The Den Beste dossier

Amid charges of "Bush Lied!" and that the UK government 'sexed up' its Iraq dossier, the left side of the blogosphere has been up in arms that somehow we've all been hoodwinked, flim-flammed, and bamboozled, and that the Iraq war is now, ex-post-facto, completely illegitimate and grounds for Bush's impeachment.

So, into the breach steps Steven Den Beste with an excellent recapitulation of precisely how we got to where we are; how, when, and on what grounds was the Iraq war justified; and what really matters with regard to Iraq, and why Iraq is fundamentally different from other WMD-loving tyrannical regimes.

I think it is important to step back from the "16 words" and take in the bigger picture right now. What was said, or not said, in the SOTU had nothing to do with the "justification" for the Iraq war, as Bush had the authority to attack granted just before the congressional elections in '02. Additionally, unlike North Korea, Syria, or Iran, there was already (a) a casus belli (Saddam had explicitly violated the terms of the cease fire) and (b) a huge body of UN legal sanctions and resolutions that could provide an 'international' casus belli justifying the war. And it was, as Steven points out, the considerations of (b) that compelled the Bush team to emphasize WMD (as opposed to, say, Saddam's violation of the cease fire over and over again, and his active support for palestinian and general islamic terror).

I think that, fortunately for liberty, the conditions that allowed the Iraq war to be launched are sufficiently unique that a precedent for unlimited, perpetual war has not been established (and, perversely, the percieved difficulties in 'taming' Iraq serve a salutary effect in giving lawmakers and the public a bracing dose of the reality of imperial projects, also reducing future support for an Iraq-style pre-emptive attack).

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