On a lark last week, I attended a teach-in hosted by a coalition of Green Party, anti-war, anti-globalization, and labor activists. Among the many speakers were Ralph Nader and former congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. It was a lot like watching one’s team in the final minutes of a tied World Cup final–one moment you’re ready to leap and cheer, the next you are distraught, then elated again, then with sunken heart, over and over. Half of what the speakers said was, in my opinion, the truth, but the other half was nonsense.
One theme out of left field that was repeated by the different speakers was that they had known all along that Iraq had not possessed weapons of mass destruction and were now being vindicated. This point was put forth especially forcefully by McKinney who said, to much applause, that the lack of any evidence of WMD in Iraq today showed that “we were right and they were wrong.”
By using this rhetoric the Left is doing a great disservice to those who opposed the war in Iraq because in all likelihood Iraq did posses chemical and biological weapons and these weapons will be found. Once they are, the Administration will be vindicated relative to the Left’s no-weapon’s position. It also undermines the principle that the Iraq war was unjustified even if Iraq had chemical and biological weapons.
That there probably are chemical and biological weapons in Iraq should not distract from the fact that support for the war was built on exaggerations if not lies.
The Bush Administration insisted in the run-up to the war that Iraq supported al Qaeda, but they never revealed any evidence to corroborate this assertion. The Mohammed Atta “meeting in Prague” has been debunked and disavowed by the Czech government, the very source of the rumor. Although the president has said that “there are al Qaeda terrorists inside Iraq,” no arrests have been made there. Plus, the presence of al Qaeda agents in Iraq is hardly proof that Saddam Hussein was lending aid to Osama bin Laden, an enemy of the Iraqi regime.
Assertions about Iraq’s nuclear program were based on misinformation. In his State of the Union address, the president said, “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production. Saddam Hussein has not credibly explained these activities. He clearly has much to hide.”
Since then it has been proven that the African story was based on crudely forged letters purportedly between officials in Iraq and Niger. Both the IAEA and the Energy Department have cast strong doubt on the notion that the aluminum tubes had anything to do with a nuclear program. Although Iraq may have had chemical and biological weapons, it did not have nuclear weapons; nor is it clear that the regime was close to having them. All this in contrast to North Korea, a rogue regime with certified nuclear weapons.
Saddam Hussein, as terrible a tyrant as he may have been, was never a threat to the United States. Assuming he had chemical and biological weapons, how would he deliver them to the U.S.? A catapult? What motivation would he have to do so knowing he would face instant annihilation in return? And if Saddam truly had such weapons, would not attacking him give him an incentive to use them?
There’s no need to insist (much like the Administration did) on the fiction that Iraq never had chemical or biological weapons. Doing so only sets one up for embarrassment (much like the Administration is facing today) if they are found.
Once you remove all the official reasons for war that rest on fictions, the government’s rationale falls like a house of cards. Although it may well turn out to be the case that Iraq had no chemical or biological weapons, the house of cards would fall the same even if it did.
It doesn’t matter if the Administration was lying, exaggerating, or incompetently falling for misinformation. The outcome was the same and it should be held accountable. So should Congress because it unconstitutionally ceded to the Administration its responsibility to declare war.
Sadly, today one is left with little choice but to doubt the president if he sounds the alarm about an “imminent threat” again.
Jerry Brito is editor of Brainwash and a student at George Mason University School of Law. His Web site is jerrybrito.com.