After Saddam, America’s Next Fake Enemy: Deficits

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By Paul Krugman in Truthout

Were Americans misled into the Iraq war? Yes.

But Karl Rove, who served as senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush, argued in the Wall Street Journal in July that his “biggest mistake” was not fighting back in 2004 when the story began to spread that the Bush administration had lied to Americans during the run-up to the Iraq war.

“That was wrong and my mistake: I should have insisted to the president that this was a dagger aimed at his administration’s heart,” he wrote. His main evidence that there was no deception? The fact that a governmental commission on the war found no wrongdoing. But that investigation took place when Mr. Bush was riding high, and intelligence officials feared retaliation if they spoke out.

So what would a real investigation look like? The government inquiry on the Iraq war currently taking place in Britain. Following months of evidence collection and interviews, the inquiry has shown that Mr. Bush and Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, wanted a war, exaggerated intelligence to get it, and disregarded warnings that the war would help, not hurt, Al Qaeda.

And off we all went.

Lately, the hysteria over deficits in the United States has definitely brought back memories of that march to war. In a recent opinion piece about the current enthusiasm for fiscal austerity, Chris Hayes, Washington editor for The Nation, wrote: “From one day to the next, what was once accepted by the establishment as tolerable — Saddam Hussein — became intolerable, a crisis of such pressing urgency that ‘serious people’ were required to present their ideas about how to deal with it.”

If the Iraq parallel is any guide, and deficits become intolerable for everyone, years from now, when the American economy is mired in a deflationary trap — long after most people will have conceded that austerity was a mistake — only those who went along with the mistake will be considered “serious,” while those who argued strenuously against a disastrous course of action will still be considered flaky and unreliable.

By Paul Krugman in Truthout

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