Friday, September 22, 2006

In my previous universe, Bush/Rove used more than nukes to sell their invasion

Salon has a laudatory review of a book by the inestimable Frank Rich on the tragic history of the Bush II (aka Vlad) regime. This sort of book is presumably written for future history students writing essays on the Fall of America, it’s unlikely to have much impact on anyone living now. The picture is indeed dire, with the usual mention of how imminent nuclear attack was used to build support for the way and Bush’s reelection:

Why we are really in Iraq | Salon Books

…What reason could team Bush come up with for attacking Iraq? 'Abstract and highly debatable theories on how to assert superpower machismo and alter the political balance in the Middle East would never fly with American voters as a trigger for war or convince them that such a war was relevant to the fight against the enemy of 9/11 ... For Rove and Bush to get what they wanted most, slam-dunk midterm election victories, and for Libby and Cheney to get what they wanted most, a war in Iraq for ideological reasons predating 9/11, their real whys for going to war had to be replaced by more saleable fictional ones. We'd go to war instead because there was a direct connection between Saddam and Al Qaeda and because Saddam was on the verge of attacking America with nuclear weapons…

Dire as this story is, things were worse in my old universe. In my universe smallpox and biowarfare threats were used as well, and they were even more persuasive than the fear of nuclear weapons. Much was made of mobile labs that turned out to be nothing much at all. In that alternate timeline this led to a massive smallpox immunization program that was widely debated and partly implemented. In that reality some of the vaccination volunteers were seriously harmed by side-effects.

In this universe, however, that clearly never happened — or someone besides my wife and I would remember it. Bad as things are here, in the reality I used to inhabit they were actually worse …

1 comment:

JGF said...

Firstly, I am honestly glad you are still commenting as I'd thought you'd stopped. You are my most loyal commentator and probably 20% of my total readership.

A caveat on my response here. My opinions on Bush are cumulative, built on hundreds of bad decisions, I don't have the memory to resurrect all the back story. Given that, here's a go.

Berger is in the best shape here. He was talking about chemical weapons, and I think it's possible that in 1998 Sadaam still had them. There was some point before 2001 where Iraq got caught out lying and had to destroy some of their stuff. Sorry, it's a long time ago.

In 2002 Gore was repeating conventional wisdom, a wisdom based in part on the belief that Bush must have some decent intelligence and in part on logic. Sadaam seemed to want bio and chemical weapons, he didn't do anything to allay anyone's suspicions, he'd put a lot of work into developing them. On the other hand the UN inspectors were doing a great job, and turning up nothing. Overall it was a plausible charge; but the turning point was Bush. Surely he must have some good intelligence -- he said he did. It was reasonable that he couldn't reveal his sources. In those days we didn't realize how incompetent and delusional Bush was and is,
he still had credibility. I bought the story.

Now we know more. We know that Bush didn't have any good evidence, and that what evidence he had was actually pointing the other way. I actually think Bush really believed Sadaam was hiding weapons, but the evidence wasn't there. Bush was so convinced that Sadaam was cheating, and so convinced of the need to invade Iraq regardless, that he cooked the books. That's the accusation Rich is making and the one I repeated. He didn't have the evidence he claimed, he didn't even have the evidence he presented. It was a Potemkin case, and he knew it. You'd have to ask Gore what he was thinking, but I suspect even he didn't realize how bad Bush really was.

Of course whether WMDs justified invasion is another question. China, Russian and North Korea all had 3 flavors of WMDs back then, and we didn't invade them. The decision to invade was another matter, beyond what I'll get into here.

All of this, by the way, is completely separate from the bigger case against Bush. Cooking the books to invade, and lying to the nation to win an election, is one charge, but actually I think the graver charge is the colossal misconduct of the invasion and its sequelae, particularly the irrational alienation of every possible ally except the UK.

Torture, incompetence, delusions, stocking Iraq with political appointees, an obsession with loyalty, a distrust of intellectuals -- the charges go on and on. Bush may go down in history as the President who brought America down.