Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 18, 2003
By: Kevin Drum

THE CASE FOR WAR....Tim Dunlop provided a timely reminder on Monday of Paul Wolfowitz's Vanity Fair interview from last May. This interview became famous because of Wolfowitz's statement that WMDs were chosen as the argument for going to war "for reasons that have a lot to do with the U.S. government bureaucracy," but that wasn't all he said. He also outlined the full case for invading Iraq:

....there have always been three fundamental concerns. One is weapons of mass destruction, the second is support for terrorism, the third is the criminal treatment of the Iraqi people....The third one by itself, as I think I said earlier, is a reason to help the Iraqis but it's not a reason to put American kids' lives at risk, certainly not on the scale we did it.

That was six months ago, so this is a good time to take another look at his three points:

  • It's pretty clear there were no WMDs. Even David Kay has implicitly admitted as much by cutting back on the search teams and announcing that he plans to leave the Iraq Survey Group within a few weeks.

  • After six months of access to Iraqi archives, it's also pretty clear that Saddam had minimal connections to global terrorism. He supported Palestinian terrorism against Israel and probably had some fleeting contacts with al-Qaeda, but these activities were, if anything, less than those of nearly every other country in the region.

  • And Wolfowitz himself admits that Saddam's brutal treatment of his own people wasn't a good enough reason by itself to start a war.

So what's left? Not much, as George Bush made clear in his interview with Diane Sawyer on Tuesday:

SAWYER: But stated as a hard fact, that there were weapons of mass destruction, as opposed to the possibility that he could move to acquire those weapons still --

BUSH: So whats the difference?

(Smile's gone.)

SAWYER: Well --

BUSH: The possibility that he could acquire weapons. If he were acquire weapons [sic], he would be the danger. Thats the -- thats what Im trying to explain to you.

The possibility that he could acquire weapons. Remember that. For better or worse, that's what's left of the public rationale for going to war.

Was it a good enough reason? Your call. But I wonder how strong the support for war would have been if Bush had said that back in January?

Kevin Drum 2:12 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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