Tuesday, June 24, 2003

More on the WMD deception. Can the Bush administration's deceptions about Iraq's weapons-of-mass-destruction capabilities blossom into a real issue? (I don't mean just for the Democrats, but for anyone who cares about our ability to obtain enough honest information to be able to govern ourselves.) Two newish pieces suggest that the Great WMD Deceit isn't going away.

First, this week's New Republic -- perhaps the most significant liberal organ to support the war in Iraq -- has a long cover essay this week by John Judis and Spencer Ackerman documenting in convincing detail how the White House continually cooked intelligence reports to make it look like Iraq had both extensive WMD capabilities (including nukes) and ties to Al Qaeda.

Judis and Ackerman revisit the matters of the aluminum tubes and the forged uranium documents from Niger. More important, though, they show an overarching strategy to pressure intelligence officials -- right up to and including CIA director George Tenet -- to make assertions that weren't true in order to stoke war fever.

Unlike most TNR content, this article is freely available online. Read it. And ask yourself why Tenet, Paul Wolfowitz, Condoleezza Rice, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld -- at a minimum -- haven't been subpoenaed to testify before Congress about their public prevarications. Can you say "Gulf of Tonkin"?

The second piece is Sunday's column by the Washington Post's George Will, reprinted in Monday's Boston Globe. Will doesn't say anything startling except for the fact that it is he -- the staunch old Republican warhorse and adviser to Ronald Reagan -- who's saying it. Writes Will:

Some say the war was justified even if WMD are not found nor their destruction explained, because the world is "better off" without Saddam Hussein. Of course it is better off. But unless one is prepared to postulate a U.S. right, perhaps even a duty, to militarily dismantle any tyranny -- on to Burma? -- it is unacceptable to argue that Hussein's mass graves and torture chambers suffice as retrospective justifications for preemptive war. Americans seem sanguine about the failure -- so far -- to validate the war's premise about the threat posed by Hussein's WMD, but a long-term failure would unravel much of this president's policy and rhetoric.

Good Reaganite that he is, Will holds out the possibility that Saddam's WMDs were removed before the US invasion, and/or that they will eventually be found. But there's no mistaking Will's general thrust: his bowtie is spinning in consternation.

In light of the daily updates from Iraq -- continued fighting, and the possible emergence of a radical Shiite theocracy -- you'd have to be Ari Fleischer to pretend to be pleased with the way this is playing out.

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