Elusive Weapons of Mass Destruction

Tuesday 10 June 2003 at 22:30

Saturday, The Daily Camera cover story was the Washington Post article Bush Certainty On Iraq Arms Went Beyond Analysts' Views. I went to Technorati specifically looking for a conservative reaction to balance my own. A blog named Right-Thinking from the Left Coast looked promising.

Musings from a Hawk included this conclusion:

This, gentle reader, is the point of this post. This is the bone stuck in my throat. I am a huge fan of President Bush. I disagree with him in a few key areas, but by and large I think he's done a spectacular job so far. After eight years of Bill Clinton I have found Bush a man of integrity; a truly honest, sincere leader, who loves this country and is doing for it what he believes to be best. Assuming the recent reports in the media are true, how can I reconcile that beatific image of Bush with a man who would knowingly ignore his own intelligence apparatus and lie to the American people?

I wish I had the answers to my own questions but I do not. I find it astonishing that WMD have not so far turned up in Iraq, and a large part of me still honestly believes that one day we will be given the visual feast of news camera crews recording mountains of illegal, menacing weapons. But there is a nagging voice in the back of my mind that is -- unfortunately -- getting louder.

Even if the reports are true, and Bush knowingly exaggerated the WMD threat, I still think the invasion was justified. Bush is not a war criminal, no matter how much the rest of the world would like to see his head on a pike. If these accusations are borne out, and Bush did indeed grossly talk up Iraq's WMD capabilities, my opinion of the war against Iraq remain unchanged.

But I won't be able to say the same thing about my opinion of George W. Bush.

It probably won't come as a surprise that I completely disagree with Lee about the character of the President. I have surprised even myself with the bias I feel against him. Jeff called me on exactly this point some weeks ago while we were skiing. He asked what it would take to convince me that the war on Iraq was justified. "Would a stockpile of nasty weapons convince you?" I sarcastically joked that I would probably accuse Bush of having the evidence planted. But even joking about something like that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I don't trust Bush and I know that it distorts my view of his and the Administration's actions. For that reason I'm glad to find someone who believes in the President so I can temper my own disbelief.

On the surface this war looks like a wild success. It's hard for me to compose arguments that I think would give any hawk pause. Part of me has been hoping for some disaster so I could exclaim "I told you so!" with righteous indignation. We humans, when presented with facts which conflict with our beliefs will sooner dismiss the facts than re-evaluate our beliefs. I've been trying to re-evaluate my beliefs, in light of Saddam's removal, but I can't convince myself that violence was the best solution. I must be human. :-)

I'm not surprised that the weapons haven't surfaced. In fact, I warned the administration ahead of time . I believe the weapons existed but slipped away just like bin Laden did in Afghanistan -- looting of darker Iraqi treasures. The war has accomplished exactly what it set out to prevent: putting nasty weapons into the hands of terrorist cells. The bad news for me is that I can only be proved right if something truly horrible happens. I hope I'm wrong.

I don't believe Bush and the Administration lied about the weapons, but I know they exaggerated. Propaganda is only effective if it is true, but it must also be one-sided. The Administration wanted a war. They believed it was the right solution. The would not have secured the broad base of support they needed if they'd just appealed to the humanitarian cause of liberating Iraq. The citizens of the United States had to be more scared of Saddam than they were of sending American soldiers into combat.

And so it was that Saddam was painted into an enormous demon with mysterious powers and the Marines painted as the knights who would slay him. The progress of the war demonstrated that Saddam was never the threat we were led to believe.

What I find most disturbing is how often I have seen this story retold. This has been a pattern in all the US military operations I have witnessed in my lifetime. The pattern is disturbing for it's incredible consistency. We demonize the leader of another country, create a classic Hollywood-style villain, and then present ourselves as the heroic rescuer. It's like we cannot exist without some Hitler-like bad guy from whom we can save the world. Libya, Iraq I, Iraq II, Serbia, Afghanistan, Nicaragua. Most of these leaders have deserved their villainy. But I am deeply concerned about the pattern of our thirst for violence. There are plenty of villains in the world, but I've never understood why one villain is selected over another. Even more disturbing is the rhythm of the war machine. It's like the System, our military System, is a vampire craving a bloody fix every few years regardless of who is in the White House[1] or who is in the Pentagon.

Most recently, two military interventions in a row have failed to meet two primary objectives: the apprehension of bin Laden and securing Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. This only reinforces my belief that violence is not only ineffective, but does more harm than good.

[1] For the record, I did object to Clinton's use of force in Kosovo.