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Struggling to Find the Reasons for War

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein greets Donald Rumsfeld, then special envoy of President Ronald Reagan, in Baghdad on December 20, 1983. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein greets Donald Rumsfeld, then special envoy of President Ronald Reagan, in Baghdad on December 20, 1983. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

There was a story in “The New York Times” last week that should disabuse you of any illusions you may still have about why we went to war in Iraq. (Hint: it wasn’t weapons of mass destruction.)

The “Times” reported that a former CIA officer has filed suit against the agency, saying that prior to the war he gave it information that Iraq had long since abandoned its nuclear weapons program and was selling off hardware.

The agency ignored the intelligence, he said, and when he complained it demoted him, then fired him.

The details of the suit are sketchy, largely because the CIA immediately classified it, along with the officer’s name. The “Times” got the information through anonymous sources (thereby risking putting more of its staff in jail).

Why did the CIA ignore the report? Only the terminally naïve can ask that question seriously.

It has become obvious that this administration came into office aching to go to war with Iraq. It kept trying out reasons---Saddam was a threat to the peace of the region, he was pals with bin Laden and complicit in the 9/11 attacks, he was a cruel tyrant to his people---until it hit upon one it could sell: weapons of mass destruction.

That one flew. From then on, neither the CIA nor any other government agency was interested in information that suggested that Saddam didn’t have those weapons.

It’s not much remembered now but throughout the ’90s the consensus in the intelligence community was that Iraq had given up on its nuclear weapons program.

In 2001, however, that assessment changed. Suddenly we had intelligence reports that Iraq was seeking high-strength aluminum tubes from China. Analysts concluded that they were to be used in a new uranium enrichment program that would yield nuclear weapons.

In case you’ve forgotten, George W. Bush became president in 2001. What a coincidence.



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Of course analysts said Saddam was rebuilding his nuclear program. If they hadn’t they’d have been out on their ears like the guy who filed the suit.

How do you know this person who filed the suit is telling the truth? you might ask. A fair question.

Ask yourself this: Would you file a suit against the CIA, a powerful agency known for its vindictiveness, on false grounds? I don’t think so. To mess with those boys you have to be monumentally ticked off at a monumental injustice.

The former officer’s lawyer told the “Times” that he had asked the court to declassify his client’s suit. The CIA responded by classifying his motion seeking declassification.

So the lawyer sent a letter to the director of the FBI requesting an investigation of the matter. The CIA promptly classified the letter.

If you can’t put all of that together and come up with the reason we’re in this miserable war, you are probably a devotee of the Rush Limbaugh show and what are you doing here anyway?

In any case, never fear, there are signs that the administration is getting ready to pull the plug on the Iraq operation.

The United States has put the arm on Iraqi leaders to stick to their original deadline for writing a constitution for their nation, despite the fact that there is no hope that the delegates can reach agreement on the most contentious issues facing them---the role of Islam, Kurdish autonomy and the rights of women---in that time.

The administration wants an elected Iraqi government in place by the end of the year so that it can begin pulling our troops out in time for the American elections when we can reelect the clowns who got us into this mess in the first place.

It will be the first step in abandoning the Iraqis to the chaos that awaits them, and all the blah-blah about establishing a democracy that can serve as a beacon for the Middle East can be consigned to the file labeled “Never Mind,” where most Bush promises go.

Donald Kaul

Donald Kaul

Donald Kaul wrote newspaper columns for half a century, beginning with a long stint at the Des Moines Register that made him a household name (in a good way) throughout Iowa. Kaul, who was named a Pulitzer Prize finalist for commentary in 1987 and 1999, wrote for OtherWords for many years, right on up to his retirement. He passed away in July 2018 and was lovingly memorialized throughout Iowa, the Midwest, and the journalistic world.

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