It must be difficult for President Bush’s speechwriters to keep coming up with plausible reasons as to why the United States should have gone to war with Iraq, but the White House wordsmiths surely earn their salaries.
The reasons his speechwriters gave him were as fanciful as anything the CIA and the Pentagon ever offered.
We were right to go into Iraq, the president insisted, “although we have not found stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.”
Stockpiles? We haven’t even found a teacup of the weapons Mr. Bush and his advisers swore existed.
But the main reason it was right for us to “go into Iraq,” according to the speechwriters, is that “America and the world are safer.”
Are they really? Tell that to the good folks of Madrid or Bali or Istanbul or Saudi Arabia or Casablanca or various other places around the world that have received the attentions of the global terrorist network Mr. Bush’s war has helped crystallize and unify.
Even as Mr. Bush was telling voters they were safer, his own administration was warning of terrorist attacks in this country before the elections.
We are not safer now than before the war because the war accomplished absolutely nothing to deter or destroy the terrorists who carried out the 9/11 attacks and others. Indeed, the war with Iraq did much to solidify the terrorists of Al Qaeda with the discontented masses of the Arabic and Muslim world, so that today we face virtually two continents united in hatred of the United States, in addition to millions of Middle Eastern immigrants the West has foolishly allowed to invade its own territories.
But of course Mr. Bush had to say something, and what else can he say at this point to defend the war, after virtually every reason he and his administration originally offered in justification has been proved false—most recently by the release last week of the report of the Senate Intelligence Committee, a body controlled by his own party? [Report PDF —23 megabytes!]
The report found that the intelligence estimates of October, 2002 claiming that Iraq was rebuilding its nuclear capacities and that it possessed chemical and biological weapons were “overstated or were not supported by the underlying intelligence reporting.”
Nor were claims of Iraqi support for Al Qaeda accurate. Estimates of the 1990s pointing to relations between Iraq and the terrorists “did not add up to an established formal relationship,” and “there was no evidence proving Iraqi complicity or assistance in an Al Qaeda attack.”
Yet even today the administration and its water-fetchers in the conservative press insist that there was such an alliance.
The last conclusion of the Intelligence Committee is perhaps more questionable. It holds that there is no evidence of “pressure” from the administration on the CIA to come up with the interpretations it wanted.
The conclusion is questionable because the estimates the intelligence community offered always just happened to come out the way the White House and its war party wanted. Incompetence tends to be random, and if the spy agencies were so crippled that they repeatedly missed the intelligence they should have had or misinterpreted what they did have, the estimates they offered would not all have pointed in the same direction.
Moreover, there was clear opportunity for pressure. As TheWashington Post reported, the public White Paper the CIA produced that was based on its classified National Intelligence Estimate originated in a meeting between CIA Deputy Director (now acting Director) John McLaughlin and National Security Council staffers, apparently in May, 2002. The NSC boys requested the White Paper, and Mr. McLauchlin rushed back to Langley and got busy. [Report Says CIA Distorted Iraq Data By Dana Priest, July 12, 2004]
At that meeting alone, not to mention any other communications CIA officials may have had with the administration, “pressure” was virtually unavoidable, if today entirely unprovable. The war party inside the administration wanted and needed justifications for the war that could be offered to the public, and the CIA leadership knew that’s what they wanted.
There can be no reasonable doubt that the tidy and convenient little estimates the agency finally came up with were exactly what they were supposed to produce.
And what that means is that the administration deliberately lied about the justifications for the war.
What this administration has done is not only concoct a tissue of lies to drag us into a war we should not have fought but also help unite the enemies we already had before the war and help solidify them with new enemies the administration has helped create.
In the election campaign that looms before us, it will be fascinating to hear how the president’s speechwriters will explain and justify that accomplishment.