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October 15, 2014

Despite What You May Have Read In The Papers, The Iraq War Was Not About An Active Weapons Program

Bumped by Ace. Gabe's original post follows.

...

The NYTimes has published a particularly despicable piece on the Iraq War. Here's the link, if you must. Now, let me start by saying there are parts of this piece that are noteworthy, and those parts recount acts of valor and duty by U.S. service members. That's not the despicable part. The despicable part is how the NYTimes writers have twisted what happened to these service members to their own end of rewriting the Iraq War.

According to the NYTimes, chemical weapons of mass destruction were indeed found in Iraq during the war, as has been a simmering, off-again-on-again open secret. But the NYTimes says these were not the chemical WMD that President Bush said would be found:

The United States had gone to war declaring it must destroy an active weapons of mass destruction program. Instead, American troops gradually found and ultimately suffered from the remnants of long-abandoned programs, built in close collaboration with the West.

The New York Times found 17 American service members and seven Iraqi police officers who were exposed to nerve or mustard agents after 2003. American officials said that the actual tally of exposed troops was slightly higher, but that the government’s official count was classified.

The secrecy fit a pattern. Since the outset of the war, the scale of the United States’ encounters with chemical weapons in Iraq was neither publicly shared nor widely circulated within the military. These encounters carry worrisome implications now that the Islamic State, a Qaeda splinter group, controls much of the territory where the weapons were found.

The first sentence is an absolute lie, uttered at Bush 43's expense, and made to justify the terrifying conclusion, laid at Obama's feet, in the last sentence.

This NYTimes piece has an overarching political goal: to cement forever the lie that the Iraq War was directed solely at stopping an active weapons of mass destruction program in Iraq. As we know, the military never found an active weapons program, which makes this a particularly compelling slander.

Well, okay. Let us say that it is compelling for anyone stupid enough to believe it, which, shockingly, includes far too many people who actually lived through the event and have conveniently forgotten now. I am flabbergasted at the number of people who immediately repeated this lie on Twitter who I know were alive and well and watching the run-up to the Iraq War, just like me.

So let me remind you about the actual casus belli for the Iraq War.

In 2002, Saddam Hussein was doing everything he could to foil the UN weapons inspections teams about his existing weapons caches (the ones the NYTimes just "found" in its hit piece). You might recall, the U.S. was enforcing no-fly zones over Iraq at the time and attempting to ensure that Hussein remained disarmed. Hussein, for his part, was attempting to obscure both what he was capable of doing and what WMD, particularly biological and nuclear, remained to him. He was well-known, of course, for using chemical weapons against his own people and against the Iranians. Of particular concern going forward were his nuclear plans and the possibility that he would sell or give weapons to terrorists with Western ambitions.

On September 12, 2002, Bush went to the UN to plead with the useless world body to actually enforce sanctions and impose thorough weapons inspections. Nowhere in his speech will you find a claim that Hussein had an "active weapons program," as the NYTimes writers would now have you believe. Rather Bush talked about finding Hussein's old weapons and deterring his hope to once again restart his weapons programs:

United Nations inspections also reveal that Iraq likely maintains stockpiles of VX, mustard, and other chemical agents, and that the regime is rebuilding and expanding facilities capable of producing chemical weapons.

And in 1995 — after four years of deception — Iraq finally admitted it had a crash nuclear weapons program prior to the Gulf War. We know now, were it not for that war, the regime in Iraq would likely have possessed a nuclear weapon no later than 1993.

Today, Iraq continues to withhold important information about its unclear program — weapons design, procurement logs, experiment data, an accounting of nuclear materials, and documentation of foreign assistance. Iraq employs capable nuclear scientists and technicians. It retains physical infrastructure needed to build a nuclear weapon. Iraq has made several attempts to buy high-strength aluminum tubes used to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon. Should Iraq acquire fissile material, it would be able to build a nuclear weapon within a year. And Iraq's state-controlled media has reported numerous meetings between Saddam Hussein and his nuclear scientists, leaving little doubt about his continued appetite for these weapons.

Later, Bush gave one of the speeches he will no doubt be long remembered for, the "Axis of Evil" State of the Union speech, in which he again noted Iraq's old weapons. Note well: He didn't accuse Iraq of having an active weapons program.

Iraq continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror. The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade. This is a regime that has already used poison gas to murder thousands of its own citizens -- leaving the bodies of mothers huddled over their dead children. This is a regime that agreed to international inspections -- then kicked out the inspectors. This is a regime that has something to hide from the civilized world.

States like [Iran, Iraq, and North Korea], and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world. By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger. They could provide these arms to terrorists, giving them the means to match their hatred. They could attack our allies or attempt to blackmail the United States. In any of these cases, the price of indifference would be catastrophic.

So we see that by 2002, Bush is raising over and again the same concern about Hussein's Iraq: that it had weapons of mass destruction and it had the ambition to use them and it had a desire to foil attempts to destroy them and it had terrorist allies willing to use them.

Let me emphasize what is not present, if that's possible, in either of these speeches: the claim that Hussein had an active weapons of mass destruction program. That is not in there and, please, click through and check my math. It simply wasn't the basis of the case for war that Bush made to the American public.

The next major speech in Bush 43's run-up to war would be his ultimatum speech on March 17, 2003. This was Hussein's last chance to alter course. Bush 43 put Hussein, our coalition partners, and the American public on notice that enough was enough.

But, and this is important, an active weapons program made up no part of Bush 43's ultimatum. It wasn't active development of WMD that drove the U.S. to war. Rather, it was the same problems Bush 43 had identified the previous year: old weapons, the demonstrated ambition to develop new ones as soon as our backs were turned, and the possibility that Hussein could pass them to terrorists with Western aims:

Over the years, U.N. weapon inspectors have been threatened by Iraqi officials, electronically bugged, and systematically deceived. Peaceful efforts to disarm the Iraqi regime have failed again and again -- because we are not dealing with peaceful men.

Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised. This regime has already used weapons of mass destruction against Iraq's neighbors and against Iraq's people.

The regime has a history of reckless aggression in the Middle East. It has a deep hatred of America and our friends. And it has aided, trained and harbored terrorists, including operatives of al Qaeda.

The danger is clear: using chemical, biological or, one day, nuclear weapons, obtained with the help of Iraq, the terrorists could fulfill their stated ambitions and kill thousands or hundreds of thousands of innocent people in our country, or any other.

So you find again—and I'm sorry for repeating this so many times, but it seems that it has been forgotten—the three themes of Bush's war plea: Iraqi resistance to disarmament, Iraqi ambition to arm once more, and terrorists. Those were the casus belli for the Iraq War. Not solely an active weapons program, as the NYTimes would have you believe.

Progressives deeply invested in the lie during the Bush years that no WMD were found in Iraq. Bush gave many reasons for the war, but progressives seized on just the presence of WMD and then pretended it was the only reason for war. We've known they've been wrong about the lack of WMD for many years now. But, upon the chance that ISIL will find and use any remnants of WMD, however, progressives have had to modify their story even more.

Now, progressives have finally admitted that Hussein's stockpiled weapons were found during the Iraq War, but claim these were not the weapons Bush said would be found. This is just one more lie. And they've compounded it with another lie: that the sole reason for the Iraq War was an active weapons program.

As I have demonstrated from Bush's own contemporaneous words, an active weapons program was not the sole reason for war. In fact, an active weapons program was not even mentioned in the multiple speeches Bush delivered to the American public and to an international audience.

Do not let the NYTimes get away with its false history of the Iraq War. The war was not made solely based on claims of an active Iraqi weapons program. It was made because, as President Bush explained repeatedly to the American public: Saddam Hussein possessed old weapons of mass destruction, desired to evade inspections so as to keep them, hoped to restart his weapons programs in the future, and could pass weapons to terrorist groups with ambitions to harm the West.


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posted by Gabriel Malor at 10:56 AM

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