Let’s play a little game. Without looking ahead or looking up the answer, who said the following?
There is a problem—the probable possession of weapons of mass destruction by an uncontrollable country, Iraq.
If you guessed George W. Bush you would be wrong. Dick Cheney? No. Donald Rumsfeld? Try Again. Paul Wolfowitz? Wrong again.
The person responsible for the above quote? Former French President and noted Iraq War opponent Jacques Chirac.
During the February 13 Republican Debate in South Carolina, Donald Trump went off on former President Bush. Sounding like a deranged anti-war activist, he called the former president a liar. But what’s more concerning than the Republican front runner sounding like someone from Code Pink, however, is that many people still accept the “Bush Lied, People Died” mantra as a fact. Such people say that disagreeing at all with this bumper sticker assessment of the Iraq War is to be blind to facts.
However, despite this conventional wisdom, the facts are on the former president’s side.
Loud opponents of the Iraq War seem to have forgotten that Iraq’s weapons program was not the sole reason that America went to war in 2003. In fact, the Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq listed 23 different justifications (signified by each “whereas” in the resolution) for the war against Iraq. These justifications included–but were not limited to–Iraq’s firing on US and allied planes enforcing a no-fly zone (to prevent Saddam from gassing his own people again), the lack of enforcement of UN Security Council resolutions, and Iraq’s providing material aid to and rewards for terrorist activities. Fears of an aggressive Iraqi regime were not unreasonable: Saddam had invaded Iran and Kuwait, and had also fired scud missiles at Israel during the Gulf War.
The Bush Administration was also not breaking any new ground when it came to pursuing regime change in Baghdad. The policy of regime change was first adopted by a Democratic President, when Congress passed and Bill Clinton signed the Iraqi Liberation Act in 1998.
As for the question of weapons of mass destruction, this is hardly clear cut as well. It is important to remember that it was not just American intelligence, but also British and other intelligence agencies that suspected WMDs were in Iraq–including countries that opposed the war, such as France, Russia and China.
It has also come to light in recent years that there actually were WMDs found in Iraq. Hardly a Bush-friendly newspaper, the New York Times has since reported that American and American-trained Iraqis have been injured in WMD disposal. At least 17 Americans were exposed to mustard agents after 2003.
Why the Bush Administration did not reveal this is a fair question that needs to be asked. One Daily Beast article suggests that some of the weapons were less harmful than anything you would find under the kitchen sink, while at the same time saying it is possible the White House did not want to tip off insurgents. So, which is it? Based on the New York Times article, it seems to be the latter.
As for the idea of missing WMDs, people ranging from former Iraqi military advisers to Obama’s Director of National Intelligence hold the view that Saddam shipped many of the weapons in question, as well as related documents, out of the country and into Syria. We may never know what was in those documents. If Saddam sent them out of the country, they may easily relate to how he tried to mislead UN inspectors or potential plans with regards to his chemical weapons program. ISIS’s chemical weapons also did not simply come from nowhere.
George Bush did not lie about Iraq, and Saddam Hussein did not spend his life fighting terrorists. Members of the US Army did the world a great service when they pulled Saddam out of the literal hole in the ground that he was hiding in. There is much to criticize President Bush over, especially on his domestic policies, but the facts show that he did not lie to get America into war 13 years ago.