I was not surprised to see the “Bush lied, people died” meme pop up on my social media feed again a couple weeks ago, but I was surprised to see a conservative former Bush voter (and Trump supporter) promoting it. So the question should be examined again: Did George W. Bush “lie” about weapons of mass destruction in order to pull this nation into war with Iraq? The simple answer is “no, he did not.”
If he “lied” then there has to be a motive for those lies. Was it to enrich Halliburton or other defense contractors? Was it to get revenge for the attempted assassination of his father? Why would Bush plunge us into war if he knows that the claims he was making about the war were not correct?
I do not buy it. It is easy to forget, but the world changed after 9/11. The American people and the Bush Administration were both shocked and shaken by how easily Muslim terrorists used our own transportation infrastructure against us to inflict an attack on the continental United States. In the aftermath of that, people saw Saddam Hussein as a threat that could no longer be tolerated. That mentality was not only held by Bush. That was the mentality of Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives.
We should also not forget how Hussein’s own actions influenced the belief that he was concealing WMD. Hussein used chemical weapons against Iran in the long war between the two, and then massacred his own people in northern Iraq – killing men, women and children in a horrific war crime. Hussein was belligerent and often refused to comply with United Nations weapons inspectors.
What we had was bad intelligence, and bad intelligence is not a “lie.” One could certainly argue that Bush moved too rapidly instead of making sure the intelligence was right.
In hindsight, “regime change” was a terrible decision. We had contained Hussein over the decade following Desert Storm, and we could have continued to do that. Hussein’s regime was a bulwark against Iran, which was seeking to build regional influence and was known to sponsor terrorist groups. Removing Hussein and weakening Iraq has emboldened and strengthened Iran, and nearly twenty years later the goal of a strong, independent democracy has still not been achieved.
Some folks, like John Hostettler and Ron Paul, saw in advance that the war was a bad idea and opposed it. Most of us did not. I defended the war until 2008, when I finally realized I was wrong.
Finally, conservatives need to think about the implications of casually claiming that Bush “lied” about the war. If that is true – that the man tens of millions of us voted for twice knowingly and intentionally started a war under false pretenses – then George W. Bush is a mass murderer and a war criminal. These are crimes worthy of the death penalty. Are we really willing to say that? I am certainly not.