"Weapons of Mass Deception"
Lodge: A lie that took us to war
By Richard Lodge
Friday, January 14, 2005
In case you missed it, the last chapter in the big lie about WMD that led to the war in Iraq merited 3.5 inches on page A18 of yesterday's New York Times.
The MetroWest Daily News -- with far less space for wire news -- included a 2-inch brief on it.
On Thursday, the news was that the search for "weapons of mass destruction" -- WMDs in the new lingo -- had officially ended in December, and come up empty.
The Times last year admitted publishing many staff-written stories based on questionable and biased sources, including now-discredited Iraqi expatriate Ahmed Chalabi, without asking the tough questions that needed to be asked. The American media had, in large part, taken the bait and reported the administration's case for war without question.
Now we know it was a lie. There were no weapons of mass destruction and there was no imminent threat. Yes, Saddam used poison gas, supplied by American and other Western companies in his war against Iran and his suppression of the Kurds in the north of Iraq, from 1983 until as late as 1988, according to the CIA. But in the here and now, there was no imminent threat or pending mushroom cloud, as implied by President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and many others in the months leading up to the invasion. There was no "there" there.
Most Americans had never heard the term WMD until President Bush used it to describe the terrorists' use of hijacked airliners to kill thousands on 9/11. Then it became only a short stretch to apply the WMD label to Iraq, painting Saddam with the same brush of evil as the one used, correctly, on Osama bin Laden after he -- not Saddam -- orchestrated the 9/11 attacks.
Again and again we were told Iraq possessed WMDs and Saddam wouldn't hesitate to use them. The few skeptics in political or journalistic circles were drowned out by the saber rattlers or told they were un-American.
Colin Powell, who at the time was the picture of credibility, unveiled satellite photos purported to show storage and movement of WMDs within Iraq. The president told the nation there was no doubt that Saddam had the goods and was a threat to America. Cheney further blurred the line between Saddam and Osama, and Rice summoned the mushroom cloud image to stitch up the case for war.
It was all a lie, folks. A fraud. Wishful thinking by the president and make-believe by his advisers and the people who advised them.
So now we have turned parts of Iraq into a dangerous, blood-stained junkyard and brought more than 1,350 American men and women home in coffins, including 24 to Massachusetts. Tens or maybe hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians, police and soldiers have been killed. The city of Fallujah was devastated and growing segments of the populace around the country have turned against what they see as an occupation army.
Donald Rumsfeld told us American soldiers would be embraced once Saddam was overthrown. Instead, we are reviled in many parts of the country, including the capital of Baghdad, a city so dangerous that soldiers race through the streets in humvees, hoping to avoid slaughter by roadside bombs.
The lies that took us to war took root during Bill Clinton's two terms in office. The U.S. kept Saddam in check through international sanctions and occasional attacks by American bombers or fighter planes. But American intelligence never established a foothold on the ground in Iraq, so the government tapped Iraqi expatriates for information. In the end, the current administration's zeal to overthrow Saddam demanded little proof to justify an invasion.
If this kind of misinformation and mismanagement occurred in a company, people would be fired.
But advisers, "experts" and even cabinet secretaries made terrible decisions -- and bolstered President Bush's rationale for going to war -- and no one is punished, fired or even upbraided. Some, including Paul Bremer, an architect of the invasion and occupation, walk away with medals around their necks.
This is wrong and someone other than powerless Democrats in Washington should be demanding answers. News reports today said some Democrats want Bush to "apologize" for going to war. Bush doesn't need to apologize. He needs to hand the keys of this train wreck over to NATO or Iraqi interim prime minister Ayad Allawi and bring America's troops home now. The president needs to fire the people who gave him such erroneous information and bad advice. Those bad decisions led to a steadily growing toll of Americans and innocent Iraqis dying or having their limbs blown off in the streets of Baghdad, Mosul and Fallujah.
We invaded Iraq, based on a lie. It's wrong to shrug that off and try to justify keeping our soldiers in a hellish mess that gets worse every day they stay there.
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Milton Frihetsson, 01:57