Thursday, May 29, 2008

Powderpuff Bombshell

I wonder how the anti-war people who profess delight over former White House press secretary Scott McClellan's memoirs will spin this bit:

McClellan says Bush's main reason for war always was "an ambitious and idealistic post-9/11 vision of transforming the Middle East through the spread of freedom." But Bush and his advisers made "a marketing choice" to downplay this rationale in favor of one focused on increasingly trumped-up portrayals of the threat posed by the weapons of mass destruction.

During the "political propaganda campaign to sell the war to the American people," Bush and his team tried to make the "WMD threat and the Iraqi connection to terrorism appear just a little more certain, a little less questionable than they were." Something else was downplayed as well, McClellan says: any discussion of "the possible unpleasant consequences of war — casualties, economic effects, geopolitical risks, diplomatic repercussions."

Probably, if the past is any indication, by ignoring it. Every time I read a headline about some supposed bombshell in this arena, it turns out to be an account of exactly what seemed (at least to me and people I talked to at the time) to be pretty much what was going on.

The Iraq War was a direct response to 9/11; it was meant to establish a beachhead of freedom and democracy and -- that damnable word, hope! -- in the wretched region that had bred the killers. It was meant to be a positive, violent projection of American ideals through military means.

But that's a hard sell when you're sending other people's children off to war. So the administration instead focused on the WMD + terrorism threat -- which was a serious unknown in that environment, and the "how much risk are you willing to take" question. And it pushed the evidence like an aggressive DA, not an impartial judge. All of this was obvious at the time, and it was noted at the time.

You can argue vigorously that the initial neo-con vision was a bad idea, and you certainly can argue that it was terribly performed on the domestic political end and the occupation administration end.

Instead, many anti-war voices seem to prefer to shout about blood-for-oil and revenge for daddy and what have you. In those versions, the "ambitious and idealistic post-9/11 vision of transforming the Middle East through the spread of freedom" is dismissed as empty rhetorical flourishes to mask naked corporate greed or political psychopathy.

So, if McClellan is now the oracle, how do you explain that?