Horowitz vs. Gore
Family gatherings for me have become a chance to talk politics with
my Dad, whose politics are well to the right of mine (though, as engineers,
neither of us can comprehend the Republicans' hatred of the theories
of global warming and of evolution), and my sister, whose politics are
well to the left of mine.
This year, having become a fan of book clubs, I suggested that
we all read Al Gore's book
"The Assault On Reason"
ahead of time, to give us something concrete to talk about.
(I am also compiling a page of notes about Gore's book for use during book club discussions.)
To my delight, Dad took me up on the offer. He even looked up
David Horowitz's essay on "Why We Went to War in Iraq",
and asked me what I thought of it. So here goes.
In his essay, Horowitz first implies that we went to war because
Clinton and Gore did nothing to combat terrorism,
then tries to rebut three claims in Gore's book.
At first I only covered Horowitz's rebuttals first, but my Dad said
"You ignored lots of other stuff in the essay! Liberals are always doing that!",
so I follow up with a section on his other statements.
Here are Gore's claims, Horowitz's rebuttals, and my fact-checking.
- Horowitz's Rebuttals of Gore's Book
- Why did we go to war?
- Which did Bush prefer, war or diplomacy?
- Did Bush use Forged Intelligence about Iraq buying uranium to help justify the war?
- Horowitz's Other Statements
- Was it Clinton/Gore's fault?
- Was UN Resolution 1441 authorization to go to war?
- Gore, p.104: "The first rationale presented for the war was to destroy Iraq's weapons of mass destruction."
- Horowitz: "In fact, the first - and last - rationale presented for the war by the Bush administration in every formal government statement about the war was not the destruction of WMDs but the removal of Saddam Hussein, or regime change."
It should be easy enough to check whether WMD was the main reason given for war.
Let's look at the record and see what arguments were made at the time:
It looks very much as if UN Resolution 1441, Bush's speech on the eve of the
Senate vote, and his State of the Union address on the eve of the war,
and his press conference in 2006 all point to WMD as the main
justification for the war to oust Saddam.
- Horowitz himself, later in the article, says that UN resolution 1441 --
which talks nearly entirely about weapons and disarmament --
contains our true reasons for going to war. This supports the view that the
primary reason we went to war was because of a fear that Saddam had WMD.
- "President Bush Outlines Iraqi Threat", speech by Bush, 7 Oct 2002:
"Eleven years ago, as a condition for ending the Persian Gulf War, the
Iraqi regime was required to destroy its weapons of mass destruction,
to cease all development of such weapons, and to stop all support
for terrorist groups. The Iraqi regime has violated all of those
obligations. It possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It
is seeking nuclear weapons. It has given shelter and support to terrorism
Saddam Hussein is a threat to peace and must disarm. We agree that the
Iraqi dictator must not be permitted to threaten America and the world
with horrible poisons and diseases and gases and atomic weapons. Since
we all agree on this goal, the issues is : how can we best achieve it?"
- The vote to give Bush power to attack, CNN, 11 Oct 2002:
"The Senate voted 77-23 to authorize President Bush to attack Iraq if Saddam Hussein refuses to give up weapons of mass destruction...
Iraq has denied having weapons of mass destruction and has offered
to allow U.N. weapons inspectors to return ...
The White House immediately rejected the offer, saying the matter is up
to the United Nations, not Iraq."
- Bush's 2003 State of the Union address:
"he agreed to disarm of all weapons of mass destruction. For the next 12
years, he systematically violated that agreement. He pursued chemical,
biological, and nuclear weapons, even while inspectors were in his
country. Nothing to date has restrained him from his pursuit of these
weapons -- not economic sanctions, not isolation from the civilized
world, not even cruise missile strikes on his military facilities.
Almost three months ago, the United Nations Security Council gave Saddam
Hussein his final chance to disarm. He has shown instead utter contempt
for the United Nations, and for the opinion of the world."
- And in August 2006, Bush even directly stated:
The main reason we went into Iraq at the time was we thought he had weapons of mass destruction.
Since the public arguments for the war at the time
revolved around whether Iraq had WMDs, the most crucial
question is how Bush reacted to diplomatic overtures from
Iraq to resume UN weapons inspections. On Sept 17, 2002,
Iraq hand-delivered a letter to the U.N. inviting weapons
inspectors to return "to remove any doubts that Iraq still possesses
weapons of mass destruction.". Bush's response:
"We do not take what Saddam says at face value... there will be no negotiating."
- Gore, p.104: "We were told by the President that war was his last choice, when it was his first preference."
- Horowitz: "UN Resolution 1441's deadline expired on Dec 7,
2002. ... The White House spent three months after the December 7th
deadline trying by diplomatic means to persuade the French and Russians
and Chinese to back the UN resolution they had voted for and to force
Saddam to open his country to full inspections."
It's as if Bush didn't even hear Iraq asking for inspectors to return
to verify the absense of weapons. That doesn't sound like a man
interested in diplomacy.
So, did Iraq try to buy uranium in Africa?
The Senate report of July 7, 2004 on prewar iraq intelligence said:
- Gore, p.105: "Bush told the American people that he had documentary
proof that Saddam Hussein was seeking yellowcake Uranium in ... Niger...
then he asked the country to imagine how horrible it would be if
one of the bombs made from this yellowcake exploded in a mushroom
cloud and destroyed an American city. But two weeks later, the
head of the UN agency monitoring nuclear weapons proliferation...
[stated that the document Bush based this on was forged]."
In his State of the Union address the president did not say he had
"documentary proof" of an Iraqi mission to obtain uranium in Niger. He
said "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently
sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
On June 17, 2003, nearly five months after the President delivered the
State of the Union address, the CIA produced a memorandum for the DCI
which said, "since learning that the Iraq-Niger uranium deal was based
on false documents earlier this spring, we no longer believe that there
is sufficient other reporting to conclude that Iraq pursued uranium
So it seems Iraq really wasn't.
Also, stepping back from our current overheated partisan atmosphere
for a minute, a reasonable person would probably agree that if
the president mentions a report in his State of the Union address,
he has rigorously checked it and believes it to be true. (i.e.
no decent President would repeat rumors he didn't believe.)
And The head of the CIA agreed as much later, when he said
"This did not rise to the level of certainty which should be required for Presidential speeches, and CIA should have ensured that it was removed."
In Horowitz's defence, Gore probably shouldn't have used the words
"documentary evidence". But the fact that the CIA apologized for
letting that sentence in to Bush's speech, and later concluded
that Iraq was in fact not seeking uranium from abroad, mean
that Gore was more right than Horowitz here.
So it seems Horowitz was wrong on all three rebuttals;
on the whole, Gore had his facts right.
Horowitz opened the essay with two paragraphs which
claimed Gore (and Clinton) failed to respond to many terrorist
attacks, did nothing to counter Al Queda,
and did not have a comprehensive anti-terrorism plan.
The well-known rumor debunking site Snopes.com says
Clinton did indeed
track down the perpetrators of the earlier attacks.
In fact, as early as 1995,
Clinton authorized covert action against Al Queda, and both the FBI and CIA
were looking for him vigorously for years.
Richard Clarke, a longtime State Department employee
who was in charge of counterterrorism under Clinton and continued
in that role under Bush,
tried to warn Bush about Al Queda on January 25, 2001,
but was demoted and ignored.
Finally, Clinton proposed a forerunner of the Patriot Act
in 1995, the "Omnibus Counter Terrorism Act of 1995" --
but it was shot down by Republicans.
It seems there's plenty of evidence that the Clinton administration
was indeed paying close attention to the threat from terrorism.
Beyond the fact that Horowitz is wrong on that charge,
notice what he's doing here -- he's implying that Al Quada's
attack on the US in 2001 was somehow linked to Iraq, and justified attacking
Iraq in retaliation.
But even Bush admits that Iraq had nothing to do with the 9/11 attack.
In his 2006 press conference, he said
"Nobody has ever suggested that the attacks of September the 11th were ordered by Iraq".
And Bush's director of the CIA said in his memoirs,
"the CIA found absolutely no linkage between Saddam and 9/11.".
So it seems Horowitz's paragraphs about Clinton's antiterrorism efforts,
besides being false, have absolutely no bearing on why we went
to war against Iraq.
Mixed in among his rebuttals of Gore's book, Horowitz says
UN Security Council Resolution 1441
was a "war ultimatum to Saddam, giving him "one final opportunity"
to disarm - or else", and that since he didn't, we had the authority to go
Saddam did in fact comply with that resolution, and allowed inspectors
back in. They didn't find any weapons because, as it turns out, there
weren't any. And that resolution was not a war ultimatum, and did not
authorize force; even the US ambassador to the UN tried to downplay
that at the time, saying
"This resolution contains no "hidden triggers" and no "automaticity" with respect to the use of force. If there is a further Iraqi breach, reported to the Council by UNMOVIC, the IAEA or a Member State, the matter will return to the Council for discussions as required in paragraph 12."
In fact, if the US had said at the time that the resolution was
a war ultimatum that authorized military force, it is very unlikely
that the resolution would have passed.
The US, by attacking without a further UN resolution authorizing force,
was in fact going against the words it used to get resolution 1441 passed.
OK, Dad, your turn :-)
Copyright 2007, Dan Kegel
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