THE MARKETING OF WAR….Last night I mentioned this Washington Post article that lays out in considerable detail the administration’s persistent efforts to link Saddam Hussein to a nuclear weapons program even as the evidence for such a program was crumbling nearly as fast as the hawks could make their case to the TV cameras. Today moderate conservative James Joyner demonstrates why pro-war partisans drive me nuts even though I’m very nearly on their side:

This is classic national security decision-making in action. Given imperfect intelligence as well as a reasonable belief that a regime means us harm, the safe course is not presuming the least compelling case supported by your intelligence.

But that’s not what the administration did. They took imperfect intelligence ? and I think we’re being generous here ? and used it to justify invading and occupying a foreign country. That’s a little different than “not presuming the least compelling case.”

This is what makes me crazy. I agree that Saddam Hussein was unstable and dangerous, and I don’t mourn his loss. What’s more, I think even hardcore liberals accept the idea that in the wake of 9/11 we should be more aggressive in reacting to ambiguous intelligence information.

But it’s clear that the Bush administration, far from simply being a bit more vigilant in connecting the dots, deliberately misled the country. After all, the al-Qaeda connections don’t exist and the WMD isn’t there.

And yet conservatives blithely dismiss this. It’s a good thing that Saddam is gone, so it just doesn’t matter that our intelligence data was lousy and the administration concocted a story with only the flimsiest relationship to reality. It doesn’t matter because George Bush is a good guy and we trust him.

But why trust an administration that so obviously doesn’t care about the facts on the ground? Sure, this time they did something you approve of, but maybe next time they won’t.

Isn’t that something to be worried about?