- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 27, 2005

As critics of the war in Iraq dig deeper and deeper into the war’s origins, the extent of the sinister neo-con conspiracy that tricked this country and its allies into invading Iraq grows ever wider.

Remember all that scare talk about those elusive weapons of mass destruction Saddam Hussein was supposed to be developing? Gentle Reader might be surprised at some of those who spread it:

• “We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction program.” — President Bill Clinton on Feb. 17, 1998.

“[Saddam Hussein] will use those weapons of mass destruction again, as he has 10 times since 1983.” — Sandy Berger, national security adviser to President Clinton, Feb. 18, 1998.

• “[Saddam Hussein] has chosen to spend his money on building weapons of mass destruction and palaces for his cronies.” — Madeleine Albright, secretary of state in the Clinton administration, on Nov. 10, 1999.

“We begin with the common belief that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and a threat to the peace and stability of the region. He has ignored the mandates of the United Nations and is building weapons of mass destruction and the means of delivering them.” — Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan on Sept. 19, 2002. (Sen. Levin now has demanded President Bush set a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, but he isn’t fooling anybody. He was clearly part of this pro-war plot.)

• “We know that [Saddam Hussein] has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country. … Iraq’s search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to deter, and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power.” — Al Gore. Sept. 23, 2002. (The former vice president could sound remarkably like the current one. Clearly, they were in this together.)

• “We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction.” — Sen. Ted Kennedy, Sept. 27, 2002. Yes, the same Ted Kennedy who later claimed Mr. Bush and his cronies cooked up this war on his ranch in Texas, but that was probably just to mislead us.

• “The last U.N. weapons inspectors left Iraq in October of 1998. We are confident that Saddam Hussein retained some stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and that he has since embarked on a crash course to build up his chemical and biological warfare capability. Intelligence reports indicate that he is seeking nuclear weapons.” — Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia, who nevertheless opposed the war, on Oct. 3, 2002.

“When I vote to give the president of the United States the authority to use force, if necessary, to disarm Saddam Hussein, it is because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a threat, and a grave threat, to our security.” — Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts Oct. 9, 2002.

Goodness. So many conspirators. That ranch house outside Crawford, Tex., where Ted Kennedy told us the war was hatched, must have been awfully crowded.

Of course there are those who portray all these conspirators as just innocent victims of intelligence reports manipulated by the Bush administration and carefully fed to innocents like Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry and so many other Washington figures known for their simple naivete.

Unfortunately for that theory, one bipartisan investigation after another into the collection and interpretation of prewar intelligence found no evidence of such manipulation.

To quote the Senate Intelligence Committee’s unanimous report back in 2004, “The committee did not find any evidence that administration officials attempted to coerce, manipulate, influence or pressure analysts to change their judgments related to Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction capabilities.” That is fairly sweeping. The independent Robb-Silberman Committee reached similar conclusions.

Since thorough and impartial investigations have produced no evidence the administration tilted the evidence, Senate Democrats have demanded another. Why? Perhaps on the theory that, if a couple of reviews of the intelligence available before the war didn’t produce the conclusion sought, they’ll keep ordering reviews till one does.

Or is that what they accuse Vice President Dick Cheney of doing with the prewar intelligence? These conspiracy theories can get confusing.

What we have here is a familiar historical pattern:

If a war ends in victory, all the politicians favored it. But if difficulties are encountered, it turns out many of those politicians were never for the war in the first place. Or were fooled into supporting it.

And what’s more, the war was the result of a deep, dark conspiracy: Franklin D. Roosevelt somehow got the Japanese to attack Pearl Harbor; Lyndon Johnson conspired to get us into a quagmire in Vietnam; and now George Bush and co-conspirators manipulated intelligence to get us into this war in Iraq.

The war in Afghanistan, however, was not the result of a conspiracy. Of course not. It has gone better.

Paul Greenberg is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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