More significantly, however, Bush's last sentence about Saddam's refusal to allow the inspectors in was a bald-faced lie! He repeated the lie on 27 January 2004 and on 21 March 2006 went so far as to assert that he actually went to war because Saddam wouldn't allow the inspectors into his country. Here are his very words: "And when he [Saddam] chose to deny the inspectors, when he chose not to disclose, then I had the difficult decision to make to remove him. And we did. And the world is safer for it."
Let it be noted that a National Intelligence Estimate in 2006 concluded that Bush's invasion actually made the world more dangerous, due to the proliferation of terrorists and terrorist attacks.)
Almost immediately after the invasion, the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) -- consisting of some 1,400 American, British and Australian military and civilian experts on WMD -- was dispatched to Iraq to locate Saddam's WMD. And almost immediately after the invasion both the public and the press began asking questions about the whereabouts of Saddam's WMD. On 30 March 2003, when he was asked whether he was surprised by the failure of coalition forces to find WMD thus far, Rumsfeld responded: "We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat." (Later, when confronted with his own words, Rumsfeld denied making that statement.)
The failure to find WMD or ties to al Qaeda prompted Bush to execute part two of his bait-and-switch con. Bush began to move away from his emphasis on Iraq's WMD and ties to al Qaeda and increasingly emphasized what had been the secondary goals of removing a tyrant and bringing democracy to Iraq. Many members of the press and public fell for it. Even today America's neoconservatives rely on the con to salvage what remains of their shattered reputations.
As the failure to find WMD extended into the late summer of 2003, the intrepid Charles J. Hanley of the Associated Press published an article in the St. Petersburg Times on 10 August that, point by point, destroyed Colin Powell's UN assertions about Iraq's WMD. Worse, on 3 October the ISG published an interim report, which admitted that it found no actual chemical, biological or nuclear weapons in Iraq.
Failure to find WMD heightened the unease of many Americans who, by December 2003 were beginning to doubt Bush's "Mission Accomplished" statement of 1May. Already, in June, the CIA advised Bush and his top advisors that they were facing a "classic insurgency" in Iraq. The insurgency sparked a civil war that continued to grow well into late 2006, until the Sunni Awakening, American soldiers buying off the enemy, pacification from ethnic cleansing and the "surge" allowed the United States to leave Iraq without suffering outright defeat. Looking back, the facts on the ground four years after the invasion stood in stark contrast to Rumsfeld's embarrassing prediction in 2002: "I can't tell you if the use of force in Iraq today would last five days, or five weeks, or five months, but it certainly isn't going to last any longer than that."
As reports of bad news -- no WMD, no ties to al Qaeda, increasing American deaths and casualties, an escalating insurgency, decreasing approval of Bush and the war in the polls -- attached themselves like barnacles to Bush's invasion, temporary relief was found when Saddam Hussein was captured in December 2003.
Perhaps seeking to bask in the glow of that capture, Bush agreed to an interview with Diane Sawyer a few days later. It was a disaster for Bush.
The key exchange occurred after Ms. Sawyer broached the subject of the intelligence concerning WMD that the Bush administration used to justify the invasion. She said: "When you take a look back, Vice President Cheney said there is no doubt, Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction, not programs, not intent. There is no doubt he has weapons of mass destruction. Secretary Powell said 100 to 500 tons of chemical weapons and now the inspectors say that there's no evidence of these weapons existing right now. The yellow cake in Niger, in Niger. George Tenet has said that shouldn't have been in your speech. Secretary Powell talked about mobile labs. Again, the intelligence -- the inspectors have said they can't confirm this, they can't corroborate."
Bush responded by saying: "But what David Kay did discover was they had a weapons program."
Relentless, Ms. Sawyer pressed on: "But stated as a hard fact, that there were weapons of mass destruction as opposed to the possibility that he could move to acquire those weapons still""
Which prompted Bush to respond: "So what's the difference?"
Here's the difference. NEITHER THE CONGRESS NOR THE AMERICAN PEOPLE WOULD HAVE SUPPORTED AN INVASION OF IRAQ HAD THEY KNOWN THAT SADDAM HAD NO WMD OR TIES TO AL QAEDA!
On 30 September 2004, the ISG issued its final report. It's most earth-shaking conclusions were:
" Saddam ended his nuclear program in 1991. ISG found no evidence of concerted efforts to restart the program, and Iraq's ability to reconstitute a nuclear weapons program progressively decayed after 1991.
" Iraq destroyed its chemical weapons stockpile in 1991, and only a small number of old, abandoned chemical munitions were discovered by the ISG.
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