People with no principles look to consequences to justify their actions the Republican Party and its media megaphones now contend that Iraq’s first democratic election has provided a final and irrefutable justification for America’s invasion and conquest.
That Iraqi Shi’ites turned out en masse for Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and sharia law doesn’t alter the truth we waged an illegal, unjust, and unnecessary war.
However, with Fox and Friends continuing to claim that WMD were probably moved to Syria, and al-Qaeda and the Ba’athists were an item, it falls to the "reality-based community" to periodically remind them of the facts. To paraphrase Corneille, a good memory is needed once lies become the norm.
As a comprehensive report published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in January 2004 stated, "There was and is no solid evidence of a cooperative relationship between Saddam’s government and al-Qaeda." Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was viewed unfavorably by the Islamists, for precisely the reason we ought to have viewed it more favorably: under Saddam, Iraq was a secular country.
There is some evidence terrorist coordinator Abu Musab al-Zarqawi traveled to Iraq in May 2002, well after 9/11. He briefly ensconced himself in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq (among Bush’s allies and beyond the reach of Saddam’s power), near the Iranian border, before resuming his murderous peregrinations in the region.
On Jan. 27, 2003, Hans Blix, Chief United Nations weapons inspector, reported to the UN Security Council regarding the inspections process he resumed in November 2002.
He briefly recounted the procedures outlined by Resolution 687 and implemented in 1991 after the Gulf War, when the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) set about to disarm Iraq. The process continued for eight years, until 1998, at which point Saddam Hussein’s prohibited weapons programs had been dismantled.
At the time of Blix’s report, the Americans and British insisted that after 1998 Saddam Hussein had reconstituted the programs that had been dismantled during eight solid years of inspections. Blix’s task was to investigate this claim.
Blix was decidedly cautious and suspicious in his 2003 report. When the Iraqis claimed (truthfully) that all proscribed items had been destroyed between 1991 and 1998, Blix refused to take their word for it. He launched comprehensive inspections interviews, seminars, inquiries with suppliers and intelligence organizations. These were impeded by some Iraqi jitters (they suspected inspections were a covert operation. What on earth would have given them that impression?). These fears were invariably soothed over after discussions and negotiations (barbaric, I know).
Contra the lies and the liars that tell them, Blix noted that "Iraq has, on the whole, cooperated rather well so far with UNMOVIC in this field. The most important point to make is that access has been provided to all sites we have wanted to inspect, and with one exception, it has been prompt."
A stipulation of Resolution 1441 was that Iraq submit a comprehensive WMD declaration. A terrified Iraq promptly complied. Submitted in December 2002, the declaration contained some 12,000 pages and was promptly ridiculed by both the White House and Whitehall. Yet it has never been refuted.
Blix, too, remained skeptical, although he firmly believed his process would expeditiously ferret out the truth about Iraq’s putative WMD. Aided by military and technological assistance from Switzerland, New Zealand, Germany, and other members of the coalition of the unwilling, numerous experts under Blix’s command crisscrossed the country (something they can only dream of doing today after "liberation"), ready to disable any dangers that might be discovered.
From November 2002 to January 2003, Blix conducted approximately 300 inspections of more than 230 different sites in Iraq. Of these, more than 20 had hitherto not been inspected. (He set up field offices in Mosul and Basra, places he could never hope to access today.)
Despite this empirical exercise, the fantasy-based community asserted that "All the Western intelligence services the UN itself stated with certainty that this thug had and was hiding WMD."
The UN itself, in the person of Hans Blix, never stated that Iraq had WMD in 2002. He suspected the lion’s share of the weapons had been destroyed between 1991 and 1998, but sought to verify claims to the contrary. He wrote: "Intelligence authorities have claimed weapons of mass destruction are moved around Iraq by trucks; in particular, that there are mobile production units for biological weapons."
Dutifully, Blix proceeded to investigate.
On March 7, 2003, the UN’s chief weapons inspector reported good cooperation from the Iraqis. "At this juncture, we are able to perform professional no-notice inspections all over Iraq and to increase aerial surveillance," he observed approvingly.
Using Cyprus as a base, and assisted by American U-2s, French Mirage surveillance, and other capabilities offered by the Russian Federation (Old Europe, you know), Blix had the run of Iraq. The meticulous Blix scuffled with the Iraqis over the legality of their al-Samoud 2 missiles, but here too, he secured the destruction of 34 of them. In an attempt to check for discrepancies regarding the numbers of biological and chemical weapons produced and destroyed in 1991, Blix had also begun to excavate disposal sites.
The fear-mongering claims made by "intelligence authorities" were scrutinized by Blix (and later by David Kay, and after that by Charles Duelfer), as he conducted surprise searches both underground and above. Like David Kay and Charles Duelfer after him, Blix found "no evidence of proscribed activities."
Nevertheless, Blix wanted to be absolutely sure: "Even with a proactive Iraqi attitude induced by continued outside pressure, it will still take some time to verify sites and items, analyze documents, interview relevant persons, and draw conclusions," he cautioned.
How much time? "It will not take years, nor weeks, but months," months he did not get because of George W. Bush’s rush to judgment.
On Feb. 14, 2003, Mohammed ElBaradei, chief inspector of the International Nuclear Energy Agency, filled in the mushroom-cloud-sized blanks in the emerging WMD picture.
"We have to date found no evidence of ongoing prohibited nuclear or nuclear related activities in Iraq," he stated categorically.
ElBaradei’s extensive and aggressive inspections throughout Iraq included sampling air, water, sediment, and vegetation, and interviewing key Iraqi personnel and officials (who had yet to be dispersed). From high explosive HMX, to the manufacture of magnets, to the purpose of the notorious high strength aluminum tubes (the ones Condoleezza Rice falsely declared were suited only to nuclear weapons programs), to probing the possible use of laser technology to enrich uranium, to investigating dual-use equipment ElBaradei had a firm grip on what he described as Iraq’s crumbling military infrastructure.
He even checked out the story of the nukes from Niger, which Bush had continued to parrot well after this legend had been exposed as a crude forgery. Iraq’s claim that "it has made no attempt to import uranium since the 1980s" was corroborated. ElBaradei unceremoniously, but politely, pronounced that the Niger procurement was "inauthentic."
ElBaradei, who conducted a total of 177 inspections at 125 locations, had reached almost every nook and cranny in pre-invasion Iraq. He too confirmed that, contrary to the line Bush and his claque adopted about Hussein’s recalcitrance, "Iraq has continued to provide immediate access to all locations."
Exhaustive searches had concluded that Iraq was no threat to America. So the search for a casus belli mutated from "national security" to "humanitarianism." Desperate to reverse John Quincy Adams’ wisdom (in 1821, the secretary of state emphasized that "America goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher of the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own"), one typical warmongering commentator argued that Saddam’s regime remained intolerable. The Bush administration had no choice but to consider Saddam "in the context of [his] past history of murderous aggression against his neighbors and against his own people, showing his total contempt for the rights and sovereignty of others."
There you have it. We invaded Iraq in 2003 because Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990 (I thought we settled that score). Or because he launched a chemical attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja (killing 5,000) in 1988. Or because he invaded Iran in 1980 (with the U.S., led by Donald Rumsfeld, weighing in to help Saddam settle that score).
To sum up, the U.S. attacked a prostrate, Third World nation, with no navy or air force, whose military prowess was a fifth of what was smashed in the Gulf War. The election of Jan. 30, 2005, and any number of photographs of happy, ink-stained voters cannot change this truth one iota.