The approval ratings of President George W. Bush never recovered from the Iraq War. For six years over half the U.S. population believed Bush was lying about the existence of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) in Iraq, and many believed oil was the sole motivation behind the American intervention.
The failure to discover large WMD stockpiles permanently damaged Bush’s credibility. For over a decade prior to the American liberation, the United States and its allies believed Saddam Hussein had significant WMD stockpiles. Before the war Bush asked CIA Director George Tenet if he was sure about the stockpiles and was told their existence was a “slam dunk.” Prior to the U.S. invasion no one could determine if these stockpiles had been destroyed because the Iraqi regime had kicked out the UN weapons inspectors four years earlier.
Significant stockpiles were not found, but they had clearly existed. The UN Report by weapons inspector Charles Duelfer concluded that Iraq had the ability and infrastructure for instantly creating new WMD stockpiles in about a week. They intended to begin churning them out the minute the UN sanctions ended.
The news media largely ignored the comments of Gen. James Clapper, the Director of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency. He said satellite imagery showed that just before the war began, Iraq had transferred its WMD stockpile to Syria. They also ignored the remarks of Gen. Georges Sada, the deputy chief of Iraq’s Air Force during the Saddam Hussein era. He also said Saddam’s WMD had been transferred to Syria. Similar statements from Gen. Moshe Ya’alon, Israel’s chief-of-staff, were reported but they were not given much credibility.
The media also downplayed the 500 tons of yellow cake which was found, the equipment dispersed and hidden throughout the nation, and the Defense Department report which focused on the WMD issue after reviewing over 600,000 documents captured after the capitulation of Saddam’s regime.
The real weapon of mass destruction in Iraq was Saddam Hussein, and he was removed. Blame also belongs on the Bush administration for not aggressively opposing the critics who chanted “Bush Lied, People Died.” In his recent book “Courage and Consequence,” Karl Rove has a chapter entitled “Bush Was Right on Iraq.” The former President’s top political aide reviews many of the above arguments and places the blame on himself:
So who was responsible for the failure to respond [to the Democrats’ assault]? I was. I should have stepped forward, rung the warning bell, and pressed for full-scale response. I didn’t. Preoccupied with the coming campaign and the pressures of the daily schedule in the West Wing, I did not see how damaging this assault was. There were others who could have sounded the alarm, but regardless, I should have.
Many of the allies we wanted to help us bring down Saddam Hussein were already in a corrupt coalition to keep him in power. The UN found documents which showed the “guiding theme” of Saddam’s regime was to be able to start making WMD again “with as short a lead time as possible.” Saddam was convinced that the UN sanctions – which stopped him from acquiring weapons – were on the brink of collapse and he bankrolled several foreign activists who were campaigning for their abolition. He personally approved payments to every one of these individuals or groups.
In his recent review of Bush’s memoir Decision Points, Alastair Campbell (former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s director of communications and strategy) writes in the UK’s Guardian:
I do not buy the idea that he was hellbent on war in Iraq – also confirmed by the book, and in particular by the letters to his father and daughters. They are the letters, and this is the account, of someone who tried to avoid war, but could no longer ignore Saddam’s defiance, or the view of every intelligence agency in the world that Iraq had WMD, a threat that could be parked pre-September 11, but not after it. And surely he has a point when he says: “If I wanted to mislead the country into war why would I pick an allegation that was certain to be disproven publicly shortly after we invaded the country?”
Doubtless the Bush-haters will assume he wrote the letters to his family as a form of prewar spin planning that could be trotted out postwar when it all went wrong. All I say is: read them. You would be hard pressed, on a fair reading, to say the chapters on Iraq show a “rush to war”.
No Blood for Oil
Another popular chant was “No Blood for Oil.” If America’s interest had been oil, the United States could have obtained concessions after 1991’s Operation Desert Storm. Nevertheless, many Americans continue to believe the purpose of the Iraq War was to obtain access to oil. Now the results are known. Iraq’s oil wealth will benefit its own people. An auction in June of 2009 granted concessions to Chinese, Russian, British and French firms, while no American firm was granted a concession. According to Time magazine of December 19, 2009:
Not a single U.S. company secured a deal in the auction of contracts that will shape the Iraqi oil industry for the next couple of decades. Two of the most lucrative of the multi-billion-dollar oil contracts went to two countries which bitterly opposed the U.S. invasion — Russia and China — while even Total Oil of France, which led the charge to deny international approval for the war at the U.N. Security Council in 2003, won a bigger stake than the Americans in the most recent auction. ‘The distribution of oil contracts certainly answers the theory that the war was for the benefit of big U.S. oil interests,’ says Alex Munton, Middle East oil analyst for the energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie, whose clients include major U.S. companies. ‘That has not been demonstrated by what has happened this week.’
The slogans “Bush Lied, People Died” and “No Blood for Oil” gained prominence because of the massive anti-war lobby that disappeared after Barack Obama’s election. As Victor Davis Hanson of Tribune Media Services noted:
Finally, there was the assertion that anti-war protests were all genuinely based on opposition to the American presence in Iraq rather than fueled, in large part, by partisan politics. But since January 2009, when Obama was sworn into office, there have been almost no anti-war demonstrations against the still-sizable American presence there.
Popular demonstrations in the U.S. now oppose excessive government, not the war. And Hollywood has ceased making its usual, unpopular anti-war movies like ‘In the Valley of Elah,’ ‘Redacted,’ ‘The Kingdom,’ ‘Rendition,’ ‘Lions for Lambs’ and ‘Home of the Brave.’ Many on the left no longer oppose the Bush-Petraeus plan of slow, graduated withdrawal from Iraq, as this strategy is now sanctioned by President Obama. In the words of Vice President Biden, Iraq may well become one of the Obama administration’s ‘greatest achievements.’