War on Terror vs. War on Saddam

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And war on terror loses? Some indications thusly, from this NBC News report. The Pentagon had apparently drawn up two separate, winnable plans to take out "Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian militant with ties to al-Qaida…now blamed for more than 700 terrorist killings in Iraq." In each case, after much political wrangling in the National Security Council, the plan was nixed.

?People were more obsessed with developing the coalition to overthrow Saddam than to execute the president?s policy of preemption against terrorists,? according to terrorism expert and former National Security Council member Roger Cressey.

In January 2003, the threat turned real. Police in London arrested six terror suspects and discovered a ricin lab connected to the camp in Iraq.

The Pentagon drew up still another attack plan, and for the third time, the National Security Council killed it.

Military officials insist their case for attacking Zarqawi?s operation was airtight, but the administration feared destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war against Saddam.

The United States did attack the camp at Kirma at the beginning of the war, but it was too late ? Zarqawi and many of his followers were gone. ?Here?s a case where they waited, they waited too long and now we?re suffering as a result inside Iraq,? Cressey added.

Doubtless others involved will have different explanations for the whys of this story than Cressey's. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Kerry's campaign might want to take notice on this one.

NEXT: Frisch weht der Wind, der Heimat zu

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  1. I’m shocked and awed that a little thing like a terrorist camp beneath our no-fly zone would be ignored so we could get to the real root of all evil, Saddam Hussein.

  2. The most likely explanation for leaving Zarqawi in place is that we knew mostly where he was. As such, we could observe his communications and movements and generate intelligence from that. This is a common intelligence practice.

  3. Shannon Love, you’re sidestepping the issue here: Did Dubya’s personal war on Saddam hinder the U.S.’s war on terrorism?

  4. I thought there was no connection between Iraq and terrorism.

  5. people refer to him as the root of all evil, the primary target in terrorism, a very evil man when in reality he is nothing but a pussy! A pussy we could’ve got rid of a long time ago. Now Abu is running around loose. The next time they get a chance they better do what they have to do, its not like we never break policies anyway.

  6. Shannon Love,

    “The most likely explanation for leaving Zarqawi in place is that we knew mostly where he was. As such, we could observe his communications and movements and generate intelligence from that. This is a common intelligence practice.”

    Yet they no longer know where he is and he is on a killing spree in Iraq; so much for observing his movements and generating intelligence from them.

  7. I’m wondering if any White House loyalists will have the courage to admit that it was a mistake to ignore a known terrorist for political reasons. Especially since, as the article states, “…despite the Bush administration?s tough talk about hitting the terrorists before they strike, Zarqawi?s killing streak continues today.”

    How does a thinking person look at the recent, thoroughly avoidable carnage in Iraq and react with a mere shrugging of the shoulders? How loyal to a political party must one be to ignore such blatent incompetence?

    I’m just asking.

  8. “I thought there was no connection between Iraq and terrorism.”

    1) Well, there sure as hell is now.

    2) Read the damn link. Zarqawi was operating with Ansar al-Islam in the north – the part of the country that Saddam had no control over.

  9. But can you imagine the international outcry if we’d attack before we gave Iraq time to comply with the UN inspections, or even when the UN inspectors were on the ground in-country?

    They would have gone even more ape-shit then they already were.

  10. B.P., no one has ever argued that there was no connection between Iraq and terrorism because there obviously was, what with Hussein’s payments to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers and the sanctuary he provided to people like Abu Nidal.

    It has been demonstrated, however, that there was no working relationship between Iraq and the terrorist group that actually attacked the U.S., Al Quaeda.

  11. Remember; Wolfowitz actually argued for attacking Iraq right after 9/11 instead of Afghanistan.

  12. isf,

    Well, as this area was within the confines of Operation Northern Watch, that was enforcing U.N. resolutions 678, 687, and 688, there should have been no protests at all. To be frank, this is a lame and stupid excuse and an attempt to deflect and otherwise ignore responsibility here; the U.S. was quite willing to invade Iraq despite protests, and I doubt the U.S. would have cared about protests here either.

  13. jsf, I don’t think the outcry would have been as terrible as you imply since we would have been attacking a known terrorist camp outside the control of Baghdad.

  14. Les,

    His comment also implies that Bush is a coward willing to allow “world opinion” dictate his policy. 🙂

  15. B.P.:
    “I thought there was no connection between Iraq and terrorism.”

    The training camp in question is within the US-imposed no-fly zone in northern Iraq. So technically it wasn’t Saddam who harbored them. It was the US and their Kurdish allies.

  16. Wait, if that camp was in a region technically under US control, and if we have a policy that you’re either with us or against us, does that mean we have to invade DC?

    Now we know why Dick Cheney is hiding in a bunker somewhere…

  17. Regardles of whether Saddamm had control over northern Iraq, the fact remains that there was a border at the time in question, and this camp was on the Iraqi side of that border. At that point, any military action had consisted of US aircraft bombing AA sites that had engaged them. A strike on the camp would have been a preemption, and a political risk. Especially when you consider the amount of diplomatic ass-covering the administration was doing at the time.

    Yeah, I read the article, and found it a little short on real details. It quotes someone that most folks have never heard of, and this person wraps up what was probably numerous hours of deliberation in two sentences that are ripe with his opinion but very little fact. If what he said helps affirm your own beliefs about the war in Iraq, well, more power to you. In my opinion, there is not much to this particular story. It seems like a little “Monday morning quarterbacking” of the type right-wingers like to do with Clinton. Maybe more will come out of this, who knows? But right now I don’t see this doing much damage to the Bush campaign. Its just something for the wonks to use to fill time on the 24-hr news channels.

  18. It seems to me that this criticism of one target over another only makes sense if you don’t see Iraq as part of a larger war on terrorism. There is an element of big fish, small fish to this decision if you are of the opinion that making a visible statement to establish credibility is part of the same overall defence strategy.

  19. Jean Bart,

    No, not coward. I’m merely stating the political reality. If, while trying to build the coalition, we had launched a unilateral attack, all the (albeit limited) support we did have would have evaporated.

    Also, given the criticisms leveled at merely launching cruise missile attacks during the Clinton administration, the US would have had to put Special Ops troops on the ground. Doing that–publicly and having the world know–during the run-up to the war would have destroyed the coalition.

  20. So essentially, we waited too long to go into Iraq? No shit Sherlock, thanks for helping out. Next time I over cook my 2 minute egg by 10 years, please do let me know well after the fact.

    Maybe if daddy Bush or Billy boy or pre-911 baby Bush would have finished the job on Iraq instead of playing dick, dick with sanctions for over a decade, we wouldn’t need to have this discussion.

    Anyway, don’t pat yourself too hard on the back. Those that fortell the future may be geniuses, but those that second guess the past aren’t really adding anything special to the mix.

    JB, it’s odd, based on your previous comments, I wouldn’t have suspected you’d have been for earlier intervention in Iraq. Perhaps your positions are more nuanced than I thought.

    Ch-ch-ch-chia

  21. “Regardles of whether Saddamm had control over northern Iraq, the fact remains that there was a border at the time in question, and this camp was on the Iraqi side of that border.” There was also a border between the northern zone and Saddam Country, across which the Iraqi military could not cross, and the US – supported government controlled. Your semantic geography games are so much bobbing and weaving.

    “At that point, any military action had consisted of US aircraft bombing AA sites that had engaged them.” Except for Operation Desert Fox, during which Clinton orderred the destruction of WMD sites (which seems to have worked out pretty well).

    “A strike on the camp would have been a preemption, and a political risk.” Destroying Saddam’s WMD stocks wasn’t preemption? As for “political risk,” why would it have been any riskier than when we attacked terrorists in Afghanistan or Yemen? The US military was doing a lot of that sort of thing, before the Iraq War monopolized the Special Forces and Predators.

  22. Here’s a pre-war article on the constant bombing we’d been doing in northern and southern Iraq.

    “The Wall Street Journal, the authentic voice of the American establishment, described this eloquently when it reported that the US faced “a genuine dilemma” in Iraq. After eight years of enforcing a no fly zone in northern (and southern) Iraq, few targets remain. “We’re down to the last outhouse,” one US official protested.”

    Apparently not.

    http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/iraq/nofly/2002/1220secret.htm

  23. I am feeling REALLY starved for details on this one.

    Meanwhile, I am at a loss to see how Buck-Fever Kerry can use this. If (far more sensibly) Gore or Lieberman or Hillary were (any of them) to be the Dem candidate, they might have a real talking point here.

    As it stands, this only (further) underlines how costly our temporising in a (futile) effort to get UN approval for the invasion has been…a point I will readily concede.

  24. “So essentially, we waited too long to go into Iraq?”

    No, essentially, we hit the wrong target.

  25. I am amazed at how far the Bush apologists can stick their heads up their ass. ANY Democrat who would have screwed the pooch this bad would have been impeached by now.

  26. Elmiron,

    I would not have opposed an attack on specific terrorist targets in Iraq, or WMD sites, or even an assasination of Saddam (indeed, in the first Gulf War, I would have perferred myself and my fellow compatriots – American, French, British, etc. – would have continued onto Baghdad – that was our sentiment then in the Division Daguet). I did not oppose the war because it was “immoral” to invade, but because it was stupid to do so; the same objectives could have been achieved without sending ~140,000 U.S. soldiers into the nation.

  27. joe

    Perhaps we didn’t wait too long to invade Iraq, but rather we should have bombed the camp meanwhile without concerning ourselves about whether it would spin the UN against invasion. (Fair enough.)

    I can’t see what your problem is with the target we DID hit. If you would like to extend the list, I am open to persuasion.

  28. Indeed Jean Bart, it is always best to choose the most effective route to one’s objectives. But if the overthrow of Saddam was only one objective, and another was to have 100,000+ troops available in a country bordering Iran and also Syria in order to impress upon them the same diplomatic pressure that found Saddam himself allowing inspectors back into his country; and if another was to keep an active force in the Middle East while removing our troops from Saudi Arabia (aka the Holy Land containing both Mecca and Medina), then this wouldn’t have been acheived so well with strategic strikes and assassination plots (especially given our piss-poor intelligence of Saddam’s whereabouts on the ground, as evidenced by several failed attempts during the war). Would you agree that if these were also objectives (you may disagree that they were, but IF they were) then the path taken was not so unwise?

    When playing billiards it is much wiser to take a more difficult shot if you can set yourself up for future shots, then to grab the easiest and hope something develops in your favor beyond.

  29. Elmiron,

    I would argue that those objectives too could be done without such an effort. And I would oppose them even if they were your objectives. The Middle East is Europe’s direct neighbor; when America fucks around there it effects us negatively and I have no issue telling Americans to stop pissing around there because of that.

  30. “Perhaps we didn’t wait too long to invade Iraq, but rather we should have bombed the camp meanwhile without concerning ourselves about whether it would spin the UN against invasion.”

    It wasn’t just UN politics that saved Zarqawi, but domestic ones. Bush needed to draw a Saddam/AQ link in the public mind in order for his pretext – a WMD-armed state with terrorist connections that can only be neutralized via invasion – to be accepted as a legitimate reason for war. Showing that we could hit terrorist threats without carrying out PNAC’s grandiose plans would have undermined the entire project.

  31. Very true, Jean, you should speak your mind, especially when you feel something will affect you and yours in a negative way.

    But that sentiment aside for a moment, I’m curious about your suggestion that there would be an easier way to achieve the hypothetical objectives that I mentioned. Would you care to elaborate?

  32. Elmiron,

    “But that sentiment aside for a moment, I’m curious about your suggestion that there would be an easier way to achieve the hypothetical objectives that I mentioned. Would you care to elaborate?”

    You could keep an active force of the size that you appear to want in Iraq within the next year (~40,000 I have read) in Qatar or Kuwait or even the UAE (or a combination of the three). As to bringing pressure onto Syria and Iran, well, the UK, France and Germany did that without U.S. help (partly because of news coming from there as early as the 1990s about a possible arms program) and as to Syria, I don’t see them as important.

  33. Elmiron, ever hear the term “all shape, no make?” That’s when you get so focused on the next shot you miss the one at hand. Rookies are especially prone to it.

  34. joe

    Can’t see how another bombing run could have effected the domestic politics much. The Ansar al-Islam base didn’t figure much in pre-war discussions here– for the reasons given…it wasn’t under Saddam’s effective jurisdiction, and he was only one of the sponsors.

    Which brings us to the most likely explanation– the temporizing may have been intended to appease Iran, which is connected to this organisation.

    JB– Same goes for us…we don’t have to care how this effects Europe. Britain (obviously) has a different take, anyway.

  35. No Gad, I can’t say that I’ve heard it before now. But given your limited statement, I would assume that you think the existence of the possibility of falling into such a trap would preclude anyone, rookie or otherwise, from ever trying to set themself up for their next shot. this would seem to be a mistake of not just a rookie, but some one who never hopes to get past that stage.

  36. Andrew,

    Then let me suggest that you stop begging us for money and troops then. “Oh please, please, please help us – come on in Nato – please help us.” It would be humorous if it were not so pathetic.

  37. gadfly,
    You got it right on the bullseye.

    but lets not all forget the cost ! this effects the entire world andy. lets not get selfish,
    one thing goes wrong everything goes down like domino effect ya dig ! then who benefits ?

  38. JB,

    You are correct that the US may be able to get 40,000 troops into such places (they currently have about 30,000 troops based in Qatar, Kuwait, Turkey, Oman, UAE, Bahrain, Djibouti and Saudi combined). But this isn’t even half of the 100,000+ hypothetical I stated and still doesn’t put these troops on the borders of Syria and Iran. So you haven’t given an easier way to go about meeting the hypothetical goals. As for your mention of pressure dating back to the 90’s put upon Syria and Iran by France and Germany, and the fact that you don’t think Syria is much to worry about, these don’t reflect in the slightest on what others would place as goals.

    If you wish to argue that the US strategy is wrong for trying to achieve the goals you would say are best for them and you, I would not disagree. However, you must recognize that the US (more specifically the US government) doesn’t necessarily share your goals. Therefore, if you disagree with the goals you can argue as to why (although you should acknowledge that there may be more or different goals than you are aware or able to recognize), or if you wish to argue that the US strategy for achieving its goals is poor or less than optimal, that’s fine. However, saying the US strategy isn’t good for the goals you have decided it should work towards, isn’t really saying anything useful.

  39. Elmiron, Turkey borders Syria and we were sitting in Afghanistan, which borders Iran. It sounds like your quibble was simply not enough troops, something we didn’t need to invade Iraq for.

  40. Mo,

    You jumped into the middle of a discussion, so you missed relevant points. Specifically, I was referring to when JB said…

    “You could keep an active force of the size that you appear to want in Iraq within the next year (~40,000 I have read) in Qatar or Kuwait or even the UAE (or a combination of the three). ”

    None of these three countries borders on either Iran or Syria, Iraq conveniently borders both.

    As for your suggestion that the goals we were discussing would be met with Turkey and Afghanistan, rather than Iraq, you are correct. Turkey borders both, although the border with Iran is a bit more limited than the Iraq/Iran border. The problem arises when you try to get 100,000+ troops into Turkey. This would be far more complicated than even what has gone on so far in Iraq. Are you proposing a way to convince them to let us increasing our troop number there many fold? Or do you propose invading Turkey? Either way, this seems a more difficult path than the one in Iraq.

    As for Afghanistan, it only borders Iran, not Syria, so you would still have to get 100,000+ more troops some where else to meet the goals we were discussing. Additionally, having 100,000 troops in Afghanistan could quite easily end up with a body count much higher than the 500+ that have died in Iraq. Ask the Russians. Again, this doesn’t seem to be an easier way of achieving the goals.

  41. Tin pots don’t understand anything other than their pocketbooks and their lifespans. We had more than a decade of indifferent reactions to provocation from Middle Eastern terrorists, and every one of the regional dictators believed that in the end, they could cry to the UN about aggression and hide behind the spectre of ‘regional instability’ to protect themselves no matter what. Troops on the border prior to an invasion do not have the impact of troops on the border after you have removed a peer from his throne and torched his palaces. THAT is something that dictators can understand.

    In my estimation, violence against Saddam was a reasonable conclusion in the analysis of many factors. The sole fact that other people in the region believe we will take action in the face of UN disapproval and without having a signed confession is the greatest enhancement to our security that has been gained.

    The anti war crowd insists on treating terrorists as criminals rather than soldiers. This mentality is what allows them to function freely in so many countries. They have no fear of being caught because they aren’t wearing uniforms of the country where they train, and of course you can’t violate a Sovereign Nation (what that means for a tin pot, I don’t know) just to get some criminals. The important thing accomplished by our actions in Iraq is delivering the message that this shield will no longer protect those countries that want to make political hay by supporting terrorists. It is MUCH more important than bagging any individual cell, because it drains resources and gives fewer safe havens. Ideally, there would be no safe havens, but now each dictator has to figure out how safe he feels before he offers aid. First, lets get that message out, then we can deal with any smaller cells that are displaced as a result.

    What concerns me is that the message might not be strong enough yet, given our ridiculous position in Saudi Arabia.

  42. Elmiron,
    I read the whole discussion. I don’t see why we need 100K troops for Syria alone. Israel’s army has given them a sound beating before and our military is better than theirs. As far as Iran goes, invasion is not the best way to promote democracy, at least a stable, freedom loving democracy. In fact, I think any action within Iran’s borders will undermine the democratic movement in the country (which I’m sure Iraq supporters will take credit for, but is more a result of disillusionment with the theocracy that predated GWII).

    I see the point in keeping a troop presence there as a means of pressure, but that pressure can be applied with multiple smaller regional troop groupings (the gulf, Afgahnistan, Turkey). While this wouldn’t be your optimal solution, it has the advantage of keeping our eggs in multiple baskets and allows for greater operational flexibility than invading and having to hold Iraq. The lack of ironclad committments (read: Iraq) would give us the flexibility to deal with a situation in North Korea or Iran (if it comes down to it) that we simply don’t have the numbers to do now.

  43. This is a damning indictment… of the United Nations and those who demanded the international song-and-dance before we went within 100 miles of Iraq. Nice spin by NBC though… not surprising that this wasn’t picked up elsewhere.

  44. “Showing that we could hit terrorist threats without carrying out PNAC’s grandiose plans would have undermined the entire project.”

    Not really… it would have proven even more why Saddam needed to be stopped because of the safe harbor his regime was for terrorists… that’s why the NBC spin doesn’t wash.

  45. “ANY Democrat who would have screwed the pooch this bad would have been impeached by now.”

    Clinton was not impeached for his multiple missed opportunities on bin Laden, not to mention the aspirin factory. Hard to believe how a lefty can defend Clinton’s inaction on terror and go after Bush for this.

  46. it would have proven even more why Saddam needed to be stopped because of the safe harbor his regime was for terrorists

    Um, if the terrorists were found in a Kurd-controlled area protected by US military planes, that might not undermine the case for war, but it certainly wouldn’t have bolstered it. It would simply be one more terrorist cell in an area not controlled by Hussein, no more or less relevant to the war in Iraq than terrorist cells in other parts of the world.

  47. JB,

    I think the Euros are perfectly capable of handling the ME in a competent manner. Why just yesterday they were making millions in the Bribes for Support Program and selling them real neat high tech centrifuges to those countries in the ME with a real need.

    And now them damn Yankees have done gone and ruinit it.

    And to top it off we have scarred that poor man Kadaffy half to death. Damn Yankees.

    ================================================

    The secret of military operations is similar to the secret of any other real estate deal.

    Location, location, location.

    But hey I can understand why the French are pissed – they have yet to be offered enough money to change their minds. And unlike some others George Galloway is an honest man: he stays bought. If only Saddam’s Generals had been so loyal.

    ==============================================

    Well any way I think that as soon as a good sized fraction of Iraqis starts pinning for the good old days of rape, torture, and murder we can put ole Saddam back in power. No problemo.

    But JB one last question: How does America depose Saddam from the confines of Kuwait and Afghanistan?

    In any case I’m looking forward to the war coming to Europe over head scarves. God knows you could use a few terrorist bombings to stiffen your spines. Well German spines any way.

    I’m told that in the last French election the fascists got about 20% of the vote. In America the fascists got less than 2%. I suppose that is why you need Bush as Hitler. Other wise how could you look at yourselves in a mirror.

    But hey I love irony. You kicked out the Jews who were a pretty nice people and at least an asset to the community but invited in the Arabs who are not.

    From this side of the pond it looks like a death wish.

  48. Why do you all say that Ansar-al-Islam must have been protected by the US and the Kurds? Just because they were in a Kurdish area they must have been friends with the Kurds and the US?

    http://www.hrw.org/backgrounder/mena/ansarbk020503.htm
    They’ve been killing Kurds all along, and in fact anybody they disagreee with, and are affiliated with Hamas.

    Note where they are said to operate; around Halabja and Sulaimaniya–SOUTH OF THE NO-FLY ZONE, which only went as far south as 36th parallel, if I recall correctly.

    Just because it says “northern Iraq” doesn’t mean “inside the no-fly zone under American protection”.

    But it would be too much trouble to check a map before asserting such a thing, would it not?

    A map like this one maybe, where you can CLEARLY SEE THAT ANSAR-AL-ISLAM IS NOT IN THE NO FLY ZONE?

    http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/middle_east_and_asia/iraq_kurdish_areas_2003.jpg

  49. >…the administration feared destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war against Saddam.

  50. I’m not saying we protected them. I’m saying there were in an area under our control, so there’s no a priori reason to assign blame for them to Hussein.

    Now, with additional intelligence we might be able to determine that they were operating at his behest. Or it could turn out that the intelligence will show that they operated without anybody’s sanction (neither ours, nor the Kurds’, nor Hussein’s). Or it could turn out that they were operating at the behest of some other party (e.g. Iran, Syria, some splinter faction opposed to Hussein, etc.).

    The general point is that some people in this thread suggested that the terrorist cell in the Kurdish area constituted a valid reason to overthrow Hussein, and I’m saying that since the cell operated in an area not under Hussein’s control, we need more information before we conclude that the terrorist cell was linked to his regime.

  51. Gadfly-

    Be careful when you say there was no protest agaisnt the invasion of Afghanistan. In fact there was. Sure, it was miniscule compared to the protests against the invasion of Iraq, but it was large enough to make your statement false. And although I know what you meant, the fact is that your statement was false and the hawks will delight in tearing it apart.

    And they’ll probably delight in reminding you that those who protested it were almost entirely from fringe elements of the left (although there were probably a few exceptions).

    Never set yourself up for a trap.

  52. “People who believe that the invasion was the right thing to do shouldn’t make the mistake of supporting the lying, inept architects of the invasion simply because they agree with them on the rightness of the invasion.”

    That is my view as well, and these days, I’m far from a supporter of this administration.

  53. anon:

    “In the end, every single reason the pro-war crowd gave didn’t hold water.”

    That is fascinating. Tell me which of the following reasons I listed has been ‘debunked’.

    “the case made at the UN that it was in danger of becoming a public joke instead of merely a private one is very good. The case that terrorists operated within Saddam’s borders, and that they and Saddam share at a minimum a hatred of us is very good. The case that every western intelligence agency at least wanted to know what happened to the weapons, and that Saddam had absolutely no reason to provide that information is very good. The case that Saddam was not meeting the terms of his surrender from the last war was very good. Finally, the case that he was a brutal tyrant is pretty good, too.”

    To argue about the terrorists within his borders, we will have to go into a very long discussion about the original WTC bombing, whether calls by terrorists to Iraq is sufficient evidence, and what constitutes Saddam’s borders. I get that, and will simply say that I don’t feel compelled to apply a preponderence of evidence standard in this case. The standard I hold is, if you are a tyrant, the slightest inkling we have is sufficient for your sovereignity to be void.

    And lets talk about WMD. I wanted to bring it up at the end to illustrate how strong the case was, to me, without it ever being mentioned. There are two aspects of this: 1) What happened to the tons of VX and assorted goodies that remain unaccounted for? 2) Why on Earth would you believe that Saddam wouldn’t sell those to terrorists? You ask for proof that he did, and I answer that if he did, it would be too late. Having declared war on the Great Satan a number to times in the last decade, violating the terms of his surrender, and so forth are all the proof you need. HE says he is a threat, so lets take him at his word.

    There was never any proof that the weapons were destroyed, and every major western intelligence agency believed he had them. He had, in fact, intentionally obfuscated what happened to them. It takes quite of bit of hindsight reckoning to say now that nobody thought he REALLY had them. The discussion was whether he was CONTAINED, not whether he had ever abided by the terms of his surrender. Why bother with deadlines if that weren’t the case? I only ask you to reflect in an honest way about your certainty about the existence of WMD now compared with your certainty at the time. The only reason you are certain now is because we have tossed the whole country and found nothing. 10 more years of obfuscation would not have yielded a similar result.

    The anti war crowd has a VERY loose definition of “debunk”.

  54. the case made at the UN that it was in danger of becoming a public joke instead of merely a private one is very good

    Defending UN legitimacy is not something I would have expected you to cite as a reason for war. In the end, I don’t think it’s worth shedding any blood over.

    The case that terrorists operated within Saddam’s borders, and that they and Saddam share at a minimum a hatred of us is very good.

    It is known that Hussein aided terrorists against Israel, as have other Arab nations. If I were an Israeli citizen, that might be grounds for war. As to involvement in terrorism against the US, that case remains more controversial. My concern isn’t “Don’t go after him unless we know he’s guilty”, it’s “Let’s be sure we know what we’re doing, rather than just guess that maybe it’s a good target.” If wanting a well thought-out strategy makes me a liberal peacenik, well, time to slap a Kucinich sticker on my car I guess.

    The case that every western intelligence agency at least wanted to know what happened to the weapons, and that Saddam had absolutely no reason to provide that information is very good.

    I never understood why deterrence would fail against Saddam when it worked against Stalin, a tyrant even more brutal and more powerful with an even larger arsenal. Sure you can say “How can we be sure that Saddam won’t give the WMD to terrorist groups that are harder to trace?” Well, why didn’t Stalin? Deterrence has a long track record in world history, and should not simply be disregarded on the grounds of “Well, you never know…” The case against deterrence was never made to my satisfaction.

    The case that Saddam was not meeting the terms of his surrender from the last war was very good.

    Since I don’t think we should have fought that war, that doesn’t move me. If his neighbors were concerned they were of course welcome to take on his decrepit military.

    Finally, the case that he was a brutal tyrant is pretty good, too.

    This legitimizes our right to invade, but it does not mean we should invade. Whether we should invade should be based on our own national security. And from the standpoint of security, I see 3 arguments:

    1) Links to terrorism against the US, but those links have not been established well enough. An inkling just isn’t good enough when facing the deadly threat of terrorism. We need cool-headed people who will actually figure out what’s going on, not just act on an inkling. Why? Well, how hard would it be for terrorists to falsify evidence that produces an incorrect inkling and prompts action? While we’re busy devoting lots of resources to that “inkling”, they’re laughing.

    2) WMD: The case against deterrence was never made.

    3) Draining the swamp and transforming a region: Show me some successful social engineering in the US, and then we can talk about the Middle East.

  55. thoreau:

    “Give me one good reason that actually holds water and I’ll renounce my previous opposition to the war. Just don’t ask me to believe that our government can do things in Iraq that are impossible in Compton.”

    Again, a problem with definitions. I gave plenty of reasons, but I have no way of knowing if you find them to be ‘good’. The reasons fit together as a non seperable function. Saying that you took each variable in isolation and examined it doesn’t really tell you much about what the function will yield. The essence of the case to me is that for many, many reasons, we were justified in removing Saddam at any time we wanted, and there were many, many reasons to choose a time soon after 9/11 to do so.

    As for the results, you shouldn’t hold the ‘shining beacon of democracy’ to any higher standard than you hold hyperbole delivered by any other politcian at any other time. The reconstruction does introduce liberty of a fashion to a region that has never had it, and it does so in the midst of a bunch of tyrants. The case can rest there. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just good enough for the locals to exert pressure in the direction of freedom. I don’t think it is a reach of social engineering to say that people want to be free, and I don’t think it is out of bounds to say that if you remove the rifle muzzle from someone’s head, they may begin to feel more free than they had previously. A radical position to me is when I hear that things are no better now than they were before for Iraqis on the ground. It is worse for Saddam’s favored and better for people whose families he killed, from whom he extorted and so on. Why is it so hard to say, “yep, that guy is gone and the world is a better place, but the cost was too high?” if that is how you feel. Why assume that anything less than ‘a shining beacon of democracy’ is defined to be a failure?

  56. ” never understood why deterrence would fail against Saddam when it worked against Stalin, a tyrant even more brutal and more powerful with an even larger arsenal.”

    The answer is right in front of you. Deterrence only works if underlying it is a CREDIBLE threat. We did not have any such thing. Saddam was a government of one man. He doesn’t care if you in Clintonian fashion send 50 Tomahawks to blow up factories. Hell, he did the same thing for political purposes himself. He only fears harm to his person, which can in all practicality only come about with boots on the ground. For twenty years and change, terrorists have operated in various nations secure behind their sovereign borders.

    Stalin was deterred because he legitimately feared for his own life.

  57. thoreau,

    I also think you are being a bit disingenouous when you say that deterrence is the answer. Let’s say that Saddam did sell or give some tons of VX to a terrorist organization, and a nerve gas device is used against NYC.

    Are you telling me that you are comfortable with massive retaliation against the state of Iraq if we have no more evidence than we had of his WMD programs in the first place? Of course not, you would demand that we had good proof. How do you propose to get it? Impose sanctions?

    The point is that Saddam knows this, too. As long as you can’t put his personal DNA on the weapon, he knows that the UN will never accede to retaliation. If Stalin launched missiles, well, we know where they came from. Stalin didn’t go the terrorist route because, during the cold war, he had to worry about people like Kissinger who would recommend that we assume he is responsible.

    To have deterrence, you must be willing to do harm.

  58. Jason:

    “whether calls by terrorists to Iraq is sufficient evidence”

    Wow, you consider calls made to Iraq by terrorists as evidence that Iraq is complicit? So, if those same terrorists made calls to Britain or the US, would they be complicit too? Come to think of it the terrorists involved with the 93 WTC were living in the US, were they not? So, does that mean the US was complicit?

    Nationality of a terrorist, the countries they call, even the countries they reside in are not proof that a country is sponsoring them. Otherwise, the US and Britain are both invloved (the shoe bomber was British, the 93 WTC terrorists resided in the US).

    As for the WMD, Scot Ritter for one said he believed Saddam destroyed them. The US administration and the pro-war crowd ridiculed, and in some cases, questioned his patriotism.
    You can’t ask someone to prove a negative. That is against logic, but again logic does not seem to be your strongest quality. The burden of proof is on the one making the claim. In this case, the US government. After all the administration insisted that WMD existed, they knew their quantities, and they knew where they are.

  59. R.C. Dean,

    Actually, the entire area around where they were located was occupied by Kurds; who got air support from Operation Northern Watch.

  60. Simon,

    “I think the Euros are perfectly capable of handling the ME in a competent manner. Why just yesterday they were making millions in the Bribes for Support Program and selling them real neat high tech centrifuges to those countries in the ME with a real need.”

    Well, (a) U.S. and U.K. citizens were also involved in those bribes; (b) they weren’t centrifuges (which even David Kay admits to now) – they were casings for artillery shells.

    “But JB one last question: How does America depose Saddam from the confines of Kuwait and Afghanistan?”

    Well, Kuwait has a direct border with Iraq…please, pick up a map of the middle east.

    “In any case I’m looking forward to the war coming to Europe over head scarves. God knows you could use a few terrorist bombings to stiffen your spines. Well German spines any way.”

    Yes, terrorism has never, ever occurred in Europe. Your myopia and historical ignorance is telling.

    “You kicked out the Jews who were a pretty nice people…”

    When was this? There are over 700,000 Jews in France; one happens to be my wife. Sometime, please try honesty; it would make take a dent out of my incredulity certainly.

  61. anon:

    It is telling that even when making an argument in a public space you can’t discern any difference between an Islamic terrorist of Saudi origin making calls to Great Britain and that same fellow making calls to Iraq. Context is simply something you must ignore to make whatever case you think you have.

    “Nationality of a terrorist, the countries they call, even the countries they reside in are not proof that a country is sponsoring them.”

    For one, sponsoring is not the standard here, tolerating in his midst is. There is a monumental difference between a democratic society with MI-5 looking for terrorists and a tyrant who gasses everyone but terrorists. I didn’t think it would be necessary to point out that there are many reasons that we hold tyrannies to different standards, but I guess I should have known better.

    Scott Ritter certainly did say that. Funny that Hans Blix didn’t until the troops were on the ground, funny that MI-6 didn’t know, the French didn’t know, the Germans didn’t know, and Saddam still obfuscated sufficiently in the ‘last chance’ phase that Blix condemned him – again. What monumentally selective memory you have. It is very easy to look at the evidence or lack of that we have now ONLY because we have boots on the ground and claim moral victory for your position.

    I’m familiar with the problems of proving a negative, but I’m not sure you are. We weren’t asking for proof of absence, but for proof of destruction. If he did destroy it, why did Blix and company have all those unaccounted for stores on their logs? Even if he did destroy it, why didn’t he come clean? Most likely because he wanted to be able to be safe from military action while still maintaining the appearance of supreme despot. I don’t know what in his actions over the last 12 years would lead me to such an outrageous conclusion, do you?

  62. Thanks for the reining in, Thoreau. You’re right. As Rick says, the Preview button is my friend.

  63. Jason-

    The world is a better place without Saddam in power, but I’m not convinced that it was in our best interests in the end. There. I said it.

    As to deterrence: If there was a WMD attack on the US, we wouldn’t wait on UN resolutions. I know I’ll get hammered for saying this, but even a Democrat in the White House (well, a mainstream Democrat, not somebody from the fringes) would attack with or without a UN resolution. A Democrat might (like Bush did) try to get one first just for expedience, but in the end even a mainstream Democrat would retaliate without a UN resolution.

    But I would hope that any President of any party would wait for evidence. Not a trial with due process and proof beyond a reasonable doubt, but something better than “…if you are a tyrant, the slightest inkling we have is sufficient…” When people make drastic decisions (e.g. war) based only on inklings, bad things can happen.

    Also, you talk about a credible threat. I’d say the overthrow of the Taliban counts as a credible threat. And maybe that threat would be even more credible if we’d kept more resources focused on rounding up the Taliban remnants rather than focusing attention on Iraq.

    Your basic criticism of my stance seems to be that I expect each piece of the puzzle to stand on its own rather than collectively. Not so. I expect to see evidence of a threat to US security that can only be countered by war rather than something less drastic. Show me good evidence that Hussein was involved in an attack against the US, something better than “the slightest inkling” and I’ll change my mind. Or show me a good case that deterrence is no longer viable.

    How do we get the necessary information? The old-fashioned way. Lots of people on the ground, lots of bribes to people in the know, lots of wiretaps, lots of spy satellites, etc. Intelligence is hard work. Supposedly the CIA has had spectacular success with recruiting people since 9/11. Hopefully we’ll never know the details of that recruiting (if we know then so will the bad guys), but we’ll know the results when one day Osama is led out of his cave at gunpoint by a 23 year-old who pretended to be the next John Walker Lindh, or by an Arab-American woman who managed to become Osama’s concubine.

    Well, I can dream, can’t I?

  64. Another thought on “inklings”:

    Ever see the second season of 24? Terrorists tried to nuke Los Angeles. Of course our hero stopped it. But some evil masterminds fabricated evidence that the terrorist attack was sponsored by 3 Middle Eastern governments. This evidence was found, and the US immediately ordered planes into the air. Nobody stopped to ask the blindingly obvious question: Why would 3 Middle Eastern governments sponsor this attack when they have nothing to gain and everything to lose?

    Well, one person asked the question and found evidence that things weren’t as they seemed. And the President postponed the attack to give our hero time to prove his case. (Since this same hero also stopped the bomb from destroying Los Angeles, the President was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on terrorism-related matters.) But the VP and Cabinet made a dubious invocation of the 25th amendment. They argued that the President must be crazy to call of this attack when it’s obvious that the evidence is legit. So they declared him unfit to serve and removed him from office. (Yes, it was of dubious legality, that was sort of the point: In a mob mentality the law was cast aside.)

    But at the last minute our hero found the evil mastermind who wanted a war with the Middle East, and tricked him into confessing. The confession was captured on a listening device, the VP was informed, and the attack was called off at the last minute. The VP and Cabinet reinstated the President and offered their resignations. And the President refused to take revenge by accepting their resignations.

    Then he addressed the country at a press conference, and said that while all the facts will soon be revealed, in the meantime we should go to work or school and live our lives, and enjoy our freedom, because it is our freedom that keeps us strong.

    (And then a really hot lesbian tried to assassinate him. Hey, it’s a Fox show 🙂

    Contrast that with W, who thinks that the only way to defeat our enemies is to curtail our freedom and go shopping. I prefer President Palmer, who thinks that the way to defeat our enemies to maintain our freedoms and spend our time at work or school.”

  65. This is just great. Now our reason for invading Iraq was to “send a message”.

    What was it yesterday? What will it be tomorrow? Or the next?

  66. Read the damn link. Zarqawi was operating with Ansar al-Islam in the north – the part of the country that Saddam had no control over.

    Wrong. Saddam was not allowed to fly aircraft in parts of Northern Iraq, but he had Republican Guards stationed there, and specifically in the area where Ansar al Islam was based. Ansar al-Islam was, basically, a Saddam surrogate or front group that allowed Saddam to get things done, like assassinate Kurds, that he couldn’t do directly.

    Bombing anything other than anti-aircraft installations would have been a major escalation of the low-grade war with Iraq, at a time when we were still courting the UN. Remember, the people saying we should have bombed today were the very ones saying we shouldn’t go to war at all back when decisions were being made.

    In short, spare me your faux outrage that a decision wasn’t made a year ago that you would have condemned at the time.

  67. “This is just great. Now our reason for invading Iraq was to “send a message”.

    What was it yesterday? What will it be tomorrow? Or the next?”

    Again, the anti war crowd’s insistence on there being The One Reason is a child’s way of looking at a complex decision. Gadfly, I don’t know much about you, but what if I were to ask you why you chose your current career or who your wife (husband?) is. You say, “Well, I went to college and got a degree in X. And I like the challenge of Y.” What if I spent the next year screaming that you are a lying hypocrite because you told me two reasons that you chose your career? What if I demanded, “I caught you Gadfly! Which reason will it be today?”

    There is a case for war built of many reasons. Another shocking revelation is that all reasons can’t be said out loud. You can’t go to the UN with the notion that you are going to invade to scare the crap out of tin pots, because the UN (falsely) grants all nations equal status in terms of sovereignity. If your case doesn’t rest solely on that reason, it might not be a good idea to make hay about it.

    And the decision didn’t rest solely on the re-establishment of a credible threat of harm, the case made at the UN that it was in danger of becoming a public joke instead of merely a private one is very good. The case that terrorists operated within Saddam’s borders, and that they and Saddam share at a minimum a hatred of us is very good. The case that every western intelligence agency at least wanted to know what happened to the weapons, and that Saddam had absolutely no reason to provide that information is very good. The case that Saddam was not meeting the terms of his surrender from the last war was very good. Finally, the case that he was a brutal tyrant is pretty good, too.

    If you feel that these cases in sum don’t tip the balance in favor of the war when considered in context of opposing arguments, fine, but spare me the false view that I must choose only one of the above reasons as “the Real reason”. Complex decisions aren’t made that way.

  68. Jason,

    The problem with the pro-war crowd is that whenever one of there reasons are debunked, they retreat and say oh that reason was not the only reason and in fact it wasn’t all that important. In the end, every single reason the pro-war crowd gave didn’t hold water. So what do they do? They claim that there are good reasons for war, but they can’t say what they are. Simply pathetic.

    Oh, and Ansar Al-Islam were operating in Halabja and Sulaymaniyah. The two towns, although were south of the no-fly zone (I stand corrected), they are well within the region controled by Jalal Talibani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) not the central government of Saddam. The PUK is a US ally.

    Check this CS Monitor article, it has a nice map showing details of the region:

    http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/0315/p01s04-wome.html

  69. Jason,

    The problem, for me at least, wasn’t going to war with Iraq. There are good arguments for (and also against) having done that. My problem is that the people who led us into the war demonstrably lied to the U.S. and the world. Also, it’s rather obvious that their post-war planning was inept. Wars are serious enough that they shouldn’t be guided by inept liars.

    People who believe that the invasion was the right thing to do shouldn’t make the mistake of supporting the lying, inept architects of the invasion simply because they agree with them on the rightness of the invasion.

  70. I’ve never wanted one single reason. I’ve wanted one reason that will actually hold water. Instead I knock down one reason only to hear “No, it’s really this other one.” Usually it winds up being something about “sending a message” and “draining the swamp” and “transforming a region.” Except that we already sent a loud message in Afghanistan, and the notion of transforming a region goes well beyond the notion of defeating an enemy, destroying his facilities, and capturing his minions. It verges on social engineering, something I’ve always been very skeptical of. Something I thought that most of the people here were skeptical of.

    Don’t get me wrong: I have complete confidence in our military’s ability to overthrow a government and incapacitate/capture/kill enemies. But to then somehow transform the place into a bastion of prosperity and freedom that won’t ever again spawn terrorists? We can’t even transform Compton into a bastion of prosperity that won’t ever again spawn gang-bangers. How exactly will we transform Iraq, let alone countries outside of Iraq? Or is the goal to actually invade the other countries, rather than just hoping for some sort of “domino effect” from the liberation of Iraq?

    Give me one good reason that actually holds water and I’ll renounce my previous opposition to the war. Just don’t ask me to believe that our government can do things in Iraq that are impossible in Compton.

  71. Just a last word about us childish peaceniks. There was not a word of protest when we went into Afghanistan, home of the bastards that perpetrated 911. Iraq is an entirely different story.

    Bush gambled with the rent money and now has to explain to the wife – how come? “Trust me” just doesn’t cut it.

  72. I’m astonished people have given this story any credence at all. What’s the sourcing? “NBC has learned…”

    Cressey was a Clinton appointee who had left the NSC by the time these events occurred. The story, through juxtaposition, leaves the impression he was at the NSC at the time and had direct knowledge of the events.

    Professor O’Hanlon is the author of this piece in Foreign Affairs, Clinton’s strong defense legacy. His bias isn’t mentioned either.

    This was a typical TV hit piece. Not to be taken seriously.

  73. “Such as, um, how about possibly, just possibly, putting the pieces in place to rid us of medicare and social security? Um, doesn’t that seem just the tiniest bit desirable to you? And NOW is time, if ever.”

    Huh? Last thing I remember was it was 2004 amd GWB was the incumbent and he was ramping up Medicare and Social security like there was no day after tomorrow.

    What year is this? Who’s the president? How long have I been asleep?

  74. thoreau,

    I understand the point that hard evidence is desirable, but let me propose a counter solution for you. A large terrorist attack occurs. We have an inkling, but no evidence sufficent to meet your standard. There is no Jack working with script writers, and we face multiple governments who refuse to assist us in any investigations (think USS Cole or the Khobar Towers). We don’t get solid evidence.

    Then we get hit again, and again, and again. That is another perfectly plausible story line for 24. Are you still comfortable with your standard for evidence?

    I’m not even answering definitively, just posing the question as a way of saying that there are valid reasons to adjust evidenciary standards in the real world where people suck.

  75. Jason-

    So, you’re suggesting a scenario where we don’t know who hit us so we just go down the list of usual suspects.

    That might works for ordinary crime. The resources needed to arrest a normal criminal aren’t all that great. The resources needed to prosecute him and prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt may be considerable in a complicated case, but the bust itself is pretty easy. Even if SWAT teams are involved, it’s still something that the gov’t can easily muster.

    Invading a country takes a lot more resouces than raiding a mob boss’s hideout or a gang leader’s crib. Simply going after “usual suspects” is a very, very, dangerous idea. Not only does it drain resources, it also risks greater repercussions in the world around us. Sure, some of those repercussions are acceptable (e.g. angry French people) but involving ourselves in an unstable reason based solely on “well, he’s a usual suspect” is dangerous.

    Now, you did give reasons beyond “he’s a usual suspect.” e.g. violations of the treaty ending Gulf War 1.0, questions about WMD, taking out a tyrant. As much as you might disagree with me, I’ve staked out a stance that rejects most of those reasons because (1) I don’t think we should have been involved in Gulf War 1.0, (2) On WMD the case for deterrence is quite strong, and (3) humanitarian reasons aren’t sufficient in my book.

    So, as much as you might disagree with me, I think we can at least make an attempt to elucidate and understand the other’s thought process. You know where I stand: We should only go to war to deal with a threat to US security that cannot be countered by any other means, and US security should be construed in a rather strict sense that does not include more general concerns of “transforming a region.”

    And I know where you stand: Although you’ve cited a number of reasons, the one that seems (correct me if I’m wrong) most prominent in your mind is going after a “usual suspect” so that (1) just in case he was involved we get him and (2) it sends an important message.

    My response to your stance is that “usual suspect” isn’t a high enough burden of proof. Your response to my stance seems to be that I should take a more expansive view of where our interests lie.

    Did I get it right?

  76. Jason-

    One more thing on “usual suspects.” Say that I was the President and you were in my Cabinet and there was a major terrorist attack but we didn’t know who did it. If you wanted to escalate our espionage efforts on the “usual suspects” I would personally write the blank check, and invite you to fill in a number with as many zeros as necessary. However, if you wanted to invade the “usual suspects” I’d instead write a blank check with “espionage” in the memo, and tell you that a blank check with “war” in the memo will be forthcoming after those spies get some results.

    Does that make me a liberal wimp?

  77. EMAIL: nospam@nospampreteen-sex.info
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    DATE: 05/20/2004 09:29:21
    There was no immunity to cuckoo ideas on Earth.

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