300,000 Troops Never Faced Risk of Instant Obliteration
Published: (AP) Aug 1, 2009
Ex-Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice reassured soldiers that the Bush Administration had known well before the invasion that Saddam Hussein lacked weapons of mass destruction.
“Now that all of you brave servicemen and women will be returning home soon, it’s important to us to reassure you, and the American people, that we were certain Hussein had no W.M.D.s and that he would never launch a first strike against the U.S.,” Ms. Rice told a group of wounded soldiers at a Veterans’ Administration hospital yesterday.
“I want you to know that if we had had the slightest suspicion that Saddam could use W.M.D.s against you, we never would have sent hundreds of thousands of you to be sitting ducks on the Iraqi border for several months.”
Mr. Rice was referring to the fact that by August 2002, eight months before the ground invasion, the US had over 100,000 troops stationed in countries throughout the Gulf, a number that grew to over 300,000 shortly before the 2003 attack on Baghdad. Most of these were within range of the Scud missiles used by Mr. Hussein in the 1991 Gulf War, that could easily have been fitted with chemical or biological weapons if they had existed.
Rice noted that in the 1991 Gulf War, Hussein had used missiles to launch attacks on Israel, which made him popular with Arab citizens throughout the Middle East.
“Do you really think we would have given Saddam a major public relations coup by allowing him to annihilate tens of thousands of you right there on holy territory?” asked Ms. Rice.
Former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger responded to Ms. Rice’s revelation without surprise. “Of course this was the case. When Israel believed Iraq had nuclear weapons in 1981, they didn’t attack on the ground — they bombed from the air. That’s a pre-emptive attack. If you believe deterrence will not prevent an attack and that your enemy has W.M.D.s, then the last thing you do is station your troops right next door.”
ABC’s George Stephanopoulos believes that it was former President Bush’s trial for high treason that spurred the revelations.
“There’s nothing to hide anymore,” said Ms. Rice. “We are relieved to finally be able tell you, the troops who fought for us, that we love our soldiers and we always have. We would never have put you in such obvious harm’s way.”
Ms. Rice also confirmed Secretary of Defense Scott Ritter’s revelation that he had provided the C.I.A. with documentation in the 1990s, when he was a U.N. weapons inspector, that Iraq lacked biological or nuclear weapons programs. “We were then already far more than 99 percent certain that Hussein had zero W.M.D.s and that if he did, he would not be able to use them against us.”