The war in Iraq began three years ago this week. And while March 2003 seems like an awfully long time ago, we do remember this: The president took the country to war based on claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, not that he might maybe like to acquire them someday in the future.
Perhaps someone should tell the Washington Times.
In a story that's sure to be making the rounds of Republican talk radio today, the Times suggests that audiotapes of Saddam Hussein and aides, recorded in the mid-1990s, somehow vindicate George W. Bush's claims about weapons of mass destruction. The tapes, the Times says, "underscore the Bush administration's argument that Baghdad was determined to rebuild its arsenal of weapons of mass destruction once the international community had tired of inspections and left the Iraqi dictator alone."
But if the excerpt from the Times' story is any indication, the strongest evidence in the tapes is a snippet of conversation from an aide who tells Saddam: "The factories remain, in the mind they remain. Our spirit is with us, based solely on the time period. And [inspectors] take note of the time period, they can't account for our will."
Maybe we're not remembering everything -- the deaths of 2,309 U.S. troops in the meantime have a way of clouding things -- but we don't recall hearing Bush say that the United States needed to launch a preemptive war because Saddam had WMD factories "in the mind." To the contrary, on March 17, 2003, Bush said that the United States and its allies had authority under U.N. resolutions to "use force in ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction," and that coalition forces would enter Iraq "to eliminate weapons of mass destruction" unless Saddam left the country immediately.
"Intelligence gathered by this and other governments," the president said, "leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised."