The Risk of Iraq-Gate
By Michel Schifres
Saturday 07 June 2003
So it could be that George W. Bush and, in his wake, his most trustworthy ally, Tony Blair, knowingly lied to justify their intervention in Iraq. Just like Saddam Hussein, the weapons of mass destruction remain undiscoverable and accusations of disinformation continue to unfold in the United States and Great Britain. The American President is called on every day to justify himself. And while the English Prime Minister demands "patience", the Washington Administration, for the moment, contrives a blur.
One day, it suggests that the weapons were destroyed by the Iraqis themselves before the conflict. Another, it maintains that Colin Powell's appearance before the UN brandishing his "proofs" was warranted. On one occasion it admits that the theme had the advantage of sustaining a consensus. On another, it swears that the trucks discovered after the war disguised mobile chemical laboratories. This enumeration of their arguments alone betrays their confusion. But America can't maintain a line of defense so imprecise it resembles the dividing line between anxiety not to retract and fear of compromising themselves much longer.
The facts, if they are ever confirmed, won't change much in the state of affairs. Certainly, for example, it would confirm the soundness of the French position before the sequence of passions and diplomatic gesticulations lead to the Franco-American falling out. But it will not change the balance of opinion about the Americans. Their detractors won't be surprised that an illegitimate war should be based on a manipulation.
Their supporters will hardly be scandalized that a deceit simultaneously allowed the overthrow of a hateful regime and a demonstration of responsiveness and power in the face of international terrorism. For the first group, a lie of state in itself is a scandal. For the others, it's a component of the existence of the state and is practically a duty. Both sides can agree on one thing at least: lies can also come in the form of omissions. Because it wasn't only yesterday that Saddam Hussein's dictatorship became one of the worst ever. All the democracies knew it. They kept quiet about it. They accommodated themselves to it.
The "old Europe" will no doubt be the most indignant. For several centuries already, its masters have exercised dissimulation and the necessary practice of transparency is still regarded with suspicion. Especially as in certain Latin countries there remains a preference for efficiency, even dirty efficiency, to impotence, even honest impotence. It's not like that in the United States, where a President's lie is quickly assimilated to a breach. What remains of Puritanism in American society expresses itself notably in the rejection of deception by their leader. Which is to say that Bush risks a great deal if what one suspects should be demonstrated. Especially for a man, who, to some extent, led his crusade in the name of God.
Translation: TruthOut French language correspondent Leslie Thatcher.