On December 16, 1998, Bill Clinton informed the nation that he had ordered military action against Iraq. No less than three times Clinton referred to Iraq’s nuclear arms or nuclear program.
Example 1: “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.”
Example 2: “Saddam Hussein must not be allowed to threaten his neighbors or the world with nuclear arms, poison gas, or biological weapons.”
Example 3: “And so we had to act and act now. Let me explain why. First, without a strong inspection system, Iraq would be free to retain and begin to rebuild its chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons programs in months, not years.”
Notice that in the first example, Clinton speaks of attacking Iraq’s nuclear program, which obviously requires the known existence — indeed, the location — of such a program. And in the third example, Clinton warns of an imminent threat Iraq could reconstitute, among other things, its nuclear-weapons program, thereby alleging its existence.
Now, on what basis did Clinton conclude that Saddam Hussein had a nuclear weapon, a nuclear-weapons program, or the ability to reconstitute such a program in months? Well, let’s look at certain key public statements and representations by Clinton himself and his top people.
Fact 1: On September 3, 1998, Clinton reported to Congress on “Iraq’s non-compliance with U.N. Security Council resolutions.” In the section of the report labeled “Nuclear Weapons,” Clinton’s report stated:
In an interim report to the UNSC July 29, the IAEA ["International Atomic Energy Agency"] said that Iraq had provided no new information regarding outstanding issues and concerns. The IAEA said while it has a ‘technically coherent picture’ of Iraq’s nuclear program, Iraq has never been fully transparent and its lack of transparency compounds remaining uncertainties. The IAEA noted Iraq claims to have no further documentation on such issues as weapons design engineering drawings, experimental data, and drawings received from foreign sources in connection with Iraq’s centrifuge enrichment program. The IAEA also reported that Iraq was ‘unsuccessful’ in its efforts to locate verifiable documentation of the abandonment of the nuclear program….
Thus, Clinton’s own report to Congress, during the lead up to military action against Iraq, contained no substantive information about Iraq’s “nuclear arms” or “nuclear weapons program.” Instead, it emphasized the near total lack of insight into such matters.
Fact 2: On September 9, 1998, in response to the United Nations Security Council’s vote to suspend Iraqi sanction reviews, Clinton issued a short statement which said, in part:
… The Security Council has made crystal clear that the burden remains on Iraq to declare and destroy all its nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and the missiles to deliver them.
But Iraq did not “declare” its “nuclear weapons.” In fact, there’s no evidence Iraq actually had “nuclear weapons,” per se, as opposed to certain materials or parts that might be used to build such weapons. Clinton’s statement regarding Iraq’s “nuclear weapons” was utterly false.
Fact 3: During Mike McCurry’s September 30, 1998, press briefing, McCurry contradicted Clinton’s September 9 statement. McCurry stated, in part:
… [W]e are aware of the allegations that Iraq retained weapons-related components, but we can’t confirm the specific allegation that they have acquired those devices. There’s little doubt that they have sought nuclear capability. That’s been one of our long-standing concerns and one of the reasons why we have insisted on support for the international efforts by the International Atomic Energy Agency to monitor and to investigate suspected activities in Iraq. It’s why we’ve supported UNSCOM, as well, for similar and related issues.
Iraq’s current refusal to allow inspections by both the IAEA and UNSCOM … is totally unacceptable. We continue to believe that there is a lot more to know about Iraq’s nuclear program. We’ve sought clarification before we’re willing to consider what kind of final punctuation mark you can place on efforts by Iraq to acquire nuclear related technology.
So, McCurry made clear that the Clinton administration could not confirm that Iraq had actually acquired “devices” for producing nuclear weapons, or even the extent to which Iraq was attempting to acquire “nuclear-related technology.”
Fact 4: At a September 30, 1998, State Department press briefing, Secretary of State Madeline Albright’s spokesman, James Foley, was asked about Iraq’s nuclear capabilities.
Question: “I was just asking about the Iraqi progress towards nuclear weapons. There [are] two reports in the past two years, apparently, that the United States has been told that Iraq is building atomic bombs, at least the nuclear shells, the nuclear weapons without the atomic cores. Can you comment on that?
Mr. Foley: “Well, I’m not aware that the United States has been told any such thing. But what I can say in response to your question and the articles is that we are aware of allegations that Iraq retained weapons-related components, but we cannot confirm these allegations. …
… In terms of the allegation itself, again, it’s not something we can confirm; it’s important, though, to understand the potential ramifications. Having several components of a warhead does not mean that one necessarily has a usable nuclear weapon. In this regard the IAEA, we’re told, feels confident, that Iraq does not have sufficient fissile material or the ability to produce that material for a weapon.
Again, this really underscores our concern about the lack of intrusive UNSCOM and IAEA inspections. The limited ongoing monitoring program can help deter obvious Iraqi attempts to rebuild the WMD capability during this period, but we are very concerned, obviously, about the longer run.”
Foley, therefore, could not even confirm that Iraq retained nuclear weapons-related components. And Foley emphasized that without U.N. inspections, the Clinton administration did not and would not have insight into nuclear-related issues involving Iraq.
Consequently, on December 16, 1998, when Clinton told the nation that he ordered military strikes against Iraq to, among other things, attack its nuclear program, to prevent Saddam Hussein from threatening the world with nuclear arms, and to stop Hussein from rebuilding his nuclear weapons program in a matter of months, he had no basis for these assertions. They were utterly false. Moreover, I could find no statements from Secretary of State Albright endorsing Clinton’s characterization of Iraq’s nuclear capabilities.
When you contrast Clinton’s unequivocal yet insupportable arguments about Iraq’s nuclear program with the qualified yet accurate 16-words President George Bush used in his January 28, 2003, State of the Union Address to describe Iraq’s effort to secure uranium, the liberal bias of the mainstream media in giving a continuing voice to Democratic charges becomes obvious. The Democrats are, and will remain, unsatisfied with any response provided by the Bush administration. Such is their political strategy. As if to highlight the point, Democratic-party advertisements accusing the president of lying already began appearing on television last week.
And President Bush’s chief accuser is a long-serving, little-known liberal partisan from Michigan, Senator Carl Levin. Levin charges that “[t]he uranium issue is not just about sixteen words. It is about the conscious decisions that were made, apparently by the NSC and concurred in by the CIA, to create a false impression” to help President Bush justify war with Iraq. Although Levin is chairman of no committee, he’s now conducting his own “investigation.”
But Levin never questioned Clinton’s assertions about Iraq’s nuclear arms, nuclear program, or imminent nuclear threat. He didn’t accuse Clinton of manipulating intelligence as a cover to attack Iraq. He didn’t demand hearings and investigations. In fact, back then, Levin himself played fast and loose with the facts.
On October 9, 1998, in a speech on the Senate floor, Levin stated, in part:
With respect to Iraq’s history, the Security Council noted Iraq’s threat during the Gulf War to use chemical weapons in violation of its treaty obligations, Iraq’s prior use of chemical weapons, Iraq’s use of ballistic missiles in unprovoked attacks, and reports that Iraq attempted to acquire materials for a nuclear weapons program contrary to its treaty obligations.
But as described above, in 1998 the U.N.’s IAEA, McCurry, and Foley had no evidence that Iraq was attempting to acquire materials for nuclear weapons, which is why they all decried the lack of U.N. inspectors in Iraq. Clinton’s report to Congress, which Levin would have seen, provided no evidence. In other words, Levin, like Clinton, and many other Democrats, did, in fact, mislead the American people.
Don’t expect the mainstream media to notice, however. They’re too busy regurgitating the Democrats’ talking points.