Tom Ridge Shows Why the Republican Party Is Intellectually Bankrupt

Prelude


On Tuesday, Tom Ridge appeared on Rachel Maddow's show, and Maddow tried in vein to recruit Ridge for the position of Republican voice of reason on foreign affairs.  The problem was that, at bottom, Ridge is a conservative.  He's got better manners than Dick Cheney (as do pit bulls), but at bottom the belief structure is remarkably similar.  He dutifully stands by the lies used to get us to invade Iraq.  He blames bad intelligence, not the Bush Administration's determination to go to war.  He says that other governments were fooled, too.  And besides, he says, the Iraqi people are going to love their democracy so much some day, that all the people slaughtered along the way will be forgotten, and history will smile on George W. Bush, the Greatest President of All Time!

Okay, I made up that last bit about Bush.  But the rest of it Ridge actually said, and it's all the very same sort of stuff that Cheney believes.  There is no difference between the two aside from Cheney's lack of manners.  After everything else was said and done, Ridge's ultimate defense of the Bush Administration was framed in terms of personal honor--a typical conservative frame:

I think it's a pretty radical conclusion to suggest that men and women entrusted with the safety of this country would predicate a decision upon any other bases other than to keep America safe.  Later on, it may have proven that some of the information was inaccurate, but there were plenty of reasons to go into Iraq at the time; the foremost was weapons of mass destruction.  That obviously proven to be faulty.  But the fact of the matter is, at that time, given what they knew--and they knew more than you and I did--it seemed to be the right thing to do, and the decision was made in what they considered to be the best interests of our country.

Of course, the common sense meaning implied here--that a rational, empirical decision was made just prior to invasion based on more data than critics had--is simply, factually false.  Not just the faultiness of the data, but it's fundamental irrelevance to the decisiomaking process were already known. We know this from the US Today story published on September 11, 2002, six months before the Iraq invasion, which reported that the decision to invade Iraq had been made within weeks of 9/11.  ("Iraq course set from tight White House circle"). It quoted Condi Rice saying that there wasn't even a decision process involved:

The decision to target Saddam "kind of evolved, but it's not clear and neat," a senior administration official says, calling it "policymaking by osmosis."

"There wasn't a flash moment. There's no decision meeting," national security adviser Condoleezza Rice says. "But Iraq had been on the radar screen -- that it was a danger and that it was something you were going to have to deal with eventually ... before Sept. 11, because we knew that this was a problem."

Members of Congress weren't consulted. Nor were key allies. The concerns of senior military officers and intelligence analysts, some of whom remain skeptical, weren't fully aired until afterward.

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