Donald Trump sounded a lot like Michael Moore during a crucial part of Saturday’s GOP debate in South Carolina.
“They said there were weapons of mass destruction and there were none,” Trump said during a fiery exchange with Jeb Bush while speaking of George W. Bush and and the war in Iraq. “And they knew there were none. There were no weapons of mass destruction.” (RELATED: Imagine If Donald Trump Ran As A Democrat)
With the last President Bush slated to come to South Carolina Monday to campaign for his brother, there’s a good chance that clip will be aired repeatedly on local television in the state. But whether it becomes the clip of the debate or not, it’s probably worth pointing out that Trump was articulating a leftwing conspiracy theory. As I have repeatedly pointed out in previous columns, the evidence against the idea that Bush knowingly lied about Iraq having W.M.Ds is overwhelming:
1.) Read the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq’s W.M.D programs. “Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons as well as missiles with ranges in excess of UN restrictions; if left unchecked, it probably will have a nuclear weapon during this decade,” the report reads. The report goes on to say it has “high confidence” that “Iraq possesses proscribed chemical and biological weapons and missiles” and “Iraq could make a nuclear weapon in months to a year once it acquires sufficient weapons-grad fissile material.”
2.) Read Bob Woodard’s account of then-CIA director’s George Tenet’s briefing of the George W. Bush on the eve of the Iraq war. According to the Washington Post journalist, Tenet told Bush that it was a “slam dunk case” that Iraq had W.M.D.s. Tenet later said he was taken out of context, but that doesn’t seem to be the case and, in any event, Tenet doesn’t deny he was fundamentally confident that Iraq possessed W.M.D.s.
3.) General Tommy Franks, who led the invasion of Iraq in 2003, writes in his book that he was not only told by Egyptian and Jordanian leaders that Iraq possessed W.M.D.s, he was also told that Saddam would use them against invading American troops.
4.) Former CIA agent Kenneth Pollock has noted that the world’s most vaunted intelligence agencies, including some of those who opposed the war in Iraq, all believed Saddam Hussein possessed W.M.D.s. These include the intelligence agencies of Germany, Israel, Russia, Britain, China and France.
5.) As President Obama contemplated whether to authorize the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, he was told by former CIA Deputy Director Mike Morell that the evidence indicating that Iraq had W.M.D.s before the Iraq war was “much stronger” than the evidence that bin Laden was living in the Abbottabad compound. “And I’m telling you, the case for W.M.D. wasn’t just stronger—it was much stronger,” he told the president.
6.) Morell also wrote in his recently released book: “The view that hardliners in the Bush administration forced the intelligence community into its position on W.M.D is just flat wrong. No one pushed. The analysts were already there and they had been there for years, long before Bush came to office.”
It’s true the Bush administration didn’t find stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq — at least to the extent it predicted — but as the evidence demonstrates, that’s not because it lied. It’s because the intelligence was wrong.
Reasonable people can attack the war in Iraq without sounding like Code Pink. Trump opted to go the conspiracy route. Unless South Carolina Republicans have gone full Michael Moore, you have to imagine that will hurt Trump to some extent in a state with a very large veterans population.
Then again, it’s Donald Trump we’re talking about, so who really knows? Republicans even seem to like Obamacare better when they are made to believe he supports it.