As you keep this little exchange in mind, let's go back and revisit the most widely heard speech where Bush laid out the case for war against Iraq, namely his State of the Union address two years ago. If you reread the section on Iraq, what is striking is that his argument for "confronting" Iraq is based entirely on the putative threat of WMDs. There is no reference whatsoever to the supposed salutary, transformational effect that toppling Iraq will have on the Middle East. Democratizating the Middle East or saving the Iraqi people from Saddam -- the two benefits that neocons use to continue to defend the war (never mind that neither thing seems to be happening) -- do not figure at all in the portion of Bush's 2003 SOTU address that deals with Iraq. Here's the relevant portion of the speech:
Barbara Walters: [WMDs were] our main reason for going in. So now when we read, "Okay, the search is over," what do you feel?
President Bush: Well, like you, I felt like we'd find weapons of mass destruction. Or like many, many here in the United States, many around the world, the United Nations thought he had weapons of mass destruction, and so therefore, one, we need to find out what went wrong in the intelligence gathering. Saddam was dangerous. And . . . the world was safer without him in power.
Walters: But was it worth it if there were no weapons of mass destruction? Now that we know that that was wrong? Was it worth it?
Bush: Oh, absolutely.
Twelve years ago, Saddam Hussein faced the prospect of being the last casualty in a war he had started and lost. To spare himself, he agreed to disarm of all weapons of mass destruction.Some may argue that Bush does make a moral case for the war here, by pointing out how evil Saddam is. Bush raises the issue of Saddam's violence against his own people, not as an argument for war in itself, but merely to show that Saddam is a ruthless person who stops at nothing, and therefore can't be trusted with WMDs. The relevance of Saddam's evil to American interests is described entirely as a byproduct of Iraq's putative possession of WMDs. Bush knows this, which is why the one paragraph dealing with Saddam's evil is preceded by thirty paragraphs dealing with WMDs, and followed by three more dealing with WMDs.
For the next 12 years, he systematically violated that agreement. He pursued chemical, biological and nuclear weapons even while inspectors were in his country.
Nothing to date has restrained him from his pursuit of these weapons: not economic sanctions, not isolation from the civilized world, not even cruise missile strikes on his military facilities.
Almost three months ago, the United Nations Security Council gave Saddam Hussein his final chance to disarm. He has shown instead utter contempt for the United Nations and for the opinion of the world.
The 108 U.N. inspectors were sent to conduct -- were not sent to conduct a scavenger hunt for hidden materials across a country the size of California. The job of the inspectors is to verify that Iraq's regime is disarming.
It is up to Iraq to show exactly where it is hiding its banned weapons, lay those weapons out for the world to see and destroy them as directed. Nothing like this has happened.
The United Nations concluded in 1999 that Saddam Hussein had biological weapons materials sufficient to produce over 25,000 liters of anthrax; enough doses to kill several million people. He hasn't accounted for that material. He has given no evidence that he has destroyed it.
The United Nations concluded that Saddam Hussein had materials sufficient to produce more than 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin; enough to subject millions of people to death by respiratory failure. He hasn't accounted for that material. He's given no evidence that he has destroyed it.
Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent. In such quantities, these chemical agents could also kill untold thousands. He's not accounted for these materials. He has given no evidence that he has destroyed them.
U.S. intelligence indicates that Saddam Hussein had upwards of 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical agents. Inspectors recently turned up 16 of them, despite Iraq's recent declaration denying their existence. Saddam Hussein has not accounted for the remaining 29,984 of these prohibited munitions. He has given no evidence that he has destroyed them.
From three Iraqi defectors we know that Iraq, in the late 1990s, had several mobile biological weapons labs. These are designed to produce germ warfare agents and can be moved from place to a place to evade inspectors. Saddam Hussein has not disclosed these facilities. He has given no evidence that he has destroyed them.
The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in the 1990s that Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear weapon and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb.
The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.
Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production.
Saddam Hussein has not credibly explained these activities. He clearly has much to hide.
The dictator of Iraq is not disarming. To the contrary, he is deceiving.
From intelligence sources, we know, for instance, that thousands of Iraqi security personnel are at work hiding documents and materials from the U.N. inspectors, sanitizing inspection sites and monitoring the inspectors themselves.
Iraqi officials accompany the inspectors in order to intimidate witnesses. Iraq is blocking U-2 surveillance flights requested by the United Nations.
Iraqi intelligence officers are posing as the scientists inspectors are supposed to interview. Real scientists have been coached by Iraqi officials on what to say.
Intelligence sources indicate that Saddam Hussein has ordered that scientists who cooperate with U.N. inspectors in disarming Iraq will be killed, along with their families.
Year after year, Saddam Hussein has gone to elaborate lengths, spent enormous sums, taken great risks to build and keep weapons of mass destruction. But why?
The only possible explanation, the only possible use he could have for those weapons, is to dominate, intimidate or attack.
With nuclear arms or a full arsenal of chemical and biological weapons, Saddam Hussein could resume his ambitions of conquest in the Middle East and create deadly havoc in that region.
And this Congress and the American people must recognize another threat. Evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications and statements by people now in custody reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of Al Qaida. Secretly, and without fingerprints, he could provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists, or help them develop their own.
Before September the 11th, many in the world believed that Saddam Hussein could be contained. But chemical agents, lethal viruses and shadowy terrorist networks are not easily contained.
Imagine those 19 hijackers with other weapons and other plans, this time armed by Saddam Hussein. It would take one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known.
We will do everything in our power to make sure that that day never comes.
Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike?
If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option.
The dictator who is assembling the world's most dangerous weapons has already used them on whole villages, leaving thousands of his own citizens dead, blind or disfigured.
Iraqi refugees tell us how forced confessions are obtained: by torturing children while their parents are made to watch. International human rights groups have catalogued other methods used in the torture chambers of Iraq: electric shock, burning with hot irons, dripping acid on the skin, mutilation with electric drills, cutting out tongues, and rape.
If this is not evil, then evil has no meaning.
And tonight I have a message for the brave and oppressed people of Iraq: Your enemy is not surrounding your country, your enemy is ruling your country. And the day he and his regime are removed from power will be the day of your liberation.
The world has waited 12 years for Iraq to disarm. America will not accept a serious and mounting threat to our country and our friends and our allies.
The United States will ask the U.N. Security Council to convene on February the 5th to consider the facts of Iraq's ongoing defiance of the world. Secretary of State Powell will present information and intelligence about Iraqi's -- Iraq's illegal weapons programs, its attempts to hide those weapons from inspectors and its links to terrorist groups.
We will consult, but let there be no misunderstanding: If Saddam Hussein does not fully disarm for the safety of our people, and for the peace of the world, we will lead a coalition to disarm him.
It's not that Saddam's evil is irrelevant to Bush's argument for the need to "confront" Iraq, of course. If Saddam weren't evil, then we'd probably be willing to live with him having WMDs. After all, we're not invading England or India, because they're not evil.
When Bismarck famously remarked that the Balkans "were not worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier," he was pointing out that while many bad things might be going on in the Balkans, Germany had no strategic interest in the place. Likewise, Bush clearly (and rightly) feels that the very great evil being perpetrated by regimes in places like Burma, Zimbabwe, or the Sudan are not worth the bones of a single American grenadier. What distinguishes Iraq from these other cases of evil-doing is (or was) the putative WMDs. Reading the SOTU address, it's hard to come to any other conclusion.
While the war may not have been justified even if Saddam had possessed WMDs, it's absolutely clear that in the absence of those WMDs, there was no need to wage a war that to date has cost the United States tens of thousands of casualties and a quarter trillion dollars.
Which is why yesterday's claim to Barbara Wa-wa strains credulity.