RM Issue #030608
(again our apologies about the formatting, but the Star is doing some weird coding things that I can't be bothered fixing)
Bush's credibility founders on Iraq
Toronto Star Jun. 7, 2003
Saddam Hussein was no garden-variety despot, U.S. President George Bush told Americans earlier this year in his State of the Union address. He was a mass murderer, a terror master and a threat to world peace. Saddam was "assembling the world's most dangerous weapons," Bush insisted. His vast arsenal included 25,000 litres of anthrax, 38,000 litres of botulinum toxin, 500 tonnes of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent. Some 30,000 toxic munitions. And more. And there was Iraq's "advanced nuclear weapons development." It was a chilling picture designed to justify the war that would follow. Bush offered little hard proof. But he pressed allies to take up arms against Baghdad. When Prime Minister Jean Chr?tien demurred, in a decision supported by 70 per cent of Canadians, U.S. Ambassador Paul Cellucci upbraided us. "We would be there for Canada, part of our family," he said. "And that is why many in the United States are disappointed and upset that Canada is not fully supporting us now." Bush cancelled a May 5 trip to Ottawa and had little time for Chr?tien at the Group of Eight summit. Pundits brayed for punitive action, and U.S. opinion soured on us. Yet lo and behold, now that Saddam is gone and American special forces have been combing Iraq for months, they have turned up nary a drop of VX or anthrax, let alone a nuclear warhead or long-range missile. A couple of mobile germ labs, maybe. But no germs. Saddam's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) have become weapons of mass disappearance. Frustrated by this failure to find huge caches of horror weapons, or to prove a credible link between Saddam and Al Qaeda terrorists, Bush and his apologists are twisting themselves into pretzels arguing it was a "just war" nonetheless, because it liberated Iraqis from tyranny. Against this growing fiasco, Chr?tien's decision to sit out the war looks more principled by the day. Bush was unable to persuade the United Nations Security Council that he "had the goods" on Saddam's weapons program before launching his March attack, and that remains the case. In retrospect, America's "defensive" war looks like crude "regime change." True, horror weapons may yet be found. The chief U.N. weapons inspector, Hans Blix, suspects as much. Some may have been destroyed on the eve of the fighting. But that won't salvage Bush's credibility. Americans and Britons were told that there was an urgent need to launch a pre-emptive strike. That now seems doubtful. Bush stoked America's post-9/11 fears to build support for war. He was abetted by Pentagon hawks, who put the darkest spin on inconclusive evidence that the Central Intelligence Agency treated with caution. Britain's Tony Blair, Bush's chief ally, is also struggling to rebut claims that he had British intelligence services exaggerate the threat. At best, American and British intelligence have been sloppy. That ought to alarm allies like Canada that swap data. But the spooks may have wilfully "torqued" data to please political masters. That would be worse. All this confirms what most Canadians suspected months ago: Bush sought to railroad the U.N. and close allies into a war that lacked legitimacy, because it was unnecessary. Saddam was complying with inspectors. Iraq was crippled by military and economic sanctions. No one will shed a tear for a toppled despot. But this is a mess. It casts a shadow over America's credibility. It will make it harder for Washington to rally support in the future. Prudent allies will take what they are told, with more than a grain of salt.