Andrew Sullivan provides a reader’s summary of this classic Simpsons exchange:

Exam Giver: “What was the cause of the Civil War?”
Apu: “The split between abolitionists and secessionists had come to a head in in The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 when…”
Exam Giver: “Just say slavery.”
Apu: “Slavery it is, sir!”

as a prelude to what Sully calls the “imminent threat” lie.

So we get the baldfaced untruth that the war was because Iraq posed an “imminent” threat. It wasn’t. Or that it was about a causal link between Saddam and 9/11. It wasn’t. Or that it was based in intellgience from Niger. It wasn’t. Technically, the war was a continuation of the last one, and was fully supported by umpteen U.N. resolutions, including a 15-0 Security Council vote to force Saddam to comply. 9/11 made a war far more conceivable because it revealed the U.S.’s vulnerability to fanatical terrorists who might get hold of WMDs from Saddam. The casus belli was not proof of Saddam’s existing weapons, but proof of his refusal to cooperate fully with U.N. inspectors or account fully for his WMD research. Nothing we have discovered after the war has debunked or undermined any of these reasons. And the moral reason for getting rid of an unconscionably evil regime has actually gotten stronger now we see the full extent of his terror-state. But the anti-war left sees a real advantage in stripping down the claims in people’s receding memories to ones that were not made but which can now be debunked. It’s propaganda, to which the media in particular seems alarmingly prone to parroting. We have tor esist it at every stop – because this war has not yet been won, and the really crucial battle, now as before, is at home.

I noted much of this back in July.

Still, it’s fair to say that the administration either intentionally oversold the case of Saddam’s imminent danger in order to make the popular case for the war stronger or acted on some rather dubious intelligence reports.

(Hat tip: Daniel Drezner)

FILED UNDER: Iraq War, , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. JohnC says:

    You guys just never stop with this.

    But make no mistake — as I said earlier — we have high confidence that they have weapons of mass destruction. That is what this war was about and it is about.

    — Ari Fleischer, Press Secretary
    Press Briefing, 4/10/2003

    I mean, really.

  2. GT says:


    Spare us the nonsense.

    Here, read this:

    Not sure if you think all your readers are idiots or they simply don’t care about the facts.

  3. lefty skeptic says:

    I grant that Saddam’s refusal to comply with the terms of the UN ceasefire was sufficient grounds for UN action against Iraq. I grant this is often overlooked by folks on my side of the aisle.

    However, the US did act without the blessing of the UN. So the sentence of Sullivan’s starting with “Technically” isn’t right, either, since the war was not a UN action (and since we are being technical here).

    I think this refutes Sullivan’s argument – what was the war about, if it wasn’t *exactly* a renewal of Gulf War I? Bush pere and Gulf War I looks so much better in comparison – a true coalition and a clear cut grounds for action.

  4. Jericho says:

    The Baathists were a spin off of the Nazis. Does it really surprise anyone that the US was the ones who finally had to take them out? The Syrian Baathists will likely be next (See Isaiah 17:1), though whether the Israelis or the US torch Damascus is yet to be seen.

  5. JohnC says:

    Cool! The Bible and Nazi defense!

    Man, you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel.

  6. Paul says:

    It never ceases to amaze me how many liberal Democrats will take every opportunity possible to support a murderous dictator.

    It were up to the Dems the torture chambers built especially for children would all still be full.

    They miss the obvious facts that there still may be many weapons not found or that Saddam moved them in the 11th hour. (or a dozen or possible answers)

    No, it is easier to declare Bush the Devil and let Saddam and his murderous regime off scott free.

    It must be nice to live in a liberal state of mind. It requires so little work.


    And GT I noticed your page did not list any of the same quotes that the Democrats made when Clinton bombed Iraq.

    Get off your high horse and quit proclaiming you have the “facts” when you purposely distort them. No, most of James’s readers are not idiots. That’s your problem.

  7. Paul says:


    My good friend John showing religious intolerance? Can’t be!

    Now, I thought he was a good liberal that respected his fellow man’s beliefs.

    If a conservative said what you just said you would ream him.

    Insulting someone’s religion is bigotry. …Or it is if Pat Robertson does it.


    And considering the liberals use the word Nazi every 10 minutes I’d keep my mouth shut if I were you.

  8. JohnC says:

    Hey, when you start using religion as the basis of WAR, you’re only going to get my contempt.

    Keep ’em coming Paul. You’re the last person in the world whom I wish to gather respect from. It’s a mark of honor for me to be on your shit list.

  9. lefty skeptic says:

    “It never ceases to amaze me how many liberal Democrats will take every opportunity possible to support a murderous dictator.”

    Sorry, but the converse of a statement is not the same as the contrapositive. Please inform Glenn Reynolds of this as well. You can be against the war on Iraq without being “objectively pro-Saddam”. This is just simple logic.

    Do you think it is appropriate when gun control advocates say “It never ceases to amaze me how conservative Republicans take every opportunity to support psychotic workers who go postal and shoot all their co-workers.”? It’s the exact same “logic”.

  10. JohnC says:

    Paul spells “logic” with a “q”.

  11. Paul says:

    Close lefty-

    If this were a selected instance you would have a point. Sadly it is not. No matter what the question, no matter what the debate the answer is the same. Saddam should be allowed to continue to torturing women and children and Bush is the Devil for stopping it.

    Sadly the leftist who traditionally were in favor of “human rights” and “women’s rights” are willing to sell these groups out to oppose Bush.

    And your analogy is patently silly. Guns don’t kill people, Saddam does. Guns benefit millions of people and are occasionally used improperly by said postal worker. Saddam had no redeeming values. Except of course to Democrats.


    John I have asked on multiple occasions that you read before you post. He did not use religion to justify the war. Either you can’t read or you are lying. Take your pick.

  12. lefty skeptic says:

    My analogy was purposefully silly. So you’d see how silly it is to claim that opposing the war makes you pro-Saddam.

    Let me spell it out.

    Axiom: If you are for the war, you are against Saddam.
    Contrapositive: If you are for Saddam, you are against the war.
    Converse: If you are against the war, you are for Saddam.

    The contrapositive follows from the axiom. The converse doesn’t.

  13. Paul says:

    Or said another way….

    If you consider the body of evidence that supports Saddam having WMD and you consider the body of evidence that supports that Bush lied about those weapons, it is only a rabid partisan who could see the evidence of the lie greater.

    1) The fact Saddam had a weapons program that was hidden from the U.N. is no longer in debate. (it never really was)

    2) The fact that he did not destroy his known weapons of mass destruction is yet to be determined.

    The evidence that Bush lied about the weapons boils down to the fact that #2 has not yet been proven.

    And you don’t understand why I say that you people do not use facts, reason or logic???

    The combined intelligence agencies of 50+ countries have said the same thing for over a decade. Bill Clinton even said the same thing.

    And because we have not found mountains of weapons that he had decades to hid, you think that in itself is proof Bush (and the rest of the world) lied about the whole thing.

    Which is more probable… That Bush and all those counties lied or you are are just a bunch of hypocritical partisan hacks?


  14. lefty skeptic says:

    Paul – you’ve convinced me. I’m just a hypocritical partisan hack. Hallelujah.

  15. JohnC says:

    Praise the republicans and pass the ammunition.

  16. Paul says:

    if the shoe fits

  17. sparkyASU says:

    Intentionally overselling WMD as the war basis OR relying on faulty intelligence claiming imminent WMD danger as a basis for invasion: how naive can you get? For punishment, you are required to read the PNAC manifesto.

  18. JohnC says:

    You’ll have to get the coloring book version for Paul, though.

  19. Paul says:

    Again with the person attacks john?

    Ideas not strong enough?

  20. markus says:

    nice attempt at trying to reason from yourself to others, Paul. Keep trying, you might get the logic thingy eventually.