I wanted to move my dialogue with Conrad out of the Comments because I think it’s an interesting debate.
He wrote today:
Bush said the Brit’s believed Iraq had attempted to purchase uranium when US intelligence didn’t share that view. Big friggin’ deal. So what? Who cares? Snore.
I said, months before the war began, that WMDs were, in my opinion, a mere pretext. If the world understood the actual strategy, the US would never have succeeded. Therefore, misinformation was required. Since it wasn’t possible for Bush to call 270 million Americans into the oval office and say “I’ll tell you the real reason we’re doing this, but shhhh, don’t tell anyone else”, the government mislead. Good. If I was smart enough to know what was going on, so was pretty much everyone else. Those who now claim to shocked, shocked, shocked that the government would engage in disinformation in wartime are awfully naive.
Saddam is gone and the world is a better place. Now let’s get rid of the wicked North Koreans and, if to accomplish that noble mission, the government finds in necessary to mislead me again with respect to its intentions, go right ahead.
To which I respectfully replied:
You know, I agree with you on many of your points. The big issue where we part ways is on methodology. In other words, I always thought it would be a great idea to topple Hussein, for lots of reasons, with or without the WMD issue, and like you, I knew what it was really all about. But by framing it almost solely as a reaction to an imminent threat of WMD (which I admit I fell for), and by then tarring and feathering those who raised questions, and by passing the buck in a show of arrogance, and by then revising the reason for the invasion and making it out to be a humanitarian issue — these were shabby things to do, and they leave Bush in a bit of a rut. Lost credibility, appearance of shiftiness and duplicity, and failure to live up to promises of accountability — there’s a lot here to criticize. I’ve read Den Beste and Counterspin’s savvy rebuttal, I’ve read you and Instapundit and Atrios and Daily Koz, and in the end I ‘ve come to my own conclusion, which is, in a nutshell, Right thing to do, wrong way to do it. I applaud the victory, I criticize the ugliness that’s emerged in the wake of it (like leaking to Drudge that an ABC reporter is gay, or intimidating the wife of a CIA agent, or dodging questions about grandiose claims in your SOTU address, etc.). Were those things truly necessary? Was there no way to act with some honor and decency? Would it have mattered if now, months after the invasion, Bush were to say, “Perhaps we were a bit reckless, perhaps in our eagerness to combat terrorism at its roots we went against some good advice and allowed some words into my speech which, in retrospect, were wrong and I want to tell you how sorry we are about that”? You see, it’s not just “the left” that is perpetuating this, it’s the Bush administration in its utter inability to say it may have been wrong.
I really respect your opinion on Iraq, but I cannot give Bush carte blanche the way you do. We have a history of holding our leaders’ responsible for what they say and do, and I can’t just let Bush off the hook because we won in Iraq. If we do so, we’d be saying that those in power can do anything as long as they believe the ends justify the means. That’s not supposed to be the way it works. It could lead to a catastrophe.
About why the uranium thing is such a big deal…. You say, “Bush said the Brit’s believed Iraq had attempted to purchase uranium when US intelligence didn’t share that view. Big friggin’ deal. So what?”
That would be fine were it that simple. But Bush’s top advisors were warned it was probably false, and someone Up There still insisted it stay in, and then passed the buck back to the CIA for not complaining loudly enough. I agree, the debate on the 16 words has gone on too long and is becoming a real waste of time. What is still debate-worthy is the pattern that’s emerged in its wake of deception, avoiding responsibility and reacting to criticism in an ugly way (back to the CIA agent and the ABC reporter). Those who keep asking about it are finding their loyalty to America questioned, in an Ann Coutlerish way. No, these things merit a lot of comment.
Had it been Clinton, would the Republicans now be respectfully silent? Uncovering a CIA operative’s cover is serious stuff, and I am curious why the more right-sided blogs are simply ignoring the story…..
So the debate rages on. My honest suspicion is that Conrad will “win” and the back-and-forth will eventually just peter out due to lack of interest. Those who think it will spell Bush’s downfall are probably fooling themselves. But I think there’s still plenty here to question, and the discussion is valid. Now, if Bush were to be smarter, he would realize the opportunity he has to soften his cowboy image and mend fences. All it would take is for him to act like a gentleman, own up to mistakes and show true leadership (as opposed to buck passing). Then he could truly “move on.”