All these assertions were disproved or rejected by the Duelfer report. Not only did Duelfer say Iraq had no weapons, but he said Hussein was interested in acquiring weapons because Iran, Iraq's longtime enemy, had its own weapons programs -- not because it wished to attack the United States.
Duelfer said that before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the sanctions on Iraq were eroding and that Hussein hoped to rebuild his programs if those sanctions were ever lifted. But the appetite for lifting the sanctions evaporated in the U.N. Security Council after Sept. 11, 2001, and Duelfer said Hussein had no formal written strategy or plan for restarting his programs.
White House officials said not attacking would have only delayed the inevitable. "The Duelfer report shows a clear choice: either remove Saddam when we did or fight him in the very near future, when he bribed enough others to bring down the sanctions and restart his WMD," Jim Wilkinson, deputy national security adviser, said.
The United States is still suffering from the diplomatic consequences of launching a war without explicit support from the U.N. Security Council. France had threatened a veto, but many smaller countries on the council also rejected a resolution authorizing force after the Bush administration refused to consider waiting a few more months -- or even weeks -- to give U.N. inspectors more time to assess whether Iraq still possessed banned weapons.
"This is a matter of weeks, not months," Bush had insisted six weeks before the attack was launched.
The result is that many countries that provided troops in the first Gulf War -- such as Canada, France, Germany, Pakistan and Syria -- refused to provide help either during this war or in its troublesome aftermath. A book published in France last week said France had been willing to commit as many as 15,000 troops, though a French official said the offer was contingent on the Security Council approving a resolution authorizing war after determining that Iraq had committed a "material breach" during the inspection process.
While the Duelfer report said that the prospect of Iraq escaping the sanctions faded after the Sept. 11 attacks, Bush took the opposite lesson.
Before Sept. 11 , "we were trying to fashion a sanction regime that would make it more likely to be able to contain somebody like Saddam Hussein," Bush told reporters on Jan. 31, 2003. "After September the 11th, the doctrine of containment just doesn't hold any water, as far as I'm concerned. . . . The strategic vision of our country shifted dramatically, and it shifted dramatically because we now recognize that oceans no longer protect us, that we're vulnerable to attack."