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The Most Tenuous of Justifications
July 19, 2003
By Kevin Raybould

The latest right wing spin is that the assertion regarding the nonexistent Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Africa in the State of the Union was not a lie, because Bush said it was based upon British intelligence, and that the British are standing by their intelligence.


I am sorry, but there is no other word. First, and this should not have to be continually pointed out, but apparently it must, Bush did not qualify the British statement - he presented it as a fact, as something the British had "learned". There is absolutely no way to read that sentence as anything other than an assertion of fact.

So? Wasn't Bush just reporting what our allies the British had told him? No, no he was not. According to Tenet himself, the CIA had told the Administration that the evidence for that British assertion was not acceptable. The Administration knew that what the British had "learned" was resting on information that the Administration knew did not prove what the British said it proved.

So? Aren't the British still backing their intelligence? Yes,but only with information that they are not even willing to show to American intelligence agencies. That hardly constitutes proof of anything. Look at it this way. I have two friends, Tony and Mike. One day, Tony comes to me and says "There are aliens invading! Look out the window!" So, I look out the window, and there are no aliens. "Here, use these binoculars - they are off in the distance." Tony hands me the binoculars, and, lo and behold, there are small alien ships in the distance. Just then, Mike walks him, and I show him what the binoculars showed me. Mike lowers the binoculars, stares out the window, and then turns the binoculars around, looking at the lenses.

"Dude," he says, "someone has drawn tiny, little spaceships on the lenses. In crayon." So I ask Tony. Tony admits that the binoculars do, indeed, have tiny, little spaceships drawn on the lenses, in crayon. But, he says "I have other information that proves that aliens are actually attacking."

"What evidence?" Mike asks.

"Well," Tony says, "I cannot show you, its secret. But we are friends - you trust me." And, based on that. I run out and tell the world that Tony has learned that aliens are invading. How, exactly, am I not responsible for the panic that ensues?

And this is what so infuriates me about this line of defense. It hides behind the most tenuous of justifications, and, in doing so, winks at the notion that the ends justify the means. In a democracy, the ends never, ever justify the means. Never. As we speak, men and women are being killed and maimed because Bush invaded Iraq - and Bush got support for invading Iraq largely because he convinced the American people that Saddam was a threat to them, not because he was a threat to the Iraqi people. The majority of the State of the Union that contained the nuclear assertion, in fact, when it spoke of Iraq, spoke of Iraq as a threat to world peace. There are many who think invading Iraq was worthwhile, on humanitarian grounds. It is a defensible position, but it is not the primary argument that Bush made in the run up to the war. Anyone who turns a blind eye to the obvious manipulation of the public by the Bush Administration because they support the war on other grounds is doing damage to democracy.

People are dying because we went to war. Oppose it or support it, that is the simple fact. No one should commit the United States to such a course on false pretenses. It does not matter if the ends are ends you would support. If you ignore deception of this magnitude on one issue, then you are approving it on any other issue. You are saying that it is acceptable for saying that the president can use whatever arguments he wants to gets whatever ends he and he alone decides are appropriate.

You are saying that you do not believe in democracy.

Well, I do. I believe in it with all my heart and soul and mind. I believe in it the way other believe there is no God but Allah, or that Christ will rise again. This kind of deception strikes right at the heart of democracy, and dismissing or minimizing it drives the knife in deeper. I have no patience for "it was only sixteen words" or "it was technically true". They were 16 words that the Administration knew were based on extraordinarily weak evidence. They were sixteen words that the Administration used to help convince Americans that Iraq was an immediate threat. They were sixteen damn important words. To pretend otherwise, to make excuse, to minimize their importance is to not care because you got the war you wanted anyway is cease to be a believer in democracy. It is to cease being a citizen and start being a subject.

I will not accept being a subject, and I have no patience for those who would. Even if you are a supporter of the war, you cannot be a supporter of intentional deception, or even lax standards of proof, in order to get your war. Once you start down that path, once you start to exempt your leaders from accountability and the democratic process, you start to lose your claim on ownership of your government. You become a spectator, not a participant. No one should willingly choose to become a spectator.

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