Thursday, July 31, 2003

The rationale continues to shift

I'm really beginning to consider "Chatterbox" by Timothy Noah over at Slate to be a must-read, and yesterday's bit is no exception: He talks of how "jangled" Bush seemed at his press conference, how the president inelegantly handled the issue of whether Saddam was a "threat" or not, and then touches on how the post-war rationale for the conflict continues to undergo a subtle shift away from the WMDs, which, to many involved, really don't matter anymore.

(Note: As the main reason given for our entry into this war, it continues to matter a great deal to many of us, Mr. President.)

Quoting a piece from Paul Gigot in the Wall Street Journal, Noah reflects:

But Gigot then goes on to suggest, as Bush did not, that finding these weapons is really beside the point. You can't say this directly, because then war critics will ridicule you. But you can say it indirectly, in Gigot's case by attributing it to GIs who are there, which gives them the moral high ground. What we should focus on, Gigot continues, is that the Iraqis are much better off without Saddam (indisputably true), and that we should now try to help them build a better government (also true). Although Bush talked vaguely today about how our victory over Saddam would help build peace in the Middle East (debatable), he mostly re-fought the WMD case for war—and that's a fight Bush can't win in the absence of more compelling evidence that Saddam had chemical and biological weapons. The human rights case for defeating Saddam, though, is compelling, especially when viewed from ground level. Never mind that, except for a very few liberal hawks (Slate's Christopher Hitchens and former Sen. Bob Kerrey come to mind), nobody ever argued before the war that Saddam's violation of human rights was the principal casus belli.

Isn't it clear that no one argued this because the American public wouldn't have bought it as a primary reason to go to war?

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