Iraq had WMDs.
From 2004 to 2011, American and American-trained Iraqi troops repeatedly encountered, and on at least six occasions were wounded by, chemical weapons remaining from years earlier in Saddam Hussein’s rule.
That question is immaterial to whether we should have invaded. The mere presence of them — common in many autocratic regimes throughout the world — was seen as a basis for attack, but too many insist that be the only hinge of the issue.
I cannot look through tweets about Syria, Iraq, etc without seeing folks throwing around the nonsense about Iraq and WMDs. No, they did not find any smoking guns. Saddam was hoping he would survive, and mostly destroyed his production capacity and stockpiles in the early/mid 90s.
But we knew Saddam had stashes and the capacity to start making them if things went totally south, as did everyone around him. He had used them. The CIA indicated they were “unable to rule out the possibility that WMD was evacuated to Syria before the war.” The Iraq Survey Group indicated “There was evidence of a discussion of possible WMD collaboration initiated by a Syrian security officer, and ISG received information about movement of material out of Iraq, including the possibility that WMD was involved. In the judgment of the working group, these reports were sufficiently credible to merit further investigation.”
That investigation never materialized nor did hard evidence of the claim, but this technicality of “not finding a smoking gun” (even though we discovered the equivalent of a disassembled yet poorly maintained gun and very little ammo) just became a (rather effective) jab for Democrats and left-leaning folks. That’s fair enough, given how they were hyped to beat the drums of war.
And it was politically and rhetorically effective in turning popular opinion against the war, but the real cost of the Iraq war was great enough to American lives, finances, and to the stability of the Middle East that the real story should be how we spent our most precious resources to make things worse. This is relevant to the Syria situation, although it is proving to be quite a bit different than Iraq circumstantially.
Saddam had component parts and, as any rational dictator sitting next to a vicious adversary as Iran was, wanted to always have the potential to develop tactical chemical weapons as a deterrent.
So stop the whole “Iraq didn’t have WMDs” farce. In military, stockpiled quantities? No, but that wasn’t out of his reach, and Saddam still had more than enough to kill a hell of a lot of people.
There are far better reasons to see the Iraq war as a mistake.