To build its case for war with Iraq, the Bush administration argued that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, but some officials now privately acknowledge the White House had another reason for war â a global show of American power and democracy.
Hmmmm. I feel like I've heard someone else
Officials inside government and advisers outside told ABCNEWS the administration emphasized the danger of Saddam's weapons to gain the legal justification for war from the United Nations and to stress the danger at home to Americans.
"We were not lying," said one official. "But it was just a matter of emphasis."
The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks changed everything, including the Bush administration's thinking about the Middle East â and not just Saddam Hussein.
Senior officials decided that unless action was taken, the Middle East would continue to be a breeding ground for terrorists. Officials feared that young Arabs, angry about their lives and without hope, would always looking for someone to hate â and that someone would always be Israel and the United States.
Europeans thought the solution was to get a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. But American officials felt a Middle East peace agreement would only be part of the solution.
The Bush administration felt that a new start was needed in the Middle East and that Iraq was the place to show that it is democracy â not terrorism â that offers hope.
The Bush administration wanted to make a statement about its determination to fight terrorism. And officials acknowledge that Saddam had all the requirements to make him, from their standpoint, the perfect target.
Other countries have such weapons, yet the United States did not go to war with them. And though Saddam oppressed and tortured his own people, other tyrants have done the same without incurring U.S. military action. Finally, Saddam had ties to terrorists â but so have several countries that the United States did not fight.
But Saddam was guilty of all these things and he met another requirement as well â a prime location, in the heart of the Middle East, between Syria and Iran, two countries the United States wanted to send a message to.