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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

WMDs? We Don’ Need No Stinkin’ WMDs!

That seems to be the attitude of the Bush administration and its acolytes these days, as they scramble to escape the inconvenient facts that we can’t find any and that they cooked the data to justify the invastion in the first place. As reported yesterday in The New York Times, Republicans are avoiding the whole issue of the WMDs (“what, you thought we were serious about that WMD stuff!”) and shifting justification for the invasion almost entirely to Saddam Was a Murderous Thug and The Iraqi People Are Free. As Republican spin-meister Frank Luntz put it: “We may have gone to war because of weapons of mass destruction, but we have made our conclusions based on the reaction of the Iraqi people…Do we feel good about ourselves? Absolutely.”
Speak for yourself, buddy. And you better hope you’re right that Americans not only don’t care about the missing WMDs, but don’t mind being lied to either, because the case for conscious deception about Iraq’s WMDs grows stronger with every passing day. In fact, John Judis’ and Spencer Ackerman’s lengthy and copiously-documented article in The New Republic today really blows the lid off of the purposive manipulations of intelligence, and outright lies, that were used to sell the Iraqi war to the American people.
DR doesn’t see how any reasonably fair-minded individual could read this article and deny that the Bushies wanted to go to war and basically lied their little rear ends off to get us to do so. There was no Iraq-Al Qaeda connection. There was no Iraqi nuclear weapons program worthy of the name. There was no imminent threat that justified immediate military action.
It’s here in all its appalling glory. The phony Niger uranium purchases. The bogus centrifuge tubes story. The trumped-up Iraq-Al Qaeda connections. The administration’s shameless use of these fanciful stories to manipulate public opinion. And, above all, the spiked and re-spiked intelligence that would have exposed all this nonsense.
Howard Dean asked: “What did they know and when did they know it”. The answers are clear: “A lot” and “Quite a while ago”. Uncomfortably, it also appears to be the case that Dean’s question applies to Democratic Presidential candidates like Gephardt, Edwards, Lieberman and Kerry who are now acting like they’re shocked–shocked!–that there could have been anything wrong with the administration’s pre-war use of intelligence data. Almost all the analysis and information Judis and Ackerman look at in the article was publicly available before the war–especially to members of Congress–and could have been easily digested by those who cared to look at it. The answer, of course, is that they didn’t care to look at it, or looked at it and ignored it, because it was politically inconvenient (they thought) to raise questions about the administrations’ rush to war.
Well, besides Dean, at least Bob Graham’s out there hacking away. As for the rest, well, you can read the sad story in Ryan Lizza’s New Republic story. The most shocking of the bunch is Gephardt, who is so close to Bush on this issue that Ari Fleischer has been quoting him in press briefings. Says Dick: “There is long, consistent, clear evidence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and I’m still convinced that we’re going to find them.” Thanks, Dick. It’s nice to see you’re showing the same stellar leadership abilities on this issue that you used so effectively in leading the Democrats to their great victories in the 2002 campaign.
There are signs that Kerry may be ready to strike a more confrontational stance on this stance than the Gep, Edwards and Lieberman. He sorta, kinda, accused the adminstration of “lying” on an Iraq-related issue, suggesting he may be ready to jump in on the missing WMDs. Stay tuned.