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 An Honest Mistake 

February 3, 2004

“In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” I’ve always loved that ancient saying, whose author seems to be unknown.

But in the age of democracy, it needs to be adapted: “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man loses every election.” Not quite as snappy, maybe, but it meets the facts.

By now every blind American has heard that arms inspector David Kay has exploded the Bush administration’s justification for preemptive war on, and regime change in, Iraq: the dogmatic accusation that Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction.” One-eyed Americans doubted it all along.

Of course the U.S. Government and its chief allies have those weapons, which is why they aren’t called by their right name: weapons of mass murder. And it’s a bit odd for the one government that has actually dropped nuclear weapons on cities to claim exclusive moral authority to decide who else is worthy to possess them.

But never mind all that. The Bush administration and its supportive cadres of neoconservative war nerds insisted that there was no doubt whatever that Saddam Hussein had such weapons and was prepared to use them; Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair said they could be deployed within 45 minutes. It was urgent to act. “The risks of inaction are greater than the risks of action,” said Vice President Dick Cheney, action meaning war.

Well, there appeared to be virtually no risk for the administration; a quick U.S. military victory was a foregone conclusion. Who knew that after the war, a U.S. arms inspector would find that Saddam Hussein was telling the truth, while George W. Bush was lying?

Lying? Well, Bush’s apologists are now trying to pass it off as an innocent error. He was “misled” by the Central Intelligence Agency and other intelligence services, and he made the only decision he could have made in the circumstances. Bush himself still insists that the war was justified.

[Breaker quote: He was only following his underlings.]Pardon me, but when you pretend to have a certainty you don’t have about so serious a matter as war, you are lying. Bush left no room for doubt. He didn’t say, “According to our best intelligence, Iraq has weapons of mass murder and is prepared to use them on us. Of course we can’t be absolutely sure, but we can’t afford to take chances.” He made the unqualified assertion that there was no alternative to war.

Millions of people around the world, without privileged knowledge of that “best intelligence,” disputed this. They didn’t believe that Saddam Hussein had those weapons or would be lunatic enough to use them. And they mistrusted Bush and Blair.

So are these great war leaders apologizing for an unnecessary and aggressive war, the kind that once sent German and Japanese dignitaries to the gallows? At this point we must make a fine distinction: the Nuremberg principles were never meant to be applied to the victors.

No. Hey, honest mistake! Bush has now agreed to an official investigation to help him find out who was pulling his leg about those alleged weapons. It wasn’t his idea. He only works here. He was just following his advisors. Anyway, we’ve brought democracy to Iraq. Isn’t that the important thing?

But Bush can’t afford to blame, and ax, CIA chief George Tenet, the Man Who Knows Too Much. Maybe we’ll soon hear that Tenet too was only following his underlings.

Now even the most skeptical opponent of the Iraq war must deal with the fact that Bush, Blair, and their cabal were lying even more brazenly than anyone, except maybe Noam Chomsky, dared suggest. We assumed that they must know something we didn’t, or why would they risk a raw deception that would blow up in their faces if those weapons weren’t found?

Now we know there were no weapons to find. Saddam Hussein didn’t have enough materiel to deter, or even impede, an American invasion. The sad sack dictator may be shocked to learn how harmless he actually was. But that’s why he’s the one who will be tried for crimes against humanity.

And what about little Ali Abbas, the boy who lost his entire family and both arms when an American missile hit his Baghdad home? Well, he’ll have the consolation of living in a democracy. When he’s a little older, he’ll be able to vote, if he can hold a pencil in his teeth.

Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2004 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate,
a division of Griffin Communications
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