Bush and GOP repeatedly used WMD Justification to Invade Iraq in 2000
by Chris Bowers, Sat Oct 16, 2004 at 03:13:37 PM EDT
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).