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Instead of evidence, though, there was only rhetoric. For example, FBI
director Robert Mueller claimed: “Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction program
poses a clear threat to our national security, a threat that will certainly
increase in the event of future military action against Iraq. Baghdad has the
capability and, we presume, the will to use biological, chemical, or radiological
weapons against US domestic targets”. White House press secretary Ari
Fleisher claimed: “We have high confidence that they have weapons of mass
destruction. That is what this war was about and it is about. And we have
high confidence it will be found.”
We presume. High confidence. No evidence.
It was terrifying to think of such things back then. It was upsetting. The
pictures painted were ominous. President George Bush warned in October
2002: “America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear
evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof—the smoking gun—that
could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.” Except that there wasn’t any
clear evidence. None. Not any. In fact, after an exhaustive search led by a
team of more than 1,400 members, no evidence of Iraqi weapons programs
was found. The conclusion of the investigation was that Iraq had destroyed
all major stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction and ceased production
in 1991 when sanctions were imposed by the United Nations.
Yet, 12 years after Iraq destroyed its prohibited weapons, the United
Kingdom relied on a “sexed-up” dossier in which Prime Minister Tony Blair
claimed that “this document discloses that Saddam Hussein’s military
planning allows for some of the weapons of mass destruction to be ready
within 45 minutes of an order to use them.” This then led to headlines in
the press claiming “Brits 45mins from doom” and “Mad Saddam ready to
attack: 45 minutes from a chemical war.” And yet, there was not one shred
of reliable evidence to support such statements.
The result, of course, was not simply hysteria in the media and an anxious
populace; the result was an illegal war in the Middle East that lasted at
least eight years and resulted in about half a million deaths. That’s a staggering
and sobering result when it was actually clear all along that there
was no evidence to support what was being claimed. The point was not that
Saddam Hussein was a bad man (he was) or a brutal dictator (he was). The
point was that the stated premise for the war—weapons of mass destruction—
did not exist. In the case of the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S.
Capitol, where very angry people demanded the hanging of the vice president
for refusing to reverse the results of a democratic election, nothing less
than U.S. democracy was hanging precariously in the balance. And it was
the president egging them on based on falsehoods!