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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Why did the U.S. go to war?

David Shapiro
can be reached at dave@volcanicash.net

President Bush took us to war with Iraq against the strong doubts of critics at home and abroad, insisting that Saddam Hussein needed to be disarmed of weapons of mass destruction that posed a dangerous threat to our security.

His supporters assured us that the White House had access to information the rest of us weren't privy to and urged us to trust the president.

Well, it turns out the president's trusty information wasn't so good, after all.

The weapons of mass destruction that supposedly posed so great a peril as to leave no option but war have yet to be found, and intelligence Bush cited about Iraq's nuclear program has been discredited. No sound evidence links Iraq to the 9-11 terror.

Bush still expresses confidence that dangerous weapons will be found in Iraq, but in case they aren't, the president and his backers are hedging their bets by subtly rewriting history to change the reasons we went to war.

The weapons are now downplayed, and instead the administration boasts of deposing an evil dictator who cruelly repressed his own people.

In a confounding display of circular logic, the Bush revisionists say it's their doubters, especially in Congress, who are rewriting history.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said critics in Congress have no right to grouse now because most of them believed Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction and supported the war.

Yes, they believed that Saddam had weapons — because their commander in chief told them so and asked them to trust his information.

If weapons don't turn up, the White House can't duck the inevitable questions no matter how politically inconvenient they may be with an election looming.

There's a compelling case for an independent and bipartisan inquiry to sort out how we got into this costly war. If the president acted with good cause, he has no reason to fear honest examination.

Nobody questions that Saddam is a bad guy we're well rid of, but that's not the point. The world is full of evil dictators we've not engaged in pre-emptive warfare.

If there weren't weapons threatening us, the reason we were given for going to war, why was it of such pressing importance to single out Iraq for attack over the world's other wicked regimes? Bush has never convincingly made this case, inviting speculation that a hidden agenda is at work.

These are vital questions in a war of immense negative consequence for our country:

• More than 160 U.S. soldiers have died, nearly a third from escalating guerrilla attacks since Bush declared an official end to combat. Thousands of Iraqis have died, and there's little sign that the Iraqis welcome our presence in their country. A lot of dying is yet to come.

• The war has helped turn dreams of a balanced federal budget to a record $455 billion deficit. After dismissing United Nations opposition to the war, we're going back to the world body hat in hand for help with the $4 billion-a-month tab for keeping the "peace" in Iraq.

• Our preoccupation with Iraq emboldened North Korea to provoke a crisis over its nuclear weapons, which pose far greater peril to world peace and our own security than Saddam ever did.

A deeper inquiry has nothing to do with naysaying, loyalty, patriotism, self-hate, conspiracy theories or any of the other partisan buzzwords.

It's about accountability, about having the national pride and integrity to honestly assess what we did right, what we did wrong and what we can learn for the future.