As the truth slowly trickles out, it has become apparent to a majority of Americans that Iraq posed no danger to the national security of the United States of America, had no weapons of mass destruction, had no relationship to Al Qaeda or the attacks of 9/11 and posed no threat to its neighbors.
Why then did the Bush administration manipulate intelligence to exaggerate the threat while hiding exculpatory evidence; minimize risk to US service personnel and US diplomatic isolation; and ignore the likelihood of Iraqi instability and of increasing Muslim sympathy to Islamist ideology? These were all very real risks that any competent analysis would have revealed.
The only explanation is that they wanted this war. The question is why.
In another irony of the Iraq war, Bush blew a chance for a Teddy Roosevelt "Big Stick" moment of presidential greatness. If there were serious concerns about Saddam Hussein's weapons capabilities in the aftermath of 9/11, Bush's resolute show of force to compel compliance with UN weapons inspections resolutions would have been considered a great success. With the buildup of US forces on Iraq's borders, UN inspectors were given free reign to examine anywhere in Iraq without harassment or hindrance.
If Bush had stopped after successfully forcing intrusive inspections -- neutralizing a potential threat to the region and to a traumatized post- 9/11 America -- he would have been considered a hero not just in America but all over the world.
But the Bush administration never wanted Hussein's compliance, and viewed the UN inspection teams' access as an obstacle to their war plan. Rather than guiding the inspectors to where the "suspected" weapons sites were located, Bush ordered them out of Iraq -- less they fall victim to the first wave of Shock and Awe.
Even still, the UN inspectors were able to confirm what we knew when Hussein's son-in-law defected: Iraq's WMDs and WMD programs were destroyed after the first Gulf War. If we knew there were no prohibited weapons in Iraq, and logic dictated that Saddam's secular Baathist regime was hostile to Islamist groups like Al Qaeda, we're again left with "Why did we invade Iraq?"
The answer is domestic politics, oil and stupidity (not necessarily in that order). One has to consider the timing of the 2002 mid-term elections as it related to the Iraq war. The Bush administration's case for war was treated as more of a political campaign than as a serious bi-partisan national security issue.
For the Republican masterminds in the Bush administration, the Iraq war was seen as a way to make the Democrats (who would presumably resist invading a country that did not threaten us) look "weak" on defense and the war on terror, and Republicanslook "strong" -- and thus provide GOP gains in Congress.
As shaky as Bush's case for war was at the time, a majority of congressional Democrats were shamefully manipulated into voting to give Bush the power to wage war (which the voters rewarded by sending fewer Democrats to Washington).
But surely Bush and the Republicans would not jeopardize the lives and limbs of US service personnel and countless Iraqi civilians -- not to mention hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars -- just for crass political advantage. Think again.
Consider this confession by author Micky Herskowitz, who was originally selected to ghost-write Bush's autobiography:
"He (Bush) was thinking about invading Iraq in 1999. It was on his mind. He said, 'One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander-in-chief.' And he said, 'My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it.' He went on, 'If I have a chance to invade ..., if I had that much capital, I'm not going to waste it. I'm going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I'm going to have a successful presidency.'"
Bush's intent to invade Iraq long before 9/11 was also confirmed by former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neil. A member of the National Security Council, O'Neil was shocked to learn that deposing Hussein was the first order of business at the very first meeting of the NSC, eight months before 9/11. Oil concessions were even being discussed at that early date.
Bush's defenders -- those who insist the Bush administration was the victim of "bad intelligence" -- must willfully ignore these facts.