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  xThursday, October 16, 2003

cheney abandons deception...


...and traipses merrily into the Land of the Completely Absurd:
Lies beget more lies; a policy built on deception will always require further deception to sustain itself.

Case in point: The campaign by leading members of the Bush administration to rebuild faltering support for their invasion of Iraq. To hear them tell it, everything that has happened since last March has just proved how right they've been all along.

To cite just one example, consider a recent speech by Vice President Dick Cheney to the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington. Cheney is credited by many for having led President Bush, and by extension this country, into invading Iraq. So it's no surprise that he has been unflinching in defending that policy.

As he explained the rationale:

"We could not accept the grave danger of Saddam Hussein and his terrorist allies turning weapons of mass destruction against us or our friends and allies."

Of course, no such grave danger existed. Having failed to find any WMD, we know that now. More importantly, we knew it in the fall of 2002, when this push for war began. Even back then, the CIA was using terms such as "unlikely" and "low probability" to describe the odds of Saddam handing WMD to terrorists.

Somehow, "low probability" and "unlikely" were transformed into "grave danger." Claims about Saddam's nuclear program have followed a similar trajectory.

In January 2002, the CIA reported that Iraq's nuclear weapons program consisted of no more than low-level theoretical work, an assessment that time has proved quite accurate. Yet eight months later, Cheney was somehow claiming that Iraq was close to completing The Bomb.

In his Heritage speech, Cheney also described the prewar efforts to contain Saddam -- "12 years of diplomacy, more than a dozen Security Council resolutions, hundreds of U.N. weapons inspectors, thousands of flights to enforce the no-fly zones and even strikes against military targets in Iraq" -- and dismissed them as failures.

That too denies reality. In fact, multilateral efforts to contain and disarm Saddam had succeeded to a degree that few had imagined possible.

In 1991, Saddam had stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, production facilities to produce still more, and a maturing nuclear weapons program. By 1998, and certainly by 2003, he had none of those things.

Sanctions worked. Inspections worked.

Then Cheney got to the core of his argument:

"Another criticism we hear is that the United States, when its security is threatened, may not act without unanimous international consent. Under this view, even in the face of a specific agreed-upon danger, the mere objection of even one foreign government would be sufficient to prevent us from acting."

With that statement, Cheney abandons deception and traipses merrily into the Land of the Completely Absurd. Nobody -- not the Democrats, not the United Nations, not even the French -- makes the argument that he describes. It would be insane to do so.

Cheney invents that argument to support his larger point: After Sept. 11, the Bush administration at least did something, while its less-than-manly critics would have done nothing.

And that is the ultimate falsehood.
[Emphasis added]

The true policy choice is between actions that make things better for the United States and actions that make things worse. If we were to assess the invasion of Iraq on those grounds, the outcome would be something like this:

Saddam had no WMD, no nuclear program and no ties to al-Qaida. So invading Iraq did little or nothing to improve our security. It did, however, come at a cost that may take decades to fully tally.

The invasion has strained our alliances and international standing, making it difficult to draw support against real threats in North Korea and Iran. Our military is overextended. The financial toll is $150 billion and counting; the toll in U.S. lives continues to mount as well.

If the administration truly did expect all that, they are bigger fools than even their harshest critics have claimed.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution deputy editorial page editor Jay Bookman's column is simply superb and his observations spot-on. It's just too good to excerpt.

The question simply can't be asked often enough: if the Administration's case is so darn good, why does it need so much deception and invective to support it?

But beyond that is the larger point: A policy of preemptive war such as Bush advocated demands absolutely sterling intelligence and the utmost trustworthiness on the part of the executive. No one would argue that a nation doesn't have the right to defend itself from a real threat, but many would agree that a nation does not have the right to invade another on a hunch (indeed, it's staggering that anyone would support such a notion). By his and his Administration's continued mendacity and decieption, Bush has not only mired America in a bad strategic situation, but also discredited the very doctrine that he used to oust Saddam.

But let's face it...much of the jutification used by the hawks, including especially the so-called humanitarian argument, seem to extend to getting Saddam and no further. Which once again raises the question: If Bush simply wanted to get Saddam, why couldn't he have been honest about it? Simple: Because few would have agreed then, and most would likely balk now given how expensive in lives and treasure Bush's unilateral invasion has turned out to be.

(via Eschaton via Byzantium's Shores)





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