Dictators and democrats alike love to clothe
their policies in the language of altruism. But once shorn of rhetorical raiment, naked realpolitik often lies beneath. Now,
amid rising doubts about the Bush and Blair administrations' case for attacking Iraq, they are trying to wrap a towel around
the nakedness of their misdirections.
George Bush and Tony Blair told us that Iraq
posed an imminent threat to our security. Saddam supported the al-Qaida network that attacked America on Sept. 11, 2001, they
warned. With great specificity, they described putative stocks of weapons of mass destruction, asserting that Iraq might have
a nuke within six months and missiles capable of delivering WMD.
The war mostly went well. Major fighting
was over quickly, and while thousands of Iraqis were killed, fewer than 200 British and American troops died (though more
go down each week). The ruthless Saddam is gone.
But then things got tricky. Promises of quick
transition to Iraqi control have been chucked, efforts to rebuild a destroyed nation are foundering and unrest among the masses
And the rationales for a hurry-up war aren't
holding up well at all. There was no Saddam-al-Qaida axis. And despite a concerted effort to find them, no WMD have been found.
The best evidence so far, two trailers that might have been used to make bio-weapons, hardly constitute a serious threat.
Increasingly, it's clear that pre-war "evidence"
of WMD was exaggerated, questioned by intelligence experts and even some of Bush and Blair's top deputies. Some "intelligence"
proved to be crude forgeries, or plagiarized from decade-old graduate-student work. A transcript of a meeting between Secretary
of State Colin Powell and his British counterpart, Jack Straw, reveals that both men fretted over trumped-up WMD claims. U.S.
News and World Report revealed that during a Feb. 1 rehearsal of his U.N. speech urging war, a frustrated Powell threw his
script in the air and said "I'm not reading this. This is bull----." (He read the "bull----," anyway.) Intelligence grunts
angry that their work was spun, edited and politicized are quietly leaking the truth.
To all this, the Bush and Blair administrations
and their media attack dogs respond: It doesn't matter. The point is, they bark, we got rid of a monster, as the discovery
of mass graves proves (conveniently ignoring the fact that most of the dead are Shiites slaughtered by Saddam because Bush
the first abandoned them following the 1991 Gulf War).
So now they want us to believe the real mission
in Iraq was humanitarian. But that's just a tattered cloak tossed over the nakedness of deception.
If America were bent on ridding the world
of murderous regimes, there are plenty of candidates including many U.S. allies: five former Soviet Central Asian republics,
where torture, repression and dictators run rampant, terrorist-coddling Saudi Arabia, African thugs ... the list is long.
Had Bush told the American people, "we need
to take out Saddam because he's a brute," they might even have said "go for it." Or maybe not.
But before we applaud Republican humanitarian
impulses, recall 1998, when President Clinton bombed Kosovo a primarily humanitarian mission to halt the slaughter of Muslim
Albanians. GOP leaders howled in protest. "I don't think we should be bombing in the Balkans," said GOP House whip Tom DeLay,
a shrill Iraq hawk. "I don't think NATO should be destroyed (it wasn't, by the way) because we changed its mission to a humanitarian
Bush and Blair did not tell us they were
going to war in Iraq for humanitarian purposes. They told us it was about al-Qaida and WMD. And if their purpose is to spread
true democracy to the world including its core values of openness, justice and honesty then it absolutely does matter if they
misled us through fear into supporting their war of choice.