Obsessed with remaking the Middle East--with Iraq first in line--a unilateralist President Bush issued a directive to the CIA to conduct "a comprehensive, covert program to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein." Top figures from both parties "welcomed" the move. As did House Majority Leader Dick Armey. "I'm sure it's a wise and prudent thing to do," he told reporters. Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Joe Biden took a circuitous route to the same destination. "If Saddam Hussein is around five years from now, we've failed," he chimed. And Senator John McCain told Face the Nation, "We need a regime change in Iraq. If we can do it on the cheap ... that's fine." (Washington Post 6.15.02) Cheap indeed. Not since World War II has the United States attacked a country of anywhere near equal military power. It's become a habit. Now the U.S. is determined to attack an Iraq defeated in less than six weeks of 1991 by a coalition of 27 countries.; an Iraq under U.S. stewarded sanctions and bombs for over a decade since then. Iraq's offensive capabilities are laughable; its defenses in shambles. Otherwise be sure that Saddam Hussein would have long ago reclaimed the two-thirds of Iraq dominated by U.S. and British air sorties.
Determined to proceed with war, the Bush administration was not about to allow reality to interfere with the rhetoric that would support it. Without so much as a twinge of conscience State Department spokesman Richard Boucher dutifully parroted the official mantra: "Iraq is a threat to regional security, to the nations in the region, as much as anybody else, and their development of weapons of mass destruction continues to threaten everybody in the region, as well as the rest of the world." (AP 7.9.02) Never mind that with the sole exception of Israel, no country, not even Iraq's neighbors, views Iraq as a threat.
But the single-minded, single issue president could not be dissuaded. "It's the stated policy of this government to have a regime change and we use all the tools at our disposal to do so," declared our independent president on Independence Day. No wonder Canada's Foreign Minister Bill Graham worried more about Bush than Baghdad. "If every other country in the world chose to make similar declarations about other countries, we would soon descend into a very difficult world in which to live," he sighed. (Reuters 6.17.02) But the die was already cast.
"Now that Bush has specifically authorized American covert operations forces to remove Hussein ... the Iraqis will never trust an inspection regime that has already shown itself susceptible to infiltration and manipulation by intelligence services hostile to Iraq, regardless of any assurances the UN secretary general might give," former weapons inspector Scott Ritter argued in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece. "Absent any return of weapons inspectors, no one seems willing to challenge the Bush administration's assertions of an Iraqi threat. If Bush has a factual case against Iraq concerning weapons of mass destruction,...