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Were We Lied Into War? --Some Detective Work

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Getting the Pivotal Question into Good Focus

Did these people intentionally deceive the country to get us into this Iraq war?

This question has been brought out from the wings onto center stage—by Plamegate (the investigation originating in the outing of a CIA agent) and now by the administration itself with its declaration that it is beyond the pale of acceptable criticism to question their honesty in pitching this war.

So, of all the questionable things about this Bush presidency, it seems that this question may be the one on which America’s judgment on its present rulers will turn. But, though it may be as good an issue as any, I’m not sure we’re following the clues to the heart of what they have to tell.

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Most of the attention thus far has focused on the ways Bush and Cheney sought to persuade the American people that Saddam represented a significant threat to this country.
**That Saddam had --or was working hard to acquire-- weapons of mass destruction
**That such weapons in the hands of Saddam might well be handed over to terrorists for attacks that would dwarf 9/11

And it is true that --in trying to persuade the American people-- they presented as factual certainties some notions they knew –or should have known—were false or at least doubtful.

**They were told how dubious were the documents suggesting that Saddam was trying to acquire uranium from Niger, but nonetheless Bush spoke those misleading words in the State of the Union address.
**They were told that the aluminum tubes were not suited for the purpose of enriching uranium of which they continued to claim them to be evidence
**They were told that there was no evidence of a link between Saddam and 9/11, but they persisted in a campaign to persuade the American people otherwise.

But then there’s a fact that many critics of the Bushite regime seem too ready to ignore: that on the basic points on which the administration was seeking to persuading us –that Saddam possessed WMDs and that he might ally with terrorists against us—the Bushites seemed themselves to have been convinced.

So what does it mean for them to tell us untruths to persuade us of what they thought to be the truth? It seems at first blush to be a paradox.

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Perhaps they did not trust the American people to recognize the truth unless it was embellished with dramatic falsehoods. This would still be a form of lying –certainly of manipulation—but perhaps a less pernicious form of lying than if they tried to sell the war on altogether false premises.

But why would they not believe that the information that was sufficient to persuade them that Saddam was a threat would be good enough to convince us?

Here what seems a paradox may become instead a clue. Perhaps they made the threat seem larger and more imminent than they knew it to be because –though they believed the threat to be real—they knew it was an inadequate basis for the war they wanted to wage.

In other words, the paradox is resolved if the presumed threat from Saddam was not really essential to the reasons for the war.

To gauge whether the Bushites were guilty of this much deeper kind of a lie, there are some behavioral clues for us to read.

Did These People Act Like They Were Addressing a Threat?

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The war they sold us was a defensive war. Saddam’s weapons, Saddam’s possible ties to terrorism—these concern a threat. And a war to address a threat --even if the war were pre-emptive or preventive, and even if such wars are morally suspect—is morally far more defensible than the chief alternative interpretation of the war against Iraq.

That alternative view is that this was an offensive war launched by the world’s sole and unchallengeable superpower not to protect its security but to extend its dominance.

The altogether unforgivable lie, then, would be if the Bushites sold us the war as one required for self-defense when it was really an imperialist venture.

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Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District. His new book -- written to have an impact on the central political battle of our time -- is (more...)
 
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