Cracks In The Iraq Story

A wanted poster for Dr. George Tiller. He was killed in his church last year.
This column was written by Matthew Yglesias.
In the annals of stupid news events, the "controversy" sparked by Howard Dean's claim that the GOP is "pretty much a white, Christian party" ranks pretty high. Not only did Dean fail to say anything objectionable, but also that remark isn't something anyone could seriously deny. Nor does it even count as a criticism of Republicans. It's an anodyne description of well-known facts about the American electorate.

Normally, I would write off the uproar as just another unfortunate strike of the summer sillies, like the reporting on shark attacks and random missing persons we've come to expect from this period in the news calendar. Less happens during the summer, so you need to reach to find topics for coverage. This year, however, our cup runneth over. I like to think of myself as a serious person, but the burgeoning relationship between Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes is almost endlessly fascinating. And then there's the small matter of the war in Iraq. So there should be plenty of topics for editors to fill those column inches with.

Mid-May saw the leak of the so-called Downing Street Memo written by high-level British national security officials offering textual proof of what those of us who've been paying attention have long suspected: The Bush administration was determined to invade Iraq almost immediately after September 11, and the whole business with WMD, UN inspections, and so forth was just so much kabuki theater designed to lay the groundwork for a policy whose true motives lay elsewhere. This weekend, a second memo, leaked to the Times of London, provided further background. The British government, it seems, had committed itself to joining the United States in this war and was rather gravely concerned that the policy to which it had committed itself violated international law, making it necessary to design an appropriate pretext.

Those sort of legalistic points strike a bit of a false note here in the United States, where international law isn't taken nearly as seriously as a concept as it is in Europe. On Sunday, however, Walter Pincus -- whose excellent reporting on the machinations behind the Iraq War has been almost entirely buried in the back pages of The Washington Post for years -- was finally allowed onto page A1 with information that may prove more cutting on this side of the Atlantic: that the war was terribly ill-advised. The memo obtained by Pincus, likewise an official British government document, notes that though "military planning for action against Iraq is proceeding apace ... little thought" had been given to "the aftermath and how to shape it."