I'm continually frustrated that so many -- many Republicans included -- believe the lie that "there never were any weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in Iraq".
It's patently -- provably -- not true! And the lie can be easily refuted using entirely liberal news sources (because it was all over CBS, NBC, CNN, NPR, etc.). Or Bill Clinton's own words, etc.
So to set the record straight, this is how I (and the liberal news networks) remember the history leading up to the US coalition (there's another lie -- "no coalition" -- there were many countries who joined the invasion) invading Iraq in March of 2003 after a yearlong period of waiting in vain for diplomatic breakthroughs (i.e. no "rush to war" either).
Today many forget that in 1983 the world knew as an absolute fact that Saddam Hussein's Iraq had actually used WMDs (nerve gas) against Iranian soldiers in their war. They knew because we had video of Iranian soldiers under the effects of nerve gas (I remember watching the video on CBS, and it was disgusting). And the networks followed up enough that they were convinced the story was true.
So there -- just there alone -- we know for a fact that the "never were any WMDs in Iraq" statement is a lie. Or at least an intentional omission by those who know, and an ill-informed mantra learned by many who have been lied to by people with a partisan political agenda.
But there's more...
In 1988 US news networks (liberals) knew as an absolute fact that Saddam Hussein's Iraq had actually used WMDs (nerve gas) against Kurdish separatists in Halabja, in northern Iraq.
In 1992, shortly after the UN coalition defeated Iraq in the first Gulf War, the world was appalled as the US appealed for an uprising in southern Iraq and then was slow to respond when it happened and the Iraqi army and air force crushed it. The belated "no fly zones" couldn't save the rebels, and it only served to keep Saddam Hussein in power when his own people clearly wanted him gone.
In any case, then in 1992, Americans knew as an absolute fact that Saddam Hussein's Iraqi government had actually used WMDs again (nerve gas) against Shi'ite separatists in southern Iraq.
And so, starting in 1992, the increasingly frustrated UN imposed sanctions upon Iraq requiring them to allow weapons inspectors "unfettered access" to Iraqi WMD sites so they could find and destroy all of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. However, it's clear from the record (this article from NPR details the whole history) these inspectors never had "unfettered access." In fact, they were continually, routinely, delayed, misdirected and otherwise obstructed, so that they had no way of knowing if they were really finding Iraq's WMD stockpiles. Many of these inspectors were convinced Iraq was hiding something, still.
This pattern of obstruction continued even as late as 2003, just weeks before the US coalition invasion of Iraq. Inspectors would be told there were WMDs hidden in a presidential palace (you remember this from the news, don't you???), the inspectors would lead a convoy there to inspect it, Iraqi soldiers would hold them up for 2 or 3 hours, or a full day, so they couldn't inspect it, and then once they finally arrived they found -- surprise, surprise! -- that there was no evidence of WMDs remaining. That was the repeated history of a decade of UN weapons inspections!
Yes! The inspectors did find and destroy large quantities of WMDs and many WMD-producing facilities (again, what do the liberals say? "Never any WMDs in Iraq"???), but there was always a feeling that there was more being hidden. On more than one occasion, Iraq was found to have been lying and hiding WMD programs which were later discovered by weapons inspectors and destroyed.
Why should they -- and the administration of George W. Bush -- have assumed that they'd found everything when there was so much evidence that Iraq continued to hide and obstruct, and had been shown to have hidden WMDs which were later found?
The history generously supports what President Bush said, in 2002, "We know that Saddam Hussein pursued weapons of mass murder even when inspectors were in his country. Are we to assume that he stopped when they left? The history, the logic, and the facts lead to one conclusion: Saddam Hussein's regime is a grave and gathering danger." I agree!
In late 2002, shortly before the US led invasion, the UN found Iraq to be in "material breach" of its obligations to obey UN resolutions (i.e. it was still avoiding and flaunting its obligations to submit to inspections, and presumably was still hiding things from inspectors). And Hans Blix, head of the UN inspection regime, was frustrated. NPR says: "Blix does express frustration with Iraq's failure to account for its vast stores of chemical and biological agents it was known to have at one point."
So there is the crux of my argument -- expressed not by partisan US officials, but by a relatively neutral Hans Blix of the UN: 1) he indicates there were once "vast stores of chemical and biological agents", 2) Iraq was "known to have [them] at one point," and 3) Iraq was responsible for a "failure to account" for these vast stores. He's admitting that the UN inspectors knew Saddam Hussein had vast stores of WMDs at one point, and the UN inspectors had no way to confirm that they did not still exist! Obviously, despite continued operations and the destruction of much of Iraq's stockpiles and infrastructure, the total stockpiles destroyed and the entirety of the infrastructure destroyed could not reliably be estimated to equal Iraq's total capacity at one time. Even Blix, as late as 2002, believed Saddam still had WMDs hidden somewhere.
The most pressing concern, in US foreign policy circles, that a weakening of resolve from Russia, Germany and France (each of which had financial ties to Iraq, and would benefit from a lessening of sanctions) would allow Saddam Hussein to be released from UN sanctions and mandates, so that he could resume his former activities unmolested, and could thereby prove a destabilizing influence in the Middle East, as well as continuing to fund worldwide terrorism.
Admissions and Allowances:
1) It's true. By 2003, Saddam Hussein may not have had a substantial WMD stockpile. He might have destroyed it in secret, though there was no way for US intelligence officials or UN inspectors to know this. Why should they have trusted his word, when in so many other cases he was known to have lied?
2) It's possible, even if Saddam Hussein's WMD stockpile and his biological and nuclear weapons programs had really been dismantled, that he wanted the world to think that he still had such weapons and such capabilities. He may have seen benefit in making its bitter enemy Iran, or even other enemies, believe he still had the ability to use WMDs. In fact, it's p
ossible that Saddam Hussein set himself up for invasion by refusing to deny that he still had WMDs. The obstruction of the inspectors may have been a ruse to make Iraq's enemies think that he still had WMDs when he didn't. Still, President Bush can't be blamed for not taking Saddam at his word, and thinking the worst of him, right?
3) It's possible the CIA and the Bush Administration overstated the case for WMDs still in Iraq. That's what administrations do! The Obama Administration has obviously overstated the case for US citizens' ability to "keep the health plans they like". Why aren't liberals up in arms about that? What's clear from the evidence is that the Bush Administration could rationally and realistically believe Saddam Hussein's Iraq still had WMDs, and might retain some ability to create more. They also believed the inspection regime, and the full array of UN sanctions against Iraq, might soon come to an end, and Iraq might soon be free to reconstitute its WMD programs anew! So no wonder they might have tried to push the envelope a little in order to provide rationale for an invasion that would put an end to Saddam Hussein's destabilizing shenanigans once and for all. I believe the Bush Administration thought it was doing the world a favor by invading Iraq, and the evidence presented here shows you why.
That said, it's also possible, as was reported by reliable intelligence sources, that Iraq smuggled the remainder of its WMD stockpile by truck convoy into Syria in the weeks before the US invasion. It's entirely possible that the WMDs we've been concerned about during the Syrian Civil War in 2013 did in fact originate in Iraq, in 2003.
In any case, here's what the evidence proves:
1) it's provably clear that Iraq did have substantial stockpiles of WMDs at one point,
2) mainstream, typically liberal, news sources reported as absolute fact in 1983, 1988 and 1992 that Iraq actually used nerve gas WMDs against its enemies, internal and external, and
3) UN weapons inspectors had no way to confirm that all of Iraq's WMDs had been destroyed. In fact, the continual obstruction of inspections by Saddam Hussein's Iraq led rational people, including some of the inspectors themselves, to believe that Iraq still hid at least some WMDs as late as 2003, and might even have some hidden infrastructure to resume production.