Iraq War Conspiracy Theories

I missed this Jonah Goldberg piece the other day but he makes some worthwhile points.

It just seems everything old is new again. Bush “lied” because he believed the same intelligence John Kerry believed. Bush “lied” even though John Edwards called the threat from Iraq “imminent” — something Bush never did. No one bothers to ask how it could be possible that Bush lied. How could he have known there were no WMDs? No one bothers to wonder why Tony Blair isn’t a liar. Indeed, no one bothers to ask whether the Great Diplomat and Alliance Builder believes our oldest and truest allies Great Britain and Australia are lead by equally contemptible liars. Of course, they can’t be liars — they are merely part of the coalition of the bribed. In John Kerry’s world, it’s a defense to say your oldest friends aren’t dishonest, they’re merely whores.

Oh, one more thing no one asks. How could Bush think he could pull this thing off? I mean, knowing as he did that there were no WMDs in Iraq, how could he invade the country and think no one would notice? And if he’s capable of lying to send Americans to their deaths for some nebulous petro-oedipal conspiracy no intelligent person has bothered to make even credible, why on earth didn’t he just plant some WMDs on the victim after the fact? If you’re willing to kill Americans for a lie, surely you’d be willing to plant some anthrax to keep your job.

And speaking of the victim, if it’s in fact true that Bush offered no rationale for the war other than WMDs, why shouldn’t we simply let Saddam out of his cage and put him back in office? We can even use some of the extra money from the Oil-for-Food program to compensate him for the damage to his palaces and prisons. Heck, if John Edwards weren’t busy, he could represent him.

I’m serious. If this whole war was such a mistake, such a colossal blunder, based on a lie and all that, not only should John Kerry show the courage to ask once again “How do you tell the last man to die for a mistake?” but he should also promise to rectify the error. And what better, or more logically consistent, way to solve the problem Bush created? Kerry insists it was wrong to topple Saddam. Well, let’s make him a Weeble instead. Bush and Saddam can walk out to the podiums and explain that his good friend merely wobbled, he didn’t fall down. That would end the chaos John Kerry considers so much worse than the status quo ante. And if the murderer needs help getting back in the game, maybe the Marines can cut off a few tongues and slaughter a couple thousand Shia and Kurds until Saddam’s ready for the big league again. That will calm the chaos; that will erase the crime.

Goldberg’s piece is somewhat tongue-in-cheek but it gets at a larger truth through ironic overstatement. It’s perfectly reasonable to say that Saddam was a tyrant who was a threat to his own people but not worth a great expenditure of U.S. blood and treasure to overthrow, especially given the advantage of hindsight on the WMD issue. That’s essentially my position with regard to Sudan, for example. The discourse would be much less divisive, however, if more people on the anti-war side would acknowledge that acting as if our intelligence were correct and that Saddam’s behavior over the course of a quarter century constituted a trend was reasonable, too. Stating things that are true to the best of one’s knowledge is not a “lie,” even if disproven by later evidence. Scientists that pre-dated Copernicus weren’t liars when they said that the Earth was the center of the universe, either.

via Stephen Green

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. vdibart says:

    “The discourse would be much less divisive, however, if more people on the anti-war side would acknowledge that acting as if our intelligence were correct and that Saddam’s behavior over the course of a quarter century constituted a trend was reasonable, too.”

    I applaud you for being one of the first pro-war bloggers I read to even broach the topic, so I hate to reject your offered hand on this topic. The fact of the matter is that not all the intelligence pointed to Saddam having WMDs – the intelligence that didn’t was clearly surpressed. And in light of the Duelfer report, Saddam’s “trend” is not that clear – it suggests that the sanctions *were* working and he was getting weaker . Yes, it says he planned on reconstituting his programs, but this is based on interviews, not documentation, and does not speak to the point of whether he would have been able to do it anyway.

    In any case, although the Bush-bashers love to throw around the “Bush lied” argument, I don’t think most Kerry supporters feel that way, myself included. I just don’t agree with where he’s taken this country.

  2. legion says:

    No, there’s still something missing from this line. Kerry and everyone else in Congress (and elsewhere) believed the intelligence *that Bush showed them*. That’s the critical point nobody seems to bring up – we all believed that Bush was telling us (or at least the rest of the US gov’t) _all_ of the story, when he was really keeping all the doubts, contradictions, and flat-out gaping holes locked up where nobody but the intel agencies themselves (and Bush) even knew there was any other possible interpretation of the data.

    *That* is Bush’s lie. Pretending he didn’t have any more info that what was being shown. Pretending that there was no alternative course but to invade. Pretending that this was a war of security, rather than a war of whim.

    That’s why Kerry doesn’t get a lot of flack from his base for having supported the war – he was lied to, same as us.

  3. James Joyner says:


    But the evidence used to invade Iraq–which Kerry and Edwards thought adequate at the time–didn’t include the evidence in the Duelfer report, which we had the luxury of gathering after the invasion with U.S. troops in control of the ground. I don’t disagree that there was contrary evidence as well, but the overwhelming consensus was that Saddam had WMD. Hell, he’d actually USED WMD over a decade before, so it seemed obvious.

  4. paladin says:

    All this gets so tiresome, yeah, if Bush lied, so did Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, Madeleine Albright, Wm Cohen, Tom Daschle, John Kerry, the UN Security Council, etc. Jeez, people, we were never gonna know the truth until we got in Iraq and could check out everything without Saddam playing his reindeer games. It’s just boring — it’s beyond parody. That so many parrot the ” Bush Lied” meme is just beyond belief! History isn’t just one day. Jeez!

  5. LJD says:

    Hindsight is great, but don’t forget, if we had not gone into Iraq, Saddam would have continued the oil-for-food ripoff. We would now have more American dollars funding terror, like it or not.
    AND, perhaps as the President has suggested, the U.N. (in Saddam’s pocket) would have moved to end the sanctions, effectively giving Saddam the money and the means to further his WMD programs.

  6. Frank says:

    My wife hid my keys to my car, and now I can’t find them. I’ve looked everywhere in my home, but, still no keys! I had them once! Everyone in my house has looked for them, but NO ONE can find them.

    This must mean they don’t exist, and that I lied. How simplistic!! Just because we cannot find WDM that can be hidden in a very small volume of space, must mean that they never existed, expecially since the same madmen that created them told us they didn’t exist anymore!!!

    Saving a country from a madman with possible ties to terrorism (see the CSN report on links between Sadaam and Al Queida – Frontpage is enough of a reason for us to rescue our Iraqi brothers and sisters.

  7. vdibart says:

    “expecially since the same madmen that created them told us they didn’t exist anymore”

    Actually, he got them from us. Not that it refutes your post, but it’s sometimes forgotten.

    To address James’ reply to my post, and at the risk of being accused of spouting DNC talking points, I really do believe that this war was prosecuted wrongly. Of course a reasonable person would believe the possibility that he had WMD before we invaded. But if he hadn’t given them away to terrorists throughout the 90’s, what made us think that he was going to up and do it on September 12th?

    I don’t mean to imply that we should have given him the opportunity to pass them on (if he had them). But the reality is that the focus of U.S. policy *was* different after September 11th, and I have to be confident that under the renewed scrutiny that we were spearheading Saddam would not have had the opportunity to pass WMDs along under our watch. So as we kept our eye on him, we could have done all the things that would have undermined his regime without having the distraction of a full-blown war. It’s worth considering that sanctions weren’t working throughout the 90s because we didn’t do enough (e.g. Oil for Food) to ensure they would. After September 11th, this could have been the difference between a war and a peaceful regime change. Most people reading this might find this naive, but I’d welcome reasoned points that refute it.

    Like I said, it just could have been done differently.

  8. Thus the biggest problem with the Bush bashers: they don’t understand the difference between lying and being wrong.

  9. Ken says:

    “Stating things that are true to the best of one’s knowledge is not a “lie,” even if disproven by later evidence.”

    But Bush did not make any such qualification. If he had the nation would have demanded more perfected knowledge before going to war. Bush knew this. That is why he and his administration talked with absolute certainty about Iraq and WMD.

    To claim now there was no debate about this is ludicrous. There were plenty of credible sources that broke, barely, through the pro war propoganda calling into question Bushes claim about WMD.

    If, by the standard of a prudent man, the claim could not be made with the categorical certainty necessary before going to war, then, yes, Bush lied.

    Bush lied.

    Perhaps like you, I too listened carefully to Bush. I came to conclude before the war that his claims about Saddams nuclear program was just a bald faced lie. I realised this because his claim was based upon some aluminum tubes that the administration said were to be used to pureify nuclear material for a bomb. But experts in the US Dept of Energy, who are the real experts when it comes to matters of this kind, said they could not be used as a centrifuge and therefore were not part of a nuclear program. Plus, every credible source in the world was saying there nuclear program was completely dismanted in 1991. And sanctions were doing there job.

    I also watched carefully. When the United Nations weapons inspectors re-entered Iraq and were given free reign of the country, even to sites previously off limits I waited anxously for them to confirm some of the administrations claims about WMD. But the exact opposite happened. Every bit of evidence proved the inspectors by the US turned out to be bogus. EVERY BIT. This put further doubt in my mind about the truth of Bushes other claims.

    Plus, I was thinking, just how credible is the CIA anyway? I remember when President Clinton relied upon the CIA and ended up bombing an asperin factory. Could the CIA really be trusted? And on the big things they always got it wrong. Russia, Iran, etc. Surely Bush was aware of this track record.

    So when all the evidence of WMD in Iraq started to fall apart, long before the invasion, I started doubting Bushes claim. If I knew, from public sources, that the evidence was falling about, surely Bush knew as well.

    But he kept saying the ‘knew’ Iraq had WMD, in spite of no such credible evidence. He lied. It really is that simple.

  10. Attila Girl says:

    If Bush lied, so did John Kerry and Bill Clinton–and the intelligence agencies of myriad other countries, including Britain, France, and Russia.

  11. Anjin-San says:

    Did Bush lie? I don’t really know. Clearly war with Iraq was something the Bush admin wanted. I think WMD were a rationalization for the war. But I admit I was a bit suprised they did not have any.

    I don’t see “did Bush lie” as the big issue here. Bigger issues: why did the Bush admin take its eye off the ball (Bin Laden, remember him?). Clearly the admin cherry-picked the intelligence to make its case for war with Iraq. They saw the threat they wanted to see. The CIA warned that the case was not clear cut, they did not want to hear that.

    It is also troubling that Bush & Cheney, both of whom managed to avoid combat in wartime as young men, were obviously so hot to trot when it involved sending someone else off to do the fighting and dying. Bush’s claim of “war as a last resort” is a joke. I think everyone here knows that.

    ALSO of concern is the administrations unyeilding insistence that they did exacty the right thing, the only thing that could have been done. Failure to admit that mistakes have been made in Iraq, which is pretty damn obvious, should also worry any thinking American. Failure analyisis and a bit of self-doubt are signs of good orginazation and personal maturity. They do not seem to exist in Bush’s White House.

    When questioned about Iraq during the second debate, Mr. Bush responded by berating the audience. He seems to be on the edge of exploding when questioned.

    I am not a “knee-jerk Bush hater”. I voted for him. I voted for his Dad (once). I voted for Reagan twice.

    Bush is an utter failure. He deserves to be fired next month. His motto seems to be “The Buck Stops Anywhere But Here”.

  12. LJD says:

    Why is no one a little pissed about the oil-for-food ripoff? Where is the outrage over the mass graves? Where is the anger over Saddam firing missles at our jets daily, who were only enforcing the no-fly zones. Why are we not holding our “allies” accountable, who failed to support Iraq’s liberation, and violated U.N. sanctions? Why are we so easily convinced that, after giving Saddam months and months to hide away his weapons stocks, that none ever existed?

    Rather than accept that there are those in the world who want us dead because of our way of life, we call our President names. We allow election year rhetoric to put our troops in harm’s way, and fuel the resolve of the enemy. What a bunch of selfish Amerikans.

    Wake up and smell the freakin Starbucks!

  13. Anjin-San says:

    LJD… So the latest re-branding of the war is it is about “gaming” food for oil? North Korea’s govt. is responsible for the deaths of millions. They have real, not fantasy WMD and are builiding delivery systems. Bush does nothing.

    As Americans, we have a DUTY to hold our govt. accountable and question bad policy. If you want to march in lock-step behind the White House chickenhawks that is your business I suppose. Tell me LJD have you voulenteered for combat duty?

    BTW LJD, where did Saddam get his original WMD? Why from his buddy Rumsfeld!

  14. Anjin-San says:

    I am also wondering, who is this shadowy “enemy” that Bush keeps referring to? In the first debate, Bush said “the enemy” attacked us. Al Queda attacked us. Bin Laden attacked us.

    The people of Iraq are certainly not my enemy. Now that we have slaughtered thousands of Iraqi civilians, they may well consider us thier enemies, which is a tragedy. My guess is a lot of the guys in Iraq who are shooting at our troops are young men who have lost family in “shock & awe” bombings and are looking to settle the score.

    No doubt there are some real terrorists in Iraq now, Bush has managed to turn Iraq into something more closely resembling a terrorist state.

  15. LJD says:

    In the interest of free speech, A-S(hole) you are entitled to your opinion. But my step is not “in-lock” with anything. I am a combat arms veteran of the active army, I am in the IRR, and expect to get yanked out of life in the near future. I still support the President.

    As for Iraq, I have seen first hand, mass graves (allowed under the Clinton administration)like the ones in Iraq. While Americans are so worried about jobs, in the richest country in the world, people are being murdered. As the global superpower, we have a responsibility… Now don’t say, well what about Sudan. No Democrat, not even the U.N. will support this move.

    While you’re arguing for nuke-u-lar war against North Korea, you should remember that Clinton’s FUBAR policy allowed Kim Jong to have nukes in the first place. Kerry’s policy is not far off. I believe in Bush’s policy of using the world powers in the region to pressure those commie bastards. It is our only hope of avoiding a nasty, nasty confrontation.

    Michael Moore is NOT an accurate source for world news. You have no idea what you’re talking about. While you manage to throw in some of the common democratic talking points, you fail to address ANY of my previous questions about the case for war. Let me add that we were at war with Iraq already, and under a cease-fire agreement. The provisions for which Saddam repeatedly violated. The suffering of the Iraqi people is on his hands, not ours.

    Recognition of the intelligence uncovered in this operation does not re-brand anything. The full case was made, the lefties failed to hear it. Somehow, they sleep well at night with the harm they do with words. Words that motivate our enemy, undercut our troops’ morale, and simply piss me off. It should piss a lot of people off.
    Talk about the policy if you will. Offer a solution. Name calling, fabrications, and doomsday rhetoric doesn;t help anything.

  16. LJD says:

    Your “guess is a lot of the guys in Iraq who are shooting at our troops are young men who have lost family in “shock & awe” bombings and are looking to settle the score”

    How easy to put yourself in the shoes of the insurgents…

    Have you tried that of the kurds who were gassed, tortured, or lined up and shot?

    Have you tried that of the American pilot, wondering if he will make it home, while being shot at, for enforcing the U.N. and world community ENDORSED sanctions (while you sleep soundly in your bed I might add)??

  17. Anjin-San says:

    You mean the Kurds who were gassed with WMD supplied to Saddam by GOP administrations while Bush the elder sat on his hands and did nothing? Those Kurds?

    Bush’s case for war was Saddam had WMD that could be deployed against us in 45 minutes. Rumsfeld said the proof of WMD was “bulletproof”. Total crap. They knew better. It sounds like you are not old enough to remember Vietnam. Those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

    BTW how many US pilots died enforcing the no-fly zone? That would be none.

    And yes, I do try and understand the viewpoint of the insurgents. Your answer seems to be “lets go kill someone”.

    Ghandi said “an eye for an eye will make the whole world blind”. Wise words from a great man.

  18. LJD says:

    Clearly A-S(phincter), you are a far-left democrat. You blame the gun manufacturer, not the criminal pulling the trigger.

    I don’t remember any speech or address, where WMD was the SOLE reason for war. But that’s where democrats always get back to. You know what happens when you see a “smoking gun”? Nothing, because you’re lying dead on the floor.

    Our pilots… Their skill and equipment prevented them from dying when the “evil dictator” fired on them, in violation of the cease-fire (what a joke) agreement. So, it’s o.k. then, right? Forget about attempted murder, just prosecute the successful murderers!

    You don’t know me. I never said “let’s go kill some one”. My viewpoint is that there is a real and dangerous enemy. Yes, I want to kill the enemy, to protect my family and countrymen (including the ungrateful and those who don’t appreciate their freedom). I find no fault in that line of thinking.

    So what the hell does Ghandi have to say about Saddam invading Kuwait, raping women, throwing people off of buildings for fun?

    You want to understand the insurgents? Think about why some one would strap themselves with explosives, walk into a group of children (citizens of the country they’re supposedly trying to save from us), and detonate them.

    Think about why they violate the principles of their religion, by bringing weapons into a mosque.

    Think about why they used schools and hospitals to hide their weapons.

    Think about the type of person it takes to hack off the head of civilian foreigners, who are only in the coutry to help it rebuild.