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December 18, 2003

THE CASE FOR WAR....Tim Dunlop provided a timely reminder on Monday of Paul Wolfowitz's Vanity Fair interview from last May. This interview became famous because of Wolfowitz's statement that WMDs were chosen as the argument for going to war "for reasons that have a lot to do with the U.S. government bureaucracy," but that wasn't all he said. He also outlined the full case for invading Iraq:

....there have always been three fundamental concerns. One is weapons of mass destruction, the second is support for terrorism, the third is the criminal treatment of the Iraqi people....The third one by itself, as I think I said earlier, is a reason to help the Iraqis but it's not a reason to put American kids' lives at risk, certainly not on the scale we did it.

That was six months ago, so this is a good time to take another look at his three points:

  • It's pretty clear there were no WMDs. Even David Kay has implicitly admitted as much by cutting back on the search teams and announcing that he plans to leave the Iraq Survey Group within a few weeks.

  • After six months of access to Iraqi archives, it's also pretty clear that Saddam had minimal connections to global terrorism. He supported Palestinian terrorism against Israel and probably had some fleeting contacts with al-Qaeda, but these activities were, if anything, less than those of nearly every other country in the region.

  • And Wolfowitz himself admits that Saddam's brutal treatment of his own people wasn't a good enough reason by itself to start a war.

So what's left? Not much, as George Bush made clear in his interview with Diane Sawyer on Tuesday:

SAWYER: But stated as a hard fact, that there were weapons of mass destruction, as opposed to the possibility that he could move to acquire those weapons still --

BUSH: So what’s the difference?

(Smile's gone.)

SAWYER: Well --

BUSH: The possibility that he could acquire weapons. If he were acquire weapons [sic], he would be the danger. That’s the -- that’s what I’m trying to explain to you.

The possibility that he could acquire weapons. Remember that. For better or worse, that's what's left of the public rationale for going to war.

Was it a good enough reason? Your call. But I wonder how strong the support for war would have been if Bush had said that back in January?

Posted by Kevin Drum at December 18, 2003 02:12 PM | TrackBack


Comments

Thanks for bringing this up again (Kevin and Tim). I was surprised this part got glossed over, even back in May.

And why is it such a shock that we caught Saddam? Wasn't that an unfulfilled expectation back in April? How does that get turned into some kind of "victory" over those who opposed the war? I thought we'd either get him in April, or later. Or some deal would be cut, and maybe he'd be allowed exile somewhere. But that has nothing to do with whether the war was the right thing to do or not.

It's obvious now, using Wolfowitz's own words, that the war was unnecessary. It may have been worth it at some point to do it the right way (with real allies and an actual post-war plan). But it wasn't necessary to rush in the way we did. There was no imminent threat. It was a mistake.

Posted by: alias at December 18, 2003 02:24 PM | PERMALINK

"there were no WMDs".

Will you pleeeeze stop using this straw man?

There were probably no WMD *stockpiles*. That's totally different. There were definitely scientists, engineers and military people who knew how to make and use WMDs, and *that* was the threat.

And yes, I know that the administration implied that there were stockpiles. That's not the point.

The point is that if Saddam had wanted to make WMD's available to Al Qaida, he could have done so quite easily. Does anyone dispute this?

Posted by: me at December 18, 2003 02:26 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

Never has a president made up so much to never have to account for. It is truly amazing. If the logical linchpin is only "the possibility that he could acquire weapons (sic), we could invade Canada and be justified. Or more likely Syria or Cuba.

I supported the war, because I felt that at the end of the day, POTUS has access to information that you, me or the "affluent press" has. But the Administration had nothing other than hopes, dreams, and stones the size of Nebraska.

Bush lied. Americans die. Imagine what would have happened if President Gore would have pulled this?

I so hope for a video montage of the evolution of the reasons to go to war at the Dem convention, or better yet in a :30 ad.

Posted by: Sebastian at December 18, 2003 02:26 PM | PERMALINK

Hey "me,"

You are grasping at rhetorical straws. If a satanic, hell-bound liberal like me would try the same thing, you would try (to no avail) to wipe the floor with me.

Have you no shame? Your president has changed his position, in broad daylight, over time. You refuse to hold him accountable. Meanwhile, people die.

Posted by: Sebastian at December 18, 2003 02:29 PM | PERMALINK

The point is that if Saddam had wanted to make WMD's available to Al Qaida, he could have done so quite easily. Does anyone dispute this?

Does anyone dispute that Hussein's connection to Al Qaeda and 9/11 was tenuous at best or an intentional fabrication at worst?

Posted by: David the Obscure at December 18, 2003 02:31 PM | PERMALINK

"The point is that if Saddam had wanted to make WMD's available to Al Qaida, he could have done so quite easily. Does anyone dispute this?"

Just about everybody disputes this. Even David Freakin' Kay disputes this.

Posted by: lefty skeptic at December 18, 2003 02:35 PM | PERMALINK

I think Saddam might have been more concerned Al Qaeda would use the weapons on him, even assuming he had the capability to make them.

Posted by: alias at December 18, 2003 02:36 PM | PERMALINK

Sebastian, he's not my president - there are other countries in this world, you know.

I don't give a stuff about these petty democrat/republican bitchslap sessions which you guys are so obsessed with.

What I *do* care about is basic honesty and intellectual integrity. If you guys would get out of this silly political bunfight mode and actually start to think about these issues in some sort of independent manner you would see what I mean.

Think about it from the perspective of a person who really doesn't care who occupies the White House. Please.

Posted by: me at December 18, 2003 02:37 PM | PERMALINK

me writes: "The point is that if Saddam had wanted to make WMD's available to Al Qaida, he could have done so quite easily. Does anyone dispute this?"

Yeah, a paranoid dictator giving out his most powerful weapon to uncontrolled outsiders who are actually rather opposed to his existence.

Happens all the time.

Why would Hussein trust Al Qaeda not to use the weapon against *him*?

There's no indication that Saddam even gave Al Qaeda *financial* support. Why would he make a quantum leap beyond that and hand them the keys to his own kingdom?

Posted by: Jon H at December 18, 2003 02:38 PM | PERMALINK

"The point is that if Saddam had wanted to make WMD's available to Al Qaida, he could have done so quite easily. Does anyone dispute this?"

Kay found an "extensive system of secret laboratories".

Even if he hadn't, Saddam could have made chem/bio weapons again in what? Six months?

Posted by: me at December 18, 2003 02:39 PM | PERMALINK
Will you pleeeeze stop using this straw man?

Its not a strawman, since many people in the administration claimed that there were, in fact, actual WMDs, and the Vice President even claimed to know where they were.

Posted by: cmdicely at December 18, 2003 02:39 PM | PERMALINK

Allrighty "me,"

Your president or PM, or exalted grand poobah does the same thing. What's your take?

Posted by: Sebastian at December 18, 2003 02:40 PM | PERMALINK

Think about it from the perspective of a person who really doesn't care who occupies the White House.

Nice non-sequitur.

Kevin forgot reason #4: He tried to kill his daddy.

Posted by: David the Obscure at December 18, 2003 02:40 PM | PERMALINK

And yes, I know that the administration implied that there were stockpiles. That's not the point.

no, that is entirely the point. sizeable percentages (sometimes huge majorities) of the public believed was Saddam involved with 9/11, that he had WMDs, that he had used them against the US, and that he was actively cooperating with al-Q .

if Bush had told the truth: Saddam only has desires to make WMDs someday, if possible; Saddam wasn't involved with 9/11, has no al-Q ties, doesn't have any WMDs, didn't use any WMDs, etc., you wouldn't have seen those huge support numbers for the war.

The point is that if Saddam had wanted to make WMD's available to Al Qaida, he could have done so quite easily. Does anyone dispute this?

if anyone wanted to make their WMDs available to al-Q they could have. Saddam apparently didn't have them, couldn't produce them, and didn't make them available.

Posted by: ChrisL at December 18, 2003 02:40 PM | PERMALINK

The point is that if Saddam had wanted to make WMD's available to Al Qaida, he could have done so quite easily. Does anyone dispute this?

Umm, yes, I do. He can't make weapons that he didn't have available. Saying that he probably had a few, and not gobs and gobs is just silly. So stop it.

Posted by: four legs good at December 18, 2003 02:40 PM | PERMALINK

jon, it's very unlikely that Saddam would just go handing over 100 kilos of Anthrax powder to jihadis. He wasn't that stupid. You're just using this as a straw man. Again.

There are much more deniable paths which he could/would have used. If you were not so politically myopic you would be able to think of them yourself.

Posted by: me at December 18, 2003 02:42 PM | PERMALINK

Regime change, and getting Saddam, was always the symbolic reason, what the war was marketed on, the "causus belli" as Bush would have it.

Saddam was the bogeyman. We got the bogeyman. The world is safer now with one less bogeyman. This is the mind of George W. Bush. One wonders if he actually believes the symbolic reasons as if they were the real reasons, thinking of the real reasons as more window dressing or symbolic.

Weird.

Wolfowitz also seems to conveniently leave out the PNAC strategy, of which he is an architect.

Short-term memory problem?

Posted by: freelixir at December 18, 2003 02:42 PM | PERMALINK
The point is that if Saddam had wanted to make WMD's available to Al Qaida, he could have done so quite easily. Does anyone dispute this?

Given that al-Qaeda was seeking the overthrow of Hussein's regime, its about as likely that he would have wanted to do that as that George W. Bush would want to give WMD to al-Qaeda.

That aside, yes, lots of people dispute that, since there is no evidence that Saddam had WMDs to give, or any ready production capacity. The best the administration has come up recently is the allegation that there were people and plans stockpiled that he could use to reconstitute programs to develope WMD rather than starting with the absence of experience and information.

Posted by: cmdicely at December 18, 2003 02:44 PM | PERMALINK

ChrisL: sigh. You're just playing partisan US politics again. Please dig yourself out of that hole and start to *think*. It's really quite irresponsible what you're doing.

How on *earth* can it be possible that Saddam's capabilities and intentions vary according to the political biases of the observer? This is comical.

Posted by: me at December 18, 2003 02:44 PM | PERMALINK

Me,

If this is "the point"

"that if Saddam had wanted to make WMD's available to Al Qaida, he could have done so quite easily. Does anyone dispute this?"

Shouldn't the case have been made that Iraq intended to do so? I mean, there are plenty of other unkindly people and places with access to WMDs, and there was actually evidence of connections between them and Iraq/Hussein.

That the strategy is to invade countries to eliminate potential threats does not obviate the need for a decent and founded argument for war.

Or . . .

Posted by: Andy at December 18, 2003 02:45 PM | PERMALINK

First: The point is that if Saddam had wanted to make WMD's available to Al Qaida, he could have done so quite easily. Does anyone dispute this?

Then: it's very unlikely that Saddam would just go handing over 100 kilos of Anthrax powder to jihadis. He wasn't that stupid. You're just using this as a straw man.

Whaa ...?

Posted by: David the Obscure at December 18, 2003 02:46 PM | PERMALINK

Me,

We read about third world crackpots that invade their neighbors because the "hoo-doo-man" said it's a good day to kill people.

The US is not a third world country. I don't know what country you are in, but I suppose you'd expect a certain base level of credibility in your elected leaders, or would you?

Posted by: Sebastian at December 18, 2003 02:49 PM | PERMALINK

Really a wonderful post. With these nincompoops, all one has to do is use their own words against them. Wolfowitz's interview is an indictment against the war.

Posted by: Dr. Detritus at December 18, 2003 02:49 PM | PERMALINK

There were definitely scientists, engineers and military people who knew how to make and use WMDs, and *that* was the threat.

Anybody who has taken a course in microbiology can grow out anthrax in a lab. Anybody who has taken a chemistry course can make a nerve agent. To make a lot, you might need a small building and some lab facilities.

IOW, every country in the world has people who know how how to make WMD. If this justifies an invasion, we have a free pass to invade any country of our choosing.

Posted by: Roger Bigod at December 18, 2003 02:51 PM | PERMALINK

Me,

"Kay found an "extensive system of secret laboratories".

Even if he hadn't, Saddam could have made chem/bio weapons again in what? Six months?"

What was keeping him from making them up to that point? Gravity? He didn't have them, and wasn't going to make them.

I'm not mourning the capture of Saddam. Shoot him for all I care. I do care about Bush lying to justify his excursions. This isn't a blowjob.

Posted by: Sebastian at December 18, 2003 02:53 PM | PERMALINK

"The point is that if Saddam had wanted to make WMD's available to Al Qaida, he could have done so quite easily. Does anyone dispute this?"

Yes, I do. I definately dispute this. First, he had no WMD's to make available to Al Quaida. Second, he didn't have the ability to produce WMD's because of the successful containment strategy that was in place... you know, the one that prevented him from having any WMD's^[1]. Finally, we have no reason whatsoever to believe that Saddam would want to provide Al Quaida with WMD's even if he had them (which he didn't) or could produce them (which he couldn't).

[1] There is no other conclusion, but that the containment strategy was successful unless you stipulate that Saddam *could* have had WMD's but just didn't want to bother... Are you willing to rely upon this?

Posted by: Adam in MA at December 18, 2003 02:54 PM | PERMALINK

...it's very unlikely that Saddam would just go handing over 100 kilos of Anthrax powder to jihadis.

Come up with the 100 kilos. Now. Right fucking now.

Or shut the fuck up.

Now go back to Unka Karl and tell him you need a better script.

Posted by: dave at December 18, 2003 02:55 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin ends with.....

Was it a good enough reason? Your call. But I wonder how strong the support for war would have been if Bush had said that back in January?

The reason to support the war was all the evil WMD's being carried to the USA with all those hi-tech balsa wood and ducct tape trans-atlantic drones!

Posted by: MaiznBlue at December 18, 2003 02:55 PM | PERMALINK

David: sigh^2.

Saddam could have trained AQ people in manufacture and use. He could have assisted AQ in setting up a lab in the backblocks of Somalia. Or even Venezuela or Columbia. There are lots of deniable ways. Easy ways.

Posted by: me at December 18, 2003 02:56 PM | PERMALINK

Wolfowitz is not even honest as to probably the key factor that caused this war, rather than all of the hyped bullshit they then made up to sell the war.

The neo-cons are mostly leftovers from Gulf War I, and all of them were embarrassed after the fact by the constant questioning "why did you leave Saddam in power?" 9/11 gave them the means to re-visit the war and "do it right." The rest is window dressing.

Plus I believe that they fraudulently sold reasons for Gulf War I (although it was justifiably about protecting the oil supply, did Bush I ever say such a thing?) -- so no surprise that they cook up another con job to sell another war.

That is why Iraq was invaded, and not N. Korea or others who in fact have WMD and are far more likely to sell them to Al-Queda, etc.

If Musharaff gets assassinated (almost happened a few days ago) and jihadis take over, are we then going to invade Pakistan which would be a far more dangerous country than Iraq? They have WMD and are harboring Osama.

Posted by: DMBeaster at December 18, 2003 02:57 PM | PERMALINK

You're just playing partisan US politics again.

i am ? it's "partisan" to say that Bush wasn't up-front about the facts ?

Posted by: ChrisL at December 18, 2003 02:58 PM | PERMALINK

me, if Saddam *could* have made WMD's available to Al Qaida... why didn't he? because he grew a conscience and thought better of it? because he didn't want to since turning over WMD would make him vulnerable? or because he couldn't do it?

just follow the thought out and tell us why he didn't make them available? after you are done with that please tell us why Bush hasn't called for invading Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, etc, etc.

Posted by: Adam in MA at December 18, 2003 02:59 PM | PERMALINK

>There were probably no WMD *stockpiles*. That's totally different.
>There were definitely scientists, engineers and military people who
>knew how to make and use WMDs

The true WMD is Saddam Hussein himself.

Posted by: Dan the Man at December 18, 2003 03:01 PM | PERMALINK

"Was it a good enough reason?"

It might have been....if it had been the iraqi people who asked for it instead of a bunch of thieves led by Dick Cheney and Ahmad Chalibaba. That would have given a completely different picture of the invasion and a lot more international support.

Iraq was no threat no the U.S. before the war. Now it is.

Posted by: Johannes at December 18, 2003 03:06 PM | PERMALINK

me is a paid GOP blog hack. I've seen them around before, mostly over at TDK.

Not my president my ass. Go away, you paid pathetic propaganda whore.

Posted by: paradox at December 18, 2003 03:06 PM | PERMALINK

Adam, Saddam was the only world leader who expressed approval of the 9/11 attack. The single, sole, solitary one.

It is not totally unreasonable to think that if he liked what AQ had done, he might have helped them do it again.

I agree: probably not. But if I was in government, I wouldn't go betting the lives of thousands of my countrymen on it. And nor would you.

Posted by: me at December 18, 2003 03:08 PM | PERMALINK

There are lots of deniable ways. Easy ways.

I get it now, but then there's the small problem of that anthrax you're planning to sell to terrorists. Denial will only prove you're trying to hide something.

Posted by: David the Obscure at December 18, 2003 03:13 PM | PERMALINK

"The point is that if Saddam had wanted to make WMD's available to Al Qaida, he could have done so quite easily. Does anyone dispute this?"

The point is that if elements within the Pakistani government wanted to make WMD's available to "Al Qaida", they can do so quite easily - hell, they have nukes already. So when do we march on Karachi?

Posted by: Spyral Pegacyon at December 18, 2003 03:13 PM | PERMALINK

Good point on Pakistan and Musharaff. He was like a couple minutes (maybe less) away from being killed the same day Saddam was captured. This assasination might end up being the more important story.

If fundies take over in Pakistan, that is a HUGE crisis. Pakistan is in reality the ground zero for the War on Terror (read Bernard Levy's book about Daniel Pearl). Large portions of Pakistan's military are essentially members of Al Qaeda. Musharaff is (both figuratively and literally) sitting on a box of dynamite. Realistically, he's the best the US can get.

Keep a close eye on Pakistan.

Ben P

Posted by: Ben P at December 18, 2003 03:14 PM | PERMALINK

Why is the term WMD used by the way? The real name is NBC weapons- Nuclear, Biological and Chemical weapons. Is someone embarassed by that name?

Posted by: Johannes at December 18, 2003 03:15 PM | PERMALINK

Here's what bothers me. Pull up the DEBKAfile (www.debka.com)and scroll down the headlines to, "Read DEBKAfile reveals US forces are homing in on their (WMDs) hiding place in Syria'S northern Al Jazirah province between Iraq and Turkey."

Somehow I think all will be revealed just about the time of the GOP convention. We all know the boundless skulldudgery of Rove, do we not?

Posted by: Paul at December 18, 2003 03:17 PM | PERMALINK

Is Debkafile reliable at all? There are lots of blinking ads on that site, seems a little suspect to me.

PS, to the guy who posted about Bernard Levy's book, please read this for a second opinion:

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/16823

Posted by: Old Hat at December 18, 2003 03:25 PM | PERMALINK

The point is that if Saddam had wanted to make WMD's available to Al Qaida, he could have done so quite easily. Does anyone dispute this?

My neighbor has guns in his house. If he wanted to come over and shoot my kids, he could. I better run him over, first chance I get.

In fact, my other neighbor has a car. If he wanted to run over my kids, he could. I better...

Posted by: craigie at December 18, 2003 03:27 PM | PERMALINK

Ben P. is right. Pakistan is ground zero for terrorism. We went to war with Iraq because we could. We wouldn't want to bring democracy to Pakistan because there's a good chance the fundamentalists might win. Plus, there's no oil, so naaah. There's no precedent for the duplicity of this administration in the entire history of our country.

Posted by: Mara at December 18, 2003 03:27 PM | PERMALINK

Paul, Debka is full of it. If Bush and Blair knew that WMD finds were in the offing they wouldn't be making all these backing down noises.

Then again, this is kinda weird. chem-bio equipped RPGs?


http://www.opinion.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2003/12/07/wirq107.xml

Posted by: me at December 18, 2003 03:29 PM | PERMALINK

Me, we all know how reliable the Torygraph is, don't we?

Posted by: Old Hat at December 18, 2003 03:32 PM | PERMALINK

Saddam could have trained AQ people in manufacture and use. He could have assisted AQ in setting up a lab in the backblocks of Somalia. Or even Venezuela or Columbia. There are lots of deniable ways. Easy ways.

As I pointed out above, any country has people who know how to make bio and chemo weapons. Therefore any country could have helped them to the same extent. Take your pick. Which country do you want to invade?

Posted by: Roger Bigod at December 18, 2003 03:35 PM | PERMALINK

"Adam, Saddam was the only world leader who expressed approval of the 9/11 attack. The single, sole, solitary one."

Completely and utterly wrong. Saddam basically gave empty condolences and then essentially said America deserved it. Exactly the same as Jerry Falwell, a number of other righteous right wing "christian" conservatives, left wing anti-establishment types and others from all over the world. They just differed in the *why* we deserved it. Are you honestly saying that we invaded Iraq because Saddam failed to denounce 9/11 strongly enough? Now, with this, you are getting completely away from the point: he didn't have the means, capability, or will to harm us with WMD.

Posted by: Adam in MA at December 18, 2003 03:37 PM | PERMALINK

Remember when Saddam was our guy? We kinda sorta of liked him then. Hesiod // 12/16/2003 10:17:36 PM reminds us of the adventures of RUMMY, REAGAN & SADDAMISM here: http://counterspin.blogspot.com/2003_12_14_counterspin_archive.html#107160068807136968
“Check out this treasure trove of declassified documents showing how St. Ronnie was cozying up to Saddam Hussein n the early 1980's.”
All I got to say is:oil’s well that ends well.

Posted by: S at December 18, 2003 03:38 PM | PERMALINK

Fuck, yes. If Mushareff had been 30 seconds slower across that bridge (and the attempt indicates that his security services are not purged of Islamists, as he had tried) our exit strategy for Iraq might have been C-17s troop transports taking off from Baghdad International and landing in Bagram Air Base. Half of what I try to impress on boneheaded supporters of the Bush policies is that Iraq is a distraction: South Asia is many times more populous, much less well-governed, and the governments there have ties to religious zealots (Muslim and Hindu) who have resorted to violence repeatedly and have influnce on the government as well. The Middle East is a tractable problem--solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (yeah, hard, but tractable). An investment in South Asia (Afghanistan) comparable to the one in Iraq would have been a far better one. Wrestling with Kashmir, with the continuing influence of the Taliban...well, it sort of suggests that we went into Iraq for reasons that had less to do with a rational assessment of American security than something else--nationalism, need for a "quick victory," whatever.

Posted by: Brian C.B. at December 18, 2003 03:39 PM | PERMALINK

It is interesting to see how the weapons issue overules other considerations even though Wolfowitz himself blows that issue off.
When Wolfowitz made that statement, he was fully confident that the Iraq operation would yield a certain minimum of advantages to the US that none could deny. He was winking at us with the hint that we may not like how it was done but we all would profit from the enterprise.
Well guess what, he is wrong about that too. In five years, we will look at the alliances formed between Iraq, Iran, and Syria and say: "What the hell was he thinking?"

Posted by: Bag at December 18, 2003 03:40 PM | PERMALINK

When you get through the year without an accident, does your insurance company refund your premium?

Bush made a decision based on the knowledge we had at the time. When we went to war, virtually everyone believed Saddam had stockpiles of WMDs, including Bill and Hillary Clinton. It was natural to believe that Saddam had WMDs. We knew he had them in 1998 and he hadn't provided evidence of their destruction, as the UN demanded.

Posted by: David at December 18, 2003 03:40 PM | PERMALINK

Is Debkafile reliable at all?

I think posts like this answer that question:

"Bush goes on TV to say he thinks Saddam should face death penalty. Will Saddam bargain for his life with his weapons of mass destruction?"

"Israeli Warplanes Crisscross Lebanese Skies as Deterrent"

The ads speaks volumes too (and it's not the presence of the ads that is conspicious). So to be diplomatic: They're probably not entirerly impartial.

Posted by: Johannes at December 18, 2003 03:50 PM | PERMALINK

It was natural to believe that Saddam had WMDs. We knew he had them in 1998 and he hadn't provided evidence of their destruction, as the UN demanded.

Which explains why Bush was in such a hurry to pull the UN inspection apparatus out of Iraq and begin the invasion. Or not.

Posted by: Troy at December 18, 2003 03:57 PM | PERMALINK

Why is the term WMD used by the way? The real name is NBC weapons- Nuclear, Biological and Chemical weapons. Is someone embarrassed by that name?

It is newspeak, nothing more. It helps bring the populace into line. Saddam had WMD. The Russians and French and US also have WMD, but you will never see that term used with respect to those countries. It is signal to Joe Sixpack: the person we are talking about is a really nasty guy, OK?

The term is really stupid. The average chem-bio weapon is nasty and scary, but absolutely nothing compared to what a fully loaded B-2 bomber can do. Never mind an entire fleet of bombers, plus tanks, and naval bombardment, and multi-megaton nuclear weapons ...

Hell, even the kinds of nukes that a country like Iraq could develop are nothing compared to America's conventional arsenal. We could do more damage to downtown Bagdad with conventional forces than Hiroshima-type nuke could do.

The term does nothing but short-circuit the rational thought process. The fac that even those of us who should know better use it evidence of how powerful and pervasive the newspeak has become.

Posted by: Timothy Klein at December 18, 2003 03:57 PM | PERMALINK

"Bush made a decision based on the knowledge we had at the time."

The question is not a matter of belief. Bush didn't say he 'believed' that Saddam had WMD. He said he 'knew' it. For a fact. And then went on to cite purportedly new intelligence to this affect. In short, he lied and went to war.

Even if we had discovered WMD later. Even if the Iraq war was a smashing success and not the new vietnam of our time... this would not be acceptable. Our President knowingly lied to get us into a disastrous war... and to add insult to injury, he wasn't even correct in his rationale for lying. Saddam wasn't a threat.

So, what you folks are left with is this:

"Yes, Bush knowingly lied to go to war..."

"No, we haven't found any WMD or anything that justifies it..."

"But, Bush didn't *know* that we wouldn't end up with any justification so he *had* to lie to go to war".

In short, you folks would *love* to say that the ends justify the means, but you can't even say that since the ends are disastrous.

Posted by: Adam in MA at December 18, 2003 03:59 PM | PERMALINK

me:

"Saddam could have trained AQ people in manufacture and use. He could have assisted AQ in setting up a lab in the backblocks of Somalia. Or even Venezuela or Columbia. There are lots of deniable ways. Easy ways."

Just not very plausible ways.

Posted by: peejay at December 18, 2003 04:02 PM | PERMALINK

"After six months of access to Iraqi archives, it's also pretty clear that Saddam had minimal connections to global terrorism."

Well, that's a lie, of course, as the "Case Closed" memo clearly shows. But it doesn't surprise me when the leftie lie about the war... they've been doing it from the very beginning: from the claims that 500,000 casualties would result from a war, to the $2 trillion price tag, to the claim that Bush said Iraq was an imminent threat. Lies all. But don't let that stop y'all from your circle jerk...

Posted by: Al at December 18, 2003 04:03 PM | PERMALINK

You mean the "case closed" memo that was slammed by the DoD?

Posted by: Old Hat at December 18, 2003 04:07 PM | PERMALINK

me:
"Sebastian, he's not my president - there are other countries in this world, you know."

I've spent a good deal of time in other countries, and I know how people speak English in other English-speaking countries, and how they are taught English in non-anglophone countries. Your vocabulary and syntax are American through and through. So you are a liar. Now I see why you suport Bush. He's your type.

Come clean, troll: who sicced you on this site?

Posted by: peejay at December 18, 2003 04:07 PM | PERMALINK

"You mean the "case closed" memo that was slammed by the DoD?"

You mean the "slam" that wasn't a slam?

Posted by: Al at December 18, 2003 04:09 PM | PERMALINK

Essentially, the decision to invade Iraq boils down to three reasons - all of which, incidentally, Tom Friedman has stated at different times in his columns. (not that this is necessarily an endorsement of Friedman, but Friedman provides much more insight - albeit at times unintentionally - than most)

1: We did it because we could. Iraq wouldn't put up much of fight, probably wouldn't damage our global standing much (an assumption proved partially false), while at the same time demonstrating to potential enemies the power of the US military. A kind of "shock and awe" for the world to see if you will. In this case, a country like Iran, which has much more concrete ties to terrorism wouldn't do, because its invasion would have created a lot of geopolitic and diplomatic problems (ways more than we have seen on Iraq), and also, the US would have had a much harder, perhaps ultimately unwinnable, fight on its hands.

2: The famous Middle Eastern democratic "domino effect." That Iraq becoming a successful democracy would have a generally positive effect on the region, potentially setting in motion democratic tendencies and undercurrents in other regional countries (most importantly, Saudi Arabia).

3: That bugaboo, oil: Yes, oil. Not so much because Americans are out and out greedy and just want to be able to drive SUVs. But rather, because having someone like Hussein sitting on the world's second largest supply of oil is fundamentally not a stable situation for the United States or even for the world. Furthermore, because oil is essentially as valuable a commodity as their is - kind of like gold was in 1890 - if the US was able to get rid of Hussein and install a democracy (of some sort) in Iraq, Iraq would function as a "friend" (or perhaps client state) of the US. Accordingly, the US would hold important leverage (vis a vis oil supply in Iraq and potentially Saudi Arabia) in a global power game in which America is and will increasingly lose power to China and the EU.

WMDs were just the easy rationale because Hussein had a paper trail on the issue - vis a vis the UN. I do think the US government has been genuinely surprised nothing concrete has been turned up. I definetly think Bush and Co overinflated the potential threat in order to get more public support, but did not outright lie, in other words. Its just that I really don't think WMD were ever a central concern anyway.

Ben P.

Posted by: Ben P at December 18, 2003 04:09 PM | PERMALINK

Al:
" But it doesn't surprise me when the leftie lie about the war... they've been doing it from the very beginning: from the claims that 500,000 casualties would result from a war, to the $2 trillion price tag, to the claim that Bush said Iraq was an imminent threat. Lies all. "

The 500,000 casualties and $2 trillion were educated guesses, not lies, and they only didn't turn out to be true because the WMD story told by Bush WAS a lie.

Posted by: peejay at December 18, 2003 04:12 PM | PERMALINK

When we went to war, virtually everyone believed Saddam had stockpiles of WMDs, including Bill and Hillary Clinton.

On fraudulent manipulation of intelligence data. Deceiving the Clintons doesn't prove there were WND.

We knew he had them in 1998 and he hadn't provided evidence of their destruction, as the UN demanded.

We were wrong. The relevant year is 1991.

Posted by: Roger Bigod at December 18, 2003 04:17 PM | PERMALINK

Could December 2003 be the tipping point for George W. Bush and his administration of neocons
and religious-fundamentalist cons?

February 1968 – “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America” –Lyndon B. Johnson (The president allegedly said this after CBS newsman Walter Cronkite told viewers that the nation was “mired in a stalemate” in Vietnam and urged a negotiated settlement to the Vietnam war.)

December 2003 – If he’s lost Diane Sawyer, Newt Gingrich, conservative columnist George Will, and neocon writers Max Boot and Bill Kristol, has George Bush lost his national security cred? Could this be the beginning of the end for 43?

"In many ways, Bush’s supporters have devised a more powerful critique than anything Bush’s opponents have come up with. Their complaints point to mismanagement and incompetence, never words one wants associated with foreign policy. Given the high stakes that the administration is playing for in Iraq and the war on terror, Bush’s process failures make him far more vulnerable on national security issues than one might imagine. "– Daniel Drezner – Slate Magazine, Dec. 17, 2003

Drezner, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Chicago, was an unpaid foreign policy advisor for the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign.

Brezner continues: "The latest process screw-up was last week's decision to bar allies outside the coalition of the willing in Iraq from receiving reconstruction contracts. The Defense Department memo in question was badly worded and badly timed.

"Writing about the contract screw-up, William Kristol and Robert Kagan were blunt: 'Instead of being smart, clever, or magnanimous, the Bush Administration has done a dumb thing.' George Will described the decision as 'a tantrum tarted up as foreign policy.'

Then there’s the matter of Diane Sawyer who worked in the Nixon White House. On her December 16 ABC TV interview, she questioned Bush closely on WMD. When she said: “But stated as a hard fact, that there were weapons of mass destruction as opposed to the possibility that Saddam could move to acquire those weapons.,” a clearly exasperated Bush responded: “So what’s the difference?”

And finally, on December 17, comes the CBS story that the 9/11 attack was preventable.

"This is a very, very important part of history and we've got to tell it right," said Thomas Kean,a former Republican governor of New Jersey, who was appointed by Bush to head up the 9/11 inquiry. "As you read the report, you're going to have a pretty clear idea what wasn't done and what should have been done," Kean said. "This was not something that had to happen."

If only we had a Democratic candidate waiting in the wings with real national security cred and the ability to manage complex issues associated with foreign policy. Someone, say, who could deliver a long-range plan for cooperation with European allies, an updated "Atlantic Charter" of the type originally hammered out by FDR and Churchill—and delivered on Dec. 15, 2003 at the Netherlands Institute for International Relations, The Hague, by General Wesley K. Clark.

Duh. . .

Posted by: sylny at December 18, 2003 04:19 PM | PERMALINK

Man, there's a lot of misinformation being floated by the opposition here.

If Saddam had WMDs, and if he wanted to supply them to AQ, and if AQ had some means to deliver them, then yes, that would be a threat. A lot of ifs, there, no? Throw in that many ifs, and the 82nd Airborne has a lot of work to do, liberating Russia, Pakistan, North Korea, Syria, Iran, heck some rogue scientist in France or the UK could supply AQ by that standard. We still haven't caught our own Anthrax Killer. Does that mean we need to run willy-nilly invading other countries to eliminate perceived threats? If so, where do you start, and where do you stop?

The other canard is the, "heck, we had no idea he would just go and destroy the WMDs on his own!" argument. Well, that assumes that the WMD inventories going back to 1991 were accurate. Could be a simple garbage in-garbage out problem. I don't know one way or another, but it has to be considered.

The biggest problem with this NeoCon fantasy game of world domination is that it relies on VERY GOOD intelligence. Not just VERY GOOD, but almost freaking perfect. As Perle said in that panel with Josh Marshall, it's easy to see when a hostile country invades another. That kind of military action is a no brainer. The more difficult one is reading the tea leaves to know when and where to attack preemptively to hit the right rogue state. But unless you have extremely reliable intelligence, you just cannot know with certainty. The risk of false negatives is as dangerous as the risk of false positives.

Evidence proves that our intelligence is less than perfect. Colin Powell thought a weather-ballon machine was a mobile chem lab! Iraqi agents were supposedly buying yellowcake in Niger. We are going to base an entire foreign policy on information like that?

Posted by: 537 votes at December 18, 2003 04:27 PM | PERMALINK

No, peejay. The WMD claim was an assertion based on the intelligence we had at the time, which, being intelligence, is inherently uncertain. After all, Bush was not standing on top of chemical weapons-filled bombs when he said it, was he? So how could he have certain knowledge?

OTOH, the 500,000 casualties and $2 trillion tag and "imminent threat" claim were LIES.

Posted by: Al at December 18, 2003 04:28 PM | PERMALINK

When we went to war, virtually everyone believed Saddam had stockpiles of WMDs, including Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Maybe you and Hillary and Bill did, but I didn't -- and neither did millions of other people in the world. Anybody -- except of course our idiot pundits -- who watched Powell's dog-and-pony show at the U.N. knew he was lying through his teeth. In fact, every verifiable fact in the speech was debunked within a week.

There's a name for people who take countries to war based on lies and the off-chance that sometime in the distant future the opponent might become dangerous. It's "war-criminal".

Posted by: Basharov at December 18, 2003 04:33 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know why people continue to harp on the WMD question when if one is to a bit of reading on the subject, it becomes clear WMD was not a primary reason for the war. Heck, read the war architect's own sources - like PNAC. People are really missing the larger geopolitical questions at stake here.

Ben P.

Posted by: Ben P at December 18, 2003 04:35 PM | PERMALINK

me again:

" But if I was in government, I wouldn't go betting the lives of thousands of my countrymen on it. And nor would you."

What is a war but a bet on thousands of lives of one's countrymen?

Here's me's risk analysis: Saddam is secretly turning over non-existent WMD to Al Quaeda. Likelyhood: improbable. Lottery-ticket improbable. Cost if true: thousands of lives. Prevention: war against Iraq. Cost of prevention: conceivably, thousands of lives (and it could still wind up there). Other costs: alienate our friends, generate more enemies, cause more terrorist attacks. Sounds good to me. I mean, "me."

Posted by: peejay at December 18, 2003 04:38 PM | PERMALINK

This post is a damning indictment of the Bush Administration. Thank you for describing the non-case for war so clearly and concisely.

Posted by: Reader at December 18, 2003 04:43 PM | PERMALINK

Shorter David:

"Bush is only slightly more gullible than Bill and Hillary Clinton, a married couple who, coincidentally, didn't launch this war."

The question for those who comfort themselves with the knowledge that the misapprehension of Iraq weapons was general is: Why no investigation of why the claims were so wildly off the mark? And how can we base a preventive war policy ("The Bush Doctrine") on intelligence that is so horribly bad? Or with a leadership so very untrustworthy?

Posted by: Brian C.B. at December 18, 2003 05:07 PM | PERMALINK

Geez, Kevin, will you stop asking questions like this? You're so Beyond the Mainstream:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A9995-2003Dec17.html

Posted by: Damian Carroll at December 18, 2003 05:10 PM | PERMALINK

For $200B we could have installed solar collectors in the Marshall Islands and told the middle east to hump a camel. But noooooooooo....

Posted by: Troy at December 18, 2003 05:12 PM | PERMALINK

Al, the 500,000 casualty figure and $2 trillion are what we call a prediction. It didn't turn out to be true.

Then again, neither did certain administration figures' insistence that we'd be greeted with flowers, or that the war would essentially pay for itself.

How much did we pay again for a war against a guy who didn't seem to have WMD?

Posted by: M. at December 18, 2003 05:17 PM | PERMALINK

peejay:

"I've spent a good deal of time in other
countries,"

heh, not enough, obviously. Well here's a hint: "go shove your head up a dead bear's bum".


Posted by: me at December 18, 2003 05:19 PM | PERMALINK

peejay:

"the WMD story told by Bush WAS a lie"

Please don't be so fatuous.

Rolf Ekeus beleived that Saddam could, at the very least, generate chem/bio weapons in a very short period of time and that military intervention was justified.

Richard Butler believed that Saddam had stockpiles in 2002.

David Kelly believed that Saddam had stockpiles and that invasion was justified.

You cannot just put your fingers in your ears and run away shouting "Bush lied".

Posted by: me at December 18, 2003 05:23 PM | PERMALINK

I wouldn't say "Bush lied," but he certainly exaggerated the case (with the obvious help of prime administration players). But, I mean, come on. Show a little intelligence - Iraq wasn't primarily about WMD. (read my posts above).

Ben P

Posted by: Ben P at December 18, 2003 05:42 PM | PERMALINK

Bush mislead the country. that's really all there is to it.

Posted by: ChrisL at December 18, 2003 05:43 PM | PERMALINK

Ben, yes, the US administration exaggerated the case. Or, more accurately, understated the level of uncertainty. This was mainly in an effort to fit the invasion into a legalistic, UN-backed framework. It didn't work out, and it was ill-advised. They should have just said "we believe that we are at unacceptable risk and we are going to do this thing".

And no, it wasn't primarily about WMD. It was primarily about terrorism, wmd, human rights and, particularly, the linkage between the first two.

That's the Wolfowitz claim and it is perfectly credible. You should not go off claiming that there were hidden motivations without at least having first credibly falsified the stated reasons, now should you?

Posted by: me at December 18, 2003 05:52 PM | PERMALINK

This was mainly in an effort to fit the invasion into a legalistic, UN-backed framework

no, 20% of the country was on the fence until Powell's presentation to the UNSC.

Prior to that it was 40% for, 40% against 20% not sure, and after that the balance swung around to 60-40 for/against.

Posted by: Troy at December 18, 2003 05:55 PM | PERMALINK

But "me," if questions of terrorism and human rights were really the central question, than why not invade Iran or North Korea - or why not put more pressure on Saudi Arabia or Pakistan? These countries are most larger threats (or they are potentially so). Iran has much clearer links to terrorism than Iraq does. Why not invade Iran?

Ben P

Posted by: Ben P at December 18, 2003 06:01 PM | PERMALINK

Its clear to me that Iraq was a proving ground for the US in a sense: read Immanuel Todd's book "After the Empire." "Shock and awe" is about more than just Iraq.

Also, read PNAC's stuff. Its quite clear what kind of larger geopolitical questions are at stake. This isn't to say that WMD in a post 9/11 climate were insignificant, but rather to say that they became convenient additional reasons for the invasion. Why do you think, after all, it is called "Project for a New American Century"? In many ways, this is a response to Paul Kennedy's work, suggesting the US is in decline. This point is debatable, but in terms of manufacturing capacity and educational attainment, the country is falling behind places like the EU and China. Check out our huge trade deficits - this country is based on consumption, not production. The PNACers are smart people - they know that projection of military power can function as a substitute for decline in other areas (at least in the short run). Having a functional hegemony over the middle east can be a key part of covering the US's decline in other areas, which of course installing a better, hopefully democratic (although not necessarilty democratic, if the case may be) regime will do, as a US installed Iraqi regime will be greatful to the US, and thus its potential supplicant. Such an Iraqi regime will have a potential knock on effect in the rest of the region - both in terms of the spread of democracy, and (much less certainly) American influence.

Ben P

Posted by: Ben P at December 18, 2003 06:11 PM | PERMALINK

Now this is moral clarity even I can get behind:

"My fellow Americans. God bless this country and god bless our troops. 9/11 changed everything. Fuck Saddam, we're taking him out. He tried to kill my Dad. No questions. (throws down microphone, feedback)"

Posted by: Norbizness at December 18, 2003 06:14 PM | PERMALINK

Kid (5 years old next month): I want a pony for Christmas!

rea: Don't you have one already?

Kid: No, I don't!

rea: Well, you want one, don't you?

Kid: Yeah.

rea: Well, there you are! What's the difference?

Kid: You're being silly!

rea: Kid, come watch this tape with me, showing Diane Sawyer interviewing the president. The president will explain what I mean . . .

Posted by: rea at December 18, 2003 06:25 PM | PERMALINK

North Korea presents a case with all the standard Bushite justifications for pre-emptive war as supported by Al (probably his real name) & "me" (more than likely an alias) in the case of Iraq: An irrational, anti-american dictator who starves his own people with terrible weapons at his disposal.

However, in this instance, the right wing circle jerk (thanks, Al)starts to lose steam. The yelps recede. The dicks go soft. Reality intrudes, and the "yes, but(s)" begin.

So, what are we left with? Why that old saw "best available information at the time" crap. Evidence to the contrary was widely available, but totallly ignored. That is FACT (yes, Al, FACT).

To paraphrase: You can't just put your fingers in your ears and run away shouting "Bush didn't lie".

Posted by: bobbyp at December 18, 2003 06:45 PM | PERMALINK

But I wonder how strong the support for war would have been if Bush had said that back in January?

The case for going to war demands a higher burden of proof before the war starts than after.

After the war starts all that is needed to maintain popular support is a sense that the mission is just (toppling Saddam, bringing democracy to Iraq) that there is not an excessive level of casualties on our side (the people will accept a few hundred killed every year) and that progress is being made (here the politicians will have to manipulate public perception).

Support for the war has little to do with the original justification.

Posted by: rachelrachel at December 18, 2003 06:49 PM | PERMALINK

Psst: It's Emannuel Todd, and I didn't know it was out in English. I guess it is.

Posted by: Brian C.B. at December 18, 2003 07:10 PM | PERMALINK

me--

In what country do you reside? I am curious.

Posted by: some dude at December 18, 2003 07:14 PM | PERMALINK

At my blog I have a reasonably long post that examines the basic fact that the US public was anti-this war at this time as of December, including a good chunk of the Republican congressional caucus.

People had looked at the available evidence and I think that they figured out the national security argument that Saddam was a threat was tenous at best. They were looking for new evidence to change their mind and the State of the Union and the Powell UN presentation provided what looked like new evidence which swung support from being against the war to being moderately for a multilateral war. Unfortunately we got played for fools as that new evidence was bunk and the presenters new it, but it was enough to get the war on.

Posted by: fester at December 18, 2003 07:37 PM | PERMALINK

Europe. I was in France before that.

Posted by: me at December 18, 2003 07:44 PM | PERMALINK

dude: I am from .au, residing in .us.

Posted by: me at December 18, 2003 07:59 PM | PERMALINK

Essentially, what it comes down to is one of two possible choices:

1. Bush and his crew lied and stretched what little evidence they had in order to get the country into a war,

or

2. Bush and his crew are wildly incompetent for not taking even the slightest steps to verify the information.

Recall that even the WMD claims had been debunked months before the war by Blix, the IAEA, and the U.N. Also recall that much of what Bush was claiming as true could be shown AT THE TIME to be demonstrably false by a simple Google search (i.e., the African yellowcake story).

Posted by: Derelict at December 18, 2003 08:31 PM | PERMALINK

As one who always supported the war, WMD's were never the main issue. They were an issue, but not the main issue. The major reasons for the war (in no particular order) were: (1) we needed to re-establish US credibility in the Middle East (which was eroded over many years [at least since 1979] via our tendency to back down every time the going got tough) by taking down the dictator who constantly thumbed his nose at us and violated his cease fire agreement from Gulf War I on a dialy basis; (2) we attempted to break the paradigm of failed states and anti-US petty dictatorships by establishing a democracy of sorts in the Middle East (a goal which became particularly important in this post 9/11 world); and (3) the way to defeat terrorism is by taking down the states that support it. Even if Saddam was not directly involved in 9/11, his regime supported Al Qaeda's fellow travellers, and they need to be stopped. Like it or not, THEY WANT TO KILL US.

The liklihood that Saddam would eventually obtain WMD's given his obsession with them, his designs on uniting the Middle East in a caliphate under his leadership, and his abominable human rights record were all icing on the cake (any one of which would be a sufficient reason for removing him from power).

I cannot for the life of me understand why the left is so upset about the Iraq war. Isn't removing one of the worst dictators in the world a positive good, regardless of the reason? What difference does it make if GWB did the right thing for the wrong reasons? Isn't it enough that he did the right thing? It seems to me that any way you look at it, the world is a better place without Saddam.

Frankly, I am baffled by the left's position on this issue. The left constantly preaches about human rights, then they oppose one of the most significant advances in human rights in recent years. Interesting.

Posted by: Ben at December 18, 2003 09:00 PM | PERMALINK

Just replace "Saddam" with "Saudi Arabia" and me's posts actual approach sanity. Bet he loooooves Unka Fahd.

Ben, we just killed 400 us soldiers and 3 times as many civilians as al qaeda. that shit's gotta stop.

And, since you guys didn't notice, we were attacked by religious fanatics, not socialists.

Posted by: flatulus at December 18, 2003 09:15 PM | PERMALINK

and if David Kay has such an important job to do, why is he cutting and running? CAUSE THERE'S NOTHING THERE. WAKE UP YOU FUCKING IDIOTS!

Posted by: flatulus at December 18, 2003 09:18 PM | PERMALINK

Flatulus --

Our problem in the Middle East goes waaaay beyond religious fanatics. When will you understand that we are at war with these people -- not because we want to be but because they want to kill as many of us as possible. Something has to be done to drain the swamp.

Posted by: Ben at December 18, 2003 09:20 PM | PERMALINK

Ben,

I think, as someone who mildly opposed the war, it is hard to argue that Iraq is not potentially better off without Saddam. However, my objection - or difficulty in supporting the war - is based on a critique of MEANS, not ENDS. Means to me are paramount - like the values of democracy and freedom of expression are more important than any potential outcomes a subversion of these values might achieve. Hence, even though I would not argue the point that removing Hussein is not a good thing, I would be very wary of any kind of thinking that justifies or ignores means by looking at end results. In other words, preemptive war - particularly preemptive war forged under such a shaky premise - does not justify the end result. It sets a terrible precedent for future conduct amongst nation states to achieve a goal that I don't think makes enough of a difference to justify doing.

Furthermore, the fact that you claim that the war was about reasserting American national interests is telling. This IS the very reason people on the left - or at least those not on the right, I wouldn't consider myself a leftist - opposed this invasion. Because it is so very obvious from readng a lot of the stuff published by the chief architects that bringing democracy is only a beneficial side effect of what US involvement in the Middle East really is about - achieving a functional hegemony in the region. If you can't see why this might be seen by others as immoral, you need to step outside yourself for a moment. Think how it would feel to live a third world country and just exist as essentially a pawn in someone else's larger geostrategic game. This is not to say that if the US went away, the world would be a better place and that a new hegemonic nation would not arise (because one would): rather, I am suggesting that Americans look at the world from the point of view of someone not in the US, especially someone in a poorer country. It really isn't much a surprise people don't like the US if you do.

Ben P

Posted by: Ben P at December 18, 2003 09:20 PM | PERMALINK

Ben P --

You are absolutely correct to observe that I characterized the war about reasserting US interests. It was. However, neither I nor anyone I know on the right is interested in "hegemony" in the Middle East. In fact, I would love to live in peace and have no desire to dominate anyone. If people in the Middle East want to sell their oil at a market price, I will be happy to pay for it. In short, I would have been quite happy to have avoided this war that we are in with certain segments of the Islamic world. Unfortunately, they did not give us that choice.

Moreover, it so happens that it is in our interests to bring freedom and democracy to a totalitarian state. An absolute good, any way you look at it. Why not take the good when you can get it?

I agree that means are important. They have great relevance to any determination of the morality of a particular actor but may not tell us all we need to know about the morality of a particular act. A good thing does not become bad because it was done for the wrong reason. It's still good.

Posted by: Ben at December 18, 2003 09:48 PM | PERMALINK

Ben,

You write

The major reasons for the war (in no particular order) were: (1) we needed to re-establish US credibility in the Middle East (which was eroded over many years [at least since 1979] via our tendency to back down every time the going got tough) by taking down the dictator who constantly thumbed his nose at us and violated his cease fire agreement from Gulf War I on a dialy basis; (2) we attempted to break the paradigm of failed states and anti-US petty dictatorships by establishing a democracy of sorts in the Middle East (a goal which became particularly important in this post 9/11 world); and (3) the way to defeat terrorism is by taking down the states that support it. Even if Saddam was not directly involved in 9/11, his regime supported Al Qaeda's fellow travellers, and they need to be stopped. Like it or not, THEY WANT TO KILL US.

and then you write

I cannot for the life of me understand why the left is so upset about the Iraq war. Isn't removing one of the worst dictators in the world a positive good, regardless of the reason? What difference does it make if GWB did the right thing for the wrong reasons? Isn't it enough that he did the right thing?

Frankly, you make as credible an argument againstthe war as many I have seen, although you can't seem to figure out why. In your first paragraph you
outline the neocon arguments for going to war. IMO (1) and (2) are not justifications for going to war. They violate almost all of the moral criteria for going to war by any reasonable standards of decency (such as, say, the Catholic "just war" criteria). And (3) was a load of horse hockey. Going after state supporters of terrorism isn't necessarily a bad thing, but Iraq should have been so far down on the list it isn't even funny. War with Pakistan, war with Iran, war with Syria, war with Saudi Arabia, maybe. Come back with a proposal for one of those and we can talk. But the idea that Iraq was so much of a state supporter of terrorism that it was worth burning several hundred American lives, $200B, and a major chunk of our diplomatic bargaining chips is not convincing to me or, I think, any reasonably informed person.

But my major problem with the war is how it was sold. It wasn't sold as reasons (1)-(3) or even a great human rights crusade (which I would have, perhaps, gotten behind if it had been honestly presented as such). Instead. Bush sold it dishonestly as a war of (preemptive) self defense and also (even more dishonestly) as a strike against those who perpitrated 9/11. The reason he did this is because he knew that the American public and our allies weren't going to get behind a war for the reasons you mentioned.

Now think about that for a second. Bush took us to war dishonestly. Doesn't that bother you at all? It bothers me and the reason it bothers me is because of the trust that the military has in us. When you join the armed forces you put yourself in the hands of the elected leaders of our country and the people (like me) who are responsible for electing those leaders. I take this obligation to our armed forces very seriously. If Bush was going to send our soldiers to war on our behalf, don't you think that he owed us an honest accounting of why they had to make this sacrifice? This, above all, is why I was against the war. In a nation where civilians decide how and where the military is to be used, I feel like Bush abused and misused his authority.

And as to the second paragraph above, the answer is no. I am not going to go so far as to say that the ends never justify the means, but in this case they certainly don't.

Finally, let me point out one that when you say

his designs on uniting the Middle East in a caliphate under his leadership

you indicate to me that you are so misinformed about the Middle East as to not take you seriously about anything else. A small history lesson: Caliphate=theocracy. Saddam Hussein=Formerly one of the biggest enemies to theocracy in the Arab world. In fact, he fought a big war with Iran, who does want to reestablish the Caliphate, in the 1980s, if you recall. You might also recall that that was one of the reasons we backed him and did things like sell him chemical weapons technology and look the other way while he gassed his people. So much for the end justifies the means.

Posted by: Gryphon at December 18, 2003 09:49 PM | PERMALINK

By the way, I think one I my large frustrations with Iraq War, etc., is that it is being used as a cover for ruthless political gain on the domestic front. In other words, Republicans wave the flag, wrap themselves in the flag, thus stilting political debate by cynically shrouding their entire agenda in patriotic garb. Bush and co claim that this is this a moment when the nation needs to come together to face a common enemy, but makes no gestures to do so - even ones, liking seriously promoting alternative energy and reducing gasoline consumptions, that would ostensibly help the country become less dependent economically on the middle east. Meanwhile, as a sop to gun manufacturers and the Christian Right, Bush's administration is lining up the United States in international forums with some of the very countries that espouse values supposedly so at odds with our own - Nigeria, Pakistan, etc.. - and against our putative "allies" like Great Britain.

Ben P

Posted by: Ben P at December 18, 2003 10:07 PM | PERMALINK

The Bush Administration exaggerated the case. If Saddam broke UN Resolutions, let's try him on that, now that we control the country and he doesn't.

What will we try him on? Not links with Al Qaeda. Not WMD. What was the justification for the war? Who is going to try Saddam now? What for?

Again, why did we go to war? Why did we try to convince the world it was the right thing?

And finally, who is going to try Saddam, and what for?

Posted by: freelixir at December 18, 2003 11:58 PM | PERMALINK

This has been the most enlightening discussion that I have been privy to. The posts against were eloquent and well researched. The troll remarks were insepid in their vain attempt to support what this Administration has perpetrated on the world community. Thanks for the civility (with a few exceptions).

Posted by: debforwes at December 19, 2003 03:04 AM | PERMALINK

Me & Ben,

The Bush administration mostly certainly did lie. Cheney lied, Rice lied, and Rumsfeld all told blatant falsehoods. There's no question about it.

Here's one lie by Cheney. Email me and I'll send you a longer list.

1. Dick Cheney, August 26, 2002, Speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars

http://www.newamericancentury.org/iraq-082602.htm

"We now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. Among other sources, we've gotten this from the firsthand testimony of defectors -- including Saddam's own son-in-law, who was subsequently murdered at Saddam's direction."

This was a lie. Cheney was referring to Hussein Kamel, Saddam's son-in-law who defected to Jordan in 1995. Kamel was not just married to Saddam's daughter but one of his most important subordinates. Kamel had supervised all of Iraq's non-conventional weapons programs -- biological, chemical, and nuclear. He returned to Iraq in 1996 and was killed by Saddam.

While in Jordan, Kamel was debriefed by UNSCOM (the UN inspectors), the CIA and British intelligence. And he told them PRECISELY THE OPPOSITE OF CHENEY'S CLAIM. Not only did he say there was currently (in 1995) no nuclear program in Iraq, he said there had not been one since prior to the Gulf War.

Now, Cheney thought he could get away with this because when he made this claim in August, 2002, because at the time it was not publicly known what Kamel had said in 1995.

However, people in the CIA and at the UN became outraged by the lies told by Cheney (and by others at different points) about Kamel. Because of this, they started talking to people in the media, and also leaked a transcript of Kamel's debriefing.

In the transcript he says Iraq had had no nuclear program since before the Gulf War. Interestingly, he also says Iraq retained no biological or chemical weapons either. Strange that Cheney forgot to mention that, as he honestly made the case for war. I guess he's just a forgetful guy.

Posted by: Jon at December 19, 2003 05:15 AM | PERMALINK

Even if Saddam was not directly involved in 9/11, his regime supported Al Qaeda's fellow travellers

Who are those guys? Not Ansar al-Islam, because that organization, with connections to al-Qaida as thin as they are, operated in the no-fly zone between Iran and Turkey, near the Kurds and out of Saddam's reach or interest. Not Abu Abbas, who was essentially retired from terror or resistance, and had been amnestied by Israeli and previously living Gaza with Israeli pemission. Perhaps you mean families suicide bombers in Palestine, but that's hardly a unique support that Iraq gives--much private support is given, too from America's "friends" in the region--and even that suggestion was based on whispy evidence. And that support can be nationalist (the Ba'ath is an Arab nationalist movement that checked religious freedom) while Islamist movements are internationalist or supra-national and anti-secular-state (the Muslim Brotherhood killed Anwar Sadat). To suggest that attacking the Ba'ath will help defeat Islamist terror is childish. Arabs and Muslims are smart enough to distinguish between nationalist and religious causes. If you want to defeat either Arab nationalism or Muslim extremist terror, being as smart as the proponents of either is the first rule, and Ben here is failing that test.

Posted by: Brian C.B. at December 19, 2003 05:16 AM | PERMALINK

Ben, Kevin's original post was about the Bush administration's arguments for war. Your own arguments are, not to put too fine a point upon it, irrelevant.

That said, of course more democracy in the world is better than less democracy in the world (although the bush adminstration isn't that fond of democracy in turkey, france, and germany these days), but with the same $160B+ that we will spend on iraq we could do tremendous things for health in Africa, subject to an amazing demographic crisis thanks to AIDS and other health-care problems that the world is essentially ignoring, and reaped dividends for decades to come.

And we wouldn't have lost 450+ American soldiers, have in the neighborhood of 9000 American soliders wounded or suffering from physical or mental breakdowns, caused 10,000 - 25,000 iraqi deaths, and a variety of other "coalition" deaths.

But we chose to privilege iraq with american blood and treasure, and yes, it was wrong to.

In addition (and this goes for Me as well), it's irrelevant what Bill Clinton throught 5 years ago and it's irrelevant what position hilary clinton takes today and while we're at it, thinking of the Middle East as a "swamp" that has to be drained is ill-informed and offensive.

Me: you've been justly criticized on a number of fronts, but let's just add: it was not anywhere close to a unanimous conclusion among the intel agencies that saddam possessed wmd stockpiles, regardless of what David Kay or anyone else thought. It's just that if you didn't believe that, Dick Cheney and Doug Feith and Richard Perle thought you were wrong and that your opinions didn't belong in the discussion.

Al, you are a sadly ill-informed blowhard, as you demonstrate in posting after posting, apparently embarassment free in your ignorance. Yes, somewhere (actually, i believe it was some international human rights organization), someone suggested that 500,000 could be killed in a war in iraq; no, no one said it would cost $2T (as i recall, one lengthy, detailed study by highly knowledgable middle eastern scholars, said it might cost in the high hundreds of millions to fight the war, see through the occupation, and reconstruct Iraq, and they aren't wrong yet, and they were certainly righter than the administration planners, including Natsios, whose estimate of $1.7B to reconstruct iraq has now apparently been pulled off the white house web site), but the huge majority of the anti-war arguments have all turned out to be true: that the threat assessment was overblown by the administration, that the war would go easily and the postwar terribly, that the absence of sufficient allies would mean that the us would absorb all the bloodshed and all the costs, and that the war on iraq (as has again been noted by some of the posters here who actually rely on information and not on Fox/Rush accusations) would be a terrible distraction from the effort to break the back of international fundamentalist terrorism.

Posted by: howard at December 19, 2003 07:56 AM | PERMALINK

"The possibility that he could acquire weapons. Remember that. For better or worse, that's what's left of the public rationale for going to war. .... But I wonder how strong the support for war would have been if Bush had said that back in January?"

I suspect support would be near zilch. I insert the qualifier "near" because there was always a few that regretted not finishing the job in 1991. And then there are his droogs that will agree with everything he wants to do. But the public was whipped into a fearful war frenzy. I frankly don’t think they understood the President’s argument – it’s just that he is our President and their thinking went along the lines of, “Well, he knows more than we do and he wouldn’t do anything that wouldn’t be in the best interests of the country, would he?” So all this “We’ve got to attack him now!” rhetoric wouldn’t have carried much weight if he’d just used the bad man theory. Where’s the immediacy? Where’s the threat? I think most folks would have asked, “Where’s the need?” and gone back to their breakfast.

Posted by: currus at December 19, 2003 08:23 AM | PERMALINK

me:

"Ben, yes, the US administration exaggerated the case. Or, more accurately, understated the level of uncertainty."

When you exaggerate facts to create a false impression, that's called "lying." When you omit critical facts so as to give other statements a false spin, that's called "lying." That's what we teach our children.

Fact that the lying was clever does not mutate it into something else.

Glad to finally see that you agree Bush lied. Too bad you continue to dissemble for him.

Posted by: DMBeaster at December 19, 2003 08:38 AM | PERMALINK

I cannot for the life of me understand why the left is so upset about the Iraq war. Isn't removing one of the worst dictators in the world a positive good, regardless of the reason? What difference does it make if GWB did the right thing for the wrong reasons? Isn't it enough that he did the right thing? It seems to me that any way you look at it, the world is a better place without Saddam.

I can't speak for the "left" (whatever that is) but I'm upset by this war because it's a crime against humanity.

Here's what Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson had to say about another group of liars who launched a "preventive" war:

We must make clear to the Germans that the wrong for which their fallen leaders are on trial is not that they lost the war, but that they started it. And we must not allow ourselves to be drawn into a trial of the causes of the war, for our position is that no grievances or policies will justify resort to aggressive war. It is utterly renounced and condemned as an instrument of policy.

Getting rid of Saddam may or may not have been a "good thing" (we won't know that until we see the full cost of getting rid of him), but getting rid of Saddam was not a legitimate reason for launching a war that is a violation of every precept of international law (and American law for that matter) that has been developed over the last 300 years.

What is so hard for you on the "right" to understand about the immorality of an aggressive war?


Posted by: Basharov at December 19, 2003 08:50 AM | PERMALINK

Well put, Howard.

Posted by: melior at December 19, 2003 09:15 AM | PERMALINK

1. Iraq was invaded because it did not have WMD.
[After years of inspections it had become entirely obvious]
2. Thats why Iranian and North Korean leaders would be in full dereliction of their duties re national security if they dont immediately and without delay proceed to get a WMD capability.
3. In this game of geopolitical chess both Al-Qaeda and the Neo-conservatives desired the same outcome. Saddam's removal. Sadly the misjudgement is all on the part of the Neo-conservatives who believed all the Chelabi propaganda about rose petals being laid at the feet of liberators [invaders]
4. Both AQ and Bush believe in the 'flypaper' theory and unfortunately notwithstanding the delusional propaganda coming out of Bremer et al, it has to be clear that there is no swamp drainage going on, but a fully fledged rebellion which becomes fertile ground for AQ to gain added legitimacy to its cause by fusing itself with the right of every people to be free and to resist invasion.

Posted by: Alamut at December 19, 2003 09:20 AM | PERMALINK

Bush says we had to take out Saddam because of the "possibility he could acquire WMD". Oh,really. I guess that means we now are obligated to take out every single anti-American leader in the world since they it is possible that any of them could acquire WMD.

I guess in this case its a good thing that Bush is lying, because if that really were his actual rationale we'd have a hell of a lot of wars to fight.

Posted by: The Fool at December 19, 2003 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

"bringing democracy is only a beneficial side effect of what US involvement in the Middle East really is about - achieving a functional hegemony in the region. If you can't see why this might be seen by others as immoral, you need to step outside yourself for a moment."

This seems to be the essence of the arguments against the administration.The war is over. It happened. The only valid criticism of the postwar conduct of the Iraq reconstruction seems to be coming from the right, not the left. I don't see any practical suggestions coming from the Democratic candidates. If you want to fight the 2004 election on the morality of invading Iraq, or on the anger at the 2000 election outcome, you are in big trouble. Dean has already peaked most likely. You should be thinking about how to solve the Iraq reconstruction problems or be settling in for an early start in the 2008 campaign.

Posted by: Mike K at December 19, 2003 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

Me,

Yeah I dispute it. Could have should have but didn't. People who have the know-how but haven't used it in twelve years. It takes time, space and money to build a weapons program of any sort. How much could Saddam accomplish when he couldn't move in the northern and southern parts of his own country, was under constant surveillance and didn't control the airways ?

All the scientists and others we captured said they haven't had anything since the early nineties. Iraq didn't have the money or the infrastructure which of course would have been spotted. We bombed the guy during Clinton's term and Bush II before the actual war. What weapons did he use to retaliate?

Having people with weapons knowledge doesn't mean they can create a state run program overnight. Saddam wanted it as an option after the sanctions were lifted but how did he know how long that would be? Even if the santions had been lifted (highly unlikely) we would still have our eyes on him and he would still only control a third of his country.

Even Wolfy knew they were stretching it.

Posted by: daryl at December 19, 2003 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

Mike K.

The morality of and reasons for invading Iraq are relevant because they tell us a lot about GWB and his cronies, just as we should look at what Dean actually did when he was governing Vermont.

What someone has done in the past is usually a pretty good predictor of future behavior. It is a lot better than a bunch of speeches pandering to interest groups.

Posted by: ____league at December 19, 2003 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

Also the last thing Saddam would do is give weapons or expertise to an organization where the head psycho called him an infidel. They hated each other's rotten guts.

Nor would Saddam give anything to these fundamentalists knowing that he had offed and tortured a lot of them over the years.

Posted by: daryl at December 19, 2003 01:01 PM | PERMALINK

What we have learned is that however badly Saddam may have wanted weapons, he was being effectively contained by the sanctions regime.

Therefore, the war was totally unneccesary, which makes it even more criminal and irresponsible.

Posted by: grytpype at December 19, 2003 01:01 PM | PERMALINK

On Mike's comment:

I agree in part - I don't think the Dems can run on Iraq, or at least the reasons for the initial invasion, or for that matter, the Florida recount. Or at least they can't right now.

But I also think you make the common mistake of Dean detractors - that his candidacy is simply an anti-Iraq war thing. Its not for me - if I thought thats what his candidacy was, there is no way I would consider supporting him. I like him for other reasons, and as such along with Clark, Edwards, and Gephardt, he is one of 4 candidates I am weighing.

Ben P

Posted by: Ben P at December 19, 2003 02:04 PM | PERMALINK

I love that Bush Doctrine. I am waiting to see how far from visions of mushroom clouds these idiots are going to push a gathering danger. Will it be as far as an "immaculate conception" type danger.

Posted by: Snow at December 19, 2003 02:06 PM | PERMALINK

"What we have learned is that however badly Saddam may have wanted weapons, he was being effectively contained by the sanctions regime."

I tend to agree with this but we could not continue much longer. After 9-11 we had to get out of Saudi. For two reasons: 1-They had a lot to do with the attack, money and ideology. 2) We were a magnet for very terrorist and the Saudis could not defend our people and themselves with us there. Our real choices were to go into Iraq or leave and let Saddam go back into business looking like he had chased us out.

I think that Saudi Arabia is a house of cards but, if we can stabilize Iraq, they might be able to transition to something other than a theocracy. Might.

As far as Dean is concerned. I kind of like him but he should run for the Senate. He's not ready for president. It might be intersting to see Hillary vs Frist in 2008. I don't know that he will be ready either but he's acting on a bigger stage than Vermont right now. I was living in New Hampsire when Dean was governor of Vermont. The Vermont economy is a shambles. Something like 80% of the residents are government employees of some sort. The bridges over the Connecticut River were always jammed with Vermonters driving to New Hampshire to shop (no sales tax).

Posted by: Mike K at December 19, 2003 02:30 PM | PERMALINK

Mike

I just looked at census data for Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. People in New Hampshire appear to be have somewhat higher incomes than those in Vermont who in turn have higher incomes than those living in Maine. Doesn't look like the disaster you imply.

Posted by: ____league at December 19, 2003 03:10 PM | PERMALINK

This is the number one blogger's comment place on the net...
Anyway, one point I haven’t heard here is that Saddam was only interested in maintaining his own power in Iraq, and possibly gaining power over other Middle Eastern nations, if he could have helped Al-Q attack us without giving up even one silly millimeter of his power, he certainly would have. But I just don’t believe he ever let anyone, including Bin Laden or anyone associated with Al-Q, too close. They’re too powerful a force for Saddam to have allowed much of a presence of those individuals and groups inside Iraq. Yes, he wanted to eventually have domain over most of the Middle East, but since the 1st Gulf War his ability to do that was almost non-existent. (To all trolls--what I mean is that he had no wmd). But he was doing everything he could to maintain power over Iraq and allowing Al-Q in was out of the question.

Posted by: Babba at December 19, 2003 03:54 PM | PERMALINK

Go back to the idea that the US invaded Iraq to bring democracy there--The intention of the ONLY plan for post war Iraq that I recall, touted by some of the PNAC, was to install Ahmad Chalibaba as king--oops!--I mean, President. I mean, Chalibaba as the Iraqis ruler? Would that be democracy?

See the new Boss! Just like the old boss!

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