tricked into a war, and next a "khaki election"*

I know Paul Krugman shows up a lot in this space, but he's almost the only, and certainly the most visible, major media reporter we have who has both a head and the courage to display it.

Today his paper reports and editorializes on the fact that the Justice Department has turned our justice system upside down since September 11. This attention is given to the subject now only because the latest news comes from a unit of the Bush administration itself, the inspector general of the Justice Department.

But Krugman is still the only one who will write about the full scale and the broader significance of this gang's crimes against us all, crimes of lies and deceit, and in the same edition of the NYTimes this morning he lets it fly.

It's long past time for this administration to be held accountable. Over the last two years we've become accustomed to the pattern. Each time the administration comes up with another whopper, partisan supporters — a group that includes a large segment of the news media — obediently insist that black is white and up is down. Meanwhile the "liberal" media report only that some people say that black is black and up is up. And some Democratic politicians offer the administration invaluable cover by making excuses and playing down the extent of the lies.

If this same lack of accountability extends to matters of war and peace, we're in very deep trouble. The British seem to understand this: Max Hastings, the veteran war correspondent — who supported Britain's participation in the war — writes that "the prime minister committed British troops and sacrificed British lives on the basis of a deceit, and it stinks."

It's no answer to say that Saddam was a murderous tyrant. I could point out that many of the neoconservatives who fomented this war were nonchalant, or worse, about mass murders by Central American death squads in the 1980's. But the important point is that this isn't about Saddam: it's about us. The public was told that Saddam posed an imminent threat. If that claim was fraudulent, the selling of the war is arguably the worst scandal in American political history — worse than Watergate, worse than Iran-contra. Indeed, the idea that we were deceived into war makes many commentators so uncomfortable that they refuse to admit the possibility.

But here's the thought that should make those commentators really uncomfortable. Suppose that this administration did con us into war. And suppose that it is not held accountable for its deceptions, so Mr. Bush can fight what Mr. Hastings calls a "khaki election"* next year. In that case, our political system has become utterly, and perhaps irrevocably, corrupted.

*
The "Khaki Election"
At the turn of the century, British politics was dominated by the war in South Africa. The Conservatives ("Tories") fought the general election of 1900 on this single issue, and won a landslide victory on a mandate to end the war in South Africa successfully.

[thanks to the British Public Record Office]