The "Take 'em out" Doctrine in full effect
Here's my obligatory piece on the this nonsense about the Bush administration being "misled" on the Iraq intelligence.I talk at length about the fixed intelligence, the Downing St Memos and more. But one only hopes that the flurry of such articles this week will at least deter the media from saying ridiculous things like this in the future:
So why in the world is the media once more abdicating their duty by allowing this fiction about how the Bush administration was “misled” or “mistaken” when we know they intended to use the 9/11 attacks as an excuse to invade Iraq and simply ginned up the rationale after the fact? And once again, it isn’t just Fox News. It’s the mainstream media.
And that doesn't even get into the fundamental questions which asked whether we should have gone in to Iraq in that moment even if Saddam did have a nuclear weapons program. Plenty of us thought at the time that this was a daft move. After all, a completely unrelated threat had just taken down the World Trade Center --- why would we turn our attention to this? We could just as easily have decided to Lithuania for all the logical sense it made.
Here’s John Dickerson of CBS News discussing this with Charlie Rose on “CBS This Morning”:
Dickerson: The best way to answer that question is to do what Marco Rubio tried to do which is go back to the moment and say that President Bush was faced with a very difficult decision and he had to choose between two bad options. One was to do nothing and have Saddam Hussein coordinate with terrorists or do something to try to stop him. This again, I don’t usually give advice to political candidates but in this case to try to take people back in time and that is what Marco Rubio tried to do. But his problem is that his answers are in tension when he looks back at the lessons learned.
Charlie Rose: What interesting about this John, as you know, is that Dick Cheney has no problem saying that even if we knew they did not have weapons of mass destruction we should have gone ahead. The president says “I regret very much that we had bad intelligence but sort of on balance it is good that Saddam is gone.” I don’t know why they have a hard time saying “if we did know there were no weapons of mass destruction there we wouldn’t have gone in.”
Knowing what we know, Dickerson still claiming that the choice was between letting Saddam “coordinate with terrorists” or trying to stop him is particularly rich.
Rose also mentions that this is Hillary Clinton’s position, so they should all adopt it, no harm no foul. The problem is that no member of the House or Senate can be held responsible for the stovepiped intelligence they saw. This is not the same as failing to question their judgment — after all, 21 out of 50 Democratic Senators voted no. But if it was the bogus intelligence that convinced them, their responsibility is of a different magnitude altogether than the people who “fixed” that intelligence. In that regard, the buck stops with the president.
And the media was partly responsible for all of that. There’s no need to rehash everything they did wrong, from hiring retired generals as “consultants” to push Pentagon propaganda on television to allowing themselves to be led around by the nose by their government sources. All you have to do is read the New York Times’ belated mea culpa over their pre-war coverage to know where they went wrong:
Some critics of our coverage during that time have focused blame on individual reporters. Our examination, however, indicates that the problem was more complicated. Editors at several levels who should have been challenging reporters and pressing for more skepticism were perhaps too intent on rushing scoops into the paper. Accounts of Iraqi defectors were not always weighed against their strong desire to have Saddam Hussein ousted. Articles based on dire claims about Iraq tended to get prominent display, while follow-up articles that called the original ones into question were sometimes buried. In some cases, there was no follow-up at all.
In fact, in one of the most famous examples of government propaganda of that era, Dick Cheney’s henchman Scooter Libby planted the “aluminum tubes” story in the New York Times, and then Cheney boldly went on “Meet the Press” to quote the article as if he’d just read it in the paper that morning over bacon and eggs. Again, they knew these tubes were not being used for nuclear weapons. Condi Rice’s office had dismissed the claims more than a year before. But it was this claim that led to the doomsaying about smoking guns and mushroom clouds which John Dickerson doesn’t seem to remember was utter nonsense.
The upshot of all this is that the GOP is working overtime to fit the Iraq debacle into their preferred narrative once and for all so they can move on and start ginning up the next military adventure. And the media, which has never fully accepted its responsibility in making that war possible, is either suffering from a severe memory lapse or sees it in its self-interest to help them do it.
Moreover, it was a drastic change in American policy and philosophy, a policy that had gotten us through the nuclear threat of the Cold War. Peter Beinert, who is one of the few former Iraq war supporters to have thoroughly examined his beliefs and come out the other side, put it well in this piece in the Atlantic:
By implying that the only problem with the Iraq War was faulty intelligence, Marco Rubio implies that when the United States has compelling evidence that a hostile dictator is building “weapons of mass destruction,” the correct response is war. This represents a dramatic departure from historical American practice. In the 1940s, Harry Truman—a president Rubio admires—watched Joseph Stalin, one of the greatest mass murderers in modern history, build not just chemical and biological weapons, but a nuclear bomb. And yet Truman did not attack the U.S.S.R. In the early 1960s, John F. Kennedy, another Rubio favorite, watched Mao Zedong build a nuclear weapon, and made the same decision.
They are enshrining the insane Bush Doctrine as if it's perfectly reasonable. We see that someone might be a threat someday so, in the immortal words of George W. Bush, we "take 'em out".
Truman and Kennedy judged that, while nuclear proliferation was bad, attacking countries that posed no immediate threat to the United States was worse. They made that judgment, in part, because earlier generations of Americans, remembering Pearl Harbor, considered preventive war—an unprovoked attack against an adversary simply because it could become a threat one day—to be immoral and un-American. And they made it because they feared that the consequences of such wars would be devastating.
In the run-up to the Iraq War, experts in and outside the Bush administration expressed the same fears. A November 2002 National Defense University report argued that occupying Iraq “will be the most daunting and complex task the U.S. and the international community will have undertaken since the end of World War II.” A collection of experts at the Army War College warned that the “possibility of the United States winning the war and losing the peace is real and serious.” White House economic advisor Lawrence Lindsey publicly mused that rebuilding postwar Iraq might cost $200 billion. He was reprimanded, then fired. And yet the White House plunged ahead.
By claiming that the United States was right to invade Iraq given what its leaders thought they knew at the time, Rubio and his fellow GOP candidates are making George W. Bush’s radical departure from past American practice the new normal. They are enshrining the idea that the correct response to potential nuclear (and perhaps even chemical and biological) proliferation is preventive war. And, not coincidentally, they are doing so while trying to scuttle President Obama’s efforts to strike a diplomatic agreement with Iran over its nuclear program.
And look how well that's worked out for us so far.