Finally, someone else says it.
Throughout the Iraqi Bush Adventure, there has been a curious argument taking place:
Critic: The intelligence was wrong. They knew it. The whole thing was a setup.
Administration: Yes, but _____ said the same thing we did. How were we to know?
What seems so disingenuous about the administration’s argument is that, for the most part, the various people whose names could fill in the blank were operating according to what the White House told them. It is not so much that other people agreed with the administration’s line, but rather that they believed it.
And for some reason, this point has brought nothing but the sound of the wind and maybe the occasional tumbleweed.
Cue Dan Froomkin:
Yesterday’s long-awaited Senate Intelligence Committee report further solidifies the argument that the Bush administration’s most blatant appeals to fear in its campaign to sell the Iraq war were flatly unsupported.
Some of what President Bush and others said about Iraq was corroborated by what later turned out to be inaccurate intelligence. But their most compelling and gut-wrenching allegations — for instance, that Saddam Hussein was ready to supply his friends in al-Qaeda with nuclear weapons — were simply made up.
In an accident of timing, the report also validates former press secretary Scott McClellan‘s conclusion in his new book that the White House pursued a “political propaganda campaign” to market the war.
The White House response? That officials in Congress and elsewhere were saying the same things about Iraq. Or in other words, that other people bought the administration line. It takes a lot of chutzpah to defend yourself against charges that you’ve engaged in a propaganda campaign by noting that it worked.
I had thought, for a while, that I was going crazy. Over time, as more people lost faith in the Bush administration, the argument seemed to slip quietly out of the spotlight, relegated to desperate quarters of the blogosphere on good days, but generally becoming the stuff of internet bulletin-board arguments.
Once upon a time, when I was young and still building a political conscience, I said something that upset my father. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Right. Anyway, I said something about President Reagan or his administration that he didn’t like. I probably called them criminals. He angrily explained that you cannot say such things about people. They were good men, trying their best. Certainly, they had not been convicted of any crime. (Perhaps whoever I was badmouthing was not among the thirty-two Reagan administration officials convicted of crimes—four of whom saw their convictions overturned.)
This story leapt ferociously to mind during the run-up to the war and harangued me through the subsequent string of failures and scandals that have plagued the early military campaigns of the New American Century. And on those occasions that I recall it, I usually wind up with a time-machine joke.
After all, if I could hop back to 1984 or so, and explain to people what re-electing a Republican president would lead to, it’s hard to say at what point the story would become unbelievable. Certainly, by the Clinton era, it was acceptable to say all sorts of horrible things about the President and his administration. But the idea that a Republican president would usher in so many of the things I was taught to fear of liberalism would have been a stretch. And the sad tale of the Iraqi Bush Adventure? My father is not a violent man, and never has been as long as I’ve known him. He would have thought I’d gone crazy. But telling the story, accusing Republicans of the things they have done, would likely have seen me run out of town by angry “patriots”, or simply beaten to death by a mob.
Think back. And try this one out: “The President’s excuse for manipulating evidence and lying to the nation and the world in order to foster an elective war against Saddam Hussein—yeah, the guy we took off the terror-sponsor list and are backing in that war—will be that since people believed him, he could not possibly have known he was wrong.”
Innocence lost, naîvete gained.