Trying to reply to everybody is impossible…

So I’ll try to get to the major points. First, Mark Adams writes:

Man Mark you really have a bad habit of taking a point someone says and then exaggerating it to ridicules proportions (which I would think would make you more sympathetic to the Bushies ). You keep acting like my point has been that it is okay for an administration to completely deceive the public about war as long as they are convinced that it a just war. I didn’t say this. I don’t support this notion nor do I claim that the Bush administration did nothing but tell bald face lies to justify the war. I am simply suggesting that sometimes when a piece of intelligence pointed to something that would increase public support of the war the Bushies were likely to play it up without going into all the nuances of how that piece of intelligence could be flawed. Perhaps I shouldn’t have said the people that accepted at face value everything the Bush administration said in the build up to the war are stupid. Perhaps naïve is a better word. But personally I think you are smarter about this then you are acting. Surely you know that when politicians try and sell you on an idea they put out and play up the positives and play down or ignore the negatives, whether it is about tax cuts, social security, police salary raises or war. I’m not saying that that this is good but any educated person has to take it into account when listening to politicians. Most of what you are suddenly “discovering” was possibly exaggerated prior to the war was already treated with great skepticism in the press prior to the war. I knew that Al Qaeda links were unlikely and I knew that there wasn’t a threat of a nuclear missile being pointed at us (i.e. the nuclear claims were weak) and I had the same intelligence as you did Mark. You seem to think the orphanage/prison story is a real nail in the coffin of your argument but I think that was handled pretty well in the comment box but even if it wasn’t so what. Some soldiers got to a location and misidentified it and it was reported according to their initial impression. There still seems good reason to believe that Saddam was trying to reconstitute a nuclear weapons program and the fact that banned items have been found in the backyard of a scientist’s point to fact that it is very easy to hide much of what we are looking for and it could take years to track it down.

I’m afraid I’m that stupid, Mark. I sat in on a White House “gin up the Catholic media for the war” phone call in late January (you can check my blog, January 23, I think) and I was assured that there was *tons* of reliable intelligence (all very hush hush, can’t talk about it in detail, too dangerous for our spies) and “if you could only see what crosses my desk every morning”. I thought, “Shit. This is scary!” So yeah. I believed the White House. I’m not saying I thought you were proclaiming it okay for the Bushies to deceive the public to trick us into backing a war. I’m not even saying I think the Bushies deceived people. I’m still resistantly skeptical of that because I think Bush is an honest man (albeit a politician, which always tilts the scale). But I am saying that things are not adding up. I don’t see how you get from Dick Cheney’s “we know” statement to the absence of WMDs without some majorly bad intelligence (which means, for all the conservative mockery of the “18 month rush to war” *does* mean we leapt to war without knowing what was going on) or that Cheney knew perfectly well that what he was saying wasn’t so. Despite Justin’s assurance that the orphanage was a really nasty place (which I don’t doubt) I find the report problematic. Does *any* child want to live in an orphanage, much less an orphanage in Saddam’s Iraq? Of course not. I don’t doubt that a bunch of them are going to flee given the chance. And I don’t doubt their parents were, in the main, victims of Saddam. But my point is that the description of them in the news as “political prisoners” does not appear to be the case. They were victims of the regime to be sure, as were all Iraqis, but if the NY Times piece is accurate, they were not prisoners. Now, it’s possible that the NY Times piece is inaccurate (incredible as that may seem). But it’s also possible that, as with the multiple assurances that this time we’ve found the weapons labs, we know they’ve got uranium, we’ve got the goods on their links to al-Quaeda, we know they have WMDs, etc. that this story was seized upon by over-eager polemicists.

This is not to deny that Saddam’s many crime included horrible crimes against children. Even Scott Ritter acknowledges this. My point is not to deny the regime was horrible. My point is that it bothers me that so many things we were assured of before and during the war seem to evaporate in its wake. In September of 2002 I was told by friends with connection in Washington that “they know but can’t prove” Saddam’s in bed with al-Quaeda. That went splat. Then we were assured of WMDs. That’s not panning out. Then the emphasis shifted to Operation Iraqi Freedom and how stupid oppnents of the war would look when grateful mobs showered us with gratitude. Currently our death toll *after* the war is approaching the ’91 death toll *and there’s no exit strategy*. Just a recent assurance that we’ll be there for at least two more years. Meanwhile, it’s been three months and from what I can gather in the press (which is the only tool I’ve got for knowing what’s going on) the Iraqis appear to increasingly be saying, “Thanks. Get lost.”

Yeah, yeah. I know. Occupied Germany and Japan weren’t a cakewalk either. However, they did have the large and motivating menace of the Soviet Union (and in Japan’s case, China after 1948) to urge them to side with the West or be sucked into the Commie maw and ground for eternity like Judas in the mouth of Dante’s Satan. What exactly is the motivation for a Muslim state to love us? Especially when, as Salaam Pax makes perfectly clear, the educated classes in Iraq know perfectly well who put Saddam there, who kept him there for ten years, and who then subjected them to sustained neglect until 9/11, in a remarkable coincidence, seems to have taken place at the very moment we decided to grow a conscience about the suffering Iraqi people?

So yeah. I have growing misgivings about what, exactly, was the reason for this war. I don’t, however, think Bush was lying. At least, I resist the notion strenuously. That’s exactly why it *bothers* me to be told, “I am simply suggesting that sometimes when a piece of intelligence pointed to something that would increase public support of the war the Bushies were likely to play it up without going into all the nuances of how that piece of intelligence could be flawed.” To me, that’s irresponsible. Call me naive.