Weapons of mass distortion

Wondering why the United States went to war with Iraq?

You’re not alone. With each passing week, it’s becoming clearer that Iraq did not possess the weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) that the Bush administration cited as its key reason in support of the invasion, and the demand for formal inquiries into the process that led to war is growing.

Months of diligent searching have produced not so much as a teaspoon of anthrax to support the president’s claims that Iraq possessed chemical, nuclear and biological weapons that it could launch on as little as 45-minutes notice against Israel and the United States. Meanwhile, media reports continue to surface showing that the administration disregarded pre-war intelligence reports that there was no evidence of an Iraqi WMD program, all the while claiming that there was “no doubt” Iraq was plotting to unleash such weapons against the United States.

As if that weren’t enough, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz recently went on record stating that the administration emphasized the potential danger of Iraqi WMDs simply because it was the easiest way to convince Congress and the public that a pre-emptive strike against Iraq was justified. In an astonishingly blunt interview with Vanity Fair magazine, Wolfowitz—a key adviser to the president—said, “The truth is that for reasons that have a lot to do with U.S. bureaucracy, we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on, which was weapons of mass destruction.”

What this suggests is that the administration made the decision to go to war first and then set about looking for a reason. If there never was any credible evidence of nuclear-, chemical- or biological-weapons programs in Iraq, why launch a pre-emptive strike against a country that presented little, if any, threat to the United States?

It wasn’t a response to September 11; it’s well-established now that Saddam Hussein had no links to Osama bin Laden or Al Qaeda. And it’s difficult to believe that Bush ordered a regime change out of concern for the Iraqi people and their right to freedom from oppression when the Bush administration has made no effort to oust even more ruthless regimes in Rwanda, the Congo and elsewhere.

Was it oil? The desire for more power in a strategically important region? At this point, all anyone can do is speculate. That’s why the Bush administration needs to make public a credible explanation for launching its adventure in Iraq. The American people and the world need to see the intelligence and understand the reasoning that led Bush and his advisers to conclude that war—with its inhumanity, suffering, death and incredible wastefulness—was the only way. With his stated reason for the conflict now fully discredited, the president has a moral obligation to set the record straight.