“If we knew what we know today, we would not have gone into Iraq”: This is as good an apology Republicans vying for the highest office are willing to offer, 12 years after launching a war that was immoral and unjust from the inception – as some of us pointed out from the inception – cost trillions in treasure, tens of thousands of lives (American and Iraqi) and flouted America’s national interests.
The big reveal began with Jeb Bush, who told anchor Megyn Kelly that knowing what we know now about Iraq, he would absolutely still have invaded Iraq. Broadcaster Laura Ingraham was having none of it. With the benefit of hindsight, she had arrived at the belated conclusion that the invasion was wrong. Ingraham suggested that Bush III was insane for sticking to his guns about Iraq.
Next to disgrace was Sen. Marco Rubio, also in the running. Six weeks back, Rubio had been unrepentant about the catastrophic invasion. After The Shaming of Jeb, Rubio changed his tune.
The title of Judith Chalabi Miller’s “rehab book tour” is, “If we knew what we now know …” Over the pages of the New York Times, Miller, the Gray Lady’s prized reporter, had shilled for the Iraq war like there was no tomorrow. In her reporting, she channeled Ahmad Chalabi, an Iraqi conman who fed the moronic Miller with misinformation and lies about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The other conman was Bush II, president at the time. His administration assisted Miller – a woman already prone to seeing faces in the clouds – to tune-out and become turned-on and hot for war (also the title of a January 2003 “Return To Reason” column). No tale was too tall for our Judith; no fabrication too fantastic.
Miller’s “mistakes,” and those of America’s news cartel, are no laughing matter. But it took a Comedy Central icon to deconstruct her national bid for redemption. The fact that others were on board, Republicans and Democrats, is not exculpatory. Idiocy is bipartisan. Not everybody got it wrong. Miller and her ilk chose not to consult those who got it right.
Miller had company. The Fox News war harpies were certainly a dream come true for many American men. Who cared about honest reporting or basic fact-checking when a heaving bosom is yelling from the screen, “Sock it to Saddam, Dubya!”?
In any event, the meme, “If we knew what we know now, we would not have gone to war in Iraq,” is false; a lie. We most certainly knew what we know now as far back as 2002, which was when this column wrote:
Iraq is a secular dictatorship profoundly at odds with Islamic fundamentalism. No less an authority than the former head of the CIA’s counterterrorism office, Vincent Cannistraro, stated categorically that there was no evidence of Iraq’s links to al-Qaida. Even the putative Prague meeting between Mohamed Atta, the ringleader of Sept. 11, and Iraqi intelligence, turned out to be bogus. … Iraq has been 95-percent disarmed and has no weapons of mass destruction, an assessment backed by many experts in strategic studies.
The column excerpted was published on Sept. 19, 2002, in Canada’s national newspaper. On that day, the flirty notes and the gracious dinner invitations from America’s leading neoconservatives ceased.
Indeed, there were many experts, credible ones, who categorically rejected the contention that there were WMD in Iraq. But they were silenced; shut out by the media – the Hannitys, the Millers, the dissidents, their handlers and their followers – none of whom should be allowed to deflect from the intellectual and moral corruption it took to invade a Third World country whose military prowess was a fifth of what it was when hobbled during the Gulf War, which had no navy or air force and was no threat to American national security.
Eleven years ago, “What WMD?”, courtesy of WND, documented the same old verities. No, not everyone was bullish about the Bush administration’s WMD balderdash. The International Atomic Energy Agency’s Dr. Mohammed ElBaradei told the U.N. Security Council before the war: There were no nuclear-designated aluminum tubes in Iraq; no uranium was imported, and no nuclear programs were in existence. Between 1991 and 1998, the IAEA had managed to strip Iraq of its fuel-enriching facilities, tallying inventories to a T. In David Kay’s late-in-the-day assessment, “Iraq’s large-scale capability to produce and fill new chemical weapons (CW) munitions was reduced, if not entirely destroyed, during Operation Desert Storm and Desert Fox and 13 years of U.N. sanctions and U.N. inspections.” Kay was the former top U.S. weapons inspector who endeared himself to the media as an invasion enthusiast.
According to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP), Congress in 1999 was privy to intelligence reports which similarly attested to a lack of “any direct evidence that Iraq has used the period since Desert Fox (1998) to reconstitute its WMD program.” Accounts of this nature had evidently been available to Congress for years. These reiterated, as one report from the Defense Intelligence Agency did, that, “A substantial amount of Iraq’s chemical warfare agents, precursors, munitions, and production equipment were destroyed between 1991 and 1998.”
“Kay’s news ought not to have been new to the blithering boobs in Congress,” I observed in 2004. The CEIP further bears out that in October of 2002, Congress was apprised of a National Intelligence Estimate, a declassified version of which was released only after the war. Apparently, entire intelligence agencies disputed key contentions the administration – its experts, and its congressional and media backers – seized on and ran with.
While clearly pandering to policymakers, U.S. intelligence reports were still heavily qualified by conjectural expressions such as, “We believe Iraq could, might, possibly, and probably will.” The State Department and the White House, however, cultivated a custom of issuing Top Secret “fact” sheets with definitive statements from which all traces of uncertainty had been expunged.
Having categorically denied she possessed the analytical wherewithal to connect the dazzlingly close dots between terrorism and Arab men practicing their aeronautical take-off skills stateside – Condoleezza Rice was suddenly doing nothing but connecting disparate dots. She, Powell, Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush never stopped lying about a reconstituted Iraqi nuclear-weapons program, chemical and biological blights, Scuds and squadrons of unmanned aerial vehicles streaking U.S. skies and traveling laboratories teeming with twisted scientists. The language they deployed ignored the deep dissent in the intelligence community.
All the above information addressing pre-war knowledge has been culled from WND’s early Return to Reason columns.
In 2003, “Bush’s 16 words miss the big picture” beseeched our readers to “see Bush’s sub-intelligent case for war for what it was”:
The administration’s war wasn’t about a few pieces that did not gel in an otherwise coherent framework, it wasn’t about an Iraq that was poised to attack the U.S. with germs and chemicals rather than with nukes – it was about a resigned, hungry, economic pariah that was a sitting duck for the power-hungry American colossus.
By all means, the column implored, “dissect and analyze what, in September 2002, I called the ‘lattice of lies leveled at Iraq: the uranium from Africa, the aluminum tubes from Timbuktu, the invisible meetings with al-Qaida in Prague, an al-Qaida training camp that existed under Kurdish – not Iraqi – control, as well as the alleged weaponized chemical and biological stockpiles and their attendant delivery systems that inspectors doubted were there and which never materialized.’
“But then assemble the pieces and synthesize the information, will you?”
“Rationalize with lies,” moreover, dealt a blow to the creative post hoc arguments made to justify the unnecessary war the United States waged on a sovereign nation that had not attacked us, was no threat to us and was certainly no match for us. The argument:
“To say that Saddam may have had WMD is quite different from advocating war based on those assumptions. It’s one thing to assume in error; it’s quite another to launch a war in which tens of thousands would die based on mere assumptions, however widely shared. It was not the anti-war-on-Iraq camp that intended to launch a war based on the sketchy information it had. The crucial difference between the Bush camp and its opponents lies in the actions the former took.”
Second, it matters a great deal when during the last decade someone said Saddam was in possession of impermissible weapons. To have said so in 1991 is not the same as saying so in 2003, by which time Iraq had so obviously been cowed into compliance and was crawling with inspectors.
Naturally, at certain times during Iraq’s belligerent history, opponents of this war would have agreed Hussein had a weapons program. But by 1998, sensible people realized that Operation Desert Storm, followed by seven years of inspections, made the possibility of reconstituting such a program remote.
To arrive at the correct conclusions about Bush’s undeniable delirium for war, it was necessary to employ facts and reality, Just War Theory developed by great Christian minds like St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine, the libertarian axiom which prohibits aggression against non-aggressors, the natural law and what the Founding Fathers provided:
“A limited, constitutional republican government, by definition, doesn’t, cannot and must never pursue what Bush and his neoconservatives were after: a sort of 21st-century Manifest Destiny.”
Republicans are still fond of presenting their opponents with the following false choice: “But what would you have done about Iraq?” they are in the habit of asking me. The assertion is intended to make you assume incorrectly that something had to be done about Iraq. However, “The burden of proof is on he who proposes the existence of something like WMD, not on he who claims that it does not exist.” That line was penned 12 years ago.
In the early days, Iraq had provided “documentary intelligence from Naji Sabri, Saddam’s foreign minister, that Saddam did not have WMD.” I recall the derision and mockery with which the Bush administration and its hangers-on greeted what turned out to be the only truthful document in the sad saga of Iraq.
Media wishing to interview Ilana Mercer, please contact [email protected].