Bush and GOP repeatedly used WMD Justification to Invade Iraq in 2000

I wrote this two months ago, but I am bumping it back up now that our traffic has increased. It continues to frustrate me that this does not receive wider play.

While I was sifting through 2000 Bush-Gore debate transcripts in order to reacquaint myself with Bush's debating style, I ran across this eye-popping quote:

The coalition against Saddam has fallen apart or it's unraveling, let's put it that way. The sanctions are being violated. We don't know whether he's developing weapons of mass destruction. He'd better not be or there's going to be a consequence, should I be the president. This quote dates from October 11, 2000 exactly eleven months before the attacks that supposedly changed everything. Now, look at this quote from the third debate one week later: Our coalition against Saddam is unraveling. Sanctions are loosened. The man who may be developing weapons of mass destruction, we don't know because inspectors aren't in. This is almost exactly the same line he used in the second debate. Although there were only 26 entries on Google for the search "going to be consequences, should I be the president," one blogger noticed the similarity between these two lines in August of 2003 and noted:Note the similarities in wording between Debates II and III. Bush was not speaking off the cuff. This was a rehearsed effort and his first attempt to convince Americans that Iraq had "weapons of mass destruction" and presented a risk to national security. Why was Bush using the WMD threat against Iraq as a prepared debate talking point in 2000, almost one full year before the September 11th attacks? One possibility comes from the famous Project for a New American Century military plan completed for the Bush campaign (PDF) in September of 2000: 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. (p. 29)

From an American perspective, the value of such bases would endure even should Saddam pass from the scene. Over the long term, Iran may well prove as large a threat to U.S. interests in the Gulf as Iraq has. And even should U.S.-Iranian relations improve, retaining forward-based forces in the region would still be an essential element in U.S. security strategy given the longstanding American interests in the region. (p. 26)

Another possibility comes from the Republican Party platform in 2000: A new Republican administration will patiently rebuild an international coalition opposed to Saddam Hussein and committed to joint action. We will insist that Iraq comply fully with its disarmament commitments. We will maintain the sanctions on the Iraqi regime while seeking to alleviate the suffering of innocent Iraqi people. We will react forcefully and unequivocally to any evidence of reconstituted Iraqi capabilities for producing weapons of mass destruction. More from the platform: In this context, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is another anachronism of obsolete strategic thinking. This treaty is not verifiable, not enforceable, and would not enable the United States to ensure the reliability of the U.S. nuclear deterrent. It also does not deal with the real dangers of nuclear proliferation, which are rogue regimes -- such as Iran, Iraq, and North Korea -- that seek to hide their dangerous weapons programs behind weak international treaties. Of course, the Bush WMD justification to invade Iraq goes back even before the 2000 Republican Convention: Asked during a Jan. 26 candidates' forum about Saddam Hussein's staying power, George W. Bush warned that, "If I found in any way, shape or form that he was developing weapons of mass destruction, I'd take 'em out." Once again, this was not a new line for Bush, since he had said exactly the same thing in a December 2, 1999 debate: GOV. BUSH: I wouldn't ease the sanctions, and I wouldn't try to negotiate with him [Saddam].

I'd make darn sure that he lived up to the agreements that he signed back in the early '90s. I'd be helping the opposition groups. And if I found in any way, shape or form that he was developing weapons of mass destruction, I'd take 'em out. I'm surprised he's still there. I think a lot of other people are as well.

MR. HUME: Take him out?

GOV. BUSH: To out the weapons of mass destruction.

Other sources have interpreted Bush's "clarification" to mean that he would take out the WMDs, but not invade. However, that is not the only possible reading of this transcript. Does it mean that he would take out the WMDs but not Saddam, or that he would take out Saddam in order "to out the weapons of mass destruction?" Both readings are equally possible, since it is not clear what Bush meant.

It has been said a thousand times, but it needs to be said a thousand more. Well before September 11th and even before Bush was elected President, Republicans and the Bush team, swimming with people from the Project for a New American Century, had a long-term plan to establish permanent military bases in southern Iraq. This would be done by using Saddam Hussein and the "threat" of his "WMD program" as an "immediate justification" to invade Iraq. The purpose of such bases is to buttress the forces already in Kuwait, prop up a puppet Iraqi regime with a permanent military presence, maintain an aggressive military stance against Iran, and wield significant influence over Gulf region oil fields. Bush, the GOP platform committee and the majority of the now high-ranking members of the Defense Department either said or wrote this on several occasions during the 2000 campaign. They were going to use the WMD justification to invade Iraq even if the September 11th attacks never took place. Hell, they even had already formulated the notion of the "axis of evil" in the 2000 campaign.

Considering this pile of evidence, I can't believe I was surprised in the spring of 2002 when it became clear that Bush was determined to invade Iraq. None of us should be surprised during a second Bush term if a similar campaign will begin against Iran. (Of course, that assumes that our deployable troop strength will be freed from its current quagmire in Iraq, which isn't bloody likely).

Tags: Republicans (all tags)



This Is What The NYT Should Be Doing...
Or, rather, should have been doing for the past 5 years.

Too bad it's on a blog, and thus "not journalism."


by Paul Rosenberg 2004-08-12 07:12AM | 0 recs
Sad state of journalism.
There has always been something fishy about Iraq.  Let's face it.  If you wanted to deal a blow to state sponsored terrorism, Iraq falls much lower on the list then places like Saudi Arabia, Libya and Syria.  If you wanted to deal with rogues that have WMD then North Korea is practically ready to nuke Japan just to prove that it has the ability, Pakistan having nukes doesn't exactly bring pleasant possibilities to mind, and of course Russia has a rather ludicrous stockpile of them being guarded by underpaid, under equipped and under-screened military personal who are just getting a taste of capitalism.

Whatever.  Iraq was about oil, and about finding ten thousand excuses to sell it to the public as something else.   It's amazing someone didn't point these quotes out repeatedly every time Bush tried to tie 9/11 to an Iraq invasion before the war began.  

by Spartacus 2004-08-12 07:34AM | 0 recs
i love blogs
excellent work.  every american should see this.
by pedro 2004-08-12 08:04AM | 0 recs
I Wrote About This
I was going to say that I wrote about this in July of last year at my now abandoned blog called "Chronicles of an Anti-Apathetic."


But then I realized that one of the quotes you presented is from my expired blog and actually links to that blog.

I have always been surprised that in the run-up to the war and since then, nobody has focused on these statements. To me, it was obvious before the election what he intended to do with Iraq  and had I seen your quote from Hume, I would have felt even more certain!

Why doesn't the media pay attention to these things?

by Cat M 2004-08-12 02:15PM | 0 recs
Re: I Wrote About This
Beats the hell outa me. If it hadn't been for your work, I probably would never have noticed all of this when I went searching on Google after seeing the first quote. Thanks so much!
by Chris Bowers 2004-08-12 05:06PM | 0 recs
Re: I Wrote About This
You know, for all I wrote, I can't believe I never asked "why" he was saying this in the debates. So thanks for addressing the "why" of it.

This will sound crazy and I know some people will think I'm making it up after the fact, but it's absolutely true. As I watched the debate with my husband and heard Bush say that--this is the debate where he and Gore were sitting at a table--I said "Oh my god! If he gets elected, he's going to take us into war in Iraq. He's actually going to take us to war." My husband thought (thinks?) I'm a left-wing whacko and dismissed it.

So later, after the Iraq war, I recalled that line from the debate and how I reacted to it and it made me hunt through the other debates to see what he had said on Iraq and after noting the similarities and recalling how everyone reported on how hard Bush was rehearsing for the debates (because he's such a bumbler), I knew that this answer was not spontaneous. It was something he had planned to say. And it was rather odd, because usually when someone asks how you're going to handle the Middle East, you think Palestine/Israel, but Bush kept gravitating back to Iraq. He was determined to get those points out.

So your question of WHY is an absolutely good one and I'm glad you answered it.  

by Cat M 2004-08-12 06:01PM | 0 recs
This is right on the money. In the great words of Josh Marshall, "the more we learn about the "day that changed everything, we see how it didn't change anything." Going to Iraq for geostrategic reasons was not only a necessary way for extending American global domination, but controlling the worlds oil resources. It's worth looking at the role the neo-cons played in this since the 1970s, but this broad picture is necessary to really understand what is happening in American foreign policy.
by dstein 2004-10-16 04:10PM | 0 recs
We need a progressive War Blog
The story is out there Chris, we just haven't been paying attention. For a comprehensive analysis of the neo-con movement you have to get "America Alone" by Halper and Clarke. Halper is a Senior Fellow of the Centre of International Studies and a contributing editor at the American Spectator. Clarke is a Foreign Affairs Scholar at the CATO Institute. "America Alone" is a devastating critique of the neo-cons from a couple of rock-ribbed Republicans who believe that Bush has betrayed the fundamental principles of American foreign policy. "Rise of the Vulcans" is a pale shadow of the information presented by Halper and Clarke.

They go through a biography of their early college years and their ideological roots in Norman Podhoretz, Irving Kristol, Daniel Bell, George Gilder and Jeane Kilpatrick. In 1992 Wolfowitz developed a Defense Planning Guidance that you can find summarized by PBS linked text . Halper and Clarke also cover the neo-con links to about a dozen think tanks. They have an entire chapter on the neo-con's Outreach to the Media and Evangelicals.

This is the essential background story to Bramford's "A Pretext for War" and Hersh's "Chain of Command". They follow their career paths and include little tidbits like Norman Podhoretz being moved into a senior editor position at The New York Post by Rupert Murdoch. J.C. Watts is now some sort of General Manager at Clear Channel Radio. They cover the media links that include the Weekly Standard. It started with a circulation of 60,000 and until recently anyway has never increased. A large number of copies are given away gratis. The Weekly Standard has never made money. Murdoch established it as a neo-con outpost to give them credibility.

There is an excellent summary of the neo-cons by The Christian Science Monitor linked text that covers a great deal of the ground covered by Halper and Clarke.

If you want extremely shrill criticism of the neo-cons check out Anti-war.com  linked text  This is a Libertarian/Goldwater Republican site that is more critical of Bush than we could ever be. They regularly feature Juan Cole. Be sure not to miss the Justin Raimondo link on the Newspaper on the right side of the Home Page. His criticism of Bush and the neo-cons is absolutely vicious.

For an update on the internal neo-con ideological war check out The National Interest article by Francis Fukuyama that sent Krauthammer totally ballistic. linked text This is a subscription only Journal, but the link I provided is to Keepmedia and last week they were providing a 7 day free trial. It's a good deal and I got a 50% off annual subscription to 170 magazines that I would never otherwise pay for. I'm not pimping the company, I just think it's a good way to keep informed. One of the featured magazines that I really appreciate is the Atlantic Monthly. They also offer access to the WSJ, which I also would never pay for, but it's nice to be able to access.

If this is unacceptable to link to the keepmedia site please let me know or just delete it. I'm kind of new to this whole blogging thing. I'm still not real sure what whoreblogging is or exactly what's wrong with it. It seems like good cross-pollination of ideas to me. I don't know anything about how net advertising works, but I think this company would be a perfect fit for MyDD, Atrios and Dailykos.

I completely agree with your concern on this issue Chris. As a community we were completely behind the curve on understanding who the neo-cons are, as well as how to counteract them. The usual reaction I get when I post over at dailykos on this is F the neo-cons or just watching my post fade into oblivion. I think this is an area of speciality interest that is not particularly critical to the election so it gets pushed aside for more urgent election concerns. I think it would be an excellent idea to develop a military oriented blog like Winds of Change or Q&O with a progressive focus.

I read Jerome's blog about "The Folly of Empire". I read Chalmer's book and have "Fear's Empire" on my shelf for after the election. I suspect they are all passe. I am finishing "The Pentagon's New Map" by Barnett. I will try to put together a brief review tomorrow. With Barnett's contacts as a senior military analyst at the Naval War College I have the very strong suspicion that Barnett's map is already established as the way military issues are going to be framed in this century.

If you visit the Thomas P.M. Barnett site linked text he links to a CSPAN site where you can order a CD of one of the most amazing power point presentations you will ever see that appeared on 9/24. That's when I ordered Barnett's book and I recommend it highly to anyone who wants to understand American foreign and military policy in the 21st century.

Barnett also has a link to a three hour Real Player web video of his CSPAN presentation that is available for free.

by Gary Boatwright 2004-10-16 05:11PM | 0 recs
Re: We need a progressive War Blog
The Halper and Clarke book is good as far as it goes, but those guys are conservatives, old-fashioned foreign policy "realists" whose critique of the neocons doesn't extend to a critique of US imperial power (which Halper and Clarke don't necessarily oppose, so long as  it is wielded "effectively" in pursuit of "US interests").

For a long string of very effective progressive critiques of the neocons as a particularly virulent form of imperial power, see the resources posted by the Foreign Policy In Focus project:

their Right Web home page:

and especially the superb analyses by Jim Lobe and Tom Barry:




A number of other useful online resources are linked into my own home page here:

hope this is helpful,


by mark 2004-10-17 08:00AM | 0 recs
Re: We need a progressive War Blog
Outstanding! That's exactly what I'm talking about. And thanks for clarifying Halper and Clarkes foreign policy position for me. I didn't intend to suggest that their approach to foreign policy should be adopted, only that I admired their critique of the neo-cons.

FPIP is a delightful resource I was not aware of. I'll keep an eye on your home page as well.


by Gary Boatwright 2004-10-17 05:28PM | 0 recs
A pile of evidence...
...for sure. And, I hope it's eventually used to prosecute the entire Bush Regime for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the World Court.
by Balzar 2004-10-16 06:02PM | 0 recs
Quaking in their boots
Every single person in the Bush administration is quaking in their boots about what will be uncovered when a Kerry administration takes over.

The intelligence data mining that Congress put off until after the election, the torture memo, Abu Ghraib and the whole dirty rotten mess. With all of the CIA memos leaking this close to an election there is without doubt a lot of bad blood among the CIA career officers about how they've been scapegoated over WMD intelligence.

by Gary Boatwright 2004-10-16 06:13PM | 0 recs
I remember around a year and a half ago I read a pretty credible article arguing that the real reason the US was going into Iraq was to prevent Iraq from moving to using euros as the currency that oil exchange was conducted in. The article mentioned that Iraq had been planning to change to euros, and given a number of other complicating factors, that this would cause a major disaster for the dollar..
by ultraworld 2004-10-16 10:21PM | 0 recs
Cheney's 2001 trip to the Gulf
I don't know why it is that people always forget Cheney's trip to the Gulf states in summer 2001 to round up support for an invasion of Iraq.  He was given the cold shoulder by the Arab world, who did not see Saddam Hussein as a "gathering threat."  The plan was clearly in plce long before September 11; the attack was just an excuse.
by kenfair 2004-10-17 06:57AM | 0 recs
You still haven't gotten to the Big Point
... which is, of course, 9/11 and LIHOP. The PNAC piece that you cite is very frank in its assessment that a new Pearl Harbor would be the best way to get the American Public behind the Project.

You can be sure that when Bush states something over and over again, it is a Big Lie that he wants you to believe. 9/11 didn't "change everything" - for them, it changed NOTHING. This was the plan all along.

You don't think that they would willingly sacrifice a few thousand Blue-staters and immigrants to carry out their huge history-making scheme? They probably quote Stalin's bon mot about eggs and omelettes to each other.

The October issue of Harper's has a valuable article on the whitewash delivered by the 9/11 report. The sense one gets is that even the members of the Committee didn't want to face the possibility that the Administration knew it was going to occur and let it happen. The Committee members obviously felt that the general public couldn't handle such a revelation - or even the implication of such perfidy on the part of the President.

Bush made it very plain, for those who wished to listen, what he was going to do. Plenty of people were counting off the days until the Iraqi invasion after Bush was inaugurated. Even the Onion expected it.

What you have to listen to is what Bush is planning to do for his second term, when he claims both the will of the people and God have put him in his position.

I don't think the rest of the world, though, wants Bush to carry out God's plan. We may get into a shooting war with the European Union before this is all over.

by Louise 2004-10-17 07:49AM | 0 recs
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by 5507 2004-10-18 11:12AM | 0 recs


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