Monday, February 16

Like Father, Unlike Daughter

We've all lived long enough to see Pat Buchanan turn into (sometimes) the voice of reason.

On Sept. 11, opportunity struck.

On Sept. 15, according to author Bob Woodward, Paul Wolfowitz spoke up in the War Cabinet to urge that Afghanistan be put on a back burner and an attack be mounted at once on Iraq, though Iraq had had nothing to do with 9-11. Why Iraq? Said Wolfowitz, because it is "doable."

On Sept. 20, 40 neoconservatives in an open letter demanded that Bush remove Saddam from power, "even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the (9-11) attack." Failure to do so, they warned the president, "would constitute an early and perhaps decisive surrender in the war on international terrorism."

While Bush had taken office as a traditional conservative skeptical of "nation-building" and calling for a more "humble" foreign policy, after 9-11, he was captured by the neocons and converted to an agenda they had worked up years before. Suddenly, he sounded just like them, threatening wars on "axis-of-evil" nations that had nothing to do with 9-11.

And here is where Bush's present crisis was created.

Though he had internalized the neoconservative agenda for war, he had no rationale, no justification, no casus belli. Iraq had not threatened or attacked us.

Enter the WMD. Neoconservatives pressed on Bush the idea that Iraq must still have weapons of mass destruction and must be working on nuclear weapons. And as Saddam was a figure of such irrationality – i.e., a madman – he would readily give an atom bomb to Al Qaeda. An American city could be incinerated.

Therefore, Saddam had to be destroyed. Bush bought it.

The problem, however, was this: While there is much evidence Saddam is evil, there is no evidence he was insane. He had not used his WMD in 1991, when he had them. For he was not a fool. He knew that would mean his end. Why would he then build a horror weapon now, give it to a terrorist and risk the annihilation of his regime, family, legacy and himself, a fate he had narrowly escaped in 1991?

Made no sense – and there was no hard evidence on the WMD.

Thus, when the CIA was unable to come up with hard evidence that Saddam still had WMD, or was building nuclear weapons, neocon insiders sifted the intelligence, cherry-picked it, presented tidbits to the media as unvarnished truth, and persuaded Powell and the president to rely on it to make the case to Congress, the country and the world. Powell and the president did.