Ever since the Bush Administration began publicly spinning out its catalog of reasons for invading Iraq, this writer has questioned and written about the alleged existence of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. More important, however, is my growing conviction that members of the administration knew the WMD did not exist in Iraq before the invasion went forward. The following account of what one might consider “circumstantial evidence” has been described by others as an “unique” or “unusual” point of view, perhaps because the perspective was hidden in plain sight and was therefore missed by investigative journalists and others hoping to find some signed or tape recorded “smoking gun.”
In discussing his book “Plan of Attack” with a television interviewer, Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward emphatically stated that before the invasion of Iraq Woodward was firmly convinced the still-missing weapons of mass destruction (WMD) really existed. Woodward is equally convinced the president and members of his administration also believed Saddam Hussein had WMD and moreover was prepared to use them. During his most recent press conference, President Bush referred almost wishfully to WMD, suggesting they might still be found somewhere in Iraq. As Woodward describes in detail, George W. Bush is a man of conviction, and his strong belief in the existence of WMD may never be shaken. Of course, one way or another, WMD may still be found.
Belief and conviction, however, are not always based on evidence. Before coalition troops invaded Iraq, many experts both inside and outside of government repeatedly stated the supposed weapons no longer existed. Since no WMD have turned up, David Kay and others have said “all” of us were fooled, and the Bush Administration claims it relied on “the best information available” in deciding WMD posed a growing or an imminent threat. These positions are misleading, since not “all” experts were taken in, and the “best” intelligence information was the information ignored or rejected by those who sought to wage war against Saddam. Instead, Bush, Blair and their colleagues apparently relied on the worst intelligence. To some observers, this reliance deliberately dismissed those who were not singing the proper hymn.
Woodward may be correct to assume President Bush and some of his closest advisors sincerely trusted in the presence of Saddam’s WMD, but someone close to the invasion plans most assuredly believed something else. There is sufficient evidence to suggest insiders knew well before the coalition entered Iraq that no WMD would be encountered. If so, it also suggests these individuals knew the case for the existence of WMD was bogus from the beginning.
In early February 2003 as the U.S. and its “coalition” rushed to build up the invasion force, Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei obtained concessions from Saddam Hussein permitting U-2 overflights and interviews with four top Iraqi scientists. At this point, however, further diplomacy was not an option for the Bush Administration. A month later, as war drums beat louder and faster, the U.N. pulled its personnel, including weapons inspectors, from Iraq. The British Foreign Office and Israel both warned of a very high risk of attack, including the possible use of chemical and biological weapons. The hysterical tone was heightened with advice to British subjects: exit Kuwait and Israel immediately.
Did the Bush and Blair warmakers suspect or know that if U.N. inspectors remained much longer in Iraq they’d return a verdict of “No WMD”? Were they concerned Saddam might further comply with U.N. resolutions, thus undercutting a supposed reason for the invasion: Iraq’s non-compliance with those resolutions? As Blix and ElBaradei were succeeding, the Bush Administration declared diplomacy had nearly run its course. Was that because some in Washington feared Saddam might capitulate sufficiently to U.S. demands and thus remove the urgency, the necessity, of an invasion? Diplomacy, threats and inspections were working too well. Bush and Blair had to pull the plug or their grandiose design would be deflated.
Once the undeclared “war” began:
1. Coalition troops did not encounter WMD on the swift march to Baghdad and beyond.
2. WMD have not been employed by the “insurgents” against the “occupiers.”
3. Although Woodward describes President Bush as a “risk taker,” the president and his closest advisors are not so daring they would foolishly risk losing the cherished next election by sending troops into a cauldron where WMD would be unleashed with calamitous consequences.
4. Saddam’s arsenal was promoted to include massive but unverified amounts of chemical, biological and possibly even nuclear weapons. The exact composition of these spectacular weapons was never clearly identified. Coalition troops encountering weapons capable of killing “thousands” and “millions” of human beings (as hammered home in administration statements) would surely have suffered untold losses. Although protective gear was issued to coalition personnel, there could be no guarantee this gear would work. What gear would protect against nuclear attack? Advance “special forces,” coalition sources inside the country and the unprotected citizens of Iraq would surely not survive if WMD were to be unleashed on a massive scale.
5. Most significantly, the Pentagon actively encouraged hundreds of reporters to be “embedded” with coalition troops. The few reporters who survived vicious WMD attacks would have sent out real-time pictures and descriptions of the carnage, horrifying the viewing and reading public around the globe. Does this seem to be the sort of risk Bush, Blair and their ambitious colleagues would willingly take? Could Bush, Blair, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Powell and other big-wigs pose for photo-ops in a “Portable Phonograph” landscape polluted beyond imagining?
According to reports, some American military personnel were astonished when no WMD materialized. Recently Australia’s newspaper “The Age” reported, “Australian troops fighting in Iraq were told in an official briefing days before entering the country that Saddam Hussein did not have the capability to launch weapons of mass destruction against its neighbours.” The news must have relieved anxiety for Aussie troops. Surely if Australia knew, it seems reasonable to assume some in the U.S. command structure also knew. Why didn’t U.S. military leaders clue in their troops, too?
On the battlefield, few in the military or in the press wore their protective gear with any regularity. Writer Paul de Rooij questioned whether the WMD scare was “propaganda” as early as April, 2003. Even the notorious “red zone” where the greatest danger from WMD was supposed to have existed appears to have been a propaganda hoax.
Further, it seems wildly improbable Saddam’s military would wait until invading troops were within this fantasy “red zone,” because the zone encompassed the area surrounding Baghdad. It is more reasonable to assume WMD would be utilized in the Shia south, where the population was hostile to Hussein and his government. Decimating both his Shia enemies and the coalition invaders (killing two birds with one WMD stone) makes more sense than waiting until the population of Baghdad (and Saddam) would be subjected to the much-touted poisons. Would Iraq’s military explode nuclear weapons within Baghdad’s perimeter?
Before the war, Pentagon planners assumed only 60,000 troops might be necessary to oust Saddam Hussein. General Tommy Franks originally asked for a mere five divisions, approximately 75,000 troops — small compared to the eventual 250,000 personnel who were deployed for the invasion. At about the time Franks was making his modest troop request, Vice President Cheney falsely rang the WMD alarm in his Nashville speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, proclaiming, “Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us. And there is no doubt that his aggressive regional ambitions will lead him into future confrontations with his neighbors — confrontations that will involve both the weapons he has today, and the ones he will continue to develop with his oil wealth.” Cheney’s “no doubt” speech occurred before the CIA submitted its October 2002 WMD report. Would war strategists, convinced of Cheney’s frightening claim, plan to send in a 60,000 or 75,000 or even a 250,000 member military if they believed Saddam’s “aggressive,” amassed and awesome arsenal truly existed? Would hundreds of media representatives replete with cameras, satellite phones and television connections be invited along for the ride into Cheney’s particularized Hell?
Near the conclusion of his now-infamous State of the Union address (January 2003), President Bush proclaimed Iraq had “25,000 liters of anthrax — enough doses to kill several million people . . . materials sufficient to produce more than 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin — enough to subject millions of people to death by respiratory failure . . . the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent. In such quantities, these chemical agents could also kill untold thousands . . . upwards of 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical agents . . . an advanced nuclear weapons development program . . . a design for a nuclear weapon and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb . . . gone to elaborate lengths, spent enormous sums, taken great risks to build and keep weapons of mass destruction. But why? The only possible explanation, the only possible use he could have for those weapons, is to dominate, intimidate, or attack.” And yet against such a staggering defense system, the U.S. and its coalition blithely amassed men and women on Iraq’s border, unconcealed from Saddam, and marched toward the Land of WMD with remarkably little concern Saddam had capability to kill “several million . . . millions . . . untold thousands” including “nuclear weapons.”
By March 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell, citing Iraq’s “record of lying and deceit,” claimed, “Iraq had and still has the capability to manufacture these kinds of weapons, that Iraq had and still has the capability to manufacture not only chemical but biological weapons, and that Iraq had and still has literally tens of thousands of delivery systems, including increasingly capable and dangerous unmanned aerial vehicles.” It now seems clear Iraq was not the only nation with a “record of lying and deceit.”
Then in April 2003, Prime Minister Tony Blair wryly advised, “Before people crow about the absence of weapons of mass destruction, I suggest they wait a bit.” We’re still waiting.
We must not forget: as President Bush and his “coalition of the willing” geared up for war with Iraq, some in his administration predicted the event would be a “cakewalk.” Compared to what would have likely occurred had Saddam fought to the death with WMD, the march to appropriate Iraq was indeed a cakewalk. It seems strange such sophisticated and politically astute leaders could be totally convinced of the existence of weapons of mass destruction and at the same time tell the world the war would be an easy go; that is, unless they were secretly convinced no WMD existed in the first place. Bob Woodward and others in the gullible press and public failed to consider obvious signals regarding what increasingly appears to have been an elaborate hoax perpetrated on coalition troops, the press and the world’s citizens.
With convincingly-deadpan expressions, those responsible for the invasion of Iraq still face cameras and say “we were misled.” What they really mean is, “You were misled.” Those who stage-managed the majestic design of Operation Iraqi Freedom knew there were no WMD long before the armies crossed into Iraq. Although unspoken, this fact remains one of the most egregious lies of our young new century.
DOUG GIEBEL is a writer and analyst who lives in Big Sandy, Montana. He welcomes e-mail responses: email@example.com.