I wrote last week about Jim Wallis’ harsh (and I think unfair) criticism of the U.S. war in Iraq (click here to see it). Wallis alleged that President Bush manipulated the U.S. into invading Iraq by intentionally deceiving the American people into believing that Iraq was behind 9-11. In a recent essay for the Washington Post‘s “On Faith” forum, N. T. Wright makes the same charge. He writes,
“I believe, and have said so from early 2002 when the idea was first mooted, that for Britain and the USA to go to war in Iraq was not, could not be, and would not be seen as a just war. It was not defensive â€“ the WMD argument was always just a smokescreen, as many in western intelligence must have known â€“ and was clearly and nakedly the ambition of many in the White House and elsewhere, so much so that they were eager to exploit 9/11 as ‘really Iraq’s fault’ right from that tragic day onwards.”
To allege that the Iraq War is not a just war is one thing. But to presume to know some secret, sinister motive that was really driving George Bush and Tony Blair is quite another. It’s just not credible to claim that the “WMD argument was always just a smokescreen,” as if President Bush and Prime Minister Blair had to sell a bill of goods to the world before going to war. They did not. Iraq’s possession of and desire for WMD was the unanimous consensus of every major intelligence agency in the world, not just Britain and America’s. Does Wright really wish to imply that Bush and Blair somehow manufactured a worldwide intelligence consensus that existed more than a decade before either of them took office? Pardon me if I’m a little bit incredulous at that suggestion. (E.g., see U.N. Security Council resolutions against Iraq for the entire decade leading up to the war).
Wright also alleges (in agreement with Wallis) that the White House misled America into believing that Iraq was responsible for the attacks of 9-11. Wright is simply, factually wrong on this one. I hope the error is unintentional. But at no time did President Bush ever suggest that Iraq was behind the attacks of 9-11. Never did he make such a claim, and I defy anyone to produce the speech or interview in which he did. It never happened. This is a red herring frequently repeated by President Bush’s critics in order to make him out to be a liar, but the claim is verifiably false.
I don’t think President Bush is inerrant or that he and his administration have done everything right in Iraq. I am now of the opinion that Rumsfeld’s decision to prosecute the war with as few troops as possible was a mistake. We had plenty of troops to effect regime change, but not enough to occupy and secure Bagdad. The U.S. is reaping the consequences of that miscalculation right now.
That being said, I don’t think it’s helpful to make an antiwar case (as Wright does) based on a distorted and tendentious description of the run-up to the war. Even when it’s repeated in not so many words, the “Bush lied, people died” mantra is tired, untrue, and not helpful.