, Bush did not proclaim prior to the war that the United States had no choice but to invade Iraq because of the information that could come out of its mothballed WMD programs. He said this drastic step was necessary because Iraq at any moment could transfer a weapon of mass destruction to its allies in al Qaeda. Iraq had nothing to transfer and had no partners in al Qaeda.
In a campaign speech yesterday, Bush once again attacked Kerry on Iraq, noting “Senator Kerry said that removing Saddam was a mistake because the threat was not imminent. The problem with this approach is obvious: If America waits until a threat is at our doorstep, it might be too late to save lives. Tyrants and terrorists will not give us polite notice before they launch an attack on our country. I refuse to stand by while dangers gather.”
How often can Bush repeat spin completely contradicted by reality? Don’t answer that. It was a rhetorical question. The Duelfer report–which confirms the work of David Kay, Duelfer’s predecessor, and the UN inspectors–tells us that “dangers” were not gathering in Iraq. Hussein was contained (as Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice both said in 2001). He wasn’t near our doorstep. He wasn’t even out of his own house.
Bush has refused to acknowledge his main reason for war has been demolished. On Planet Bush, facts don’t matter. They are weightless. Election Day will determine whether he really can defy the gravitational pull of the truth.
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