"If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all." ~ Virginia Woolf
Bush Should Resign
Frequent readers of my column (both of you) know that I have harped on the WMD issue. Most antiwar activists felt that the 'Bush Doctrine' was reckless, immoral, and at odds with a truly conservative foreign policy, whether or not Saddam had stockpiles of banned weapons. Nonetheless, I insisted, we should hold Bush accountable for the ostensible justifications he gave for the invasion. As Scott Ritter pointed out, since we officially invaded Iraq in order to fulfill UN resolutions, that means the United States invaded illegally if it turns out that Iraq really had been in compliance with UN resolutions (as Saddam alleged all along).
Naturally the Bush apologists scoffed at the cynics and 'conspiracy theorists.' The very idea'that Bush et al. would lead us into a war on the basis of phony intelligence. The apologists ridiculed Democratic candidates and others who wondered, 'Where are the WMD?' The apologists pointed out the size of Iraq , and insisted that we just need to give the inspectors more time. (I realize that sounds funny, since these same war hawks had, the previous year, argued that the inspectors had had too much time. But those were different inspectors, you see.) With his characteristic tact, David Horowitz told these whiners to 'shut up about 'missing' WMDs until they turn up.' (Yes, Horowitz put missing in quotation marks since he was sure the WMD were just well hidden.)
But now, lo and behold, George Bush himself has decided to cut his losses and admit that his prewar intelligence reports may have been a tad inaccurate. The entire transcript of his interview with Tim Russert is worth study (even if you watched the original broadcast). My favorite exchange is the following:
Russert: The night you took the country to war, March 17th, you said this: '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.'
President Bush: Right.
Russert: That apparently is not the case.
President Bush: Correct.
From that point, Bush went on to explain why he sincerely believed that Saddam had those nasty weapons. He wasn't lying, for goodness sake, he was merely misinformed.
Russert'to his credit'did not let Bush off too easily:
Russert: Mr. President, the Director of the CIA said that his briefings had qualifiers and caveats, but when you spoke to the country, you said 'there is no doubt.' When Vice President Cheney spoke to the country, he said 'there is no doubt.' Secretary Powell, 'no doubt.' Secretary Rumsfeld, 'no doubt, we know where the weapons are.' You said, quote, 'The Iraqi regime is a threat of unique urgency.' 'Saddam Hussein is a threat that we must deal with as quickly as possible.'
You gave the clear sense that this was an immediate threat that must be dealt with.
President Bush: I think, if I might remind you that in my language I called it a grave and gathering threat, but I don't want to get into word contests. But what I do want to share with you is my sentiment at the time. There was no doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein was a danger to America . No doubt.
What's really funny about Bush's handling of this interview is that one of his defenses was that he would have taken us into war even if he had known that Saddam had no WMD. On the surface, this will reassure the average American: Yes, it's bad that we invaded Iraq based on false beliefs, but at least we didn't kill all those people for no good reason'we would've invaded anyway. Phew! For a minute, we were almost an aggressor nation!
But upon reflection, Bush is admitting exactly what the 'conspiracy theorists' were saying all along!! All along, the antiwar writers were arguing that the war hawks were using 9/11 and bogus WMD intelligence to do what they had wanted for years'to conquer Iraq and install a puppet regime. And now Bush is basically admitting a large portion of this theory on national television!
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Unfortunately, the latest concession by Bush is not enough. The antiwar crowd still needs to keep the pressure on regarding the lack of WMD in Iraq . Why?
First, the war hawks haven't let up a bit. They are still quite convinced that Iraq had WMD before the US invasion, even if David Kay and now apparently even W himself are having doubts. Take the NRO column of Saul Singer:
[Is the Bush Doctrine dead?] I don't think so. Partly because, as former CIA chief James Woolsey has pointed out, the 8,500 liters of anthrax that Iraq admitted it had, if reduced to powder, could have fit into a number of suitcases.
'Saddam's 'stockpile' of biological agent wasn't in his spider hole with him,' says Woolsey, 'But it could have been.' We also don't know what he stashed away in Syria .
Nonetheless, Singer recognizes that Bush has forfeited his credibility in the eyes of the international community when it comes to taking over countries based on allegations of nasty weapons. But don't worry'we'll still get to blow things up: 'The WMD-based, invasion-dominated phase of the Bush Doctrine may indeed be over, but it is up to Bush to show that the war against jihad-backing states is alive and taking on new forms.'
Michael Ledeen, another NRO pundit, is likewise unconcerned that our intelligence was apparently completely wrong. Rather than taking this time to reevaluate American foreign policy, and consider reining in our extended empire, Ledeen insists that we will not win in Iraq until we 'liberate Iran.' (But don't worry, Ledeen isn't for outright war with Iran . He just wants us to quit coddling the mullahs.)
As these examples demonstrate, the antiwar crowd still needs to harp on this issue, because the war hawks haven't yet admitted defeat. They are still waiting for the WMD to turn up.
Second, and perhaps more important, even if everything Bush has said is true, then he must resign. Let me ask you this: What else does a president need to do, besides leading the country into a war, killing thousands of people, all the while confidently assuring Americans of something that now turns out to be false? If that isn't cause for his resignation, what would be? Bush isn't firing anyone in the CIA or from his Cabinet, so the mistake presumably rests on his shoulders. It's not as if the Vice President is an incompetent when it comes to foreign policy, compared to the wizardry of Dubya.
If Bush actually believed what he said in the interview with Russert, then he should apologize for his unbelievably grave error in judgment and resign. For him to seek reelection merely proves that what he desires more than anything else is his own political power.