Friday, July 18, 2008

'F--- Saddam. We're taking him out.'

March 2002 -- a full year before the invasion of Iraq -- John McCain and another senator are at the White House meeting with Condoleeza Rice:
Bush unexpectedly stuck his head in the door. "Are you all talking about Iraq?" the President asked, his voice tinged with schoolyard bravado. Before McCain and the others in the room could do more than nod, Bush waved his hand dismissively.
"F--- Saddam," he said. "We're taking him out." And then he left.
Among other things, this anecdote in Time (h/t: Hot Air) reminds me of the arguments I kept having with conservative friends in late 2002 and early '03. There was a lot of diplomatic back-and-forth with our "allies," and much debate then going on in Congress. My friends were taking all this seriously, as if it were still up in the air whether we would or would not invade Iraq.

"The decision has already been made," I insisted. The deployment of multiple Army divisions to the region, I said, was not merely a threatening gesture, but a "Guns of August" type omen. Nothing Saddam could do at that point -- and certainly no protest by Germany or France -- was going to prevent the execution of the invasion plan.

This story about Bush saying "F--- Saddam" in March 2002 also points to something else I've said all along: The decision to invade Iraq had very little to do with the arguments that were (publicly) made in favor of the invasion.

Recall that in the fall of 2002, the issue of war and peace appeared to hinge on WMD and Saddam's cooperation with Hans Blix and the U.N. weapons inspectors. But Bush had made up his mind to "take out" Saddam long before then, so that by March 2002, it was something he took for granted, bluntly dismissing any alternative. Yet in March 2002, the showdown over WMD and weapons inspections hadn't even really begun, much less reached any kind of crisis.

This is why all that Plamegate nonsense about uranium ore was so irrelevant. Saddam's weapons weren't the reason for the invasion, but merely a politically convenient pretext, since the Clinton administration had already made Saddam's WMD the basis for previous military action. If Saddam's weapons were justification for the 1998 air strikes -- as all Democrats agreed -- then how could they argue against an invasion to eliminate the threat?

The decision to invade Iraq was made early, that decision was not based on the issues that were debated in late 2002 and '03, and once Bush made his decision, he never reconsidered it. The pre-war debate was thus moot, pointless, irrelevant, a charade, a sham.

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