cross-posted from dembloggers and my blog

I thought this nonsense was over and done with, but it seems the freeperati are dusting off that old saw about how the Dems “lied” about Saddam’s WMD every bit as much as the Cheney (mal)administration did.  I can only assume it’s being resurrected in response to the current focus on Iraq, namely Liebby’s indictment, the death toll crossing the 2,000 mark and Reid’s masterful Senate Fu regarding the hesitance of the c(R)ybaby caucus to investigate the intelligence <s>manipulations</s&gt failures that put us there.  Then again, maybe their tirades are a function of the Kool-Aid du jour and they’re back to that flavor in the cycle.  Whatever the motivation, I find it amusing that they resort to stock footage, as it were.

The freepthink in question holds that any Democratic representative who made the mistake of believing shrubCo’s Iraq lies is complicit in said lies.  This is also amusing, since anybody who didn’t get on the Iraq bus was denounced as a traitor, but taking the president at his word, apparently, makes one a liar.  There’s just no pleasing some people.  In any event, they are touting, once again, a series of quotes made by Democratic representatives indicating that Saddam was, indeed, a threat.  Which, of course, is entirely comparable with the Bush/Blair Crawford meeting, Cheney’s cozy little stovepipe and the efforts of the White House Iraq Group.

Personally, I’m far more interested in Condi and Powell’s statements regarding Iraq from early 2001.  The link is to a video, but here is the text:

Condi: And frankly they [sanctions] have worked. He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors.

Powell: The sanctions…have succeeded over the last 10 years, not in deterring him from moving in that direction, but from actually being able to move in that direction. The Iraqi regime militarily remains fairly weak. It doesn’t have the capacity it had 10 or 12 years ago. It has been contained.

And even though we have no doubt in our mind that the Iraqi regime is pursuing programs to develop weapons of mass destruction — chemical, biological and nuclear — I think the best intelligence estimates suggest that they have not been terribly successful. There’s no question that they have some stockpiles of some of these sorts of weapons still under their control, but they have not been able to break out, they have not been able to come out with the capacity to deliver these kinds of systems or to actually have these kinds of systems that is much beyond where they were 10 years ago.

So, winter/spring 2001 – U.S. Secretary of State and National Security Advisor agreed that Saddam is successfully neutralized.  But 9/11 changed everything, dontchyaknow, and suddenly, The Prince of Darkness himself had this to say:

“He has weapons of mass destruction. The lesser risk is in pre-emption. We’ve got to stop wishing away the problem.”

– Richard Perle, Nov 2001

We know they were talking about invading Iraq as early as 9/11/01, at least privately. But even publically, their unequivocal claims that Saddam had WMD are on the record as of November, 2001. As early as March of 2002, Cheney was adamant in saying

“Saddam is actively pursuing nuclear weapons at this time.”

Six months later, members of the administration made the following statements on the Sunday talk show circuit:

Vice President Dick Cheney accused Saddam of moving aggressively to develop nuclear weapons over the past 14 months to add to his stockpile of chemical and biological arms.

…”And what we’ve seen recently that has raised our level of concern to the current state of unrest … is that he now is trying, through his illicit procurement network, to acquire the equipment he needs to be able to enrich uranium — specifically, aluminum tubes,” Cheney said, referring to one of the elements for making nuclear weapons.

…The tubes, Rice said, “are only really suited for nuclear weapons programs, centrifuge programs.”

…Rice acknowledged that “there will always be some uncertainty” in determining how close Iraq may be to obtaining a nuclear weapon but said, “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”

…Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld insisted that the United States can’t underestimate Iraq’s weapons activities.

…”We’re at the point where we think time is not on our side,” Cheney said.

Given such comments, coming as they did from the Vice President, National Security Advisor and the Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee Chairman (Perle), I think we can summarily dismiss any of the Dems’ quotes made after November, 2001, or at least later than March, 2002 and certainly any made after September, 2002.  The Iraq war spin machine was up and rolling by those dates, which means the statements would have been influenced by administration intelligence reports.  

The earliest of these quotes (post-spin) is from December 5, 2001 – one month after Perle’s statement.  emphasis mine

There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein has reinvigorated his weapons programs. *Reports indicate* that biological, chemical and nuclear programs continue apace and may be back to pre-Gulf War status. In addition, Saddam continues to redefine delivery systems and is doubtless using the cover of a licit missile program to develop longer-range missiles that will threaten the United States and our allies.
-Letter to President Bush, Signed by Sen. Bob Graham (D, FL,) and others, Dec, 5, 2001

I singled this quote out because it predates the more extreme rhetoric from the administration, such as Cheney’s nuclear claim above.  But this statement by Graham, et al was still, as indicated, influenced by intelligence reports from somewhere – the White House, the Pentagon, Bolton’s desk, etc – and we don’t quite know which it is.  While the CNN article quoted above hints at administration sources, the RWCM (e.g. David Brooks) carries on as though Congress had its own crack intelligence unit which provided each Senator with a fully-detailed analysis, completely independent of other sources.  (Emphasis mine)  

A senior administration official involved in Iraq policy tells CNN classified briefings to congressional leaders in recent days included evidence of “procurement issues” relating to Iraq’s nuclear programs, including the aluminum tubes.

The official said the evidence is likely to be included in briefings the president promised to the leaders of Russia, China and France as the White House seeks U.N. Security Council support for a tougher posture toward Iraq…

Some other interesting source-related quotes from the article (Italicized statements and all emphasis mine):

Citing Bush administration officials, The New York Times reported Sunday that Iraq tried to buy thousands of high-strength aluminum tubes. (Baghdad Judy strikes again!)

White House sources also tell CNN that Saddam has in recent months met several times with Iraq’s top nuclear scientists and encouraged them to continue their work.

…Sources (i.e., Curveball?) say Iraqi defectors who used to work for Iraq’s nuclear weapons “industry” tell administration officials Iraq’s top priority is acquiring nuclear arms.

Moving on to the rest of the post-spin quotes, which comprise the bulk of the list, the earliest is from September 19, 2002; two weeks after Condi’s “mushroom cloud” moment and several months after Cheney spoke of nuclear programs:

In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaeda members. It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons.
Sen. Hillary Clinton (D, NY), Oct 10, 2002

We are in possession of what I think to be compelling evidence that Saddam Hussein has, and has had for a number of years, a developing capacity for the production and storage of weapons of mass destruction. [W]ithout question, we need to disarm Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal, murderous dictator, leading an oppressive regime … He presents a particularly grievous threat because he is so consistently prone to miscalculation. And now he has continued deceit and his consistent grasp for weapons of mass destruction … So the threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real …
Sen. John F. Kerry (D, MA), Jan. 23. 2003

We know that he has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country.
Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002

There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein has reinvigorated his weapons programs. Reports indicate that biological, chemical and nuclear programs continue apace and may be back to pre-Gulf War status. In addition, Saddam continues to redefine delivery systems and is doubtless using the cover of a licit missile program to develop longer-range missiles that will threaten the United States and our allies.
-Letter to President Bush, Signed by Sen. Bob Graham (D, FL,) and others, Dec, 5, 2001

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 mandate of the United Nations and is building weapons of mass destruction and the means of delivering them.
Sen. Carl Levin (D, MI), Sept. 19, 2002

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

We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction.
Sen. Ted Kennedy (D, MA), Sept. 27, 2002

The last UN weapons inspectors left Iraq in October, 1998. We are confident that Saddam Hussein retains 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 capabilities. Intelligence reports indicate that he is seeking nuclear weapons…
Sen. Robert Byrd (D, WV), Oct. 3, 2002

I will be voting to give the President of the United States the authority to use force — if necessary — to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security.
Sen. John F. Kerry (D, MA), Oct. 9, 2002

There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons and will likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years . We also should remember we have alway s underestimated the progress Saddam has made in development of weapons of mass destruction.
Sen. Jay Rockerfeller (D, WV), Oct 10, 2002

He has systematically violated, over the course of the past 11 years, every significant UN resolution that has demanded that he disarm and destroy his chemical and biological weapons, and any nuclear capacity. This he has refused to do.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D, CA), Oct. 10, 2002

The rest of the quotes are from 1998 and 1999 and none of them even speak of nuclear ambitions, much less active programs.  Most of them simply address biological and chemical weapons, which we knew Saddam possessed, since we sold most of them to him when he was our erstwhile ally against Iran.  Naturally, a few statements from Clinton himself had to be included, so we might as well start with those:

One way or the other, we are determined to deny Iraq the capacity to develop weapons of mass destruction and the missiles to deliver them. That is our bottom line.

-President Clinton, Feb. 4, 1998.

If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is clear. We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction program.

-President Clinton, Feb. 17, 1998.

I can’t believe they even try to use this one; it says almost nothing.  Clinton speaks largeley in hypotheticals (e.g. If Saddam rejects peace) and refers only to the possibility of Saddam pursuing a weapons program.  The only point of specifics is that the U.S. will take any steps to deter such a pursuit, should it prove necessary.  At best, these statements indicate a suspicion of weapons programs, but nothing on a par with Cheney, Perle or Rice’s unequivocal claims.  The rest of the quotes are similarly vague and speak only of what we already knew Saddam possessed:  

Iraq is a long way from [here], but what happens there matters a great deal here. For the risks that the leaders of a rogue state will use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons against us or our allies is the greatest security threat we face.

-Madeline Albright, Feb 18, 1998.

Here, Albright makes it clear that the U.S. is watching several rogue nations, not just Iraq and refers to WMD acquisition as a “risk,” i.e., a possibility.  In discussing Iraq specifically, she also cites a generalized weapons program (which we were successfully deterring according to pre-9/11 Condi and Powell) and makes no mention of nuclear pursuits:

Hussein has … chosen to spend his money on building weapons of mass destruction and palaces for his cronies.
-Madeline Albright, Clinton Secretary of State, Nov. 10, 1999.

Pelosi’s comments, while a little more specific, are just as relatively meaningless compared with the administration’s Iraq rhetoric:

Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology which is a threat to countries in the region and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process.
-Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D, CA), Dec. 16, 1998.

Of course it’s true that he “has been” engaged in such; we watched him use chemical weapons against Iran.  We probably even sold him most of it.  Pelosi, like Clinton and Albright, makes no direct claims about Saddam’s arsenal, saying only that he “has been engaged…”   “Has been,” of course, could refer to any unspecified point in time prior to this comment.  

He will use those weapons of mass destruction again, as he has ten times since 1983.

-Sandy Berger, Clinton National Security Adviser, Feb, 18, 1998

Again, Berger doesn’t get any more specific than accusing Saddam of using what we knew him to have.  Whatever he’d been flinging since 1983 certainly wasn’t nuclear, and Berger also makes no mention of any intentions along those lines.  Besides, if Berger really had a crystal ball in his possession, he should have shared it with the whole class, or at least warned us that Iraq wasn’t going to be all parades and rose petals.

Last but not least, what would a right-wing rant be without a reference to Kerry?  (All emphasis mine)

We urge you, after consulting with Congress, and consistent with the U.S. Constitution and laws, to take necessary actions (including, if appropriate, air and missile strikes on suspect Iraqi sites) to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq’s refusal to end its weapons of mass destruction programs.
-Letter to President Clinton, signed by Sens. Carl Levin, Tom Daschle, John Kerry, and others Oct. 9, 1998.

Like the rest of the quotes, this one only references programs Saddam was already on record as having.  It certainly falls far short of the “mushroom clouds” and “smoking gun” intrigue.  The endorsement of force also came with significant caveats, i.e., Kerry was not calling for imminent invasion to stop Saddam.  

Now that I do think about it, I can’t believe they use any of these statements to bolster their ridiculous “Dems lied too!” fallacy.  That is to say, I can’t believe they think these examples might actually convince anybody; the attempt itself is fairly typical of the 101st Fighting Keyboardists.

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