Saturday :: Nov 26, 2005

WMDGate: The Fraudulent "Clinton Did It Too" Defense

by eriposte

Among the myriad, fake, Iraq-related talking points from the Bush White House and GOP (read Peter Daou's debunking of some of these), to justify the Bush administration's criminality, there is one that, amusingly, keeps cropping up even now, years after it was debunked by the Bush administration. The one I'm referring to is the assertion that President Bill Clinton attacked Iraq in 1998 using the "same" intelligence that Bush used to go to war in 2003. As laughable as that talking point is, even now some of Bush's sheep keep bringing this up (sometimes with quotes from the Clinton administration in 1998) implying or stating that lefties are "hypocrites" to criticize Bush. In part, this is because crooks like the RNC's Ken Mehlman keep resuscitating this talking point with subtle variations. But the interesting aspect about this talking point is not only that it represents another deliberate attempt to defraud the American public, but also that there are astonishing ignoramuses willing to parrot this horse manure.

Here's a basic form of the talking point (emphasis mine):

Saddam Hussein is no longer a threat to the United States because we removed him, but he was a threat. Such a threat that my predecessor, using the same intelligence in 1998, ordered a bombing of Iraq.

- George Bush, July 2, 2003

This was clearly one of the most bizarre statements of all time by the top fraud of the White House. It had the added bonus of featuring multiple facets of his trademarked mendacity.

First of all, at the time of Bush's statement Saddam Hussein had not even been caught - so he was still a threat to the U.S. then.

Second, Clinton's bombing of Iraq in 1998 was not an invasion and occupation of Iraq - so using Clinton's attack to justify an invasion and occupation simply does not cut it. [I am setting aside the fact that Clinton did not, in a partisan manner, dramatically and deliberately deceive Americans about Iraq's capabilities (or lack thereof). Further, in addition to NOT invading and occupying Iraq for the purpose of "disarming" Saddam Hussein, he also did not actually allow parts and materials usable for WMDs and other weapons to be looted in the process - like his successor did.]

Third, Bush introduced a serious falsehood with his claim. After all, Clinton's attack of Iraq in 1998 was not based on the "same intelligence" that Bush used. Some of the most important, fraudulent claims made by the Bush administration were based on information obtained subsequent to 1998. The aluminum tubes "evidence" emerged in 2001. The "uranium from Africa" "evidence" emerged in 2001/2002. And so on.

So much so that Bush's then-National Security Advisor Condi Rice said (emphasis mine):

...there was an enrichment of the intelligence from 1998 over the period leading up to the war...Yes, I think I would call it new information, and it was certainly enriching the case in the same direction that this is somebody who had had weapons of mass destruction, had used them, and was continuing to pursue them...

Finally, and most importantly, if Clinton used the "same" intelligence to bomb Iraq in 1998, then wouldn't it be a natural question to ask whether the 1998 bombings destroyed any facilities/capabilities that Saddam Hussein had at that time? Well, it would be natural, say, for a 5-year old, but not for the Great Misleaders and their sheep.

As Bob Somerby highlighted back then (emphasis mine):

On the June 15 [2003] Meet the Press, Wesley Clark offered an intriguing thought about those AWOL WMD:

RUSSERT: Was there an intelligence failure? Was the intelligence hyped, as Senator Joe Biden said? Was the president misled, or did he mislead the American people?

CLARK: Well, several things. First of all, all of us in the community who read intelligence believe that Saddam wanted these capabilities and he had some. We struck very hard in December of ’98, did everything we knew, all of his facilities. I think it was an effective set of strikes. Tony Zinni commanded that, called Operation Desert Fox, and I think that set them back a long ways.

Uh-oh. Bush, the top fraud of the White House, conveniently left out the fact that the 1998 strikes destroyed much (or all) of whatever Saddam was said to have, based on the "same intelligence in 1998".

Of course, Bush toadies will probably complain about Gen. Wesley Clark and Gen. Anthony Zinni. After all, unlike Mr. AWOL-Fraudster-in-Chief, they are actually highly competent patriots who know what they are talking about and how to conduct a war. So, let's ask the Bush administration instead.

Here's George Tenet in a report to Congress in February 2001 [via Raw Story] (all emphasis mine):

We do not have any direct evidence that Iraq has used the period since Desert Fox to reconstitute its WMD programs...

Tenet also continued that sentence with "...although given its past behavior, this type of activity must be regarded as likely." But the basic point is that even if Saddam Hussein possessed WMDs or WMD programs in 1998, Clinton's 1998 bombings of Iraq's WMD facilities destroyed them at that time (which would require the need to "reconstitute"). So, using the "same" intelligence from 1998 to go to war in 2003 would be the most blatant form of fraud.

In fact, Bush, Tenet, Rice and Powell said a lot more. So let me recount some statements of theirs, remembering that if the intelligence in 2003 was the same as that in 1998, then surely the intelligence was the same in 2000, 2001 and 2002 as well. [Note: Bold text and/or italics is my emphasis].

George Bush, 10/11/00:

We don't know whether he's developing weapons of mass destruction. He better not be or there's going to be a consequence should I be the president.

Colin Powell, 2/24/01:

...the fact that the sanctions exist -- not for the purpose of hurting the Iraqi people, but for the purpose of keeping in check Saddam Hussein's ambitions toward developing weapons of mass destruction. We should constantly be reviewing our policies, constantly be looking at those sanctions to make sure that they are directed toward that purpose. That purpose is every bit as important now as it was ten years ago when we began it. And frankly they [the U.N. sanctions] have worked. He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors. So in effect, our policies have strengthened the security of the neighbors of Iraq...

George Tenet, February 2001:

We do not have any direct evidence that Iraq has used the period since Desert Fox to reconstitute its WMD programs...

[As I mentioned above, Tenet continued that sentence with "...although given its past behavior, this type of activity must be regarded as likely." But the basic point is that even if Saddam Hussein possessed WMDs or WMD programs in 1998, it was destroyed at that time. Raw Story has more on this.]

Colin Powell, 5/15/01:

The sanctions, as they are called, have succeeded over the last 10 years, not in deterring him [Saddam] from moving in that direction, but from actually being able to move in that direction. The Iraqi regime militarily remains fairly weak. It doesn't have the capacity it had 10 or 12 years ago. It has been contained...So containment, using this arms control sanctions regime, I think has been reasonably successful.

Condi Rice, 7/29/01:

But in terms of Saddam Hussein being there, let's remember that his country is divided, in effect. He does not control the northern part of his country. We are able to keep arms from him. His military forces have not been rebuilt.

So, let's summarize.

Rather than show Clinton and his supporters in poor light, these statements only prove that:

  • Assuming that the intelligence on Saddam's WMDs prior to Operation Desert Fox was accurate, Operation Desert Fox was justifiable and successful in reducing Saddam Hussein's WMD capabilities to rubble.
  • After Operation Desert Fox in 1998, the intelligence obtained prior to that could not be used as justification for another attack on Saddam Hussein, especially since senior Bush administration officials admitted even in early-to-mid 2001 that Saddam had been effectively defanged of his WMDs.

In a nutshell, if the pre-1998 intel was the justification for Clinton's strikes and Bush's invasion and occupation, only one of these actions was justifiable: Clinton's strikes.

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