Magazine article The American Prospect

Will Bush Pay for Deception? (Comment)

Magazine article The American Prospect

Will Bush Pay for Deception? (Comment)

Article excerpt

There are lots of reasons to think that the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq will merely be a historical footnote to the war. Polls this spring have shown little public concern about the government's inability to validate the principal reason that it offered the world for military action. There hasn't even been much of a stir about news reports indicating that before the war the administration manipulated and misrepresented intelligence to exaggerate the dangers posed by Iraq.

The institutional weakness of the Democratic Party is partly responsible for the absence of a strong domestic political reaction. Republican control of both houses of Congress has deprived Democratic critics of the use of public hearings as a means of focusing the nation's attention on the administration's deceptions. And amid the Democrats' cacophonous presidential race, no voice stands out strongly enough to put the administration on the defensive.

But the problem goes deeper. As long as the war itself seems a success purchased at a relatively low cost in American lives, the public is unlikely to question how we got into Iraq. The sentiment seems to be that even if the president lied about weapons of mass destruction, they were only one of several reasons for war. In this view, it wasn't as if George W. Bush was personally deceiving us for an immoral reason, like covering up an affair with an intern. He did it for a good cause, getting rid of a tyrant, and the Middle East is already safer and more disposed toward peace as a result.

Most likely the way we got into Iraq will become an issue only if the public calculus about the war changes--particularly if the costs of occupying Iraq become unacceptable and there appears no easy way to get out with any semblance of success. In fact, the costs are already going up.

Week by week since Bush declared the war over, American soldiers have continued to die in Iraq. And instead of the troops returning home for triumphant parades, a large-scale military deployment there seems likely for a long time.

Iraq also threatens to become a long-term burden financially. Contrary to what most people believe, the income generated by the Iraqi oil industry, if and when it is fully reconstructed, will not cover the costs of rebuilding the country and paying its debts.

Getting out of Iraq will be harder than getting in for other reasons as well. …

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