- The Washington Times - Monday, July 21, 2003

The critics of American military power have consistently undermined U.S. security, whether, for example, opposing the deployment of Intermediate Range Nuclear Force missiles in Europe in the early 1980s or pushing for the withdrawal of all U.S. forces in the Republic of Korea. The liberation of Iraq and Afghanistan has given this cabal a new venue to again renew their charges that the use of American military power is wrong.

Central to their argument is a completely false assertion that only bogus claims about Iraqi possession of weapons of mass destruction persuaded Congress to authorize the use of force against Iraq. At a July 9 press conference, one former State Department official called the administration’s assessmentofIraqi weapons as “faith based,” disputing that Iraq posed any imminent threat.

It is not that these critics are wrong, which they are. It is that they know they are wrong. The former State Department official — Greg Thielmann — and I spokeabouthis charges that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld committed fraud both in his 1998 commission report on ballistic missile threats to the United States and more recently about the nature of the threat from Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

I noted to him that not once did the administration say the Iraqi threat was imminent. The president said repeatedly that if the threat became imminent, it would essentially be too late — National Security adviser Condoleezza Rice said the “smoking gun” of an Iraqi nuclear weapon might well be a mushroom cloud over New York. Mr. Thielmann told me that Miss Rice’s comments “were the worst kind of warmongering” but admitted that the administration had never claimed an attack was imminent. At his press conference, he repeated the charge anyway.

He also admitted the United Nations prior to 1998 had indeed found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq that were not now accounted for — proving that it is the critics of the administration who are guilty of a “faith-based” assumption that Saddam would not use such weapons during whatever period inspections might have continued, or once inspections were ended.

He also repeatedly claimed that the 1998 Rumsfeld report made irresponsible predictions that rogue states would develop long-range missiles in five years from the date of the report. When I read him a quote from one of the Democratic members of the commission, Dr. Richard Garwin, that the commission report made no such predictions about the future deployment dates of long-range missiles, Mr. Thielmann again conceded the point, only to again argue in public the exact opposite.

The 1998 Rumsfeld Commission unanimously agreed that rogue states such as Iraq, Iran or North Korea could build a long-range ballistic missile within five years of deciding to build such a missile, and the traditional intelligence warning on which the United States relied during the Cold War would not be there. The accuracy of the commission report was underscored within weeks of its release with the launch of a North Korean rocket that splashed down in the Pacific far beyond Japan. The third stage failed on the rocket, but intelligence analysts testified before Congress that a successful third stage separation would enable North Korea to reach the western coast of the United States with a payload of around 200 kilograms.

To Mr. Thielmann and his State Department colleagues, the Rumsfeld Commission report was a direct slap in the face to their predictions for years that the United States would have ten to 15 years warning of such a rocket launch as North Korea conducted. In fact, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and high ranking Clinton State Department officials testified before Congress that there was no threat of such a North Korean launch and that the United States would have plenty of warning of such a capability, during which the United States would, it is assumed, takedefensive measures.

In the one area where the administration relied on British intelligence that was not backed up by separate U.S. intelligence sources — the belief that Nigerwasapproached in an Iraqi attempt to purchase uranium — I asked Mr. Thielmann what members of Congresswerepersuaded by that piece ofinformation, whose support for the Iraqi war resolution would have beenreversed should the administration never have made such a claim.

Of course, Mr. Thielmann could not name a single member of Congress whose support was based on the uranium claim. Given his professional background, he probably knows congressional support for Iraq’s liberationwasbasedona widespread number of factors — including Iraq’s wars against its neighbors, its development and use of chemical weapons, its pursuit of nuclear weapons, its murderous actions against its own people and its leadership’s vow to seek revenge against the United States.

Peter Huessy is president of GeoStrategic Analysis.

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