Thursday, August 6, 2009

How The Administration Reversed Itself On Finding Iraq’s WMD

The Bush White House was nothing but contemptuous of the United Nations inspectors when they began again in November 2002. The administration constantly claimed that they knew that Iraq was hiding its WMD, and that the inspections would never find them. When the inspectors said they needed more time, the U.S. said time was running out.

After the invasion the tables were turned. In a March 30 interview on ABC’s This Week With George Stephanopoulos, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said he knew exactly where the WMD were, “We know where they are. They’re in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.” A month into the war however, and the U.S. had found nothing. By mid-April Rumsfeld had changed his tune saying that the U.N. inspectors had not turned up any WMD in Iraq, so it was not surprising that the U.S. had not done so either. The Defense Secretary and President Bush were sure that they would turn up, but now they said it would take time. By May the administration had completely changed its story, floating the idea that Iraq did not have large stocks of WMD, but rather a “just in time” network that could produce WMD just before a conflict. In just six months the White House went from condemning the inspectors for not finding Iraq’s illicit weapons, to saying they were having the same problems. The U.S. went from claiming they knew exactly where the WMD was, to saying that perhaps Iraq had no stockpiles. In the end the U.N. inspectors turned out to be right, Iraq did not have chemical, biological or nuclear weapons programs just Saddam’s hope that he could restart them sometime in the future.


Elsner, Alan, “Bush Officials Change Tune on Iraqi Weapons,” Reuters, 5/14/03

Epstein, Edward, “Little evidence of banned weapons found so far,” San Francisco Chronicle, 4/6/03

Gibbs, Nancy, “Unfinished Business,” Time, 4/28/03

McGeary, Johanna “6 Reasons why So Many Allies Want Bush To Slow Down,” Time, 2/3/03
- “Dissecting The Case,” Time, 2/10/03

Milbank, Dana, “U.S. Voices Doubts on Iraq Search,” Washington Post, 12/3/02

Sanger, David, “Bush Says It Will Take Time to Find Iraq’s Banned Arms,” New York Times, 5/3/03

Schlesinger, Robert, “US edges closer in search for arms,” Boston Globe, 4/13/03

Strobel, Warren and Landay, Jonathan, “White House Maintains Its Case against Iraq,” Knight Ridder Newspapers, 12/6/02

This Week with George Stephanopoulos, “Secretary Rumsfeld Remarks on ABC "This Week with George Stephanopoulos,”” U.S. Defense Department, 3/30/03

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