The subheadline on Christopher Hitchens’ new piece says it all: "The case for overthrowing Saddam was unimpeachable. Why, then, is the administration, tongue-tied?
Hitchens notes that "Prison conditions at Abu Ghraib have improved markedly and dramatically since the arrival of Coalition troops in Baghdad."
[T]he improvement is still, unarguably, the difference between night and day. How is it possible that the advocates of a post-Saddam Iraq have been placed on the defensive in this manner? And where should one begin?
Hitchens cites many of the acts of genocide and other acts of murder that the world tried to ignore in the 1990s, and how Saddam’s bloody behavior almost won the same cynical pass.
To recapitulate: [Saddam’s Iraq] had invaded its neighbors, committed genocide on its own soil, harbored and nurtured international thugs and killers, and flouted every provision of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The United Nations, in this crisis, faced with regular insult to its own resolutions and its own character, had managed to set up a system of sanctions-based mutual corruption…. Meanwhile, every species of gangster from the hero of the Achille Lauro hijacking to Abu Musab al Zarqawi was finding hospitality under Saddam's crumbling roof.
One might have thought, therefore, that Bush and Blair’s decision to put an end at last to this intolerable state of affairs would be hailed, not just as a belated vindication of long-ignored U.N. resolutions but as some corrective to the decade of shame and inaction that had just passed in Bosnia and Rwanda. But such is not the case.
Hitchens says President Bush and Prime Minister Blair "made hash" of a good case, but not out of an attempt to deceive. He says their mistake was in emphasizing the fear of WMDs, and in poorly educating the world about Saddam’s monstrous record and daily cruelties.
Still, the only real strategy of deception has come from those who believe, or pretend, that Saddam Hussein was no problem.
Hitchens says Bush can’t explain the case against Saddam coherently because his Pentagon and CIA are of two minds on Iraq’s threat. When the Defense Department tries to point out Saddam’s involvement with terrorists, the CIA (which Hitchens accuses of cowardice) says Saddam distanced himself from terrorists because he was too "secularist" and "rational" for Islamist fanatics.
It’s an interesting point, illuminating how the CIA piles mistake upon mistake.
Nevertheless, Bush, Blair and company are not cornered, as Hitchens suggests. They are free to present the full and true case against Saddam, and damn the CIA and British intelligence, whose embarrassing ineptness nearly prevented the liberation of Iraq.