As much as I admire Congressman Norm Dicks for confessing last week that he blew it in backing the Iraq war, something was missing. Dicks said the White...
As much as I admire Congressman Norm Dicks for confessing last week that he blew it in backing the Iraq war, something was missing.
Dicks said the White House fed him “doctored” intelligence to whip up support for the war. Had he known it was more hype than substance, he never would have backed the 2003 invasion, he said. Fair enough. There’s no question the Iraq threat was oversold.
To his credit, the Bremerton Democrat didn’t stop at blaming others. He admitted he was too credulous and didn’t ask enough tough questions.
But missing from Dicks’ self-analysis was this: Why did he buy this war for so long? It applies to the rest of us. Why are so many people only now questioning why we invaded a country nearly three years ago?
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It’s not like we have much new information. All the most serious claims about Saddam Hussein — that he was building nuclear weapons, that he was aligned with al-Qaida — were debunked prior to the war.
The sad truth is we chose not to listen. It’s like we’ve been in a mass fog of our own making that’s only now lifting.
Dicks is a case study of this phenomenon. He told The Seattle Times’ Alicia Mundy that it wasn’t until July 2003 — three months after the invasion — that he realized Iraq hadn’t tried to buy nuclear material in Africa, as President Bush said in the run-up to the war.
Prior to that time, Dicks was certain U.S. troops would find weapons of mass destruction.
“There is no doubt about that. Period. Underlined,” he said on March 14, 2003.
And yet on March 7, 2003 — two weeks before we invaded — the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, testified that his team had completely rebutted the Africa story. It also had physically inspected 141 weapons sites and found “no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapon program in Iraq.”
Why didn’t we listen to him? Why didn’t people in Congress, like Norm Dicks, seem to hear him at all?
Dicks’ spokesman, George Behan, said yesterday that “in retrospect, we clearly made a mistake. But you have to remember that we also had the administration talking about mushroom clouds over American cities. Most of Congress was swayed by that.”
And most of the press. And most of the people.
Yes, we were deceived. But more troubling, to me, is how willing we were to be deceived. A million may have protested, but a hundred million swallowed it whole. And you can’t just blame Bush. The evidence on Iraq was right there, but, like Dicks, a majority of us opted to ignore it.
Why? Blinded by revenge, maybe. I know I was. I do think we’ll look back at the post-9/11 era as a time when many of us went a little nuts.
Now the pressing issue is how to get out of Iraq.
But we should also keep questioning, over and over, how in the world we got in. It might be the only guard we have against going quite so nuts the next time.
Danny Westneat’s column appears Wednesday and Friday. Reach him at 206-464-2086 or firstname.lastname@example.org.