Saturday, June 9, 2007

Romney, inspections and the start of the Iraq War

Hans Blix. Yes, Virginia, there were UN weapons inspectors in Iraq in 2003 before the war (no matter how many times leading Republicans lie about it)

Is it really too much after all this time to expect the mainstream media to at least inform their readers when a major Presidential candidate is misstating the most basic, verifiable facts about the Iraq War?

Apparently so:
Romney's Iraq Gaffe Ignored: GOP contender's bizarre pre-war history FAIR 6/8/07.

The misstatement in question is this one from Mitt Romney in the June 5 Republican Presidential debate:

If you're saying let's turn back the clock, and Saddam Hussein had opened up his country to IAEA inspectors, and they'd come in and they'd found that there were no weapons of mass destruction, had Saddam Hussein, therefore, not violated United Nations resolutions, we wouldn't be in the conflict we're in. But he didn't do those things, and we knew what we knew at the point we made the decision to get in.
Some things are interpretations, some things are judgments and some things are verifiable facts. The fact that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors were admitted to Iraq in response to the 2002 UN Security Council resolution demanding it is just not in doubt. As FAIR puts it:

Romney's suggestion that weapons inspectors were not permitted into Iraq before the war started is, of course, incorrect. Weapons inspectors from UNMOVIC (the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission) returned to Iraq on November 18, 2002. Led by Hans Blix, the inspectors spent months in Iraq, issuing reports on Iraqi compliance that were a crucial part of the debate over whether to invade Iraq.
Blix himself provided a great deal of detail on the experience in his 2004 book Disarming Iraq.

Commenting on the nasty and dishonest criticism leveled at him by American war hawks during the inspections in Iraq just prior to the US-British invasion, Blix writes:

[T]he fact that Saddam Hussein's regime was one of the most brutal the world had seen and had long been a danger to the region did not justify any twisting of observations or uncritical attitude to evidence.
Something worth remembering, both in terms of looking at the sad history of the Iraq War and in current controversies like that over the Iranian nuclear program.

It was on March 14, 2003, a Friday, that the negotiations over a follow-up Security Council resolution authorizing military action against Iraq broke down. The Bush administration had agreed to ask for this resolution largely at the request of their faithful ally Tony Blair, who believed he needed the political cover, though the evidence in the public record leaves little doubt that he and Bush had agreed months before to invade Iraq regardless of weapons inspections.

On Sunday, March 16, the Bush administration asked Blix to withdraw the inspectors from Iraq, prior to the initiation of military hostilities. Blix withdrew them on the following day. Blix writes that the Security Council required his inspection team to present a four-month work program on March 19, even though it was clear that efforts to avoid war had failed:

The reason why many members of the Council wanted to have the [proposed work] program on the table was no doubt that they were keen for the world to see that the inspections were going on in the good order set by the Council itself, and that the interruption was not the result of any failure of the inspections regime. It was caused by an unjustified armed action by the U.S. and the UK. (my emphasis)
The bombing began on March 20. And as of today, there's no end of the war in sight.

For good measure, here's the "just the facts, ma'am" description of the sequence of events leading up to the war from the Encycopædia Britannica ("Iraq." Encyclopædia Britannica from Encyclopædia Britannica 2006 Ultimate Reference Suite DVD. [Accessed June 9, 2007]):

By the end of 2002, Iraq had announced that it would cooperate with the inspectors on the United Nations Monitoring, Verification, andInspection Commission (UNMOVIC) on weapons of mass destruction (WMD). ... Thereafter, UN inspection teams worked for several weeks in Iraq, but their final report was inconclusive. Meanwhile, the U.S. and the U.K. continued to build up military forces around Iraq (mainly in Kuwait, Qatar, and Bahrain). They claimed that Iraq was still concealing some WMD and threatened military action if Iraq did not disarm. Other countries, notably France, Germany, and Russia, demanded that UN inspectors be allowed more time to reach conclusive results. The U.S. and the U.K., however, decided to act on the authority of UN Resolution 1441. This resolution, adopted unanimously by the Security Council on Nov. 8, 2002, demanded that Iraq accept rigorous arms inspection.

On March 17, 2003, U.S. Pres. George W. Bush issued an ultimatum demanding that Iraqi Pres. Saddam Hussein (see Biographies) and his cohorts leave the country within 48 hours. The U.S. ultimatum was rejected, and the UN inspection team left Iraq. On March 20 the first air attacks on Baghdad began, and soon afterward U.S. and British ground forces invaded southern Iraq from Kuwait. (my emphasis)
It's pitiful that after all this time, our "press corps" can provide excruciating details about Paris Hilton's drunk driving jail sentence, but still can't be bothered to correct blatant falsehoods from leading Republicans about the Iraq War. But, hey, Al Gore is putting on weight again, isn't he? And do you think he's had some cosmetic surgery around the eyes there?


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