For over a year before George Bush and Dick Cheney sent Americans into Iraq to protect this country from the ‘gathering threat’ that was Iraq, they were telling the world that they had proof of weapons stockpiles and programs. They made declarative statements such as, “Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.” (8/26/02, Dick Cheney to VFW National Conference) and “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.” (3/17/03, George Bush Address to the Nation). Yet some three years after the preemptive invasion of Iraq, the Vice President says, “We never had the burden of proof....” (11/21/05, Dick Cheney Speech to American Enterprise Institute) Indeed, he insists that the burden of proof was on Saddam Hussein to prove weapons did not exist.
At every turn Saddam insisted that there were no weapons or remaining programs. Former UN weapons inspector, Scott Ritter insisted that there were no weapons or programs since shortly after the Gulf War. Hans Blix, UN weapons inspector on the ground in Iraq up to the time of the US invasion, said before the UN in February of 2003, “How much, if any, is left of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and related proscribed items and programmes? So far, UNMOVIC has not found any such weapons, only a small number of empty chemical munitions, which should have been declared and destroyed.” As a matter of fact, on February 24, 2001 Secretary of State Colin Powell said in Cairo, Egypt, “[Saddam] has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction.” Yet on March 19th 2003, George Bush determined that the time had come to employ “the last resort” and take military action against Iraq. Did George Bush listen to or even acknowledge a dissenting voice in the run up to the invasion? Did he and Dick Cheney have some specific knowledge that inspectors on the ground could not have? We may never know because Dick Cheney now says, “We never had the burden of proof...”
I’m not sure where Dick Cheney thinks he is but in the America where I grew up, the burden of proof rested on the accuser, not the accused. Certainly this is most imperative in the case of preemptive war. To be preemptive means that you are attempting to prevent something from occurring. To be successful in that endeavor, one should then produce evidence that he actually prevented something. In the case of Iraq, we were told Iraq had the capability to do harm to our country if we did not invade. Where now is the evidence that justifies the use of preemptive force? We have seen Saddam’s proof. Where is Dick Cheney’s?
The burden of proof is a heavy load. As of today, some 2097 Americans have died in Iraq. They have carried the burden. Some 30,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed as a result of bullets, bombs, lack of medicine, fresh water, electricity, and security. They too have carried the burden. 15,000 Americans have returned from Iraq having lost limbs, eyesight, mental capacity, and probable hidden illness from exposure to depleted uranium. They continue to carry the burden. The only people who have not carried any burden are the members of the Bush administration who ordered a preemptive invasion of Iraq based on erroneous intelligence about weapons of mass destruction. Isn’t it time for some burden sharing?
Chad (The Left) Shue