McCain The War Salesman

bush.JPGThe Senate intelligence committee’s Phase II report on pre-war intelligence reconfirms what Americans already knew, that President Bush intentionally misrepresented intelligence to mislead the country about the severity of the threat represented by Saddam Hussein in order to drum up public support for an invasion of Iraq. Despite the protestations of discredited apparatchiks like Doug Feith, these were not just “errors.” The Bush administration was not, in any sense, engaged in a good faith public debate over the merits of an unprecedented preventive war against a country that posed no immediate threat to U.S national security. This was deception.

Where the new report is especially useful is in reminding us that that President Bush had a lot of help, from both within and without his administration, in engineering this deception in order to sell the war to the American people. Noting that the new report says that “the intelligence did not support the idea that Saddam was at all inclined to initiate a WMD attack against the United States by passing WMD to terrorists,” TPM Muckracker commenter Foo Bar dug up this February 2003 statement from war salesman John McCain:

Is there any doubt in anybody’s mind that if Saddam Hussein thought he could harm the United States that he wouldn’t give any terrorist organization some weapon of mass destruction?

Yes, in fact, there was doubt. As FooBar notes, even the Republican critics of the report concede this, defending the President by arguing that “…the President did not say that [Saddam] would, he said that he could provide a chemical or biological weapon to terrorists.” McCain’s slippery and deceptive rhetorical framing of the question, however, clearly crossed that line.

John McCain wasn’t the only one making these kinds of remarks, but he’s the only one who is running for president, and he needs to be held accountable. McCain’s argument for his candidacy is based almost exclusively on his foreign policy “experience” and “judgment,” yet in the single most important American foreign policy question of the last decade, this experience and judgment did not help him from getting it disastrously wrong.