Thursday, May 29, 2003


Mark Bowden, the author of "Black Hawk Down", has come out with a column saying that Bush should not be let off easy if no WMD are found:
Events have moved so swiftly, and Hussein's toppling has posed so many new pressing problems, that it would be easy to lose sight of this issue, but it is critically important. I can imagine no greater breach of public trust than to mislead a country into war. A strong case might have been made to go after Hussein just because he posed a potential threat to us and the region, because of his support for suicide bombers, and because of his ruthless oppression of his own people. But this is not the case our President chose to make. Truth in public life has always been a slippery commodity. We expect campaigning politicians or debating journalists to pitch and spin. Facts are marshaled to support arguments and causes; convenient ones are trumpeted and inconvenient ones played down or ignored. This is the political game. But when the President of the United States addresses the nation and the world, I expect the spinning to stop. He represents not just a party or a cause, but the American people. When President Bush argued that Hussein possessed stockpiles of illicit and deadly poisons, he was presumably doing so on the basis of intelligence briefings and evidence that the public could not see. He was asking us to trust him, to trust his office, to trust that he was acting legitimately in our self-defense. That's something very different from engaging in a bold policy of attempting to remake the Middle East, or undertaking a humanitarian mission to end oppression. Neither of these two justifications would have been likely to garner widespread public support. But national defense? That's an argument the President can always win. I trusted Bush, and unless something big develops on the weapons front in Iraq soon, it appears as though I was fooled by him. Perhaps he himself was taken in by his intelligence and military advisers. If so, he ought to be angry as hell, because ultimately he bears the responsibility.
As testimonials like this come out it is hard to resist the urge to grab these people by the lapels and scream in their faces, "You Idiots! Of course Bush shouldn't be trusted! This is what we've been trying to tell you all along! How could you be so gullible?!" But we have to resist this temptation because we need people like Bowden on our side. The biggest danger to Bush is the conversion of former defenders into his harshest critics. They will have a standing to get their criticism heard that none of us who have always opposed the man could ever hope to achieve. If we just ridicule them for their initial cluelessness then we will only discourage them from admitting that they were scammed. So let's welcome Mr. Bowden with open arms and not rub it it in.


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