Actually, The Threat Of An Active Weapons Program Did Make Up A Substantial Part Of The Rationale For Iraq War
Over at the HQ Gabriel Malor takes issue with the NY Times stating that the Iraq war was sold on stopping Saddam Hussein’s “active WMD program”. While I agree with Gabe that the WMD program wasn’t the sole rationale for the war, I take his issue with his characterization of role it played.
According to Gabe:
As I have demonstrated from Bush’s own contemporaneous words, an active weapons program was not the sole reason for war. In fact, an active weapons program was not even mentioned in the multiple speeches Bush delivered to the American public and to an international audience.
This is simply not accurate.
From Bush’s Cincinnati speech outlining his rationale for the war:
And surveillance photos reveal that the regime is rebuilding facilities that it had used to produce chemical and biological weapons. Every chemical and biological weapon that Iraq has or makes is a direct violation of the truce that ended the Persian Gulf War in 1991. Yet, Saddam Hussein has chosen to build and keep these weapons despite international sanctions, U.N. demands, and isolation from the civilized world.
The evidence indicates that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. Saddam Hussein has held numerous meetings with Iraqi nuclear scientists, a group he calls his “nuclear mujahideen” — his nuclear holy warriors. Satellite photographs reveal that Iraq is rebuilding facilities at sites that have been part of its nuclear program in the past. Iraq has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes and other equipment needed for gas centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons.
If the Iraqi regime is able to produce, buy, or steal an amount of highly enriched uranium a little larger than a single softball, it could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year. And if we allow that to happen, a terrible line would be crossed
There was also Bush’s often debated reference to Iraq’s attempts to acquire “yellow cake Uranium” for use in a possible nuclear program.
In his 2003 State of the Union speech Bush announced he would be sending then Secretary of State Colin Powell to the UN to lay out the United States rationale for the war.
And that is my third point. And it is key. The Iraqis have never accounted for all of the biological weapons they admitted they had and we know they had. They have never accounted for all the organic material used to make them. And they have not accounted for many of the weapons filled with these agents such as there are 400 bombs. This is evidence, not conjecture. This is true. This is all well-documented.
It should come as no shock then, that since Saddam Hussein forced out the last inspectors in 1998, we have amassed much intelligence indicating that Iraq is continuing to make these weapons.
One of the most worrisome things that emerges from the thick intelligence file we have on Iraq’s biological weapons is the existence of mobile production facilities used to make biological agents.
[He goes on to list eyewitness accounts of people who had recently seen these facilities in operation]
Under the guise of dual-use infrastructure, Iraq has undertaken an effort to reconstitute facilities that were closely associated with its past program to develop and produce chemical weapons.
For example, Iraq has rebuilt key portions of the Tariq state establishment. Tariq includes facilities designed specifically for Iraq’s chemical weapons program and employs key figures from past programs.
That’s the production end of Saddam’s chemical weapons business.
People will continue to debate this issue, but there is no doubt in my mind, these illicit procurement efforts show that Saddam Hussein is very much focused on putting in place the key missing piece from his nuclear weapons program, the ability to produce fissile material.
We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction; he’s determined to make more.
Vice President Dick Cheney on Meet The Press lays out the case that Iraq had an active nuclear weapons program:
And over time, given Saddam’s posture there, given the fact that he has a significant flow of cash as a result of the oil production of Iraq, it’s only a matter of time until he acquires nuclear weapons. And in light of that, we have to be prepared, I think, to take the action that is being contemplated.
MR. RUSSERT: And even though the International Atomic Energy Agency said he does not have a nuclear program, we disagree?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: I disagree, yes. And you’ll find the CIA, for example, and other key parts of our intelligence community disagree. Let’s talk about the nuclear proposition for a minute. We’ve got, again, a long record here. It’s not as though this is a fresh issue. In the late ’70s, Saddam Hussein acquired nuclear reactors from the French. 1981, the Israelis took out the Osirak reactor and stopped his nuclear weapons development at the time. Throughout the ’80s, he mounted a new effort. I was told when I was defense secretary before the Gulf War that he was eight to 10 years away from a nuclear weapon. And we found out after the Gulf War that he was within one or two years of having a nuclear weapon because he had a massive effort under way that involved four or five different technologies for enriching uranium to produce fissile material.
We know that based on intelligence that he has been very, very good at hiding these kinds of efforts. He’s had years to get good at it and we know he has been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons. And we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons. I think Mr. ElBaradei frankly is wrong. And I think if you look at the track record of the International Atomic Energy Agency and this kind of issue, especially where Iraq’s concerned, they have consistently underestimated or missed what it was Saddam Hussein was doing. I don’t have any reason to believe they’re any more valid this time than they’ve been in the past.
There is no doubt liberals twist the history of the run up to the Iraq War to suit there needs. That doesn’t give supporters of the war (of which I was one) license to engage in our own distortions. That Iraq had an existing WMD was most certainly a significant part of the Bush administration’s rationale for war. We simply can write that out of history.