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  xWednesday, July 09, 2003

iraq op-ed two-fer


Here are a couple of comments on Bush's dishonesty pushing his coveted war on Iraq. The first is by David Corn in The Nation, who points out that demanding acocuntability from this Administration leads to the inescapable conclusion that Bush and crew misled the nation on the eve of war.
Before the war, there was little doubt that Hussein had a fancy for mass-killing weapons and was defying UN disarmament resolutions in part to maintain programs to develop such awful devices. Yet a desire for WMDs and a development program are not as threatening as the real things, and Bush and his colleagues said the intelligence showed--without question--Hussein was armed with biological and chemical weapons, was close to building a nuclear bomb, and was in league with Osama bin Laden. Kerr's comments offer further proof none of this was true.

...Perhaps Kerr is right and that US intelligence analysts had good cause--if not good evidence--to conclude that Hussein was still on the prowl for WMDs. A cynic, though, might wonder whether this former senior CIA official (who was a longtime analyst for the agency) is being overly kind to his alma mater. Nevertheless, the issue at hand is what Bush and his administration told the public. Kerr's remarks add to the case against Bush. They are another signal that thorough investigations could end up establishing that the accusation that Bush lied needs no qualifiers or caveats.

(via TalkLeft)

The second is by Doug Bandow, a fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute, writing in the Christian Science Monitor to chide conservatives for violating their principles through their unquestioning support of Bush.
[T]he longer we go without any discoveries, the more questionable the prewar claims appear to have been. The allies have checked all of the sites originally targeted for inspection, arrested leading Baath Party members, and offered substantial rewards for information. Even in Hussein's centralized regime, more than a few people must have known where any WMD stocks were hidden or transferred and would be able to help now.

Which means it is entirely fair to ask the administration, where are the WMD? The answer matters for the simplest practical reasons. Possible intelligence failures need to be corrected. Washington's loss of credibility should be addressed; saying "trust me" will be much harder for this president in the future or a future president.

Stonewalling poses an even greater threat to our principles of government. It matters whether the president lied to the American people. Political fibs are common, not just about with whom presidents have had sex, but also to advance foreign-policy goals. Remember the Tonkin Gulf incident, inaccurate claims of Iraqi troop movements against Saudi Arabia before the first Gulf war, and repetition of false atrocity claims from ethnic Albanian guerrillas during the Kosovo war.

Perhaps the administration manipulated the evidence, choosing information that backed its view, turning assumptions into certainties, and hyping equivocal materials. That, too, would hardly be unusual. But no president should take the US into war under false pretenses. There is no more important decision: The American people deserve to hear official doubts as well as certitudes.

The point is not that the administration is necessarily guilty of misbehavior, but that it should be forced to defend its decisionmaking process.

Pointing to substitute justifications for the war just won't do. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz notes that the alleged Al Qaeda connection divided the administration internally, and humanitarian concerns did not warrant risking American lives. Only fear over Iraqi possession of WMD unified the administration, won the support of allies, particularly Britain, and served as the centerpiece of the administration's case. If the WMD didn't exist, or were ineffective, Washington's professed case for war collapses.

Conservatives' lack of interest in the WMD question takes an even more ominous turn when combined with general support for presidential warmaking. Republicans - think President Eisenhower, for instance - once took seriously the requirement that Congress declare war. These days, however, Republican presidents and legislators, backed by conservative intellectuals, routinely argue that the chief executive can unilaterally take America into war.

Thus, in their view, once someone is elected president, he or she faces no legal or political constraint. The president doesn't need congressional authority; Washington doesn't need UN authority. Allied support is irrelevant. The president needn't offer the public a justification for going to war that holds up after the conflict ends. The president may not even be questioned about the legitimacy of his professed justification. Accept his word and let him do whatever he wants, irrespective of circumstances.

This is not the government created by the Founders. This is not the government that any believer in liberty should favor.

(via Eschaton)

Interesting stuff. As I said repeatedly during the "debate" in the run-up to the war (I use quotes because I have no doubt it was entirely an academic exercise; I am convinced Bush intended to attack Iraq no matter what), going to war is a situation of such gravity as to demand the utmost candor. Hingeing one's desire to attack on some radical theory of "prevention" demands the absolute gold standard in both intelligence and the forthright presentation.

Some conservatives and war supporters I know view the war as a fait accompli and thus couldn't care less how Bush maneuvered the country into this predicament. They got what they wanted, and it was a Good Thing, and the ends, therefore, justified the means.

But it's obvious that Bush simply could not have had the evidence to back up the repeated assertions of himself and his minions. That matters, both as a matter of principle and as a direct influence on US national security. Shame on the reflexive Bush supporters who condone the President's mendacity that continues to cost American lives and treasure.





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