The Economist has a piece which examines the issue of Iraq and weapons of mass destruction in light of recent events from the testimony of Dr. David Kay to the Hutton Report. They conclude that while the evidence over Iraqi WMDs may have been faulty, the arguments that Bush and Blair “lied” are unsupported:
The absence of these weapons is more than just an embarrassment. It raises the question of whether this war was fought on a false prospectus. Above all, did the president of the United States and the British prime minister lie?
So far, the answer seems to be no. Not a scrap of evidence has emerged since the war to suggest that Mr Bush or Mr Blair doubted the truth of their central claim. Moreover, given the evidence available to them at the time, they were entitled to their pre-war confidence.
It is clear that in every inquest into this issue it has been determined that Bush and the other members of the coalition were acting based on the best evidence they had at the time and made the correct choice based on that evidence. The first duty of any President, Prime Minister, or any other national leader is to protect his or her country from any threat. One does not have the luxury of hindsight, they have the obligation to ensure that potential threats do not fester. Such was the case in Iraq. Our intelligence and that of the United Nations and other countries all indicated that Iraq had both weapons of mass destruction and ties to terrorists. Certainly the Iraqi government had already demonstrated the stated desire to destroy the United States through any means at their disposal. It would have been only a matter of time before the Iraqis found the means to meet those intentions.
The case for war remains that Iraq was a state sponsor of terrorism and that Saddam Hussein was brutally murdering Kurds, Shi’ites and anyone else he disagreed with. Neither of these contentions are in doubt, and even without the issue of weapons of mass destruction the war in Iraq is still justified for humanitarian and geopolitical reasons. The fruits of the war in Iraq have been a new hope for millions of oppressed Iraqis, one dictator disarming unilaterally, and others scrambling for cover. The argument that the world is better off had an insane and tyrannical dictator who was committing genocide against his own people, had already used chemical weapons and had threatened to do so again, and was supporting a multitude of terrorist groups not been removed from power is an argument that simply does not make sense in the post-September 11 world.
As The Economist concludes:
None of this exaggeration was necessary. The case for war rested on Iraq’s possession of proscribed weapons; Iraq seems to have got rid of them before the war began. But the pre-war decision could be based only on what was known at the time, and Iraq shrouded the true facts in ambiguity—despite the UN’s orders to prove that it had disarmed. Given Mr Hussein’s record, that should have been justification enough for war.
The Economist is correct – hindsight is 20/20, and the predictions about the size and scope of Iraq’s WMD program seems to have been wrong – although I would not be surprised if Iraq had not stashed their WMDs in some place where they would be unlikely to be found during the nearly year-long period in which the world argued for and against war. However, based on what was known at the time and the other factors involved, the decision to go to war with Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein was a just one and remains so today.