DOUGLAS Feith may not have broken any federal statutes, but his role in ginning up bogus justification for the war in Iraq surely constitutes a grave offense against the American people.
In plain words, he was a key figure in getting us into a quagmire we cannot now escape, a disastrous trillion-dollar conflict that threatens to engulf the Middle East and more.
For those who may not recall the name, Mr. Feith was deputy undersecretary of defense for policy in the pre-war Pentagon. He operated a back-corridor office which, according to a new inspector general's report, was engaged in seriously misconstruing intelligence on Iraq gathered by various federal agencies.
His briefings to the White House were, in turn, used in a concerted and misleading campaign staged by President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and others to convince the public that Saddam Hussein was a threat that had to be erased.
The supposed connection between the 9/11 terrorist attacks was employed, along with equally bogus representations about weapons of mass destruction, to inflame public opinion and induce Congress to authorize military action.
As recently as last fall, polls showed that more than a quarter of Americans continued to believe in an al-Qaeda-Iraq connection, even though the 9/11 commission found there was none.
Mr. Feith now claims that he was merely passing along information that had been overlooked by the CIA and other intelligence agencies "and in presenting it I was not endorsing its substance."
But his offense is not one of merely being wrong. There is plenty of evidence to show that Mr. Feith and other advisers to the Bush White House wanted war with Iraq all along and were determined to justify it regardless of what the intelligence said.
In the words of a Washington Post reporter who has covered this story from the start, Mr. Feith and his group "found what they wanted to find."
Mr. Feith's patron in the defense department, who authorized his intelligence operation, was Paul Wolfowitz, an icon among neoconservatives and a member of a group that in 1998 wrote to then-President Bill Clinton urging "a strategy for removing Saddam's regime from power."
When that group, including Donald Rumsfeld, who became defense secretary, ascended to power with Mr. Bush in 2001, they put their own strategy into action - the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
While the inspector general found that Mr. Feith's activities weren't illegal, they were wrong in a broader sense because they helped push the United States into a foreign conflict under false pretenses.
As becomes more evident every day, the Iraq adventure was poorly conceived and implemented in even worse fashion.
The truth is not pleasant:
More than 3,100 military personnel have died, there are no good exit options, and history will forever record Douglas Feith as one of the key architects of this disastrous war.