In 2002, the U.S. Congress narrowly rejected a resolution which would have empowered President George W. Bush to use military force against the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq if "all other options failed" to get the Iraqi dictator to surrender what the President insisted were his "vast" stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and allow the dismantling of his "aggressive" effort to build nuclear weapons. Among the reasons for the rejection was the argument, made forcefully by Sen. Howard Dean (D-VT), that its language left the decision as to when force would be necessary up to Mr. Bush. "Which means," Dean predicted, "as soon as the ink is dry".
Congress rejects Iraqi War Resolution by Eric LippsPolitical conservatives were furious at what they called a "surrender to a genocidal dictator" any of them--notably syndicated columnist William Safire--accused of direct complicity in the Sept. 11, 2001 terror bombings which had destroyed the World Trade Center and left 2,925 Americans dead. They predicted that economic sanctions, even if tightened, would fail to prevent Saddam from acquiring nuclear bombs, which, they speculated, he would then use against Israel or hand to Al Qaeda for a "nuclear 9-11".
In the 2004 presidential election, Republicans attempted to use Democratic nominee John Kerry's vote against the resolution as a weapon against him, accusing him of being "soft on terrorists" and hostile to Israel. The charge proved insufficient to prevent him from eking out one of the narrowest victories in U.S. presidential history.
In 2007, Saddam Hussein was assassinated. The successor Iraqi government, hoping to bring about a relaxation of the sanctions regime, allowed international inspectors to canvass the country in search of the WMDs and WMD-development facilities Bush had charged were there. Only a handful of relics from Saddam Hussein's earlier efforts, dating back to before the post-1991 imposition of international sanctions, were found despite an exhaustive search. Conservatives, however, continued to claim that the weapons had existed, and said they had simply been successfully hidden, perhaps by being smuggled into such other countries as Syria. No evidence was found to support the earlier claim that Saddam Hussein had been involved in Sept. 11.