President Bush sometimes speaks the truth, but he rarely speaks the whole truth. Yesterday's Wilkes-Barre address (President steps up attack on war critics, Boston Globe, November 12th. 2005, A1, A12) was correct that early in the run up to the Iraq war everyone believed that the Iraqis had weapons of mass destruction. Everyone was basing their beliefs on the same information.
But that "everyone knows" level of confidence was undermined by the reports of the UN Weapons inspectors between October 2002 and the first days of war. They reported finding no significant WMDs.
It is worthwhile examining the time line very carefully because it puts the Senate War resolution of October 2002 in a very different context than it is usually provided. On September 16th 2002, Iraq accepted the return of the inspectors; this followed by four days G. W. Bush's speech to the UN laying out the case for war. By September 30th, the Iraqis were dragging their feet and proposing unacceptable (to the US) conditions for the return of the inspectors including the exclusion of eight Presidential sites from their remit. On October 10th. The War Resolution passed Congress. In the weeks that followed, Iraqi recalcitrance collapsed and by November 18th. the inspectors were on their way to Iraq with no restrictions on their activities. The War resolution was just what was needed to get the inspectors into Iraq. As such it was a brilliant piece of realpolitik. Over the next four months, the inspectors did their work in Iraq. On February 14th., Hans Blix the chief inspector says that Iraq is in compliance with the disarmament agreement that ended the first Gulf War. March 20th. The War begins.
Yes, up until February, it was plausible to claim that we all knew that Iraq had WMDs; after February, no one could claim that position. The UN inspectors suggested that there was no causus belli. That should have been enough to derail the juggernaut. Alas it did not.
Men and women are dying in Iraq today because we failed to hold the administration accountable for the truth. We must not allow George W. Bush to continue with his misleading half-truths today.