Rich Lowry

   "Bush lied" is still gospel for Bush critics, even though it has become such a tattered article of faith that it is near total disintegration. The faithful want to believe that President Bush made up his charges about Saddam Hussein's WMD capabilities in order to "mislead" the country into war. The latest shredding of this argument comes courtesy of Gen. Tommy Franks' new book, "American Soldier."

    Perhaps the true believers should amplify their charge to "Franks lied," since he believed exactly the same thing about Saddam as the president. Actually, to be consistent, the charge would also have to be "important Arab leaders lied" -- indeed, "most everyone with some knowledge of Saddam's regime lied," in a conspiracy so vast it included war skeptics and everyone up and down the chain of command of the American military.

    Franks recounts a meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan in January 2003. Abdullah told Franks, "General, from reliable intelligence sources, I believe the Iraqis are hiding chemical and biological weapons." Perhaps Abdullah, an opponent of Saddam, wanted to bait us into invading Iraq -- and so presumably "Abdullah lied."

    Franks, however, heard the same thing from skeptics about the U.S. policy of toppling Saddam. Days later Franks met with Hosni Mubarak, president of Egypt. Mubarak said: "Gen. Franks, you must be very, very careful. We have spoken with Saddam Hussein. He is a madman. He has WMD -- biologicals, actually -- and he will use them on your troops."

    Mubarak's warning illustrates how Saddam's alleged possession of WMD could be taken not just as a reason for action, but as a caution against it. Even though he supported it, Franks worried that the initial U.S. strike against what was thought to be the compound where Saddam and his sons were staying would precipitate a retaliatory WMD strike. "We had been receiving," Franks writes, "increasingly urgent intelligence reporting that Republican Guard units in Baghdad had moved south to the city of Al Kut -- and that they had been issued mustard gas and an unknown nerve agent." Franks put U.S. forces in Kuwait on high alert.

Rich Lowry

Rich Lowry is author of Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years .
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