Thursday, November 03, 2005

Lies are Okay If They Work

The Washington Post's self-identified "principled" liberal, Richard Cohen, has come out with another gem of moral reasoning today. After spending the better part of his column explaining how the U.S. invasion of Iraq has further destabilized Iraq and the surrounding region, Cohen tells us that the Bush administration's lies and deceptions are a problem only because they didn't work:

One could almost forgive President Bush for waging war under false or mistaken pretenses had a better, more democratic Middle East come out of it. But just as the 1991 Persian Gulf War introduced an element of instability in the region -- the rise of al Qaeda in response to the stationing of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia -- so might this one do something similar. A Shiite arc is forming, Iraq is infested with terrorists and coming apart, Syria might be going from bad to worse, and Saudi Arabia is complaining loudly that the war's only winners are the Shiites and Iran. From here, it looks like a war that is already going badly for America could go even worse for much of the Middle East.

Well, that's the point, isn't it? The lies didn't work because they were lies. Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction. Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. Al Qaeda and Hussein were not working together. Iraq was not a threat to the continued existence of the planet. Iraq did not have the ability to harm the United States in any way. And then there is the other lie that Bush and his minions used to justify war as a response to terrorism: that Al Qaeda and terrorists in general do what they do because they are "evil" and because they hate "our free and democratic way of life." Cohen himself alludes to this lie when he writes that "the rise of al Qaeda [was a] response to the stationing of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia. ..." The 12 years of sanctions against Iraq, which targeted civilians and killed over two million of them, also had a lot to do with the fury and hatred against the West that brought Al Qaeda to power, although Cohen doesn't mention this.

So Cohen's opining that the use of lies to justify war would have been forgivable if the war had made things better is morally objectionable and logically absurd. It's not possible for a preemptive U.S. invasion of Iraq to bring freedom and democracy to the Middle East when it's precisely that kind of militaristic, punitive, lethal behavior that helped strengthen terrorism in the first place.

Thanks to my reader Curtis for sending me this link.

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