Jeffrey Hart of Dartmouth (my colleague at National Review)
has amassed a near encyclopedic document giving instances of what
he deems dissimulations by the administration and its supporters
in calling for war on Iraq. Norman Podhoretz defends the administration
thoroughly in Commentary magazine. Frank Rich of The
New York Times scathes up his weekly scorn; he is answered
by the New York Sun. Michael Kinsley appears in Slate,
the online magazine he founded, exercising his airborne syllogisms
in telling us what to do.
Here is my
reading on the Iraq question.
Democrats and Republicans, believed that Iraq had weapons of mass
destruction, some ready to fire, others being developed.
Here is a
brief item in Time magazine dated July 7, 2003, three
months after we conquered Baghdad: "Meeting last month at
a sweltering U.S. base outside Doha, Qatar, with his top Iraq
commanders, President Bush skipped quickly past the niceties and
went straight to his chief political obsession: Where are the
weapons of mass destruction? Turning to his Baghdad proconsul,
Paul Bremer, Bush asked, 'Are you in charge of finding WMD?' Bremer
said no, he was not. Bush then put the same question to his military
commander, Gen. Tommy Franks. But Franks said it wasn't his job
either. A little exasperated, Bush asked, So who is in charge
of finding WMD?"
That is not
how someone who was less than certain that they were there somewhere
would have deported himself.
the weapons of mass destruction were not there. Many public statements
by the president and vice president and others have been influenced
by the absence of the WMDs.
What is happening
is a conscious, and even conceivably unconscious, effort to distract
attention from ignoble failures of the intelligence community.
If one's handling of the history of the pre-war years is animated
by a desire to justify the military course that was taken, one
can maneuver words in such a way as to argue that the weapons
had every reason to be there. We knew, after all, that they had
existed as a part of the Saddam armory; that they had been used
10 times; that an Iraqi official had traveled to Niger, presumably
to attempt to initiate the purchase of yellowcake uranium.
We have feasted
on lamentations for being too late at critical moments in U.S.
history, too late on Dec. 6, 1941, too late on Sept. 10, 2001.
The sweep of such thought has encouraged defective rhetorical
joinerwork. President Bush suggested that Iraq's purportedly successful
nuclear program was now searching for uranium, implying that it
was operational, even though, after thorough investigation, the
International Atomic Energy Agency reported it inoperative as
ahead, Michael Kinsley (who was opposed to the war) reminds us
that "thousands of Americans died in Vietnam after America's
citizens and government were in general agreement that the war
was a mistake. We are now very close to that point of general
agreement in the Iraq war. Do you believe that if Bush, Cheney,
and company could turn back the clock, they would do this again?
And now, thanks to Rep. John Murtha, it is permissible to say,
or at least to ask, 'Why not just get out now? Or at least soon,
on a fixed schedule?'
are arguments against this -- some good, some bad -- but the worst
is the one delivered by Cheney and others with their most withering
scorn. It is the argument that it is wrong to tell American soldiers
risking their lives in a foreign desert that they are fighting
for a mistake.
strength of this argument is that it doesn't require defending
the war itself. The logic applies equally whether the war is justified
or not. Another strength is that the argument is true, in a way:
It is a terrible thing to tell someone he or she is risking death
in a mistaken cause. But it is more terrible actually to die in
that mistaken cause."
by divulging some thinking in the Pentagon that he might have
divined using nothing more than his agile brain: that the longer
the war goes on, the more people will die. "That is worth
keeping in mind while you try to decide whether American credibility
or Iraqi prosperity or Middle East stability can justify the cost
in blood and treasure. And don't forget to factor in the likelihood
that the war will actually produce these fine things."
We are now
very close to that point of general agreement in the Iraq war.