Bush Would've Invaded Anyway


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In an unusual Q&A session following a recent speech, George Bush repeated the position he has taken ever since his Administration officially acknowledged that its primary justification for invading Iraq (i.e. stockpiles of WMD ) turned out to be bogus:

'I made a tough decision,' Bush said. 'And knowing what I know today I'd make the decision again. Removing Saddam Hussein makes this world a better place and America a safer country.'

Of course, Bush has to say that. For if Bush conceded that he would not have invaded had he realized his claims of WMD were false, then all of the thousands of coalition and Iraqi deaths would have been directly attributable to a mistake on the part of the US government. In that case, Bush would've ordered the deaths of thousands of innocent people for no good reason. And we certainly can't have that.

It is only natural that Bush would thus state that the invasion of Iraq was not dependent on the erroneous intelligence reports of WMD , and it is quite understandable how the average American would find this reassuring. Even so, his statement should be scandalous, and it is a poor reflection on the state of political discourse that few pundits are raising the obvious points I will now address.

First, Bush's statement reflects his unbridled arrogance. George W. Bush honestly believes that it is solely up to him whether the US invades a particular country. No, Mr. President, that is not your decision. For starters, consult that document you swore to uphold and defend. And even if we bow to the reality that the Constitution hasn't affected the federal government for several decades anyway, we can acknowledge that you wouldn't have invaded Iraq without public approval. Had you been completely upfront with the American people about Iraq , they never would've supported your invasion.

This relates to a depressing fact about the American people: They never, ever would have supported an invasion of Iraq for the purpose of removing an evil dictator. The pollsters would've found public support for such an enterprise to be (I'd guess) below 30 percent. And yet, now that the invasion is a fait accompli, and our current rationale for it was just this (i.e. removal of Saddam and bringing 'freedom' to Iraqis), far more people supported the president (at least for a while, until US casualties were obviously not tapering off).

A second problem with Bush's position is this: If he admits that the nonexistent stockpiles of WMD were irrelevant in our going to war, then why didn't he make the case properly to the American people at the time? In other words, if now Bush is telling us that the 'real' justification for our invasion is the removal of Saddam, then why isn't that what he said back (say) in his infamous 2003 State of the Union address? If we review the case he made at that time, he clearly made WMD the reason:

We will consult, but let there be no misunderstanding: If Saddam Hussein does not fully disarm for the safety of our people, and for the peace of the world, we will lead a coalition to disarm him.

Finally, by making this apparently reassuring statement, Bush is admitting that the US forced the war. There is absolutely nothing Saddam could have done to prevent the invasion. Drawing from an earlier portion of Bush's State of the Union address, the official demand of the US was that '[i]t is up to Iraq to show exactly where it is hiding its banned weapons, lay those weapons out for the world to see and destroy them as directed. Nothing like this has happened.' Saddam could not have done this, for (as he claimed at the time) he had (it now seems) already disarmed by the eve of the invasion.

I was very pleased with some of the tough questions people asked Bush in this rare Q&A. But it would be absolutely wonderful if someone put the following to him:

Okay Mr. President, back in early 2003 you told the world that you were going to lead a coalition to disarm Saddam. Obviously, there was nothing he could've done to deter you from this, since he apparently had no more WMD to turn over. But suppose he had been lying, and really did have stockpiles of chemical or biological weapons. Further suppose that, a few days before the deadline, he had fully complied with weapons inspectors and allowed them unfettered access to his facilities. Would you have still invaded Iraq ? If so, then you would have been contradicting your stated position at the time. But if not, then you would have been contradicting your current position, namely that Saddam even without WMD was a threat to world peace and so you would've invaded even if you knew he had no such weapons.

Isn't it ironic that Bush's dishonesty would be much clearer had Saddam not been telling the truth?

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Bob Murphy's picture
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