Since 2003, when March 7th comes around I think of all the men, women and children that have died in the Iraq war, all the anger directed at the US by the rest of the world and I think how easily all would have been prevented if we had had a President that was honest, interested in the truth and in doing the right thing. Yes, history records that this latest Iraq war began on March 20, 2003, but the events that should have prevented that war occurred on March 7, 2003.
Let’s go back a bit further. Throughout the early to middle part of 2002, the Bush administration had been making accusations that Iraq possessed and was continuing to seek and manufacture Weapons of Mass Destruction. Much of the US political establishment in both parties believed this to be true. The Iraqi government, led by the despot Saddam Hussein, continually issued denials but those denials were deemed not credible by much of the western press and western governments. If Iraq had nothing to hide, the line of reasoning went, why were they not allowing the UN Weapons inspectors into the country to verify this?
Efforts to get the UN Weapons inspection teams into Iraq intensified as the year went on, culminating in October 10, 2002 with the US congress passing the Iraq War Resolution http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joint_Resolution_to_Authorize_the_Use_of_United_States_Armed_Forces_Against_Iraq that authorized then President Bush to go to war in Iraq if necessary to enforce UN Resolutions regarding those weapons. Shortly thereafter on November 8, the UN passed resolution 1441 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UN_Security_Council_Resolution_1441 calling for the immediate and complete disarmament of Iraq and demands from Iraq a report of the status of its arsenal of WMD.
On November 13, five days after UN Resolution 1441 was passed, Iraq accepted it and allowed the first portion of a new UN Weapons inspection team on the ground fourteen days later.
While this would seem to be a positive turn of events, the Bush administration did strange things once these results had been achieved. They continued to press for military action against Iraq. The US pressed several of its allies to issue statements saying that Iraq is a threat to world security and on February 5, Colin Powell went before the United Nations and issued his now infamous speech about how the US is sure that Iraq has weapons and weapons programs that violate various UN Resolutions.
I want to remind readers that throughout this period, Iraq was contained as few other countries have ever been in history. More than two thirds of Iraqi airspace, the so-called no-fly zones http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraqi_no-fly_zones were constantly patrolled by American fighter planes. If those patrolling planes detected any hostile activity on the ground or in the air, it was immediately engaged and destroyed. Tens of thousands of US troops also remained on station in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
I make the above points about the situation because it should be clear that Iraq did not pose a conventional military threat to anyone with the world’s most powerful Air Force flying around the clock combat air patrols over two thirds of the country. No, the only danger Iraq could have posed would have been via Weapons of Mass Destruction and even then, the chance was remote that Iraq could prepare for and mount any kind of WMD attack without pre-launch activities alerting allied reconnaissance aircraft thereby resulting in a strike against those facilities before a launch could even be completed.
As of March 7, 2003 the date that will always remain in my mind for the rest of my life, it was shown to be very unlikely that Iraq continued to have any WMD or programs to produce them.
On March 7, 2003, the heads of the two UN Weapons Inspection Teams in Iraq issued reports that showed that no Weapons of Mass Destruction had been found in nearly four months of intensive on site inspections. See http://www.un.org/apps/news/infocusnewsiraq.asp?NewsID=414&sID=6 and http://www.un.org/News/dh/iraq/elbaradei-7mar03.pdf and http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=6383&Cr=iraq&Cr1=inspect . Here are some excerpts:
Since the arrival of the first inspectors in Iraq on 27 November 2002,
UNMOVIC has conducted more than 550 inspections covering approximately 350 sites. Of these 44 sites were new sites. All inspections were performed without notice, and access was in virtually all cases provided promptly. In no case have the inspectors seen convincing evidence that the Iraqi side knew in advance of their impending arrival.Top United Nations weapons inspector Hans Blix told the Security Council today that over the past month Iraq has displayed "active" or even "proactive" cooperation, which has allowed the inspection process to make significant progress, although a number of key disarmament tasks remained to be resolved.
After three months of intrusive inspections, we have to date found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons programme in Iraq. We intend to continue our inspection activities, making use of all the additional rights granted to us by Resolution 1441 and all additional tools that might be available to us, including reconnaissance platforms and all relevant technologies. We also hope to continue to receive from States actionable information relevant to our mandate. I should note that, in the past three weeks, possibly as a result of ever-increasing pressure by the international community, Iraq has been forthcoming in its co-operation, particularly with regard to the conduct of private interviews and in making available evidence that could contribute to
the resolution of matters of IAEA concern. I do hope that Iraq will continue to expand the scope and accelerate the pace of its co-operation.
Turning to biological and chemical weapons, Mr. Blix said there was a significant Iraqi effort under way to clarify a major source of uncertainty as to the quantities of those arms, which were unilaterally destroyed in 1991. As part of that effort, a disposal site was being now re-excavated, unearthing bombs and fragments, which could allow the determination of the number of bombs destroyed at that site.
Mr. Blix emphasized that no evidence had so far been found of weapons of mass destruction being moved around by truck, of mobile production units for biological weapons or of underground facilities for chemical or biological production or storage, as claimed by intelligence authorities.