Revelations that the Bush administration sold us a bill of goods about Iraq’s weapons program are growing faster than the imaginary mushroom cloud George W. Bush used to whip up support for his invasion of Iraq. Weapons of mass destruction provided the excuse to distract Americans from the real reasons Bush and his men were itching to get into Iraq.
Two days before he invaded Iraq, Bush declared there was “no doubt” the Iraqi regime possessed and concealed “some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.” That claim has proved specious. If he had those horrible weapons, Hussein surely would have used them in self-defense, which he did not. Systematic searches by hundreds of weapons inspectors have failed to turn up any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Indeed, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, in Vanity Fair, described the weapons of mass destruction rationale as a “bureaucratic” excuse for war, upon which everyone could agree.
Before the war began, Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee asked the C.I.A. to make intelligence available to Congress; but only findings supportive of the Bush administration’s position on Iraq were declassified, according to Senator Bob Graham (D-Fla.). The Defense Intelligence Agency’s classified assessment of Iraq’s chemical weapons program concluded “there is no reliable information on whether Iraq is producing and stockpiling chemical weapons, or whether Iraq has–or will–establish its chemical warfare agent production facilities.” Nevertheless, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld unequivocally told the House Armed Services Committee shortly thereafter, “We do know that the Iraqi regime has chemical and biological weapons.”
Another reason we were given for going to war with Iraq was that Hussein would share weapons with Al Qaeda. The Iraq-Al Qaeda link has also been thoroughly discredited. A United Nations panel found no such connection. The F.B.I. determined that Mohammed Atta, the lead September 11 hijacker, was in the United States when he was reputed to have met with an Iraqi official in Prague. And the senior Al Qaeda leader whom Secretary of State Colin Powell accused of operating out of Baghdad turned out to be in Kurdish, not Hussein-controlled, territory.
Now the lies are being revealed and Bush is busy shifting the blame and trying to change the subject. When confronted with the false uranium report in his State of the Union address, Bush blamed the C.I.A. and repeated his mantra that the world is a safer place without Saddam.
The problem is, Saddam posed no imminent threat to the United States prior to the war. He was weakened by Gulf War I, years of punishing sanctions, nearly daily bombings in the no-fly zones, and intrusive inspections. American soldiers are still dying in what Senator Ted Kennedy characterized as a “shooting gallery,” with no end in sight. General Tommy Franks predicted that our troops would be in Iraq for years, to the tune of $3.9 billion a month of taxpayers’ money.
So why did we go into Iraq?
Was it the oil and the desire to clinch U.S. control of the Middle East?
Did Bush think he would be vindicated by weapons found after he took control of Iraq?
His new doctrine of “preemptive war” is really a faith-based foreign policy. Bush’s breach of our trust will make it impossible to believe the boy-who-cried-wolf when he claims another country is threatening our national security.
Americans are demanding answers to many questions about why our soldiers were, and continue to be, placed in harm’s way. Why are the Republicans resisting a full and public investigation into “intelligence” about Iraq? Why did C.I.A. Director George Tenet take the fall for Bush’s misstatement about the African uranium? If Tenet is responsible for such a colossal failure, why does Bush express “absolute” confidence in him? Why wasn’t Tenet fired forthwith?
What else has Bush lied about?
An independent commission headed by a special prosecutor should be convened immediately to get to the bottom of this. Bill Clinton was impeached for lying about sex. If it is determined that Bush misled American soldiers into war, the House of Representatives should initiate impeachment proceedings against him. There is no higher crime or misdemeanor.
MARJORIE COHN, a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, is executive vice president of the National Lawyers Guild. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org