Wednesday, December 14, 2005

A Direct and Growing Threat

President Bush has accepted responsibility for the faulty intelligence used to justify the invasion of Iraq. Sort of. It's that new fangled modern political responsibility which involves saying that you take full responsibility and absolutely nothing else. Oh, and he feels he's the best person to make sure it never happens again. (And, of course, he still made the right decision even though that decision was based on "wrong" information.) Right.

Can you imagine that in other areas of life?
Judge: I find you guilty of murder in cold blood. Do you have anything to say?
Murderer: Yes. I accept full responsibility and I intend to conduct an enquiry to make sure it never happens again.
Judge: OK, fair enough. Off you go then.

Barings Bank Board: Mr Leeson, your irresponsible actions have caused the collapse of one of the world's oldest merchant banks.
Leeson: Yes, frightfully sorry about that. I do accept full responsibility and I promise it'll never happen again.
BBB: That's alright then. Do you want a reference?

IPCC: You shot Mr de Menezes in the head a total of seven times in the mistaken belief that he was a suicide bomber. Did you have any evidence to support this view?
SO 19 officer: No, but it was a sincerely held belief. I accept full responsibility.
IPPC. Okey dokey, glad to have that squared away. Have you tried the new Glock 36 yet?
SO 19: Yes, I've just been issued with one. Beautiful gun.
IPCC: Certainly is. Right, carry on. And please do try to be a bit more careful next time.
SO 19: No problem.

Hang on, that last one might not be such a good example...

Anyway, the full text of today's instalment from the Whitehouse reveals yet another wonder of disinformation. Just the one example:
We removed Saddam Hussein from power because he was a threat to our security.
Talk about unexplainable feelings of insecurity. In what way was he a threat? What do you call someone who exhibits an obsessive irrational fear with no regard for whether there's any evidence to support that fear? It's not a joke, I really want to know.

Bush, today, also referenced a speech he made before the war started. Strangely enough, I'd just been reading that very same speech:
In Iraq, a dictator is building and hiding weapons that could enable him to dominate the Middle East and intimidate the civilized world -- and we will not allow it. (Applause.) This same tyrant has close ties to terrorist organizations, and could supply them with the terrible means to strike this country -- and America will not permit it. The danger posed by Saddam Hussein and his weapons cannot be ignored or wished away. The danger must be confronted... The safety of the American people depends on ending this direct and growing threat. Acting against the danger will also contribute greatly to the long-term safety and stability of our world... A new regime in Iraq would serve as a dramatic and inspiring example of freedom for other nations in the region. [my emphasis]
- President Bush 26th February 2003
It's interesting to compare that view of Iraq with the view of those notoriously wishy-washy liberal-lefties at The Nation in the same month:
[This is] the most outrageous Big Lie of the Bush administration: that delaying an invasion to wait for the UN to complete inspections would endanger the United States. The fact is that for more than a decade the military containment of Iraq has effectively neutered Hussein, and there is no reason to believe that can't continue. Of course, there is a case to be made for keeping up pressure on Iraq to cooperate further with the UN. It is, however, counterproductive to transparently lie to a skeptical world and immoral to denigrate the inspection process because we are afraid it will undermine our cobbled-together rationale for going to war. As Powell knows from his Vietnam experience, lies have a way of catching up with you. Years from now, if the United States is still spending billions trying to micromanage the Middle East and reaping its rewards in blood, Bush will be marked indelibly, like Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon before him, as a leader who went to war on a lie. [my emphasis]
In 2003, Bush said "the safety of the American people depends on ending this direct and growing threat". He said much the same today. Whether you choose to believe this is a lie knowingly told or whether you prefer to believe it is the product of ignorance and incompetance is entirely up to you. I see no other ways to explain the statement though; it is, quite undeniably, wrong. Furthermore, very many people could see that it was wrong in February 2003. Bush (and Blair) continued to insist otherwise. Taking responsibility for that is going to take a lot more than a grudging admission that mistakes were made.

As for the long-term safety and stability of the world, consider this:
One country, though, has benefited greatly from the US-led invasion. Iran, increasingly radical, now knows that the United States lacks both the military strength and the political will to attack it.
- John Simpson 14/12/05
Hard to dispute. To call Iran's President increasingly radical is to seriously understate the problem*. Does anyone seriously believe that Saddam Hussein in 2003 was more of a threat to the region and to "the American people" than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is today? Not likely.

It is, I think, obvious that the invasion of Iraq has fuelled an increase in support for hardliners in Iran and the Iranian government now has a clear motive to increase their defensive capabilities because of what has happened to their neighbour. What makes it more troubling still is that the Iranian President knows he has considerable room for manoeuvre at the moment, courtesy of that same invasion. Is that really "contributing greatly to the long term safety and stability of the world"?.

* At the same time, it's worth remembering that Ahmadinejad is clearly a man who loves the sound of his own voice. Much of what he says is bluster and posturing aimed at impressing a very specific audience. He still has the potential to create a far more serious problem than Saddam was every likely to manage. Iran, unlike Iraq, almost certainly does have the potential to make a nuclear weapon within a few years if it really wants to.

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