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  xMonday, June 16, 2003

tim dunlop explains it all


Kudos to The Road to Surfdom on one of the best posts I've yet seen on why Bush's lies about the Iraqi threat matter:
The idea that there were solid--what Jack calls realist--reasons for fighting this war and for Australia's involvement in it may well be true. The trouble is, they weren't made.

Instead we were told that Saddam had a weapons' stash so great and so powerful that it was imminent threat not just to the region but to the continental United States, indeed to the entire stability of the world. No scenario was too scary to invoke to let us know what Iraq was capable of with these weapons at their disposal.

All of that would probably hold if the premise also held, namely, if Iraq actually did have WMD as described pre-war.

Some months on from the end of the war and that claim is looking somewhere between a little far-fetched and the biggest lie told by a democratic government in living memory.

Now Jack's idea seems to be that we were stupid to believe it in the first place and he may well be right. But even that is not the point.

The point is that we were told it.

That twice-cooked good Christian man, George W. Bush; his less flamboyantly but equally willing-to-assume-the-moral-highground Australian equivalent, John Howard; and that robust Christian who prevails cherub-like in Westminster, Prime Minister Tony Blair, all stood hand-on-heart in front of the people they work for and told us it was so and sent the troops off to die on the strength of it.

Jack would like us to forget all that and just get on the hard and dirty task of...what? Well, making the world safe for democracy.

Democracy, you will remember, is that form of self-government that large, diverse states like the US, Britain and Australia necessarily use in its representative form.

Representative democracy is where the majority elect a group to do the day-to-day heavy-lifting of running the state in their name.

In their name means that those so elected are not a bunch of self-employed CEOs of 'Democracy Inc.' but individuals entrusted with protecting our interests.

Trust is something we, qute rightly, husband cautiously, and in order to do that we require our representatives to work through transparent institutions.

Transparent means the elected few have to come before us regularly and answer honestly any bloody question we might want to ask them, making themselves accountable for what they say and do.

Acountable means they have to be able to show us openly and often that they told us the truth.

Truth in this sense means there has to be a match between what they said was the case and what was actually the case.

Representative, accountable democratic government, therefore, comes down to the fact that elected individuals have to tell the truth about what they are doing in our name and if they don't, they either cease being our representatives or get their lying arses into jail, depending on the seriousness of the deception.

These conditions are non-negotiable. They are not something to be bent like a pipe-cleaner to fit the crevices of the latest political miscalculation. They are the thing through which we judge how well those who work for us are doing their job.

At this stage, we don't know if they lied, if they just got it wrong, or if something else happened. The reason we don't know is because they won't tell us. Until such time as they do, the only people burying their head in the sand are the ones who won't ask the questions in the first place.

Tim brings up a good point -- in the runup for the war, hawkish bloggers offered legions of reasons for the war. Even Bush and his minions tried any number of rationales in order to gain public support for the policy they'd obviously decided on long before. But none of that matters -- when you get right down to it, the legality of the war, aside from "the US is strong enough to do whatever it likes" -- was predicated on the idea of self defense against the threat Saddam allegedly posed. It's obvious now that Bush could not prove most of his statements today, when our forces more of less have the run of the country. It's reasonable to assume that he couldn't have had the proof he alleged back then. As Dunlop eloquently pointed out, it matters for democracy in this country and others that our leaders were honest and forthright in their publicly stated reasons for their coveted war. There will be those who are simply satisfied that we've ousted Saddam and by implication condone any amount of mendacity before the war. But their protests ring hollow -- they may claim to oppose the dictator Saddam, but they cede the cheif executive the powers of a tyrant. Such an argument is simply unconcionable.





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