Smoking Guns

The bombs have been dropped, the statues have been pulled down and the dust is beginning to settle. On May 1, 2003, U.S. President George W. Bush announced that major combat operations in Iraq had ended. Yet, like many others, I have one nagging question on my mind: Where is the smoking gun? The one the Bush administration declared Saddam Hussein was holding … and pointing at the United States?

Remember all the dire warnings, prior to the War? “The Iraqi dictator,” declared President Bush, “must not be permitted to threaten America and the world with horrible poisons and diseases and gasses and atomic weapons.” Following that, in January, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said, “There’s no doubt in my mind but that they currently have chemical and biological weapons.” Later in March, Vice President Dick Cheney also concurred, saying, “We believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.” National Security Advisor Dr. Condoleezza Rice even wrote an article published in the New York Times titled, “Why we know Iraq is lying.”

However, even as Hans Blix – the chief U.N. weapons inspector for Iraq – asked for more time to conduct inspections, the first wave of attacks commenced in March. The coalition military force launched a series of aerial attacks. Bombs exploded into the night, lighting up the Baghdad sky. Strategic targets were hit, but so were clinics and civilian homes. Then the ground war began and the lives of American soldiers were sacrificed for this, so-called, “noble cause.”

Yet through it all, nagging questions remained: Was the war on Iraq truly justified? Or was it more the personal agenda of an Administration unable to deal with “grave and urgent” threats on the home front itself – like the economy? Could it also have been a knee-jerk, paranoid response to September 11th, 2001? That infamous day America was made to realize that not everybody readily welcomed the “McDonaldization” of their national and cultural borders? Perhaps, as some have suggested, there was a need to find a new ‘bad guy’ since Osama bin Laden still remains at large.

Whichever way you look at it, the War on Iraq was unjustified. America and her allies invaded a sovereign nation on their own accord, without the consensus of the United Nations. The lives of American and Iraqi civilians have been tragically lost at the insistence of one man’s administration… One administration’s insistence of a threat that was supposedly real and urgent. Yet, even today, we have yet to find Saddam’s smoking gun. Where are the weapons of mass disappearance?

The administration touted the War on Iraq as an urgent and necessary extension of the War on Terror. In an address to the United Nations General Assembly, President Bush said, “In the attacks on America [on September 11th 2001], we saw the destructive intentions of our enemies. This threat hides within many nations, including my own. In cells and camps, terrorists are plotting further destruction, and building new bases for their war against civilization. And our greatest fear is that terrorists will find a shortcut to their mad ambitions when an outlaw regime supplies them with the technologies to kill on a massive scale. In one place – in one regime – we find all these dangers, in their most lethal and aggressive forms…”

The Bush administration then told the American people that Saddam Hussein’s regime “possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons.” With unequivocal terms, President Bush outlined the threat Iraq posed as very real and urgent. In a speech, he said, “We know that the regime has produced thousands of tons of chemical agents, including mustard gas, sarin nerve gas, VX nerve gas.” President Bush then added, “a Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is a threat to the security of the American people.” This was something that warranted immediate attention. War, he said, while regrettable, was forced upon the Administration. It was Saddam’s own fault for bringing this upon himself.

So, with bombs bursting and guns blazing, America and her allies went all the way to Baghdad. They went in fighting for “the cause of liberty and for the peace of the world.” But never mind the fact that they did not have the full consensus of the United Nations. Never mind the fact that the world community was still asking that inspections be given more time. Never mind the fact that the evidence was sketchy at best, and is now being called into question.

Therein lies the problem. The Bush administration made such a case for the War on Iraq. They had insisted that the threat was urgent and imminent. They seemed so certain that the War on Iraq was not only justified, but necessary. So necessary, in fact, that anyone who vocally opposed the war was denounced as un-American and un-patriotic. So necessary, that it became necessary for some people to only eat ‘freedom fries’ and ‘freedom toast’. But did the Bush administration jump the gun when it came to the War on Iraq?

In an article on, columnist Michael Duffy sums up the problem succinctly when he says: “As the U.S. prepared to go to war in Iraq last winter, the most compelling reason advanced by George W. Bush to justify a new kind of pre-emptive war was that Saddam Hussein possessed nuclear, chemical and biological arms — weapons of mass destruction (WMD). This was the big reason, the casus belli, the public rationale peddled over and over to persuade a skeptical nation, suspicious allies and a hostile United Nations to get behind the controversial invasion. And while that sales pitch fell flat overseas, it worked better than expected at home: by late March, 77% of the public felt that invading U.S. troops would find WMD. But eight weeks after the war’s end, most of that confident intelligence has yet to pan out, and a growing number of experts think it never will. Current and former U.S. officials have begun to question whether the weapons will ever be found in anything like the quantities the U.S. suggested before the war — if found at all — and whether the U.S. gamed the intelligence to justify the invasion.  For now, WMD seems to stand for weapons of mass disappearance.”

This would be funny if it wasn’t so sad, and very alarming. The Bush administration was almost frantic in insisting that Saddam Hussein maintained a stockpile of WMD. Currently, the administration has increased the number of military personnel combing the 300 suspected WMD sites throughout Iraq. They have been canvassing the areas for two months already but have nothing to show for it. In fact, Lieut. General James T. Conway, commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, was quoted saying, “We’ve been to virtually every ammunition supply point between the Kuwaiti border and Baghdad but they’re simply not there.”

A nation has been led into war and lives have been sacrificed in the process because Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. A country now lays in chaos, anarchy and ruination because Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The Bush administration has spent billions of dollars and hours of manpower because Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Even today, American men and women have been committed to remain and rebuild Iraq. Some of them have been killed in action. All because Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

So where are they? Did they ever exist? The have bombs fallen and the troops have marched in. Men and women have died. Buildings and bunkers have been bombed. Statues came tumbling down. However, now that the dust had finally settled, it would seem that the only smoking guns belonged to the American armed forces and its allies.

This was a prepared-manuscript speech for my Presentational Skills class in graduate school. We were supposed to talk about a ‘controversial’ topic where at least two of our classmates would disagree with us, but I thought that a majority of my class actually agreed with me on this one. Oh well…

Copyright © 10 June 2003, Wong Giok Leigh. All Rights Reserved.


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