By Thomas Walker
February 15 of this year was a day that saw the turnout of
millions of people worldwide to oppose a preemptive war on
Iraq. Here in Knoxville, on the corner of Kingston Pike and
Morrell Road, we had our own demonstration of roughly a thousand
people - I among them - even in the rain. Several local news
stations turned out to cover the event, including WBIR, which
ran a piece containing two interviews, the lengthier one going
to the lone counter-protestor, the shorter going to a woman
holding a sign reading "Patriots For Peace."
Her name, now, is inconsequential and at any rate I don't
remember it. I hope she reads this, though. I hope she knows,
now, that I want to apologize for secretly scoffing at her
when she announced that this was a war predicated on lies
and falsehoods, and that the Administration had been deceiving
us all from the outset. To go over why I opposed the war now
would be unnecessary and frivolous, but I must say that I
never felt that it was a war for strictly profit, and that
I never felt we were being outright lied to by the hawks.
I expected half-truths, of course, and careful manipulations
of reality, but I never believed that any of it was a complete
and utter fabrication. I'm beginning to change my mind.
On March 30, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that
"we know where [the weapons of mass destruction] are.
They’re in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad."
The President assured us on the 17th of that same month that
there was "no doubt" the Iraqi regime at that time
possessed some of the "most lethal weapons ever devised"
(weapons that could have been effectively used against an
invading army, but, for some bizarre reason, were not). Pentagon
spokeswoman Victoria Clark spoke to the press of a "number
of sites" that contained these weapons.
The Administration was absolute in its conviction. General
Tommy Franks: "There is no doubt that the regime…has
WMDs, and…[they] will be identified." Defense Policy
Board member Kenneth Adleman: "I have no doubt we’re
going to find big stores of weapons of mass destruction."
And so it goes. In summary, speaking of WMDs, we knew that
"big stores" of them were located in a "number
of sites" in the "area around Tikrit and Baghdad"
and that they would "be identified."
On May 4, the tone began to change. Rumsfeld, in an interview
with FOX news, said that we never believed that "we’d
just tumble over WMDs" in Iraq. Condoleeza Rice parroted
the same excuse for the tardiness in finding the weapons in
a Reuters interview when she said that "U.S. officials
never expected that 'we were just going to open garages and
find' weapons of mass destruction." I don't believe anyone
ever expected that to happen, of course, but I did believe,
as many people even among the war supporters believed, they
would have found something - anything - at that point. Lt.
Gen. James Conway of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force said
that "it was a surprise to me then - it remains a surprise
to me now - that we have not uncovered weapons…in some
of the forward dispersal sites." He told the reporters,
"Believe me, it’s not for lack of trying."
It would seem to me, as it would seem to most rational people,
that the most technologically advanced, best trained army
on the planet could have found weapons "we knew"
were in “"the area around Tikrit and Baghdad,"
two cities roughly 125 miles apart; it would seem that we
would could have found them with relative ease, especially
considering we knew of a "number of sites," and
that there were "big stores of WMDs" in Iraq. No,
Secretary Rumsfeld, I don't expect you to just stumble over
the WMDs, and no Ms. Rice, I don't expect you to just open
a garage and find them, but I don't expect you to have a difficult
time finding "500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve
agent," either. Like Lt. Gen. Conway, I must say, I was
And then Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz started
talking. He told Vanity Fair that "for bureaucratic reasons,
we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction [as justification
for invading Iraq] because it was the one reason everyone
could agree on." That's right: they chose a single issue
to push as a reason for invading the nation of Iraq "for
On May 1, the President took a shameful flight to the USS
Abraham Lincoln, where he announced that the coalition forces
"had prevailed" and congratulated Secretary Rumsfeld
and Gen. Tommy Franks, among others, for "a job well
done," without ever having found a single weapon of mass
destruction. Not one.
And then, like so many times before, there was a sudden change.
The President rambled on about freedom and liberation, democracy,
and the "fall of a tyrant." Suddenly, the war was
one for human rights, and for democracy. The ends, meant to
justify the most radical of means, had changed from when,
20 days earlier on April 10, Ari Fleischer had said that weapons
of mass destruction "are what this war was and…is
Five years ago we impeached a President for lying under
oath about marital transgressions and oral sex. Under oath,
I understand, is key, but what else is key is that it was
about oral sex. It was not about missiles and sarin and mustard
gas and VX nerve agents. It was not about machine guns and
soldiers and bombs. It was not about war and death. This time,
though, it is.
This President has lied, or failed to prove to us what he
and his Administration and their supporters promised to us
they would prove. They have found no "big stores"
in any of the "number of sites" they "knew
were there" in the "area around Tikrit and Baghdad."
They've found no 500 tons of anything. They have freed a country
and a people, indeed, but that was always a matter of consequence
and never one of focus. As Deputy Defense Sec. Paul Wolfowitz
said, they chose one issue, and that issue was not human rights.
And now, that issue has failed them.
Five years ago we impeached a President for lying under oath
about oral sex, and now, on June 10, we remain silently loyal
and forgiving of a President who has lied and deceived us,
and whose lie has resulted in the deaths of thousands.
I want to say to that woman now, who stood before the camera
on WBIR and bravely said that this was a war predicated on
lies and falsehoods, I want to say to that woman now, who
held the Patriots for Peace sign and said bravely that we
were being lied to: I'm sorry for scoffing. You were right.