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Harold Henderson's Concerns
In Dissent, Number One Hundred and Sixteen
by Brian S. Wise
17 June 2003

Addressing the WMD concerns and accusations of a random letter writer to a hometown newspaper.

Any newspaper worth its intellectual salt has an opinion page (or pages).  Normally contained therein are the assorted ramblings and grievances of The People who, if they can do nothing else, can manage pen to paper.  Often upon reading The People’s view of things, you find yourself wondering why one must have a license to hunt, fish, own a gun, drive a car and marry, but for some reason can opine without any sort of outstanding display of competence beforehand.
Case in point, the Wednesday, 11 June edition of my hometown paper (the South Bend Tribune) printed a letter from one Harold Henderson.  This is the exact text as it appeared:  “President Bush said he knew Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.  By now it’s obvious that he didn’t know any such thing.  But he chose to send American military personnel to war anyway.  He hasn’t even had the common courtesy to apologize.  Bill Clinton’s lie was wrong, but at least it didn’t get anybody killed!  Those of us who support our troops should mark Nov. 2, 2004, on the calendar.  That’s the day when we can turn this shameless liar out of office.”
One struggles with how best to respond, except here to relate a brief story.  Late last week a friend called to ask, “Remember when Bush was elected, and we said that he would probably go into Iraq to clean up after his daddy’s mess, and no one would appreciate the effort?”  Well now, slow down a bit.  I have no sort of confidence that Saddam Hussein would have been dealt with properly (i.e., by being removed) if not for the Tragedies, which significantly altered America’s moral priorities.  The answer to the Great Iraqi Question – Why Iraq and not Iran, or North Korea? – was that no other “Axis of Evil” member had presented a better modern case for removal than Hussein, given his previous track record with this country and his neighbors, his defiance of the United Nations (for those of you who believe the UN matters) and his snuggly relationship with terrorism.
Always remember, in order for George W. Bush to be wrong about Iraq, how many other countries and organizations had to be wrong in the process.  Bill Clinton especially had to be wrong about Iraq when he took to television and said, on 16 December 1998, that “Saddam must not be allowed to threaten his neighbors or the world with nuclear arms, poison gas or biological weapons,” and therefore he was forced to order “America’s armed forces to strike military and security targets in Iraq …. Their mission is to attack Iraq’s nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs and its military capacity to threaten its neighbors.”  If George W. Bush is a “shameless liar” in his crusade against Hussein, what was Bill Clinton in similar efforts, and would not the problem go a bit beyond “Bill Clinton’s lie was wrong” when all was said and done, no matter what lie (I am assuming Lewinsky) Henderson had in mind?
Mr. William F. Buckley, Jr. appeared on Hardball last Thursday (12 June) to speak about the concerns of those like Harold Henderson.  Chris Matthews asked about justifications for certain military actions, and brought up the Gulf of Tonkin resolution.  Mr. Buckley: “I’ve written about that situation.  And I tend to believe that it was a fraud, but I’m not entirely convinced that Johnson’s scholars would agree that he thought it was a fraud.  For a while, people thought that attack from the Gulf of Tonkin was genuine.”  But, “You have to ask yourself this question.  Is the attack which hadn’t materialized, which wasn’t adequately recorded, something that is unthinkable.  The answer is not at all.  It is not unthinkable that Iraq would use WMDs, and in fact, there are 5,000 gallons of chemical gases they still haven’t accounted for.”
In other words, had someone with great authority come to you at the beginning of August 2001 and said, “Five weeks from now, four airplanes will be hijacked and flown into very notable American targets, buildings, killing thousands,” would you have approved of the immediate effort to root out the hijackers, and their supporting organizations, to end the threat?  What I am saying is that the case against the president is too premature to say immense lies were told.  We will wait, the understanding being that if mistakes were made, we expect to be told, even if the overall result was for the future benefit of innocents.

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