Earlier this month at a debate on President Bush’s legacy in New York, Karl Rove claimed that if the Bush administration had known before the war that Iraq did not possess WMD, the U.S. would likely not have invaded:
QUESTION: Had the intelligence been accurate prior to the invasion of Iraq, would the invasion have still taken place, in your view?
ROVE: No. … I suspect the administration’s course would have been to work to find more creative ways to constrain him than he’d been constrained in the nineties.
In a new interview with ABC News, however, Vice President Cheney disputed Rove’s assessment. Asked specifically about Rove’s comment, Cheney said that the U.S. would have invaded regardless of whether or not Saddam Hussein possessed WMD because he retained the “capability to produce weapons of mass destruction“:
CHENEY: As I look at the intelligence with respect to Iraq, what they got wrong was that there weren’t any stockpiles. What they found was that Saddam Hussein still had the capability to produce weapons of mass destruction. He had the technology, he had the people, he had the basic feed stock.
Cheney appears to be confusing “capability” with “desire.” Indeed, in 2004, the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) — which searched Iraq for Hussein’s supposed WMD stockpiles — concluded in a 1,000 page report that Iraq “had the desire but not the capability to create weapons that could attack the west” at the time of the U.S. invasion. Additionally, the ISG confirmed that Iraq’s WMD capabilities were “essentially destroyed” in the 1991 Gulf War:
Saddam wanted to recreate Iraq’s WMD capability—which was essentially destroyed in 1991—after sanctions were removed and Iraq’s economy stabilized, but probably with a different mix of capabilities to that which previously existed.
Five years later, Cheney still can’t bring himself to admit he was wrong about Iraq.