Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Which war did we agree to fight ?

Noam Scheiber has a nice piece in the New Republic about how to criticize the Iraq War. His main point is that one shouldn't concede that the war was right to fight in the first place, and just focus on the incompetent way the Bushies have prosecuted it.

The more significant issue is that the Bush regime essentially pulled the most colossal bait-and-switch in the history of the country. We were told we were going to fight a war to put down terrorists who wanted to attack the United States. What we got was a gigantic, bloody nation-building exercise in a God-forsaken hellhole.

As Scheiber puts it, "There's a difference between expecting the administration to fight a war competently and expecting it to fight an entirely different kind of war than the one you signed onto." He concludes:

The actual calculation members of Congress faced at the time of the authorization vote wasn't whether they believed the administration intended to bring democracy to Iraq. It was whether or not they believed the threat posed by Saddam outweighed the very real risk that his ouster would be followed by chaos. If they did, they had an obligation to support the war. If they didn't, they had an obligation to oppose it.

But, thanks to the administration's misuse of intelligence, this calculation was utterly meaningless. In a series of speeches in the fall of 2002, Bush asserted that the Iraqis had attempted to purchase aluminum tubes used to make a uranium-enrichment device and that Iraq had unmanned aerial vehicles that might be capable of targeting the United States. A White House report predicted that Saddam could build a nuclear bomb within months if he got his hands on fissile material. All of these claims proved to be false. Now, the Downing Street Memo tells us the administration knew its intelligence was flawed and didn't particularly care.

Having to vote on a war likely to produce one type of threat (chaos in Iraq) in order to eliminate a potentially larger threat (a nuclear Iraq) is an unsavory decision. But it's the kind of decision we elect Congress to make.... In reality, the administration wasn't asking Congress to make a tough call in favor of war. It was asking Congress to make a decision that, had it been apprised of the actual intelligence on Iraq, would have been a no-brainer--against authorization. That's the real scandal here.

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