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Ivan Eland: U.S. Iraq Policy Uncovered

U.S. Iraq Policy Uncovered

By Ivan Eland*
February 11, 2004

Only in the U.S. can the halftime show at the Super Bowl cause more public outrage than a president’s floundering attempts to justify getting more than 500 American soldiers killed and more than 3,000 wounded in an unnecessary invasion and occupation on the other side of the globe. If the American people actually were to pay attention to the President’s remarks on this week’s Meet the Press show, the naked truth about the Bush administration’s Iraq policy could become more exposed than Janet Jackson.

Although in the past, the president has admitted that no connection existed between the September 11 attacks and Saddam Hussein, he and other administration officials, including Vice President Cheney, have repeatedly implied just such a link by associating the invasion of Iraq with the “war on terror.” He continued this Goebbels-like propaganda behavior during the show. The president stated, “I made the decision [to invade Iraq] based upon that intelligence in the context of the war against terror. In other words, we were attacked, and therefore every threat had to be reanalyzed. . . . Every potential harm to America had to be judged in the context of this war on terror.” More specifically, the president later said of Saddam Hussein, “he had the capacity to make a weapon [of mass destruction], and then let that weapon fall into the hands of a shadowy terrorist network.” On the subject of the most important (really the only) weapon of mass destruction, he argued that Hussein “could have developed a nuclear weapon over time—I’m not saying immediately, but over time.”

First, according to former Secretary of the Treasury Paul O’Neill, the Bush administration’s decision to go after Iraq was made a short-time after the administration took office in early 2001—well before the September 11 attacks.
Second, having the capacity to make weapons of mass destruction is not the same as having weapons ready to use. As a justification for the war, the president and many other administration officials repeatedly emphasized that the Iraqi threat was imminent. In fact, the president had said “The Iraqi regime is a threat of unique urgency. Saddam Hussein is a threat that we must deal with as quickly as possible.” Furthermore, in 2002, Vice President Cheney had declared, “On the nuclear question, many of us are convinced that Saddam will acquire such weapons fairly soon.” Even though Saddam Hussein was cooperating with the international weapons inspectors that he had allowed back into Iraq and the United States had successfully contained the dictator for more than a decade, the threat suddenly became urgent in the summer of 2002 and the containment policy was abandoned in the rush to war.

Third, the president distorted the remarks of David Kay, his own weapons inspector. Indeed, Kay didn’t seem to be very impressed with Iraqi efforts to reconstitute their weapons programs. In fact, it is apparent now that the international weapons inspections had deterred Iraq from restarting large-scale research, development and production of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons.

Fourth, no one ever mentions that Saddam Hussein only supported terrorist groups that did not focus their attacks on U.S. targets. He supported groups that attacked Iran and Israel. And Hussein would have had little incentive to give super-weapons, which are costly to produce, to unpredictable groups that could get him in trouble with the superpower colossus. Saddam Hussein may have been a ruthless and brutal dictator (there are many in the world), but very few experts had characterized him as the “madman” portrayed by the President Bush. Like Janet Jackson’s costume, the pre-war threat from Iraq is disintegrating before our eyes.

Now, in a seemingly coordinated tack to justify invading non-nuclear Iraq instead of a much more dangerous North Korea, President Bush, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and sympathetic voices in the media—for example, Brit Hume of Fox News—are arguing that negotiations with Hussein—unlike those with North Korea—had unsuccessfully run their course. But Hussein never admitted reconstituting banned weapons (probably because he never did) and allowed the international weapons inspectors to return to Iraq. In contrast, North Korea has bragged about violating an agreement with the United States to freeze the North Korean weapons program, withdrew from its obligations under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and kicked international weapons inspectors out.

Unlike like the clever plot by Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake to generate nationwide gossip, which succeeded brilliantly, President Bush’s backpedaling and scheming to justify an unnecessary war and quagmire will be unlikely to stop tongues from wagging during and after this election year.


*Ivan Eland is Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at The Independent Institute in Oakland, CA., and author of the book, Putting “Defense” Back into U.S. Defense Policy: Rethinking U.S. Security in the Post-Cold War World. For further articles and studies, see the War on Terrorism and

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