In reflecting on his war on Iraq in an interview this week with ABC, President Bush made some revealing statements. He first said that “the biggest regret of all the presidency has been the intelligence failure in Iraq. I wish the intelligence had been different, I guess.”
He was, of course, referring to Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, which turned out to be non-existent. According to AFP, Bush then “refused to say whether he would have ordered the March 2003 invasion if he had known that the late dictator Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction, calling it an ‘interesting question.’”
The overwhelming weight of circumstantial evidence leads to but one conclusion: that after the 9/11 attacks, Bush intended to invade Iraq for the purpose of regime change and that the WMD “threat” was nothing more than a fake and false covering rationale for the invasion. Bush’s statements to ABC do nothing to dispel that conclusion.
Here is what the circumstantial evidence leads to:
After 9/11, Bush and Cheney decided that the opportunity was right to accomplish what Bush’s father had failed to accomplish and what 11 years of brutal sanctions against Iraq had failed to accomplish: the ouster of Saddam Hussein from power and the installation of a pro-U.S. regime.
However, Bush and Cheney knew that while they could effect regime change in Afghanistan on the basis that the Taliban had been “harboring” terrorists, no such excuse existed with respect to Iraq. Neither the Iraqi people nor their government had ever attacked the United States or threatened to do so.
Bush and Cheney felt they needed both legal and political cover for their invasion. That’s what their desperate attempts to link Saddam Hussein to the 9/11 attackers were all about. If they could establish such a link, then they could claim that they were attacking Iraq in “self-defense.”
When that rationale failed for lack of evidence, Bush and Cheney turned to the UN-resolution rationale. Saddam Hussein, they claimed, was violating UN resolutions by possessing WMDs. The big problem with that rationale, however, was that only the UN, not the U.S., could enforce UN resolutions, and the UN Security Council wasn’t willing to give Bush the authority to enforce resolutions with an invasion.
Bush and Cheney then turned to the imminent-threat-of-a-WMD-attack-on-the-U.S. rationale to garner support within Congress and among the American people for an invasion of Iraq. They figured that they were safe relying on this rationale since they knew that the U.S. and other Western countries had delivered the WMDs to Saddam during the 1980s. They still had the receipts! How likely was it that Saddam had destroyed all those WMDs that the U.S. had delivered to him? In the minds of Bush and Cheney, not very likely at all.
Thus, the idea was to invade Iraq, find WMDs, oust Saddam from power, and claim that Bush and Cheney had heroically saved America from an imminent WMD attack. Bush’s real regret has got to be not the intelligence failure but rather the fact that Saddam Hussein really did destroy the all the WMDs that the U.S. and its allies had delivered to him during the 1980s.
Bush and Cheney and their subordinates then embarked on their campaign to magnify the post-9/11 fears of the American people by conjuring up images of mushroom clouds and chemical and biological weapons that Saddam was supposedly about to unleash on the American people. Bush and Cheney knew that Congress and many Americans would take the position that “The president must know things that we are not privy to. We must trust him.”
That Bush lied about the reason for invading Iraq is also supported by the classified British memo that pointed out that President Bush had already decided to overthrow Saddam Hussein in 2002 and that “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”
So, why doesn’t Bush simply tell the truth — that the real reason he invaded Iraq was simply to accomplish what his father and sanctions had failed to accomplish — regime change? Because he knows that to invade a country simply for the purpose of regime change constitutes a war crime and he and Cheney do not want to be prosecuted for committing war crimes.
Bush continues to claim that his war on Iraq has turned out to be a big “success.” If the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis he has killed could speak, how likely is it that they would agree with that assessment?
Once he leaves office, Bush will have plenty of time to reflect upon the massive death and destruction he has wrought on a country that never attacked the United States or threatened to do so. He will also have time to wrestle with his conscience over the lies he has told to cover up his regime-change operation.
Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. Send him email.