Mark Shields is right!
He writes today about Tom Friedman, the newest member of the "WMDs don't matter" crowd. Shields says that it's not whether or not the war was a good thing, but whether or not we were told the truth.
In a democracy, the informed consent of the people depends upon citizens' free access to the truth. If Friedman is right that the administration's weapons of mass destruction "imminent threat" was primarily a political cover story, then Americans were urged to make the most solemn of all judgments -- the decision to go to war -- primarily for reasons more synthetic than authentic. Now, after the fact, supporters of the pre-emptive war argue that it is OK if even for demonstrably wrong reasons the United States did the "right" thing.
As the duplicity and deception of Vietnam and Watergate remind us, the credibility of an American leader is indeed perishable. A leader who misleads his countrymen reaps the whirlwind. The leader's punishment is the people's mistrust. Mistrust breeds cynicism; cynicism breeds alienation. That could harm the United States more gravely than any "unmanned aerial vehicles" from Baghdad.
Shields also has a solid point about the lack of sacrifice on the part of our leadership, but misses a rather obvious point (that, sadly, has been missed by many). When people like Friedman write that we are willing to fight wars to "make clear that we are ready to kill, and to die, to prevent our open society from being undermined", they seem to forget a simple fact: Killing to send a message is the very definition of terrorism.