Andrew Card, President Bush's chief of staff, made the rounds of the Sunday interview shows last weekend. On CNN's "Late Edition," Wolf Blitzer pushed Card fairly hard on the war in Iraq -- not so much on how it's going, but on why it happened. At one point, after broaching the issue of the phantom weapons of mass destruction, Blitzer asked, "Was U.S. intelligence going into the war faulty?"
Card answered: "Well, intelligence -- I think, first of all, there was plenty of justification to go to war. He had stiffed the United Nations many, many times. He was a threat to his own people and a threat to the region. He was a threat to our interests. And we had called for -- as a country, we had called for regime change under the previous administration.
"But when you go there today and you see some of the mass graves that are there, where he murdered his own people, you just can't help but think that we are much better off with[out] Saddam there. So, I think that's a moot point."
Such an innocuous phrase, "moot point," but it is breathtaking in its significance and damnably outrageous of Card to use it.
As you will recall, and as people like Card keep hoping you will forget, Saddam Hussein's WMD stockpiles and programs were the fundamental reason the United States went to war in Iraq. Yes, there were secondary reasons as well, some of which Card mentioned. But without the WMD threat to the United States and its friends, never would the American people or the U.S. Senate have consented to war. They were assured the administration had a rock-solid WMD case against Iraq. And so the United States invaded Iraq, despite the misgivings of some of its closest allies.
The case against Saddam, however, turned out to be so much mush. It was based on faulty intelligence, which those who wanted war in the Pentagon and Vice President Dick Cheney's office apparently cherry-picked to make their case -- hyping that information which was supportive, dismissing that which was not. Numerous critics have accused the administration of using raw intelligence data from unreliable sources, which Cheney has denied. But just this week, Newsweek is reporting that the exile Iraqi National Congress had direct pipelines into Cheney's office and the Pentagon, through which they fed information gathered from exiles and INC sources, and most of which turned out to be so much hooey.
This was an intelligence failure of immense proportions and consequences. The American people were misled into war. That failure hardly qualifies as a "moot point." The price paid so far, and to be paid for who knows how long into the future, is just too horrific.
The little town of Tipton, Iowa, paid part of that price last week. Specialist Aaron James Sissel, 22, of Tipton was killed when his convoy was attacked in Haditha, Iraq. His photographs suggest an engaging, outgoing kid, big smile on his spectacled face. The obituary in the Iowa City Press-Citizen tells about Sissel. He was just four years out of high school. Sissel loved stock cars and NASCAR racing, bowling, the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Michigan Wolverines. Sissel was assigned to the Iowa National Guard's 2133rd Transportation Company. He thought he had a future: He left behind a fiance, Specialist Kari N. Prellwitz. She's also serving with the Iowa National Guard in Iraq.
Sissel and Prellwitz and all those who serve with them aren't so many throwaway pieces in some grand geostrategic game. They are American flesh and blood. Yes, they were soldiers pledged to defending their country, and they went about their tasks the best way they could. But they did not pledge to protect the civilian Iraqi population from the despot Saddam Hussein. They did not pledge to prevent more mass graves in Iraq. They were not asked to do those things. They were asked to help eliminate a threat to the United States posed by Saddam's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs.
They went; now Sissel is dead. For Andrew Card or anyone else in Washington to play bait-and-switch with such sacrifice is vulgar.
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