In every presidential campaign, there is an issue which rises to the surface and dominates the debate. In 1992, it was the economy. In 1980, it was inflation, unemployment, and a tarnished national image. In 2004, it is the war on terror, and in particular, the Democrats are attempting to make this election a referendum on the war in Iraq. Time and time again, Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry has said his opponent has “misled” the American people on Iraq. At the Democratic National Convention, President Jimmy Carter made the same claim. DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe has gone even further, saying that the president “lied” to the American people about weapons of mass destruction. The question thus remains: did the president lie about Iraq?
Some time ago, while speaking from the Oval Office, the president looked into the eyes of the American public and said, “Earlier today, I ordered America’s armed forces to strike military and security targets in Iraq. They are joined by British forces. Their mission is to attack Iraq’s nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs and its military capacity to threaten its neighbors.”
The president added that the purpose of this military action was “to protect the national interest of the United States, and indeed the interests of people throughout the Middle East and around the world.” The president explained that Saddam Hussein “must not be allowed to threaten his neighbors or the world with nuclear arms, poison gas, or biological weapons.”
During the course of his Oval Office address, the president said that other countries possess weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles, but with Saddam, there is one big difference. “He has used them,” the president said. “Not once, but repeatedly.”
“Unleashing chemical weapons against Iranian troops during a decade-long war. Not only against soldiers, but against civilians, firing Scud missiles at the citizens of Israel, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Iran. And not only against a foreign enemy, but even against his own people, gassing Kurdish civilians in Northern Iraq,” the president explained.
Setting an ominous tone, the president declared, “The international community had little doubt then, and I have no doubt today, that left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will use these terrible weapons again.”
So… is the president lying? According to the Democrats, led by Sen. Kerry and Terry McAuliffe, because no weapons of mass destruction have been found, the president must be lying to the American public. It is the centerpiece of their presidential campaign. It doesn’t seem to make a difference that information on Iraq’s WMD program was supported by the CIA, Great Britain’s MI6, and Russian Intelligence operatives. No, people simply compare the president’s public statements and the lack of current WMDs as evidence that the president lied.
Continuing with our examination of the president’s actual statements, the president noted that by working through the United Nations, “The UN Security Council voted 15 to zero to condemn Saddam’s actions and to demand that he immediately come into compliance.”
“I made it very clear at that time what unconditional cooperation meant, based on existing UN resolutions and Iraq’s own commitments,” the president said. “And along with Prime Minister Blair of Great Britain, I made it equally clear that if Saddam failed to cooperate fully, we would be prepared to act without delay, diplomacy or warning.”
The president added, “This situation presents a clear and present danger to the stability of the Persian Gulf and the safety of people everywhere. The international community gave Saddam one last chance to resume cooperation with the weapons inspectors. Saddam has failed to seize the chance.”
Based on these words, some Democrats may already be feeling that churning in their stomachs — the feeling of a hawkish president building a misleading case against Iraq in order to rush the country to war. But before judgment is passed, a more complete review of the president’s statements is in order.
In taking questions from reporters following his Oval Office address, the president was asked whether military action was the right thing to do. “This was the right thing for the country,” the president said. “We have given Saddam Hussein chance after chance to cooperate. We said in November that this was the last chance. We acted swiftly because we were ready, thanks to the very fine work of the Defense Department in leaving our assets properly deployed. We had the strong support of the British.”
In looking forward regarding the situation in Iraq, the president added, “I hope Saddam will come into cooperation with the inspection system now and comply with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions. But we have to be prepared that he will not, and we must deal with the very real danger he poses. So we will pursue a long-term strategy to contain Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction and work toward the day when Iraq has a government worthy of its people.”
In talking about regime change, did the president “show his hand?” Did he want Saddam out of power simply for personal reasons, perhaps to the extent that he would lie to the American people about Iraq’s weapons programs?
Regardless of the intelligence gathered and studied by American sources regarding Iraq’s WMD programs and the fact that conclusions were supported by both British and Russian intelligence sources, the question still remains as to whether the president lied. Based on the strong and definitive statements cited here by the president, he must be called to account before the American people. The brave servicemen and women who are called into harm’s way by the president of the United States must have confidence that their commander-in-chief is acting on credible information and not “lying” to the American public.
Thus, President Clinton, please come clean. Were you lying about Iraq and WMDs? The American people have a right to know.