orwell goes to war

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    Orwell Goes to War
    Des Moines Register Editorial
    Friday 08 October 2004
    We live in Orwellian times, where obvious falsehoods are asserted brazenly as the truth.
    The day after the final report of the Iraq Survey Group confirmed that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction and no active programs to produce them, Vice President Dick Cheney blithely asserted that the report justified the invasion of Iraq.
    No, Mr. Vice President, the report shattered the last forlorn hope that the war was necessary. It established that Iraq posed no threat to the United States before the 2003 invasion or any time in the foreseeable future. President Bush, on the very day the report was issued, said, "There was a risk, a real risk, that Saddam Hussein would pass weapons or materials or information to terrorist networks."
    No, Mr. President, you don't seem to get it. Saddam had no weapons or materials to give. The chemical and biological weapons were destroyed years ago, and Iraq's capacity to develop nuclear weapons was actually deteriorating at the time of the invasion. Not to mention that Saddam had no meaningful ties with terrorists. On Thursday, Bush dropped the reference to weapons but continued to insist Saddam had knowledge of weapons that could have been given to terrorists. That's knowledge anyone can get off the Internet.
    When the United States was gearing up to invade, United Nations arms inspectors were in Iraq. If they had been allowed a few more months to complete their work, they would have discovered what the post-invasion inspectors now report - that Iraq had no stockpiles or active programs involving weapons of mass destruction. But President Bush insisted the invasion couldn't wait. He described a "grave and immediate threat" from Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. During the futile search for weapons after the invasion, the words changed in an Orwellian rewriting of the justification. "Immediate threat" was downgraded to just a "threat" and then to a "gathering threat." Now it's clear there was no threat, gathering or otherwise.
    Similarly, the words about weapons changed. The president and his advisers asserted with absolute certainty that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. When no weapons turned up, they insisted Iraq had weapons programs . When no evidence of programs was found, they spoke of "weapons of mass destruction-related program activities." Orwell must have been grimacing in his grave. The kindest interpretation of events is that the president was the victim of faulty intelligence - that he did what he thought was right to protect the country on the basis of bad information. The unkindest interpretation is that he deluded himself and the nation by selectively believing only the intelligence that supported a preconceived fixation on invading Iraq.
    Either way, the invasion will go down as one of the worst foreign-policy blunders in American history. It does not diminish the sacrifices of America's magnificent soldiers, nor does it deny that Saddam was a brutal thug, to recognize that the security of the United States was not enhanced by the invasion of Iraq. It is a tragedy that compounds every day because each day it looks increasingly less likely that the Middle East will end up being a better place in the aftermath.
    It's an awful dilemma. If American troops are withdrawn, Iraq is likely to disintegrate into a civil war that could produce a terrorist regime. The invasion will have created the very thing it was supposed to have prevented. But the longer American troops stay, the more intense the anti-American insurgency becomes. How many more American lives will be lost trying to establish stability in an inherently unstable situation? Neither President Bush nor his opponent, John Kerry, has put forward a credible solution to the dilemma. But a solution must be found, and the search must begin by acknowledging reality.
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