Peter Feaver sets out to debunk five “myths” about the Iraq war, but he gets off to a very bad start:
For my part, the myths that get thrown at me most often have to do with why the war happened in the first place. Here are five of the most pervasive myths:
1. The Bush administration went to war against Iraq because it thought (or claimed to think) Iraq had been behind the 9/11 attacks.
It would be interesting to know who has been “throwing” this claim at Feaver, since war opponents don’t make this argument. The Bush administration did promote false claims of Iraqi cooperation with Al Qaeda. These bogus claims ranged from the non-existent Prague meeting with Muhammad Atta to the extremely strained argument that Hussein must somehow be providing protection to Ansar al-Islam while it was based in Kurdish territory outside his control. Let’s not forget the story of old one-legged Zarqawi, who miraculously gained a new limb later on. Feaver even links to the interview in which Cheney refers to the Prague meeting that never happened, but he doesn’t address it directly. In the interview, Cheney said:
I’m not here today to make a specific allegation that Iraq was somehow responsible for 9/11. I can’t say that. On the other hand, since we did that interview, new information has come to light. And we spent time looking at that relationship between Iraq, on the one hand, and the al-Qaeda organization on the other. And there has been reporting that suggests that there have been a number of contacts over the years. We’ve seen in connection with the hijackers, of course, Mohamed Atta, who was the lead hijacker, did apparently travel to Prague on a number of occasions. And on at least one occasion, we have reporting that places him in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence official a few months before the attack on the World Trade Center [bold mine-DL]. The debates about, you know, was he there or wasn’t he there, again, it’s the intelligence business.
Of course, this was nonsense. The administration did everything it could to create the false impression that there was a meaningful connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda, and then let the audience’s imagination do the rest. All the while, it avoided specifically making a direct link between Iraq and 9/11 because the administration knew perfectly well that there wasn’t one. Unfortunately, the people that do believe that Iraq was in some way responsible for 9/11 were and still are supporters of the war, and I suspect this false claim is a major part of the reason why they have supported it. During the pre-war debate, a large part of the public certainly got the wrong idea that Hussein was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. In September 2002, a CBS/NYT poll found 51% agreeing that Hussein was “personally involved” in the 9/11 attacks. As late as April 2004, that figure was still 39%. Who do you suppose might have been responsible for encouraging that misunderstanding? What Feaver has done in this case, as he does in most of the rest of his post, is to state an absurd argument that no war opponent makes as if it were common claim made about the Iraq war. He then knocks down the strawman, and claims that this somehow contributes to a “more nuanced, less simplistic” understanding of the war.