Use of the word ‘liar’ requires caution

“The essence of war is violence. Moderation in war is imbecility”

—British Sea Lord John Fisher (1841-1920)

By now you’ve probably heard of Sen. Harry Reid and his triumphant use of an arcane procedural rule that allowed him to shut down the Senate in his quest to have it investigate allegations that the president “lied” the country into the current military action in Iraq.

A Nov. 3 Reno Gazette-Journal editorial not surprisingly hailed Reid as a conquering hero for “forcing the Intelligence Committee to complete an examination of the [Bush] administration’s handling of intelligence and insisting upon an accounting of the rationale for going to war.” Now color me stupid, but I’d have expected the appropriate time for that would have been at the time the debate was being had about Iraq in the first place.

On the off chance Give’em Hell Harry might have a point, however, I delved into some recent history.

Courtesy of CNN, this was the president speaking on Iraq at the Pentagon: “[T]his is not a time free from peril, especially as a result of reckless acts of outlaw nations and an unholy axis of terrorists, drug traffickers and organized international criminals. We have to defend our future from these predators of the 21st century … [T]hey will be all the more lethal if we allow them to build arsenals of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and the missiles to deliver them. We simply cannot allow that to happen. There is no more clear example of this threat than Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.”

And this was the Secretary of State speaking about Saddam Hussein at the University of South Carolina: “He [Saddam] has started two wars. He has invaded a country next door. He is a repeat offender, and he is the kind of a rogue state leader that is a threat not only to his neighborhood, but because he has possessed and would like to possess more weapons of mass destruction, he is a threat to our national security.”

And this was the vice president on CNN’s Larry King Live: “[I]f you allow someone like Saddam Hussein to get nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, chemical weapons, biological weapons, how many people is he going to kill with such weapons? He’s already demonstrated a willingness to use these weapons; he poison gassed his own people. He used poison gas and other weapons of mass destruction against his neighbors. This man has no compunctions about killing lots and lots of people.”

And as we know, these were all lies. Except the aforementioned statements were made by then-President Bill Clinton on Feb. 17, 1998, Secretary of State Madeline Albright on Feb. 19, 1998, and Vice President Al Gore on Dec. 16, 1998.

Anti-war Democrats with attention deficit disorder might recall that “regime change” became the official policy on Iraq under the Clinton administration when Bill signed the Iraq Liberation Act, which passed the House 360 to 38 and the Senate unanimously.

On Dec. 17, 1998, here was Bill Clinton: “Earlier today, I ordered America’s armed forces to strike military and security targets in Iraq. … Their mission is to attack Iraq’s nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs and its military capacity to threaten its neighbors.”

And here was Reid shortly afterwards: “Now is not the time for second-guessing or partisan finger-pointing. National security concerns must come first. Saddam Hussein is too dangerous of a man to be given carte blanche with weapons of mass destruction.” (Associated Press, Dec. 26, 1998)

During the investigation perhaps Reid can explain what changed between then and now—other than the seated president’s party affiliation, that is.