the hawks in the Bush administration attempt to justify the logic
behind a preemptive strike against Iraq as the likelihood of finding
the country's alleged weapons of mass destruction grows increasingly
remote, the truth behind the war is finally coming to light.
In his State of the Union address in January, President George W 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
As the weapons of mass destruction remain undiscovered, many critics
of the war are starting to wonder aloud whether the US and its allies
were duped by the Bush administration. Secretary of Defense Donald
Rumsfeld and Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, both of
whom spent a better part of the past decade advocating the use of
military force against Iraq, have apparently put the issue to rest.
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 mislead into believing Iraq posed an imminent threat to
the United States.
Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz admit that the plan to go to war with Iraq
was initiated two days after the terrorist attacks on September 11,
On September 13, 2001, during a meeting at Camp David with Bush, Rumsfeld
and others in the Bush administration, Wolfowitz said he discussed
with 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,
a transcript of which is posted on the Department
of Defense website. "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 of September 11, Iraq joined Afghanistan at
the top of the list of countries the United States expected to 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."
In an interview with WABC-TV last week, Rumsfeld took it a step further,
saying that United States policy had 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 here.
Rumsfeld's response is only partly true. He and Wolfowitz, along with
current Vice President Dick Cheney and others now in the administration,
wrote to then president Bill 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 issue is 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 US is
planning against other "outlaw" regimes. The administration
is now ratcheting up the rhetoric on Iran by making similar allegations
that the 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 Bush
administration on how to deal with Iran, with the State Department
pushing for an open dialogue and the Bush administration pushing for
a new regime.
In a half a dozen interviews last week, Rumsfeld refused to respond
to questions about whether the US would use military force to overthrow
Iran's governing body. "That's 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 on 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."
Leopold is the former Los Angeles bureau chief of Dow Jones Newswires.
He is currently finishing a book on the California energy crisis.