Bush led the world to war on the wings of a falsehood.
He and his administration asserted mistakenly that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and was close to having nuclear weapons. Their specious claims resulted in a misguided rush to military adventurism that has left the world a more dangerous place—more terrorism, more deaths of innocent Iraqis, more anti-Americanism, more deaths and injuries of American troops and more squandering of the American treasury.
While a host of Democrats enabled Bush, Christian fundamentalists placed their moral and spiritual blessing on the war as a crusade. Many within the cable TV news industry beat relentlessly the war drums.
Nevertheless, Bush and his administration bear the ultimate responsibility for an unwinnable and seemingly unending war.
Here's a chronology of what the president, vice president, secretary of state and CIA director said:
On Jan. 29, 2002, Bush said, "Our … goal is to prevent regimes that sponsor terror from threatening America or our friends and allies with weapons of mass destruction."
"Iraqi continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror. The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade. … This is a regime that has something to hide from the civilized world."
On Sept. 12, 2002, Bush said, "Iraq continues to withhold important information about its nuclear program—weapons design, procurement logs, experiment data, an accounting of nuclear materials and documentation of foreign assistance. Iraq employs capable nuclear scientists and technicians. It retains physical infrastructure needed to build a nuclear weapon. Iraq has made several attempts to buy high-strength aluminum tubes used to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon. Should Iraq acquire fissile material, it would be able to build a nuclear weapon within a year."
On Oct. 7, 2002, Bush said that Iraq "possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons."
"The evidence indicates that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program.…Satellite photographs reveal that Iraq is rebuilding facilities at sites that have been part of its nuclear program in the past. Iraq has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes and other equipment needed for gas centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons."
"If the Iraqi regime is able to produce, buy, or steal an amount of highly enriched uranium a little larger than a single softball, it could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year."
"Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof—the smoking gun—that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud."
On Jan. 28, 2003, Bush said, "It is up to Iraq to show exactly where it is hiding its banned weapons and lay those weapons out for the world to see and destroy them as directed."
"The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
On Feb. 5, 2003, at the United Nations, Secretary of State Colin Powell said, "Every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions. What we're giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence."
"We know that Iraq has at least seven of these mobile biological agent factories. The truck-mounted ones have at least two or three trucks each."
"These are sophisticated facilities.… They can produce anthrax and botulism toxin. In fact, they can produce enough dry biological agent in a single month to kill thousands upon thousands of people."
On Feb. 27, 2003, Bush said, "In Iraq, a dictator is building and hiding weapons that could enable him to dominate the Middle East ..."
"The danger posed by Saddam Hussein and his weapons cannot be ignored or wished away."
On March 7, 2003, Bush said, "Iraqi operatives continue to hide biological and chemical agents to avoid detection by inspectors. In some cases these materials have been moved to different locations every 12 to 24 hours …"
"He possesses weapons of terror."
On March 16, 2003, Bush said, "The dictator of Iraq and his weapons of mass destruction are a threat to the security of free nations."
"He possesses the weapons of mass murder."
On March 16, 2003, when Vice President Dick Cheney was asked on "Meet the Press" what he considered the most important rationale for war, he said, "his [Saddam Huessin's] development and use of chemical weapons, his development of biological weapons, his pursuit of nuclear weapons."
"We believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons."
On March 17, 2003, Bush said, "Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised."
"The terrorist threat to America and the world will be diminished the moment that Saddam Hussein is disarmed."
On March 20, 2003, the U.S. launched a war against Iraq.
On May 1, 2003, Bush stood in front of a huge banner on a U.S. aircraft that said, "Mission Accomplished."
On May 29, 2003, Bush said that the U.S. had "found the weapons of mass destruction."
On July 2, 2003, Bush challenged insurgents—"bring 'em on."
On July 11, 2003, Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet released a statement about the president's assertion that Iraq had sought uranium from Africa.
"These 16 words should never have been included in the text written for the President," said Tenet. It was troubling that "the 16 words eventually made it into the State of the Union speech. This was a mistake."
On March 25, 2004, Bush joked about the failure to find weapons of mass destruction. Narrating a slide show at a black-tie dinner for radio and television reporters, Bush was shown in the Oval Office looking under a piece of furniture. "Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be here somewhere," he said.
"Nope, no weapons over there," he said about another slide. "Maybe under here," he said of a third slide.
As of July 28, 2005, no weapons of mass destruction have been found. No Bush apology has been issued for leading the world to war on the wings of falsehood. No evidence exists that Bush has kept his pledge to usher in an era of responsibility.
Instead, here is what has happened:
The violence in Iraqi shows no sign of lessening. Terrorism continues unabated. The nation's treasure is evaporating.
We are on an unsustainable path. We need a way out, beginning with the president acknowledging grave errors in judgment and securing a new leadership team.
Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.