The Chicago Tribune has an in-depth analysis of the Bush Administration’s rationales for war against the Hussein regime in 2003 compared to what we now know to have been the case. After weighing the evidence their conclusion is that the “Bush lied” argument holds no water:
After reassessing the administration’s nine arguments for war, we do not see the conspiracy to mislead that many critics allege. Example: The accusation that Bush lied about Saddam Hussein’s weapons programs overlooks years of global intelligence warnings that, by February 2003, had convinced even French President Jacques Chirac of “the probable possession of weapons of mass destruction by an uncontrollable country, Iraq.” We also know that, as early as 1997, U.S. intel agencies began repeatedly warning the Clinton White House that Iraq, with fissile material from a foreign source, could have a crude nuclear bomb within a year.
Seventeen days before the war, this page reluctantly urged the president to launch it. We said that every earnest tool of diplomacy with Iraq had failed to improve the world’s security, stop the butchery–or rationalize years of UN inaction. We contended that Saddam Hussein, not George W. Bush, had demanded this conflict.
Many people of patriotism and integrity disagreed with us and still do. But the totality of what we know now–what this matrix chronicles– affirms for us our verdict of March 2, 2003. We hope these editorials help Tribune readers assess theirs.
The whole “Bush lied” argument is a completely facile and utterly groundless one. Time after time it’s been demolished into the ground by every investigation into the matter from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to the Butler Inquest in the UK. The idea that Bush deliberately manipulated intelligence to “fix” the case for war is less an example of a rational reading of the facts and more a sign of the resurgence of The Paranoid Style in American Politics – this time on the part of an increasingly radicalized left. The idée fixé that Bush somehow “misled” the nation into war is nothing more than an ideological crutch for the left to justify the fact that they have lost control of the levers of power in the country. By convincing themselves that they are the “reality based community” and everyone else is a bunch of deluded fools, it justifies their ideology despite the fact that it keeps losing.
As much as the partisan in me relishes the continued self-destruction of the Democratic Party, the anti-Bush line has become increasingly anti-American as well – and a responsible opposition party is what is good for the country.
The fact is that the evidence as of 2003 led to the conclusion that Saddam Hussein was systematically in violation of UN disarmament resolutions, that the Hussein regime was developing technologies in violation of UN sanctions including missiles with a range greater than 150km, and that the Hussein regime was a tyrannical and thoroughly evil regime. While the WMD evidence was shoddy and based on poor sourcing, that is part of a larger problem of US intelligence, and not some evidence of malevolent intent on the part of the Bush Administration.
The argument that “Bush lied” or that Bush “misled” us into war is not a coherent or supportable argument. Yet there’s little doubt that it won’t be going away any time soon. It’s simply too easy to engage in partisan cheap shots than to rationally deal with this war, it’s beginnings, and its consequences. There are rational arguments that say that the war in Iraq was a mistake, but those rational arguments have been drowned out in an unending time of infantile partisan attacks. Not only that, but the anti-war side often used Iraq’s non-existent WMDs to argue against the war, stating that Saddam would use those weapons and widen the war across the Middle East.
I’ve long said that history will judge the Iraq War far more dispassionately and far more positively than its contemporary critics. The fall of the Hussein regime has already been a seminal event in the region, and if successful will remake the map and dramatically alter the political and social trends in the Middle East. Granted, Iraq could fall tomorrow, but the prophets of doom continue to utterly miss the shape of events in Iraq. Even the results of this disputed election are being resolved in negotiations rather than sectarian battles, and the idea of Iraq becoming a theocracy is contradicted by a Constitution which gives full social and political rights to women and enshrines the basic concepts of pluralism and democracy.
Critics of the war owe it to themselves and to the nation than to do better than the juvenile partisan attacks that they’ve been continually launching. The same arguments rehashed ad nauseam aren’t working – if the anti-war faction wants to be taken seriously they have to behave in a serious manner, and the constant claims of “lying” or “misleading” only reveal a profound lack of seriousness.