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Where are the WMDs, President Clinton?

Observer Viewpoint | Friday, October 17, 2003

Over the last five years, leaders of the Democratic Party have blatantly led the public to assume that Saddam Hussein possessed or intended to possess weapons of mass destruction despite recent evidence which may prove to the contrary.

On Feb. 17, 1998, President Bill Clinton boldly asserted, “We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction program.” Incidentally, he made no reference to an international coalition including countries such as France, Germany and Russia as imperative to any military campaign aimed at disarmament and liberation of the Iraqi people.

The very next day both Secretary of State Madeline Albright and National Security Adviser Sandy Berger issued warnings to the same effect. Albright made perfectly clear the stance of the Clinton administration by stating that the possibility of Hussein “using nuclear, chemical or biological weapons against us or our allies is the greatest security threat we face.” Berger echoed her sentiments by claiming that “[Saddam] will use those weapons of mass destruction again, as he has 10 times since 1983.”

These are powerful words. Granted, they came from an administration with a documented history of misleading the public in every way, shape or form, so they may be suspect. Still, I always assumed that the Democratic Party was one of peace, never interested in starting a war against a sovereign power unless an imminent threat existed.

A letter to Clinton signed on Oct. 9, 1998 by Senators Carl Levin, Tom Daschle, John Kerry and others urged the commander-in-chief to “take necessary actions … to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq’s refusal to end its weapons of mass destruction programs.” So much for Democratic opposition to a U.S.-led war against a brutal, dictatorial regime.

Fast-forward to the year 2003. The party of “opposition” to President George W. Bush’s purportedly unilateral war of aggression against a sovereign nation slams him for blatantly misleading the American public into thinking weapons of mass destruction existed at any time. In the six months since the end of major military action, occupying troops have found no smoking gun and Democrats couldn’t be happier. Behind their backs they cross their fingers and hope none will surface. Understandably, no one enjoys the taste of his own foot in his mouth.

However, it is difficult to ignore the warnings that emanated from the most powerful ranks in the Democratic party, such as the statements made by Al Gore and Senator Edward Kennedy just over a year ago. In his superior wisdom, Gore declared, “We know that [Saddam] has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country.” Kennedy, perhaps harkening back to Clinton’s comments a few years prior, said, “We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction.”

The quotes go on, too plentiful to be listed in this limited column. The best defense they can conjure if ever anyone confronts them on these points is that Bush blatantly misled them as well by presenting skewed intelligence reports overstating the existence of the Iraqi’s weapons of mass destruction programs. Hillary Clinton’s allegation of a “vast right-wing conspiracy” comes to mind, starting at the top with Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, continuing down to the pundits like Rush Limbaugh and his disciples on Clear Channel radio. Make no mistake, this neoconservative push to unilaterally dominate the world comes in spite of Bush’s sheer incompetence and utter stupidity – a curious yet self-serving contradiction for Democrats.

As the ever-increasing field of Democratic presidential hopefuls sling more mud at Bush by claiming he and he alone inflated the claims of Iraqi weapons programs, one must conclude that they are relying on either the impeccable short-term memory or the logical ineptitude of the average American citizen. Such tactics make my stomach turn as I consider what once called itself the party of the people.

Are we to forget that Democrats have a recent history of condemning Iraq’s weapons programs and suggesting military action for their removal when their fingers point squarely at Bush? Should we exempt presidential hopefuls who approved a resolution giving the president the power to use force in Iraq and backed up their vote as more than passive acquiescence if we believe that no weapons ever existed? Can we not admit that Saddam was probably clever enough to remove any vestiges of a weapons program to neighboring friendly countries in the months before the seemingly inevitable war, or should we jump to the naive conclusion that if we can’t find any smoking guns then they never existed in the first place?

Considering the angry rhetoric spewed forth by today’s Democratic Party after years of believing in the existence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, their accusations of Bush blatantly misleading the nation reek of partisan political hypocrisy.

Bill Rinner is a junior economics major studying at the London School of Economics. His column appears every other Friday. He can be contacted at wrinner@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.