At the Nuremberg trials, Nazi leader Hermann Goering explained what has to be done to win popular support for a war. “Why, of course, people don’t want war,” he said. “But, it is always a simple matter to drag the people along. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism.”
What happened on September 11, 2001, was an attack. Nobody had to invent it. The only question was, who did it? We found out quickly. It was the work of Al Qaeda under the leadership of Osama bin Laden. We set out to get him; so far we have failed. So we decided to go after Saddam Hussein on the grounds that he had weapons of mass destruction and was in cahoots with Al Qaeda. So, we went after him. And most Americans backed the war — for the same reasons Goering laid out.
But, from the very beginning, both assumptions — the weapons of mass destruction and the ties to Al Qaeda — have been questioned. So far, no weapons of mass destruction have been found despite deep and desperate search. Which does not mean that Hussein does not have such weapons. After all, we — the U.S. government — gave him an arsenal of such weapons when he was at war with Iran. But, as yet, a war was fought and, allegedly, ended, without any proof that Iraq has — or had — weapons of mass destruction.
But, even if it does, what evidence is there that Iraq was planning to use them against the U.S.? There is more reason to believe that Hussein had such weapons either for internal purposes — to prevent a Kurdish breakaway — or to fight off a renewed attack by Iran. Put plainly: If he does have WMDs, what reason is there to believe that he would pick a fight with the U.S. with its well-known superiority in military might?
To turn Hussein into a menace who was involved with September 11, the White House charged that he was working hand-in-glove with Al Qaeda and, hence, was, by indirection, a silent partner of bin Laden in his Islamic jihad directed against Western civilization, especially the Great White Satan, Uncle Sam.
For those acquainted with the internal wars within the Muslim world, this charge sounded ridiculous. Bin Laden’s life has been dedicated to an endless crusade to make Islam the one and only religion in the world and to do so by conquest. He is a religious fanatic. He sees himself as appointed by Allah to establish a universal state run by a theocracy that sees the Koran as the sole source of law. They call it shariah.
Hussein’s philosophy is diametrically different. Iraq is a secular state. Indeed, there are even laws that forbid certain orthodox Islamic practices.
In a dispatch from Washington, dated June 8, the correspondence read: “Two of the highest-ranking leaders of Al Qaeda in American custody have told the CIA in separate interrogations that the terrorist organization did not work jointly with the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein.”
This information was circulated by the CIA last year to other intelligence agencies. But the testimony was never disclosed publicly. The news story concludes by quoting an intelligence official who said: “This gets to the serious question of to what extent did they try to align the facts with the conclusions that they wanted.”