Blinded By Bush Hatred

John A. Quayle blueoval at SGI.NET
Fri May 9 18:51:10 MDT 2003

Blinded by Bush-Hatred

By Jonathan Chait
Thursday, May 8, 2003; Page A31

In the lead-up to the war against Iraq, liberal doves all made pretty much 
the same point, with some variation: However successful the conflict itself 
might be, the long-term diplomatic costs of alienating much of the world 
would outweigh any benefits. This prediction, while questionable, at least 
had the benefit of playing out over such an extended period of time that it 
could not be conclusively disproved until its adherents were all long dead. 
Alas, after the campaign hit a snag, many doves were unable to resist the 
temptation to crow over the supposed overconfidence of the war plan -- and 
as a result looked silly a few days later when Saddam Hussein's regime 
collapsed, to the apparent delight of most Iraqis.

Now, it seems, war opponents are making a similar mistake. The present 
cause of their crowing is the failure (thus far) of the military to find 
solid evidence of weapons of mass destruction. Opponents of the war are 
starting to assert, or at least hint, that the entire rationale for the 
conflict has been undermined. The notion that Bush made the whole thing up 
about weapons of mass destruction has taken root on the left and is 
creeping ever closer to the liberal mainstream. My fellow liberals who have 
taken up this line are once again making a disastrous misjudgment.

The soft version of this argument is that the delay in finding weapons of 
mass destruction proves we should have given the U.N. weapons inspectors 
more time. Hans Blix intimated as much when he archly noted that "it is 
conspicuous that so far [U.S. troops] have not stumbled upon anything, 
evidence." The reason U.S. troops haven't yet found anything is that 
Hussein worked assiduously to hide his proscribed weapons. Iraq moved 
weapons around the country in tractor-trailers, buried them in 
out-of-the-way places and so on. The lesson is that finding Hussein's 
weapons isn't as simple as pulling over to the side of the road and peering 
into suspicious-looking buildings. It requires cracking open the elaborate 
secrecy apparatus surrounding them. That's something Blix was never going 
to be able to do. The difficulty of locating weapons of mass destruction 
doesn't prove that inspectors should have been given more time. It proves 
that inspections could never have worked while Hussein remained in power.

Recently a more radical version of this argument has gained credence: Maybe 
there never were any such weapons. In this view, the entire notion was a 
kind of Gulf of Tonkin redux -- a sinister ploy by Bush and his 
neoconservative minions to whipsaw the public into supporting a war whose 
real motives (Israel? Oil? Empire?) could not be stated openly. It's 
entirely appropriate to question the honesty of Bush's stated rationale for 
fighting. After all, the arguments he uses to justify his domestic agenda 
are shot through with deceit. (Consider his shifting, implausible and 
contradictory justifications for cutting taxes.) And it's also true that a 
few elements of the administration's evidence against Iraq have turned out 
to be overstatements or outright hoaxes.

So Bush's claims should never be taken at face value. But accepting the 
fact that Iraq had an extensive and continuing program for weapons of mass 
destruction doesn't require taking Bush at his word. The U.N. Special 
Commission, when it finished its work in 1999, concluded the same thing. So 
has Germany's intelligence service. So has the United Kingdom's. Indeed, 
the only people who seem to doubt it are either allies of Hussein or those 
who distrust Bush so much that they automatically assume everything he says 
must be false.

Perhaps the most disheartening development of the war -- at home, anyway -- 
is the number of liberals who have allowed Bush-hatred to take the place of 
thinking. Speaking with otherwise perceptive people, I have seen the same 
intellectual tics come up time and time again: If Bush is for it, I'm 
against it. If Bush says it, it must be a lie. Their opposition to Bush has 
made liberals embrace principles -- such as the notion that the United 
States must never fight without U.N. approval except in self-defense -- to 
which the Clinton administration never adhered (see Operation Desert Fox in 
1998, or the Kosovo campaign in 1999). And it has made them forget that 
there are governments in the world even more odious and untrustworthy than 
the Bush administration.

The writer is a senior editor at the New Republic.

© 2003 The Washington Post Company

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