For a report that’s supposed to be so damning for the case of war in Iraq, the Butler Report certainly doesn’t seem to match the talking points. While it points out that many of the arguments used were overheated and overtly aggressive, it certainly doesn’t justify the argument that Saddam never had WMDs and the entire war was a sham. For example:
Even now it would be premature to reach conclusions about Iraq’s prohibited weapons. Much potential evidence may have been destroyed in the looting and disorder that followed the cessation of hostilities. Other material may be hidden in the sand, including stocks of agent or weapons. We believe that it would be a rash person who asserted at this stage that evidence of Iraqi possession of stocks of biological or chemical agents, or even of banned missiles, does not exist or will never be found. But as a result of our review, and taking into account the evidence which has been found by the ISG and debriefing of Iraqi personnel, we have reached the conclusion that prior to the war the Iraqi regime:
a) Had the strategic intention of resuming the pursuit of prohibited weapons programmes, including if possible its nuclear weapons programme, when UN inspection regimes were relaxed and sanctions were eroded or lifted.
b) In support of that goal, was carrying out illicit research and development, and procurement, activities, to seek to sustain its indigenous capabilities.
c) Was developing ballistic missiles with a range longer than permitted under relevant United Nations security council resolutions, but did not have significant – if any – stocks of chemical or biological weapons in a state fit for deployment, or developed plans for using them.
Point A is crucial. One of the many arguments for the war is that containment could only last so long. France and Russia were already pushing to remove the sanctions on Iraq, and the sanctions regime was doing far more to hurt the Iraqi people than Saddam Hussein. Eventually they would have to be modified or more likely removed. (Or someone would cheat, which is exactly what happened.)
Given that knowledge, it was either condemn the Iraqi people to poverty, starvation, and disease as well as Saddam Hussein’s tyranny or take the risk of removing him. Which is the more moral choice in that situation? We know that tens of thousands of Iraqis were dying from the effects of Saddam Hussein’s stealing of humanitarian aid (thanks to the corruption of the UN) every year. Is the argument that shouldn’t have been stopped really taking the moral high ground? Somehow that argument seems less than convincing to me.
Despite the inability of the coalition to find Saddam’s WMDs, the more I study and analyze the anti-war arguments, the less convincing they become. With the Senate Intelligence Committee Report and the Butler Report showing that many of the anti-war arguments are unsupported by the facts, the increasing cognitive dissonance between the anti-war movement and the truth is especially telling.