If you seriously believed the Bush administration that Iraq posed an immediate threat because of its weapons programs, or that Saddam was intimately connected with al-Qaeda, you richly deserved your deception.
And if you lived through any part of the 20th century and didn't learn that political power, and in particular the American presidency, is shrouded in lies - uses lies as a basic strategy for governance - then you really are a chump.
You've got to understand, first of all, that "intelligence" works both ways: Information drives policy, and policy drives information. If the CIA is charged with justifying a certain policy, its agents will at least give it a shot. After all, they're loyal Americans.
But the case was luridly bad from the get-go, riddled with holes that were obvious to anyone who was watching. We kept reaching for crudely forged documents and aluminum tubes. When Secretary of State Colin Powell got up in front of the United Nations to make the case that Saddam was connected to Osama bin Laden, he used as his main point the existence of an al-Qaeda training camp in Iraq. The camp was in the Kurdish autonomous zone, controlled not by Saddam but by the people to whom we had allied ourselves. That would have justified bombing D.C. - but not Baghdad.
Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix revealed in a recent interview with the Guardian that he was pressured to exaggerate and distort the result of inspections, and that he believes he was the victim of a Pentagon disinformation campaign to impugn, among other things, his heterosexuality. But the administration obviously pressured everyone involved to come up with claims it could use to justify conquest and obviously used anything that would bolster its case, no matter how obviously ridiculous.
The weapons-of-mass-destruction thing would have made the case for attacking around a dozen countries at least before it would have justified attacking Iraq.
The truth is, we wanted to flex our muscles, wanted to kill somebody, thirsted for conquest. That's the reason the administration ladled up the slop, and that's the reason so many Americans purported to believe it or decided not to worry too much about the case.
Clearly, the manipulation of public opinion was central to the administration's strategy for war, and clearly, it garnered and continues to enjoy the support of the American people. And in our system - in which human lives are nothing compared to polling numbers - the decision to go couldn't have been made in any atmosphere of opinion that was much different.
So for God's sake, please don't pretend now to feel betrayed or anguished by sudden doubt. Your self-deception is as much to blame as the administration's lies.
Crispin Sartwell teaches philosophy at the Maryland Institute College of Art.
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