Déjà vu: Right-wing media absurdly claim "Bush was right" about Iraq's WMDs

››› ››› CHRISTINE SCHWEN, JUSTIN BERRIER & CHELSEA RUDMAN

Right-wing media figures have seized on a Wired article about the classified Iraq war documents recently released by WikiLeaks.com to desperately claim "Bush was right" that Saddam Hussein had a stockpile of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). In fact, the Wired article reported the documents did not "reveal evidence of some massive WMD program by the Saddam Hussein regime," but rather remnants of the stockpiles largely destroyed during the Gulf War.

Wired: WikiLeaks docs showed no evidence of a "massive WMD program"

Wired magazine: WikiLeaks document release "doesn't reveal evidence of some massive WMD program by the Saddam Hussein regime," just "[r]emnants" from the Gulf War. Wired magazine's Danger Room published an article on October 23 analyzing what the WikiLeaks documents revealed about the WMDs search in Iraq. The article concluded that "chemical weapons...did not vanish from the Iraqi battlefield" as they should have after UN sanctions ordered stockpiles destroyed, but that the documents did not "reveal evidence of some massive WMD program by the Saddam Hussein regime." From the article:

An initial glance at the WikiLeaks war logs doesn't reveal evidence of some massive WMD program by the Saddam Hussein regime -- the Bush administration's most (in)famous rationale for invading Iraq. But chemical weapons, especially, did not vanish from the Iraqi battlefield. Remnants of Saddam's toxic arsenal, largely destroyed after the Gulf War, remained. Jihadists, insurgents and foreign (possibly Iranian) agitators turned to these stockpiles during the Iraq conflict -- and may have brewed up their own deadly agents.

[...]

In WikiLeaks' massive trove of nearly 392,000 Iraq war logs, there are hundreds of references to chemical and biological weapons. Most of those are intelligence reports or initial suspicions of WMD that don't pan out. In July 2004, for example, U.S. forces come across a Baghdad building with gas masks, gas filters, and containers with "unknown contents" inside. Later investigation revealed those contents to be vitamins.

But even late in the war, WMDs were still being unearthed. In the summer of 2008, according to one WikiLeaked report, American troops found at least 10 rounds that tested positive for chemical agents. "These rounds were most likely left over from the [Saddam]-era regime. Based on location, these rounds may be an AQI [Al Qaeda in Iraq] cache. However, the rounds were all total disrepair and did not appear to have been moved for a long time."

A small group -- mostly of the political right -- has long maintained that there was more evidence of a major and modern WMD program than the American people were lead [sic] to believe. A few Congressmen and Senators gravitated to the idea, but it was largely dismissed as conspiratorial hooey.

The WMD diehards will likely find some comfort in these newly-WikiLeaked documents. Skeptics will note that these relatively small WMD stockpiles were hardly the kind of grave danger that the Bush administration presented in the run-up to the war.

Right-wing media spin Wired article to claim "Bush was right" about WMDs

Fox & Friends' Doocy and Carlson: "Turns out President George W. Bush was right about Saddam Hussein hiding weapons of mass destruction." On the October 25 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy claimed that the WikiLeaks documents prove that "President George W. Bush was right" about WMDs. Co-host Gretchen Carlson echoed Doocy's claim later in the show.

Instapundit: "WMDs were found in Iraq in quantity." An October 24 post on conservative blog Instapundit linked to the Wired article and claimed that the WikiLeaks documents showed that "WMDs were found in Iraq in quantity."

NY Post: "There were weapons of mass destruction after all." In an October 25 article headlined, "US did find Iraq WMD," the NY Post linked to the Wired article and stated that "the [WikiLeaks] documents showed that US troops continued to find chemical weapons and labs for years after the invasion." The article also noted that the documents only reveal the existence of "small amounts of chemical weapons."

American Thinker: "Wikileaks proves WMD found in Iraq." In an October 25 post to the conservative outlet American Thinker, headlined "Wikileaks proves WMD found in Iraq," blogger Rick Moran linked to a HotAir post discussing the Wired article and added:

As for WMD, no new weapons were found but the fact that there was so much of it still in Iraq after the UN was supposed to have gotten rid of it is significant [sic]. Don't expect any apologies from the rest of the world or even any acknowledgment that they were wrong. The narrative is set and nothing will change it.

The Blaze: "Does this new information lend any more justification to the U.S. military action in Iraq?" Glenn Beck's website The Blaze published an article on October 24 on the Wired report and argued the WikiLeaks documents "may be shedding new light on the subject" of the Iraq war. It concluded:

Will this new information quell the debate at all?

Not likely. While the weapons were found and used against American troops, Bush detractors like Andrew Sullivan of the Atlantic argued that they were "degraded left-overs from the earlier Saddam era" and "not part of an ongoing stockpile program."

What do you think? Does this new information lend any more justification to the U.S. military action in Iraq?

As Wired noted, Bush's justification for the war relied on the idea that Hussein had a current WMD program

Bush: "Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons." In his September 12, 2002 address to the United Nations, President Bush claimed:

U.N. inspectors believe Iraq has produced two to four times the amount of biological agents it declared, and has failed to account for more than three metric tons of material that could be used to produce biological weapons. Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons.

Bush claimed Iraq was "rebuilding the facilities used to make more" biological and chemical weapons. In an October 5, 2002 radio address, Bush claimed, "In defiance of pledges to the United Nations, Iraq has stockpiled biological and chemical weapons, and is rebuilding the facilities used to make more of those weapons."

Powell: "We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction; he's determined to make more." In remarks to the U.N. Security Council on February 5, 2003, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell said: "For Saddam Hussein, possession of the world's most deadly weapons is the ultimate trump card, the one he must hold to fulfill his ambition. We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction; he's determined to make more."

Bush administration also used the threat of nuclear weapons to justify the war

Bush: "Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." On January 28, 2003, as part of his State of the Union address, President Bush made the now-infamous claim that "[t]he British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." During the address, Bush also claimed, "We have also discovered through intelligence that Iraq has a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas."

Cheney: "If [Hussein] stays in power" he will "reconstitut[e] his nuclear program." On the March 13, 2003 edition of NBC's Meet the Press, Vice President Dick Cheney claimed:

And I think that would be the fear here, that even if he were tomorrow to give everything up, if he stays in power, we have to assume that as soon as the world is looking the other way and preoccupied with other issues, he will be back again rebuilding his [biological weapon] and [chemical weapon] capabilities, and once again reconstituting his nuclear program. He has pursued nuclear weapons for over 20 years. Done absolutely everything he could to try to acquire that capability and if he were to cough up whatever he has in that regard now, even if it was complete and total, we have to assume tomorrow he would be right back in business again.

Cheney: "[Hussein] is actively pursuing nuclear weapons at this time, and we think that's cause for concern." On the March 23, 2002 edition of CBS' Face the Nation, Cheney claimed Hussein was "actively pursuing nuclear weapons at this time, and we think that's cause for concern, for us and for everybody in the region...[a]nd I found during the course of my travels that it is indeed a problem of great concern for our friends out there as well."

Bush: "We cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud." In an October 7, 2002 speech in Cincinnati, OH, Bush suggested that Hussein could, in the future, "be in a position to pass nuclear technology to terrorists," and continued "[f]acing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud." Bush also claimed that Iraq "possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons," and that "We've also discovered through intelligence that Iraq has a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles [UAVs] that could be used to disperse chemical and biological weapons across broad areas. We're concerned that Iraq is exploring ways of using these UAVs for missions targeting the United States."

Right-wing media have previously used discredited sources to claim "Bush was right" about WMDs

Pentagon officials previously dismissed claims that Gulf War era weapons were those cited by Bush admin. as justification to go to war. As Media Matters for America has previously documented, conservative media have a history of promoting incomplete reports or discredited officials to prop up the Bush administration's rationale for going to war in Iraq. In June 2006, Fox News programs hyped an assertion by then-Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) that chemical weapons had existed in Iraq prior to the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. In fact, Pentagon officials and the intelligence community quickly dismissed the claims, and, as reported in the Washington Post, they "reaffirmed that the shells were old and were not the suspected weapons of mass destruction sought in Iraq after the 2003 invasion."

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