A Matter of Trust
February 11 2004
Most Americans yet
believe President Bush did the right thing in ridding Iraq and the world
of Saddam Hussein. Yet, how we were persuaded to go to war raises grave
questions about the character and competence of those who led us into
As we now know, Iraq had no tie to Osama, no role in 9-11, no nuclear
program, no weapons of mass destruction, no plans to attack us. Its
people did not threaten us and did not want war with us.
By what right, then, did we invade their country, destroy their army and
inflict thousands of casualties upon their people?
Comes the answer: We acted under the Bush Doctrine, under which we will
not permit the world's worst dictators to acquire the world's worst
weapons. To eliminate such threats before they go critical, we reserve
the right to take pre-emptive military action and to wage preventive
We cannot wait for tumors to become malignant before cutting them out,
Bush was saying. After 9-11, most of America agreed.
But why did Bush choose Iraq? Why not Iran, whose hand in terror attacks
was more demonstrable and whose missile and nuclear programs were more
advanced? Why not North Korea?
The neoconservatives – Wolfowitz, Perle & Co. – we know, had been
plotting war on Iraq and propagandizing for a U.S. invasion for years.
But why did Bush sign on? Why did he make Iraq the first target of his
doctrine? There was no tie between Saddam and 9-11, and Iraq seemed
neither a grave nor an imminent threat.
What appears to have happened is this. Sometime soon after 9-11, the
neocons persuaded the president that invading Iraq was the next crucial
step in winning the war on terror and evil in which Divine Providence
had chosen him to be the Churchill of his generation. And if the country
and Congress were unconvinced of the need for war, it was his job to
And here is where the administration began to cross the line. To
persuade us that Saddam was a mortal threat to which the only recourse
was war, they needed evidence. But, apparently, there was little or no
hard evidence to be had. No smoking guns. Saddam had been corralled in
his box for a dozen years. America had flown 40,000 sorties over his
country without losing a plane.
The only case that could be made was by extrapolating from the weapons
Iraq had had before the Gulf War, which the U.N. had failed to find
before it left in 1998. What seems to have happened is this.
Frustrated hawks in the Pentagon, impatient with the CIA's inability to
find the evidence to clinch the case for a war they had already decided
on, began demanding access to raw intelligence.
They set up their own intelligence unit in the Pentagon, the Office of
Special Plans. They solicited foreign intelligence agencies and Iraqi
exiles to discover evidence that Saddam not only had stockpiles of
chemical and biological weapons, he was working on nuclear ones.
First, they decided on war. Then they sent everyone out on a global
scavenger hunt to find the evidence to prove we had no alternative but
war. And though the information that came back was suspicious and the
sources suspect, at least it pointed, as desired, in the right
And, so, the hawks fed it to their propagandists in the press and "stovepiped"
it to the White House, where it soon began to appear in the statements
and speeches of the president and his War Cabinet.
Thus, we were told an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague had met with
Muhammad Atta before 9-11, that Saddam was buying raw uranium for atomic
bombs in Africa, that Iraq was testing drones and fitting them with
Vice President Cheney told "Meet the Press" that Saddam "has been
absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons. And we believe
he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons." Condi Rice warned us
that if we waited too long for proof it might come in a "mushroom cloud"
over an American city.
Upon such "evidence," the White House stampeded Congress and the country
into war, a war we now know was utterly unnecessary. We were misled, and
the only question that lingers is: Were we deceived?
For if Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld and the president were truly relying on
the ambiguous intelligence the CIA was providing, whence came their
absolute certitude as to the gravity and immediacy of the threat? For
the CIA was saying there was no imminent threat.
History will record this as Bush's War. And he seems content with that
judgment. But the price of victory has been the lost trust of many of
his countrymen and of much of the world. The credibility of yet another
administration has been compromised. Was it worth it?
And if it was not the weapons, what was the real reason America went to
war on Iraq?
© 2003 Creators
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