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Why Obama's right on Libya but Bush was wrong on Iraq

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Start with the lies.

President Obama was forthright last night in telling Americans and the world why we must intervene in Libya. No one could doubt the evidence he used to build his case of opposing a bloodbath. The evidence was everywhere before our eyes.

This was not true of Bush and Iraq. The reasons he concocted for going to war did not pass the sniff test. Bush and Cheney told the world that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, that he was giving them to terrorists, and that we would be greeted as liberators.

None of it was true.

Now, if my friends on the right want to believe Bush/Cheney believed such things, then go right ahead. Still, these were somebody's lies, manifestly obtained through bribery, torture and other manipulations.

A man code-named Curveball claimed ownership of some of the lies just last month.

The New York Times, Newsweek and a handful of others reported years ago--back on pages 10 and 12, where it wouldn't offend people in high places--that Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi was tortured into saying Saddam intended to deliver WMDs to terrorists. Al-Libi later recanted. Several of us in independent media online started a movement to make al-Libi famous, and let the chips fall. The idea was that we would march on Washington carrying banners featuring one word: Al-Libi (which means The Libyan) in an effort to spark more interest in the lies that got us into Iraq.

That's when al-Libi died mysteriously in a Libyan prison, supposedly by his own hand. Our movement fizzled as we tried to make sense of what had happened, and how losing our best potential source would affect our efforts.

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The other liar who fed the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld (and yes, Rice and Powell) war machine was Ahmed Chalibi. He led the chorus about how we'd be greeted as liberators. A real piece of work, Chalibi. Google him sometime.

I say all that to say this. To compare the situation in Iraq and Libya is to obfuscate. To contrast them is to clarify.

Had armies of pro-democracy rebels been marching on Baghdad; had Saddam been in the process of bombing hell out of freedom fighters, and had blood been flowing in the streets, I might've given Bush the benefit of the doubt in Iraq. But nothing like that pertained when we bombed, invaded and unleashed ethnic slaughter leading to the deaths of hundreds of thousands and the dislocation of millions.

Libya is manifestly different.

There, armies of pro-democracy rebels are on the march. Gaddafi made  it plain that he would bomb them then hunt down and kill every last rebel supporter. There would be no mercy in Libya. Thousands would've been murdered in the streets and in their beds by Libyan air strikes and door-to-door home invasions in Benghazi alone.

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So, to hear a nightly drumbeat on MS-NBC about how we should stay out of Libya is disillusioning. While their case is defensible, it's hardly inspiring. What happened to our high idealism regarding basic human rights for the downtrodden?  

Admittedly, criticism from the left is not as disgusting as watching Fox News endlessly loop rants from the right. Whatever happened to their mantras? Support the Troops. Close Ranks. Don't 'Blame America First,' especially When Troops Are in Harm's Way? Anyone, early on, who dared criticize the war in Iraq could expect to be shouted down or kicked out of the studio by Bill O'Reilly, Shawn Hannity and their ilk. After all the revelations of lies, corrupt contracts, torture, and massacres, how dare they uphold a double standard on this?

Let's get real. Neither the war in Afghanistan nor the war in Iraq were about saving innocent lives in those countries. Yes, Saddam was a terrible dictator, but there were no armies of opposition marching on his strongholds. No banners in public squares. Those days were past. Moreover, United Nations inspectors in search of weapons of mass destruction were on the ground. Libya is different in every way that counts.

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Don Williams is a prize-winning columnist, short story writer, freelancer, and the founding editor and publisher of New Millennium Writings, an annual anthology of literary stories, essays and poems. His awards include a National Endowment for the (more...)

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