Three years before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, I interviewed UNSCOM chief inspector Scott Ritter, and then wrote about what he shared with me, covered in several columns.
And while his detractors were trying to paint him as a bunny-lovin', open-toe sandal wearin', Saddam-appeasing, terrorist sympathizing, unpatriotic peacenik, Ritter told me that UNSCOM had dismantled 90 percent of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction by 1995, and that for the remaining three years UNSCOM was in Iraq, they were merely trying to corroborate what they already destroyed.
He also said that 100 percent quantitative disarmament of Iraq is an impossible benchmark, even with full cooperation. Besides, he said, UNSCOM had qualitatively disarmed Iraq, which, in laymen's terms, means that a spare weapons part here and a document there don't even add up to a regional threat, let alone an international danger.
And furthermore, he said, with the sanctions in place it was impossible for Saddam to reconstitute the massive industrial infrastructure he would need to rebuild a viable WMD program with delivery capabilities.
The response that I got from the true believers was that Ritter was a traitor who was out of the intelligence loop, and that I was a dupe for trusting him; never mind the fact that Ritter knew, and knows, more about Iraq's war-marking capabilities than does 99.98 percent of the American public.
So, like the editors of Counterpunch, I began to collect Bush administration quotes explaining why a war with Iraq was "justified." Here are a few:
"The world came together, including the French, to say Iraq must disarm. He is not disarming. He is delaying. He's deceiving. He's asking for time. He's playing hide-and-seek with inspectors" (President Bush, Jan. 22, Associated Press).
"Where are the other 29,984 (chemical warheads)?...And where are the 550 artillery shells that are filled with mustard gas, and the 400 biological weapons...and the 26,000 liters of anthrax, the botulism, the VX, the sarin gas that the U.N. says he has?" (Under Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Jan. 22, Associated Press).
"Should the United Nations decide to pass a second resolution, it would be welcomed - if it is yet another signal that we're intent upon disarming Saddam Hussein. But (the original resolution) gives us the authority to move without any second resolution, and Saddam Hussein must understand that if he does not disarm, for the sake of peace, we along with others will go disarm Saddam Hussein" (President Bush, Feb. 1, New York Times).
"We know from sources that a missile brigade outside Baghdad was dispersing rocket launchers and warheads containing biological warfare agents...to various locations in western Iraq. Most of the launchers and warheads have been hidden in large groves of palm trees and were to be moved every one to four weeks to escape detection" (Secretary of State Colin Powell, Feb. 5, United Nations speech).
"I have said that if Saddam Hussein does not disarm, we will lead a coalition to disarm him. And I mean it" (President Bush, Feb. 8, New York Times).
The war's objective "clearly is to get rid of his government and to put a new one in its place. And that's what we think is required in order to achieve the objectives of eliminating his WMD" (Vice President Dick Cheney, March 17, Washington Post).
Now, I've read a number of books on logic and I seem to recall something in there about it being logically impossible to prove a negative, which is exactly what the Bush administrations was seeking.
Still, no WMD have been found. And now the get-Saddam crowd is trying to pretend liberation of the poor Iraqis was the objective all along. I guess credibility means nothing these days.
"For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction (as justification for invading Iraq) because it was the one reason everyone could agree on" (Bush adviser, Paul Wolfowitz, May 28, Reuters). And they say the peace protesters are naive.
Sean Gonsalves is a Cape Cod Times staff writer and a syndicated columnist and can be contacted at email@example.com.
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