17 May 2005

British Memo on Iraq Changes Everything

When it comes to the Iraq War I have always been clear: nobody likes war but pacifism is not an option because there will always be bad guys who do not believe in peace. Turning the other cheek only goes so far. At some point, you run out of cheeks. Thus, I have been giving president George W. Bush the benefit of the doubt, knowing that Sadam Hussain had a track record. And while it is good to have a healthy interest in politics, so that politicians remain accountable, it is impossible in any indirect democracy like the United States to demand to be involved in every step of every policy decision. To some extent you have to trust the government as the appointed experts doing things for the common good.

However, politicians remain accountable and when enough information becomes available, you are entitled, in fact, obligated to judge their work. The recently published “Downing Street Memo,” a document leaked from the British government, changes my stance on the Iraq War and my opinion about the Bush government. In this posting, I will not only explain how a religious conservative, who endorsed Bush’ reelection in November, can come to be an opponent of the president, but also why it is a moral imperative for a conscientious, Bible-believing Christian to condemn the president’s handling of the matter.

The case for war on Iraq was never a great one and yet I never made a secret of it that I was cautiously in favor of taking Sadam out. The risks that regime posed, according to the evidence presented by the Bush government, were too great to be ignored. The problems I had with the anti-War crowd were mainly the following two:

First, they argued that the matter should be handled through the UN. I have no inherent dislike of the UN or international bodies. In fact, I am fairly critical of the disdain many Republicans have shown toward the UN. The nomination of John Bolton, an outspoken UN hater, troubles me greatly and I deeply disapprove of it. It is a sign that the anti-UN wing within the Republican party has a lot of leverage in the White House.

However, when the Iraq crisis was building, we already knew that the UN was itself embroiled in various internal crises. The track record of the UN in dealing with international situations was not merely imperfect, it was downright unbelievable. The UN are in a state of disorganization without any clear leadership and beset by many corruption scandals, including a case of bribery related to the Iraq Oil-for-Food program. All the UN do is talk. The Iraq matter had already been discussed ad nauseam. Thus, the demand, at the time, to insist on more UN involvement was little more than a demand to wait for the verdict of the high school debating club to render its verdict. And then to demand to wait for a rematch. I still think that the president’s claim, that the UN showed itself to be irrelevant by its lack of action is not an unfair characterization of the problems within the UN.

Second, the anti-War protesters argued that there was no legal basis for war. This is a more meaty problem, since the government is bound by the Constitution and other national and international regulations regarding the declaration of war. No government should declare war lightly. But the opponents of the war were never able to convince me that the supposed offences against the legal precepts were grave enough to warrant ignoring the evil of Sadam’s regime. In fact, they made themselves ridiculous by insisting that war is always the wrong choice. By claiming such a patently non-sensical point, they ceased to be taken seriously by me and many other moderates.

In a sense, the Republican silence on the recent “Downing Street Memo” shows the depth of the partisan perversion within that party. Conservatives are pretending that the memo does not exist, and few US media have even commented on it. Indeed, what few comments have been elicited from officials in London and Washington were mere mumbles to the effect that it had no significance.

In my opinion, that memo changes everything. I ran into news about the memo in a New York Times article by Paul Krugman, a columnist I consider to be thoroughly detestible and hateful. I still would not give a dime for his article because he cannot write two sentences without spewing hate and contempt for conservatives, but the link he provided to the memo was more important.

The memo, dated to July 23, 2002, proves that the Bush government was already decided on going to war against Iraq and was merely debating how to arrange it. It flatly contradicts a number of claims by Bush and White House officials that all avenues of approach were still open. Furthermore, the memo also proves that the Bush government already had preliminary plans for the attack on Iraq. The memo also shows that the head of British Intelligence at the very least was suspicious of the quality of pre-war intelligence on Iraq. The man, Sir Richard Dearlove, believed that the US government was manufacturing evidence to favor the war policy. Finally, it also proves that the post-war situation was not a great priority with the Bush administration. And it also seems to prove that Mr Blair is indeed what his opponents in Britain have always labeled him: George Bush’ lapdog because what little input the British Prime Minister provided during the recorded meeting was limited to making suggestions as to how the weaknesses in Mr Bush’ approach might be fixed.

The issues resulting from the publication of the Downing Street Memo are too important to be ignored by Congress. I support Congressman Conyers (D-MI) in his attempt to convince the House Judiciary Committee to investigate the matter. Congress must investigate. I also think that, if proved accurate, the allegations of the memo are serious enough to impeach and convict president Bush and his advisors Condoleeza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell on charges of fraud, conducting an illegal war and abuse of executive power.

This is a tough claim to make since I am thoroughly opposed to the liberal agenda of the Democratic Party. Right now national politics are taken up by the filibuster issue and you know where I stand on that matter. However, I have come to believe that George W. Bush has broken the law and does not have the right to be president of the United States. If we as orthodox Christians want to take the idea of moral absolutes seriously, we have to consider God’s judgment of this matter. I do not think we can afford to find excuses for the president’s behavior and make strategic arguments about the importance of a conservative force to counteract the so-called ungodly policies of liberals. Wrong is wrong, whether it wears an elephant or a donkey button on its lapel. We must insist on this standard or the standard has no meaning.

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