The failure so far to find WMD in Iraq is a major embarrassment for President Bush, and congressional hearings into the intelligence prior to the Iraq War are welcome. But the post-Iraq debate shouldn't proceed on false pretenses: Everyone this side of famed Iraqi prevaricator Baghdad Bob believed that Iraq had WMD. In the run-up to the war, the United Nations, the "axis of weasel" (France and Germany) and high-profile Democrats all agreed about WMD.
The specific figures in Secretary of State Colin Powell's U.N. presentation about Iraq's unaccounted-for WMD came from U.N. inspectors. France and Germany didn't argue that Saddam had no WMD, but inspections could rid him of them. Clinton and Al Gore dissented from aspects of Bush's policy, but agreed about WMD. "We know," Gore said, "he has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons."
The question was what to do about a dictator with ties to terrorism who for 12 years had defied the procedures set out by the world to confirm that he no longer had dangerous weapons. For the Bush administration, Sept. 11 meant erring on the side of safety, and so continuing to accept Saddam's denials and defiance wasn't an option.
As someone once warned: "This is not a time free from peril, especially as a result of the reckless acts of outlaw nations and an unholy axis of terrorists, drug traffickers and organized international criminals. We have to defend our future from these predators of the 21st century." Even if the rhetoric was shrill, Bill Clinton had a point.
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