No WMD because “Clinton got them all!” UPDATED

Ohhhhhh.

I just got an email from someone, who, after calling me some ugly names, informed me that the reason we found no WMD in 2003 is because Clinton BOMBED THEM AND GOT THEM ALL back in 1998, and Bush knew it. Amazing. Clinton “GOT THEM ALL…” – apparently he knew exactly where they were and “got them all” in just a few days bombing.

Which doesn’t quite explain why he and the Democrats were still talking about them in 1999, and 2000? And 2001, and so on?

Either the WMD were there, or they were not. Either both administrations believed they were there, or both lied. If Clinton “got them all” in 1998, there would have been one hell of a lot of (appropriate) press coverage celebrating his almighty achievement of having disarmed the Beast of Baghdad. Please.

UPDATE:Jonah Goldberg prints a must-read email from a fellow who was “there” when “Clinton got them all…” It’s long, but DO read it all!

I was a squadron commander at the time of Desert Fox in 1998 (we called it “Deny Christmas ’98″) and while there was a sense that Clinton’s order to attack Iraq at that point had a tinge of “wag the dog” to it, we also knew that this was a long time in coming. (In addition to the Feb 98 comments you cite, Clinton also warned that Saddam could pass his WMD to “shadowy”
terrorists who traveled unseen among us–sound familiar?). As things deteriorated throughout the spring, summer and fall of 98, Clinton was under pressure, from both Dems and Republicans, to carry out a substantial attack against Iraq. He had been criticized for waging “pin-prick” strikes that accomplished little of substance. You might recall Bill Cohen hitting the
Sunday chat shows that fall with his 5lb bag of sugar and claims that a similar amount of Saddamite anthrax would devastate DC and its environs.

In fact, on Veteran’s Day, November 1998, we were spun up for an attack on Iraq that was called off only after Saddam backed down. B-52s were actually en route from Diego Garcia when Clinton called off the raid. Thus, when Richard Butler pulled UNSCOM out of Iraq in December, Clinton was under intense pressure to “do something”–not because of Monica, but because of
the apparent collapse of inspections and the threat of Saddam’s WMD. So, we deployed for Desert Fox–4 days of ineffectual bombing.

I’ve attached a linkto a piece I recently published on Desert Fox (print versions in US and UK are forthcoming in Jan 06).

It considers the operation from the perspective of the proper use of airpower, which may be of little interest to you. Still, here is what I think is important to the current discussion that many, including and especially Democrats, forget: Desert Fox was carried out by the US and UK
only; the French dropped out of Southern Watch operations as a result of the brief campaign and called for the lifting of sanctions. Moscow recalled its ambassadors from London and Washington in protest and the Chinese dubbed the raids an act of international terrorism. Most Arab states refused us the use of their soil for combat sorties (Turkey, as well, opted out). Again, does this sound familiar? Clinton made thinly veiled references to regime change as well, generating speculation in the media that taking Saddam out was our real goal (though an unrealistic one, as I argue that a 4-day air campaign, limited to 100 targets, would hardly unseat a ruthless tyrant like Saddam). Yet, let’s not forget the Oct 98 Iraq Liberation Act, either, that established regime change as US policy long before GWB became president. It’s clear to me that the Clinton Administration certainly “hoped” Desert Fox would bring about a collapse of Saddam’s regime–but hope is not a plan. But long before OIF, the “international community” regarded Saddam and his weapons as an Anglo-American problem and cared little about Baghdad’s lack of compliance with UN resolutions and inspections. President Bush’s
opponents want us to think that the choice was between a neat, tidy and “safe” status quo with a WMD-less Iraq, or regime change and a bloody insurgency. The situation that emerged from Desert Fox, in my view, puts the lie to that. In fact, Desert Fox was the last major military
confrontation between the US and Iraq prior to OIF, and its consequences set the stage for our diplomatic struggles in the run-up to OIF.

Our knowledge of Saddam’s WMD stockpiles and programs remained frozen in time from 1998 until 2003, since Desert Fox failed to induce Iraq to cooperate with UNSCOM. Indeed, Saddam declared victory–and rightly so, in my view. The sanctions, such as they were, remained, but the inspectors were gone and the tyrant remained securely in power. And for those Dems who claim that Clinton “got it all” (Saddam’s WMD, not Monica) during Desert Fox, they should know that we purposely avoided targeting what we thought were “known” stockpiles. We feared the release of chemical agents and bio toxins that would cause massive collateral damage. Of the 100 targets, 11 were directly WMD-related, and they were nearly all tied to his missile delivery systems.

In summary, there was a real sense of urgency that Saddam was slipping the noose and something had to be done. Those who wish to understand our view of the threat posed by Iraq pre-OIF, need to become familiar with this often overlooked operation.

Powerline is wondering about it all.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • gcotharn

    Consider that a truthful media would focus on these type things(from less than 10 years ago!!), and would never allow Harry Reid the light of day with his “we were lied into war” charges.

    Then consider that the Senate is moving closer and closer to a media “sheild” law which will arbitrarily define who is in the media.

    Such a law will effectively bless media bias as a legitimate force in our society. Maalox, please.

  • http://www.cuanas.blogspot.com Pastorius

    This story from the guy “who was there when Clinton got them all” must be a pretty strong meme in the liberal community; almost like a talking point memo. I heard someone call in to either Hannity or Medved yesterday and say the same stuff.

    Amazing. It’s such a naaive thing to believe.

  • brotherjohn

    Oddly enough, the CIA warned Bush before the invasion in Feb. 2003, “We do not have any direct evidence that Iraq has used the period since [Clinton's Operation] Desert Fox to reconstitute its Weapons of Mass Destruction programs, although given its past behavior, this type of activity must be regarded as likely.”

    This was of course confirmed after the war in the Duelfer Report,“A substantial amount of Iraq’s chemical warfare agents, precursors, munitions, and production equipment were destroyed between 1991 and 1998 as a result of Operation Desert Storm and UNSCOM actions.”

    Clinton got ‘em all? No, but Bush ’41, Clinton, Desert Storm, Desert Fox, sanctions, inspections, definitely got ‘em all (1991-1998)


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