Who Lied About Iraq?

Do not believe that post-invasion intelligence invalidates our justification for using military force against Saddam's Iraq. The truth is the exact opposite.  The US was fully justified to use military force against Iraq, even knowing what we know now -- especially knowing what we know now.  We should not allow the false story -- almost accepted as fact -- as we head into a Presidential election, to go unchallenged.

The False Story

"The United States invaded Iraq based on false premises. The administration orchestrated a public relations drive to prove that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and connections to the 9/11 terrorists - both proved false." USA Today 

While these two sentences came from USA Today, they describe the words behind the music of the "Bush lied, people died" meme echoing throughout the media chambers since at least 2004.  The lies in just these two sentences are almost Shakespearian in their layered texture.  The statement even lays out a false premise in accusing the Bush administration of using false premises.  If lying is an art, our media have mastered it.

The Premise

Our invasion of Iraq was not based on a public relations drive; it was based on Public Law 107-243, otherwise known as the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq, passed by the 107th Congress in October of 2002 .  (Herein referred to as the "Authorization".)  It passed the House with a vote of 296 to 133 (by 69%) and the Senate with a vote of 77 to 23 (by 77%), including 58% of Senate Democrats.  In short, it was overwhelming; it was bipartisan; and it was law.

Did the Authorization try to "prove that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction"?  Was that proved false?

No and no.

The Authorization has 23 "whereas" clauses, or reasons to justify military invasion, only some of which mention WMD.  Here is a prime example.

"Whereas the efforts of international weapons inspectors, United States intelligence agencies, and Iraqi defectors led to the discovery that Iraq had large stockpiles of chemical weapons and a large scale biological weapons program, and that Iraq had an advanced nuclear weapons development program that was much closer to producing a nuclear weapon than intelligence reporting had previously indicated."  [Emphasis added.]

There are several things to notice in that clause.  First is the tense of the verb "had."  The clause does not claim that Iraq has WMD now (in 2002), but that it at one time had them.  Secondly, the only stockpiles mentioned are of chemical weapons.  Of biological and nuclear weapons it mentions only programs.  At no place does the Authorization say that any WMD are current (post-1991).

Another clause states Iraq continues "to possess and develop a significant chemical and biological weapons capability, actively seeking a nuclear weapons capability" (my emphasis).  Again, capabilities and potential capabilities are mentioned, but not ready-to-use weapons or even weapon programs, much less large stockpiles of modern WMD.

Feel free to read all 23 clauses.  The Authorization never claims that Iraq had large stockpiles of modern WMD in 2002, which later became, for no good reason, the threshold used for validation by the media and administration critics.  (The logical fallacy employed by Bush's critics here is the "straw man.")

Am I being hyper-technical in parsing the grammar of the Authorization -- wallowing in what the meaning of "is" is?  No. 

It is the media that is spinning by demanding that only finding large stockpiles of modern WMD would legitimize the war. I am using the actual law as clearly stated.  Such an authorization, passed by both houses of Congress and signed into law by the President, was not just cobbled together willy-nilly.  It was the law of the land -- carefully crafted, debated and passed.  Words matter.

So what was found post-invasion?  The Duelfer Report  noted that 53 chemical weapons were found.

"Beginning in May 2004, ISG recovered a series of chemical weapons from Coalition military units and other sources.  A total of 53 munitions have been recovered."  (Found on page 97 of Annex F of Volume 3.)

That number later grew to over 500 chemical weapons.  You can now check the "large stockpiles of chemical weapons" off your checklist (even though the Authorization did not claim they existed in 2002 or later).

What about biological and nuclear programs?

"Initially, Saddam chose to conceal his nuclear program in its entirety, as he did with Iraq's BW [Biological Warfare] program.  Aggressive UN inspections after Desert Storm forced Saddam to admit the existence of the program and destroy or surrender components of the program.  In the wake of Desert Storm, Iraq took steps to conceal key elements of its program and preserve what it could of the professional capabilities of its nuclear scientific community."  [Emphasis added.]

You may now also check the biological and nuclear weapons programs off your checklist.  At one time he had them.  The only question was how active such programs were in 2002.  But we know that he had them at one time and that he also concealed them later.  Were these programs still active, but concealed, in 2002 or had he put them on hiatus?  For the purpose of the Authorization, the answer doesn't matter, but let's examine it anyway.

As to concealment, note the following Duelferisms.

  • The word "conceal" is found 57 times in Volume 1 alone.
  • "Many locations associated with previous WMD programs and sites under monitoring by the United Nations have been completely looted...  Often there is nothing but a concrete slab at locations where once stood plants or laboratories."
  • "We cannot express a firm view on the possibility that WMD elements were relocated out of Iraq prior to the war."
  • "ISG technical experts fully evaluated less than one quarter of one percent of the over 10,000 weapons caches throughout Iraq."

You can make what you will of those statements.  What I make of them is that Duelfer and his fellow inspectors really have no idea what happened with Saddam's WMD, facilities or programs.  They didn't look everywhere.  Where they did look was mostly "looted," where "looting" could mean cleaned out to conceal evidence.  Saddam consistently concealed what he was up to.  And Duelfer cannot make a statement about what might have been transported out of Iraq.

The Duelfer Report is three volumes of "I don't know."  Post-invasion intelligence is no more trustworthy than pre-invasion intelligence.

In any case, Duelfer makes clear that Saddam had every intention of restoring the programs as soon as he could get sanctions lifted.  His very first finding, echoed often throughout the report, states his fundamental conclusion.

"[Saddam] wanted to end sanctions while preserving the capability to reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction when sanctions were lifted."

In short, the Authorization did not try to "prove that Iraq had WMD."  Inasmuch as the Authorization mentioned WMD, such statements were fully validated by post-war intelligence.  And Duelfer went even further than Authorization claims by finding that Saddam had every intention of reconstituting his WMD has soon as he could bribe his way out of sanctions.

Did the Authorization try to "prove that Iraq had connections to the 911 terrorists"?  Was that proved false?

Again, no and no.

The Authorization mentions the September 11 attacks in five of the 23 "whereas" clauses.  Here is what it says in three such clauses, with the other two being repeats of the same sentiments.

  • "Members of al Qaida, an organization bearing responsibility for the attacks ... are known to be in Iraq."
  • The "attacks... underscored the gravity of the threat posed by the acquisition of WMD by international terrorist organizations."
  • "... necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those ... who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001."

One clause mentions 9/11 only to provide a background of the gravity of the situation.  Another clause explicitly says that all terrorists are to be targeted, noting that the 9/11 terrorists are only a subset of that larger threat.

There is only one statement in all of the Authorization that connects Iraq with al Qaida and the 9/11 attacks, and then only indirectly.  All it says is that some al Qaida members were known to be in Iraq. 

Note that nowhere in the Authorization is there any claim of even a logistical, training or strategic relationship between al Qaida and Iraq, much less an operational or planning one for the 9/11 attacks in particular.  Again for no good reason, this latter claim became the only legitimate threshold for military action per administration critics.

Were any al Qaida members in Iraq at the time of the Authorization?  Yes, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his cell.  The most recent Senate Intelligence Committee's report on the matter concluded the following .

"[Pre-war administration] statements that Iraq provided safe haven for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and other al-Qa'ida-related terrorist members were substantiated by the intelligence assessments.  Intelligence assessments noted Zarqawi's presence in Iraq and his ability to travel and operate within the country.
"Postwar information supports prewar assessments and statements that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was in Baghdad and that al-Qa'ida was present in northern Iraq."

This report is the product of a Democrat-controlled Senate committee, chaired by John D. Rockefeller (D-WV), in a Democrat-controlled Senate.  Moreover, more extensive Iraq-al-Qaida links have also been substantiated.  According to the Senate Intelligence Committee's report,

"One of the reported contacts [between Iraq and al-Qa'ida before the war] has been confirmed, and two other meetings have since been identified."

Judge Harold Baer ruled in Federal court that Iraq was indeed partially responsible for the September 11 attacks, enough so that the plaintiffs could be awarded damages against Saddam's Iraq .  The judge ruled there was "a sufficient basis for a reasonable jury to draw inferences"

"that Iraq provided material support to bin Laden and al Qaeda.... Iraq collaborated in or supported bin Laden/al Qaeda's terrorist acts of September 11...  Iraq provided materiel support to al Qaeda and that it did so with knowledge and intent to further al Qaeda's criminal acts."

Judge Harold Baer is not some 10-Commandment-Displaying Reaganite; he was appointed by President Clinton.  Significant testimony in the case came from James Woolsey, President Clinton's CIA chief from 1993 to 1995.

In short, not only was the language of the Authorization validated, but significantly more involvement between Iraq and al Qaida has been substantiated by a Democrat-controlled Senate, a Clinton-appointed federal judge and a Clinton-appointed former CIA chief.

So what was the terrorist-WMD reason for military action in Iraq?

The September 11 attacks demonstrated to all of us that terrorist threats are not empty. Those of us who doubted the seriousness of such threats (and I was one of them) had our heads cleared on 9/11.  Moreover, the attacks demonstrated just how deadly terrorists could be with only box-cutters and other low-tech tools.  Between their words and their actions, we knew we could not let terrorists get their hands on WMD.

On the other hand, hostile states could use terrorists as covert or plausibly-deniable WMD delivery devices.  The nightmare nexus would be a hostile state with both WMD and terrorist connections.

Iraq had both WMD and terrorist connections.  In short, as the Authorization puts it in its sixth "whereas,"

"Iraq both poses a continuing threat to the national security of the United States and international peace and security in the Persian Gulf region and remains in material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations by, among other things, continuing to possess and develop a significant chemical and biological weapons capability, actively seeking a nuclear weapons capability, and supporting and harboring terrorist organizations."

It was also not obvious that Saddam would not use WMD himself, without resorting to terrorists as middlemen.  He had already used them "against other nations and [his] own people."  He had expressed his hatred of the US in word and deed by, among other things, attempting "to assassinate former President Bush and by firing on many thousands of occasions on United States and Coalition Armed Forces."

What are some of those "other things" that made Iraq in "materiel and unacceptable breach of its international obligations"?

  • Iraq agreed to a cease-fire when it surrendered in Desert Storm in 1991.  It was in "direct and flagrant violation of the cease-fire."
  • Iraq agreed to eliminate its WMD programs in 1991.  It was later caught continuing those programs, concealing them and thwarting weapons inspectors to the point of kicking them out of the country.
  • Iraq agreed to "end its support for international terrorism" in 1991.  It continued to "aid and harbor" international terrorist organizations, including those "that threaten the lives and safety of United States citizens."
  • Iraq "engaged in brutal repression of its civilian population."
  • Iraq refused "to release, repatriate, or account for non-Iraqi citizens wrongfully detained by Iraq, including an American serviceman."
  • Iraq failed "to return property wrongfully seized by Iraq from Kuwait."
  • Iraq attempted "to assassinate former President Bush."
  • Iraq fired "on many thousands of occasions on United States and Coalition Armed Forces engaged in enforcing the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council."
  • Iraq persisted in violating multiple United Nations resolutions.  Congress authorized the President "to use United States Armed Forces pursuant to United Nations Security Council Resolution 678 (1990) in order to achieve implementation of Security Council Resolution 660, 661, 662, 664, 665, 666, 667, 669, 674, and 677."

If Saddam's Iraq was not an "outlaw regime," then there is no such thing.

Regardless of the careful wording of the Authorization, did the Bush administration orchestrate a "public relations drive" that was "proved false"?

Inasmuch as a public relations drive was mounted, it was examined by a Democrat-controlled Senate Committee on Intelligence and largely found to be "substantiated by intelligence."  This biased report from Chairman John Rockefeller's committee analyzed various statements by Bush administration officials and compared them to post-war intelligence.  Here is what they found (emphasis added).

  • "Statements by the President, Vice President, Secretary of State and the National Security Advisor regarding possible Iraqi nuclear weapons program were generally substantiated by intelligence community estimates, but did not convey the substantial disagreements that existed in the intelligence community."
  • "Statements ... regarding Iraq's possession of biological agents, weapons, production capability, and use of mobile biological laboratories were substantiated by intelligence information."
  • "Statements ... regarding Iraq's possession of chemical weapons were substantiated by intelligence information."
  • "Statements ... regarding Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction were generally substantiated by intelligence information, though many statements made regarding ongoing production prior to late 2002 reflected a higher level of certainty than the intelligence judgments themselves."
  • "Statements ... regarding Iraqi ballistic missiles were generally substantiated by available intelligence."
  • "Statements ... that Iraq was developing unmanned aerial vehicles that could be use to deliver chemical or biological weapons were generally substantiated by intelligence information, but did not convey the substantial disagreements or evolving views that existed in the intelligence community."
  • "Statements ... regarding Iraq's support for terrorist groups other than al-Qa'ida were substantiated by intelligence information."
  • "Statements that Iraq provided safe haven for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and other al-Qa'ida-related terrorist members were substantiated by the intelligence assessments."

Substantiated, substantiated, substantiated by the intelligence.  And these conclusions from some of the most ardent Bush-bashers in the Senate.  About the worst they could come up with was that the Bush administration made claims with more confidence than seemed warranted by the intelligence community.

Tell me, if military action is considered necessary and legal, by both Congress and the Executive branch, is it OK for the President to muster domestic and international support for such action by using rhetorical persuasion?  I dare say, he would be negligent if he didn't.

The True Story

The Bush administration did not lie.  Saddam's Iraq was a threat to the US that demanded the use of military force.  That was not just Bush's "cowboy" opinion; that was the written law, passed by huge and bipartisan margins in both houses of Congress.  That opinion was supported by both pre-war intelligence and post-war intelligence.

Moreover, the "legal case" was solid and Iraq was given chance after chance after chance.

  • The authorization noted at least 10 UN resolutions, spread out over a decade, to justify the use of US military force.
  • The Authorization noted that "the President has authority under the Constitution to take action in order to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States, as Congress recognized in ... Public Law 107-40."  [Emphasis added.]
  • The Authorization noted Public Law 105-235 (passed under President Clinton) that urged the President "to take appropriate action, in accordance with the Constitution and relevant laws of the United States, to bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations."

The invasion of Iraq was arguably the most justified case of military action the US has ever taken in its history, based on national defense, validated intelligence and legal authority, not to mention morality.  Articles of impeachment would have made more sense if Bush had not invaded.

That the exact opposite story is what a majority of Americans appear to believe, and a super-majority of non-Americans, is a scary thought.  The truth has been sabotaged, and not by President Bush or his allies.

Randall Hoven's writings can be found at kulak.worldbreak.com.
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