Why does Bush have to find weapons of mass destruction? Because that’s how he justified the war.
Exhibit A: the State of the Union. There is a sequence of 19 paragraphs directly discussing Iraq, beginning with the line “Our nation and the world must learn the lessons of the Korean Peninsula and not allow an even greater threat to rise up in Iraq,” and ending with “If Saddam Hussein does not fully disarm, for the safety of our people and for the peace of the world, we will lead a coalition to disarm him.”
Of those 19 paragraphs, 18 of them refer to the threat Saddam poses and/or the weapons of mass destruction he possesses. 4 of them discuss Saddam’s brutality towards his own people.
Exhibt B: the Iraqi Threat speech, which admittedly aimed at discussing the threat Iraq poses. Still, it’s significant that he chose to discuss the threat, rather than the need to bring freedom to the citizens of Iraq. Surely if the issue of rights and freedom were his primary concern, he’d have discussed those?
In any case, out of 48 paragraphs, 4 paragraphs discuss the repression of the Iraqi people. You can probably guess what the other 44 deal with.
Exhibit C: the ultimatum, delivered on March 16th. 27 paragraphs; we’re 14 paragraphs in before we hit any comments on the oppression of the Iraqi people. Sum total of discussion of said oppression: 3 paragraphs, maybe 4 if you’re inclined towards a liberal interpretation.
Exhibit D: the Iraqi Freedom speech, which was delivered on March 19th as the bombing began. It opens with the statement, “My fellow citizens, at this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger.” Two out of three motivations relate to the weapons of mass destruction.
Later, he says “Our nation enters this conflict reluctantly — yet, our purpose is sure. The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder. We will meet that threat now, with our Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Marines, so that we do not have to meet it later with armies of fire fighters and police and doctors on the streets of our cities.”
If you can’t take the President’s word on what the purpose of the war was, whose word can you take?
None of this should be taken to imply that I’m not happy Iraq is potentially free. I say potentially because anyone who says they know what the place will look like in a year is lying; a lot depends on us and a lot depends on whether various Iraqi groups decide to work towards democracy or not. Regardless, I’m quite happy that Saddam has been overthrown.
However, when my President tells me we’re going to war for a purpose, I expect that purpose to be fulfilled. I expect his rationale to be justified. If we do not find chemical or biological weapons in Iraq (not predicting we will, not predicting we won’t), I expect Bush to get up and say “We were wrong; there wasn’t so much of a threat after all.”
Why is it so important? Well, it speaks to trust, you know? I really want to know if our President’s claims about threats can be relied upon or not. Is that so much to ask?