WMDs a convenient excuse

WMDs a convenient excuse

By Joe Baker, Senior Editor

As the decibel level rises on the issue of Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction, an administration official made a revealing and startling statement.

Paul Wolfowitz, deputy secretary of defense, in an interview in the July issue of Vanity Fair, said WMDs were chosen as the reason for attacking Iraq because it was politically convenient.

Wolfowitz said the one largely unnoticed justification was huge: the prospect of pulling U.S. forces out of Saudi Arabia after Saddam was removed.

Since Baghdad fell, the Pentagon has announced our troops would be pulling out of Saudi territory. “Just lifting that burden from the Saudis is itself going to the door,” Wolfowitz said in reference to making progress toward peace elsewhere in the Mideast. Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations have been incensed at what they see as the presence of “infidels” on sacred Muslim ground.

“For bureaucratic reasons,” said Wolfowitz, “we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction, because it was the one reason everyone could agree on.”

That admission came just two days after Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld conceded no WMDs may ever be found in Iraq. More and more groups and individuals in the U.S. and Britain are demanding an explanation of why no weapons have turned up.

In the run up to the war, President Bush repeatedly asserted Saddam Hussein had large numbers of these weapons and that they posed a direct threat to this country. That was the reason for the invasion.

The Vanity Fair article shows Wolfowitz was urging the president to attack Iraq immediately after the attacks of 9-11 instead of invading Afghanistan.

Britain’s newspaper, the Independent, said there has been suspicion for some time that Wolfowitz was operating a “shadow government” from his Pentagon office. His purpose, they said, was to make sure that his views and those of his followers became an integral part of American foreign policy.

Wolfowitz is best known as the author of the pre-emptive strike policy.

Critics of the war and the administration want to know how convinced officials were that weapons of mass destruction existed in Iraq. There also are questions about the quality of intelligence furnished to the White House. Was it simply faulty, or was the data skewed to support Wolfowitz’s position?

Former Senator Sam Nunn has urged Congress to investigate whether the argument for the Iraq war was based on faulty intelligence. He suggested the Bush policy toward Saddam had influenced the intelligence indicating Baghdad contained WMDs.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W VA, ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said recently that if Iraq really had enough WMDs to pose a threat that justified war, they should have turned up by now. He disagreed with administration officials that the weapons are well hidden and may take much time to locate.

“You can’t quite say that it’s going to take a lot more time if the intelligence community seemed to be in general agreement that WMDs were out there,” Rockefeller said.

He added that if the weapons are so well concealed, this country should have considered giving U.N. inspectors more time to find them.

The Bush camp’s main arguments for attacking Iraq were that Saddam had chemical and biological weapons and was perhaps developing nuclear weapons.

Now the administration has changed its tune. “It’s not because they’re not there,” said Rumsfeld. “We do believe they are there. We never believed that we or the inspectors would just trip over them.”

Rockefeller said based on intelligence he saw before the war, he believed Saddam had such weapons and “something may very well turn up.”

But proving the weapons existed isn’t enough, he said. “In the business of WMD, and proving to the American people your case for war, you’ve got to come up with WMD. It’s not happened,” Rockefeller said.

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