The Bush administration told the American people over and over again that war against Iraq was necessary because Saddam Hussein was lying about not having weapons of mass destruction. We were told that Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction were an imminent threat to the United States. We were told that our government knew where those weapons of mass destruction were located. And yet, after another brutal war in which thousands of innocent civilians were killed, the Bush Administration can produce no evidence that Saddam Hussein had the weapons of mass destruction.
Prior to the war, the Bush administration offered detailed descriptions of Iraq’s weapons programs, including the claims famously made by Colin Powell before the UN Security Council. Bush administration claims included assertions that Iraq had a program for enriching uranium, that it had weaponized thousands of liters of biological weapons, including anthrax and botulism, and that Iraq could launch these weapons on very short notice.
Prior to the war, when Saddam Hussein opened his palaces to UN inspectors, destroyed missiles with ranges barely longer than UN restrictions and allowed the US to send U-2 spy planes over Iraq, the Bush Administration said it was too little, too late.
Prior to the war, when the Chief UN Weapons Inspector, Hans Blix, said that the inspectors were receiving increased cooperation from the Iraqis and pleaded for more time to continue their work, George Bush said he was growing impatient.
Prior to the war, when members of the Security Counsel of the United Nations said they were not ready to support the use of force against Iraq, George Bush demonstrated his disdain for international law and the Security Counsel of the United Nations by launching a preventive war against Iraq.
The failure to find weapons of mass destruction after the war is causing widespread skepticism throughout the world about the justification for going to war. It has become a major political scandal in the UK, where prior to the war Tony Blair echoed the Bush administration’s claims of Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction.
In the UK, Robin Cook, who resigned in protest from Tony Blair’s cabinet over the war in Iraq, has written: “Britain was conned into a war to disarm a phantom threat in which not even our major ally really believed. The truth is that the US chose to attack Iraq not because it posed a threat, but because they knew it was weak and expected its military to collapse. It is a truth that leaves the British government in an uncomfortable position.”
It is a truth that also leaves the American people in an uncomfortable position. It would seem that we were also “conned into a war” by Mr. Bush and his administration.
In a war that was sold to the American people and the Congress on the basis of misrepresentations by the Bush administration, more than 170 American soldiers were killed, more than 5,000 innocent civilians lost their lives, and thousands of Iraqi soldiers were slaughtered.
In the aftermath of the war, US soldiers continue to be targets of Iraqi dissatisfaction. Eleven US soldiers were killed in the past week. Iraq remains a dangerous place, but not because of weapons of mass destruction.
When the US and British forces invaded Iraq, one might have expected Saddam Hussein to use weapons of mass destruction if he had them. Rather, the Bush administration would have us believe that Saddam Hussein, while preparing for the US invasion or during the US attack, was busy destroying his weapons of mass destruction or moving them into another country.
Rather than show any contrition for leading the American people into war under false pretenses, President Bush has claimed that weapons of mass destruction have been found. He makes this claim on the basis of the discovery of two mobile laboratories, presumably meant for making biological weapons, but which contain no evidence, according to the CIA, that weapons were actually made.
Far more honest is Lt. General James Conway, the commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, who stated to reporters, “It was a surprise to me then, it remains a surprise to me now, that we have not uncovered weapons, as you say, in some of the forward dispersal areas. Believe me, it’s not for lack of trying. We’ve been to virtually every ammunition supply point between the Kuwaiti border and Baghdad, but they’re simply not there.”
Congress, which plans to hold hearings next week on lessons learned in Iraq, should delve into the “credibility gap” between the Bush administration’s claims regarding Iraqi weapons of mass destruction as a pretext for war and the failure to locate these weapons in the aftermath of the war. These claims cannot be dismissed, as some members of Congress would do, as simple exaggerations. They appear to be serious misrepresentations to the American people and the people of the world.
The Bush administration has much to account for regarding its highly publicized claims prior to the war that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. While it is appropriate to acknowledge the tyrannical nature of Saddam Hussein’s regime, concern for the human rights of the Iraqi people was not the justification of the Bush administration for initiating a preventive war. Their justification, stated repeatedly, was the imminent threat of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, and it was on this basis that the Bush administration defied international law and the Security Council of the United Nations.
The buck stops with Mr. Bush. Lying about the reasons for war and misleading the American people into supporting a war has the look and feel of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” for which the Constitution provides impeachment as the remedy.
DAVID KRIEGER is president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. He is the editor of Hope in a Dark Time (Capra Press, 2003), and author of Choose Hope, Your Role in Waging Peace in the Nuclear Age (Middleway Press, 2002). He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.