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Critics of the War -- And Their False Charges By: Vin Weber
Wall Street Journal | Wednesday, August 13, 2003


Critics of the war are back in business. The Bush administration, they say, decided to go to war regardless of the facts. Having made that decision, it then amassed as much evidence to support its case as it could, to the point of intentionally exaggerating (or worse) the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's regime. The charge is false -- demonstrably so.

The Bush case for going into Iraq was based largely on findings of U.N. and International Atomic Energy Agency weapons inspectors, as well as those of other governments. The case for war was nearly identical to the one made by Democrats like President Clinton and Sens. Daschle and Kerry. In case the critics suffer from amnesia, here are just a few of their judgments that pre-date the Bush administration:

 When President Clinton addressed the nation on Dec. 16, 1998 -- after ordering a strike on military and security targets in Iraq -- he said: "[The] mission is to attack Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs and its military capacity to threaten its neighbors. [The] purpose is to protect the national interest of the United States, and indeed the interests of people throughout the Middle East and around the world. Saddam Hussein must not be allowed to threaten his neighbors or the world with nuclear arms, poison gas or biological weapons."
 
 On the same day, Vice President Gore made this statement: "If you allow someone like Saddam Hussein to get nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, chemical weapons, biological weapons, how many people is he going to kill with such weapons? He's already demonstrated a willingness to use these weapons. He poison-gassed his own people. He used poison gas and other weapons of mass destruction against his neighbors. This man has no compunction about killing lots and lots of people. So this is a way to save lives and to save the stability and peace of a region of the world that is important to the peace and security of the entire world."
 
 Sen. Tom Daschle said a 1998 use-of-force resolution would "send as clear a message as possible that we are going to force, one way or another, diplomatically or militarily, Iraq to comply with international law." And he vigorously defended President Clinton's inclination to use military force in Iraq. Summing up the Clinton administration's argument, Mr. Daschle said, "We have exhausted virtually our diplomatic effort to get the Iraqis to comply with their own agreements and with international law. Given that, what other option is there but to force them to do so? That's what they're saying. This is the key question. And the answer is we don't have another option. We have got to force them to comply, and we are doing so militarily."
 
 On Feb. 23, 1998, Sen. John Kerry agreed. "If there is not unfettered, unrestricted, unlimited access per the U.N. resolution for inspections, and Unscom cannot in our judgment appropriately perform its functions, then we obviously reserve the rights to press that case internationally and to do what we need to do as a nation in order to be able to enforce those rights. . . . Saddam Hussein has already used these weapons and has made it clear that he has the intent to continue to try, by virtue of his duplicity and secrecy, to continue to do so. That is a threat to the stability of the Middle East. It is a threat with respect to the potential of terrorist activities on a global basis. It is a threat even to regions near but not exactly in the Middle East."
 
 Richard Butler, who headed the U.N. team investigating Iraq's weapons programs, said: "The fundamental problem with Iraq remains the nature of the regime itself: Saddam Hussein is a homicidal dictator who is addicted to weapons of mass destruction." Mr. Butler also wrote in his book, "The Greatest Threat," "[I]t would be foolish in the extreme not to assume that [Saddam] is developing long-range missile capabilities, at work again on building nuclear weapons; and adding to the chemical and biological warfare weapons he concealed during the UNSCOM inspection period."
 
 According to the New Yorker, in March 2002 August Hanning, the chief of German intelligence, said this: "It is our estimate that Iraq will have an atomic bomb in three years."
 
 Salman Yassin Zweir, a design engineer employed by the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission for 13 years, said that in August 1998 -- four months before U.N. weapons inspectors were expelled from Iraq -- Saddam ordered his scientists to resume work on a program aimed at making a nuclear bomb. When Mr. Zweir refused to rejoin the nuclear-weapons program, he was beaten with iron bars for three weeks. He fled to Jordan in October 1998. Saddam "is very proud of his nuclear team," according to Mr. Zweir. "He will never give up the dream of being the first Arab leader to have a nuclear bomb."
 
 In August 1995, Saddam's son-in-law, Hussein Kamel -- who had been in charge of Iraq's chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons program -- defected to Jordan. (He was later killed on Saddam's orders.) He provided information to Unscom, IAEA, and foreign intelligence agencies about Iraq's chemical, biological, and nuclear capabilities. These revelations badly damaged Iraq's credibility and Iraqi officials eventually admitted to Unscom officials that their previously hidden arsenal included (according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies) more than 100,000 gallons of botulinum toxin; more than 22,000 gallons of anthrax; more than 900 gallons of gas gangrene; more than 500 gallons of aflatoxin; four metric tons of VX nerve gas; and 2.7 gallons of ricin.
 
 Last October the director of Central Intelligence issued a National Intelligence Estimate of Iraq's continuing programs of weapons of mass destruction. That document contained the consensus judgments of the intelligence community, based upon the best information available about the Iraqi threat. The NIE reported, "We judge that Iraq has continued its weapons of mass destruction program, in defiance of UN Resolutions and restrictions. Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons, as well as missiles with ranges in excess of UN restrictions. If left unchecked, it probably will have a nuclear weapon during this decade."
 

The media has focused enormous attention on the State Department's dissent on whether Iraq pursued natural uranium in Africa. The department also said that "the Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research believes that Saddam continues to want nuclear weapons and that available evidence indicates that Baghdad is pursuing at least a limited effort to maintain and acquire nuclear weapon-related capabilities."

That Iraq posed a threat to America's security and world peace was a view shared by Democrats as well as Republicans; by the U.N. as well as the U.S.; by American intelligence agencies and by intelligence agencies of almost every nation that looked into this matter. Facts are stubborn things. Even the passage of time doesn't erode them.

Mr. Weber is a former Republican congressman from Minnesota.




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