Jewish World Review Nov. 28, 2005 / 26 Mar-Cheshvan, 5766

Paul Greenberg

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The great conspiracy | As critics of the war in Iraq dig deeper and deeper into the war's origins, the extent of the sinister neo-con conspiracy that tricked this country and its allies into invading Iraq grows ever wider.

Remember all that scare talk about those elusive weapons of mass destruction that Saddam Hussein was supposed to be developing? Gentle Reader might be surprised at some of those who spread it:

"We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program." — President Bill Clinton on Feb. 17, 1998.

"(Saddam Hussein) will use those weapons of mass destruction again, as he has 10 times since 1983." — Sandy Berger, the national security adviser to President Clinton, on Feb. 18, 1998.

"(Saddam Hussein) has chosen to spend his money on building weapons of mass destruction and palaces for his cronies." — Madeleine Albright, secretary of state in the Clinton administration, on Nov. 10, 1999.

"There is no doubt that . . . Saddam Hussein has reinvigorated his weapons programs. Reports indicate that biological, chemical and nuclear programs continue apace and may be back to pre-Gulf War status. In addition, Saddam continues to redefine delivery systems and is doubtless using the cover of a licit missile program to develop longer-range missiles that will threaten the United States and our allies." — Sen. Bob Graham of Florida, among others, in a letter to President George W. Bush, on Dec., 5, 2001.

"We begin with the common belief that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and a threat to the peace and stability of the region. He has ignored the mandates of the United Nations and is building weapons of mass destruction and the means of delivering them." — Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan on Sept. 19, 2002. (Sen. Levin now has demanded that President Bush set a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, but he isn't fooling anybody. He was clearly part of this pro-war plot.)

"We know that (Saddam Hussein) has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country . . . . Iraq's search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to deter, and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power." — Al Gore on Sept. 23, 2002. (The former vice president could sound remarkably like the current one. Clearly both veeps were in this together.)

"We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction." — Sen. Ted Kennedy, Sept. 27, 2002. Yes, the same Ted Kennedy who would later claim that President Bush and his cronies cooked up this war on his ranch in Texas, but that was probably just to mislead us.

"The last U.N. weapons inspectors left Iraq in October of 1998. We are confident that Saddam Hussein retained some stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and that he has since embarked on a crash course to build up his chemical and biological warfare capability. Intelligence reports indicate that he is seeking nuclear weapons . . . ." — Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia, who nevertheless would oppose the war, on Oct. 3, 2002.

"When I vote to give the president of the United States the authority to use force, if necessary, to disarm Saddam Hussein, it is because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a threat — and a grave threat — to our security . . . ." — Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts on Oct. 9, 2002.

"Without question, we need to disarm Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal, murderous dictator, leading an oppressive regime. We all know the litany of his offenses. 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. That is why the world, through the United Nations Security Council, has spoken with one voice, demanding that Iraq disclose its weapons program and disarm. So the threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real, but it is not new." — Sen. John F. Kerry again, this time on Jan. 23, 2003.

"In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al-Qaida members . . . . It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons." — Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, now of New York, on Oct. 10, 2002.

Goodness. So many conspirators. That ranch house outside Crawford, Tex., where Ted Kennedy told us the war was hatched, must have been awfully crowded.

Of course there are those who portray all these conspirators as just innocent victims of intelligence reports manipulated by the Bush administration and carefully fed to innocents like Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry and so many other Washington figures known for their simple naivete.

Unfortunately for that theory, one bipartisan investigation after another into the collection and interpretation of pre-war intelligence has found no evidence of such manipulation.

To quote the Senate Intelligence Committee's unanimous report back in 2004, "The Committee did not find any evidence that Administration officials attempted to coerce, manipulate, influence or pressure analysts to change their judgments related to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capabilities." Which is a fairly sweeping judgment. The independent Robb-Silberman Committee reached similar conclusions.

Jay Rockefeller, the ranking Democratic member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, signed on to the committee's report but, almost as soon as it was out, he began charging that the Bush administration had coerced, influenced or pressured analysts to reach the conclusions it had wanted. Maybe not directly, but somehow. Just how, like Sen. Rockefeller's reasoning, remains sketchy.

And, yes, this is the same Jay Rockefeller who, on Oct. 10, 2002, had declared: "There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons and will likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years . . . .We also should remember we have always underestimated the progress Saddam has made in development of weapons of mass destruction."

Since thorough and impartial investigations have produced no evidence of an administration's tilting the evidence, Senate Democrats have demanded another. Why? Perhaps on the theory that, if a couple of reviews of the intelligence available before the war didn't produce the conclusion they were seeking, they'll keep ordering reviews till one does.

Or is that what they accuse Vice President Dick Cheney of doing with the pre-war intelligence? These conspiracy theories can get confusing.

What we have here is a familiar historical pattern:

If a war ends in victory, all the politicians favored it. But if difficulties are encountered, it turns out that many of those politicians were never for the war in the first place. Or were fooled into supporting it.

And what's more, the war was the result of a deep, dark conspiracy: Franklin D. Roosevelt somehow got the Japanese to attack Pearl Harbor; Lyndon Johnson conspired to get us into a quagmire in Vietnam; and now George W. Bush and his co-conspirators manipulated the intelligence to get us into this war in Iraq.

The war in Afghanistan, however, was not the result of a conspiracy. Of course not. It's gone better.

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JWR contributor Paul Greenberg, editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, has won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. Send your comments by clicking here.

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