The president did not knowingly say anything that we knew to be false. … We wouldn’t put anything … knowingly in the speech that was false. – Condi Rice

Great. Fine. I still agree with that. Despite the conclusion-leaping of some of my readers, I’m not calling Bush a liar. I am starting to think he’s a gambler though. It is, strictly speaking, true that the uranium claim was not known to be false when it went in the speech. Trouble is, he didn’t really know it to be particularly true either. So, having two sources of intelligence–British and American–he opted for the one that beefed up what he was sure had to be true and would be proven true when we got troops on the ground in Iraq. That’s not lying. It’s gambling. His phrasing in the speech was carefully worded to say that British intelligence reported the uranium deal, not that we knew British intelligence was right. And, of courses, it’s not the only thing that went into the speech and I agree that there were lots of indications that we’d find something. We may yet. But Josh Claybourn is right in noting that there’s something problematic about the prowar punditocracies shifting attempts to say that the administration didn’t really say the threat of these weapons was clear, present and imminent. Of course it did. Josh has the quotes. The case for the war was gambled on that claim. It’s why I supported the war: “lasting, *certain* and grave.”

So when we shift from “we know they have them” as I was personally assured by the White House on my phone call to incantations about potential weapons and attempt to say they’re the same thing, or, shifting even further to “just look at what he does to his people” we are shifting to another rationale for the war and one which, while worthy of discussion, was not the rationale given. As appears to be coming clear as we look at the way intelligence was handled, it seems that we didn’t really “know” they had them. We were really really pretty sure they had them. And we gambled that we’d find them by the bushelful when Saddam fell. As was said at the time, “Just you wait!”

So it’s primarily the punditocracy that I’m arguing with now. The war supporters who bet and (so far) have lost the gamble that we’d find our bushelfuls and be vindicated. The Bushies themselves don’t appear to be doing much ground-shifting. They are, like me, content to see what turns up. But some war supporters aren’t. Nervous about the missing weapons, they are shifting to any and every other rationale for the war. My point is that this just looks fishy. It doesn’t help. If an Iraq-Al Quaeda connection turns up or something more recent than some nuke parts buried after GWI, I’ll be content. I’m not eager to think we did the wrong thing. But I’m also not eager to come up with a new rationale for the war every day in a sort of restless fertility of bewilderment coupled with a certainty (based on what?) that we could never have made a mistake. The Holy Father thinks we made a mistake and, while he could be wrong, his disapproval gives me pause. So I wait till we know more and refuse to move off the original dime of “ties to Al Quaeda/WMDs.”

Speaking of which, here’s an interesting piece on a possible Saddam/Osama connection. Let’s see where it leads.


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