A standard Republican talking point about Iraq is that “everyone thought there were WMD” and then they cite statements by President Clinton and others.
Here’s what they are leaving out. At the end of 1998, after Iraq expelled* UN weapons inspectors, President Clinton ordered a bombing campaign that completely wiped out Iraq’s weapons capabilities. For good.
“Earlier today, I ordered America’s armed forces to strike military and security targets in Iraq. They are joined by British forces. Their mission is to attack Iraq’s nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs and its military capacity to threaten its neighbors.
… Warplanes aboard the USS Enterprise combined with more than 200 cruise missiles from eight Navy warships to converge on Iraqi targets at 5:06 p.m. EST (1:06 a.m. Baghdad time).
The attack by U.S. and British forces against Iraq broadened and intensified yesterday, as salvos of missiles pounded scores of targets throughout the country and the skies over the Iraqi capital filled with the flash of huge explosions, the smoke of distant conflagrations and the brilliant red tracings of antiaircraft fire.
The second wave of strikes by allied cruise missiles – by far the heaviest attack against the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein since the end of the Gulf War in 1991 – came as Washington continued to be roiled by the historic question of President Clinton’s possible impeachment. The twin crises, each compelling enough to transfix the nation, overlapped and crescendoed throughout an extraordinary day.
… Officials said the latest strikes included about 100 cruise missiles – about half as many as on Wednesday, but with 2,000-pound warheads that were twice as large as those used the first night. Among the targets of the raid were air fields, chemical plants, missile production and storage facilities, air defense systems and Iraq’s surface-to-air missile sites, according to Pentagon officials.
Not a single U.S. or British casualty has been reported in about 70 hours of intensive airstrikes involving 650 sorties against nearly 100 targets. A total of 415 cruise missiles were launched, Pentagon officials said, including 325 Tomahawks fired by U.S. Navy forces and 90 heavier cruise missiles deployed from Air Force B-52s.
… “Saddam may rebuild, and attempt to rebuild, some of this military infrastructure in the future, just as he has replaced many facilities, including lavish palaces, after Desert Storm,” Cohen said, referring to the aftermath of the Gulf War. “But we have diminished his ability to threaten his neighbors with both conventional and nonconventional weapons.”
And then, following that attack, “Between 1999 and 2001, the U.S. and British-led air forces in Iraq dropped 1.3 million pounds of bombs in response to purported violations of the no-fly zones and anti-aircraft fire from Saddam Hussein.” (Thanks to Raw Story)
And, of course, the Republican reaction to Clinton wiping out Iraq’s WMD capabilities? (Keep in mind as you read this all their bluster about the supposed threat of WMD as they ramped up the propaganda leading to the war…) Republicans skeptical of Iraq attack on eve of impeachment vote
“I cannot support this military action in the Persian Gulf at this time,” Lott said in a statement. “Both the timing and the policy are subject to question.”
“The suspicion some people have about the president’s motives in this attack is itself a powerful argument for impeachment,” Armey said in a statement.
*Update – there is controversy in the comments over whether Iraq “expelled” the UNSCOM weapons inspectors in 1998. I’ve researched this. Some say Iraq was right to expell them because they were nothing more than spies for the U.S. Others say the U.S. withdrew the inspectors so they could bomb.
Apparently the record is that in October of 1998 Iraq stopped cooperating with the UN inspectors (UNSCOM) and then began to physically block them from inspections, and the inspectors left Iraq. According to the UN,
31 Oct 1998 Iraq announces that it will cease all forms of interaction with UNSCOM and its Chairman and to halt all UNSCOM’s activities inside Iraq, including monitoring. The Security Council, in a statement to the press, unanimously condemn Iraq’s decision to cease all cooperation with UNSCOM.
15 Dec 1998 The Special Commission reports to the Security-General concerning UNSCOM’s activities and the status of Iraq’s cooperation with the Commission in the period since 14 November 1998. The Executive Chairman concludes that Iraq did not provide the full cooperation it had promised on 14 November 1998 (S/1998/1172)
16 Dec 1998 The Special Commission withdraws its staff from Iraq.
According to the Arms Control Association, Iraq Blocks UNSCOM Monitoring; Security Council Calls for Review,
ESCALATING ITS standoff with the UN Security Council, Iraq announced on October 31 that it would no longer allow inspectors from the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) to monitor sites in Iraq for prohibited weapons activities. On August 5, Baghdad suspended inspections by UNSCOM, which oversees chemical and biological weapons and ballistic missile programs, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which handles nuclear issues, into Iraq’s past weapons activities. Iraq’s announcement specified only UNSCOM’s monitoring activities, but will likely affect IAEA’s monitoring work as well, since the IAEA depends heavily on UNSCOM for logistical support. … The Security Council issued a statement on October 31 condemning Iraq’s action and demanding that Baghdad “rescind immediately and unconditionally” the bans on both monitoring and inspections.
“Expell” was the wrong word. “Forced out” might have been a better choice. (Iraq had agreed to allow inspectors as a condition of ending the Gulf war.)
Slactivist has some interesting additions.