Stepping up his re-election campaign pitch, Bush let National Security Adviser Condi Rice do the main talking last week on Iraq: “Saddam is the only tyrant of our time not only to possess weapons of mass destruction . . . but to use them in acts of mass murder. And he maintained ties to terror, harboring known terrorists within his borders, and subsidizing Palestinian suicide bombers.” And a WMD, she added, is “potentially so catastrophic—and can arrive with so little warning, by means that are untraceable—that it cannot be contained.”
But back on July 29, 2001, Rice was singing a different tune: When CNN White House correspondent John King asked her about sanctions against Iraq, she replied, “But in terms of Saddam Hussein being there, let’s remember that his country is divided, in effect. He does not control the northern part of his country. We are able to keep arms from him. His military forces have not been rebuilt.”
As for Colin Powell, liberals often hope that the secretary of state will prevail in moderating Bush’s war policies, but he turns out to be as shifty as the others. Thanks to memoryhole.com, we have these nuggets of Powellspeak:
February 2003: “We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction, is determined to make more.”
February 24, 2001 (at a press conference in Egypt, replying to a reporter’s question about U.S.-led sanctions against Iraq): “[Saddam] has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors. So in effect, our policies have strengthened the security of the neighbors of Iraq . . . ”
In fact, on May 15, 2001, Powell laid out a fairly benign view of our evil enemy. It happened before a subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Here’s how it went:
Utah Republican senator Bob Bennett: Mr. Secretary, the UN sanctions on Iraq expire the beginning of June. We’ve had bombs dropped, we’ve had threats made, we’ve had all kinds of activity vis-à-vis Iraq in the previous administration. Now we’re coming to the end. What’s our level of concern about the progress of Saddam Hussein’s chemical and biological weapons programs?
Powell: The sanctions, as they are called, have succeeded over the last 10 years, not in deterring him from moving in that direction, but from actually being able to move in that direction. The Iraqi regime militarily remains fairly weak. It doesn’t have the capacity it had 10 or 12 years ago. It has been contained. And even though we have no doubt in our mind that the Iraqi regime is pursuing programs to develop weapons of mass destruction—chemical, biological, and nuclear—I think the best intelligence estimates suggest that they have not been terribly successful. There’s no question that they have some stockpiles of some of these sorts of weapons still under their control, but they have not been able to break out, they have not been able to come out with the capacity to deliver these kinds of systems or to actually have these kinds of systems that is much beyond where they were 10 years ago.
Additional reporting: Ashley Glacel