The argument that Bush "lied" about WMDs in Iraq has been proffered ad nauseam by anti-war partisans, proving that sloppy arguments never die.
The problem with this argument is that it simply isn’t true. In order for Bush to have lied or "mislead" on the subject of Iraq, he would have had to have absolute foreknowledge that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction. Last time I checked, Bush doesn’t have magical powers over space and time, or Michael Moore would have spontaneously combusted decades ago.
The argument then follows that Bush didn’t have conclusive evidence that Iraq had an active program, and ignored evidence to the contrary. This is a slightly more supportable charge, but it still doesn’t prove the overall argument.
First, we know Iraq had WMDs before 1998. The 1998 UNSCOM report was the source for the figures of 18,000 liters of anthrax, tons of VX, and the other elements of WMD program. This report comes from the UN – it’s hardly the product of some Vast Right Wing Conspiracy.
Now, where did these weapons go?
That’s the $64,000 question. If Saddam Hussein destroyed these weapons, he could have easily proven it and saved himself and his regime. The Mukhabarat documented everything, including tortures and executions. It seems highly unlikely that the Iraqis would have torched their WMD stocks without extensively documenting what was destroyed, where, and when.
And that’s ultimately why the argument that Saddam Hussein either didn’t have or destroyed those weapons is so unconvincing. If you were in the shoes of Saddam Hussein and could save yourself by simply proving your weapons program didn’t exist why wouldn’t you?
However, Saddam Hussein didn’t do that. Even Hans Blix said Hussein was lying in his weapons declarations. He easily could have shown his own "smoking gun" that would have vindicated him and stopped the war in its tracks.
So, if the WMDs weren’t destroyed, where are they?
My money is on Syria, with the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon a close second. Contrary to science fiction, US satellites can’t monitor an area 24/7. Spy satellites are in low Earth orbit, which means that they have a limited window in which they can study an area before they pass below the horizon. A Predator or Global Hawk drone could hover over an area for longer, but we’d have to know when and where to look. (And the Iraqis shot down several drones in the no-fly zones before the war.)
We know that the Iraqis had routine shipments across the Iraq-Syria and Iraq-Turkey borders. A tanker truck could be holding either illegal oil shipments or chemical weapons – and unless those trucks were interdicted there’s no way to tell. With the cross-border traffic that went on for years before the war, it would have been easy to have shipped an entire weapons program across the border along with illicit oil.
The argument that Bush "lied" or "mislead" on Iraq doesn’t hold water. Quite the contrary – no sane President would lowball estimates of something that could be a very real threat to their country, especially not after being attacked by a country that didn’t seem to pose any threat before thousands were murdered. It is better to have liberated Iraq under one mistake made on the side of caution than to have ignored a threat that was not only a potential threat to the United States and the world, but an unmistakable threat to the region and to the Iraqi people.