George Tenet's mea culpa over the bogus claims of Iraq acquiring uranium from Niger aside, there is much more to the invasion of Iraq than the Bush Administration is willing or capable of admitting.
The American people were sold on the assertion, presented as fact, that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and that it was our duty to disarm Iraq of those weapons. All those forceful arguments are now beginning to ring hollow. The American people and the Congress are taking note of the great deception that this administration created to win support for the war.
Regarding nuclear weapons, the International Atomic Energy Agency had clearly stated that Iraq was weapons-free. The Niger connection mentioned in the President's State of the Union address had also been put to rest after the CIA sent veteran envoy Joseph Wilson to Niger to investigate the matter. His findings were duly reported to the highest levels of the government.
Because his findings were contrary to what the White House believed, they were ignored. So were the reports of Hans Blix, the chief United Nations weapons inspector. Mr. Blix was vilified by the White House for not confirming the presence of biological and chemical weapons in Iraq.
We also learned that Saddam had no connection with al-Qaeda and that Iraq had no role in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2003. So why did George Bush invade Iraq? There are two plausible reasons.
One is oil. George Bush went to war to secure Middle East oil (just as his father had done in the first Gulf war. Liberation of Kuwait from the clutches of Saddam Hussein made good copy though). A tame and pliant Middle East is in the best long-term strategic interests of the U.S. and Israel and for the petroleum-based economies of the West.
The other reason, not much talked about but accepted by a great number of people, particularly in the Muslim and Arab world, has to do with the President's vision as a born-again fundamentalist Christian. Could Mr. Bush be a latter-day Richard the Lionhearted waging a Christian Jihad against the Muslims?
President Bush owes his political success to the coalition of neo-conservatives and Christian fundamentalists. While neo-cons are not as vocal or strident in condemning Islam and its followers, the right-wing Christian fundamentalists are not that restrained. They have been openly spewing hatred against Islam and Muslims. How could Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and Franklin Graham, while acting as the President's spiritual gurus, be carrying on an agenda of hatred against a major religion and its 1.2 billion followers if President Bush at some level does not subscribe to it?
Earlier this year the President, when confronted with these questions, could only say that they are not the views of his administration. He did not distance himself from them or condemn their message.
There were many reasons for invading Iraq but Iraq's possession of WMD was not one of them. With our forces bogged down in Iraq and casualties mounting, one has to ask if the urge to invade a sovereign country was dictated not by the litany of false and hollow claims of WMD but by other reasons.
When Robert McNamara wrote his mea culpa about the Vietnam War, the irrepressible Bill Mauldin drew a poignant cartoon on the subject. It showed a military cemetery where a voice coming from one grave tells the person in the next grave to pass on the word that according to Mr. McNamara it was all a mistake.