Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Selling A War vs. Telling The Truth

In yet another self-serving narrative, the dumbest ----ing guy on the planet complains that President Bush lost support for the war by changing his rhetoric from emphasizing the evil of Saddam Hussein and the search for elusive WMD's to democratization.
The stunning change in rhetoric appeared to confirm his critics' argument that the security rationale for the war was at best an error, and at worst a lie. That's a shame, for Mr. Bush had solid grounds for worrying about the dangers of leaving Saddam in power.
Feith has a difficult time keeping his story straight, and soon afterward admits that much of the "security rationale for the war" was in error, but (like everything else) that was somebody else's fault:
The CIA assessments of WMD were wrong, but they originated in the years before he became president and they had been accepted by Democratic and Republican members of Congress, as well as by the U.N. and other officials around the world. And, in any event, the erroneous WMD intelligence was not the entire security rationale for overthrowing Saddam.
What's left of the threat, in Feith's view?
The Saddam Hussein regime "had used WMD, supported various terrorist groups, was hostile to the U.S. and had a record of aggression and of defiance of numerous U.N. resolutions."
Okay, we can be pretty sure that Feith doesn't actually support the invasion of every antion that has a history of "defiance of numerous U.N. resolutions." And while everybody knows about Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and Gulf War I, we can only press so far into its history aggression against its neighbors without observing that the Reagan administration supported the Iraq war and turned an intentional blind eye to its use of chemical weapons in its war against Iran:
American diplomats pronounce themselves satisfied with relations between Iraq and the United States and suggest that normal diplomatic ties have been restored in all but name.
I'll grant that the calculus shifts when you transform a thuggish dictatorship from an ally of convenience to an enemy, but there's another big part of the "WMD" picture that people like Feith prefer to omit: Iraq lacked an effective delivery mechanism for its chemical weapons, and would disburse chemical weapons from low-flying helicopters. Sure, we were given fictions about how Iraq might attack the world using balsa wood gliders, and could attack the west inside of 45 minutes, and let's not forget the purported Niger uranium deal (that some dead enders still argue was real and proves Iraq might potentially become a nuclear power... in a few decades), but you can only push fiction so far.

Let's accept Feith's argument for a moment - that to this point, the Bush Administration had been acting in good faith: The primary purpose of the Iraq war was to prevent Iraq from developing WMD's and threatening other nations, and secondarily to remove a dangerous thug from power, footnoted by references to liberating Iraq. It does seem disingenuous to suddenly make the footnote the main story, while trying to diminish or erase public consciousness of the other casus belli. But to press his argument, Feith would be demanding something from the Bush Administration an admission that he himself remains unwilling to make - an admission of errors of judgment.

Arguing, "It's everybody else's fault, and lots of other people believed the same wrong information" isn't particularly compelling when you're a disgraced former Bush Administration lackey. Somehow I suspect that Condoleezza Rice and President Bush realized how pathetic a Feith-style speech would have sounded coming from the President. And Donald Rumsfeld seems at least as pathologically incapable of admitting error as Feith and Bush. Further, as Feith admits, it's a pure fiction that Bush's new rhetoric erased discussion of his mistakes:
The president had chosen to talk almost exclusively about Iraq's future. His political opponents noticed that if they talked about the past – about prewar intelligence and prewar planning for the war and the aftermath – no one in the White House communications effort would contradict them.
Is he serious here? That as of May 24, 2004, nobody in the White House made any effort to claim that the Bush Administration's security rationale for invading Iraq was true? So on June 25, 2004, for example, Paul Wolfowitz did not say this?
As I am sure you know, we went into Iraq for a number of reasons, not only to destroy the WMDs that everyone agreed Saddam Hussein had. Remember that he used chemical weapons against his own people and against his neighbors. He had produced biological weapons and come very close to nuclear weapons ten years ago. He was in violation of 17 UN Resolutions. Resolution 1441 was his last and final chance to come clean on WMDs and he failed to do so.

We have not yet determined why we didn’t find more when we got to Iraq, but there is no question that he had the capability to build new ones, and there is no question that Saddam Hussein posed a very real threat to world peace. He invaded his neighbors. His regime supported and harbored terrorist elements like Al Qaida.

And today, a key figure in the resistance in Iraq is an Al Qaida-associated fugitive and terrorist, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, who has taken “credit” for personally beheading several U.S. hostages and for sponsoring numerous suicide bombings.

By giving the Iraqi people a chance to live in freedom and peace, we have opened the door to progress throughout the Middle East, which has been a source of so much terrorism. Already there are important signs of positive change in the Middle East from Muammar Qaddafi giving up his WMD to some Arab governments talking for the first time about democratic reform.
On October 27, 2004, Charles Duelfer did not talk up Iraq's pre-war security threat?
Opponents could say anything about the prewar period – misstating Saddam's record, the administration's record or their own – and their statements would go uncorrected. This was a big incentive for them to recriminate about the administration's prewar work, and congressional Democrats have pressed for one retrospective investigation after another.
Does Feith truly believe that anybody but a handful of dead enders are going to believe this revisionist history? Does he think we've wiped from our memory the entire 2004 election campaign, and how Bush and his campaign team savaged Democrats on national security issues? How the Republican-controlled Congress stymied and blocked those calls for investigation, and engineered delay after delay of any consequential reporting from the 9/11 commission until after the election? If that's the best he has to offer, it's no small wonder Georgetown didn't renew his teaching contract.

Feith caps things off with this claim,
This was a public affairs decision that has had enormous strategic consequences for American support for the war. The new formula fails to connect the Iraq war directly to U.S. interests. It causes many Americans to question why we should be investing so much blood and treasure for Iraqis. And many Americans doubt that the new aim is realistic – that stable democracy can be achieved in Iraq in the foreseeable future.
This hints at the core of the problem - the start of the war, where Feith, G.W. Bush, and John McCain were all on the same page. They went into Iraq with no exit strategy - implied promises of candy, flowers, and an occupation that would all but pay for itself. It was inevitable that we would reach a point where, absent a viable exit strategy, the American public would say "Is this worth it?" Unless Feith is even dumber than Tommy Franks suggested, he should have recognized that we could not indefinitely pretend to be hunting for WMD's or responding to the threat of Saddam Hussein.

Once we reached the point where the war was over, the WMD's were (not) found, and Saddam Hussein was in custody, how many more years of, "But we (thought we) had really good reasons for going in," does Feith expect the American people to swallow without demanding, "Yes, but how do we now get out?" And given that G.W. has latched onto democratization as the leading excuse for indefinite war - we have to stay "until we get the job done" - how does Feith imagine that emphasizing "jobs" that are already "done" would have resulted in greater popular support for the war?

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