Politicians Avoid Truth About War in Iraq

Andrew F. Adams is a regular contributor. Respond at [email protected]

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On Wednesday, Charles Duelfer and his 1,200-person team released a report detailing the extent of Saddam Hussein's WMD capability. Since the first Gulf War, it said, all chemical and nuclear weapons meant for use on large populations had been shelved. Hussein could have restarted his programs within a few months, but for the last 12 years had not researched or developed new weapons.

The same day, President Bush went on the attack in a speech, stating that in the debate last week Kerry had "come down firmly on every side of the war." The president claimed that even knowing Saddam did not have chemical, biological or nuclear weapons made him no less dangerous, as he sponsored terrorism and was a threat to the world.

The problem is that the Duelfer report, along with the Kay and other preceding reports, has shown that Hussein was more of a frustrated bully than a madman bent on America's destruction. He openly tortured and killed Iraqi people and subverted funds from the UN's Oil-for-Food program for his own use. But he was contained, both by economic sanctions and by the threat of U.S. military action if he tried to move beyond his borders.

So if Saddam posed little threat to the United States, why won't Kerry just say so? Why can't he state that Saddam was not a threat worth deaths of our troops?

Kerry is backed into a political corner because this war was fought for American political concerns, not for chances of success. Kerry knows an anti-war candidate won't fly with the public; it would be seen as an affront to the troops.

But this timing is not accidental. A political maxim of the Bush team is, "Give the people what they want, but not everything they want," the idea that when election time arrives, you need a past success and a future success that your opponent can't guarantee. Case in point: according to Bush, "Senator Kerry has a strategy for retreat, and I have a strategy for victory."

According to recent reports, the administration planned to reduce the number of all-U.S. patrols starting in July to reduce losses during this election season. The idea was to lower casualties to make the war look successful. But the Iraqis were not ready, so not only are U.S. troops continuing to carry out patrols, $3 billion was sunk from infrastructure back into security. The redirection of funds, coupled with the worsening conditions on the ground, have sullied this planned triumph.

However, one could not tell this from his stump speeches. Both the president and the vice president have said that knowing what they know now, they would have made the same choices. They have made the Iraq war a medal to pin on their lapel. There is a profound divide between the Iraq we see on the news and the Iraq in the president's speeches. Why?

When planning for the campaign, the Bush team was faced with two options in response to political attacks concerning the Iraq war: they could admit mistakes were made, which was to be expected when invading a world hot spot, or admit no mistakes and focus on the future of democracy in Iraq. They chose the second option because admitting setbacks would "give John Kerry the opening he was waiting for," a Bush advisor said in the New York Times.

Voters never expect complete candor about the situation in Iraq from the president, since he is on the hook for its failure. But when every rationale for the war has been proven illegitimate and our fears of becoming trapped in a guerrilla-infested war have come true, doubts about the president's truthfulness arise.

This continued denial of the failures in Iraq may be politically shrewd, but still deplorable-the president is lying. He's lying to himself and to the American public, and it just might cost him his job.


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