(IRAQ to SEPTEMBER 2003 – continued)
In January 2001 a new president took office in the United States: George W. Bush, son of George H. W. Bush. In his inaugural address the new president said: "We will confront weapons of mass destruction, so that a new century is spared new horrors....We will meet aggression and bad faith with resolve and strength."
Then came the attacks of September 11, 2001. Osama bin Laden was blamed. President Bush and others had been looking with favor at regime change in Iraq -- a continuation of the position taken by the Congress and its Iraq Liberation Act of 1998. According to Bob Woodward,President Bush on 16 September said to his Security Advisor, Condelezza Rice: "We won't do Iraq now, but it's a question we're gonna have to return to."
The Taliban was believed to be giving sanctuary to bin Laden. The US and Britain launched a war against Taliban rule in Afghanistan. In early November, Germany and Italy joined that war, Germany sending 4,000 troops and Italy 2,700, an aircraft carrier, combat aircraft and helicopters. On 13 November, Afghan forces hostile to Taliban rule, supported by the coalition, captured Kabul.
In Iraq, Saddam Hussein was playing his Muslim card. He had called for the US not to wage a "new crusade" against any Islamic country. On December 18, 2001 he called for a meeting of Arab leaders in the holy city of Mecca. Hussein was providing $10,000 to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers, and in April, 2002, he increased that to $25,000 – more money not being spent to improve the welfare of Iraqi children.
On 1 June, 2002, President Bush publicly introduced the new defense doctrine of pre-emption in a speech at the US military academy at West Point. After September 11 there had been talk of the need of the United States to be proactive rather than reactive. The Bush administration was not charging Hussein with complicity in the attacks of September 11th, but Bush did consider Hussein a danger regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs). He asserted that in some instances the US must strike first against another state to prevent a potential threat from growing into an actual one: "Our security will require all Americans ... to be ready for "
At a press conference on 8 July, regarding Iraq President Bush said: "It's a stated policy of this government to have a regime change. And it hasn't changed. And we'll use all tools at our disposal to do so."
Scott Ritter, a straight talking former Marine Corps Major, ballistic missile technology expert and chief UN weapons inspector in Iraq, was creating a stir by his doubts that Hussein had stockpiles of Weapons of Mass Destruction. Ritter wrote on 20 July :
While we were never able to provide 100 percent certainty regarding the disposition of Iraq's proscribed weaponry, we did ascertain a 90-95 percent level of verified disarmament. This figure takes into account the destruction or dismantling of every major factory associated with prohibited weapons manufacture, all significant items of production equipment, and the majority of the weapons and agent produced by Iraq.
With the exception of mustard agent, all chemical agent produced by Iraq prior to 1990 would have degraded within five years (the jury is still out regarding Iraq's VX nerve agent program – while inspectors have accounted for the laboratories, production equipment and most of the agent produced from 1990-91, major discrepancies in the Iraqi accounting preclude any final disposition at this time.)
The same holds true for biological agent, which would have been neutralized through natural processes within three years of manufacture. Effective monitoring inspections, fully implemented from 1994-1998 without any significant obstruction from Iraq, never once detected any evidence of retained proscribed activity or effort by Iraq to reconstitute that capability which had been eliminated through inspections.
In direct contrast to these findings, the Bush administration provides only speculation, failing to detail any factually based information to bolster its claims concerning Iraq's continued possession of or ongoing efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction. To date no one has held the Bush administration accountable for its unwillingness – or inability – to provide such evidence. Quote from the Boston Globe.
On 23 July, at a meeting among British defense and intelligence people, President Bush is described as wanting "to remove Saddam through military action." The minutes of this meeting mention Bush justifying going to war against the Hussein regime based on that regime's terrorism and its weapons of mass destruction. ( The minutes of this meeting were to be published on 1 May 2005 and known as the Downing Street Memo.)
In building a case for war, President Bush gave Saddam chance to comply with his UN obligations. Bush broadcast what he thought were Saddam's violations of those obligations. On 12 September, President Bush in a speech at the United Nations spoke of UN Resolutions 686 and 687, including the demand that Iraq return all prisoners from Kuwait and other lands. "Iraq' s regime agreed," said Bush, and "It broke its promise." Bush spoke of five hundred people still unaccounted for, including one US pilot. He spoke of Iraq violating Security Council Resolution 1373 by continuing "to shelter and support terrorist organizations that direct violence against Iran, Israel and Western governments." He spoke of Iraq attempting to assassinate the Emir of Kuwait and a former American President (his father) and of targeting Iraqi dissidents abroad for murder. Then Bush spoke of "likely" stockpiles of Weapons of Mass Destruction and that Saddam Hussein's regime was "rebuilding and expanding facilities capable of producing chemical weapons."
On 14 September, in response to a question put to him by the news magazine Time, Scott Ritter said:
I've said that no one has backed up any allegations that Iraq has reconstituted WMD capability with anything that remotely resembles substantive fact. To say that Saddam's doing it is in total disregard to the fact that if he gets caught he's a dead man and he knows it.
In September, Senator Bob Graham of the Senate's Select Committee on Intelligence asked for a national intelligence estimate on the issue of Iraq's threat to the United States. It would take three or four weeks to produce what would become known as the "2002 National Intelligence Estimate."
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