Did President Bush take the U.S. to war under false pretenses and are he and his key advisors criminally culpable if they did so?Yes, Libby was found guilty of obstructing justice and lying, but even a blind man could draw a line from those misdeeds to the weighty issue of whether the president and his advisors intentionally misled the American public in beating the war drum, which underlies the entire Wilson-Plame leak investigation and subsequent trial.
A sizeable majority of Americans now believe that is exactly what happened. As it is, the record is clear on whether Saddam had a nuclear weapons program (he did not) and less clear on whether he had WMD at some point.
As WaPo op-ed columnist Eugene Robinson notes:
"The usual retort is that, at the time, 'everyone' believed Iraq had WMD -- even Clinton, even the perfidious French. It's true that most observers overestimated Iraq's weapons programs. But accepting some of the WMD intelligence, or even all of it, was not the same as believing that Iraq posed a threat urgent enough to justify an invasion. Iraq was already under the thumb of punishing sanctions and restrictive no-fly zones. No link with al-Qaeda and Sept. 11 existed, except perhaps in Dick Cheney's mind. In terms of any threat to the United States, Saddam Hussein was quite adequately contained."With the clarity that six-plus years of Bush administration perfidy provides, I believe that Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Company knew that Iraq was not a threat in any real sense of the word. Yet these neocon true believers could not help but scratch their Saddam itch and went to Bush to argue that the intelligence they had so meticulously cherry picked made the case that he was a threat -- and that going to war was necessary. The famously uncurious president of course agreed.
Some observers -- including people who believe that the decision to go to war was made first and then intelligence was found to justify that decision -- say this was an error in judgment made in the heat of the fallout from the 9/11 attacks.
That interpretation is woefully shortsighted because it does not take into account that Bush's advisors had been dying to scratch that Saddam itch for years and thought that taking out the dictator would be the best route to remaking the Middle East in their own neocon image.I do not expect to see any of these men in the dock anytime soon -- or ever. No matter. In its own way, history will be the harshest judge. And, try as they might, they will never be able to wash the blood of so many wasted lives from their hands.
That was using false pretenses, which was a criminally culpable action.