Jonah Goldberg

I haven't written much about the ongoing brouhaha over whether President Bush "lied" America into the war with Iraq.

The main reason for my silence is that it's a monstrously stupid argument -and usually deliberately so. But I have better reasons for my wait-and-see approach.

First, let's deal with the stupidity. The really dumb argument is that Bush simply made up the whole thing. This line is rarely offered explicitly by serious people because it is so illogical. But you will hear it alluded to by Democratic presidential candidates like Howard Dean or John Kerry who don't mind leaving the impression that Bush is a deceitful warmonger. And you will certainly find this "idea" buzzing around the fever swamps of the left, mostly on the Internet.

The basic problem with this analysis is it requires that Bush knew the truth but said the opposite. After all, a lie is only a lie if you know the truth and then say something very different. So in this case, Bush needed to know something nobody had an inkling of.

As Kenneth Pollack, formerly on Bill Clinton's national security staff, recently noted in The New York Times, "At no point before the war did the French, the Russians, the Chinese or any other country with an intelligence operation capable of collecting information in Iraq say it doubted that Baghdad was maintaining a clandestine weapons capability."

The United Nations weapons inspectors reported time and again throughout the 1990s that Saddam had not disarmed. The only time he could have disarmed was during the four-year period when no inspections took place. No serious person thinks Saddam did that. Even French foreign minister Dominique de Villepin admitted last November, "The security of the Americans is under threat from people like Saddam Hussein who are capable of using chemical and biological weapons."

In fact, Bush must have known Bill Clinton was wrong, too. Either that, or Bill Clinton was a liar as well. Because in 1998, Bill Clinton spoke forcefully to the American people about the grave threat posed by Iraq's mounting chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs.

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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