12 January 2009

Bush: One Last Limping Waddle toward History

The departing President held his "final" news conference today, and once more the press pressed him to admit errors, as if it matters more if he confesses them than if they report them.He dredged up some memories, some of which he's acknowledged as mistakes in the past: the "Mission Accomplished" banner, the "Bring It On" challenge to Iraqi insurgents, etc. But while he admits that failing to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq a "significant disappointment" (and why, Republican readers, does your leader never repeat the "they smuggled the WMD to Syria" line that I still hear so often from your ranks?), he refuses to characterize the invasion of Iraq as a mistake. He seems to regard establishing democracy of some sort in a tyrant's place as an end in itself that continues to justify the mission, but that wasn't why he told us the invasion was necessary six years ago. Should he publish a memoir, he'll want to rewrite history further to give the invasion a motive that won't make the outcome a mistake, but too many people know the truth for that to work. The U.S. and the "coalition of the willing" invaded Iraq on the public pretext that Saddam Hussein's regime presented an imminent threat to global security. If it did not, it doesn't matter how awful his reign was. If he was not an imminent threat, the invasion was a mistake. It can only not be a mistake if Bush or his buddies are willing to admit a different motive and confess themselves to be liars circa 2003. Someone smarter than Bush might be able to work up an argument explaining why long-term considerations justified telling a "noble lie" in 2003, but that would still require our imaginary memoirist to admit telling a lie. Bush persists in insisting that he thought he was right about the weapons, and asks to be judged by his sincere beliefs and intentions at the time of the invasion. But from the beginning there's been reason to doubt that suspicion of WMD was the first cause of the invasion. That's why people continue to accuse Bush of lying despite Republican howls of outrage. He hasn't yet given them cause to stop.

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