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Revisiting History

November 30, 2005
By John Lovchik

"See if Saddam did this. See if he's linked in any way..."

These are the instructions given by George W. Bush to Richard A. Clarke, then the chairman of the Counterterrorism Security Group of the National Security Council on September 12, 2001. When Clarke responded "But, Mr. President, al Qaeda did this," Bush insisted "I know, I know, but... see if Saddam was involved. Just look. I want to know any shred..." This exchange was described by Clarke in his book Against All Enemies.

Why, on the first day after the devastating attack of September 11, 2001 by Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, was Bush so focused on Iraq and Saddam Hussein? The answer to this question should be obvious to everyone, but for the benefit of those who still entertain some doubts, I would like to do a chronological review of events.

I will begin with a comment Bush made in 1999 to Mickey Herskowitz, an author who had many conversations with Bush while he was preparing to assist him in writing his autobiography. According to Herskowitz, Bush told him:

"My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it. If I have a chance to invade, if I had that much capital, I'm not going to waste it."

Some people have suggested that Bush had a vendetta against Saddam Hussein because Hussein had tried to have Bush's father assassinated. This comment to Herskowitz would suggest that George W. Bush was more interested in how he might acquire, and use, the popularity that his father had enjoyed during the first Gulf War. This may have been just a casual comment to a ghostwriter long before Bush became president, but most people would admit that "If I have a chance to invade" was an unusual choice of words.

Something that is definitely not just a casual comment is the 90 page document titled "REBUILDING AMERICA'S DEFENSES: Strategy, Forces and Resources For a New Century" prepared in September 2000 by the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). Many of the people who were involved in PNAC are currently in the Bush administration, including Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz. This report, which was prepared four months before Bush took office, includes this statement about the Middle East:

"Indeed, the United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein."

The section titled "Repositioning Today's Force" discusses the U.S. military presence in the Middle East over the last decade and includes this statement:

"From an American perspective, the value of such bases would endure even should Saddam pass from the scene."

There is no question that the strategy envisioned by PNAC includes a permanent U.S. military presence worldwide, and particularly in the Middle East.

On January 30, 2001, ten days after Bush took office, the National Security Council met for the first time. Former Secretary of the Treasury, Paul O'Neill provided an account of that meeting to author Ron Suskind for his book The Price of Loyalty. According to O'Neill, the entire meeting was about Iraq, and Condoleezza Rice began by noting that Iraq was destabilizing the region and that it might be the key to reshaping the entire region.

O'Neill quotes one of the individuals at the meeting who had also attended National Security Council meetings of the previous administration and who had noticed a significant change in this meeting from those of the previous administration: "In the Clinton administration, there was an enormous reluctance to use American forces on the ground; it was almost a prohibition. That prohibition was clearly gone, and that opened options, options that hadn't been opened before."

The next meeting of the National Security Council was held on February 1, 2001 and again it was about Iraq. In summarizing the discussions, O'Neill said this:

"From the start, we were building the case against Hussein and looking at how we could take him out and change Iraq into a new country. And, if we did that, it would solve everything. It was all about finding a way to do it. That was the tone of it. The President saying, 'Fine. Go find me a way to do this.'"

Suskind writes that by March, "Actual plans, to O'Neill's astonishment, were already being discussed to take over Iraq and occupy it - complete with disposition of oil fields, peacekeeping forces, and war crimes tribunals - carrying forward an unspoken doctrine of preemptive war."

Also by March 2001, the National Energy Policy Development Group, generally referred to as the Cheney Energy Task Force, was conducting meetings. As a result of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch, a number of the documents used by the Energy Task Force have been released to the public. Included in those documents were a map of the Iraqi oilfields, pipelines and refineries and a two page chart with the heading "Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts" detailing Iraqi oil and gas projects. Both were dated March 2001.

Then on September 11, 2001, al Qaeda attacked the United States. Bob Woodward, in his book Plan of Attack, says that Bush wrote in his diary that night "The Pearl Harbor of the 21st century took place today." The PNAC report, written one year earlier, had already used the Pearl Harbor analogy:

"Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event - like a new Pearl Harbor."

Woodward also tells us that the next day, September 12, "in the inner circle of Bush's war cabinet, Rumsfeld asked if the terrorist attacks did not present an 'opportunity' to launch against Iraq." As noted earlier, that was the same day Bush instructed Clarke to try to connect Iraq to the attack.

While an attack against Iraq was ruled out in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and the U.S. military was sent instead to Afghanistan where al Qaeda had their training camps, Woodward notes that two months later, on November 21, Bush instructed Rumsfeld to get started on updating the war plan for Iraq. By December 28, the war plan had undergone three iterations and General Tommy Franks was called to Crawford, Texas to give Bush a personal briefing about the plan.

On January 29, 2002 Bush gave his State of the Union speech. In it he introduced the "axis of evil" theme and made the following statement about Iraq: "Iraq continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror." Later in the same speech he said: "I will not wait on events, while dangers gather. I will not stand by, as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons."

There was no mistaking the point of the speech, and conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer laid it out clearly in a column dated February 1, 2002. He said Bush "is using his war popularity to seek support for more war - far wider, larger and more risky." He also said "Iraq is what this speech was about. If there was a serious internal debate within the administration over what to do about Iraq, that debate is over. The speech was just short of a declaration of war."

By March, 2002 Osama bin Laden was pretty much forgotten and Iraq was the entire focus. At a press conference on March 13, 2002 Bush said of bin Laden, "I don't know where he is. You know, I just don't spend that much time on him..." About Iraq he said this: "I am deeply concerned about Iraq. And so should the American people be concerned about Iraq. And so should people who love freedom be concerned about Iraq."

When a question was asked about Cheney being on the road "trying to build support for possible action against Iraq" Bush said:

"...what the Vice President is doing is he's reminding people about this danger, and that we need to work in concert to confront this danger. Again, all options are on the table, and - but one thing I will not allow is a nation such as Iraq to threaten our very future by developing weapons of mass destruction."

In many of his comments about Iraq during this time period, Bush referred to all options being on the table. To some that might seem to indicate that the decision to invade Iraq had not yet been made. A thorough reading of his statements, however, makes it clear that his threats were strong and that he was preparing the nation for more war. His references to all options being considered were infrequent and weak, and seemed intended simply to pacify a public not yet convinced that invading Iraq was appropriate.

A number of British governmental documents from this time period have recently been obtained by the press and released to the public. These documents, commonly referred to as the Downing Street Memos, confirm what many people had already concluded, that the decision to use military force against Iraq was already made.

A memo to Blair from his chief foreign policy adviser, David Manning, dated March 14, 2002, reported on meetings he had with Condoleezza Rice:

"Condi's enthusiasm for regime change is undimmed. But there were some signs, since we last spoke, of greater awareness of the practical difficulties and political risks. ...

From what she said, Bush has yet to find the answers to the big questions: - how to persuade international opinion that military action against Iraq is necessary and justified; ..."

A memo from British ambassador Christopher Meyer to David Manning, dated March 18, 2002, reported on a meeting he had with Paul Wolfowitz.

"On Iraq I opened by sticking very closely to the script that you used with Condi Rice last week. We backed regime change, but the plan had to be clever and failure was not an option. It would be a tough sell for us domestically, and probably tougher elsewhere in Europe. The US could go it alone if it wanted to. But if it wanted to act with partners, there had to be a strategy for building support for military action against Saddam."

In anticipation of a meeting that Blair was to have with Bush in Crawford, Texas, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw requested the thoughts of various government officials for a memo that he would be sending to Blair. In response to that request, British Foreign Office political director Peter Ricketts sent Straw a memo dated March 22, 2002. His comments about Iraq included the following:

"...even the best survey of Iraq's WMD programmes will not show much advance in recent years on the nuclear, missile or CW/BW fronts: the programmes are extremely worrying but have not, as far as we know, been stepped up.

US scrambling to establish a link between Iraq and Al Aaida [sic] is so far frankly unconvincing. To get public and Parliamentary support for military operations, we have to be convincing that:

- the threat is so serious/imminent that it is worth sending our troops to die for;
- it is qualitatively different from the threat posed by other proliferators who are closer to achieving nuclear capability (including Iran)."

The memo from Jack Straw to Tony Blair was dated March 25, 2002 and included the following comments:

"The rewards from your visit to Crawford will be few. The risks are high, both for you and for the Government. I judge that there is at present no majority inside the PLP for any military action against Iraq, (alongside a greater readiness in the PLP to surface their concerns). Colleagues know that Saddam and the Iraqi regime are bad. Making that case is easy. But we have a long way to go to convince them as to:

(a) the scale of the threat from Iraq and why this has got worse recently;
(b) what distinguishes the Iraqi threat from that of eg Iran and North Korea so as to justify military action;
(c) the justification for any military action in terms of international law;"

With respect to the legal justification, the memo said this:

"regime change per se is no justification for military action; it could form part of the method of any strategy, but not the goal. Of course, we may want credibly to assert that regime change is an essential part of the strategy by which we have to achieve our ends - that of the elimination of Iraq's WMD capacity; but the latter has to be the goal; ..."

Blair's meeting with Bush at Crawford, Texas took place on April 6, 2002. At a joint press conference a question was asked about Bush's failure to build an international coalition for military action against Iraq and about whether Bush had convinced Blair on the need for a military action against Iraq. Bush spoke briefly about Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction and finished by saying, "I explained to the Prime Minister that the policy of my government is the removal of Saddam and that all options are on the table."

The next question was this:

"Prime Minister, we've heard the President say what his policy is directly about Saddam Hussein, which is to remove him. That is the policy of the American administration. Can I ask you whether that is now the policy of the British government? And can I ask you both if it is now your policy to target Saddam Hussein, what has happened to the doctrine of not targeting heads of states and leaving countries to decide who their leaders should be, which is one of the principles which applied during the Gulf War?"

Blair's response referred to how Iraq would be a better place without Saddam Hussein and about his weapons of mass destruction and his brutality and repression of his own people. He also noted that Hussein was in breach of the U.N. resolutions. But he stopped short of calling for his removal. He concluded with, "Now, as I say, how we then proceed from there, that is a matter that is open for us."

Bush's response was less subtle: "Maybe I should be a little less direct and be a little more nuanced, and say we support regime change."

Three months after the meeting in Crawford, Blair had a meeting with British government officials. A briefing paper prepared by the Cabinet Office on July 21, 2002, in preparation for that meeting included the following comments:

"The U.S. Government's military planning for action against Iraq is proceeding apace. But, as yet, it lacks a political framework. In particular, little thought has been given to creating the political conditions for military action, or the aftermath and how to shape it.

When the Prime Minister discussed Iraq with President Bush at Crawford in April he said that the U.K. would support military action to bring about regime change, provided that certain conditions were met: efforts had been made to construct a coalition/shape public opinion, the Israel-Palestine Crisis was quiescent, and the options for action to eliminate Iraq's WMD through the U.N. weapons inspectors had been exhausted."

The meeting Blair had with his government officials was held on July 23, 2003. The official minutes of that meeting were also released with the Downing Street documents. The minutes contained the following entries:

"C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the U.N. route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.

The Foreign Secretary said he would discuss this with Colin Powell this week. It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the U.N. weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force.

The Attorney-General said that the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action."

During the news conference with Blair on April 6, and on several occasions before and after that date, Bush referred to his policy of regime change. On August 1, 2002, during a meeting with King Abdullah of Jordan, Bush said:

"The policy of my government, our government, of this administration is regime change. For a reason. Saddam Hussein is a man who poisons his own people, who threatens his neighbors, who develops weapons of mass destruction."

The Downing Street Memos show that Blair was being advised that regime change alone was not sufficient justification for military action, and that phrase was dropped from Bush's speeches.

References to Saddam Hussein during this period were infrequent and didn't suggest any significant threat or urgency. In response to a reporter's question on August 10, 2002, Bush said this:

"I think most people understand he is a danger. But as I've said in speech after speech, I've got a lot of tools at my disposal. And I've also said I am a deliberate person. And so I'm - we're in the process of consulting not only with Congress, like I said I do the other day, but with our friends and allies. And the consultation process is a positive part of really allowing people to fully understand our deep concerns about this man, his regime and his desires to have weapons of mass destruction."

On August 16, 2002, he said this:

"There should be no doubt in anybody's mind this man is thumbing his nose at the world, that he has gassed his own people, that he is trouble in his neighborhood, that he desires weapons of mass destruction."

Note that this comment, like the one on August 10, simply refers to a desire to have weapons of mass destruction and makes no reference to an imminent threat to the U.S.

On August 21, 2002, following a meeting with Rumsfeld at Crawford, Bush was asked this question:

"Sir, after you've studied today the military capabilities of the United States and looking ahead to future threats, one thing that has to factor in is the growing number of U.S. allies, Russia, Germany, Bahrain, now Canada, who say that if you go to war with Saddam, you're going to go alone. Does the American military have the capability to prosecute this war alone?"

Bush's response was:

"Well, look, if you're asking - are you asking about Iraq? The subject didn't come up in this meeting. But, having said that, we take all threats seriously and we will continue to consult with our friends and allies. I know there is this kind of intense speculation that seems to be going on, a kind of a - I don't know how you would describe it. It's kind of a churning..."

It is obvious from the question that was asked, from the fact that key U.S. allies had been discussing the issue, and from the fact that Bush acknowledged the intense speculation, that the issue of military action against Iraq was seen by many as a very real possibility. Yet Bush claimed that the subject didn't come up in a wide ranging discussion with his Secretary of Defense.

Two weeks later, on September 4, 2002, Bush's public attitude regarding Iraq changed dramatically. Following a meeting with congressional leaders, Bush gave the following summary:

"Spent most of our time talking about a serious threat to the United States, a serious threat to the world, and that's Saddam Hussein. One of the things I made very clear to the members here is that doing nothing about that serious threat is not an option for the United States."

What had changed in those two weeks that would explain this dramatic shift in attitude by Bush and his administration? The Washington Post reported that in August 2002 "Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. formed the White House Iraq Group, or WHIG, to set strategy for each stage of the confrontation with Baghdad." So why did it take until September before any change was made? The Washington Post also quoted from a New York Times article regarding an interview with Card where he made the following statement: "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August."

On September 12, 2002 Bush also complied with another of Blair's requirements by seeking a new resolution from the United Nations requiring the return of U.N. weapons inspectors to Iraq. In his address to the United Nations General Assembly Bush said:

"Saddam Hussein's regime is a grave and gathering danger. To suggest otherwise is to hope against the evidence. To assume this regime's good faith is to bet the lives of millions and the peace of the world in a reckless gamble. And this is a risk we must not take."

On October 2, 2002 Bush discussed a proposed congressional resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq if needed to ensure compliance with U.N. resolutions. In that address he made the following statements:

"On its present course, the Iraqi regime is a threat of unique urgency. In defiance of pledges to the U.N., it has stockpiled biological and chemical weapons. It is rebuilding the facilities used to make those weapons. U.N. inspectors believe that Iraq could have produce enough biological and chemical agent to kill millions of people. The regime has the scientists and facilities to build nuclear weapons, and is seeking the materials needed to do so."

During the weeks that the U.N. and Congress deliberated on their respective resolutions, Bush's speeches repeatedly focused on Iraq and the dangers it posed. In his radio address to the American people on September 28, 2002, Bush said it like this:

"The danger to our country is grave and it is growing. The Iraqi regime possesses biological and chemical weapons, is rebuilding the facilities to make more and, according to the British government, could launch a biological or chemical attack in as little as 45 minutes after the order is given. The regime has long-standing and continuing ties to terrorist groups, and there are al Qaeda terrorists inside Iraq. This regime is seeking a nuclear bomb, and with fissile material could build one within a year."

Note the reference to the British government in spite of the fact that the official minutes of a meeting of their highest government officials, held just two months earlier, show that they considered the case against Saddam Hussein to be thin.

In his radio address on October 5, 2002, Bush said this:

"The danger to America from the Iraqi regime is grave and growing. The regime is guilty of beginning two wars. It has a horrible history of striking without warning. In defiance of pledges to the United Nations, Iraq has stockpiled biological and chemical weapons, and is rebuilding the facilities used to make more of those weapons. Saddam Hussein has used these weapons of death against innocent Iraqi people, and we have every reason to believe he will use them again. Iraq has longstanding ties to terrorist groups, which are capable of and willing to deliver weapons of mass death."

In all of his speeches during this time, Bush was careful to assure the nation that he sought the resolutions as a means of pressuring Iraq to disarm, and that war was not inevitable. In the October 5 radio address, which he finished by urging all Americans to call their members of Congress regarding the resolution authorizing the use of force, he said this:

"The United States does not desire military conflict, because we know the awful nature of war. Our country values life, and we will never seek war unless it is essential to security and justice. We hope that Iraq complies with the world's demands. If, however, the Iraqi regime persists in its defiance, the use of force may become unavoidable."

Some take this as proof that the decision to go to war had not yet been made. It is telling, though, that once the resolutions were adopted, the references to the dangers posed by Iraq continued unabated and with increasing urgency, while the denials of a war decision having already been made became weaker and more infrequent.

On October 11, 2002 Congress approved their resolution and on November 8, 2002 the United Nations approved their resolution. On November 13, 2002 Saddam Hussein accepted the United Nations resolution and approved the return of the U.N. weapons inspectors, and on November 27, 2002 the U.N. weapons inspectors returned to Iraq.

Dr. Hans Blix, the Executive Chairman of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), who led the inspection teams, delivered a number of reports over the next three months regarding their efforts and their findings.

In his report as of January 8, 2003 Dr. ElBaradei included these comments:

"The Iraqi authorities have consistently provided access without conditions and without delay. They have also made available additional original documentation in response to requests by IAEA inspectors. The IAEA has also started the process of interviewing key Iraqi personnel."

And in his report on January 9, 2003 Dr. Blix made this comment:

"Similarly, if we had met a denial of access or other impediment to our inspections we would have reported it to the Council. We have not submitted any such reports."

Yet in a column written by National Security Adviser Dr. Condoleezza Rice that appeared in the New York Times on January 23, 2003 she made this statement:

"Iraq is not allowing inspectors 'immediate, unimpeded, unrestricted access' to facilities and people involved in its weapons program."

In the report of January 8, Dr. ElBaradei had this comment about Iraqi attempts to import uranium:

"There have been recurrent reports of Iraqi efforts to import uranium after 1991. The Iraqi authorities deny any such efforts. The matter continues to be pursued by the IAEA."

In her column Dr. Rice said this:

"For example, the declaration fails to account for or explain Iraq's efforts to get uranium from abroad, "

In his State of the Union address on January 28, 2003 Bush referred to Iraq's nuclear threat in this way:

"he British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

And finally, in his address to the U.N. Security Council on February 5, 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell said this:

"Saddam Hussein already possesses two out of the three key components needed to build a nuclear bomb. He has a cadre of nuclear scientists with the expertise, and he has a bomb design. Since 1998, his efforts to reconstitute his nuclear program have been focused on acquiring the third and last component, sufficient fissile material to produce a nuclear explosion."

Dr. ElBaradei's January 27 and February 14 reports both indicated that the matter continued to be investigated. His March 7, 2003 report, however, provided a complete analysis and his conclusions.

"The IAEA has made progress in its investigation into reports that Iraq sought to buy uranium from Niger in recent years. The investigation was centred on documents provided by a number of States that pointed to an agreement between Niger and Iraq for the sale of uranium between 1999 and 2001.

The IAEA has discussed these reports with the Governments of Iraq and Niger, both of which have denied that any such activity took place. For its part, Iraq has provided the IAEA with a comprehensive explanation of its relations with Niger, and has described a visit by an Iraqi official to a number of African countries, including Niger, in February 1999, which Iraq thought might have given rise to the reports. The IAEA was also able to review correspondence coming from various bodies of the Government of Niger, and to compare the form, format, contents and signatures of that correspondence with those of the alleged procurement-related documentation.

Based on thorough analysis, the IAEA has concluded, with the concurrence of outside experts, that these documents - which formed the basis for the reports of recent uranium transactions between Iraq and Niger - are in fact not authentic. We have therefore concluded that these specific allegations are unfounded."

In his report of January 9, 2003, Dr. Blix talked about the process that would be required for Iraq to prove it's claim that it had no prohibited weapons:

"The Declaration repeats the assertion that there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and that there is no more evidence to present. However, in order to create confidence that it has no more weapons of mass destruction or proscribed activities relating to such weapons, Iraq must present credible evidence. It cannot just maintain that it must be deemed to be without proscribed items so long as there is no evidence to the contrary. A person accused of the illegal possession of weapons may, indeed, be acquitted for lack of evidence, but if a state, which has used such weapons, is to create confidence that it has no longer any prohibited weapons, it will need to present solid evidence or present remaining items for elimination under supervision. Evidence can be of the most varied kind: budgets, letters of credit, production records, destruction records, transportation notes, or interviews by knowledgeable persons, who are not subjected to intimidation."

But both Bush in his State of the Union address and Powell in his address to the U.N. Security Council dramatically went through the litany of weapons and biological agents that were unaccounted for with no mention of the measures being undertaken by the U.N. inspectors to determine if they in fact still existed. The message being clearly sent, as intended, was that it was a matter of the weapons being concealed, not an issue of whether they existed.

On March 7, 2003 Dr. Blix issued the quarterly report of UNMOVIC which was dated February 28. The report covered the inspections which had been done during the quarter:

"12. Since the arrival of the first inspectors in Iraq on 27 November 2002, UNMOVIC has conducted more than 550 inspections covering approximately 350 sites. Of these 44 sites were new sites. All inspections were performed without notice, and access was in virtually all cases provided promptly. In no case have the inspectors seen convincing evidence that the Iraqi side knew in advance of their impending arrival.

13. The inspections have taken place throughout Iraq at industrial sites, ammunition depots, research centres, universities, presidential sites, mobile laboratories, private houses, missile production facilities, military camps and agricultural sites. ... At certain sites, ground-penetrating radar was used to look for underground structures or buried equipment.

14. More than 200 chemical and more than 100 biological samples have been collected at different sites. Three quarters of these have been screened using UNMOVIC's own analytical laboratory capabilities at the Baghdad Ongoing Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Centre (BOMVIC). The results to date have been consistent with Iraq's declarations."

His March 7 oral introduction of the quarterly report indicated his estimate of the work remaining for the inspection team and the time required to complete the work:

"Let me conclude by telling you that UNMOVIC is currently drafting the work programme, which resolution 1284 (1999) requires us to submit this month. It will obviously contain our proposed list of key remaining disarmament tasks; it will describe the reinforced system of ongoing monitoring and verification that the Council has asked us to implement; it will also describe the various subsystems which constitute the programme, e.g. for aerial surveillance, for information from governments and suppliers, for sampling, for the checking of road traffic, etc.

How much time would it take to resolve the key remaining disarmament tasks? While cooperation can and is to be immediate, disarmament and at any rate the verification of it cannot be instant. Even with a proactive Iraqi attitude, induced by continued outside pressure, it would still take some time to verify sites and items, analyse documents, interview relevant persons, and draw conclusions. It would not take years, nor weeks, but months. Neither governments nor inspectors would want disarmament inspection to go on forever. However, it must be remembered that in accordance with the governing resolutions, a sustained inspection and monitoring system is to remain in place after verified disarmament to give confidence and to strike an alarm, if signs were seen of the revival of any proscribed weapons programmes."

Dr. ElBaradei also gave a report on March 7, 2003 that included the following passage:

"In conclusion, I am able to report today that, in the area of nuclear weapons - the most lethal weapons of mass destruction - inspections in Iraq are moving forward. Since the resumption of inspections a little over three months ago - and particularly during the three weeks since my last oral report to the Council - the IAEA has made important progress in identifying what nuclear-related capabilities remain in Iraq, and in its assessment of whether Iraq has made any efforts to revive its past nuclear programme during the intervening four years since inspections were brought to a halt. At this stage, the following can be stated:

  • There is no indication of resumed nuclear activities in those buildings that were identified through the use of satellite imagery as being reconstructed or newly erected since 1998, nor any indication of nuclear-related prohibited activities at any inspected sites.

  • There is no indication that Iraq has attempted to import uranium since 1990.

  • There is no indication that Iraq has attempted to import aluminium tubes for use in centrifuge enrichment. Moreover, even had Iraq pursued such a plan, it would have encountered practical difficulties in manufacturing centrifuges out of the aluminium tubes in question.

  • Although we are still reviewing issues related to magnets and magnet production, there is no indication to date that Iraq imported magnets for use in a centrifuge enrichment programme.

As I stated above, the IAEA will continue further to scrutinize and investigate all of the above issues.

After three months of intrusive inspections, we have to date found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons programme in Iraq. We intend to continue our inspection activities, making use of all the additional rights granted to us by resolution 1441 and all additional tools that might be available to us, including reconnaissance platforms and all relevant technologies. We also hope to continue to receive from States actionable information relevant to our mandate. I should note that, in the past three weeks, possibly as a result of ever-increasing pressure by the international community, Iraq has been forthcoming in its co-operation, particularly with regard to the conduct of private interviews and in making available evidence that could contribute to the resolution of matters of IAEA concern. I do hope that Iraq will continue to expand the scope and accelerate the pace of its co-operation."

And yet, less than two weeks later, Bush notified the inspectors to leave Iraq, and on March 19, 2003 he invaded. As required by the resolution authorizing the use of force, Bush justified his actions to Congress with the following declaration:

"...based on information available to me, including that in the enclosed document, I determine that:

(1) reliance by the United States on further diplomatic and other peaceful means alone will neither (A) adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq nor (B) likely lead to enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq; "

How could anyone have been surprised?

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