Iraq: the change in Bush rhetoric when WMD were not found

Electoral politics aside, I thought it was important for national security reasons that the president refute his critics’ misstatements. The CIA assessments of WMD were wrong, but they originated in the years before he became president and they had been accepted by Democratic and Republican members of Congress, as well as by the U.N. and other officials around the world. And, in any event, the erroneous WMD intelligence was not the entire security rationale for overthrowing Saddam.

Douglas Feith argues that the Bush administration made a public affairs decision that “nearly cost the U.S. the war”. Specifically, in the fall of 2003, when stockpiles of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction were not found, presidential speeches “focused almost exclusively on the larger aim of promoting democracy”. Feith also argues that this communications strategy had the side effect of changing the definition of success

…But the most damaging effect of this communications strategy was that it changed the definition of success. Before the war, administration officials said that success would mean an Iraq that no longer threatened important U.S. interests – that did not support terrorism, aspire to WMD, threaten its neighbors, or conduct mass murder. But from the fall of 2003 on, the president defined success as stable democracy in Iraq.

It is interesting how the media has largely forgotten the true history of Saddam’s WMD and the intelligence about same. Certainly the Democrats other than Joe Lieberman have carefully crafted the revisionist history and sold it to the media. This is the origin of the myth “Bush lied”. The true history is simple: Western intelligence agencies were virtually unanimous in their agreement that Saddam continued to pursue order carisoprodol chemical and biological weapons programs; some believed Saddam was probably secretly working on nuclear weapons; most believed Saddam was working on long range missile delivery systems. All of that intelligence work was done during the Clinton administration. Bush officials could not possibly have grafted into the CIA a whole new Iraq scenario.

Saddam’s own generals believed the same as did the British, French, German, and Japanese intelligence services.

Post-Saddam research into the tons of Iraqi government documentation, interviews with both Saddam himself and all of his senior officials — all conclude that Saddam’s strategy was to relaunchB his WMD programs just as soon as the sanctions regime collapsed. Which collapse is exactly what was happening when Bush took the “least worst choice” to invade.

Evidently, none wish to remember the actual reports of David Kay

Upon his return from Iraq, weapons inspector David Kay, head of the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), told the Senate: “I actually think this may be one of those cases where [Iraq under Saddam Hussein] was even more dangerous than we thought.” His statement when issuing the ISG progress report said: “We have discovered dozens of WMD-related program activities” that were part of “deliberate concealment efforts” that should have been declared to the U.N. And, he concluded, “Saddam, at least as judged by those scientists and other insiders who worked in his military-industrial programs, had not given up his aspirations and intentions to continue to acquire weapons of mass destruction.”

or David Kay’s successor, Charles Duelfer

…According to Mr. Duelfer, “the guiding theme for WMD was to sustain the intellectual capacity achieved over so many years at such a great cost and to be in a position to produce again with as short a lead time as possible. . . . Virtually no senior Iraqi believed that Saddam had forsaken WMD forever. Evidence suggests that, as resources became available and the constraints of sanctions decayed, there was a direct expansion of activity that would have the effect of supporting future WMD reconstitution.”

There is more background on the true history of the Kay and Duelfer testimony in this post: Duelfer Report – Iraq Study Group. including links to the full text of the Iraq Study Group report.