“Think,” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld enjoined the Senate Armed Services Committee last week. “It took us 10 months to find Saddam Hussein. The reality is that the hole he was found hiding in was large enough to hold enough biological weapons to kill thousands of human beings.”
OK, and therefore what exactly?
That the missing weapons must exist somewhere in their own undiscovered spider hole?
That there was no “intelligence failure,” let alone an outright deception to push us into war with Iraq?
That there’s no problem with our intelligence collection and analysis?
Mr. Rumsfeld’s little lecture in how to think not only flubs its own test but is outright dangerous in refusing to acknowledge what almost everyone else in the world now knows was wrong and what many have come to see was not a blunder but a lie.
No, weapons inspectors have not searched every single spider hole, closet, attic, basement, garage, kitchen cabinet, or drainage ditch in Iraq, and yes, it remains possible that such unexamined spaces might contain the missing weapons.
By precisely the same logic, hunters of the Loch Ness monster and similar bogeys claim those creatures exist, and it’s a logic that is unanswerable because no one can prove they don’t.
But the point is that arguments that cannot be refuted or verified are not therefore right. They are simply meaningless.
For the Secretary of Defense to sit before a Senate committee and utter the sort of transparently foolish arguments Mr. Rumsfeld did last week should tell us something about this administration, but probably no more than what we learned long ago. It tells us that the administration is not only willing to hopscotch with the truth and continue doing so long after everyone else knows the truth but also is willing to insult the intelligence of the public in doing so.
If contriving to push this country into an unnecessary and unjustified war that continues to this day, which shows little sign of ending and has already claimed the lives of more than 500 Americans is not insult enough, sitting in front of senators and the American people and babbling nonsense a schoolchild can see through ought to earn Mr. Rumsfeld a demotion to doorkeeper.
Yet what he argued was only a bit more brazen than what better heads in the administration are offering as justification of the war. Interviewed by the Washington Post last week Secretary of State Colin Powell made a more belabored but no less flawed argument than his Pentagon counterpart.
Mr. Powell argued that “to talk about a threat, you have to look at the intent and you have to look at capabilities, and two of them together constitute a threat.”[The Right Thing to Do]
Well, maybe, but the point is there is no evidence at all that Saddam Hussein had any intent to attack the United States or anyone else in the last 13 years or so, and not very much evidence of any real capacity to do so even if he wanted.
Mr. Powell’s case for “intent” is that Saddam once used poison gas against Iran and “his own people.” Sorry, but that doesn’t prove he intended to use it against the United States. Morals aside, there are very compelling practical reasons why Saddam would have been ill-advised to use poison gas against the United States, and nobody has ever suggested that Saddam was too stupid or crazy to understand them.
Attacking Kurds and Iranians is one thing; the United States, another.
Then there’s “capability,” which is even less persuasive. Mr. Powell says “capability” involves “intellectual ability” to produce the weapons and the “technical infrastructure” able to do it, and Saddam had both.
Granting that he did, there is still the little matter of adequate production systems and delivery systems. And even granting all that, there are still any number of alternatives to full-scale war, from diplomacy and pressures to limited military strikes.
The United States would have been justified in going to war with Iraq if Iraq had been shown to possess a real, present capacity to attack us and was planning to do so imminently. Neither was shown before the war, and they have not been shown today, and even Mr. Powell doesn’t claim they were.
What has been shown is that the claims that were made were untrue, and what is clear is that those who made those claims the loudest refuse to acknowledge they were wrong or to examine why they were wrong.
As long as that mentality of willful blindness prevails, this administration is incapable of recognizing the real threats the country faces and protecting it from them.
And that is a far greater danger to the United States than anything Saddam Hussein ever intended to do to it or was capable of doing.