UPDATE: be sure to read the clarification at the bottom of this post.
From Al Gore's speech to the Commonwealth Club, given on September 23, 2002. To be fair, I must mention that this speech is fundamentally critical of the Bush '43 administration. However, note the facts that Gore states as if they are established beyond doubt:
Nevertheless, all Americans should acknowledge that Iraq does indeed pose a serious threat to the stability of the Persian Gulf region, and we should be about the business of organizing an international coalition to eliminate his access to weapons of mass destruction. Iraq's search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to completely deter, and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power....
What makes Saddam dangerous is his effort to acquire weapons of mass destruction....
Here's why I say that; we know that he has stored away secret supplies of biological weapons and chemical weapons throughout his country. [emphasis mine--ChuckB]
In fact, so certain is Gore that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, that the paragraph containing the last excerpt above is a sustained argument against the danger of conquering Iraq easily and then abandoning it too soon, thereby making it a simple matter for Islamicist terrorists to acquire the weapons:
What if in the aftermath of a war against Iraq, we face a situation like that because we washed our hands of it? What would then happen to all of those stored reserves of biological weapons all around the country? What if the Al Qaeda members infiltrated across the borders of Iraq the way they are in Afghanistan? Then the question wouldn't be, Is Saddam Hussein going to share these weapons with the terrorist group? The terrorist groups would have an enhanced ability to just walk in there and get them.
So why is Gore so certain that Saddam's Iraq possessed WMD? Could it be that he was duped, along with Congress, into believing the Bush administration's lies? That's hardly plausible, considering that he spent 8 years as Bill Clinton's VP: an intelligent man with access to the fruits of the world's best (we thought) intelligence services. The only plausible source I can see for these convictions is his knowledge of our intelligence while in the Clinton Administration.
To anyone who thinks Gore would have made a better president than Bush--let's grant for the sake of argument that he would have handled 9/11 better than Bush: I challenge you to give a plausible account of Gore's certainty about the existence of and the threat posed by Iraq's WMD in 9/20002. Had he won the election, would Gore the President have held a different view about Iraq's WMD in 9/2002 than Gore the private citizen actually did in 9/2002? If he would have held a different view, tell me what you think would have changed his mind.
I make this challenge not in the expectation that it cannot be answered. If someone can answer it plausibly, then perhaps I can learn something. In any case, it does seem to me that if Gore was rational in expressing such certainty in 9/2002 that Iraq possessed WMD sufficient to pose a serious threat to U.S. security, then Bush was also rational to express (and to believe) the same in 9/2002. If Bush was lying about Iraq's WMD in 9/2002, so was Gore.
(Note that this is not the tu quoque fallacy, since I am not arguing against Gore's views or trying to vindicate Bush's views based on the fact that Bush & Gore both thought Iraq had WMD. I am simply asserting that either (a) Gore & Bush both formed their views either by consuming the same intelligence data, or (b) they both lied.)
Hat-tip to Third Superpower for turning me on to the Gore speech.
CLARIFICATION: I realize now that the points I'm trying to make in this posting are not all that clear--my apologies. I'm not trying to vindicate Bush's policies or decision to go to war. I am content to let history be his judge, and it is not at all clear to me at this point how kind or harsh she will be. I am not suggesting that Gore supported Bush's policies or his decision to go to war. As I briefly noted, and as Blake's comment makes clear, the Commonwealth Club speech is quite critical of Bush, and he may well turn out to be right on many counts. I'm not arguing that the Bush administration did not exaggerate the threat Iraq posed--they probably did. I'm not saying that Gore considered Iraq an immanent threat to the U.S. Nor do I wish to suggest at all that Gore is unpatriotic for criticizing Bush or opposing the War in Iraq. Furthermore, Gore obviously had at that time vastly more experience in foreign affairs than Bush did. I'm not even arguing that Bush is a better president than Gore would have been.
My chief point is that, in September 2002, Gore felt warranted in saying that "we know" that Saddam Hussein has WMD scattered all over Iraq. Why did he feel warranted in saying this? If he wasn't persuaded that he had adequate reason for asserting this, he had no business saying it. I am certain he felt quite warranted in saying that "we know". And if he was warranted in maintaining this (however different, and possibly better, his strategy for tackling the problem), then so was Bush. And if you have any doubt about "what everyone knew", consider this page.
The fact that Gore said these things in a speech criticizing Bush's policies only strengthens my contention. If he had any substantial doubts about WMD, would he not have used those doubts as a further means of undermining Bush's position and possibly deterring him from a dangerous course of action?
That is the salient point I am making. The wider point concerns what seems to me to be a sort of revisionism that posits that Bush and his folks were the only ones who thought Iraq had WMD, and that no-one else suffered under that delusion. This view, is, it seems to me, untenable, and it is harmful insofar as people make judgements about the political future of this nation based on it.