The lies of war

Does anybody still care why the United States invaded Iraq? Does it matter that President George W. Bush lied to the American people about his intentions?

Apparently not. Few American media have paid attention to a blockbuster revelation, in the form of a once secret memorandum, published May 1 by the London Sunday Times in the run-up to the recent British elections. The memo, which records a meeting of top British officials held in July 2002, eight months before the invasion, notes that Sir Richard Dearlove, the head of MI6 (the equivalent of the CIA), “reported on his recent talks in Washington.” Military action, Dearlove said, “was now seen as inevitable” by the Bush administration and was “justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD [weapons of mass destruction]. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”

Three months later, on Oct. 16, 2002, shortly after Congress had voted to authorize him to go to war against Iraq, President Bush, in an address to the nation, said it was now up to Saddam Hussein. Iraq could avoid war, he said, by “declaring and destroying all its weapons of mass destruction.” In truth, as the memo shows, the president had no intention of letting Saddam off the hook and would do whatever it took to cook up a case by “fixing” the intelligence and facts against him.

International pressure later forced the president to agree to send United Nations inspectors into Iraq to ferret out WMD. As Saddam Hussein said would happen, they didn’t find any—a fact that Bush, in what is perhaps the greatest irony of this war, insisted was proof that Saddam was thumbing his nose at the world. In other words, Iraq’s insistence—truthful, we now know—that it had no WMD and the fact that UN inspectors could find none were taken as evidence of Saddam’s duplicity and the need for war.

There was no legal basis for this war. As the “Downing Street memo” acknowledges, “… the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran.” Actually, it was nonexistent, as we now know.

President Bush and his advisers got us into war by lying about their intentions and because they thought it would be a cakewalk. They were wrong, morally and tactically, and we shouldn’t forget it.