Monday, October 31, 2005


Historical Revisionism

I'm not often tempted to quote an Instapundit post in its entirety. (Well, a fair number of Instapundit posts are a single word.) But this one summarizes my recent experiences well enough that I will just quote the whole thing:

October 30, 2005

ONE OF THE THINGS I'VE NOTICED in the Judy Miller / Scooter Libby coverage is the development of a new history that's very convenient for a lot of the people peddling it. The new story is that:

1. We only went to war because of WMDs -- that was the only reason ever given.

2. Bush lied about those.

3. He told his lies to Judy Miller, who acted like a stenographer and reported them.

4. Everyone else gullibly went along.

There are lots of problems with this, beginning with the fact that it's not true. I've addressed much of this -- especially parts 1 & 2 -- in earlier posts like this one, this one, and especially this one. It gets tiresome having to repeat this stuff, but the new history, despite its falsity, is just too convenient for too many people to be stopped by anything as simple as the truth.

Democratic politicians who supported the war want an excuse to tack closer to their antiwar base. Shouting "It's not my fault --I'm easily fooled!" would seem a substandard response, but it is a way of changing position while pretending it's not politically motivated. Meanwhile, journalists, most of whom were reporting the same kind of WMD stories that Miller did (because that's what pretty much everyone thought -- including the antiwar folks who were arguing that an invasion was a bad idea because it would provoke Saddam into using his weapons of mass destruction), now want to focus on her so that people won't pay much attention to what they were reporting themselves. This makes Judy Miller a handy scapegoat.

But, as I say, the biggest problem with this revisionism is that it's not true. I guess we'll just have to keep pointing that out.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, Rand Simberg wonders if Scooter Libby will get a harsher sentence than Sandy Berger if convicted.

ANOTHER UPDATE: J.D. Johannes notes that what people were saying in the 1990s seems to raise problems with the revisionist history. "The final authorization for use of force in 2002 cited the legislation from 1998. But what was conventional wisdom and uncontroversial in 1998, became hotly debated in 2002 and beyond." Especially "beyond."

MORE: Still more revisionist history, from Barbara Boxer.

MORE STILL: Dean Esmay writes:

Having been part of those debates when they were happening, I am utterly appalled at people I used to think of as intelligent and well-informed who keep repeating falsehood after falsehood after falsehood about it. And I am utterly exhausted with having to, at least once a month or so, go back and rehash the same arguments because some people are not simply honest enough, diligent enough, or caring enough to go back and look at the historical record and just be honest about it.

I find having to rehash it all about as pleasant and satisfying as chewing on aluminum foil. It's not disagreement I can't stand, it's the constant repetition of falsehoods that makes me want to scream.


Yes. I do get tired of hearing people shouting about the WMD -- as though Bush promised us that Saddam had WMD, but we haven't found any, therefore he lied to us.

First of all, I don't recall Bush ever saying that Saddam was known to have WMD. But think of what we did know at the time, which Bush did point out -- Saddam had had WMD in the past (we know because he used them, on the Iranians and on his own people)... and he had signed cease-fire agreements promising to dismantle all WMDs and prove that he had done so, but he never did.

To anyone who harbors a fear of ever seeing a mushroom cloud from the inside, that's enough, in and of itself, to reach the conclusion that Something Must Be Done about Saddam. But there's more.

Saddam was known to harbor personal animosity against the United States, and was not shy about showing it, even if it only meant violating his cease-fire by taking potshots at American jets patrolling the No-Fly Zones. Furthermore, he had known ties to terrorists (although in 2002 we didn't know of any definite ties to al-Qaeda), and was actively supporting terrorism, financially and otherwise. (This raised the specter that, if he did have WMD, or soon acquired them, they might easily find their way into the hands of terrorists... who could then use them, against the United States or her allies, while Saddam maintained complete deniability.) In 2002 we saw alarming signs of WMD programs in place, the extent of which we did not know, implying that if Saddam did not have WMD, he soon would, if we didn't act. And finally, Saddam was known to strike at his enemies without warning, as he did against Iran in 1980 and against Kuwait in 1990.

All of this, taken together, spelled a future threat against the United States... and a possible window of opportunity for dealing with it decisively. President Bush took that opportunity, and did indeed deal with the situation decisively, never looking back. I've never faulted him for it, nor do I fault him for it now.

In fact, I give him significant credit for going to the UN to make his case -- where he asked for, and got, a unanimous UNSC resolution, giving Saddam one last chance to disarm and prove that he had done so. (When was the last time the UNSC passed a resolution unanimously? I've never seen Bush given proper credit for this.)

Now. All of the above could have been handled using traditional American foreign policy, as previous presidents had done -- depose Saddam, support a local warlord to become the new despot, and feed the new guy so long as he remains friendly to American interests. But Bush did not do this. Going by his statements of the time, Bush seemed to genuinely believe that the spread of democracy was in America's vested security interests, in addition to being good for the Iraqi people (and the Afghan people, and so on).

In other words, he did not just do the right thing, according to his oath to protect the people of the United States. He chose to do so in a manner that directly benefited citizens of another country -- as we did, by the way, with our vanquished WWII enemies in Germany and Japan -- and, in my opinion, should be credited with that as well.

I've explained all this many times, here and elsewhere... and it certainly does get tiresome to hear people scream, yet again, that "it was all about the WMD" and "Bush lied!"

Memo to Americans: it was not about the WMDs. It was about you. It was about waking up, on that terrible morning of 9/11/2001, and deciding that this must never be permitted to happen again. Americans must not have to live in fear that, some day, a major city will disappear, on the whim of a despot half a world away and his terrorist buddies.

Whether you like it or not, the U.S. military exists solely to protect you. They are now doing precisely that, fighting -- and dying -- in a faraway land, so that you can live peacefully at home.

Please, show a little respect to them for their devotion to you, a fellow American citizen they've never met. And please, give the benefit of the doubt to the man who sent them into harm's way. President Bush did that, and he did it for you. Not for the oil, not for the WMD, not because he wants Iraqis to vote for him someday.

Put quite simply, he did it because he said he would. He did it because it's his job.


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