Ten years ago, the Grand Coalition of the Willing invaded Iraq and took it over. Eventually US forces found Saddam Hussein in a “spider hole,” brought him to trial, convicted him, and executed him. But they did not find the “weapons of mass destruction,” or WMD, they were sure Saddam Hussein had.
Everyone remembers the anti-propaganda campaign that followed: “Bush Lied; People Died!”, “General Betray-Us,” et cetera ad nauseam. A few voices, most notably that of Sean Hannity, insisted that Saddam Hussein did have WMD, but had someone truck them out of Iraq and into Syria. Last night, a retired general came forward to vindicate Hannity, Bush, and yours truly, among others.
What we knew about Saddam Hussein and WMD
Saddam Hussein certainly had WMD many years before Operation Iraqi Freedom. He used them on Kurdish towns and villages in northern Iraq. (Incidentally that’s the one part of Iraq that has stayed relatively calm lately.) The suffering of those villagers prompted the Northern No-fly Zone during the Clinton administration. It also prompted then-President Bill Clinton to say that Saddam Hussein had to go.
To make the case for war in 2002 and 2003, General Colin Powell and others told the United Nations Security Council that the US Air Force had evidence of an active chemical-biological warfare program in Iraq. Among other things, Powell showed the UN diagrams of mobile laboratories, built into truck trailers, for mixing chemical and biological weapons in the field. (You cannot mix chemical or biological WMD in advance. You must mix them fresh and use them right away, or they are useless.)
Saddam Hussein, following his capture by the US 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, December 13, 2003. Photo: United States Navy
The UN itself sent several inspection teams to Iraq to look for these weapons. Saddam Hussein threw up one excuse after another, mainly by designating many buildings as “Presidential palaces.” Now one may well believe that Saddam Hussein was vain enough to have a lot of palaces. But some of these were more like weapons depots than official residences and office buildings.
President Bush himself told Congress that Saddam Hussein bought large shipments of uranium from Africa. This was the strongest evidence anyone saw ahead of time that Saddam Hussein sought to develop nuclear weapons.
All this drove a consensus that Iraq was, to all intents and purposes, at war, or getting ready to go to war, with the civilized world. So on March 21, 2003, the world struck the first blows.
After defeating the forces loyal to Saddam Hussein, US forces searched for the WMD and the nuclear program. And to all appearances, they found – nothing. Or almost nothing. In fact they did recover three of those mobile laboratories – broken down in the desert. The wind-driven sands had damaged them beyond repair.
Every society has those within it who believe war is inherently evil, and pre-emptive war has no excuse. They seized on this seeming lack of evidence. So began an anti-propaganda campaign – propaganda for a purpose opposite the usual ones.
The most prominent retorts to this campaign did not come from the Bush administration, nor even from the Republican Party. It came from Sean Hannity. He, more than anyone else, said Saddam Hussein had someone, probably the Russians, move his WMD stocks to Syria. (Why Syria? Because Bashar al-Assad, like Saddam Hussein, is a Baathist.) This Google search shows how the political left, and anti-war independent voices (both old and new), dismissed Sean Hannity’s claims. “A proven liar” is the mildest epithet his critics threw at him (and the only one that does not need a Parental Judgment and Discretion Advice).
Sean Hannity’s critics each worked from one or both of two motives:
To discredit the Republican Party and help the Democratic Party return to power.
To declare that war, for any cause, is never just.
Ron Paul ran a whole Presidential campaign from that quote, and variations on that theme.
Syria has WMD. Where did they get them?
The first cracks in the wall of denial came last year. In July of 2012, Sean Hannity had Liz Cheney as a guest on his TV show. (Alan Colmes left the show several years ago.) Hannity repeated his claim, and Liz Cheney backed him up: Saddam Hussein had WMD, and shipped them out to Syria before the bombs burst over the skies of his capital city. (See the embedded clip.)
Ho ho, haw haw, said the deniers.
Then, earlier this week, someone – we do not yet know who – launched a chemical attack on some civilians in Aleppo.
Aleppo is the largest city in Syria. Bashar al-Assad has lost control over it. And when the story broke, Assad’s mouthpieces said the rebels had used chemical weapons against those people.
Last night, Major General Paul Vallely USA (retired) gave this interview to WorldNetDaily. (See also this video.) First, he said the Assad regime attacked the people of Aleppo with chlorine gas, and tried to frame the rebels for it.
Then he said the Assad regime has used WMD against their people last summer – and he, General Vallely, has seen the photos that prove it.
Now you know why Sean Hannity and Liz Cheney said what they said, when they said it.
And then he said:
If you go back to January through March of 2003, we had intelligence in the Defense Department that the Russians helped move, by convoy, a lot of the chemical and biological weapons into two locations in Syria and one in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. We think Russia and Iran have enhanced their inventory. The vast majority of those chemical and biological weapons were from Iraq
That’s almost exactly what Sean Hannity has said all this time. And more: the Russians and the Iranians helped themselves to some of those chemical and biological weapons. Are these what Iran’s leaders threaten to use against two Israeli cities if they come under attack?
So why didn’t our forces find them? General Vallely addressed that, too (emphasis added):
After the takedown of Saddam in 2003, there was a big survey done by U.S. forces all throughout Iraq. Basically, as far as I know, all of the bio and chemical weapons had been moved. They found semblance of a growing nuclear development program, but it was not an aggressive program by any means. So the fact is that he had them, used them on his own people. He knew he had to get them out of there, and there was a big cover-up and deception in how he moved them over there. We did know about them, but the Bush administration never came forth and explained to the American people that situation.
Why didn’t the Bush administration come out and say, “The Russians moved them into Syria”? General Vallely has no idea. This will go down in history as one of the worst public-relations blunders of the Bush administration: deliberately covering up for the Russians and the Iranians. He probably did it to keep the Russians from issuing veto after veto in the Security Council.
And where is now the deniers’ case? Can they deny anymore that Saddam Hussein had WMD and shipped most of his “stuff” out to Syria and the Bekaa Valley? The only reason Saddam Hussein didn’t get nukes is that he didn’t try hard enough. He got the uranium, but didn’t have the centrifuges to enrich it.
Our de facto President knows perfectly well what he will have to do. (If he doesn’t, the Israelis will do it for him.) History will record he was against war in the Middle East before he was for it.
The anti-war independent community won’t forgive him. But they’ll need another argument. They’ll have to move from “Saddam Hussein never had WMD” to “So what?” And they know that will be a much harder sell. (Though if they’re smart, they’ll admit that yes, external enemies do exist. Sometimes they’re just as dangerous as the internal enemies they fear more.)
And everybody in this disgusting affair owes Sean Hannity an apology.