SPIEGEL: Isn’t it true that Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld took advantage of the outrage over the 9/11 terrorist attacks to strike Iraq? Is it even possible anymore to deny that the war was based on manipulation, exaggeration and flat-out lies?
Kagan: That’s absurd.
SPIEGEL: It’s a commonly held view…
Kagan: The Bush administration’s intelligence on Iraq was the same as the Clinton administration’s, the German government’s and the French government’s before the war. We now know that Saddam wanted the world to believe he had weapons of mass destruction — and the world did. [...]
In retrospect, we have to admit that Washington could have waited a while longer. That’s a different question. But I think it’s about time we moved beyond this silly conversation and these absurd conspiracy theories.
This is ridiculous. It is now simply no longer a matter of serious dispute that the Bush administration manipulated, exaggerated and lied about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s regime in order to build public support for an invasion. It’s fine to argue that the Bush administration’s intelligence on Iraq was the same as the Clinton administration’s, the German government’s and the French government’s, but the much more relevant point is that the Clinton administration, the German government and the French government didn’t spin that intelligence into a justification to attempt to reorder the Middle East.
As the decision to invade Iraq will continue to produce numerous unintended consequences that future American leaders will have to face, the manner in which that decision was taken and sold to the American people will continue to be relevant. We can “move beyond this silly conversation” when people like Robert Kagan cease pretending that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Feith, et al were arguing in good faith about the need to invade Iraq, and stop dismissing the overwhelming evidence of their dishonesty as “conspiracy theories.”