Friday, November 18, 2005

More lies about Iraq

Hey Bob, hindsight is 20/20. Now we're pretty sure there are no WMD, but if you had been President in the post-9/11 world, would you have been willing to take a chance based on the evidence you saw at the time?

Ignore all the politics for a minute. Of course the Democrats are going to accuse Bush of misleading them--what would you say if you once voted for something you now find was a mistake? It won't fly politically to say "Oops, I'll be more careful next time." Part of the principal of government checks and balances is that Senators are supposed to be able to get access to intelligence information if they feel the administration is misleading them. Did those who voted for the war just blindly believe everything they were spoon fed?

Again, hindsight is 20/20. We'll never know what would have happened if we'd waited on the inspectors report. But one possible outcome that Bush must have been considering is this: the inspectors find nothing, and France/Russia lead a charge to drop sanctions. Today we might have been looking at a world where Saddam & sons were more powerful than ever: no sanctions, huge oil wealth and control, end of no-fly restrictions, and full speed ahead on a quickly reconstituted WMD program.

2 comments:

Bob said...

Assuming the term "lies" in the title of your post refers to my comment, I'm offended. I'm offering my view on the situation. What's the lie supposed to be? I'd like you to retitle the post.

Hey Bob, hindsight is 20/20.

Not sure whose hindsight you're referring to, but I was completely against the war even before hostilities commenced, from the time it was clear that Bush and his team had decided to move ahead no matter what.

Now we're pretty sure there are no WMD, but if you had been President in the post-9/11 world, would you have been willing to take a chance based on the evidence you saw at the time?

A chance on what? That a rogue regime would be behaving badly halfway around the globe, although no more so that half-a-dozen others? We know now that Condoleezza Rice's "mushroom cloud" scare tactics were just that. And even at the time reputable analysts pointed out that it was unlikely in the extreme that Saddam's relentlessly secular governing philosophy would lead him to link up with or support radical Islam, which called precisely for the overthrow of governments like his. Reports that he had, from sources like Curveball, we know now were discredited early in the process, the warnings about their reliability ignored by the decision-makers.

Ignore all the politics for a minute. Of course the Democrats are going to accuse Bush of misleading them--what would you say if you once voted for something you now find was a mistake?

There you go again. Congress did not "vote for" the war, it voted to authorize military action as a last resort. If you go back and review the public discussion at the time, you'll see that Bush positioned the vote as "sending a message to Saddam" so that we wouldn't have to go to war.

It won't fly politically to say "Oops, I'll be more careful next time." Part of the principal of government checks and balances is that Senators are supposed to be able to get access to intelligence information if they feel the administration is misleading them. Did those who voted for the war just blindly believe everything they were spoon fed?

Sorry, you cannot put this on Congress. We have one President, whose job it is to make those decisions. Sure, many members of Congress, not to mention the mass media, did not apply the level of scrutiny they should have. But this is completely different from them bearing responsbility for the war. Remember also that Bush never got a declaration of war from Congress, something the Constitution requires.

It's OK, Richard--you can change your mind any time and come on board with the 70% of Americans who now think the war was a mistake. We'll still love you.

Let's look at this from a business perspective. Let's say a manager who worked for you detected a potential threat to his business. Instead of using the company's normal business intelligence gathering mechanisms, he set up his own rogue unit to gather intelligence justifying the supposed threat, without the expertise to sift and analyze it correctly. He then builds a sky-is-falling case for taking dramatic action to avert the imagined threat, based on which he gains the support of many, including a management council which is suppose to advise him. He fires people who disagree with his plan or points out how much it will cost. He ignores experienced company resources who are trying to plan for the ill-fated action. He underfunds and understaffs the initiative.

After pulling the trigger, we find that the total cost of his initiative amounts to a year's revenues. Key people are gone. Your company is friendless throughout the industry. Support on the part of those around him drops dramatically, preventing him from carrying out other, important initiatives.

By your logic, I suppose you would give this manager a big pat on the back. Or even promote him, as Bush did with Rice. But I think few readers would question what should happen in the real world.

Richard said...

Bob, I appreciate your comments, so please don't think I'm trying to offend you. Everyone in the world (including, I bet, you) was surprised Iraq had no WMD--so my point is that if Bush was a "liar", then so were the rest of us. In other words, like Clinton, Bush sincerely believed at the time that some of the intelligence was credible.

But I'd love to hear your answer to my real question: how would it have turned out if we had followed your advice? Would Iraq still be under sanctions? Would Saddam be in power? Would he have kicked the inspectors out again once they gave him a clean bill of health? Would he have restarted his programs? Would Al Qaeda have left us alone--no Madrid, no London subway bombings?