While the hawks in the Bush administration attempt to justify the logic behind a pre-emptive strike against Iraq now that it's become clear the country's alleged weapons of mass destruction are nowhere to be found, the true reasons for going to war are finally coming to light.
In his State of the Union address in January, President 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.
Now it appears the weapons of mass destruction will never be found and many critics of the war are starting to wonder aloud whether the community was duped by the Bush administration.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, both of whom spent the better part of the past decade advocating the use of military force against Iraq, put the issue to rest once and for all.
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 misled into believing Iraq posed an imminent threat to the United States. Both admit that the war with Iraq was planned two days after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
On September13, 2001, during a meeting at Camp David with President Bush, Rumsfeld, and others in the Bush administration, Wolfowitz said he discussed with President 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 with Vanity Fair's Sam Tannenhaus, a transcript of which is posted on the Department of Defense website and is archived on Scoop. "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 on 9-11 that besides Afghanistan, Iraq went to the top of the list of countries against which the United States expected to launch an 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," Wolfowitz said.
In an interview with WABC-TV last week, Rumsfeld took it a step further, saying United States policy 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 in Scoop's World News wire.
Rumfeld's response is only partly true. He and Wolfowitz, along with Vice President Dick Cheney and others in the administration, wrote to President 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 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 U.S. is planning against other "outlaw" regimes. The administration is ratcheting up the rhetoric on Iran by making similar allegations that this 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 White House on how to deal with Iran, with the State Department pushing for an open dialogue and Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and others pushing for a new regime.
In a half a dozen interviews last week, Rumsfeld refused to respond to questions about whether the U.S. will use military force to overthrow Iran's governing body.
"That's (military force) 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 in 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."
Reprinted with permission of the author.
Jason Leopold is a freelance journalist based in California; he is currently finishing a book on the California energy crisis. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.