Thomas Powers: The Vanishing Case for War





Thomas Powers, writing in the NY Review of Books (Nov. 5, 2003):

The invasion and conquest of Iraq by the United States last spring was the result of what is probably the least ambiguous case of the misreading of secret intelligence information in American history. Whether it is even possible that a misreading so profound could yet be in some sense "a mistake" is a question to which I shall return. Going to war was not something we were forced to do and it certainly was not something we were asked to do. It was something we elected to do for reasons that have still not been fully explained.

The official argument for war, pressed in numerous speeches by President Bush and others, failed to convince most of the world that war against Iraq was necessary and just; it failed to soften the opposition to war by longtime allies like France and Germany; and it failed to persuade even a simple majority of the Security Council to vote for war despite immense pressure from Washington. The President's argument was accepted only by the United States Congress, which voted to give him blanket authority to attack Iraq, and then kept silent during the worldwide debate that followed. The entire process—from the moment it became unmistakably clear that the President had decided to go to war in August 2002, until his announcement on May 1 that "major combat" was over—took about nine months, and it will stand for decades to come as an object lesson in secrecy and its hazards.


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