Why Saddam Was Doomed, WMDs or None
by Jason Leopold
June 5, 2003

While the hawks in the Bush administration attempt to justify the logic behind a preemptive strike against Iraq as the likelihood of finding the country's alleged weapons of mass destruction grows increasingly remote, the truth behind the war is finally coming to light.

In his State of the Union address in January, President George W Bush said intelligence reports from the CIA and the FBI indicated that Saddam Hussein "had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent", which put the United States in imminent danger of possibly being attacked sometime in the future.

Two months later, despite no concrete evidence from intelligence officials or United Nations inspectors that these weapons existed, Bush authorized the use of military force to decimate the country and destroy Saddam Hussein's regime.

As the weapons of mass destruction remain undiscovered, many critics of the war are starting to wonder aloud whether the US and its allies were duped by the Bush administration. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, both of whom spent a better part of the past decade advocating the use of military force against Iraq, have apparently put the issue to rest. Judging by recent interviews Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz gave to a handful of media outlets during the past week, the short answer is yes, the public was mislead into believing Iraq posed an imminent threat to the United States.

Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz admit that the plan to go to war with Iraq was initiated two days after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

On September 13, 2001, during a meeting at Camp David with Bush, Rumsfeld and others in the Bush administration, Wolfowitz said he discussed with Bush the prospects of launching an attack against Iraq, for no apparent reason other than a "gut feeling" Saddam Hussein was involved in the attacks, and there was a debate "about what place if any Iraq should have in a counter terrorist strategy".

"On the surface of the debate it at least appeared to be about not whether but when," Wolfowitz said during the May 9 interview, a transcript of which is posted on the Department of Defense website. "There seemed to be a kind of agreement that yes it should be, but the disagreement was whether it should be in the immediate response or whether you should concentrate simply on Afghanistan first."

Wolfowitz said it was clear that because Saddam Hussein "praised" the terrorist attacks of September 11, Iraq joined Afghanistan at the top of the list of countries the United States expected to attack in the near future.

"To the extent it was a debate about tactics and timing, the president clearly came down on the side of Afghanistan first. To the extent it was a debate about strategy and what the larger goal was, it is at least clear with 20/20 hindsight that the president came down on the side of the larger goal."

In an interview with WABC-TV last week, Rumsfeld took it a step further, saying that United States policy had advocated regime change in Iraq since the 1990s and that was also a reason behind the war in Iraq.

"If you go back and look at the debate in the Congress and the debate in the United Nations, what we said was the president said that this is a dangerous regime, the policy of the United States government has been regime change since the mid to late 1990s and that regime has now been changed. That is a very good thing," Rumsfeld said during the interview, a transcript of which can be found here.

Rumsfeld's response is only partly true. He and Wolfowitz, along with current Vice President Dick Cheney and others now in the administration, wrote to then president Bill Clinton in 1998 urging regime change in Iraq, but Clinton rebuffed them, saying his administration was focusing on dismantling al-Qaeda cells.

In the bigger picture, Iraqis are better off without Saddam Hussein, who ruled the country with an iron fist, torturing and murdering any citizen who spoke against his regime. But that's beside the point. The issue is the Bush administration lied to the world and launched an unjustifiable war.

And it's just the beginning of a so-called two-front war the US is planning against other "outlaw" regimes. The administration is now ratcheting up the rhetoric on Iran by making similar allegations that the country too poses a threat to national security by harboring al-Qaeda terrorists and building a nuclear arms arsenal.

Serious disagreements exist between the State Department and the Bush administration on how to deal with Iran, with the State Department pushing for an open dialogue and the Bush administration pushing for a new regime.

In a half a dozen interviews last week, Rumsfeld refused to respond to questions about whether the US would use military force to overthrow Iran's governing body. "That's up to the president, but the fact is that to the extent that Iran attempts to influence what's taking place in Iraq and tries to make Iraq into their image, we will have to stop it. And to the extent they have people from their Revolutionary Guard in, they're attempting to do that, why, we'll have to find them and capture them or kill them," Rumsfeld said in an interview last week with WCBS-TV.

Wolfowitz, however, is more direct on how to deal with Iran. Responding to the question of whether military force will be used to weed out the clerics running the country, Wolfowitz said in an interview with CNN International Saturday, "You know, I think you know, we never rule out that kind of thing."

comments on this article?

Jason Leopold is the former Los Angeles bureau chief of Dow Jones Newswires. He is currently finishing a book on the California energy crisis.

Back to Antiwar.com Home Page | Contact Us