Glenn Kessler did a bit of fact checking on Donald Rumsfeld's recent interview with George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America and par for the course, he's still playing CYA with our reasons for invading a country that was never a threat to us.
George Stephanopoulos: "But you had inspectors in the country [Iraq]. Why was it necessary to invade--"
Former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld: Saddam Hussein "had thrown them out about the second or third or fourth time."
--An exchange during an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America," Feb. 8, 2011
Former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld has been hawking his autobiography "Known and Unknown." We will leave the book reviews to others, but his assertion that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had "thrown out" weapons inspectors is a common misperception, often repeated by former Bush administration officials. Let's correct the record.
There are two key periods for weapons inspections in Iraq, from 1991 to 1998, after the Persian Gulf War, and then from 2002 to 2003, just before the Bush administration's invasion of Iraq.
Hussein's government often was uncooperative, refused entry to certain facilities and sought to influence the makeup of the independent inspection teams. But at no time did Iraq throw out the inspectors. In both cases, inspectors voluntarily ended their mission because of the threat of military action by the United States and its allies.
The first set of inspections began in 1991 after the passage of United Nations Security Council Resolution 687, which mandated that Iraq eliminate all of its biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons programs, as well as all of its ballistic missiles capable of traveling more than 90 miles. The resolution created a special inspections regime, known as UNSCOM, to ensure biological, chemical and missile programs were disbanded. The International Atomic Energy Agency was tasked with probing Iraq's nuclear weapons program.
The process was not easy but ultimately was effective. By 1995, Iraq admitted it had an offensive biological weapons research and development program; its nuclear program was exposed by the defection of Hussein Kamel, Hussein's son-in-law. Facilities were destroyed and stocks of chemical and biological-related materials were eliminated. The Security Council, however, had to repeatedly revisit the issue, demanding unhindered access for inspectors.
In August 1998, Iraq said it was suspending cooperation with the inspectors, and U.S. and British officials prepared for a military strike. In November, Iraq reversed itself and said it would cooperate, but the cooperation was not forthcoming. The inspectors withdrew on their own.
Kessler has more so go read the rest. Full transcript via Lexis Nexis below the fold.
STEPHANOPOULOS:Let me move on because he said something I know you disagree with. He believes that the Iraq War was a huge mistake, that it allowed, gave Iran great power in the region. His words were, he allowed Iran to breathe. I do know you disagree with that. But you concede in the book that the Iraq War came at a very high price. I wanna show for our viewers some of that price.
I want to show for our viewers some of that price. Forty-four hundred, more than 4400 American deaths, 32,000 wounded, over 100,000 Iraqi civilians killed, and the low estimate by the Congressional Budget Office of a cost of $700 billion.
And sir, I've read the book. I've read the reviews. I watched your interview with Diane. And it seems like the one question that most people want answered is the one you most don't want to address. What responsibility do you bear for those costs?
RUMSFELD: Well, of course, everyone involved in that administration bears a responsibility for the conduct of our government's actions during that period.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you were Secretary of Defense.
RUMSFELD: Indeed. Indeed.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What, what's your responsibility?
RUMSFELD: Well, it is, as I say, it, it is that I was a participant. And we believed the intelligence was correct. It turns out that it was not completely correct, although the inspectors did go in and determine that Saddam Hussein did, in fact, have the capability of fairly rapidly reconstituting his chemical and biological capability.
STEPHANOPOULOS: They also believe that they needed a lot more time. They were in Iraq at that time, and they believe that the invasion at that moment was unnecessary.
RUMSFELD: I'm referring to Duelfer and the Duelfer Report afterwards.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm talking about Hans Blix and the inspectors.
RUMSFELD: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Okay. But is that, that is true, isn't it? They wanted more time.
RUMSFELD: Well, they, they - how many resolutions had there been? There'd been something like 17 - resolutions at the United Nations.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you had inspectors in the country. Why was it necessary to...
RUMSFELD: He had thrown them out for about the second or third or fourth time.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And he was contained. They wanted to complete their work.
RUMSFELD: Well, not at all. The - implication that Saddam Hussein was in the box, that was a terribly vicious regime. And there's no question but that the world is better off today than if Saddam Hussein and his regime were still in power.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But could it have been done at a lower cost?
RUMSFELD: The millions of people in that country have been liberated. They have a chance to, to live under a freer system. And, and thanks to the men and women in uniform and to the United States and the coalition countries.