Molly Ivins: Rewriting the History of the Second Gulf War

Roundup: Media's Take

Molly Ivins, in her column for Creators Syndicate (Feb. 10, 2004):

Just for the record, since the record is in considerable peril. These are Orwellian days, my friends, as the Bush administration attempts to either shove the history of the second Gulf War down the memory hole or to rewrite it entirely. Keeping a firm grip on actual historical fact, all of it easily within our imperfect memories, is not that easy amid the swirling storms of misinformation, misremembering and misstatement. But since the war itself stands as a monument to what happens when we let ourselves get stampeded by a chorus of disinformation, let's draw the line right now.

According to the 500-man American team that spent hundreds of millions of dollars looking for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, there aren't any and have not been any since 1991.

Both President Bush and Sen. Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, now claim Saddam Hussein provoked this war by refusing to allow United Nations weapons inspectors into his country. That is not true. Bush said Sunday: "I had no choice when I looked at the intelligence. ... The evidence we have discovered this far says we had no choice."

No, it doesn't. Last week, CIA director George Tenet said intelligence analysts never told the White House "that Iraq posed an imminent threat."

Let's start with the absurd quibble over the word "imminent." The word was, in fact, used by three administration spokesmen to describe the Iraqi threat, while Bush, Vice President Cheney and Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld variously described it as "immediate," "urgent," "serious and growing," "terrible," "real and dangerous," "significant," "grave," "serious and mounting," "the unique and urgent threat," "no question of the threat," "most dangerous threat of our time," "a threat of unique urgency," "much graver than anybody could possibly have imagined," and so forth and so on. So, could we can that issue?

A second emerging thesis of defense by the administration in light of no weapons is, as David Kay said, "We were all wrong."

No, in fact, we weren't all wrong.

Bush said Sunday, "The international community thought he had weapons." Actually, the U.N. and the International Atomic Energy Agency both repeatedly told the administration there was no evidence Iraq had WMD. Before the war, Rumsfeld not only claimed Iraq had WMD but that "we know where they are." U.N. inspectors began openly complaining that U.S. tips on WMD were "garbage upon garbage." Hans Blix, head of the U.N. inspections team, had 250 inspectors from 60 nations on the ground in Iraq, and the United States thwarted efforts to double the size of his team. You may recall that during this period, the administration repeatedly dismissed the United Nations as incompetent and irrelevant. But containment had worked.

Nor does the "everybody thought they had WMD" argument wash on the domestic front. Perhaps the administration thought peaceniks could be ignored, but you will recall that this was a war opposed by an extraordinary number of generals. Among them, Anthony Zinni, who has extensive experience in the Middle East, who said, "We are about to do something that will ignite a fuse in this region that we will rue the day we ever started." After listening to Paul Wolfowitz at a conference, Zinni said, "In other words, we are going to go to war over another intelligence failure." Give that man the Cassandra Award for being right in depressing circumstances.

Marine Gen. John J. Sheehan was equally blunt. Any serving general who got out of line, like Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki, was openly dissed by the administration.

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