For an entire year, leftist opponents of the war in Iraq have been contending that, because “no weapons of mass destruction have been found,” the American President must have “lied.”
This campaign—ever louder and more venomous—reached its highest pitch two weeks ago. And it did so right here in the Silver State.
Nevada Democrats approved a party platform calling for the impeachment of President Bush, alleging he’d lied to justify the war in Iraq.
“[M]embers of the committee that hammered out the platform for two days,” reported the Las Vegas Sun, “said the idea of impeaching Bush was not controversial when it was proposed.
“‘It carries a message that I thought was important to say,’ said committee member Peggy Maze Johnson.
“Another committee member, John Cahill, said that some people actually cheered when they first talked about the idea.”
Unfortunately for the Bush-obsessed, solid new evidence shows that the President was, indeed, assured by CIA Director George Tenet that the case for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) was “a slam dunk.”
Second, and even more important, Iraqi WMDs have in fact been found.
True, you wouldn’t know either fact from headlines and sound bites still dominating the major media. Nevertheless, would-be state and national policymakers have a responsibility to know what they’re talking about.
The CIA assurances to the White House are part of the record of pre-war planning contained in the new Bob Woodward book, Plan of Attack. In other contexts, awkward for Bush, partisan Democrats have been eager to cite the book.
Woodward—who was given extraordinary access to over 75 key White House sources while researching the book—describes a December 2002 CIA presentation to the President on the status of Iraq’s WMDs. The book reports that Bush was not sold and called the presentation a “nice try” but “not something that Joe Public would understand or would gain a lot of confidence from.” Pressing CIA Director Tenet further, the President remarked, “I’ve been told all this intelligence about having WMD and this is the best we’ve got?” At this point Tenet is said to have thrown his hands in the air and exclaimed, “It’s a slam-dunk case!” Mr. Bush pressed again: “George, how confident are you?” Mr. Tenet: “Don’t worry, it’s a slam dunk!”
On the discovery of Iraqi weapons, let’s start with the basics: WMDs are weapons systems designed to kill large numbers of people—primarily civilians. Has the Iraq Survey Group found any such weapons system of Saddam Hussein where its product, made available to Al Qaida, would have constituted a clear and present danger to the American homeland?
First, a key point made by former chief U.N. Iraq weapons inspector Rolf Ekeus, writing in the June 29, 2003 Washington Post. Said Ekeus, “Detractors of Bush and Blair have tried to make political capital of the presumed discrepancy between the top-level assurances about Iraq’s possession of chemical weapons (and other WMD) and the inability of invading forces to find such stocks.”
The “stocks” criticism, he continued, “is a distortion and trivialization of a major threat to international peace and security.” The reason is that Iraq’s WMD chem/bio war threat had taken a new form after Saddam Hussein learned that his warfare agents deteriorated after just a couple of weeks stored in drums or chemical munitions. At that point, said Ekeus, Iraq had shifted to a new chem/bio production system, one intended to quickly and surreptitiously produce and ship warfare agents and munitions directly to the point of use. It was this “combination of researchers, engineers, know-how, precursors, batch production techniques and testing,” wrote Ekeus, that “constituted Iraq’s chemical threat—its chemical weapon.”
Did this chemical WMD production system still exist when coalition forces overran Iraq? And if so, could chemical agents from it have been passed to Al Qaida—should that have been Saddam’s desire?
On March 31, the current head of the Iraq Survey Group answered both questions in the affirmative.
Charles Duelfer, before the Senate Armed Services committee, reported “new information regarding Iraq’s dual-use facilities.” Not only could Iraq already produce biological and chemical agents, said Duelfer, but billions illegally kicked back from the U.N.’s Oil for Food program were feeding a crash building program to produce them even faster.
Bush’s instincts were right: All that stood between Iraq’s chemical WMDs and their use by Al Qaida, was a Saddam Hussein hand-off.
Nevada’s Democratic leaders owe the President, and all Americans, a full and contrite apology.
Steven Miller is policy director for the Nevada Policy Research Institute.