If a man says he has a gun, acts like he has a gun, and convinces everyone around him he has a gun, and starts waving it around and behaving recklessly, the police are justified in shooting him (even if it turns out later he just had a black bar of soap). Similarly, according to the Duelfer report, Saddam seems to have intentionally convinced other countries, and his own generals, that he had WMDs. He also convinced much of the U.S. government. If we reacted accordingly and he turns out not to have had WMDs, whose fault is that? Why doesn’t Bush make that argument–talking about Saddam’s actions in the years before the U.S. invasion instead of Saddam’s “intent” to have WMDs at some point in the future? (It wouldn’t necessarily make the Iraq war prudent, but it would make Americans feel more comfortable about it than what Bush has been telling them.)
Indeed, I think Kaus is onto something here. The whole idea that “Bush lied!” is ridiculous – it assumes that A:) Bush magically knew that Iraq didn’t have WMDs and B:) he’d still go to war anyway. Let’s face it, if Bush were such a Machiavellian figure that he’d “mislead” us into war, he damn sure could make sure we found WMDs in Iraq. It’s not that hard to come up with some vials of anthrax and conveniently place them in some Iraqi lab. If Bush were as evil as the left accuses him of being, we wouldn’t be talking about any report finding no sign of WMDs.
It’s becoming clearer that Saddam Hussein was behaving like a paranoid dictator – which meant that he wasn’t about to let anyone know what was really going on. Did he really destroy his WMD stocks? It’s a possibility. However, the onus was always on Hussein to prove that he did so. He didn’t. Like Kaus’ hypothetical gunman, he continued to act like he had a gun. Not only did he fool his own people, but also every intelligence agency in the world. Again, if Bush “lied” so did John Kerry, John Edwards, UNSCOM, Jacques Chirac, Hosni Mubarak, the Jordanians, the Russians, and everyone else. The whole “Bush lied!” argument is massively incoherent – not that such inconsistancies will stop it from being used.
At the end of the day, Saddam Hussein was not in compliance with the demands placed on him. That much is clear. It is also clear that he was indeed preparing to restart his WMD program. It is clear that the sanctions were not working.
If those who oppose the war want to do so honestly, they should call for Saddam Hussein to be placed back into power. If you find a wallet that someone else stole, you’ve no moral right to take the money, and if you believe that the war in Iraq was innately immoral, you’ve no right to say that it’s good that Saddam Hussein is gone. Either the removal of Saddam Hussein is a prima facie good or it is not. Saying that it’s good that Saddam Hussein is gone is fine and true – but then saying that it was wrong to depose him is hypocrisy. Those who do so are trying to have it both ways.
UPDATE: Jonah Goldberg has similar thoughts to mine in National Review Online:
And speaking of the victim, if it’s in fact true that Bush offered no rationale for the war other than WMDs, why shouldn’t we simply let Saddam out of his cage and put him back in office? We can even use some of the extra money from the Oil-for-Food program to compensate him for the damage to his palaces and prisons. Heck, if John Edwards weren’t busy, he could represent him.
I’m serious. If this whole war was such a mistake, such a colossal blunder, based on a lie and all that, not only should John Kerry show the courage to ask once again “How do you tell the last man to die for a mistake?” but he should also promise to rectify the error. And what better, or more logically consistent, way to solve the problem Bush created? Kerry insists it was wrong to topple Saddam. Well, let’s make him a Weeble instead. Bush and Saddam can walk out to the podiums and explain that his good friend merely wobbled, he didn’t fall down. That would end the chaos John Kerry considers so much worse than the status quo ante. And if the murderer needs help getting back in the game, maybe the Marines can cut off a few tongues and slaughter a couple thousand Shia and Kurds until Saddam’s ready for the big league again. That will calm the chaos; that will erase the crime.