The people who had their hearts set on this war didn’t really care what arguments would get us into it. They just wanted in. They tried connecting it to 9/11. Again and again, they tried that, failing each time. They tried connecting it to the anthrax that was mailed to Tom Brokaw and Tom Daschle. They tried connecting it the African country of Niger where they said Saddam had tried to buy uranium. The president told that to us in a State of the Union, he and vice president Cheney deliberately overruling evidence to the contrary. Finally, the ideologues pushing war told us Iraq had a nuclear weapon it could fire at us here in America, what they had newly and strangely christened “the homeland.” They had found the magic bullet, the one sales pitch that would get us into attacking a country that had not attacked us. We were now launched on a war aimed at “regime change,” another strange new phrase, to battle an enemy newly sized up as the “axis of evil.” All this Orwellian language - all this purposeful propaganda - tying Iraq to 9/11 - ended up working with about half the country. People began to believe that those were Iraqis who hi-jacked the planes that hit us in New York and Washington. For half the country, the sales job was complete. We were getting even. Iraq was payback. Remember how you felt? Here’s what I wrote in December 2, 2001, as George W. Bush began his push for war with Iraq - fifteen months before we invaded. “Like victors before him, President Bush is being tempted with greater glories in the days ahead. He is considering following his triumph in Afghanistan with a more magnificent destruction of Saddam Hussein.” “It’s a bad idea,” I wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle. “If it was in my power to stop him, I would. To attack Iraq now would be to forfeit all that the American president has won since September 11.” “I have given up trying to understand the thinking of those who agitate for such a wrong and tragic course.” Is there anyone who honestly believes that the way to win the hearts and minds of the Islamic world - to end this drift toward islamist terrorism - was to attack a secular Arab country that has not attacked us? I still believe that is the central question that should have been asked and answered before we went to war with Iraq - and it never was.
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