found Bob Murphy's recent piece on LewRockwell.com
to be an excellent analysis of the recent controversy as to whether
the Bush administration was guilty of inflating the threat Saddam
Hussein presented to the US. However, I felt that the conclusion
understated the actual case against Bush. Murphy wrote: "Until
weapons of mass destruction are found in Iraq, and have been verified
by independent experts, the US invasion remains immoral and illegal,
on the very criteria President Bush himself laid out for it."
implies that should the US find weapons of mass destruction (henceforth,
WMDs), then Bush is off the hook for lying to us on this issue.
But I believe that we already can conclude the administration
was lying, whether or not any WMDs or documents proving there
were WMDs eventually are unearthed. (Like Murphy, I don't pretend
to have any deep knowledge of Iraq's military programs over the
last decade. It would neither shock me if it really had developed
some very deadly weapons, nor if it had not. I am an "Iraq
WMD agnostic." However, I do think it is difficult to explain
why, if Hussein would not destroy his WMDs to avert war, he would
suddenly destroy them right when they would actually be of use
I say we can already conclude we were sold a bill of goods because
the Bush administration did not say that it was likely
that Iraq had WMDs, that it had pretty good evidence that Iraq
had them, or that it sincerely believed it had them. No, it claimed,
on numerous occasions, that it was sure that Iraq had such
weapons and that it had conclusive evidence to that effect.
Why, it even knew exactly where those weapons were. (For some
examples of the administration's "certainty" about its
claims, see "A
Campaign of Mass Deception" by Bill Press.)
is those claims by the administration that I believe have been
exposed as lies. It may very well be that administration officials
sincerely believed that Hussein possessed or was developing
WMDs. They may have honestly thought that it was in the best interest
of Americans' safety to initiate "regime change" as
soon as possible. But they did not present their case in terms
of belief and likelihood. They presented it in terms of certainty.
And in doing so, they were lying. They may have even felt that
such exaggerations were justified because they believed that the
threat Iraq presented was so grave, but that does not change the
fact that they were lies.
is Murphy quoting a weapons inspector currently operating in Iraq:
Pentagonís chief weapons prober said he didnít want to go public
with details of his find until the case is an indisputable lock.
"I know if we canít explain the WMD program of Iraq we lose
credibility with regard to other states like Iran, Syria and North
Korea," he told NBC.
long will it take before President Bush is able to reveal what
could be smoking-gun justification of his decision to make war
think we will have a substantial body of evidence before six months,"
Kay told NBC.
the incongruity between statements the administration made this
past winter and these recent comments by Kay. Six months ago,
the administration didn't need time to make their case "an
indisputable lock." It already was an indisputable
lock. They didn't need six months to accumulate "a substantial
body of evidence." They already had conclusive evidence.
the time the Bush administration was proclaiming to the world
that they "knew" that Iraq had WMDs, the explanation
for why they couldn't present their evidence to the public was
that it would compromise their sources. If Saddam saw piece of
evidence X, he would know that Abdul in WMD receivables had betrayed
him and Saddam would have Abdul killed. The US would both lose
a source and be responsible for the source's early demise.
Saddam is not in power now. The US controls Iraq. Granted, a few
of our sources might still be acting as double agents inside the
Iraqi resistance. But is every last one of them? Isn't there a
single fellow who is willing to have his cover blown in exchange
for a new identity and a nice house and pension in Utah? Wouldn't
it be a lot cheaper to provide him with that and then present
his incontrovertible evidence than to employ scores of military
personnel, for many months, trying to dig up new incontrovertible
evidence that we can reveal?
think it is important to be fair to those one criticizes, so I
want to consider two scenarios that might excuse those who claimed
certainty about Iraq's WMDs. First of all, it is quite possible
for someone to be "certain" about something, in a subjective
sense, only to later discover that he was wrong. Most of us have
probably had the experience of having been "certain"
that we had an appointment at ten, only to show up at ten and
discover that it really had been for nine. When this happens,
an honest person expresses his bewilderment and apologizes: "I
was sure Joe's phone number was 544-8657, but to my amazement
it turns out I was wrong!"
that is not what the Bush administration is doing. No one is saying,
"My God, our evidence appeared to us to be airtight, but
now we wonder if it was." Instead, they are adopting the
somewhat absurd posture, "We really did have conclusive evidence,
and, if you can give us just another six months, we'll be able
to find some of it."
is also possible to find oneself in a situation where it seems
that deception is the most ethical course at the time. (I don't
believe that ethical precepts are "all relative," but
rather that they all must be balanced against other ethical precepts.
Murder is wrong, but so is disobeying God: therefore Abraham found
himself reluctantly bringing Isaac to the sacrificial altar.)
A person who realizes that her friend is far too drunk to drive
or to reason with may decide that the best thing to do is to hide
the friend's keys and lie about their whereabouts. But an honest
person will regard this as only a temporary necessity. The next
morning, when her friend has sobered up, she will say, "Fred,
I felt I had to hide your keys, because I thought if you drove
there was a good chance that you'd kill yourself or someone else.
I'm sorry to have lied to you, but I couldn't see what else to
Bush administration is not doing that either. Someone who is basically
honest, but who finds special circumstances ethically require
dishonesty, will want to rectify the situation as soon as possible.
If the war advocates in our government felt that circumstances
made exaggeration the ethical course last winter, but that honesty
with the American people is generally the best policy, then today
they would be attempting to explain why their hands were forced.
And they would do so whatever the consequences for their careers
might be. To continue to lie to save one's position is no longer
a white lie told in the interest of those being deceived, but
a quite ordinary black lie told to advance one's own interests.
have a tentative hypothesis as to the actual mindset of the people,
operating both inside and outside the US government, who were
the driving force for the war against Iraq. Although I am prepared
to modify my view as more evidence comes to light, it strikes
me as plausible enough to be worth presenting in public.
people, whom we could broadly term "neoconservatives,"
have a Hegelian view of history. To them, human history has a
goal apart from the myriad of goals pursued by individual humans.
They differ from earlier Hegelians as to what this goal is. As
they see it, history's apotheosis is not the early 19th-century
Prussian state, as it was for Hegel, nor worldwide communism,
as it was for Marx and Engels. Instead, the end state history
is struggling toward is the democratic welfare state with a government-managed
market economy. In their role, as the equivalent of the "vanguard
of the proletariat" in Marxism, it is incumbent upon them
to advance history's cause in whatever way they can.
man like Saddam Hussein, who resists this historical inevitability,
holds the same place in their worldview as a "reactionary
bourgeois" did in the thought of Marx and Engels. Such people
must be eliminated, as they are the epitome of evil in the world.
(In describing their views in this way, I don't mean to imply
that Hussein wasn't evil or that he was just a kindly old
dictator with a bushy moustache.) Whatever tactics one must use
to clear such recalcitrant individuals out of history's path are
justified. Given the place held by such people in their worldview,
many neoconservatives probably sincerely believed that Hussein
must be engaged in the most nefarious of activities, including
providing every Moslem terrorist he could find with packages of
anthrax and suitcase nukes.
given that they see themselves as history's midwives, it was their
duty to forward the project of war against Iraq by whatever
means seemed most likely to work. Hussein was probably developing
a bomb that would target only endangered species, eating babies
for breakfast, and making plans to abscond with Jennifer Lopez
once he subdued the US. Whatever charges could be brought against
him were most likely true, so the issue was only to find the charges
that would best convince the American public that war was justified.
hypothesis about the neoconservative mindset in the months leading
up to the war helps answer a question put to critics by some defenders
of the Bush administration: Why, they ask, if the advocates of
war believed that Iraq had no WMDs, would they have forwarded
a charge they knew would be proven false once the war ended? However,
if their mindset was similar to the one I describe above, then
I find it quite plausible that they really did think that Hussein
must have been planning all sorts of nastiness for the
US. The problem, in terms of ethical government, is not that they
didn't really believe it, but that they were willing to present
their beliefs as certainties.
course, if one accepts the neoconservative view of history, even
this was not really an ethical lapse. Hussein was a reactionary
who had to be removed from power, whatever the American
people thought of the project and whatever prevarication had to
be employed to achieve that goal. This, I think, is the reality
that opponents of the War Party must strive to make apparent to
the American people. We are being governed by members of a messianic
sect who believe that they are directly connected to the thoughts
of Geist* as it moves history forward.
Their role, as they see it, is not to implement a foreign policy
in keeping with the wishes of the American people, but to persuade,
trick, or force the American people to support the foreign policy
that Geist has whispered into the ears of its elect, the
we can succeed in driving this point home, I think the high summer
of the neoconservatives will be turning quickly to autumn.
* Geist is Hegel's term for the "World Spirit"