President Bush kicked off a campaign of escalated rhetoric against Iran during a televised address to the nation on Jan. 10. For months, officials from across the Bush administration have accused Iran of supplying Shiite militias with high-tech explosives and training them to carry out attacks with roadside bombs.
Administration officials have thus far provided little detailed public evidence to support these claims. Officials said that Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador in Baghdad, is planning a news conference for Wednesday during which he will present a dossier of Iran’s efforts to fuel sectarian violence in Iraq.
Is anyone else having flashbacks to Colin Powell in front of the U.N., claiming rock-solid proof of Iraq's possession of WMD?
Look, maybe the Administration and the intelligence agencies really were honestly convinced that Iraq had WMD, and they were just wrong. It happens -- intelligence work is inherently uncertain and sometimes you're going to make mistakes. And maybe Iran really is a huge threat on the cusp of acquiring nuclear weapons.
But there are consequences for being wrong. Your credibility is weakened, especially when you claim absolute confidence and call your case a "slam dunk". Every time thereafter you try to convince people that you know what you're talking about, they're going to be increasingly skeptical. Even if you don't feel lied to, as many (many) Americans do about the case Bush made for going to Iraq in the first place, you have to admit that they were wrong about most of the justifications they gave. Maybe honestly wrong, maybe understandably wrong, but wrong nonetheless. And that naturally makes people less willing to take their word for anything else going forward.
If you then follow up your initial wrong conclusions with ongoing predictions of ever-escalating error ("We'll be greeted as liberators", "Weeks not months", "We know where the WMD are", "Mission Accomplished", "Just a few dead-enders"), people stop believing what you're telling them. That's why it's important to make every effort to be as accurate and honest as possible, because otherwise you're going to find yourself in the position of the Little Boy Who Cried Wolf, with howling packs of wild animals devouring your herd while no one believes your calls for help any more.
Again, I hope I'm wrong and that I am just in Super Conspiracy Mode about Iran, but every new development seems to be adding to the relentless drumbeat for the march to war. We've seen this play before, with the same actors and the same claims. Even if this time it's really truly cross-my-heart true and Iran really is about to get nuclear weapons and really is the greatest threat to the world, I'm going to have a very difficult time believing it.
We have a saying here in Texas: "Don't piss on my leg and tell me it's raining." Once again we're being asked to buy an umbrella, but I hope you'll pardon me if I listen for the sound of zippers first.