Iraq Liars & Deniers: We Knew Then What We Know Now

By ilana mercer

“If we knew what we know today, we would not have gone into Iraq”: This is as good an apology Republicans vying for the highest office are willing to offer, 12 years after launching a war that was immoral and unjust from the inception—as some of us pointed out from the inception—cost trillions in treasure, tens of thousands of lives (American and Iraqi), and flouted America’s national interests.

The big reveal began with Jeb Bush, who told anchor Megyn Kelly that knowing what we know now about Iraq, he would absolutely still have invaded Iraq. Broadcaster Laura Ingraham was having none of it. With the benefit of hindsight, she had arrived at the belated conclusion that the invasion was wrong. Ingraham suggested that Bush III was insane for sticking to his guns about Iraq.

Next to disgrace was Sen. Marco Rubio, also in the running. Six weeks back, Rubio had been unrepentant about the catastrophic invasion. After The Shaming of Jeb, Rubio changed his tune.

The title of Judith Chalabi Miller’s “rehab book tour” is, “If we knew what we now know … .” Over the pages of the New York Times, Miller, the Gray Lady’s prized reporter had shilled for the Iraq war like there was no tomorrow. In her reporting, she channeled Ahmad Chalabi, an Iraqi conman who fed the moronic Miller with misinformation and lies about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The other conman was Bush II, president at the time. His administration assisted Miller—a woman already prone to seeing faces in the clouds—to tune-out and become turned-on and hot for war (also the title of a January 2003, “Return To Reason” column). No tale was too tall for our Judith; no fabrication too fantastic.

Miller’s “mistakes,” and those of America’s news cartel, are no laughing matter. But it took a Comedy Central icon to deconstruct her national bid for redemption. The fact that others were on board, Republicans and Democrats, is not exculpatory. Idiocy is bipartisan. Not everybody got it wrong. Miller and her ilk chose not to consult those who got it right.

Miller had company. The Fox News war harpies were certainly a dream come true for many American men. Who cared about honest reporting or basic fact-checking when a heaving bosom is yelling from the screen, “Sock it to Saddam, Dubya!”?

In any event, the meme, “If we knew what we know now, we would not have gone to war in Iraq,” is false; a lie. We most certainly knew what we know now as far back as 2002, which was when this column wrote:

Iraq is a secular dictatorship profoundly at odds with Islamic fundamentalism. No less an authority than the former head of the CIA’s counterterrorism office, Vincent Cannistraro, stated categorically that there was no evidence of Iraq’s links to al-Qaeda. Even the putative Prague meeting between Mohamed Atta, the ringleader of Sept. 11, and Iraqi intelligence, turned out to be bogus. … Iraq has been 95-percent disarmed and has no weapons of mass destruction, an assessment backed by many experts in strategic studies.

The column excerpted was published on September 19, 2002, in Canada’s national newspaper. On that day, the flirty notes and the gracious dinner invitations from America’s leading neoconservatives ceased.

Indeed, there were many experts, credible ones, who categorically rejected the contention that there were WMD in Iraq. But they were silenced; shut out by the media—the Hannities, the Millers, the dissidents, their handlers and their followers—none of whom should be allowed to deflect from the intellectual and moral corruption it took to invade a Third World country whose military prowess was a fifth of what it was when hobbled during the Gulf War, which had no navy or air force and was no threat to American national security.

Eleven years ago, “What WMD?”, courtesy of WND, documented the same old verities. No, not everyone was bullish about the Bush administration’s WMD balderdash. The International Atomic Energy Agency’s Dr. Mohammed ElBaradei told the U.N. Security Council before the war: There were no nuclear-designated aluminum tubes in Iraq; no uranium was imported, and no nuclear programs were in existence. Between 1991 and 1998, the IAEA had managed to strip Iraq of its fuel-enriching facilities, tallying inventories to a T. In David Kay’s late-in-the-day assessment, “Iraq’s large-scale capability to produce and fill new chemical weapons (CW) munitions was reduced, if not entirely destroyed, during Operation Desert Storm and Desert Fox and 13 years of U.N. sanctions and U.N. inspections.” Kay was the former top U.S. weapons inspector who endeared himself to the media as an invasion enthusiast.

According to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP), Congress in 1999 was privy to intelligence reports which similarly attested to a lack of “any direct evidence that Iraq has used the period since Desert Fox (1998) to reconstitute its WMD program.” Accounts of this nature had evidently been available to Congress for years. These reiterated, as one report from the Defense Intelligence Agency did, that, “A substantial amount of Iraq’s chemical warfare agents, precursors, munitions, and production equipment were destroyed between 1991 and 1998.”

“Kay’s news ought not to have been new to the blithering boobs in Congress,” I observed in 2004. The CEIP further bears out that in October of 2002, Congress was apprised of a National Intelligence Estimate, a declassified version of which was released only after the war. Apparently, entire intelligence agencies disputed key contentions that the administration—its experts, and its congressional and media backers—seized on and ran with.

While clearly pandering to policy makers, U.S. intelligence reports were still heavily qualified by conjectural expressions such as, “We believe Iraq could, might, possibly, and probably will.” The State Department and the White House, however, cultivated a custom of issuing Top Secret “fact” sheets with definitive statements from which all traces of uncertainty had been expunged.

Having categorically denied she possessed the analytical wherewithal to connect the dazzlingly close dots between terrorism and Arab men practicing their aeronautical take-off skills stateside—Condoleezza Rice was suddenly doing nothing but connecting disparate dots. She, Powell, Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush never stopped lying about a reconstituted Iraqi nuclear-weapons program, chemical and biological blights, Scuds and squadrons of unmanned aerial vehicles streaking U.S. skies, and traveling laboratories teeming with twisted scientists. The language they deployed ignored the deep dissent in the intelligence community.

All the above information addressing pre-war knowledge has been culled from WND’s early, Return to Reason columns.

In 2003, “Bush’s 16 Words Miss the Big Picture” beseeched our readers to “see Bush’s sub-intelligent case for war for what it was”:

The administration’s war wasn’t about a few pieces that did not gel in an otherwise coherent framework, it wasn’t about an Iraq that was poised to attack the U.S. with germs and chemicals rather than with nukes—it was about a resigned, hungry, economic pariah that was a sitting duck for the power-hungry American colossus.

By all means, the column implored, “dissect and analyze what, in September 2002, I called the lattice of lies leveled at Iraq: the uranium from Africa, the aluminum tubes from Timbuktu, the invisible meetings with al-Qaida in Prague, an al-Qaida training camp that existed under Kurdish—not Iraqi—control, as well as the alleged weaponized chemical and biological stockpiles and their attendant delivery systems that inspectors doubted were there and which never materialized.”

“But then assemble the pieces and synthesize the information, will you?”

“Rationalize With Lies,” moreover, dealt a blow to the creative post hoc arguments made to justify the unnecessary war the United States waged on a sovereign nation that had not attacked us, was no threat to us and was certainly no match for us. The argument:

“To say that Saddam may have had WMD is quite different from advocating war based on those assumptions. It’s one thing to assume in error; it’s quite another to launch a war in which tens of thousands would die based on mere assumptions, however widely shared. It was not the anti-war-on-Iraq camp that intended to launch a war based on the sketchy information it had. The crucial difference between the Bush camp and its opponents lies in the actions the former took.”

Second, it matters a great deal when during the last decade someone said Saddam was in possession of impermissible weapons. To have said so in 1991 is not the same as saying so in 2003, by which time Iraq had so obviously been cowed into compliance and was crawling with inspectors.

Naturally, at certain times during Iraq’s belligerent history, opponents of this war would have agreed Hussein had a weapons program. But by 1998, sensible people realized that Operation Desert Storm, followed by seven years of inspections, made the possibility of reconstituting such a program remote. President Jacques Chirac said as much to both Bush and Blair, who pretended not to hear.

To arrive at the correct conclusions about Bush’s undeniable delirium for war, it was necessary to employ facts and reality, Just War Theory developed by great Christian minds like St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine, the libertarian axiom which prohibits aggression against non-aggressors, the natural law and what the Founding Fathers provided:

“A limited, constitutional republican government, by definition, doesn’t, cannot and must never pursue what Bush and his neoconservatives were after: a sort of 21st-century Manifest Destiny.”

Republicans are still fond of presenting their opponents with the following false choice: “But what would you have done about Iraq?” they are in the habit of asking me. The assertion is intended to make you assume incorrectly that something had to be done about Iraq. However, “The burden of proof is on he who proposes the existence of something like WND, not on he who claims that it does not exist.” That line was penned 12 years ago.

In the early days, Iraq had provided “documentary intelligence from Naji Sabri, Saddam’s foreign minister, that Saddam did not have WMD.” I recall the derision and mockery with which the Bush administration and its hangers-on greeted what turned out to be the only truthful document in the sad saga of Iraq.


ILANA Mercer is a paleolibertarian writer, based in the United States. She pens WND’s longest-standing, exclusive paleolibertarian column, “Return to Reason.” She is a contributor to Junge Freiheit, a German weekly of excellence and is a fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies, an award-winning, independent, non-profit, free-market economic policy think tank. Ilana’s latest book is “Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons For America From Post-Apartheid South Africa.” Her website is She blogs at



  1. This is self congratulatory nonsense.

    Conservatives possess cognitive biases when subject to limited information, just as libertarians possess cognitive biases when subject to limited information. Libertarians also believe profoundly stupid things and we are currently the intentional targets of the Russian propaganda ministry precisely because they consider us ‘useful idiots’ who are ready willing and able to believe stupid things. Libertarians believe profoundly unscientific things such as the monopoly of the rational mind instead of the elephant(intuition)-rider(reason) model. Libertarians believe counter to our own logic that liberty is preferable to the majority, when it demonstrably is not, and logically is not – consumption and consistency is preferred, not liberty.

    I know these people. They believed it. They believed it because of their contextual framing and ideological bias. The Bush’s in particular are profoundly puritanical and not disposed to lying under any conditions. But they are, just as we are, subject to error, bias, folly, persuasion by ideologues and a preference for moral righteousness (punishment).

    Presidents look down the barrel of legacy. Bush neo-con reconstruction of Rome in under the anglo enlightenment fallacy, and Obama under the evils of white people (liberation theology) who should interfere less in the world.

    The evidence will play out over time. But under Obama it certainly appears that we were better off parenting the world into modernity at high personal cost than we were repeating the european blunder of rapidly dismantling the empire and creating strife in the world.

    Libertarianism is a modern and local philosophy without any experience or evidence in the conduct of international affairs. Conservatism is an ancient philosophy as old as western man, for the preservation of western man’s small numbers against more numerous, wealthy, and powerful competitors.

  2. Curt Dolittle: Your “reply” is a pack of self-serving horseshit.

    And as for “preserving Western man” pissing $3,000,000,000,000 dollars up the wall has made the fall of Western Man far more likely than it was before. The leftist shite being pumped out by American universities poses a far greater threat to the West than any Saddam ever did.

  3. For all that Doolittle says, the bottom line is that at the time it was transparent to mere “common sense” that the Iraq War was a solution in search of a problem; that the desire to invade was not a response to WMDs but that WMDs were the pretext for an invasion, and that this was simply something that the American administration wanted to do. We can never know the contents of another person’s mind, so we can only ever speculate about likely motivations. (I can know that Hitler wanted to exterminate the Jews, but never surely know why he did; we can only observe actions, not thoughts).

    The level of justifications used by Bush, Blair et al, if presented in everyday life, would be laughed at as absurdly threadbare. We knew that at the time, and we know it now. Was the motivation the self interest of Zionist Neocons, or was Little Bush personally trying to outdo his father by finishing what he failed to finish? Was it a belief in manifest destiny, or the tendency of governments to see the world as a game of Risk? Was it pressure from the “military industrial complex”, or just a policy that ran out of control with nobody to apply the brakes? Was it the simple demand from Americans that somebody, anybody, should pay for the gross national insult of 9/11?

    We can never really know. What we can be certain is that people saw through it at the time, but it happened anyway; that is the lesson from this (recent) history.

    • Ian,

      Well I agree. “All of the above.” That is different from calling them liars. They believe in their frame just as we believe in ours, and the left believes in theirs. Each of us justifies that moral bias. As far as I know, the left lies purposefully (for what they view as good reasons), and the rest of us are just wrong. The there was a lot of momentum behind the neo-cons and the conservative press was chanting it daily – going as far as calling for america to act as a new Rome. I kept a wall of articles at the time – amazed at it. The belief that the Arabs were ‘like us’ and ready and able to take on democracy now that communism had been crushed, was saturated in the literature. We were high on the fall of the wall. We had only one intel person on the inside of Iraq, and he was lying it turned out. When 9/11 came it made logical sense to them that it might be possible to democratize the Arab world on one hand, and to rid ourselves of the cost of policing Iraq after the gulf war. The justification was that if we toppled Iraq, that we could set an example for the rest of the region and leave the arabs to democracy now that the soviets and the Chinese were neutralized.

      These people were morally convinced that they were doing the right thing. Which is not too dissimilar from today’s Libertarians supporting Russian propaganda and conspiracy theories in order to justify their moral convictions. Common sense, and any knowledge of history would surely prohibit such nonsense – but it doesn’t.

      How can a rational person want to elect Hillary Clinton to the presidency? She’s one of the most corrupt people in America with decades of record after record of disregard for the law. The reason is we aren’t rational. We’re moral. And use reason to justify our moral biases.

      People act according to their moral intuitions. We all justify. Language functions as a tool of negotiation on behalf of our reproductive strategies. We struggle with truth and science because they are unnatural technologies. All of us. Thats why Democracy is the problem. Nomocracy is the only possible answer. Contracts, are possible not laws. The only possible law is voluntary exchange.


      PS: it is perhaps more obvious to expatriates, but ‘common sense’ varies dramatically from region to region. German common sense, anglo, canadian, australian and american are vastly different things. That is because our moral sensibilities differ. Urkainians have far more in common morally with Canadians than they do with Russians. Brits still cling to Burke’s morality of empire. American’s to Paine’s. Canadian’s to Trudeau’s. We signal with morals. Brits more so than the rest. Why?

  4. Curt says; ” Libertarians believe counter to our own logic that liberty is preferable to the majority, when it demonstrably is not, and logically is not – consumption and consistency is preferred, not liberty.”

    No, I think – to the last man (and woman!) – we believe the masses will follow whoever has the bread and circuses, and bollocks to liberty. This is why libertarians either a) despair and look to each other for comfort; or b) start prepping. Some claim to be laughing as western civilization collapses. Really, they are doing a) while secretly doing b). Some attempt to influence the political process. This is nothing more than a), usually with the belief that b) will be a waste of time, so what is there to lose?

    This article is a form of a). As such, it is speaking to the liberty minded, so is well within its rights to take the tone that ‘liberty is the ideal’. Just like the majority of libertarian literature, it is speaking to the tiny minority who already hold that position. Unless you are 19 and have just read your first Murray Rothbard book, you have long ago given-up on the idea of libertarianism spreading like wildfire, so your direction and tone becomes inward facing and self-referencing. At this point, we don’t feel the need to outline natural rights theory and the non-aggression principle before voicing a pro-liberty analysis. Taking an outsider perspective, I can perhaps see that such writing could appear to imply that liberty is a majority ideal, but to claim this is anything other than a misunderstanding or uninformed opinion from that outsider’s perspective is folly.

    • My own impression is that most people prefer liberty for themselves. The hard part is that they tend to fear the liberty of others.

      I think also that everyone, though they rarely recognise it, is a sociologist, or social philosopher. That is most people have quite strong ideas of the best way that people should be, and when they see others not behaving that way, have a tendency to want some power (State, church etc) “correct” them. The Puritans, Marxist, Socialists etc being, in our society, the right hand side of the bell curve in that regard.

  5. I think there is a connection (more than one) between the “leftist *****” (Mr Ecks) and the neo-cons, viz. the imputation of racism to anyone who opposed them. “You mean to say you don’t think these people deserve a democracy?” was the implied argument. Nearly all western discourse is a pseudo-religious phenomenon designed to ward off the obvious, that tribal identity trumps everything else. That’s why it was never going to work. The reason no one wants to face this truth is that the consequences are unbearable, especially when you have junked your own tribal identity (“modernity”, as Mr Doolittle calls it).
    Whatever the sincerity of the people concerned, I find it difficult to accept the word “puritanical” for people who were willing to break the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” for such nebulous ends, even if they were determined not to “bear false-witness” while doing so. How any adult who took their morality seriously could believe that “good” could come from the use of extreme, high-tech, violence against thousands of innocents I do not understand. I can understand the need to be tough, but the Second Iraq War was an un-Christian act and was obviously so from its inception.

  6. “You are a Shit Spotter. It’s satisfying work. … We have observed that most of the trouble in the world has been caused by ten to twenty percent of folks who can’t mind their own business, because they have no business of their own to mind, any more than a smallpox virus. Now your virus is an obligate cellular parasite and my contention is that evil is quite literally a virus parasite occupying a certain brain area which we may term the RIGHT center. The mark of a basic shit is that he has to be right. And right here we must make a diagnostic distinction between the hard-core virus-occupied shit and a plain, ordinary, mean no-good son of a bitch. Some of these sons of bitches don’t cause any trouble at all, just want to be left alone.”

    “The Place Of Dead Roads‎” (1983), p. 155 William S Burroughs

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