Notes on the Atrocities Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...
Friday, December 26, 2003
A two-part "best of. This one was posted after heated debate on June 5, 2003.
The argument goes like this: "Even though the President said he knew Iraq had WMD and knew where they were, it wasn't a lie (atlhough admittedly, it appears he was wrong). It was a failure of intelligence. His declarative sentences were expressing confidence in the intelligence, a confidence betrayed by our inept intel agencies. It wasn't a lie because he couldn't be expected to second-guess the CIA. His motivation was true and good."
But this is exactly where the lie, ahem, lies: his motivation was not good and true. His motivation was to go to war. There may well have been a legitimate reason there, but we never heard it. Instead, we heard the administration repeatedly make the case--before the Congress, the UN and the American public--that Iraq had WMD and posed an imminent danger. (And a vast majority of people were convinced.)
The tricky part is that the President has a unique responsibility to the public. He has the bully pulpit. When he stands before the American people and represents a policy position, citizens need to be able to trust the facts and motivation of that policy, particularly when it involves committing ourselves to war. The lie was not in misrepresenting the intelligence (we may never know who knew what and when), but in telling the American people that he was certain of these facts. He's the most powerful opinion-maker in the country, and he has to exercise that power responsibly.
Instead, he offered confused rationales for the war based on bad intelligence, and asked the American people to trust him. He stood up and used his best plain-spoken, I'm-the-guy-who's-square-with-you argument. He told us that he couldn't tell us the whole story, but his word was his seal--he would stand behind this decision. Well, the people believed him.
They have every right to say, "Look, Mr. President, you told us you were being square with us, and you weren't. You lied."