Published on Friday, December 19, 2003 by the Denver Post
We Believed Because We Were Scared
by Reggie Rivers

I was at first stunned and then elated by the images of a defeated, disoriented and disheveled Saddam Hussein submitting to an inspection for lice and having a flashlight shined into his mouth. The picture painted far more than 1,000 words.

But as someone who opposed this war, the capture of Hussein does not distract from the basic issues that need to be examined.

The problem with this war is that President Bush and his staff told a series of deliberate lies and/or gross misrepresentations in order to convince the American people to support military action in Iraq.

If you listen to President Bush today, you'd think that the American people were primarily thinking about poor Iraqis. He's making the case that "Operation Iraqi Freedom" wasn't just a clever name for a war; it was actually the primary mission. The capture of Hussein is proof that it was worthwhile.

But even though Americans are generous, I doubt most citizens would have supported a plan to spend $150 billion and hundreds of American lives if the primary goal was to rescue the Iraqi people.

A year and a half ago, President Bush doubted it, too. That's why he didn't ask us to take this on as a humanitarian effort. Instead, he told us that we had to act because we were in immediate danger.

In a speech to the United Nations on Sept. 6, 2002, President Bush said, "Should Iraq acquire fissile material, it would be able to build a nuclear weapon within a year. ... The first time we may be completely certain he has nuclear weapons is when, God forbid, he uses one."

Remember, at the time he made this speech, Sept. 11 was less than a year old. The horror we'd felt was very fresh. We were still reeling from anthrax attacks, and our terrorist threat warning system stayed locked at "orange," the second- highest level. Then our president told us that Saddam Hussein might get a nuclear weapon and use it against us?

We agreed to a war because we were scared to death.

In a speech in Cincinnati on Oct. 7, 2002, President Bush said, "The danger is already significant, and it only grows worse with time. If we know Saddam Hussein has dangerous weapons today - and we do - does it make any sense for the world to wait to confront him as he grows even stronger and develops even more dangerous weapons?"

President Bush then connected the threat directly to Americans: "Iraq possesses ballistic missiles with a likely range of hundreds of miles - far enough to strike Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey and other nations - in a region where more than 135,000 American civilians and service members live and work.

"(Hussein) has a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas. We're concerned that Iraq is exploring ways of using these UAVs for missions targeting the United States.

"We know that Iraq and the al-Qaeda terrorist network share a common enemy: the United States of America. Some al-Qaeda leaders who fled Afghanistan went to Iraq ... . Alliance with terrorists could allow the Iraqi regime to attack America without leaving any fingerprints."

Finally, President Bush said, "America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof - the smoking gun - that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud."

These are just a couple of examples of statements made by President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld during the buildup for war.

Somehow, it seems doubtful that our leaders will face any accountability for the lies they used to manipulate the American people.

Former Denver Bronco Reggie Rivers is the host of "Drawing the Line" Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on KBDI Channel 12, Denver.

Copyright 2003 Denver Post