The recent revelation that the man most responsible for the myth that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction — Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, a.k.a “Curveball” — lied should forever put that falsehood to rest.
It was Curveball’s fabrications that formed the basis of Secretary of State Colin Powell’s claims about Iraq’s alleged weapons programs in his speech before the United Nations Security Council in February of 2003 on the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. That is the speech that Lawrence Wilkerson, a former colonel in the U.S. Army, a decorated Vietnam vet, and a lifelong Republican who served as Powell’s chief of staff, called “a hoax on the American people, the international community, and the United Nations Security Council.” That is the speech that Powell himself said, in a February 2005 interview with Barbara Walters, was a “blot” on his record.
As the world knows all too well, one of the main justifications for the unconstitutional, unjust, and unnecessary war of aggression against Iraq was that Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction.” In the “Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002,” there are six references to Iraq’s supposed “weapons of mass destruction.”
Before that resolution was passed, Vice President Dick Cheney had stated that there was no doubt that Saddam Hussein had those weapons and was amassing them “to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us.” And soon after the resolution was passed, President Bush himself insisted that Saddam was lying to the world about not having weapons of mass destruction because “he’s got them.”
We know, of course, from the Duelfer Report — the final report on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction by the Pentagon and CIA-organized Iraq Survey Group — that Iraq had no deployable weapons of mass destruction on the eve of the U.S. invasion in March 2003, and had not produced any since 1991. Bush even admitted as much in 2005 when he acknowledged that “most of the intelligence turned out to be wrong.”
And we also know that the whole idea of Iraq’s having weapons of mass destruction was a ruse anyway. We know this not only from sources like the Downing Street Memo, made public in 2005, that Bush wanted to invade Iraq soon after the 9/11 attacks, but also from Bush’s secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld. In Rumsfeld’s new book, Known and Unknown: A Memoir (Sentinel, 2011), he writes about meeting with President Bush just fifteen days after 9/11 and being asked to “take a look at the shape of our military plans on Iraq.” According to Russ Baker, author of Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, the Powerful Forces That Put It in the White House, and What Their Influence Means for America (Bloomsbury Press, 2008), before he was even elected president, Bush was fixated on the political capital that fighting a war would bring, political capital that his father had “wasted” after he invaded Iraq the first time.
Because the evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction was so shaky, a wide variety of other ruses were given in defense of the war. A study back in 2004 documented 27 rationales given for the war by the Bush administration, war hawks in Congress, and the media between 9/11 and the October 2002 congressional resolution to use force in Iraq and concluded that it was “the Bush administration, and the President himself” that “established the majority of the rationales for the war and all of those rationales that make up the most prominent reasons for war.”
Many Americans actually believed, and perhaps still believe, that the invasion of Iraq was in retaliation for the 9/11 attacks. But as Bush himself even acknowledged in 2003: “We have no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with September the 11th.”
But what if Iraq had weapons of mass destruction? What if every other rationale for the war against Iraq was a lie, but Iraq really did have weapons of mass destruction.What should the United States have done? Should the U.S. government have allowed Saddam Hussein to possess such weapons? Should it have allowed him to threaten neighboring Muslim countries? Should it have stood back and allowed him to brutalize the Iraqi people? Should it have allowed him to be a potential danger to U.S. ally Israel? Because of the gravity of the matter, should the United States have risked invading Iraq just in case weapons of mass destruction might have been there?
The answers are so what, nothing, yes, yes, yes, yes, and no.
First of all, with no navy or air force, and an economy in ruins after a decade of brutal U.N. sanctions, Iraq was never a threat to the United States. Iraq was not even a threat to the United States when U.S. and coalition forces invaded it the first time in 1991.
Second, if Iraq’s neighboring Islamic countries didn’t think it necessary to invade Iraq because of a perceived threat, then why should the United States have even considered it?
Third, Israel had enough tanks, helicopters, fighter jets, ships, bombs, and bullets to destroy Iraq many times over if that country actually posed a credible threat to its security. If Israel did think it necessary to launch a preemptive strike against Iraq (like it had done in 1981 when it took out an Iraqi nuclear reactor under construction), then why should the United States have even considered it?
Fourth, the United States cannot right every wrong in the world. It is not in the interests of the American people for the U.S. government to expend blood and treasure to take sides against those regimes that are persecuting or mistreating their own people or foreigners. It is not in the interests of the American people for the U.S. government to take sides during a civil war. Any American who wants to do these things on his own dime and in risk of his own life is perfectly free to do so. He should just not expect other Americans who prefer to keep their money in their pocket and their loved ones out of a flag-draped coffin to do his bidding.
And fifth, and most important, even if Iraq possessed nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, there is absolutely no reason why the United States would be justified in attacking and invading Iraq or any other sovereign country — no matter what we thought of that country’s rulers, system of government, economic policies, military capabilities, treatment of women, religious intolerance, violations of civil liberties, human rights record, or nuclear program.
And on this last point in particular, who is the United States to say that a country should or shouldn’t have nuclear weapons? When did the countries of the world appoint America to be the world’s policeman or guardian? Why does the United States tolerate the massive amount of nuclear weapons stockpiled in France, China, Russia, Israel, India, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom? Shouldn’t the United States invade those countries as well? Isn’t every country in the world justified in obtaining nuclear weapons to protect themselves against the one country that was the first and only country to actually use them — the United States of America?
What should the United States have done if Iraq had weapons of mass destruction? Absolutely nothing. I think that 4,438 U.S. soldiers who died in Iraq in vain and for a lie might agree — if they still had the chance.
Originally published at the Future of Freedom Foundation on February 23, 2011.