Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Hanging Curve

Back during the run up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, most of the arguments presented in favor of the war weren't very persuasive to me.  The evidence seemed flimsy, and the logic of Saddam Hussein giving Osama bin Laden weapons of mass terror or mass destruction was flawed.  A flurry of articles in the Guardian this week sheds further light on how the country was deceived into supporting the war.  Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, who was dubbed "Curveball" by his handlers in the German and then US intelligence agencies, has admitted to a Guardian reporter that he lied about his knowledge of Iraqi chemical and biological weapons programs.  As it turned out, they didn't exist at all, except in the mind of Hussein.  But the Bush Administration, despite knowing that there were very good reasons to doubt him, constructed a case for war based on al-Janabi's dubious story.  Everything flowed from the assumption that his story was accurate, including the evidence shown during Colin Powell's "dramatic" presentation to the UN.  (Powell has been engaged in an active campaign to rehabilitate his reputation ever since.)

None of al-Janabi's revelations are really new, though.  Apart from the lack of hard evidence on the ground in Iraq for a weapons program, the internal doubts in the Bush Administration and Blair's Government have been reported before.   And that leads to an unpleasant truth: the new report just does not matter.  If the people who actively supported the Iraq War were willing to accept that the war was wrong and unnecessary, they would have done so by now.  They haven't, and won't, because the implications are too hard to face.  Their willful disregard for facts puts a burden of doing something on the people in the middle, who were passive supporters for one reason or another.  But they declared their apathy on the matter in 2004, when Bush was re-elected.  There are plenty on the left side of the political spectrum who would like to do something, such as prosecuting or at least exposing people who knew about al-Janabi's lies.  But they are busy trying to prevent the dismantling of America's already very weak safety net.  So the issue will be left to fester.

What is the fate of democracies that can't respond to internal, self-made crises?  The few prior examples are not encouraging.

ETA: Powell's good reputation was always undeserved.

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