When he was in office and responsible for protecting us, Al Gore was absent from the war on terror. As Vice President, he was part of an administration that failed to respond to the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993; that cut and ran when al-Qaeda ambushed US Army Rangers in Mogadishu; that called for regime change in Iraq when Saddam expelled the UN weapons inspectors but then failed to remove Saddam or to get him to allow the UN inspectors back in; that failed to respond to the murder of US troops in Saudi Arabia or the attack on an American warship in Yemen; that reacted to the blowing up two US embassies in Africa by firing missiles at an aspirin factory in the Sudan and empty tents in Afghanistan; that refused to kill or capture .Osama Bin Laden when it had a dozen chances to do so; and that did not put in place simple airport security measures, its own task force recommended, that would have prevented 9/11.
In short, to every act of war against the United States during the 1990s, the Clinton-Gore response was limp-wristed and supine. And worse. By refusing to concede a lost presidential election, thereby breaking a hundred-year tradition, Gore delayed the transition to the new administration that would have to deal with the terrorist threat. As a result of the two-month delay, the comprehensive anti-terror plan that Bush ordered on taking office (the Clinton-Gore team had none) did not arrive on his desk until the day before the 9/11 attack.
Yet, it is characteristic of Gore’s myopic arrogance that he would wag his finger at the Bush administration for its failure to anticipate the 9/11 attack. “It is useful and important to examine the warnings the administration ignored,” Gore writes in his self-referentially titled new book, The Assault on Reason. As if to underscore his own hypocrisy – he then adds: “not to ‘point the finger of blame’….” Of course not.
Like his Democratic colleagues, Gore sees himself as a restorer of “reason” to an America that is on its way to perdition thanks to the serpent in the Rose Garden. According to Gore, Bush is the arch deceiver: “Five years after President Bush made his case for an invasion of Iraq, it is now clear that virtually all the arguments he made were based on falsehoods.”
The First Big Bush Lie, according to Gore, is that the Bush administration went to war to remove Saddam Hussein’s WMDs or, as he puts it: “The first rationale presented for the war was to destroy Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.” This familiar Democratic claim is itself probably the biggest lie of the Iraq War, rather than anything the president or his administration has said. In fact, the first – and last – rationale presented for the war by the Bush administration in every formal government statement about the war was not the destruction of WMDs but the removal of Saddam Hussein, or regime change.
This regime change was necessary because Saddam was an international outlaw. He had violated the 1991 Gulf War truce and all the arms control agreements it embodied, including UN resolutions 687 and 689, and the 15 subsequent UN resolutions designed to enforce them. The last of these, UN Security Council Resolution 1441, was itself a war ultimatum to Saddam giving him “one final opportunity” to disarm – or else. The ultimatum expired on December 7, 2002, and America went to war three months later.
Contrary to everything that Al Gore and other Democrats have said for the last four years, Saddam’s violation of the arms control agreements that made up the Gulf War truce – and not the alleged existence of Iraqi WMDs – was the legal, moral and actual basis for sending American troops to Iraq.
Al Gore and Bill Clinton had themselves called for the removal of Saddam by force when he expelled the UN weapons inspectors in 1998, a clear violation of the Gulf truce. This was the reason Clinton and Gore sent an “Iraqi Liberation Act” to Congress that year; it is why the congressional Democrats voted in October 2002 to authorize the president to use force to remove him; and it is the reason the entire Clinton-Gore national security team, including the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense and the Director of Central Intelligence, supported Bush when he sent American troops into Iraq in March 2003.
The Authorization for the Use of Force bill – passed by majorities of both parties in both Houses – is the legal basis for the president’s war, which Democrats have since betrayed along with the troops they sent to the battlefield. The Authorization bill begins with 23 “whereas” clauses justifying the war. Contrary to Gore and the Democratic critics of the Bush administration, only two of these clauses refer to stockpiles of WMDs. On the other hand, twelve of the reasons for going to war refer to UN resolutions violated by Saddam Hussein.
Even if these indisputable facts were not staring Gore in the face, the destruction of WMDs could not have been the “first rationale” for the war in Iraq for this simple reason. On the very eve of the war, the president gave Iraq an option to avoid a conflict with American forces. On March 17, two days before the invasion, Bush issued an eleventh-hour ultimatum to Saddam: leave the country or face war. In other words, if Saddam had agreed to leave Iraq, there would have been no American invasion. It is one of the most revealing features of the Democrats’ crusade against George Bush that they blame the war on him instead of Saddam.
If its offer had been accepted, the Bush administration would have left in place a regime run by the Ba’athist Party and headed by Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz or some comparable figure from the old regime. The idea was, that without Saddam, even such a bad regime would honor the truce accords of 1991 and UN Resolution 1441. This would have led to Iraq’s cooperation with the UN inspectors and the destruction of any WMDs or WMD programs that Saddam may have had – without necessitating a war.
Ignoring – and distorting – the facts about how and why his country went to war, Gore repeats the slanders of the president – and therefore his country – that have become a familiar aspect of our political life. The charges are transparently designed to destroy the authority of America’s commander-in-chief, while his troops are in harm’s way – an unprecedented sabotage of a war in progress. In the course of repeating these charges, Gore adds one of his own, indicting Bush as a tool of the American ruling class who has manipulated the facts about Iraq in order to serve their hidden agendas: “It was as if the Bush White House had adopted Walter Lippmann’s recommendation to decide in advance what policies it wanted to follow and then to construct a propagandistic mass persuasion campaign to ‘manufacture’ the consent of the people to do what the ‘specialized governing class’ had already made up its mind to do.”
Of course Walter Lippmann never recommended any such thing. This is a gross misrepresentation of a Lippmann argument, which can be traced to Noam Chomsky and his Marxist screed, Manufacturing Consent. According to Chomsky, the term “manufactured consent” refers to a conspiracy of the ruling class to snooker Americans into war. This is a malicious misreading of Lippmann’s text.
In his book, Public Opinion, Lippmann observed that modern society had become so complex that only specialized experts were in a position to understand the implications of a given national policy. Because of this complexity, informed policy debates could not be conducted by the voting public but necessarily took place between specialized experts who were then supported by constituencies on both sides of the argument. In other words, Lippmann was already recognizing the role of what we now call “special interest” and “public interest” groups in shaping the national policy debate. It was in this sense that Lippmann wrote that democratic consent was inevitably “manufactured.” Lippmann never recommended that rulers should organize a “propagandistic mass persuasion campaign” to deceive the public and manipulate the result. This is Chomsky’s perversion of Lippmann’s idea, which Gore merely repeats.
Even so, the argument that Bush manipulated the facts about Iraqi WMDs to pursue a war policy that was aggressive and unfounded is demonstrably false. Bush acted on the consensus of every major intelligence agency – including the British, the French, the Russian, the German and the Jordanian – all of whom believed that Saddam had WMDs. In other words, he cannot reasonably be accused of inventing the existence of Saddam’s WMDs, although that is precisely what Gore and other demagogues on the left do on an almost daily basis. Since every Democratic Senator who voted for the war was provided by the administration with a copy the intelligence data on Saddam’s WMDs, the charge made by Gore and other Democratic senators that they were deceived is both cynical and hypocritical as well as false.
Gore’s charges continue: “We were told by the President that war was his last choice, when it was his first preference.” Was it? That depends on what one means by “first preference.” If what Gore means is that the president prepared for war with Saddam long before the war began, well, of course he did. It was his responsibility to do so. It is the Pentagon’s motto – and a fundamental doctrine of every strategist from Sun Tzu to Clausewitz – that if you want peace, prepare for war. By 2001, when Bush took up residence in the Oval Office, Saddam had already broken the Gulf War truce many times over. American pilots were engaged in a low-intensity armed conflict with the Iraqi military over the “no-fly zones” the truce had created. Clinton and Gore had allowed Saddam to get away with breaking the truce he had signed for two reasons. First because they were preoccupied with the fallout from Clinton’s affair in the White House; but more importantly, because ever since Vietnam the Democrats had shown no interest in deploying American troops to protect the national interest (and thus had opposed the first Gulf War).
In 1998, Saddam expelled the UN inspectors from Iraq. Why would he do so if it was not his intention to do mischief as well? Specifically, why would he do so if it was not his intention to develop the weapons programs – the WMD programs – that the Gulf truce outlawed and that the UN inspectors were there to stop? The terrorist attacks of 9/11 showed that Saddam’s mischief could have serious consequences – not because Saddam had a role in 9/11 – but because Saddam celebrated and endorsed the attacks, had attempted to assassinate an American president and had hosted terrorist organizations and gatherings engaged in a holy war against the West.
The only reason Saddam allowed the UN inspectors to return to Iraq in the fall of 2002 was because Bush placed 200,000 U.S. troops on its border. It would have been irresponsible of Bush to put those troops on the border of a country which was violating international law unless he meant to enforce the law. But the troops were there to go to war only if Saddam Hussein failed to honor the 1991 truce, not to slake the aggressive appetites of the president of the United States, as America’s enemies – and Al Gore – maintain.
Saddam’s offer to allow the UN inspectors to return to Iraq coincided with Bush’s appearance at the UN in September 2002. His message to the UN was that it needed to enforce its resolutions or become irrelevant. If UN did not enforce the resolutions that Saddam had violated, the United States would do so in its stead. Jimmy Carter and Al Gore marked the occasion by publicly attacking their own president for putting such pressure on Saddam Hussein. This was the beginning of the Democratic campaign to sabotage an American war in progress, which has continued without letup ever since.
As a result of Bush’s appeal, the UN Security Council voted unanimously to present Saddam with an ultimatum, and a 30-day deadline to expire on December 7, 2002. By that date he was to honor the truce and destroy his illegal weapons programs or “serious consequences would follow.” The ultimatum was UN Resolution 1441 – the seventeenth attempt to enforce a truce in the Gulf War of 1991. The deadline came and went without Saddam’s compliance. Saddam knew that his military suppliers and political allies – Russia and France – would never authorize its enforcement by arms. This is the reason the United States and Britain went to war without UN approval, not because George Bush preferred unilateral measures, which is simply another Democratic deception.
Since war was not the president’s preference – first, last or otherwise – the United States did not immediately attack. Instead, the White House spent three months after the December 7th deadline trying by diplomatic means to persuade the French and Russians and Chinese to back the UN resolution they had voted for and to force Saddam to open his country to full inspections. In other words, to honor the terms of the Gulf War truce that they – as Security Council members – had ratified and promised to enforce.
Virtually all of the claims that make up the core of the Democrats’ attacks on Bush’s decision to go to war – that he manipulated data on aluminum tubes to present them as elements of an Iraqi nuclear program and that he lied about an Iraqi attempt to buy yellowcake uranium – were never part of the administration’s rationale for the use of force, and were not mentioned in the Authorization for the Use of Force congressional legislation. They were political attempts to persuade the reluctant Europeans to enforce the UN ultimatum and international law. Even then, by offering Saddam an escape clause, Bush provided an alternative to war. If Saddam would re-settle in Russia or some other friendly state, the United States would not invade.
A third Democratic lie, regurgitated by Gore, is the famous accusation about the sixteen words Bush used in the State of the Union address on the eve of the war. According to Gore, Bush claimed “that he had documentary proof” that Saddam Hussein attempted to buy fissionable uranium from the African state of Niger. According to Gore the “documentary proof” was revealed to be an Italian forgery for which Bush failed to apologize. According to Gore, there was no inquiry into how this happened. According to Gore, the Niger claim was one of the key falsehoods on which Bush based the “rationale” for the war. Every one of these assertions is a distortion of the facts and false.
First, the Niger claim was not part of the rationale for the war. It is not mentioned in the Authorization for the Use of Force legislation or in UN Security Council ultimatum 1441, which constitute the actual reasons the United States and Britain went to war in Iraq. In his State of the Union address the president did not say he had “documentary proof” of an Iraqi mission to obtain uranium in Niger. He said “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” Those sixteen words were all he said. Every one of these words, moreover, was true then and remains true today. The British did report that Saddam “had sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa,” and they have stuck by their report, which – contrary to Gore’s malicious assertion – has indeed been investigated by a Senate Intelligence Committee, and has not been found to be false as Gore (and legions of unprincipled Bush critics) have falsely claimed. Moreover the forged Italian document – which was not mentioned in the State of the Union Address, as Gore falsely suggested – was quickly acknowledged by the White House to be forgery.
The Niger claim, along with the administration’s claims about aluminum tubes and Colin Powell’s February speech to the UN, which are falsely presented by administration critics as rationales for the war were all made more than a month after Saddam defied the December 7th deadline. They were not rationales for the war, but were strictly for the benefit of the appeasement parties in Britain and France. They were put forward as part of an attempt to secure a second Security Council resolution to reinforce the 1441 ultimatum. This requested by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, even though a second Security Council resolution would have been redundant. It was needed by Blair to respond to the attacks he was under from Britain’s anti-American left.
In January, weeks before Powell’s speech, 800,000 Britons – mainly Laborites – had descended on London to protest the war. This would have been equivalent to four million Republicans descending on Washington to protest Bush’s decision to go to war. If Powell’s UN speech was a “manipulation” of the facts to hoodwink the public, it failed miserably. It certainly did not persuade any of the leftists who poured into the streets of London to defend Saddam, and it did not persuade the French or Russian allies of Saddam to desert him. In America, the majority support for the war had long been in place, and for them Powell’s speech was superfluous.
For Gore and the president’s Democratic critics, all these facts count for nothing. In their place is the great American Satan, George Bush. According to Gore and the Democrats America went to war for reasons that are either illegitimate or immoral or both. According to Gore, the sending of American troops to Iraq was an imperial aggression, orchestrated by the president and his advisors who manipulated the evidence, deceived the people, and ignored the UN to carry out their malign intent: “The pursuit of ‘dominance’ in foreign policy led the Bush administration to ignore the United Nations,” writes Gore, showing his utter contempt for the facts. What Bush actually ignored was the French, who built Saddam’s nuclear reactor, collaborated with Saddam’s theft of the “Oil for Food” billions, and threatened to veto any attempt to enforce international law or the UN ultimatum. Bush also ignored the Russians, who supplied two-thirds of Saddam’s weapons, helped him sabotage the UN sanctions, and refused to enforce the UN ultimatum. What Bush did not ignore were the 17 UN resolutions designed to keep the Middle East peace and protect the world from the consequences of its failure. Al Gore did that.