Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
July 14, 2003
WAR: The Niger Trap
Kevin Drum says that despite the relative insignificance of the Niger story itself, it's a "smoking gun" because
Bush's problem is not that a single 16-word sentence of dubious provenance made it into his State of the Union address. His problem is that he promised us that Saddam was connected to al-Qaeda, he promised thousands of liters of chemical and biological weapons, he promised that Saddam had a nuclear bomb program, and he promised that the Iraqis would greet us as liberators. But that wasn't all. He also asked us to trust him: he couldn't reveal all his evidence on national TV, but once we invaded Iraq and had unfettered access to the entire country everything would become clear.
But it didn't. We've had control of the country for three months, we've had access to millions of pages of Iraqi records, and we've captured and interrogated dozens of high ranking officials. And it's obvious now that there were no WMDs, no bomb programs of any serious nature, and no al-Qaeda connections. . .
In the end, we went to war because a majority of the population trusted George Bush when he presented his case that Iraq posed an imminent danger to the United States and the world.
Uranium-Gate is a symbol of that misplaced trust. If George Bush's judgment had been vindicated in Iraq, a single sentence in the State of the Union address wouldn't matter. But it hasn't, and he deserves to be held accountable for his poor judgment by everybody who believed him.
This sounds reasonable, but it's also why the Democrats are walking into a trap here. They're hoping to convince people that this story symbolizes the failure of the Iraq war, that the case for war in its totality was all a hoax. But more evidence about what was really going on in Iraq contiunues to seep in -- and when WMD capabilities are eventually found and more links to terror groups are laid out (I'm increasingly confident we'll find both) -- it's the Democrats who will find egg on their faces.
Remember: hawkish Democrats in the 1960s and hawkish Republicans in the 1970s and 1980s turned out to be wrong about some important particulars of the Soviet Union's nuclear and military capabilities. But did the public condemn them for seeing through the campaign against communism to victory?