Big Lie or Incompetence?
When no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq, Bush shifted his war justification to one of liberating Iraqis from a brutal ruler.
That stuff like this not only survives, but thrives, absolutely amazes me. Here's a journalist who has, according to some editor's notes on other articles of his that I read, been with Associated Press since 1973. He's no cub reporter, he's a veteran professional journalist. He's also as wrong as he could possibly be.
When President Bush addressed the United Nations in September of 2002, he did in fact specifically mention the danger of Iraq giving or selling weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups. He also, in the very same address, specifically demanded:
If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will immediately and unconditionally forswear, disclose, and remove or destroy all weapons of mass destruction, long-range missiles, and all related material.
If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will immediately end all support for terrorism and act to suppress it, as all states are required to do by U.N. Security Council resolutions.
If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will cease persecution of its civilian population, including Shi'a, Sunnis, Kurds, Turkomans, and others, again as required by Security Council resolutions.
If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will release or account for all Gulf War personnel whose fate is still unknown. It will return the remains of any who are deceased, return stolen property, accept liability for losses resulting from the invasion of Kuwait, and fully cooperate with international efforts to resolve these issues, as required by Security Council resolutions.
If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will immediately end all illicit trade outside the oil-for-food program. It will accept U.N. administration of funds from that program, to ensure that the money is used fairly and promptly for the benefit of the Iraqi people.
Near the end of the address President Bush also said this:
The United States has no quarrel with the Iraqi people; they've suffered too long in silent captivity. Liberty for the Iraqi people is a great moral cause, and a great strategic goal. The people of Iraq deserve it; the security of all nations requires it. Free societies do not intimidate through cruelty and conquest, and open societies do not threaten the world with mass murder. The United States supports political and economic liberty in a unified Iraq. (emphasis mine)
Less than a month later in Cincinnati, President Bush again made the case for confronting Iraq, mentioning (once again) not only Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, but also the failure of Iraq to comply with other UN resolutions. And once again he noted the goal of freedom and self-government for the Iraqi people:
America believes that all people are entitled to hope and human rights, to the non-negotiable demands of human dignity. People everywhere prefer freedom to slavery; prosperity to squalor; self-government to the rule of terror and torture. America is a friend to the people of Iraq. Our demands are directed only at the regime that enslaves them and threatens us. When these demands are met, the first and greatest benefit will come to Iraqi men, women and children. The oppression of Kurds, Assyrians, Turkomans, Shi'a, Sunnis and others will be lifted. The long captivity of Iraq will end, and an era of new hope will begin.
Three months later in the 2003 State of the Union address, in addition to the possible threat from weapons of mass destruction, President Bush said:
The dictator who is assembling the world's most dangerous weapons has already used them on whole villages -- leaving thousands of his own citizens dead, blind, or disfigured. Iraqi refugees tell us how forced confessions are obtained -- by torturing children while their parents are made to watch. International human rights groups have catalogued other methods used in the torture chambers of Iraq: electric shock, burning with hot irons, dripping acid on the skin, mutilation with electric drills, cutting out tongues, and rape. If this is not evil, then evil has no meaning. (Applause.)
And tonight I have a message for the brave and oppressed people of Iraq: Your enemy is not surrounding your country -- your enemy is ruling your country. (Applause.) And the day he and his regime are removed from power will be the day of your liberation. (Applause.)
During the six months of debate between September of 2002 and the start of the Iraq War in March of 2003, there's no doubt that some of the reasons to confront Saddam were emphasized over others at certain times and in certain forums. To go from a reasonable debate on emphasis to a flat statement that "When no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq, Bush shifted his war justification to one of liberating Iraqis from a brutal ruler.", as Mr. Raum does, is false. In fact, it's so false as to make me wonder whether it's a deliberate lie or just stunning incompetence on the part of a supposedly professional journalist. I don't know Tom Raum and I certainly don't know what's in his heart or mind. Maybe he truly believes what he wrote, which if true doesn't speak well for himself or his editors.
If you read each of the speeches that I linked to above, there's plenty of fodder there for debate on what the President got right and what he got wrong. No matter where one stands on the run-up to the Iraq War though, we ought to at least approach the debate honestly and with facts. Mr. Raum is missing at least one of those.