Skip to comments.Why Bush's war to remove Saddam was a 'no brainer'
Posted on 06/07/2004 12:45:50 PM PDT by knighthawk
As the interim Iraqi government takes office, it is worth looking back, with the help of two recently published books, at the arguments on whether the United States should have taken military action to remove Saddam Hussein.
The ''Bush lied'' crowd keeps trumpeting that we have found no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. (We did find sarin in one shell lobbed at occupation forces.) But Bob Woodward in Plan of Attack informs us that George Tenet, who announced his resignation as CIA director last week, told President Bush that the case for Iraqi possession of WMDs was a ''slam dunk.'' That was the conclusion as well of every other competent intelligence agency in the world.
Tenet was right. Given that Saddam's Iraq had possessed weapons of mass destruction, indeed was developing nuclear weapons before the 1991 Gulf War, and given that Saddam's regime had not accounted for WMDs he had possessed, any prudent intelligence agency would have to have concluded that he still had them. Moreover, there was no evidence that could have been obtained that would have convinced a prudent intelligence agency that Saddam did not possess them. This argument wasn't made in the run-up to the war because Colin Powell and Tony Blair convinced Bush to agree to a round of United Nations inspections. But the U.N. inspectors couldn't prove that Saddam didn't have WMDs. Given his past behavior, we had no basis for concluding he didn't.
And we had no way of being sure that he would not arm al-Qaida with them. That is the conclusion of Stephen Hayes' The Connection: How Al Qaeda's Collaboration With Saddam Hussein Has Endangered America.
As Tenet testified in October 2002, there were contacts going back to the early 1990s between agents of al-Qaida and Saddam's Iraq. Richard Clarke, when he served in the Clinton administration, said the same thing, as did many others in the Clinton administration. Czech officials believe that Sept. 11 hijacker Muhammad Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague in August 2001. Hayes also reveals that in January 2000, Ahmed Hikmat Shakir, acting under orders from Iraqi intelligence, accompanied two of the Sept. 11 hijackers to a meeting in Malaysia that the CIA has concluded was a planning session for the assault on the USS Cole and the Sept. 11 attacks.
As Hayes is careful to note, some of the evidence of Iraq-al-Qaida ties is questionable. Intelligence evidence often is. But it is interesting that many who criticize Bush for not ''connecting the dots'' before Sept. 11 are also criticizing those who connect the dots on Iraq-al-Qaida ties. These critics seem to believe that Saddam's regime should have been considered innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. But foreign policy is not bound by the rules of a criminal court, and Saddam's previous behavior entitled us to regard him as guilty until proven innocent beyond a reasonable doubt.
So put yourself in the position of Bush in late 2002 and early 2003. You must assume that Saddam has or can produce weapons of mass destruction. And you know that Iraqi agents have met with al-Qaida operatives. You know that both Iraq and al-Qaida want to inflict maximum damage on the United States. So the only way to protect the United States is to eliminate the regime of Saddam Hussein. It was, as Hayes said at an American Enterprise Institute panel last week, a ''no brainer.''
It is interesting to ponder what those who continue to insist that ''Bush lied'' and that there was no danger from collusion between al-Qaida and Saddam would have said if Bill Clinton had done what Bush did in Iraq -- which is consistent with much of Clinton's rhetoric. Almost certainly they would have agreed, as some of them did in the Clinton years, that there was a danger from Iraqi WMDs and Iraqi collaboration with al-Qaida. That they take the opposite view now is evidence not that they are right but that they are filled with partisan venom.
Michael Barone is a senior writer with U.S. News & World Report and principal co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.
In 5 years this take will be convential wisdom.
Like the proverbial blind pig and acorn, the mainstream press allows reason to triumph liberal sentiment. Thanks for the post.
Bump. We all need to be talking up this book, and buying it to get it up the charts.
What should we have been waiting for?
Waiting 12 years seems quick to you?
What would further waiting have gained?
I'm pleased that he is still a Fox news contributor; his knowledge of electoral politics is unsurpassed.
Just small factual correction: The shell containing the sarin/sarin mixture wasn't lobbed at coalition forces, it was rigged as part of a roadside bomb.
It is, of course, conjecture that Saddam Hussein was, in fact, "secular". The guy was building mosques left and right, and if anything, a late in life Mafia Don is a more appropriate comparison than "secular tyrant".
Seems to me that one of the things Saddam is going to be remembered for a few centuries from now is his construction of mosques. Specialists in Mesopotamia will also recall he rebuilt significant portions of the old city of Babylon.
So, Barone was probably correct in simply passing this part on by.
I think it will be conventional wisdom in about five months, as I suspect (or hope) there will be something of a formal report out of the Administration on Saddam's WMD program, and connections with al-Qaeda prior to the election.
The "Bush lied to trick us into going to war" crowd have failed to supply a reasonable motive for Bush doing so. If it was for purely political gain, it absolutely doesn't make sense. An Iraq war was, and is, a very risky political undertaking. No guarantee of a positive outcome within GWB's political time frame of 1 & 1/2 years. Politicians don't make moves like these with such an low potential payback and huge downside risks if their motive is political gain.
This war took 9 months to start...What speed??
Not true. I know some serious Bush-haters and they think Bush had it out for Saddam because he tried to kill his Daddy; the neo-cons wanted Iraq neutered to help protect Israel; and Cheney wanted Halliburton to get all the oil contracts. They are totally serious too. Some of them are so nutty they even think Bush plotted the 9/11 attacks so he could justify invading Iraq!
That's why Kerry is taking off a week to work on his new foreign policy positions. He's trying to find a way to make himself appear to be a stronger leader than Bush. "Let France and Germany do it" just won't work any longer.
Maybe a photo op of Kerry wearing a 10 gallon hat and Gucci cowboy boots while riding a steer.
bump for later
As evidenced in the thread "Saddam Torture Videos Viewed by Congress":
On the tape, versus from the Koran are quoted. There is a line about how this is being done in the name of Allah, and in another part, one of Saddam's soldiers explains what is about to happen to the next victim, who is about to have his arm cut off.
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