8.4.1        Iraq as a Threat to America

(This is an archived extract from the book Patterns of Power: Edition 2)

In a speech at Cincinnati on 7 October 2002, George W. Bush argued that America needed to make a pre-emptive strike to protect itself against Iraqi weapons of mass-destruction (WMD). [1]  It was a powerful speech, emotionally arousing, and was designed to build up political support for an invasion.  His arguments warrant careful examination:

·      He described the regional threat presented by Iraq’s ballistic missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and he expressed concern at a potential threat to America:

“We’re concerned that Iraq is exploring ways of using these UAVS for missions targeting the United States. And, of course, sophisticated delivery systems aren’t required for a chemical or biological attack; all that might be required are a small container and one terrorist or Iraqi intelligence operative to deliver it.”

He didn’t explain how an invasion would find these weapons when the inspectors had failed.  And "a small container and one terrorist" could easily move anywhere.  He ignored the unsuitability of his proposed military action for the task (7.4.1).

·      He said that the “time for … delaying has come to an end”, but other countries disagreed that there was so much urgency.

·      When he said “[m]any nations are joining us…” that was, at best, misleading.  He could count on Israel, and possibly Britain (although public opinion in Britain was solidly against the war).  In the absence of international support, the risks of military intervention and the risk of adverse propaganda (7.4.3) were much greater.

Other arguments have also been raised about the accuracy and verifiability of the content of the Cincinnati speech;[2] it has been subjected to intense scrutiny because of its importance in obtaining Congress approval, nine days later, to use force.  The Congress approval, and its legal significance, is discussed in the next section.

At that time, most people were prepared to believe that Iraq had WMD because it was known that the weapons had existed.  It has been reported, though, that Syria hid Iraq’s WMD just before the invasion started.[3]  If, prior to the invasion, the American government had had verifiable information that this had happened, one of the main justifications for the invasion was invalid.

© PatternsofPower.org, 2014

[1] The full text of President Bush's Cincinnati speech of 7 October 2002 was published by the White House and by several newspapers. It was available in April 2014 at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2002/oct/07/usa.iraq and at http://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/cahier/irak/a9683.

[2] Ibid.

[3] There are several sources for the allegation that Syria hid Iraq’s WMD, including these two which were available in April 2014: an article entitled Saddam General: WMDs in Syria, at http://www.wnd.com/2006/02/34818/, quoted ex-Iraqi general al-Tikriti as having been aware of the policy.

An article entitled What is Assad hiding in his backyard?, at http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/what-is-assad-hiding-in-his-backyard-1.292935, quoted satellite evidence.  The two sources disagree in the detail of how and exactly when the weapons might have been transported.