Duped by the President

by Michael Sloan-Rossiter | 6/1/05 5:00am

I passionately believe in human freedom and human dignity. I believe that people of free nations have a moral obligation to actively support every human being's desire to live freely. By no means am I a pacifist. In fact, during the buildup to the Iraq War in 2002, I was an outspoken proponent of the war.

I argued that weapons of mass destruction presented a credible threat, and even more importantly, I pointed to Saddam Hussein's continued repression of his people's desire for freedom and basic rights.

Therefore, I saw the March 2003 invasion of Iraq as a sign of progress, a sign of hope in the Middle East. As I watched Iraqis dance in the streets with joy on CNN, I choked up.

The subsequent failure to find weapons of mass destruction -- the justification for the war, bothered me -- but not nearly as much as continued violence in Iraq.

The continued waves of terrorism and insurgency in the country are not going away.

In fact, recent media reports suggest the country is on the brink of a civil war, with insurgents attempting to surround and cut off Baghdad. Newsday.com recently quoted Pat Lang, the former top Middle East intelligence official at the Pentagon, as saying, "It's just political rhetoric to say we are not in a civil war. We've been in a civil war for a long time."

To blame the Bush administration for its failure to find Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and the continued insurgency (and looming civil war) would be unreasonable if the administration had done everything in its power to address these problems before the invasion.

If the administration had truly believed the WMDs existed and had made plans for winning the peace, it would be unfair to blame them for negligence.

However, the administration was both negligent and dishonest.

During the recent British parliamentary election campaign, The Times of London (available online at downingstreetmemo.com) released a secret memo containing the minutes of the British prime minister's meeting on July 23, 2002.

The memo details what the Bush administration planned months before the invasion, and states that to the Bush Administration, "[m]ilitary action was now seen as inevitable," and "[i]t seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided."

The memo goes on to state that "the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran." In order to build a case for the war, the memo reports that "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.

"The NSC had no patience with the UN route." Read that again -- "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

The memo speaks quite clearly for itself. The Bush administration was manipulating the facts and presenting evidence in such a way that might get Dartmouth students suspended for academic dishonesty.

Meanwhile, the memo describes: "little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action."

Clearly, if the justification for the war had been humanitarian, this concern would have been given some thought. I am ashamed to admit that I supported the decision to go to war. Like many Americans, I feel I was duped by the president.

Even now, I feel that my original belief that the Iraqi people deserved to be given a chance as a free people was right.

I still believe the war could have been a success for democracy in the world. John Kerry repeated time and time again in his presidential campaign that he believed "Saddam Hussein was a threat. There was a right way to disarm him and a wrong way. And the president chose the wrong way."

President Bush should have exhausted all options before invading Iraq, even if his National Security Council (led by our now Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice) "had no patience with the UN route."

He should never have decided to invade until the moment he gave the authorization. It is unforgivable that President Bush would decide months in advance that the United States should overthrow the leader of a country the size of California in one of the most volatile regions of the world that presented no real threat to the United States without preparing for the aftermath of the war.

Let us not forget that Saddam was effectively locked in with no-fly zones in the north and south of the country and with economic sanctions.

There was a right way to go to war. And in not exhausting all other options, in not planning for the consequences of the war, in not building a legal framework through which the United States could claim casus belli, in misrepresenting the facts to prepare a fallacious case for war, President Bush chose the wrong way. And now the Iraqi people will suffer, as will the soldiers in the U.S. military.

The president fixed the facts around his policy of preemptive war. I pray that Iraq is not plunged into a civil war in the coming months. I pray that the Iraqi government is able to take control of the country so that the Iraqi people may become a free people.

If this does happen, let us not forget in our joy for the people of Iraq that thousands need not have died and suffered if our president chose the right way. There was a right way and there was a wrong way, Mr. President.