This example from Andrew Sullivan holds little meaning for me. I don't even see the excerpts as contradictory. The vast majority of what has come out of the Bush administration on Iraq has been about imminent threats, WMD's, etc. The fact that Bush once talked about a free and peaceful Iraq doesn't suggest that was ever the main message. If Bush is now returning to the "free and peaceful Iraq" message, it's only because the main messages have been uncovered as duplicitous. You want some quotes to chew on? Try these:
"This is a man that we know has had connections with al Qaeda. This is a man who, in my judgment, would like to use al Qaeda as a forward army." -- President Bush, Oct. 14, 2002
"Yes, there is a linkage between al Qaeda and Iraq." -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Sept. 26, 2002
"There have been contacts between senior Iraqi officials and members of al Qaeda going back for actually quite a long time." -- National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice, Sept. 25, 2002
It's pretty clear these are outright lies or at least great leaps beyond the facts. Why? To justify pre-emptive attack.
Here's how I see it: Saddam was an awful leader (as are a bunch of other world leaders), we attacked a sovereign nation that was not directly threatening us (though our leaders pretended otherwise) to get this awful leader, we killed a bunch of innocent Iraqis (nobody knows how many, but it's at least hundreds and probably thousands) as well as thousands of Iraqi soldiers, Saddam is still ungotten, our soldiers are dying at an increasing rate (would you want one of your kids to serve in Iraq?), and now we must spend tens of billions of dollars trying to create some semblance of stability (what would Hayek say about trying to "manage" the outcome in that situation - another "Fatal Conceit"?).
The galling thing is that Bush made the American people accomplices in a pre-emptive attack in a situation in which there was no discernable threat to the U.S. Am I happy that Saddam is not in power? Of course (though he may yet regain power if we stop spending money under this "plan" that we're now making up day-to-day). Am I happy with the way he was removed? Hell no. Am I happy that there was no national (much less international) debate about how to get rid of him other than immediate military intervention? No, again. And why was there no debate? Because Bush lied. He lied because it was the only way he could get the authority to attack. He lied to kill Saddam, and Bush should be put in jail.
And here's the clincher question that I'm not afraid to ask or answer: if Bush's means were the only way to get rid of Saddam, was it worth it? Absolutely, unequivocably no! The end does not justify the means.
Meanwhile, Saddam and most of his army, are blending into the sand, waiting.
Yes, Iraq now may be like Germany after WWII. Maybe it will become a model of democracy. I hope so. But, the situation in Iraq in early 2003 cannnot be compared to the situation in Europe in 1940. Hitler overran other nations. Saddam not only didn't overrun another nation, he didn't even have the means to do so. Bush overran Iraq, not the other way around.
Is pre-emptive attack ever justified? Yes. It's worth debating the boundaries of such action. But, Iraq wasn't even close.
So, no, I don't put much stock in nit-picking bullshit from Andrew Sullivan.