Taking part in a panel that posed the question “When Should America Go to War?” at the Conservative Political Action Conference Thursday, former United Nations ambassador for the U.S. John Bolton said that he believed the 2003 Iraq war was justified because it likely prevented Saddam Hussein’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon and potentially start a nuclear war.
Moderator, Fox News’ KT McFarland asked Bolton, “knowing what we know now” if the 2003 decision by the U.S. to invade Iraq was the right one.
“I think the war was correct, ” said Bolton.
“In 2001, Saddam was on the verge of getting out of U.N. sanctions and U.N. weapon inspectors were departing… He had kept together 3,000 nuclear scientists and technicians as the intellectual core of his nuclear weapons program… (without regime change) he would’ve been back in the nuclear weapons business instantly… (thanks to regime change) saving the world from a potential nuclear disaster.”
Bolton added, “That doesn’t mean there weren’t other potential disasters looming, but you got to take them one at a time.”
Finding “weapons of mass destruction” was a primary justification for going into Iraq in the lead up to the war. In 2002, President George W. Bush warned of a possible “mushroom cloud” should the U.S. fail to act.
Said President Bush at the time, “Saddam Hussein has held numerous meetings with Iraqi nuclear scientists, a group he calls his ‘nuclear mujahedeen’ — his nuclear holy warriors.” The WMDs the Bush administration warned about never materialized after the invasion and some have deemed the episode one of the greatest intelligence failures in U.S. history.
In addition to Bolton and moderator McFarland, the CPAC panel also included Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mon.) and The Heritage Foundation’s James Carafano.
When McFarland asked each panelist about the wisdom of deciding to go to war with Iraq in 2003, in retrospect, only Rep. Zinke thought the invasion was a mistake.