Marketing the War

MARKETING THE WAR….Ah. I see that Norman Podhoretz has an essay in Commentary purporting to show that George Bush didn’t lie about Iraqi WMD before the war. His basic case is that lots of people ? including some liberals ? believed that Iraq had WMD, so obviously the president did nothing wrong.

Fair enough. Lots of people did believe that Iraq had WMD before the war. The problem Podhoretz doesn’t bother wrestling with, however, is that after the war concluded we discovered that there were also a fair number of people who had been skeptical about Iraqi WMD. INR, for example, thought the African uranium was bogus. DIA thought our prime witness for Iraqi-al-Qaeda WMD collaboration was lying. The Air Force found the evidence on drones to be laughable. DOE didn’t believe in the aluminum tubes. None of these dissents was acknowledged by the Bush administration.

Nor does Podhoretz apply himself to the entire period before the war. He stops his investigation at the end of 2002. But that’s not when we went to war. We went to war in March 2003, and by that time UN inspectors had been combing Iraq for months with the help of U.S. intelligence. They found nothing, and an increasing chorus of informed minds was starting to wonder if perhaps there was nothing there. In response, President Bush and his supporters merely amped up their certainty that Saddam was hiding something.

And of course there’s the nukes. As Podhoretz surely knows, the evidence for an Iraqi nuclear program was always weak, and once the inspections started the evidence rapidly fell to zero. That kind of thing is just too hard to hide. The warnings of mushroom clouds, however, continued unabated.

Unless you think that going to war is no more serious than planning a marketing campaign for a new brand of toothpaste, all of this contrary evidence should have been publicized and acknowledged along with all the evidence that went in the other direction. It wasn’t. Given this, the fact that so many people believed that Saddam had an active WMD program simply doesn’t perform the analytic heavy lifting that Podhoretz thinks it does.

In any case, if it’s really true that the Bush administration did nothing to spin, exaggerate, or lie about WMD before the war, why are war supporters so relentlessly trying to suppress any congressional investigation into this? You’d think they’d welcome it instead. For a bunch of innocent bystanders, they sure are acting awfully guilty.