They came to the Daily Camera editorial board in early autumn 2002, as our leaders in Washington were fueling fears that a small, oil-rich Arab nation run by one of America's former "sons of bitches" posed an imminent — yes, they used that word — threat to America.
They were mostly older, except for a Catholic priest, soft-spoken and grave. And as many Americans were deaf to the war drums being pounded daily by the Pentagon and White House, they were convinced that the Bush administration was going to attack Iraq.
Tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis would die, they predicted, as would thousands of U.S. soldiers. The occupation would be anything but a "cakewalk." The Iraqis would not see us as liberators, and our presence would inflame them as long as we remained. The war would cost hundreds of billions of dollars. It would further alienate the world's Muslims, and increase, not decrease, terrorism.
Nearly three years later, their predictions have proved correct, while the cocky pronouncements of our leaders have been almost uniformly wrong. A bunch of peaceniks in Boulder — along with millions of sensible grandmothers and teens, liberals and conservatives around the nation — knew better than the best minds of the world's only superpower. How can that be?
They simply paid attention, sought information and ultimately trusted their own judgment over that of agenda-driven government officials. They suspected that the war was already a done deal, and all that was to follow — Colin Powell spewing what he privately called "bulls**t" before the United Nations; revolving door self-defense rationalizations from al-Qaida-Saddam connections to nukes raining down on London — was a staged distraction. President Bush chiseled his war of choice in stone even as he misled his people into believing it might yet be averted.
And now we have the memo to prove it. In a story that remains little known on our side of the pond, the London Times published a top-secret memo from a foreign policy aide to British cabinet officials that reveals that the war was already set in motion by July 2002.
You can find the three-page memo online by searching the name of the author, Matthew Rycroft. But here's a small sample (italics mine):
- "Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."
- "There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action."
- "It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action ... But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran."
Now, even if you supported the Iraq invasion, are you pleased that you were misled by an administration hell-bent on war? If the president had made a truthful case — Saddam is a monster, we want regime change, and a U.S. presence between the Tigris and Euphrates will help guarantee future flows of oil — instead of horse-hockey about Iraqi assaults on America, would you have said, "go for it"? If so, what cost in lives, hundreds of billions of dollars, and shattered relations with most of the world would have changed your mind? Should we simply salute if (when?) we're told we must attack Iran or Syria?
I'm angry, not just at being misled into a bloody, cynical war, but that this kind of lying — call a spade a spade, folks — is so accepted, when Bill Clinton's foolish dalliances and lies were kindling for an endless media conflagration.
But not everyone is so afraid that they believe everything they're told; the continuing misery in Iraq — there were other approaches to the Saddam problem — was foreseen by millions, and not just "activists." Those millions who had their patriotism questioned simply because they opposed a unnecessary war; those believers in the humanity of all humanity — they were right, while our leaders have repeatedly borne false witness.
Copyright 2005, The Daily Camera and the E.W. Scripps Company