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Most of us thought Saddam had WMDs

Walter Williams

Listening to the political and media rhetoric about the war in Iraq, you’d think that only President Bush thought Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Here are just a few past statements made by Bush’s critics.

President Clinton (1998): “One way or the other, we are determined to deny Iraq the capacity to develop weapons of mass destruction and the missiles to deliver them. That is our bottom line.”

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (February 1998): “Iraq is a long way from here, but what happens there matters a great deal here. For the risks that the leaders of a rogue state will use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons against us or our allies is the greatest security threat we face.”

In 2002, Al Gore said, “We know that he has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country.”

Also in 2002, Sen. Ted Kennedy said, “We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction.”

Sen. John Kerry, Democratic presidential front-runner, said in 2002, “I will be voting to give the president of the United States the authority to use force — if necessary — to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security.”

In January 2003, Kerry added, “Without question, we need to disarm Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal, murderous dictator, leading an oppressive regime. ... He presents a particularly grievous threat because he is so consistently prone to miscalculation. ... And now he is miscalculating America’s response to his continued deceit and his consistent grasp for weapons of mass destruction. So the threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real.”

The fact of the matter is that former President Clinton, as well as many members of Congress, believed, just as President Bush did, that Saddam Hussein possessed or was developing biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. The widespread attacks on President Bush are little more than political demagoguery and grandstanding and depend on public forgetfulness and ignorance to succeed.

Military intelligence will probably always be an inexact science. Let’s go back to President Roosevelt’s administration.

By mid-1940, the “evidence” became so promising about Germany’s nuclear-weapons program that British and American scientists judged it imprudent to continue to publish new results. Further research in the United States and Britain was done in secret to prevent German scientists from using the findings to develop an atomic bomb of their own for use in the war then under way.

The frightening possibility that Germany might succeed in providing Hitler with a nuclear weapon was one of the driving forces for the U.S. Manhattan Project. It was also the reason for some of the strategic targeting during World War II, including heavy water facilities in Nazi-occupied Norway.

When World War II ended, it was discovered that Germany wasn’t nearly as close to developing an atomic bomb as intelligence experts had thought. Fortunately, back during that time, we didn’t have today’s hustling politicians and gullible public around to criticize either our war strategy or the atomic bombing of Japan. Back then, Americans were thankful we got the bomb first and used it to end the war.

Listening to today’s politicians and what goes for informed media commentary, George Bush should have waited for unambiguous proof that a megalomaniac tyrant like Saddam Hussein had nuclear-chemical-biological weapons. I’m wondering if that unambiguous proof sufficient for America’s political hustlers and gullible public would have been a mushroom cloud over one of our cities or millions of Americans suffering and dying from chemical or biological toxins.

Walter Williams writes for Creators Syndicate.