The war

The war

: Andrew Sullivan said it well and I almost agree with him:

To my mind, the war to depose Saddam is still justifiable, morally important, and will, if we stay the course, eventually be regarded as an important milestone in the war against terror. But at the same time, it seems to me that there’s no denying that the actual case made by the Bush administration for war was built on false information….

But this remains one of the biggest government screw-ups in recent history. It has made future pre-emption based on intelligence close to impossible. And President Bush is ultimately responsible for this. Tenet has taken the fall, but it will take years and years before the U.S. regains the reputation for credibility that this president has destroyed. Even if you believe that Bush is still the best man to fight this war, you also have to concede that his record includes at least one massive error, and one that will cripple our ability to fight the war in the future.

I do agree — as I’ve said here often — that deposing Saddam was, in Sullivan’s words, “justifiable and morally important.”

But the problem is, Bush did not use morality as the justification for war. He used WMD — which, not that I knew anything, I never saw as an imminent threat — because that was the way to put together a coalition, even if a limited one. And, yes, Sullivan’s right that our credibility and motives will suffer the consequences of the bad WMD intelligence.

But I blame both Bush and the coalition of the unwilling for that. If Bush had predicated the invasion on the moral necessity to get Saddam out to protect the people of Iraq from tyranny and to bring democracy (and prosperity) to this nation in the Middle East, he would have put both the French flock and the American left in the difficult position of being against human rights for Iraqis. Yes, we would have had a smaller coalition or no coalition at all, but we would not have had to trump up justification for the war — if that is indeed what we did — or find ourselves standing morally naked with no WMDs to cover our crotch.

It’s all the worse, of course, because the aftermath to war was not well planned or executed. And because of that, our reputation for credibility and competence will also suffer. And that’s an even worse shame.

The best thing that can happen for Bush right now is for Saddam to go on trial; it won’t happen soon enough. But when Iraqis list his crimes against them and give witness to his tyranny, I at least hope that will remind everyone that there was another justification and need for this war that had nothing to do with WMDs and faulty intelligence and even oil. That has been entirely lost both by the right and by the left.