Friday, June 17, 2005

Lying us into War is Wrong

Michael J.W. Stickings seems to think that lying us into war is OK. But his writing is slightly ambiguous, so I'll let him speak for himself:

As it turns out, based on a more careful reading of the documents in question, there really isn't much that's at all surprising. Bush was planning (even itching) to go to war even as he was talking diplomacy, even as he wasn't being straightforward with the American people. So what? Isn't that generally what "war" leaders do? It would have been foolhardly to publicize his intentions too early, and equally stupid not to start planning for war well ahead of the invasion.

Stickings talks about "planning" here. The issue isn't the creation of a plan for the war--the U.S. military has plans for invading all sorts of countries on file just in case they should be needed. The issue is that Bush decided to invade Iraq and then lied about this to Congress and the American people in order to get a Congressional Resolution authorizing the war.

Bush didn't have to lie about his intentions to launch the war in Afghanistan because in that case there was a clear case for war. In the case of Iraq, Bush didn't have a clear case, or at least nothing I would catagorize that way. So he tried to use people's patriotism against them by claiming that he was seeking to use the threat of military force to get Iraq to disarm. That puts someone like myself in the position where anything I say questioning the wisdom of going to war with Iraq has the potential to convince Saddam not to take the threat seriously. The result is that Bush and his supporters had the opportunity to go around the country advocating war without having being seriously challenged on the weaknesses of their arguments.

Yes, I'm mad. Patriotism is something that the president--any president--should encourage. It shouldn't be treated as a weakness to be exploited because that undermines the very idea of patriotism.


Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings said...

I'm mad, too, but I still think that they believed that there were WMDs in Iraq. That was the general view around the world, after all.

Nonetheless, I respect your thoughtful response to my post, and I thank you for it. When I post to my blog, I don't do so with absolute certainty that I'm right, and, reading through your own posts here, I continue to think through these issues as carefully as I can.

Take care.

1:38 PM  
Blogger Kenneth Almquist said...

Michael, thanks for your response. I agree that people in the Bush administration believed that there were WMD in Iraq.

What I will say is that this belief was partly the product of an unwillingness to face the truth. Case in point: We provided the inspectors with all of the relevant intelligence in our posession, and everything that was specific enough that it could be checked on the ground turned out to be bogus. This indicated that our intelligence process on Iraq had failed badly.

Yet Bush told the nation, "Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised." My guess is that Bush believed this when he said it, but that doesn't absolve Bush. If Bush wanted the truth, he would have demanded that his subordinates provide him with it, and punished them if they failed to comply. I suspect that Bush's subordinates didn't tell him about the actual state of intelligence, but there is no indication that he has any problems with the way his subordinates kept him informed.

The Downing Street memo asserts that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." Or, as Fred Kaplan puts it, "Bush and his aides had decided to let policy shape intelligence, not the other way around; they were explicitly politicizing intelligence." So, yes, the Bush administration believed that there were WMD in Iraq. But they didn't make an effort to test this belief before going to war.

1:40 AM  

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