The National Catholic Review
Terry Golway

In language that would seem better suited to a ballpark than the White House, President Bush’s administration officials are making it clear that they will tolerate no questions about the president’s use of faulty intelligence to justify the invasion of Iraq. The president’s outgoing (as in departing, not gregarious) spokesman, Ari Fleischer, paid a visit to the lexiconic barnyard, describing criticisms of the president as bull.

The administration, it would seem, has become awfully worried that peopleparticularly those of the voting kindactually may remember the reasons we were given for launching our tidy little war in Iraq. We were told that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and both the will and means either to use them himself or to pass them on to our terrorist enemies. How did we know this? Among other things, Saddam tried to buy uranium in Africa. The president told us this in his State of the Union speech in January.

The trouble is, as we now know, the uranium report was bogus. It was based on forged documents. That’s bad, but it would be relegated to a disturbing footnote if American soldiers already had uncovered the weapons of mass destruction the president insisted Saddam had. But there have been no such discoveries. And now we learn that Saddam was not trying to buy uranium after all.

This turn of events has inspired some people, including those infernal Democratic presidential candidates who have the temerity to run against the president, to wonder how many other lies or half-truths were told in the months before our invasion. Is it possible that Saddam did not have the weapons we said he had? And, if so, does that mean this administration led us into war with misinformation or, at best, bad intelligence?

Even to ask these questions is to invite the disdain of administration spokespeople and the contempt of the right-wing cable and radio crowd, who change the subject by pointing out that our victory was quick and that Iraq is now free of a murderous dictator. Arguing over the absence of nuclear or biological weapons factories, or criticizing a lie or two, is a pointless exercise. Shouldn’t the smiles of the free Iraqi people be enough to convince us that the war was necessary and, indeed, a success?

Sorry, but it is not enough. First of all, only time will tell whether Iraq truly is free, or whether it has exchanged one dictator for another. Second, words mean something, especially when they are used to justify bloodshed.

The president’s State of the Union speech was not just another campaign speech; indeed, it was not just another State of the Union address. When a candidate is on the stump, or even when a president is addressing a joint session of Congress, we expect to hear a great many things that we don’t take too seriouslygrand but vague promises, immodest claims of credit.

But when a president outlines a case for war, particularly a pre-emptive war, we expect and indeed demand that every claim of malevolence has been checked and is indisputable. When a president tells us that a madman is trying to buy uranium and so must be stopped before he unleashes a catastrophe, he had better be telling the truth.

Sadly, the president was not. Perhaps he believed the uranium story at the time, but if he did, his aides failed him, for the tale already had been flagged as dubious at best.

Again, taken on its own, the false uranium story might beshouldn’t be, but might beexcused as rhetorical excess. But it follows the long and unfruitful search for those weapons of mass destruction. And it follows reports that there was no appreciable contact between Saddam and the terrorists of Al Qaeda.

So why shouldn’t we wonder if we were duped into war? Even one of Mr. Bush’s fellow Republicans, Senator Chuck Hegel of Nebraska, conceded that there’s a cloud hanging over this administration. He acknowledged that there is reason to believe that the administration shaped and molded intelligence to serve their own purposes.

This may be more than just a standard-issue political scandal. This could be a scandal of monumental proportions, if it turns out that the White House lied and manipulated data to get the war it wanted. Ann Coulter is hawking a book these days that argues that liberals are nothing less than traitors. What then are we to make of conservatives who tell lies to justify a war? Are they the patriotic keepers of American ideals? Or have they betrayed their country and their trust in pursuit of...exactly what? Cheap oil?

Thirty years ago, the conservative columnist James J. Kilpatrick wrote a moving column in which he confessed to weeping when he realized that President Nixon had lied to him, personally, about his involvement in Watergate. Now we have a president who tells whoppers about matters of war and peace. But those who complain, never mind weep, are regarded as friends of the enemy. It is not enough to say that Iraq is better off because of our actions, so we shouldn’t worry about those nonexistent weapons. Zimbabwe would be better off too if we forced regime change there, but we will not and should not do that. Saddam was a horrible dictator, but, alas, one of far too many around the world. What set him apart, we were told, is the threat he posed to us.

And now we have reason to believe that those threats were exaggerated at best, and fictitious at worst.

The president, we are told, is unconcerned about all of this. His spokesman said he has moved on. Isn’t that heartening?

Terry Golway is a writer for The New York Observer.

Comments

Ignacio J. Silva | 9/2/2003 - 1:16pm
After reading Terry Golway's "No Questions, Please," I made an effort to get as close as I could possibly get on a personal basis (for someone that has no direct involvement) to what goes on in Iraq. I did this by reflecting on a house that one passes on the way into town. It's a modest row home, and the porch is bedecked with flowers, ribbons, pictures, and a R.I.P. for Victor with a lettered sign below it: We love you Victor. Victor was a soldier and died during this war in Iraq. I will wait for someone to tell me that Victor's death was justified. If/when someone does, I will ask them to accompany me to knock on the door of Victor's family to ask them if the death was worthwhile. In the meantime, I can only imagine the family's sense of loss. And doing so reveals that Victor and others should not have been sacrificed. My personal consolation is that they perfectly laid down their lives for their friends, and in this they are privileged to know Christ.

RobertMcNulty | 8/26/2003 - 6:20pm
Terry Golway seems utterly confused or perhaps just uninformed on the war in Iraq. The War Powers Resolution was passed in late October 2002, not post January 2003. The State of the Union address had nothing to do with getting war powers. Incidentally, the two congressional committees on intelligence have the same information the President does, in fact they are responsible for its accuracy.

Second, Mr. Bush did not say that Iraq was seeking uranium in Africa. He said the British government has learned this. To this day the British government maintains that Iraq was.

Third, the need for regime change in Iraq was stated by President Clinton in 1998 when he said that we must get rid of Hussein BEFORE he gets weapons of mass destruction. The Iraq Liberation Act was passed in 1998 and regime change became our national policy at that time.

The difference is that President Bush carried it out and liberated the Iraqis from the Baathist terror. Mr.Golway seems to deplore this liberation.

Nick DiToro | 8/26/2003 - 6:14pm
Rather than make a separate point, I believe that the letter writer who took "America" to task for publishing Terry Golway's piece made Golway's point instead: criticism of this president for his war with Iraq will not be tolerated.

One wonders if Bush supporters -- many of whom apparently voted for GW precisely because he was not Bill Clinton -- would have taken a similar stand had an "America" contributor criticized that president's less than ideal behavior, even after he apologized for it.

What goes around comes around.

Benedict J. Frederick, Jr. | 8/18/2003 - 9:27am
Terry Golway’s article “No Questions, Please” in the August 18-25 issue criticizing president Bush is way off base.

The information on which the invasion of Iraq was based was on overwhelming evidence and is supported by Britain‘s intelligent and strongly reaffirmed by Prime Minister Toni Blair.

The attempt to buy uranium statement in State of the Union address was also supported by British intelligent, was written into the speech by others and for which President Bush has accepted responsibility and has made a public apology, just as has Pope John II for past mistakes of the Church.

For a Catholic publicaton to publish an article critical of president Bush in light of its own egregious sins is hypercritical. “ Let him without sin cast the first stone.” “Why look at the speck in your brother’s eye when you miss the plank in your own?” Rather then pass judgment we need to come together in support of our president and our service personal.

As one who received a Jesuit education I am ashamed by the inclusion of this article in a national Catholic publication. I surly will not pass the magazine on to others nor will I send subscriptions to my four college age grandchildren!

Robert E. McNulty | 9/9/2003 - 6:05pm
I regret I am unable to accompany Mr. Silva to knock on the door of Victor's family. I think he might be astonished at their answer.

You see, Mr. Silva, a great many people have died to make you free and keep you so. If you take President Clinton's word, it was mandatory that the regime in Iraq be replaced.

I do not see see how his wonderment about how Victor's family bears their loss proves it was needless. They all knew that when he joined our volunteer armed service, they might someday receive the word that he was killed in the performance of his duty and the service of his country.

Ignacio J. Silva | 9/2/2003 - 1:16pm
After reading Terry Golway's "No Questions, Please," I made an effort to get as close as I could possibly get on a personal basis (for someone that has no direct involvement) to what goes on in Iraq. I did this by reflecting on a house that one passes on the way into town. It's a modest row home, and the porch is bedecked with flowers, ribbons, pictures, and a R.I.P. for Victor with a lettered sign below it: We love you Victor. Victor was a soldier and died during this war in Iraq. I will wait for someone to tell me that Victor's death was justified. If/when someone does, I will ask them to accompany me to knock on the door of Victor's family to ask them if the death was worthwhile. In the meantime, I can only imagine the family's sense of loss. And doing so reveals that Victor and others should not have been sacrificed. My personal consolation is that they perfectly laid down their lives for their friends, and in this they are privileged to know Christ.

RobertMcNulty | 8/26/2003 - 6:20pm
Terry Golway seems utterly confused or perhaps just uninformed on the war in Iraq. The War Powers Resolution was passed in late October 2002, not post January 2003. The State of the Union address had nothing to do with getting war powers. Incidentally, the two congressional committees on intelligence have the same information the President does, in fact they are responsible for its accuracy.

Second, Mr. Bush did not say that Iraq was seeking uranium in Africa. He said the British government has learned this. To this day the British government maintains that Iraq was.

Third, the need for regime change in Iraq was stated by President Clinton in 1998 when he said that we must get rid of Hussein BEFORE he gets weapons of mass destruction. The Iraq Liberation Act was passed in 1998 and regime change became our national policy at that time.

The difference is that President Bush carried it out and liberated the Iraqis from the Baathist terror. Mr.Golway seems to deplore this liberation.

Nick DiToro | 8/26/2003 - 6:14pm
Rather than make a separate point, I believe that the letter writer who took "America" to task for publishing Terry Golway's piece made Golway's point instead: criticism of this president for his war with Iraq will not be tolerated.

One wonders if Bush supporters -- many of whom apparently voted for GW precisely because he was not Bill Clinton -- would have taken a similar stand had an "America" contributor criticized that president's less than ideal behavior, even after he apologized for it.

What goes around comes around.

Benedict J. Frederick, Jr. | 8/18/2003 - 9:27am
Terry Golway’s article “No Questions, Please” in the August 18-25 issue criticizing president Bush is way off base.

The information on which the invasion of Iraq was based was on overwhelming evidence and is supported by Britain‘s intelligent and strongly reaffirmed by Prime Minister Toni Blair.

The attempt to buy uranium statement in State of the Union address was also supported by British intelligent, was written into the speech by others and for which President Bush has accepted responsibility and has made a public apology, just as has Pope John II for past mistakes of the Church.

For a Catholic publicaton to publish an article critical of president Bush in light of its own egregious sins is hypercritical. “ Let him without sin cast the first stone.” “Why look at the speck in your brother’s eye when you miss the plank in your own?” Rather then pass judgment we need to come together in support of our president and our service personal.

As one who received a Jesuit education I am ashamed by the inclusion of this article in a national Catholic publication. I surly will not pass the magazine on to others nor will I send subscriptions to my four college age grandchildren!

Benedict J. Frederick Jr. | 2/7/2007 - 12:47pm
Terry Golway’s article “No Questions, Please” in the Aug. 18 issue criticizing President Bush is way off base.

The information on which the invasion of Iraq was based was overwhelming evidence and is supported by Britain’s intelligence and strongly reaffirmed by Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The statement in the State of the Union address about an attempt to buy uranium was also supported by British intelligence and was written into the speech by others. President Bush has accepted responsibility and has made a public apology, just as has Pope John Paul II for past mistakes of the church.

For a Catholic publication to publish an article critical of President Bush in light of its own egregious sins is hypocritical. “Let him without sin cast the first stone.” “Why look at the speck in your brother’s eye when you miss the plank in your own?” Rather than pass judgment, we need to come together in support of our president and our service personnel.

John Blakeney | 2/7/2007 - 12:43pm
As a new subscriber to America, I look forward to each issue, which is certain to be challenging, relevant and formative. I am not one who believes that politics has no place in a Catholic magazine, as I believe it is both impossible and inadvisable not to have our spiritual mettle temper our political thoughts and actions. I do, however, question the merit of giving editorial space to columns such as “No Questions, Please” (Terry Golway, 8/18) and “Bush’s Nuclear Folly” (Ronald E. Powaski, 8/4), which have no religious, spiritual, ethical or philosophical framework to them. These columns serve only as a forum for the authors’ opposition to the Bush administration. Please consider these columns against the backdrop of a column such as “Unjust War, Good Outcomes” (John F. Kavanaugh, S.J., 5/19), in which the author presents an intellectual opposition to the Iraq war that challenges readers to consider issues of ethics and to think beyond the author’s opinions.

America magazine is a wonderful resource for thinking Catholics. I ask the editors to please continue to present columns and articles that will challenge readers and help us to think for ourselves rather than columns that simply express the author’s editorial viewpoint on political issues.

Robert E. McNulty | 9/9/2003 - 6:05pm
I regret I am unable to accompany Mr. Silva to knock on the door of Victor's family. I think he might be astonished at their answer.

You see, Mr. Silva, a great many people have died to make you free and keep you so. If you take President Clinton's word, it was mandatory that the regime in Iraq be replaced.

I do not see see how his wonderment about how Victor's family bears their loss proves it was needless. They all knew that when he joined our volunteer armed service, they might someday receive the word that he was killed in the performance of his duty and the service of his country.

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