It begins to look as if President Bush was never especially interested in whether or not Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. If former treasury secretary Paul O’Neill is to be believed, the idea of WMD was just a convenient excuse for a decision made long before and having nothing to do with 9-11. And it raises the question of whether the war on terror itself wasn’t another Bush concoction to rationalize the invasion of Iraq. O’Neill’s views from inside the top levels of the Bush administration are contained in a book called The Price of Loyalty by Ron Suskind, a former Wall Street Journal reporter to whom O’Neill told his story (for no money). “In the 23 months I was there, I never saw anything that I would characterize as evidence of weapons of mass destruction,” O’Neill was quoted as saying in this week’s Time. On 60 Minutes, O’Neill said, “From the very beginning, there was a conviction, that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go,” adding that going after Saddam was “Topic A” 10 days after the inauguration—eight months before September 11.
As O’Neill tells the story, detailed maps of oil concessions and plans for divvying them up were passed around inside the upper echelons of the administration. But when Bush subalterns said oil had nothing to do with it, the press bought it. Of course, the Bush flacks are saying O’Neill’s claims are ridiculous, and he’s crazy.
O’Neill aside, the evidence continues to grow that Bush and his team are a bunch of liars. In a new study called WMD in Iraq: Evidence and Implications, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace found that “Iraq’s nuclear program had been suspended for many years; Iraq focused on preserving a latent, dual-use chemical and probably biological weapons capability, not weapons production; Iraqi nerve agents had lost most of their lethality as early as 1991.”
As to the supposed link between Al Qaeda and Saddam? The report found “no solid evidence of cooperative relationship between Saddam’s government and Al Qaeda; no evidence that Iraq would have transferred WMD to terrorists—and much evidence to counter it.”
Additional reporting: Ashley Glacel