George W. Bush recently told a group of GOP backers that those who question his prewar claims about the Iraqi threat are "revisionist historians." But by insisting that his Administration told the truth about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, Bush becomes the revisionist.
Revelations from intelligence and military sources increasingly lead to the conclusion that the Bush Administration misled the American people both about WMDs and about the situation in Iraq. Robert Dreyfuss notes on page 4 that the Administration's dubious "evidence" included information not only from the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans, set up after the White House became unhappy with the CIA's reports, but also from a similar group working for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Ignoring the damage this truth gap does to US credibility abroad, Bush is counting on polls that say most Americans don't care whether Saddam had WMDs, or ties to Al Qaeda, to bring him through in 2004. But a current CBS poll shows that the belief that the Administration overestimated the number of WMDs is now 44 percent, up five points in two weeks. Recently, a ghost of Nixon past, John Dean, evoked the specter of impeachment: "If Bush has taken Congress and the nation into war based on bogus information," Dean wrote, "he is cooked."
In Britain, where journalistic and parliamentary pit bulls are fiercer, former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook shattered Tony Blair's prewar case for war, saying that Iraq "did not represent a clear and serious threat." Over here, Republican Pat Roberts, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, says he'll examine the prewar intelligence on WMDs in secret hearings, signaling that he's more interested in hiding than seeking answers. His obstructionism is a good argument for the formation of an independent commission, which should hold televised hearings and call witnesses.
Such investigations could also look at the prewar planning (or lack thereof) for the occupation of Iraq. Two months after Bush had his Tom Cruise moment on the flight deck of the Abraham Lincoln, it's clear that the war is far from over. Postwar US casualties--more than fifty soldiers killed--could surpass the casualties of the war itself. The United States faces the prospect of an ugly and lengthy insurgency. Adding to the unrest, the lack of progress toward shifting authority to an interim Iraqi body has intensified resentment against US occupiers and led to fears that Iraq will be riven by competing religious and ethnic factions.
The Administration should heed Adnan Pachachi, the Iraqi elder statesman and ambassador to the United Nations in the 1960s, who recently urged US proconsul Paul Bremer to allow Iraqis to start forming an interim government. The Administration also has to admit that rebuilding Iraq is beyond the capability of the United States alone and that it's time to reach out to the international community for help. Turning over key aspects of Iraq's administration to the UN wouldn't solve all the many problems in Iraq, but it would provide some much-needed legitimacy for the presence of US forces, draw in the support and help of other countries with nation-building experience and allow Islamic countries to contribute peacekeepers and police forces to help restore order.
Clausewitz wrote of the confusion engendered by the "fog of war." Now we are muffled in a "fog of peace." But one thing is clear: The war is not over--and the questioning has just begun.