As my colleague, the indefatigably indefatigable Walter Pincus, has pointed out, Bush manages to bollix up both the chronology and the importance of the various inspections of Iraq’s weapons systems so as to suggest that any other president given the same set of facts would have gone to war. “I had tried to address the threat from Saddam Hussein without war,” he writes. On that score, he is simply not credible.
The accumulating evidence at the time showed that Iraq lacked a nuclear weapons program and did not have biological weapons either. As for its chemical weapons program, while harder to ferret out, it not only no longer existed, but even if it had, it was insufficient reason to go to war. Poison gas has been around since the Second Battle of Ypres. That was 1915. “The absence of WMD stockpiles did not change the fact that Saddam was a threat,” Bush writes. Heads he wins, tails you lose.
The late 2010 version ofRichard Cohen is certainly up to speed on the pre-war Iraq intelligence. Unfortunately, the2003 Richard Cohen wasn’t, as he most memorably wroteabout Colin Powell’s UN presentation (2/6/03):
The evidence he presented to the United Nations–some of it circumstantial, some of it absolutely bone-chilling in its detail–had to prove to anyone that Iraq not only hasn’t accounted for its weapons of mass destruction but without a doubt still retains them. Only a fool–or possibly a Frenchman–could conclude otherwise.
In that column, Cohen acknowledged the nuclear evidence was weak, but the chemical/biological weaponscase was “so strong–so convincing–it hardly mattered that nukes may be years away, and thank God for that.”
He alsowrote that at theUN presentation,”when the by-now hoary charge was made that a link existed between Al-Qaeda and Baghdad, it was Powell who made it–and it hit with force.”So a hoary charge sounded convincing coming from Colin Powell. Is the idea that Powell’s just a better liar than Bush?