Ever-Evolving Excuses for War

In the now-confirmed absence of any of the key reasons the administration took America to war in Iraq, officials are scrambling to come up with new ones after the fact, and some of them are quite amusing.

On Sunday, a desperate Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld grasped for excuses in a tough interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

Blitzer noted Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction or secret deals with Osama bin Laden to slip them to his terrorists as claimed. That was all hocus-pocus, right Mr. Secretary?

“It’s clear the intelligence was wrong,” Rumsfeld winced.

But then he maintained that those were not the reasons we went to war in Iraq.

“The reason the United States went to war, the president has announced and said it repeatedly,” the secretary started, wearily. “There were 17 resolutions in the UN that were ignored by Saddam Hussein. Our planes were being shot at on a regular basis in the Operation Southern Watch and Operation Northern Watch. Saddam Hussein was giving $25,000 to the families of suicide bombers. Iraq was on the terrorist list. Iraq had used chemical weapons against its own people and its neighbors.”

Scramble, scramble. (Note that the shopworn “liberating the Iraqi people” is missing from this latest litany of picayune excuses for attacking Iraq in the middle of a war on al-Qaeda.)

So to hear Rumsfeld, America sacrificed a full division of its soldiers and spilled the blood of countless Iraqi civilians – while diverting precious resources from the hunt for bin Laden – to protect Israel from Saddam’s checkbook, which is dwarfed by that of the Islamic Development Bank, which has distributed more than $250 million to the families of Palestinian “martyrs” from two large intifada funds it manages.

Oh, that’s right, Saddam’s hapless anti-aircraft defenses were taking potshots at our planes patrolling the no-fly zones. Yawn. When hadn’t they? Their potshots had always been a sign of frustration and proof that we had Saddam effectively boxed in,­ just as Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell told us before the war, before they joined in the administration’s campaign of wholesale deceit to sell it.

“We have made progress on the UN sanctions,” Rice told CNN on July 29, 2001. “In terms of Saddam Hussein being there, let’s remember that his country is divided. He does not control the northern part of his country. We are able to keep arms from him. His military forces have not been rebuilt.”

In other words, he was a toothless tyrant, effectively disarmed in the first Gulf war.

But recall how after 9/11 we were told Saddam had somehow regained control of “the northern part of his country,” where he was allegedly harboring an al-Qaeda chemical-weapons training camp – another charge that proved to be fantastical.

Then there was Powell, who told reporters at a Feb. 24, 2001, press conference in Egypt that UN sanctions had kept “in check” Saddam’s ambitions toward developing weapons of mass destruction.

“Frankly, they have worked,” he said. “He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction.” In fact, Powell added, Saddam was so effectively defanged that he was unable to even “project conventional power against his neighbors.”

Some threat.

Powell should have gone back and read whatever intelligence he was reading at the time he made that statement before going to the UN on the eve of war to try to convince it sanctions were not working – and so much so, he claimed, that the wily Saddam was brewing anthrax on the beds of 18-wheelers and loading the deadly germs onto toy airplanes to attack the continental United States. Powell was right the first time, of course, and he’s still living down his Looney Tunes presentation at the United Nations.

In short, the UN sanctions and no-fly zones were working. And my, were they cheap compared with the hundreds of billions in tax dollars we’re forking over now to rebuild Iraq (after blowing it all to hell).

But with no new intelligence – other than crude forgeries and rumors from crazed, drunken Iraqi defectors named “Curveball,” that is – President Bush decided that “Saddam Hussein and his weapons are a direct threat to this country and our people,” and must be stopped at once.

He emptied the treasury and, again, spilled the blood of a full division of American soldiers and countless innocent Iraqi civilians only to find out Saddam Hussein was a threat to nobody but his dentist.

In the end, the toothless tinhorn Bush captured didn’t have any weapons of mass destruction or secret deals to slip them to bin Laden. In fact, he didn’t even have programs under way to make any banned weapons.

Saddam is now in our custody, availing himself of much-needed free dental care. But bin Laden, the real monster, is still at large, sharpening his fangs for another attack – while administration officials go right on spinning their yarn of deceit.