In the wake of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the (in)accuracy of the Bush administration’s pitch for war in Iraq, the media has seized the opportunity to rail against an administration that has bobbed and ducked and weaved its way through a disastrous war that, as many suspected, didn’t have to be. On that note, while the end of Saddam Hussein’s reign is a difficult outcome to argue against—indeed, it may be the only bright spot about the war—it still seems hard to use that fact to justify the war. There are plenty of cruel dictators around the world to knock off pedestals, but we do not pursue them. The Bush administration had to be dragged into the Liberian conflict. Robert Mugabe, as of this date, still holds power in Zimbabwe. And certainly the Burmese junta is a gross detriment to the people of that beleaguered nation. Just to name a few.
But I digress. Sort of. The editorial board of The New York Times sounded off yesterday:
It took just a few months after the United States’ invasion of Iraq for the world to find out that Saddam Hussein had long abandoned his nuclear, biological and chemical weapons programs. He was not training terrorists or colluding with Al Qaeda. The only real threat he posed was to his own countrymen ….
Nobody disputes that the late dictator was a nefarious figure, but among our reasons for not going all the way to Baghdad in 1991—aside from Vice-President Cheney’s 1994 eerily-prophetic explanation that it would have been a disaster—was that this was not the United States’ role. Liberating Kuwait was within the traditional purview of our military endeavors, but deposing Saddam Hussein was beyond the pale. The Iraqi Bush Adventure represents a potential paradigm shift, one that many hope is quashed by the next administration.
What is unsettling, though, about the Times editorial is its conclusion, which strains to give the president even the thinnest veneer of innocence and redemption:
We cannot say with certainty whether Mr. Bush lied about Iraq. But when the president withholds vital information from the public — or leads them to believe things that he knows are not true — to justify the invasion of another country, that is bad enough.
Now, perhaps I am simply being naîve and falling back to the lessons of childhood, but the act of withholding information in order to affect a decision, or the act of leading people to believe what one knows is not true … how is this not lying?