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Shrub for a day ...

I am not a Bush hater, though I'm not a great admirer either. I find him likeable in some ways, and respect and appreciate some of his actions as a leader - and I certainly find pathological Bush hatred offputting. But his inability to articulate - and here I mean much more than his elocutionary shortcomings - the rationale for his policies and actions is taxing my benevolence.

I read about a third of the transcript from the press conference a few nights ago, and liked it more on paper than as an audient. Still - and I'm sure many in the blogosphere feel this way - I think that many of his strategies and tactics (and, yes, missteps and errors) deserve a better explanation and accounting than he and his administration seem willing/able to give.

I know it's extremely difficult to speak fluently in extemporaneous fashion - but if I were Bush for a day, I would aim to deliver an apologia regarding WMD and Iraq along the following lines:

"We haven't yet reached a final assessment - the ISG, now under the direction of Charles Duelfer, continues its work under difficult conditions.

"Still, there's no question that we haven't found what we - and Intelligence agencies 'round the world - were expecting. And that's not good.

"Though we don't know to what extent, it's appearing more and more likely that we were all mistaken - our administration and Intelligence agencies, the previous administration, friends of the United States, UNSCOM, and others. I certainly am troubled at the possibility of our Intelligence being greatly off the mark, and I want to stress that we thoroughly vetted our views and represented them in good faith to the American people and the world.

"I ask that we be judged by the plausibility of the conclusions we reached, based on the information we had at the time; no one can seriously challenge that we had the appearances on our side, that our opinions were reasonable. And let's not forget that the actions and ommissions of the Iraqis certainly fortified us in our convictions, as they unquestionably acted as if they had something to hide.

"And, in fact, according to our intial conclusions, they were at the least hiding a breakout capability for WMD, if not the large caches about which we felt so confident. The difference in one way is great, and in another not at all: it confirms us in our central contention that UN Weapons Inspections would never relieve Saddam Hussein of his desire for, and eventual possession of, WMD. Rather, his plan clearly was to ride out another indeterminate inspections regime, and maneuver to get sanctions lifted - and be in a position to restock his WMD arsenals in relatively unimpeded fashion.

"Since a central concern of ours was collusion between Saddam and Islamist terrorists, it's frightening to realize that, not just weaponized agents, but the seed stock of scientific knowledge possessed by Iraq's scientists represented a commodity in great demand on the terrorists' black market - and a risk greater than we were willing to tolerate, especially considering Saddam's longstanding hostility to our nation. We have many examples from history of ideologically opposed groups setting aside differences to make common cause against a greater enemy. Our actions will have prevented - or disrupted - any such alliance between Iraq and Al Qaeda or Iraq and unaffiliated terrorists; or even the dispatching of Iraqi agents for an asymmetrical attack.

"As David Kay said, owing to reports of materiel being shipped out of Iraq, intimidation of witnesses, intentional destruction of WMD-related documentation and media, and - as Charlie Duelfer recently told us - the blatant lack of cooperation from key witnesses, we may never know the true extent of Iraq's WMD possessions before the war. But - carrying on inspections, if you like, on our own terms - we will learn more of the truth ultimately than if we had relied on Saddam Hussein to disclose his activities and ambitions to the UN.

"This much is certain: Saddam Hussein will never develop and use WMD again, and we are in the midst of finally winding down 12+ years of conflict between the United States and Iraq - or, more positively, finally on the road to cordial relations between the civilized world and a freer, more humane, and stable Iraq. We had multiple aims in toppling Saddam Hussein, and as we attempt to sort out exactly what transpired with respect to WMD, he have to stay focused on our other important achievements and goals."


In hindsight, it's clear that a simple attenuation of pre-war pronouncements would have lost little rhetorically, been more rigorous intellectually, and saved face in the light of recent events. Maybe something along these lines,

"Not beyond a shadow of a doubt, but beyond reasonable doubt, we believe that Iraq is hiding and developing WMD. Recalling all of our experiences with UNSCOM throughought the '90's, the recent perfunctory 'cooperation' with UNMOVIC shows that essentially nothing has changed, and nothing new can be expected from the regime of Saddam Hussein. One could argue that in the '90's we had the luxury of tolerating deception and ambiguity vis-a-vis Iraq's WMD; in light of the new realities heralded by 9.11, we will tolerate them no longer. Saddam Hussein has had 12 years to make a clean accounting, and has chosen not to. Thus we aim ourselves to verify well and truly that Iraq is disarmed, and disarm it if it isn't."

April 15, 2004 | Permalink


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You say, "the rationale for his policies and actions is taxing my benevolence." I suggest you consult with "Americans for Tax Reform", as if ever there were a tax in need of being cut.... Personally, I put it right up with things that tax my patience.

Posted by: Aaron at Apr 27, 2004 11:32:04 AM