Scott Ritter did an interesting segment today
, in which he asserted that ever since the first Gulf War, the policy of the United States has been to overthrow Saddam Hussein whether or not he complied with sanctions. That would have been a violation of international law. But under Dubya, the wrongs deepened and deepened until they became crimes of war.
They [The American people] think that this [the invasion of Iraq] was an accident, that this was a noble cause, that people like the president, like Bill Clinton before him, like their respective administrations, journalists like Judith Miller just honestly got it wrong...The problem isn't just what's happening in Iraq but it's the whole process that took place in the United States leading up to the war, this dishonest process of deliberately deceiving the American public. And it's not just George W. Bush. For eight years of the Clinton administration, that administration said the same things. The C.I.A. knew, since 1992, that significant aspects of the Iraqi weapons programs had been completely eliminated, but this was never about disarmament...This has been about, since 1991, solving a domestic political embarrassment. That is the continued survival of Saddam Hussein, a man who in March 1990 was labeled as a true friend of the American people and then in October 1990 in a dramatic flip-flop was called the Middle East equivalent of Adolph Hitler.
The fact that in April, 1991, the United States helps draft and then votes in favor of a Chapter 7 resolution 687 that creates the weapons inspections, call upon Iraq to disarm and in Paragraph 14 says if Iraq complies, economic sanctions will be lifted. This is the law. A few months later, the president, George Herbert Walker Bush and the Secretary of State say economic sanctions will never be lifted against Iraq, even if they comply with their obligation to disarm, until which time Saddam Hussein is removed from power. It's the stated policy of the United States government. What we weren't quite aware of is just to what extreme they would go in undermining the credibility and integrity of the United Nations inspection process to achieve this objective. ...The tragedy of Iraq is that it’s about domestic American politics. This is a president, George Herbert Walker Bush, who in 1990, traps himself rhetorically by linking Saddam Hussein to Adolph Hitler. Once you do that, once you speak of a Nuremburg-like retribution, you can't negotiate your way out of that problem. Now it's either deliver Saddam Hussein's head on a platter or you failed....
This was inherited by Bill Clinton. The irony is that Bill Clinton – and I'm very critical of Bill Clinton, but you know, in the period between his election in 1992 and his being sworn in, his administration reached out to the Iraqis in saying, “Look, this is a ridiculous policy, let's figure out how we can get sanctions lifted and get you back into the family of nations.” But when politicians in Congress, both Democrat and Republican, found out about this, they said, “You can't do this. We have told our constituents this man is Hitler, and we can't negotiate with the devil.”
This narrative is persuasive to me. Democrats and Republicans alike have gone along and gone along, going deeper and deeper into doing wrong. The Noble Lie (plus some good old-fashioned political calculation) is one of the few things that could explain this bizarre act of national self-destruction.