How We Went to War: What the Downing Street Memos Demonstrate





Mr. Engelhardt is the author of The End of Victory Culture and co-editor of History Wars, the Enola Gay and Other Battles for the American Past. Mr. Danner, a longtime New Yorker Staff writer and frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books, is Professor of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley and Henry R. Luce Professor at Bard College. His most recent book is Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib, and the War on Terror, which collects his pieces on torture and Iraq that first appeared in the New York Review of Books. His work can be found at markdanner.com.

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Editor's Note: These two articles appear together on the website of www.tomdispatch.com, a weblog of the Nation Institute, which is run by Mr. Engelhardt. The article by Mr. Danner will appear separately in the forthcoming edition of the New York Review of Books.

Smoking Signposts to Nowhere

By Tom Engelhardt

Imagine that the Pentagon Papers or the Watergate scandal had broken out all over the press -- no, not in the New York Times or the Washington Post, but in newspapers in Australia or Canada. And that, facing their own terrible record of reportage, of years of being cowed by the Nixon administration, major American papers had decided that this was not a story worthy of being covered. Imagine that, initially, they dismissed the revelatory documents and information that came out of the heart of administration policy-making; then almost willfully misread them, insisting that evidence of Pentagon planning for escalation in Vietnam or of Nixon administration planning to destroy its opponents was at best ambiguous or even nonexistent; finally, when they found that the documents wouldn't go away, they acknowledged them more formally with a tired ho-hum, a knowing nod on editorial pages or in news stories. Actually, they claimed, these documents didn't add up to much because they had run stories just like this back then themselves. Yawn.

This is, of course, something like the crude pattern that coverage in the American press has followed on the Downing Street memo, then memos. As of late last week, four of our five major papers (the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, and USA Today) hadn't even commented on them in their editorial pages. In my hometown paper, the New York Times, complete lack of interest was followed last Monday by a page 11 David Sanger piece (Prewar British Memo Says War Decision Wasn't Made) that focused on the second of the Downing Street memos, a briefing paper for Tony Blair's"inner circle," and began:"A memorandum written by Prime Minister Tony Blair's cabinet office in late July 2002 explicitly states that the Bush administration had made ‘no political decisions' to invade Iraq, but that American military planning for the possibility was advanced."

Compare that to the front-page lead written a day earlier by Michael Smith of the British Sunday Times, who revealed the existence of the document and has been the Woodstein of England on this issue (Ministers were told of need for Gulf war ‘excuse'):

"Ministers were warned in July 2002 that Britain was committed to taking part in an American-led invasion of Iraq and they had no choice but to find a way of making it legal. The warning, in a leaked Cabinet Office briefing paper, said Tony Blair had already agreed to back military action to get rid of Saddam Hussein at a summit at the Texas ranch of President George W Bush three months earlier."

The headlines the two papers chose more or less tell it all. It's hard to believe that they are even reporting on the same document. Sanger was obviously capable of reading Smith's piece and yet his report makes no mention of the April meeting of the two leaders in Crawford explicitly noted in the memo and offers a completely tendentious reading of those supposedly unmade"political decisions." Read the document yourself. It's clear, when the Brits write, for instance,"[L]ittle thought has been given [in Washington] to creating the political conditions for military action," that they are talking about tactics, about how to move the rest of the world toward an already agreed-upon war. After all, though it's seldom commented on, this document was entitled,"Cabinet Office paper: Conditions for military action," and along with the previously released memo was essentially a war-planning document. Both, for instance, discuss the American need for British bases in Cyprus and on the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia. It was, as well, focused on the creation of"an information campaign" and suggested that"[t]ime will be required to prepare public opinion in the UK that it is necessary to take military action against Saddam Hussein."

We are talking here about creating the right political preconditions for moving populations toward a war, quite a different matter from not having decided on the war. To write as if this piece reflected a situation in which no"political decisions" had been made (taking that phrase out of all context), without even a single caveat, a single mention of any alternative possible explanation, was bizarre, to say the least.

A day later, the New York Times weighed in with another piece. Written by Todd Purdum and this time carefully labeled"news analysis," it was placed on page 10 and arrived practically exhausted."But the memos," wrote the world-weary Purdum,"are not the Dead Sea Scrolls. There has been ample evidence for many months, and even years, that top Bush administration figures saw war as inevitable by the summer of 2002."

The Times editors at least had the decency to hide both their pieces deep inside the paper (and the paper remained editorially silent on the subject of the memos). The Washington Post did them one better. On its editorial page, its writers made Purdum look like the soul of cautious reason by publishing Iraq, Then and Now, which had the following dismissal of the memos:

War opponents have been trumpeting several British government memos from July 2002, which describe the Bush administration's preparations for invasion, as revelatory of President Bush's deceptions about Iraq. Bloggers have demanded to know why"the mainstream media" have not paid more attention to them. Though we can't speak for The Post's news department, the answer appears obvious: The memos add not a single fact to what was previously known about the administration's prewar deliberations. Not only that: They add nothing to what was publicly known in July 2002.

Of course, the editorial writers might at least have pointed out that, before March 2003, the Post editorial page, now so eager to tell us that we knew it all then, was generally beating the drums for war. If they knew it all then, they evidently couldn't have cared less that the administration's"prewar deliberations" bore remarkably little relationship to its prewar statements and claims. Nor did they bother to repeat another boringly obvious point -- that the best of the Post's reporting on the subject of the administration's prewar deliberations from journalists like Walter Pincus had, in those prewar days, generally been consigned to the inside pages of the paper, while the administration's bogus claims about Iraq (which, they now imply, they knew perfectly well were bogus) were regularly front-paged.

Let's just add that if Post editorialists and Times journalists can't tell the difference between scattered, generally anonymously sourced, pre-war reports that told us of early Bush administration preparations for war and actual documents on the same subject emerging from the highest reaches of the British government, from the highest intelligence figure in that government who had just met with some of the highest figures in the U.S. government, and was immediately reporting back to what, in essence, was a"war cabinet" -- well, what can you say? To return to the Pentagon Papers and Watergate affairs, long before news on the Papers was broken in 1971 by the Times, you could certainly have pieced together -- as many did -– much about the nature of American war planning in Vietnam, just as long before the Watergate affair became recognizably itself (only months after the 1972 election), you could have read the lonely Woodstein pieces in the Post (and scattered pieces elsewhere) and had a reasonable sense of where the Nixon administration was going. But material from the horse's mouth, so to speak, directly from Pentagon documents or from Deep Throat himself, that was a very different matter, as is true with the Downing Street memos.

Let Sunday Times reporter Michael Smith -- by his own admission, a British conservative and a supporter of the invasion of Iraq -- explain this, as he did in a recent on-line chat at the Washington Post website, with a bluntness inconceivable for an American reporter considering the subject:

"It is one thing for the New York Times or The Washington Post to say that we were being told that the intelligence was being fixed by sources inside the CIA or Pentagon or the NSC and quite another to have documentary confirmation in the form of the minutes of a key meeting with the Prime Minister's office. Think of it this way, all the key players were there. This was the equivalent of an NSC [National Security Council] meeting, with the President, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Condi Rice, George Tenet, and Tommy Franks all there. They say the evidence against Saddam Hussein is thin, the Brits think regime change is illegal under international law so we are going to have to go to the U.N. to get an ultimatum, not as a way of averting war but as an excuse to make the war legal, and oh by the way we aren't preparing for what happens after and no-one has the faintest idea what Iraq will be like after a war. Not reportable, are you kidding me?"

Similarly, on the line in the initial Downing Street memo that has been much hemmed and hawed about here --"But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." -- he has this to say:

"There are number of people asking about fixed and its meaning. This is a real joke. I do not know anyone in the UK who took it to mean anything other than fixed as in fixed a race, fixed an election, fixed the intelligence. If you fix something, you make it the way you want it. The intelligence was fixed and as for the reports that said this was one British official. Pleeeaaassee! This was the head of MI6 [the British equivalent of the CIA]. How much authority do you want the man to have? He has just been to Washington, he has just talked to [CIA director] George Tenet. He said the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

But does all of this even qualify as a news story today? For that you need a tad of context, so here in full is the President's response when, at a recent news conference with Tony Blair, he was asked about that facts-being-"fixed" reference in the Downing Street memo:

"PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, I -- you know, I read kind of the characterizations of the memo, particularly when they dropped it out in the middle of [Tony Blair's election] race. I'm not sure who"they dropped it out" is, but -- I'm not suggesting that you all dropped it out there. (Laughter.) And somebody said, well, you know, we had made up our mind to go to use military force to deal with Saddam. There's nothing farther from the truth.

"My conversation with the Prime Minister was, how could we do this peacefully, what could we do. And this meeting, evidently, that took place in London happened before we even went to the United Nations -- or I went to the United Nations. And so it's -- look, both us of didn't want to use our military. Nobody wants to commit military into combat. It's the last option. The consequences of committing the military are -- are very difficult. The hardest things I do as the President is to try to comfort families who've lost a loved one in combat. It's the last option that the President must have -- and it's the last option I know my friend had, as well.

"And so we worked hard to see if we could figure out how to do this peacefully, take a -- put a united front up to Saddam Hussein, and say, the world speaks, and he ignored the world. Remember, 1441 passed the Security Council unanimously. He made the decision. And the world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power."

So even today, our President gets up and, in response to these memos, denies that he or Tony Blair made a decision to go to war until the last second ("There's nothing farther from the truth."), something our papers are now saying we all knew wasn't so back when. So he lied then, and he lies today on this matter, and somehow this isn't considered a news story because somewhere, sometime, some reporters on some major papers actually published pieces contradicting him before the Downing Street documents themselves were written? The logic is fascinating. It is also shameful.

As ever, to hear this discussed in a blunt fashion, you have to repair to the Internet, where, at Salon, for instance, you can read Juan Cole writing in The Revenge of Baghdad Bob:

"Bush is trying to give the impression that his going to the United Nations showed his administration's good faith in trying to disarm Saddam by peaceful means. It does nothing of the sort. In fact, the memo contains key evidence that the entire U.N. strategy was a ploy, dreamed up by the British, to justify a war that Bush had decided to wage long ago... The docile White House press corps, which until the press conference had never asked the president about the Downing Street memo, predictably neglected to press Bush and Blair on those issues, allowing them to get away with mere obfuscation and meaningless non-answers."

I swear, if the American equivalents of the Downing Street memos were to leak (as they will sooner or later), there would be stories all over the world, while our papers would be saying: No news there; we knew it all along. So how have the various memos defied a mainstream media consensus and over these weeks risen, almost despite themselves, into the news, made their way into Congress, onto television, into consciousness?

Well, for one thing, the political Internet simply wouldn't stop yammering about them. Long before they were discussed in print, they were already up and being analyzed at sites like the War in Context and Antiwar.com. So credit the blogosphere with this one, at least in part. But let's not create too heroic a tale of the Internet's influence to match the now vastly overblown tale of the role of the press in the Watergate affair. Part of the answer also involves a shift in the wind -- the wind being, in the case of politics, falling polling figures for the President and Congress. Can't you feel it? The Bush administration seems somehow to be weakening.

The mainstream media can feel it, too, and weakness is irresistible. Before we're done, if we're not careful, we'll have a heroic tale of how the media saved us all from the Bush administration.

Sadly, the overall story of American press coverage of this administration and its Iraqi war has been a sorry one indeed, though there are distinct exceptions, one of which has been the work done by the Knight Ridder news service. Its reporters in Washington -- Warren Strobel, John Wolcott, and Jonathan Landay among others -- seemed remarkably uncowed by the Bush administration at a time when others were treading lightly indeed. Even now, compare Strobel's recent piece published under the very un-American sounding headline British documents portray determined U.S. march to war with the reporting norm. It begins:"Highly classified documents leaked in Britain appear to provide new evidence that President Bush and his national security team decided to invade Iraq much earlier than they have acknowledged and marched to war without dwelling on the potential perils." As it happens, Knight Ridder doesn't have a flagship paper among the majors that would have highlighted its fine reporting, and so its work was essentially buried.

About a month ago, to accompany a forceful analysis by Mark Danner (posted on May 15 at Tomdispatch), the New York Review of Books would become the first publication in this country to put the initial Downing Street memo in print (a striking act for a"review of books" and an indication of just how our major papers have let us down). Recently, John Wolcott of Knight Ridder wrote Danner a brief response and in the July 14th issue of the Review, Danner, who has been on fire this year, considers what to make of the strange media coverage of the memo in this country and why it is important.

Why the Memo Matters

By Mark Danner

On May 16th, the New York Review of Books put the original Downing Street memo in print in this country for the first time. Mark Danner wrote the accompanying analysis,"The Secret Way to War." In response to that piece, John Walcott of Knight Ridder news service wrote a brief letter and Danner, in answering, has now taken the opportunity to return to the significance of the Downing Street memo and the press coverage of it. This exchange will appear in the July 14th issue of the NYR, on newsstands June 20th.

To the Editors:

Mark Danner's excellent article on the Bush administration's path to war in Iraq [The Secret Way to War, NYR, June 9] missed a couple of important signposts.

On October 11, 2001, Knight Ridder reported that less than a month after the September 11 attacks senior Pentagon officials who wanted to expand the war against terrorism to Iraq had authorized a trip to Great Britain in September by former CIA director James Woolsey in search of evidence that Saddam Hussein had played a role in the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Then, on February 13, 2002, nearly six months before the Downing Street memo was written, Knight Ridder reported that President Bush had decided to oust Saddam Hussein and had ordered the CIA, the Pentagon, and other agencies to devise a combination of military, diplomatic, and covert steps to achieve that goal. Six days later, former Senator Bob Graham of Florida reports in his book, he was astounded when General Tommy Franks told him during a visit to the US Central Command in Tampa that the administration was shifting resources away from the pursuit of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan to prepare for war in Iraq.

John Walcott
Washington Bureau Chief
Knight Ridder

John Walcott is proud of his bureau's reporting, and he should be. As my colleague Michael Massing has written in the pages of the New York Review of Books, during the lead-up to the Iraq war Knight Ridder reporters had an enviable and unexampled record of independence and success. But Mr. Walcott's statement that in my article"The Secret Way to War" I"missed a couple of important signposts" brings up an obvious question: Signposts on the way to what? What exactly does the Downing Street memo (which is simply an official account of a British security cabinet meeting in July 2002) and related documents that have since appeared, prove? And why has the American press in large part still resisted acknowledging the story the documents tell?

As I wrote in my article,

"The great value of the discussion recounted in the memo...is to show, for the governments of both countries, a clear hierarchy of decision-making. By July 2002 at the latest, war had been decided on; the question at issue now was how to justify it -- how to ‘fix,' as it were, what Blair will later call ‘the political context.' Specifically, though by this point in July the President had decided to go to war, he had not yet decided to go to the United Nations and demand inspectors; indeed, as ‘C' [the chief of MI6, the British equivalent of the CIA] points out, those on the National Security Council -- the senior security officials of the U.S. government – ‘had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record.' This would later change, largely as a result of the political concerns of these very people gathered together at 10 Downing Street."

Those"political concerns" centered on the fact that, as British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw points out,"the case [for going to war] was thin" since, as the Attorney General points out,"the desire for regime change [in Iraq] was not a legal base for military action." In order to secure such a legal base, the British officials agree, the allies must contrive to win the approval of the United Nations Security Council, and the Foreign Secretary puts forward a way to do that:"We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors." Prime Minister Tony Blair makes very clear the point of such an ultimatum:"It would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the inspectors."

On February 13, 2002 -- five months before this British cabinet meeting, and thirteen months before the war began -- the second of the articles Mr. Walcott mentions had appeared, under his and Walter P. Strobel's byline and the stark headline Bush Has Decided to Overthrow Hussein. The article concludes this way:

"Many nations...can be expected to question the legality of the United States unilaterally removing another country's government, no matter how distasteful. But a senior State Department official, while unable to provide the precise legal authority for such a move, said, ‘It's not hard to make the case that Iraq is a threat to international peace and security.'... A diplomatic offensive aimed at generating international support for overthrowing Saddam's regime is likely to precede any attack on Iraq...

"The United States, perhaps with UN backing, is then expected to demand that Saddam readmit inspectors to root out Iraq's chemical, biological, nuclear and missile programs... If Baghdad refuses to readmit inspectors or if Saddam prevents them from carrying out their work, as he has in the past, Bush would have a pretext for action."

Thus the stratagem that the British would successfully urge on their American allies by late that summer was already under discussion within the State Department -- five months before the Downing Street meeting in July 2002, and more than a year before the war began.

Again, what does all this prove? From the point of view of"the senior State Department official," no doubt, such an admission leaked to a Knight Ridder reporter was an opening public salvo in the bureaucratic struggle that reached a climax that August, when President Bush finally accepted the argument of his secretary of state, and his British allies, and went"the United Nations route." Just in the way that unnoticed but prophetic intelligence concealed in a wealth of" chatter" is outlined brightly by future events, this leak now seems like a clear prophetic disclosure about what was to come, having been confirmed by what did in fact happen. But the Downing Street memo makes clear that at the time the"senior State Department official" spoke to the Knight Ridder reporters the strategy had not yet been decided. The memo, moreover, is not an anonymous statement to reporters but a record of what Britain's highest security officials actually said. It tells us much about how the decision was made, and shows decisively that, as I wrote in my article,"the idea of UN inspectors was introduced not as a means to avoid war, as President Bush repeatedly assured Americans, but as a means to make war possible."

The Knight Ridder pieces bring up a larger issue. It is a source of some irony that one of the obstacles to gaining recognition for the Downing Street memo in the American press has been the largely unspoken notion among reporters and editors that the story the memo tells is"nothing new." I say irony because we see in this an odd and familiar narrative from our current world of"frozen scandal" -- so-called scandals, that is, in which we have revelation but not a true investigation or punishment: scandals we are forced to live with. A story is told the first time but hardly acknowledged (as with the Knight Ridder piece), largely because the broader story the government is telling drowns it out. When the story is later confirmed by official documents, in this case the Downing Street memorandum, the documents are largely dismissed because they contain"nothing new."

Part of this comes down to the question of what, in our current political and journalistic world, constitutes a"fact." How do we actually prove the truth of a story, such as the rather obvious one that, as the Knight Ridder headline had it,"Bush has decided to overthrow Hussein" many months before the war and the congressional resolution authorizing it, despite the President's protestations that"no decision had been made"? How would one prove the truth of the story that fully eight months before the invasion of Iraq, as the head of British intelligence reports to his prime minister and his cabinet colleagues upon his return from Washington in July 2002,"the facts and the intelligence were being fixed around the policy"? Michael Kinsley, in a recent article largely dismissing the Downing Street memo, remarks about this sentence:

"Of course, if ‘intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy,' rather than vice versa, that is pretty good evidence of Bush's intentions, as well as a scandal in its own right. And we know now that was true and a half. Fixing intelligence and facts to fit a desired policy is the Bush II governing style, especially concerning the war in Iraq. But C offered no specifics, or none that made it into the memo. Nor does the memo assert that actual decision makers had told him they were fixing the facts."

Consider for a moment this paragraph, which strikes me as a perfect little poem on our current political and journalistic state. Kinsley accepts as"true and a half" that"the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy" -- that is, after all,"the Bush II governing style" -- but rejects the notion that the Downing Street memo actually proves this, since, presumably, the head of British intelligence"does [not] assert that actual decision makers had told him they were fixing the facts." Kinsley does not say from whom he thinks the chief of British intelligence, in reporting to his prime minister"on his recent talks in Washington," might have derived that information, if not"actual decision makers." (In fact, as the London Sunday Times reported, among the people he saw was his American counterpart, director of central intelligence George Tenet.) Kinsley does say that if the point, which he accepts as true -- indeed, almost blithely dismissing all who might doubt it -- could in fact be proved, it would be"pretty good evidence of Bush's intentions, as well as a scandal in its own right."

One might ask what would convince this writer, and many others, of the truth of what, apparently, they already know, and accept, and acknowledge that they know and accept. What could be said to establish"truth" -- to"prove it"? Perhaps a true congressional investigation of the way the administration used intelligence before the war -- an investigation of the kind that, as I wrote in my article, was promised by the Senate Intelligence Committee, then thoughtfully postponed until after the election -- though one might think the question might have had some relevance to Americans in deciding for whom to vote -- then finally, and quietly, abandoned. Instead, the Senate committee produced a report that, while powerfully damning on its own terms, explicitly excluded the critical question of how administration officials made use of the intelligence that was supplied them.

Still, Kinsley's column, and the cynical and impotent attitude it represents, suggests that such an investigation, if it occurred, might still not be adequate to make a publicly acceptable fact out of what everyone now knows and accepts. The column bears the perfect headline,"No Smoking Gun," which suggests that failing the discovery of a tape recording in which President Bush is quoted explicitly ordering George Tenet that he should"fix the intelligence and facts around the policy," many will never regard the case as proved -- though all the while accepting, of course, and admitting that they accept, that this is indeed what happened. The so-called"rules of objective journalism" dovetail with the disciplined functioning of a one-party government to keep the political debate willfully opaque and stupid.

So: if the excellent Knight Ridder articles by Mr. Walcott and his colleagues do indeed represent"signposts," then signposts on the way to what? American citizens find themselves on a very peculiar road, stumbling blindly through a dark wood. Having had before the war rather clear evidence that the Bush administration had decided to go to war even as it was claiming it was trying to avert war, we are now confronted with an escalating series of"disclosures" proving that the original story, despite the broad unwillingness to accept it, was in fact true.

Many in Congress, including many leading Democrats who voted to give the President the authority to go to war -- fearing the political consequences of opposing him -- and thus welcomed his soothing arguments that such a vote would enable him to avoid war rather than to undertake it, now find themselves in an especially difficult position, claiming, as Senator John Kerry did during the presidential campaign, that they were"misled" into supporting a war that they believed they were voting to help prevent. This argument is embarrassingly thin but it remains morally incriminating enough to go on confusing and corrupting a nascent public debate on Iraq that is sure to become more difficult and painful.

Whether or not the Downing Street memo could be called a"smoking gun," it has long since become clear that the UN inspections policy that, given time, could in fact have prevented war -- by revealing, as it eventually would have, that Saddam had no threatening stockpiles of"weapons of mass destruction" -- was used by the administration as a pretext: a means to persuade the country to begin a war that need never have been fought. It was an exceedingly clever pretext, for every action preparing for war could by definition be construed to be an action intended to avert it -- as necessary to convince Saddam that war was imminent. According to this rhetorical stratagem, the actions, whether preparing to wage war or seeking to avert it, merge, become indistinguishable. Failing the emergence of a time-stamped recording of President Bush declaring,"I have today decided to go to war with Saddam and all this inspection stuff is rubbish," we are unlikely to recover the kind of"smoking gun" that Kinsley and others seem to demand.

Failing that, the most reliable way to distinguish the true intentions of Bush and his officials is by looking at what they actually did, and the fact is that, despite the protestations of many in the United Nations and throughout the world, they refused to let the inspections run their course. What is more, the arguments of the President and others in his administration retrospectively justifying the war after the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq -- stressing that Saddam would always have been a threat because he could have"reconstituted" his weapons programs -- make a mockery of the proposition that the administration would have been willing to leave him in power, even if the inspectors had been allowed sufficient time to prove before the war, as their colleagues did after it, that no weapons existed in Iraq.

We might believe that we are past such matters now. Alas, as Americans go on dying in Iraq and their fellow citizens grow ever more impatient with the war, the story of its beginning, clouded with propaganda and controversy as it is, will become more important, not less. Consider the strong warning put forward in a recently released British Cabinet document dated two days before the Downing Street memo (and eight months before the war), that"the military occupation of Iraq could lead to a protracted and costly nation-building exercise." On this point, as the British document prophetically observes,"US military plans are virtually silent." So too were America's leaders, and we live with the consequences of that silence. As support for the war collapses, the cost will become clear: for most citizens, 1,700 American dead later -- tens of thousands of Iraqi dead later -- the war's beginning remains as murky and indistinct as its ending.


Copyright 2005 Mark Danner


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Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007


While I am certainly not unsympathetic to the desire, evident in this article, to get to the bottom of the Bush administration's manifest ineptitude and malfeasance with regard to Iraq, it is ahistorical and not very useful to try to argue that G.W. Bush "decided" to go to war early on, e.g. spring or summer of 2002.

The administration had fairly clearly decided, at a foolishly early stage, to TRY to find a pretext for invading Iraq, but that is something quite different. Suppose, for example,that Saddam had resigned all powers in late 2002 or early 2003 (given his irrationality and unpredictability, not an impossible counterfactual scenario). Surely then the war hawks would have drastically revised the military scheming discussed here.

If there is a smoking gun in these new revelations, the circling vapors don't rise very high. The really decisive moment in the sordid Baghdad cakewalk saga came when the Congress, including many spineless Democrats, authorized the reckless blank check giving the incompetent Bushies full powers to blunder our country into a massive mess. The Vietnam analogy, however, as I have pointed out before, deserves -with few exceptions- to be fully and probably permanently discarded. THAT was a vastly different sort of mess.


Bill Heuisler - 6/27/2005

Derek,
See what I mean? You can't string thoughts together to reach a discernible conclusion on your own so you say it isn't so because nobody has prosecuted Durbin. Kennedy didn't let Kopechne drown because nobody prosecuted him?
Mugabe's not a murderer because nobody prosecutes?

Other attempts at logical thought betray you: how will we know if the Durbin comparisons cause another car bomb? Unless we can psychoanalyse people we don't know exist, about motives we aren't sure they share, there's no way we can collect the evidence you say we lack. But you base a response on the lack of said unattainable evidence. Why?
Could it be because you have no argument, just an opinion?

Using your logic, there'd be no postulated reality, no intuitive conclusions and the stars would hang just out of reach like fairies eyes because noone has actually seen other than their light. In Derek's little world scientists' are just guessing at things beyond the microscope and doctors are not killing viruses they can't see. Durbin confirmed Al Jazeera and OBL's words. Men will die because those words will incite. It's simple.

Spending an inordinate amount of time researching me may be symptomatic of an obsession. The fact that my life has risen so far above your homely standards has little to do with whether Durbin is a traitor. The fact you so eagerly try to injure with petty jealousies and needy comparisons reveals your insecurity and shows your immaturity.

And you threaten me too? How embarrassingly desperate you must be. You will expose my so called plagerism on your blog? Please do so. But do it here on the real HNN also so more than a dozen people will read the questioned words and realize how hollow and petty you are.

If you can't discuss Durbin vs Article III, Section 3 then why do you expose yourself so grotesquely?
Bill Heuisler



N. Friedman - 6/27/2005

Michael

The main cause of the thought is the religion itself as the religion itself calls for Jihad to conquer the world. that coupled with the withdraw of the colonial powers, the demise of the USSR, changes in technology (e.g. the Internet), the shrinking of the globe, so to speak, and massive immigration outside of the Muslim regions makes Jihad a realistic possibility.

From a related but slightly different angle: with the withdraw of the colonial powers, traditional Islam became one of a number of avenues "forward" for the Muslim regions, now "freed" of European domination. At present - and likely until the ideology is shown to be a dead end to the vast majority of Muslims - it is one of the most powerful forces in the Muslim regions and is likely to remain so for generations, if not longer.

Which is to say, I do not think that we can speak about addressing causes in the sense you appear to have in mind. We can, instead, speak of showing Muslims that Islamism is not always the answer (countering the saying in the Muslim regions that "Islam is the answer" to whatever the question is). But that requires a force and a counter-ideology as Jihad is a very, very powerful force with a long track record of success.

In other words, I think all the talk about addressing grievances and the like is simply based on a misunderstanding of what is going on.


Derek Charles Catsam - 6/27/2005

Bill --
It wasn't alleged stolen words. It was clear plagiarism, lifting paragraphs word for word, which is why your superior tone is a joke. You are the first to resort to ad hominem and the first to feign hurt when someone comes after you. But it is not ad hminem if it is true. You stole someone else's words, and like being a chiild molester or a traitor, that never enters the past tense.
Your ideological little rants are sound anf fury but based on little empirical foundation. You talkj about lies that Durbin told without presenting any intentional errors of fact. How odd. Not surprising, mind you, but odd. You talk abotu aid and comfort to the enemy without showing any evidence whatsoever that his words did those things.You simpy, assert it based on what, Bill? You rampant successes in what particular endeavor give you this authority? You talk as if uyoiu make these brilliant arguments, yet you do not. If Durbin is guilty of treason, why has not a singe prominent prosecutor come to the case? because it is such nonsense that they would be laughed out of first year law school for making such an outrageous charge, never mind a court room.
Meanwhile you write from your home in Tucson, and yet somehow where I write my words is relevant? My little classroom? No, actually, my office at Oxford University. I realize that you are the great American hero and that we all must bow to your experiences because without your brass balls we wouldn't have won . . . we wouldn't have won . . . well, what would we not have won? And I am sure you have experienced much worse than what the folks in our detainment centers have experienced. No doubt. Because like Zelig, if it has occurred in a military setting, you can talk about it. Bull. Five people have died in American custody. There are awful stroies that are coming out daily. One can both oppose what has happened to the detainment camps and oppose Durbin's words. It is not a zero sum game. And believe it or not, people can honestly disagree about Durbin's wprds. there are no honest disagreements with you though, Bill. There never have been.
For all of your purported expertise, you are a blowhard. I am glad that you think my blog is boring, except here is the problem angry Bill, I have at least three articles right here on HNN after which your comments were among the first telling me what a wonderful writer I am. Shall I cite them? I can couple it with the Bill plagiarism fest if everyone would like. Hey -- I can feature it in a blog entry. Given this I do not need to hear your silly and groundless dismissals of my writing. I see from a biography that a Tucson newspaper wrote during your last failed election campaign (the only kind you have ever run) that you have written four unpublished books and that you run a literary agency. How does one possibly run a literary agency who cannot even get his own work published? How does one possibly judge someone else's writing who has books sitting in a vault and yet thinks he can run a literary agency? Astounding.

dc


Michael Barnes Thomin - 6/27/2005

Mr. Friedman,
I agree with you that they are not a fringe group. My point was they are not a fringe group because of all the ingredients I gave for radical thought to spread. If you want to stop the support, then address what causes it in the first place.


N. Friedman - 6/27/2005

Michael,

My only point was and is that the Islamists are not a fringe group in the Muslim regions while the KKK and Aryan Brotherhood are a fringe group in the US.


E. Simon - 6/27/2005

don't forget the essential elements of demonstrating culpability in a crime: means, motive, opportunity. you honestly think this guy's motive was to "help" terrorists (in the most ambiguous way possible, he helped them _feel_ inadvertently better about what they were doing comparitively, awww) instead of the 1000% more likely motive of doing what he saw as his legitimate job in providing a check against possible breaches by a co-equal branch of government? you really would have to be crazy to think that, no offense.


E. Simon - 6/27/2005

when you say "aid" do you mean the kind of material aid that might be actually consistent with U.S. legal norms or merely the "thought crime" of saying publicly anything critical about how prisoners were handled in U.S. custody? so I gather you think terrorists might find such statements good for their propaganda or even for their larger cause, just as they did airplanes. do we also now accuse Boeing of aiding terrorists because of how their works were used? if you want to go outside material aid i think you have to go to the broad category of conspiracy and i really am not looking forward to seeing anyone attempt to paint Durbin as somehow involved in coordinating a conspiracy w/al Qaeda. sorry man, but you're really losing credibility on this one.


Bill Heuisler - 6/27/2005

Mr. Simon,
You say, "The only thing I will say is the guy is certainly NOT a "traitor." Okay. I'll bite. Why not? He gave aid to enemy propogandists with falsehoods and he gave comfort to suicide bombers and their families.

He has admitted using the "historical parallels" so what he said - and why - is not really in dispute. The only question is, how many of our friends, brothers, sons and fathers will die because Durbin wanted to score political points and compared prison conditions in Gitmo where nobody has died and prisoners are getting fat to Pol Pot's Killing Fields?
Bill Heuisler


Bill Heuisler - 6/27/2005

Derek,
So, we're back to the so-called "stolen" words. Pathetic. Are you aware that the only way you can even try to compete in discussions of nearly anything is to decend to insults (or whines) in the second or third exchange?

Are you also aware that your opinions are only common human thought, and are not handed down by a higher Being?
You wrote, "Durbin did not say what people have said that he did,..." Now that's chutzpah. A hint: Your opinion of what the Senator said is far outweighed by direct quotes.

After all your degrees you'd think you would've learned how to sort out similar and dissimilar facts in order to argue what ever it is you are trying to say. You defend Kennedy's comment about back-alley abortions to Bork, you defend Kennedy's comments about Clarence Thomas' minority-preference education...when you can't even remember what you're talking about - can't remember they were lies.

But you can't remember what we're discussing, can you?

Let me give you a another little lesson in semantics and dialectics. We're arguing about whether Durbin aided or comforted the enemy. A salient question is whether his senate speech hurt the morale of our troops. An obvious point is that he knowingly lied. Two positions and three different questioned acts. You managed to fill a page with blather and didn't address any of the above.

I'll help. Durbin admitted he misused parallels. Durbin confirmed enemy propoganda. Marines are killed often by fanatics who listen to mullahs and Al Jazeera repeating a US Senator's lies. Not to burst your academic bubble, but not one Canadian died because of remarks, nor a Liberal a Feminist or any other of your fuzzy, irrelevant examples even broke a fingernail. But some Americans will probably die because of Durbin's inciting the enemy by saying we're torturing prisoners in Gitmo.

And you continued to babble: "My argument is that Durbin was opposing acts that bring shame to the US, that he did not explicitly compare the US to Nazis and that the right is selective in their sense of outrage. My argument is that Durbin was more right than wrong..."

He did compare our troops to Nazis. He admitted it. Can't you read either? Durbin right? Chaining criminals and turning up their air conditioning does not "bring shame to the US". Our troops suffer far worse - I've suffered worse - in simple basic training. But you wring your hands about hardship for criminals and killers from a safe little classroom and don't give a damn that men will die because of Durbin's - and your - phony, ignorant angst about killers.

I grew tired of your personal attacks and petty lectures on your boring blog. In the future, engage me with ideas.
Throwing spitballs is a waste of my time and exhibits much more about your so-called professionalism than you realize. Grow up and learn how adults can interact.
Bill Heuisler


Michael Barnes Thomin - 6/27/2005

Mr. Friedman,
I had no intentions whatsoever of suggesting the KKK and Aryan Brotherhood were the same as Islamists (although both share a common hate towards Jews and the U.S. government). I thought that that was clear, but perhaps I should have explained it in more detail. I merely meant to show that even extreme beliefs do exist in a society that is very well off, and those were the two examples I thought most people on hnn would recognize. Nevertheless, even though these fanatics, who do in fact call for violence, exist in this country they have a very sparse following (http://cbs11tv.com/investigations/local_story_330180036.html). I suspect that this is because most Americans do not have a reason to follow them, i.e., the majority of the population enjoys good living standards on average, their government does not oppress them, and their are mechanisms woven into the fabric of law that enables them to create change politically without violence. Countries that do not have these, however, appear to me to have a much larger portion of the population that are supportive of radical beliefs or systems.

Regards


N. Friedman - 6/27/2005

Michael,

I do not think the KKK and Aryan Brotherhood are akin to the Islamists. Such groups are fringe groups while the Islamists are, in reality, those who believe in classical Islam as the religion was before the colonial period.

In short, in the end, those with views akin to the Islamists are the vast majority of Muslims. So, I think your model is wrong. Which is not to suggest that the majority are involved in violence but instead that the views of the majority and the violent groups are pretty much the same. And, in the end, the Islamist philosophy itself breeds violence as it posits the actual conquest of the world.




John Henry Haas - 6/26/2005

9) Each war is susceptible not so much to a left-leaning anti-war movement, but to the disillusion and distrust it engenders among basically middle-American garden-variety conservatives, who believe strongly that military force should be applied (overwhelmingly) against enemies that are directly and clearly threatening the US, but who have less enthusiasm for shadowy wars about "credibility" and less trust that if we stop fighting them over there they'll come here. They believe in a hand-up, but not hand-outs, and at a certain point they want to see the people we're helping stand up for themselves. Their essential conservatism will lead them to reject nation-building for the same reasons they rejected much of LBJ's Great Society. And their pro-military sentiments will turn from supporting the war effort to wanting to protect the troops from what may come to seem like an increasingly incompetent, wasteful and insufficiently conscientious federal government. Hence, Congressman Jones of NC.


Michael Barnes Thomin - 6/26/2005

Mr. Friedman,
Good points and I appreciate the source you provided. In fact, I actually agree with his analysis, as you may recall, quite sometime ago I brought up the question and attempted to answer it, "Of course, I am by no way suggesting that there is no unreasonable hate towards the United States. That is quite apparent and any rationale being can make that connection. The question is not about whether there are cells of extremists who wish the complete destruction of the U.S., but rather the question is how do they find so many recruits?" (http://hnn.us/readcomment.php?id=41505#41505). I agree, the extremist fringe such as OBL or Zarqawi do not want to compromise at all, and moreover, they are a threat to what I and many others believe in (basically the ideals laid out in the Constitution). I disagree, however, that the way to destroy the Jihad factory is by, in some cases, invading countries and insulting our allies. In fact, I think that this only adds more legitimacy to these bastards in the eyes of Moslems around the globe and gets them more support. I have used the historical analogy of Hitler’s rise to power in some of my posts as a guide on what really promotes radical thought in societies, namely poor living conditions, lack of employment, humiliation, decayed infrastructure, etc. With these conditions in Germany the blame was, quite accurately, placed on the results of the peace treaty, but this was taken by a radical group and then shifted on the Jews who became the ultimate scape-goats. When people are desperate they tend to look for relief anywhere they can get it.

There is not much we can do when it comes to destroying the extreme beliefs of a minority of people(Aryan Brotherhood or the KKK are still here in the most free and richest country in the world) but what we can do, however, is discover how they get so many recruits and why certain societies tolerate them. As I have mentioned before, in my opinion, I think the biggest recruiting tool for these thugs is our own policies and the corrupt and oppressive regimes that we sometimes chose to support. Nonetheless, I think Phares is right that we need to attack the root of the Jihad factory, but I fear that we are really only trimming its branches, yet at the same time its seeds fall to the ground and will eventually become an entire new tree of radical and brutal action.

Regards


John Henry Haas - 6/26/2005

Is it true that, as Mr. Clarke says, "The Vietnam analogy. . .deserves. . .to be fully and probably permanently discarded"? Certainly historians, while urging caution and care about finding analogies in any part of the past to any part of the present, should balance that caution with an openness to learning from the past. If we can learn from the past, it is only because the past is in some way relevant to what we need to know, and that implies that there may, indeed, be analogous aspects between the two wars in question.

For example, to broaden the scope, if there are anaolgies that can be drawn between the Nazi threat in the 1930s and Saddam Hussein, or Pearl Harbor and 9/11, then there are also points of similarity that might be explored between the way we got into Iraq and the Spanish-American War (a demonized enemy, humanitarian motives, an inciting attack, the press, the economy, the up-coming election). Similarly, promises made prior to the Iraq war about our "being greeted as liberators" echo similar predictions prior to the Mexican-American War, the Philippine War, and the Bay of Pigs invasion. Historians have drawn potentially useful lessons for the post-war from the Northern experience of Reconstructing the South after our Civil War, the Phillipine War again, also, of course, Vietnam. No one sees history repeating itself, only, in limited ways that need careful exploration, rhyming. In part that is because while Iraq isn't Vietnam, the US remains the US, with a persistent if not ineluctably determined set of values, expectations, and strengths as well as weaknesses.

So, in the spirit of heuristics, might we advance in no particular order some topics that may embody analogies between Iraq and Vietnam?

1) Presidential/political concerns and the details of war-making.

2) The attempt at nation-building.

3) The reliance upon previous exiles for political leadership in each nation.

4) The refusal on the part of US leadership to engage in "total war," ie to seriously mobilize the nation for the effort.

5) The paradoxical attempt to grow an independent security force capable of acting efficiently with minimal US help, but doing so under the shadow of a far more efficient and powerful US armed presence.

6) US sponsorship, influence upon, and interference of/over/in indigenous political developments.

7) The asymetry not only of capabilities and tactics, but of the perceived necessity of the war, and the consequences of failure, vis a vis the US and the enemy.

8) Expectations and patience of US population regarding a war.

Perhaps thos might be useful for discussion?


Derek Charles Catsam - 6/26/2005

Name one, eh? This is the typical Bill parlor game -- name one person, I'll name that person, and then you'll say "name seven more." But ok -- July 8, 2003, 12:30 am you assert that Ann Coulter is right that liberalism is tantamount to treason. At 7:14 pm that day you say that Kennedy is guilty of treason (or that Coulter is right in calling Kennedy guilty of treason). In fact, you assert throughout that Ann Coulter's book is right -- the very title of her book is that Liberals are guilty of treason. On March 9 of this year you claim that the anti-war left "clothes treason as pacifism." So name one person? Me. Liberals. The entire pacifist left (of which I am not a member). You don't waste your time with just individuals, but rather entire groups. So you toss "treason" around rather liberally. Indeed, you impugn entire groups of people who do not agree with you of that.

And of course presumably a traitor is guilty of treason, in which case we have several more examples, but it is a parlor game at this point.

We who disagree with you counter you with facts and arguments all the time. (Fact -- a lecture refers to the spoken word presented before an argument). You disagree with them, that's fine. Durbin made an ill-advised comment. He did not do what his critics say he did. That he was browbeaten into an apology is no matter.

Meanwhile, of course, in the days after this an American writing in a conservative American source compared the Canadian health care system to a gulag, to communism and to totalitarianism --nary a peep. Of greater significance, Karl Rove spread calumnies about all liberals. Again, nary a peep. Limbaugh compared all feminists with Nazis. That's a whole hell of a lot more people offended, hurt, lied about than any of your examples, some of which were even legitimate, or at least fair -- like opposing Thomas or Bork. There were no lies told there, no comparisons with Nazis that you allegedly oppose and yet now seem to defend with Limbaugh.

I am of a simple mind -- the Nazi, Communist, Stalinist and other comparisons are odious and wrong. Durbin did not say what people have said that he did, but nonetheless it was at best ill-chosen. It was not treason. Then again, neither is liberalism, pacifism, or JFK's missteps.

Meanwhile, men who have stolen entire paragraphs of articles by folks writing for major magazines and presented them as their own have a helluva nerve claiming anyone has a helluva nerve about anything, especially when it comes to construction of arguments, which, though it might not meet yours (or should I say Rich Lowry's?) rarefied standards, seem to be reasonable effective. My argument is that Durbin was opposing acts that bring shame to the US, that he did not explicitly compare the US to Nazis and that the right is selective in their sense of outrage. My argument is that Durbin was more right than wrong because the substance of his argument was about things we ought not to be doing. My argument is that missing that point in order to emphasize the ancillary shows that the right is good at feigning being insulted while at the same time blurting out the most outrageous and offensive insults imaginable. But then again, it's been only within the last week or so that you accused someone who was not of being a Marxist, so perhaps I am writing to the wrong person.

dc


N. Friedman - 6/26/2005

Michael,

I do not quite buy into the Iraq war for unrelated reasons. However, I note what Walid Phares - another first rate scholar, by the way - said regarding the Iraq War:

Kerry’s teams have called the War in Iraq a diversion from the War on Terrorism. But what is the War on Terrorism? Is it just to find cells in Tora Bora and elsewhere and bring them to justice? Or is it a wider campaign to find and destroy the factory that produces the cells? My question to the advisors is simple: What is the War on Terrorism? You must first explain the global War on Terror so that you can argue that Iraq was and is a "diversion" from your better plan? There is none.

So, it boils down to this equation: Bush teams had a plan, which can be discussed and argued with and against. The fact is Kerry has no plans, except to attack Bush's decision to go to Iraq. In deeper analysis, Kerry's argument that Iraq is a diversion from the War on Terror is a greater diversion from the real War on the Factory of Jihad. In my sense, there were five doors to open after Tora Bora. Bush opened one. He could have also opened others. But Kerry and the critics didn't want to open any door at all.


http://www.walidphares.com/artman/publish/article_451.shtml

I do not know if Phares is correct about Iraq. I do know that he is correct in arguing that there is no defeat to the Jihad without, as he says, destroying the Jihad factory and that certainly means something very different from limiting the war to Afghanistan or even staying deeply involved in Afghanistan until that country is fully secure. And, I think what he says about getting at the factory of Jihad is rather akin to what I say about creating a counter-ideology.



N. Friedman - 6/26/2005

Michael,

I do not quite buy into the Iraq war for unrelated reasons. However, I note what Walid Phares - another first rate scholar, by the way - said regarding the Iraq War:

Kerry’s teams have called the War in Iraq a diversion from the War on Terrorism. But what is the War on Terrorism? Is it just to find cells in Tora Bora and elsewhere and bring them to justice? Or is it a wider campaign to find and destroy the factory that produces the cells? My question to the advisors is simple: What is the War on Terrorism? You must first explain the global War on Terror so that you can argue that Iraq was and is a "diversion" from your better plan? There is none.

So, it boils down to this equation: Bush teams had a plan, which can be discussed and argued with and against. The fact is Kerry has no plans, except to attack Bush's decision to go to Iraq. In deeper analysis, Kerry's argument that Iraq is a diversion from the War on Terror is a greater diversion from the real War on the Factory of Jihad. In my sense, there were five doors to open after Tora Bora. Bush opened one. He could have also opened others. But Kerry and the critics didn't want to open any door at all.


http://www.walidphares.com/artman/publish/article_451.shtml

I do not know if Phares is correct about Iraq. I do know that he is correct in arguing that there is no defeat to the Jihad without, as he says, destroying the Jihad factory and that certainly means something very different from limiting the war to Afghanistan or even staying deeply involved in Afghanistan until that country is fully secure. And, I think what he says about getting at the factory of Jihad is rather akin to what I say about creating a counter-ideology.


Michael Barnes Thomin - 6/26/2005

Mr. Friedman,
I do not quite buy into the secret war on jihad theory. If the war on jihad was the real purpose, then why did they need to invade Iraq? We were already fighting them in Afghanistan. Just as with the Soviets in the 1970s or in Iraq today, Jihadists would have flocked there to fight. Why open up two fronts and split up your forces? The general rule regarding warfare (albeit it has not always been the case, as anyone familiar with General Lee's campaigns are aware)are to concentrate your forces together. Perhaps I am naive, but this does not make much sense to me.

"Or, to put the matter simply, the main sympathies of the Muslim regions are not to the Western boundaries but to Islam and/or Arab nationalism. (I recognize that I am oversimplyfing but my reason is to make my point clearly.)"

I think what Marc was alluding to was that Islamists had not had much of a base of operations, or even much of a relationship, inside Iraq until we invaded. In Afghanistan, however, they did. But then again, perhaps I am mistaken.

Just a few thoughts...


E. Simon - 6/26/2005

Maybe we could be doubly even-handed, and not only condemn hyperbole by both sides, but this constant back and forth hair-splitting, as well. The "evil people" of history (Nazis, etc.) are overused analogies, of course. But I'll admit to not having the foggiest idea of what you guys are arguing about with regards to _how_ you actually disagree over the semantics of what Durban said. I can simply find no tangible, substantive semantic quality - allegedly offensive or not - worth raising in any of these characterizations of his comments. The only thing I will say is the guy is certainly NOT a "traitor." And people will naturally disagree over what they find "offensive;" remember that like fear on a roller coaster or nausea upon witnessing exposed cadavers such reaction is not only variable by individuals but pretty much a limbic expression anyway.

Sorry!


Bill Heuisler - 6/26/2005

Derek,
You parse words about grossly exaggerated comparisons and you grossly exaggerate yourself. Name one person other than Senator Durbin I have accused of treason on HNN since we've been sparring. Please name just one.

And "condemning someone like Rush Limbaugh" for what?
What did Rove or Limbaugh say that compares with Gore saying the President betrayed his country? That compares with a whole series of the the KKK Grand Cyclop's dire ramblings? That compares with the comments Ted Kennedy about Bork and Thomas in their confirmation hearings? That compares with HNN posters regularly calling the President a deserter? That compares with Durbin's odious comparisons of our troops with Nazis, gulags and killing fields?

Senator Durbin said:
"If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime — Pol Pot or others — that had no concern for human beings."

The comparison is disgraceful. The comparison is untrue and grossly exaggerated. The comparison will give comfort to our enemies and will gravely (has gravely offended) our troops in both Iraq and Afganistan.

Derek, over thirteen million INNOCENT human beings died in Nazi death camps Soviet gulags and Pol Pot's Cambodia. Not a single damned terrorist has died in detention at Gitmo. Do you find that comparison amusing, trite or just plain ignorant? The Senator can't claim ignorance. If he meant no comparison, why did he use those examples?

And Durbin himself called it comparison. He said, "I have learned from my statement that historical parallels can be misused and misunderstood. I sincerely regret if what I said caused anyone to misunderstand my true feelings." He admits claiming a "parallel" between U.S. soldiers and killers under Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot.

If he admits it, why can't you?

One last thing: I'm a little tired of being lectured by people who cheerfully ignore the worst kinds of calumny heaped on our President regularly by posters and by some of the baser articles. Hypocrites? Damn right. Those of you who will not challenge my accusations with facts and arguments have a helluva nerve complaining.
Bill


Michael Barnes Thomin - 6/25/2005

http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,1280,-5095929,00.html

One word: hypocrites!


N. Friedman - 6/25/2005

Marc,

You write: Your observation may be accurate, and is really the problem I have had with this from the very beginning. Because there was no real threat, no emergency, no imminent danger posed, Bush had the six months, and many more to wait, perhaps partly to provoke a response from Iraq that would have provided the needed justification. This is why so many in the international community remained skeptical about US motives.

I would like to focus on your last point (which I have set out in bold type italics) with reference to the rest of your above quoted comment.

Some in the International community have, as you said, been skeptical about US motives because the WMD argument is rather bizarre. However, I do not think that the governments in issue saw or see the matter that way.

I think the governments knew pretty much what the US was up to (i.e. that the issue related somehow to the Jihadis) because such was highlighted by people claiming to speak on behalf of or in sync with the administration. The problem for countries in the EU was not that the US policy was bizarre or ill-considered but that US presence in the Arab regions conflicted with fundamental EU policies, albeit not well publicized, adopted by the EU to strengthen Europe's hand against the US.

I am, as you know, rather fond of Bat Ye'or (even if she is accused of being a right winger, which, in fact, she is not) and this analysis is, in part, based on her analysis and sources. Her book Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis provides rather thorough - although the book is not an easy read because it is written in the French style rather than the Anglo-Saxon analytical style - documentation of EU, which, in turn, means French and German politics regarding the Arab regions.

Those countries and, most particularly, France, see themselves as head of an informal counter-alliance with the Arab regions in order to oppose what they perceive as too much US power (hyperpower hegomony, as it were). Such policy began as early as 1973, immediately after the oil embargo, when an emergency meeting was held among the then EC members and they agreed to adopt France's formula for securing uninterupted oil. Such meeting led in a short time to the establishment of the Euro-Arab Dialogue which, in turn, spawned dozens of agreements and organizations which have committed EC and now the EU countries to policies closely aligned with the Arab League and, to considerable extent, counter to the US.

As part of the "deal," the EC and, later, the EU countries agreed to adopt the Arab League line on Israel (which they mostly have, almost word for word, as if by dictation), to provide technology (i.e. with business preference over the US and others) to Arab region countries, including nuclear technology and to take in millions of Muslim Arabs but without (and this is by agreement, amazingly) integrating the immigrants.

For the Europeans, they obtained, without the need for an army, influence and preferences with the Arabs that they might use as a counter-weight against the US. For the Arabs, they were able to divide Europe from the US - providing them with political protection -, to obtain influence in Europe (by the presence of the immigrants still aligned with their home countries), technical assistance and political sensitivity on the Arab Israeli dispute, among other things.

Which is to say, any confrontational or even disagreeable policy by the US with reference to the Arab regions is almost certainly to hit a brick wall called Europe.

You write: As for the “real” reason being the Jihadi war, of all the nations that provided the support, recruits, and ideological backup for the enemy in this war, Iraq was hardly number one, or even number two or number three.

I would not have invaded Iraq but I nevertheless disagree with you. I think the US chose Iraq because it is centrally located. It is between two central players for Jihad: Iran and Saudi Arabi. The US cannot invade either of those countries for a host of reasons. The most the US can hope to do is to pressure those countries.

The US has two types of pressure: First, our military stirs up trouble for Saudi Arabia which, in turn, is forced to deal with the local Jihadis (George Friedman's theory - America's Secret War). Second, Jihad, if history is any guide at all, cannot be fought successfully on the defensive. Historically, Jihad is among the most sucessful forms of warfare ever known. It has, however, been fought sucessfully by means of arms and by ideological confrontation. Establishing a beachhead for democracy - if it could be done - right in the midst of the Arab regions could create a counter ideology by Muslims against Jihadi Muslims.

Such, you will note, is likely why Iraq was chosen.

As for the argument that Iraq itself is not the source of the Jihadis: I think that is a misunderstanding. As both pan-Arabists and the Islamists, among others, have said for generations, the countries of the Muslim regions were mostly drawn by Westerners to benefit Westerners. Such countries are, for purposes of the Muslim regions, conventionalities rather than self-sustaining. Or, to put the matter simply, the main sympathies of the Muslim regions are not to the Western boundaries but to Islam and/or Arab nationalism. (I recognize that I am oversimplyfing but my reason is to make my point clearly.)

In other words, the argument that Iraq itself was not the source of the Jihadis is like saying, as European countries say to Israel, the specific terrorist who blew up the bus was from down-town Ramallah not outer Ramallah (where Israel might have responded). My point is that, in reality, the distinction between where the Jihadis are today is not that as real as you make it out to be.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 6/25/2005

"the US Senator knew he was lying"

What exactly did Durbin say that was a lie or that he knew was a lie? The FBI mail was true, correct?

As for exaggeration being a "lie," if this is true, we might as well impeach every public official ever to have run for public office.

After all, didn't one congressman recently say that firefighters and police on 9/11 would support the anti-flag burning amendment? Assuming that he did not actually ask any of them, would that not be a "lie"?


Michael Barnes Thomin - 6/25/2005

Bill,
IBC.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 6/25/2005

Mr. Friedman,
Your observation may be accurate, and is really the problem I have had with this from the very beginning. Because there was no real threat, no emergency, no imminent danger posed, Bush had the six months, and many more to wait, perhaps partly to provoke a response from Iraq that would have provided the needed justification. This is why so many in the international community remained skeptical about US motives.

As for the “real” reason being the Jihadi war, of all the nations that provided the support, recruits, and ideological backup for the enemy in this war, Iraq was hardly number one, or even number two or number three. I disagree with your contention that the Bush administration chose to base their decision on WMD for more support. The world more or less endorsed our war on terror. What many could not endorse is a seemingly endless stream of not-so-convincing reasons why this country was determined to invade Iraq.

Bush likely chose WMD because it was the least easily refuted justification and the one that would generate the most DOMESTIC support (since clearly he did not care whatever anyone or everyone in the war thought until after, when we could have used their assistance). Indeed, I would argue that this is why so many supported the war. Certainly, on HNN and elsewhere, it was the WMD’s, nothing else, that remained front and center, only switching to other, less-controversial issues (such as the human rights record of Iraq) once it became clear that the WMD’s we were certain, “without question” were there turned out to be one very dangerous misperception.

The only person who made a great deal of sense about the need to go to war was Tony Blair, who elegantly and persuasively pushed for humanitarian intervention being imposed but being continuously sidestepped by Bush, whose arrogant and poor diplomacy prevented anyone from taking the justifications seriously. Even Blair, one can read in his speeches, was content with the new UN inspections, confident that Saddam would incriminate himself and give genuine justification for military intervention.


N. Friedman - 6/25/2005

Marc,

You write: I would say however, that given the known costs of war with Iraq (and I don’t just mean in dollars or lives, but also our ability to respond to other threats and continue the fight against terrorism) war should have been the last resort, not the first. Our first priority was making sure Iraq posed no threat to us, which would require a resumption of inspections more thorough and with fewer loopholes than before. Prior to the war, Bush got exactly that. Without evidence of any WMD stockpiles, with the inspectors assuring us that no such evidence has yet been found, and with confidence that Saddam could have continued to be contained, at least until after Afghanistan was on firmer footing and bin Laden in custody or dead, our energy would have been better spent trying to prevent North Korea from becoming a nuclear power, which is now likely is, or the many other national threats far more direct and immediate than Iraq could ever hope to be.

My take is a bit different than yours. My view: if the US really thought that Iraq really was the growing threat alleged by Bush (i.e. a country with stockpiles of weapons and, hence, a real threat to the US that could not wait) such that an emergency requiring a war existed, the President would not have spent six months or more building support for the war, hence telling Saddam that the US aimed to depose him and giving Saddam time to plan counter-attacks (with the alleged WMD), etc., etc.. Instead, the President would have acted immediately and decisively.

Which is to say, the WMD could not possibly have been the main reason for the war. In that sense, the President was, in part, deceptive - although his administration did make clear, by means of its personnel and those who speak authoritatively for the adminstration, that the real issue was the Jihadi war - an argument rejected as ridiculous but, in fact, a far more likely argument reason consistent with your view that dealing with the Jihadis was first business -.

Reading the legal argument by the British attorney general (or whatever the correct title is), Lord Goldsmith, the most arguable "legal" basis for war - as far as getting any ally to go along - was the WMD argument. Hence, the decision to proceed on the basis of WMD as required by our ally Britain and in the hope of attracting more allies. (That is my theory, in any event.) Hence, to make the central focus the Jihadi war - which is why they attacked Iraq - would not help the argument demanded by the UK. As such, they made what they thought would be a technically legal argument regarding a set of facts (i.e. the existence of WMD) that the US adminstration and the UK believed they knew had to exist, as it was consistent with Saddam's behavior (assuming, of course, that Saddam was somehow Western in his orientation).

Now note: every time, after the war started, the administration mentioned that it had, as it said from early on, attacked Iraq due to links with terrorism, the press said, not so. Which is to say, the press defined the issue to the WMD, not the adminstration which merely made WMD its selling point to the UN. But do recall, the adminstration said repeatedly that Iraq was involved in terrorism.




N. Friedman - 6/25/2005

Marc,

Thank you.


N. Friedman - 6/25/2005

Professor,

Marc has accurately represented what I have in mind.


Bill Heuisler - 6/25/2005

Michael,
The difference between Anti-war protestors and Dick Durbin is that the US Senator knew he was lying.

Durbin read an FBI report and immediately went to the worst possible comparisons, knowing them to be untrue hyperbole. Anti-war protestors hold their beliefs deeply and protest the deaths in war. They speak the truth and disagree with policy. Durbin lied. He knew he was hurting the troops in the field; he knew his words would be quoted worldwide...and he didn't care.

Root beer.
Bill


E. Simon - 6/25/2005

Mr. Bacharach,

Sorry for the misspelling.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 6/25/2005

Derek,
I don't think that Mr. Friedman was making any kind of threat, or suggesting that there should be any restrictions on what someone can say.

I would contend that law-makers and prominant decision-makers should exercise some self-restraint, whether it be by refraining from invoking popular emotional images, or by accusing half the country of being traitors.

The problem that I see is that most attention is being paid to score points based on the choice of words of people like Durbin or Dean, rather than using energy to actually address real problems facing this nation (the deficit, health care, education, etc.).


Graham Hick - 6/25/2005

And furthermore, he destroyed HIS copies, not EVERY copy in existence, so it remains verifiable.


Graham Hick - 6/25/2005

England does not have a Freedom of Information Act and therefore he could be incarcerated for not revealing his source. They don't have a First Amendment either. Copying and destroying the documents was a way to protect his source. There have been cases there of reporters going to court for not revealing their sources.

Yes we should be skeptical, but let's keep it in perspective and consider the conext of England's laws versus the US.


Derek Charles Catsam - 6/25/2005

No, actually. As soon as I see that anyone had better "Watch their words" I know I am dealing with someone who does not value the very ideas they claim to support. There are plenty of countries that do not support free speech. Oursw is one of them. No one ouht to "watch their words." And shame on anyone for suggesting otherwise.
dc


E. Simon - 6/25/2005

Mr. Bachrach (I hope between us you might find mutually formal address acceptably equitable), when you state that our energy would have been better spent trying to prevent North Korea from becoming a nuclear power, by my calculation that sounds like you're assuming a mere 2 and 1/2 years for the culmination of such a program (Fall of 2002 to February 2005). I'm not sure this timeline is compatible with a serious commitment to a nuclear weapons development program. Without condoning lying or necessarily agreeing with the role of, or your characterization of, a certain psychological profile in the decision to go to war, greater exposure on Kim Jong Il's regime and its inherent but finite hostility - no matter how much more brazenly expressed currently - sounds like a better bargain than allowing Iraq to monopolize the international agenda with its lousy associated options: starving Iraqi children, ending sanctions, or exhausting our diplomatic efforts fighting for an inspections regime with goals both sufficiently comprehensive in scope and at the same time, attainable. Perhaps the administration might be seen as undervaluing soft power, or perhaps it just realizes that such a resource is not inexhaustible or omnipotent, either. You're right that both carrots and sticks must be available as options, but I'm not sure we agree on what mix will go furthest given the circumstances, or on how we would rank acceptable outcomes.

Geopolitically, there is no equivalent to a state as powerful as China in the Middle East. In terms of costs and benefits, being unafraid to show hard power to pressure change in the latter is likely to yield a more valuable payoff than the commitment to making sure a rogue vassal state of the PRC feels "secure" enough to keep its promises. I have a funny feeling that having a less easily pressured China by their side makes them feel secure enough already.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 6/25/2005

Charles,
You have my total agreement!


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 6/25/2005

Mr. Friedman,
As always, your fair analysis is absolutely correct.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 6/25/2005

Mr. Friedman (now that I have come out of the closet, so to speak, perhaps one day we could BOTH be on first name basis :)

In response to: “Kicking the inspectors out under Clinton is, assuming Iraq a remotely rational country, as close to a smoking gun as is imaginable. From that event, the Bush administration was quite reasonable to assume that Iraq used its time to build and to hide its stockpiles.”

I would not disagree with you. Indeed, I supported Clinton’s actions following 1998 even while many Republicans believed that Clinton’s desire to punish Iraq was merely a ploy to take attention away from his pending impeachment.

I would say however, that given the known costs of war with Iraq (and I don’t just mean in dollars or lives, but also our ability to respond to other threats and continue the fight against terrorism) war should have been the last resort, not the first. Our first priority was making sure Iraq posed no threat to us, which would require a resumption of inspections more thorough and with fewer loopholes than before. Prior to the war, Bush got exactly that. Without evidence of any WMD stockpiles, with the inspectors assuring us that no such evidence has yet been found, and with confidence that Saddam could have continued to be contained, at least until after Afghanistan was on firmer footing and bin Laden in custody or dead, our energy would have been better spent trying to prevent North Korea from becoming a nuclear power, which is now likely is, or the many other national threats far more direct and immediate than Iraq could ever hope to be.

In short, war requires a genuine threat backed up by evidence, not suspicion or assumptions based on a flawed psychological profile. Bush was right to be suspicious of Saddam and to not trust him. Where he went wrong was (a) deciding that this was enough to justify invasion, and (b) lying (I will use that word again) to the American people about the evidence we did have.

I could not agree with you more about “the distance between Western assumptions regarding the behavior of Arab leaders and the actual behavior of such leaders.” Much of the mess we now find ourselves in could have been avoided, even with the war, had our policy makers been more educated on the culture, history, and politics of that region.


N. Friedman - 6/25/2005

Marc,

In time of war, a Senator should better watch his words. I might add, the Republicans might have, if they really cared about the troops in time of war, not hyped the speech and, more to the point, not hyped the speech to say more than was said.

So, criticism is due all around.


N. Friedman - 6/25/2005

Marc,

By your new name preference (smile)...

You state: Even if a 4 year Senate resolution was justification for the war, that still does not explain why the administration repeatedly made statements about Iraq’s weapons capacity and threat level when such information was not supported by the information it had at the time.

I think you overstate your case. More accurately: some - not all - of the evidence available to the administration was not consistent with the axiomatic assumption, made by both Clinton and Bush, that Iraq had WMD. Kicking the inspectors out under Clinton is, assuming Iraq a remotely rational country, as close to a smoking gun as is imaginable. From that event, the Bush administration was quite reasonable to assume that Iraq used its time to build and to hide its stockpiles.

In short, the axiomatic assumption (i.e. that Iraq had WMD, likely stockpiles of them) could likely have arisen from the observation that Iraq's leadership was behaving in a manner of a country intent on preserving its weapons and status. Such, after all, was the ongoing justification for the sanctions regime that was, before and during Bush's time, in place against Iraq. The likely thinking of both Clinton and Bush's policy experts was that Iraq could, rather than kick out of the inspectors - as it did under Clinton - have declared itself a non-WMD state and permitted unfettered inspections.

Of considerable interest, at least to me, is the distance between Western assumptions regarding the behavior of Arab leaders and the actual behavior of such leaders. I assume that the Western leaders fail to recognize the need for an Arab leader - particularly a leader in the Ba'ath party - to appear strong in order to be resolute in pursuing unity, by force if necessary, of the Arab regions and to throw out the hated foreigners. While there is window dressing from Western leaders that Saddam pictured himself the new Saladin, there was no understanding of what being a modern day Saladin actual implies.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 6/25/2005

First let me say that just as I oppose the many Republicans who invoke Hitler and the Nazis, I oppose Durbin’s comparison, which is a gross exaggeration of reality and simply unfair. That being said, I should also respond to another gross exaggeration of reality which is unfair.

Bill, your post seems less like a reaction to Durbin and more a campaign speech for the Republican party. In your eye’s, the statement was not only inaccurate, it is tantamount to murder! In fact, it is tantamount to the entire Democratic party killing our own troops and helping the enemy! TREASON!

Afraid not…

1) “Durbin compared our troops' handling of prisoners to the Nazis, the Soviet Gulag and to Pol Pot.”

This is simply not the case. After reading an FBI agent’s report describing the treatment of detainees, he said the following:

“If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings.”

This is not comparing “our troops' handling of prisoners to the Nazis,” it is comparing specific incidents and treatments to something evil regimes do.

As for “lying about his own country,” I am not really sure how one could call his opinion a lie. After all, the episodes that he alluded to were absolutely accurate. As for the charge, so popular nowadays among certain groups, that our troops are being slandered, if some troops are committing the human rights violations described in the FBI report, then it is not a slander, it is reality.

Finally, it is the treatment of US prisoners that is the largest recruiting tool on the planet, not the acknowledgment of this reality by a Congressman. Why it seems like only yesterday that conservative were bashing the so-called liberal media for even reporting any abuses occurring in Iraq by soldiers, first calling it a lie and then blaming the media for calling attention to it. I would argue that exposing these events does the exact opposite of what you think.

At least Durbin and others allows us to turn to the rest of the world and say, “see, there are those here still fighting for the rule of law and humane treatment for prisoners.”

2) “His words will, without a doubt, be the cause of more deaths of Americans.”

This sounds like the same slander and hyperbole that you so eagerly ascribe to Durbin.

3) “He's the Senate Democrat whip. His party deserves to be judged by the anti-military, anti-American words of their leadership.”

And of course, here it comes. When I hear someone talking about Dubin’s remarks, I only need wait for them to use them for partisan gain by launching into how it proves that you should vote Republican in the next election. Durbin, like so many others, are simply being used as a tool by partisans, which is why so many cannot bring themselves to simply condemn his statements without launching into a political campaign speech.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 6/25/2005

Bill,
In response to your post,
1) “The press comments are ridiculous and Liberal comments are full of phony angst. There's nothing in the tempest worth denying or affirming - all heavy breathing and wishful thinking.”

Perhaps if you could specify what comments you are referring to, it would be easier to confront the charge. Do you mean ALL press comments ever mentioned on this subject? I assume not.

2) “You admit the possibility of fraud, but say you believe the memos nonetheless. "Is there anything in the memos that is wrong or inaccurate? I honestly don’t know, but I will say that thus far, to be the best of my knowledge, the administration has yet to deny the facts presented..."

There is no inconsistency here, simply an honest evaluation. You said yourself that “The core information on those questionable memos was well known at the time,” and I readily agree, stating before that they confirm what many have suspected before. I do not use the word “facts” to connote that the memos are true, merely to refer to the items in the memos, which I termed facts for lack of more precise word. After all, courts refer to the “facts” of the case even they really mean alleged facts.

It is unlikely that we will know whether the memos are accurate, like many other items related to this war, until many years from now, when presumably the emotion and partisanship that defines this political era subsides.

3) “The D. Street Memo gives the MI6 Chief's impressions of others' (NSC, Joint Chiefs, President) opinions. Do concepts of "hearsay" or evidence "without foundation" mean anything?”

Unfortunately, I don’t get the opportunity to interview the president, or the head of the CIA. If I would, than I would agree with you, Bill, I would not rely on what other people say. Unfortunately, I don’t have that opportunity. So when the White House Press Secretary or spokesperson says something (or any member of the administration who confidently reveals what the president “thinks, “feels,” or “wants”), I have nothing else to rely on. Like most people in most countries, “hearsay” is all we have.

As for the evidence being “without foundation,” I am not sure what you mean? This was a cabinet meeting of the highest levels of government in our closest ally. I sincerely hope that you don’t hold our own government with such little confidence, you would declare our own cabinet meetings “without foundation.”

4) “Are you aware this memo is much ado about nothing? Do you know Iraq regime change was U.S. policy since October of '98 when President Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act. It was not a state secret. Bush didn't make it up.”

As I have said before:
- The president did not base his justification for invasion on the fact that he had been entitled to by the 1998 law, nor did any Senator who signed the law seriously allege that it mandated a war

- Even if a 4 year Senate resolution was justification for the war, that still does not explain why the administration repeatedly made statements about Iraq’s weapons capacity and threat level when such information was not supported by the information it had at the time.

Of course we would love regime change in Iraq, we would live it in Iran to, and North Korea, and Syria, and for a long time Libya, etc. Morally speaking, simply “wanting” a country to have another leader is zero justification for war, which is why I suspect Bush never relied on it.

Although I don’t know with any certainty, I would be willing to bet that neither the Senators who signed the 1998 resolution, nor Clinton, nor Bush prior to 9/11, believed that it was meant to assume that was would be justified whenever we felt like it.


Derek Charles Catsam - 6/25/2005

Let's be clear about what Durbin did and did not say. he did not call anyone a Nazi. He said that is you described the circumstances of what has happened to some of our detainess, you might see a cdonnection with things that evil regimes have done. Is this untrue? At no point did he say that our soldiers were Nazis or aiin to Nazis. he simply did not.
It is beyond foolish and self-indulgent to start talking about "treason," and Bill has levied that charge against so many on HNN that it makes the charge that much less effective. The idea that speaking out against bad acts and opposing said acts is tantamount to the most serious crime one can make against the state says a great deal about what some people think about the very first amendment to the Constitution.
Yes, people should stop with Nazi analogies. Many of us on the right and left have been saying this for some time (just as we have also been ssaying that calling someone a Communist or a Marxist or a fascist or a totalitarian, or invoking the Gulag, is beyond the pale. Some of you are pretty quick to go down some of those paths, though.) It's just awfully funny how selective some folks on the right are about their outrage. It would be far easier to take some of threse folks seriously if I had heard one word from any of you in the last three years or so condemning someone like Rush Limbaugh. You feign outrage when you think you are in a position to do so, and then countenance far more strident comments by Karl Rove because he happens to sit on your side of the aisle.

dc


Charles Edward Heisler - 6/25/2005

OK, let's not charge Durbin with treason but could we at least charge him and everyone else that drags out that Nazi analogy with being stupid? I say that to include all the alleged "historians" who post here that have used the same hyperbole to describe our efforts in the war on terror.


Michael Barnes Thomin - 6/25/2005

Bill,

"Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort."

It seems to me that the way you are framing Article III Sec. 3 is very dangerous, in the sense that if it applies to Durbin than it can virtually apply to anyone who even questions the war effort. The way you interpret "giving them aid and comfort" is much too ambiguous. To expand a bit, if Durbin can be charged with treason than nearly anybody who criticizes the war in any way could therefore also be charged with treason. For example, one might argue that any form of disparagement regarding the war from an American citizen has an effect on troop morale and gives the enemy a temperature gauge on how long he has to sustain himself against military occupation. So, in a sense, under the same standards used against Durbin almost half the population would be imprisoned for merely having doubts about a war (http://www.pollingreport.com/iraq.htm). I think “giving them aid and comfort” applies to intentional aid and comfort, and if Durbin’s words did incidentally give them aid and comfort it was accidental (although I disagree that he did this at all). As I have argued in a previous post, the inappropriate comments from Durbin do not embolden them to act against U.S. forces because the roots of their hatred run deep into their religious creed and spans decades back over time, and not from what some U.S. senator quoted from a report.

The statement I made: "How can he be charged with treason if he has stated something that is an already well-known fact?" was entirely directed at the argument you put forth regarding Durbin’s comment: “will encourage a poor young man to exalt himself in the eyes of God by avenging the torture of his countrymen.” Perhaps the abuse did encourage some extremist Moslems to avenge their countryman, but my point is that if this has been the case, than it was the abusers fault or the media that reported it, and not what Durbin said about it over a year later. If Durbin was the one person who broke the news than I could see your argument stand, but the fact is he did not and what damage has been done from Gitmo or Abu Gurab was done well before he quoted an excerpt from the report. The intent simply is not there and his words did not incite anything other than outcry from his Nazi and Soviets reference here in the United States.

“…reinforcing the bad information strengthens that information.”

I am not sure I quite follow. Do you mean bad as in unfavorable or bad as in false? If you mean the former, than perhaps we should not engage in these types of practices if it makes us feel uncomfortable when we are confronted with them. If it is the latter, I totally disagree. Durbin quoted what an FBI agent saw and wrote in a report (http://www.sj-r.com/extras/release/Gitmofloorstatement061405.htm). The only way it could be false information is if the agent lied. In sum, I see no grounds for treason.

There must be something we can agree upon! Coke or Pepsi?

Regards,


Bill Heuisler - 6/25/2005

Michael,
You wrote:
"How can he be charged with treason if he has stated something that is an already well-known fact?"

Thereby, in one fell swoop, restating your complete argument and its terrible flaw. Durbin knows American troops do not kill, work to death or commit genocide on their prisoners. He knows this is not a fact, let alone a well-known fact, but he proclaims that evil slander on the floor of the United States Senate while our troops face the very enemy Durbin incites to further violence.

"Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort." Article III Sec.3. A strong case can be made that the Senator from Illinois aided the cause of the terrorists and gave comfort to any doubters who might hesitate in Jihad while strapping on a belt with insufficient resolve. He aids our enemy by planting deliberate falsehoods about our troops, thus reducing their morale and raising the morale of the enemy.

Argue all you want about the trivia of words and the idea that Durbin could not betray something already known. Remember, reinforcing propaganda is how we fooled the Germans at Normandy - reinforcing the bad information strengthens that information. Defending his act as mere words ignores the fact that Arnold's sin was the wrong words in an enemy's ear. Caesar was betrayed with words and Lee was betrayed to McClellan before Antietam by words on a cigar wrapper. How else to betray, but with words? Durbin is a foul traitor and a liar with the worst motive - political gain.

Best regards right back,
Bill


Michael Barnes Thomin - 6/25/2005

Bill,
There is nothing "delicate" about my sensibilities, I can assure you of that. I too have friends and relatives fighting for this country as we speak, but I fear that when you call for someone to be charged with treason based on something he said that has nothing to do with national security (i.e. logistics, capability, positions, etc. of military personal or top secret information) than you have strayed away from the very principles of this great nation that you say you hold dear to your heart. Benedict Arnold was a traitor because he gave the blue prints of an American fort over to the enemy, but Smedley Butler was not because he simply spoke out against what he felt was unjust. I think your comments were out of line because, while Durbin's comments were extravagant, distasteful, and uncalled for, they had nothing to do with what insurgents had already thought before he made his comment, simply because the abuse is already widely known. How can he be charged with treason if he has stated something that is an already well-known fact? Moreover, my last post was not meant in any way to be a lecture and if it came across that way it was unintentional. It was simply meant as "an honest observation" that I have had from the past couple years from which I have been reading and responding to posts on here. I have brought this point up before, yet it seems that my analysis has fallen upon deaf ears, as I have seen no improvement in this regard. Nonetheless, that is how I see things, right or wrong, sensitive or stern, and I look forward to future debates with you as you have proven a worthy opponent, who I do respect on many levels.

Best regards,
Michael


Bill Heuisler - 6/25/2005

Michael,
Politics is not mere to me and Durbin's treason is not a fly. Gratuitous insult has never been interesting to me, but when words are earned they should be delivered.

My passion for the freedom we enjoy in this embattled country knows no boundaries and I have friends, brothers and relatives over there right now wondering if their country is going to desert them again because of the Durbins and Kennedys of this world. My emotions are why I am part of this small community of posters.

If my so-called charges are out of line, please delineate how and why, but don't ask me to sheath my language in the face of people who question my country, my President and my fellow Marines. I like you, Michael, and hope not to offend delicate sensibilities, but do not stoop to lecture me on modulation or degrees of discussion. Your casual acceptance of Durbin's disgraceful comments on the grounds of harmless dialectic makes me question your sense of proportion.
Best wishes, Bill


Michael Barnes Thomin - 6/25/2005

Bill,
While Durbin's statements were overblown, I doubt that any terrorist groups needed his words for a recruiting tool. The fact is, the abuse is already widely known so even if that did cause damage (alleged and confirmed abuse in general), it was already done long before Durbin took the floor and made those foolish remarks. Besides, before 9/11 and the charges and convictions of abuse there were already more than enough fundamentalists ready and willing to attack America for various reasons of their own. In fact, I would say a bigger recruiting tool was the invasion of Iraq and military bases in Saudi Arabia (not surprisingly this is what OBL has been stating for years as justification for jihad). The Muslims that doubted OBL over the "West's" conquest of "Islamic" lands probably began to think OBL, as much as a murderous thug he his, might have a point when western armies crossed the borders of Iraq.

It is hard to say what the outcome of this war may be, but hopefully all those who have had their reservations about the motives and consequences will be proven wrong in their warnings and predictions. I have no doubt that eventually the U.S. will prevail in the region (at the very least militarily), but I am concerned at the price, in blood, bone, and booty, and wisdom in the means and the ends. I do not question your intelligence or sound judgment, Bill, but I am at times taken back at some of the charges you level against people that question their government’s actions. I speak only for myself, but as I have written before, I think we would all be better off in our understanding of points and counterpoints if we left out the insults and hyperbole. I find at times, while you do contribute valuable information and reasoning, you also let your emotions override your for the most part impeccable rationale and lash out at others, which renders your argument in a mean spirit and only perpetuates emotionally driven responses. This is, of course, not something that is uncommon on these threads and you are not the only one who has practiced this as I myself at times have engaged in this counterproductive activity. A wise man once told me, “Do not waste your time swatting at flies.” Perhaps we would all be much better off in our small community of posters if we took this advice to heart.

An honest observation,
Michael


Bill Heuisler - 6/25/2005

Michael,
There is no place - no circumstance - where Grover Norquist's comments will encourage a poor young man to exalt himself in the eyes of God by avenging the torture of his countrymen. When a Marine questions a prisoner in Najaf or outside Baghdad he is usually met with hatred and fear that gradually subside after the young man is treated well and relatively kindly. Finally, when a sort of conversation begins, the Marine is told the reasons for the hatred and fear. Al Jazeera and the Wahabist schools and the mullahs have told the muslim people every day for years how horrible the crusaders are and what terrible things the crusaders will do.

Michael Moore has sold millions of his film in the Moslem world. Barbara Lee is a celebrity in Cairo and Damascus. Abu Ghraib photos were published in every Arab newspaper for months. Every word spoken against the war in Iraq is cherished by those who will use them against us.

Free speech. Part of the way we've chosen to live. Tough.

But a US Senator who knows full well how many millions died under Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot and who carries the weight and authority of the US government and is in the leadership of the Democrat Party is far different.

His words will be held up to the young and ignorant. A US Senator says this? It must be true. His words will kill the ignorant young men - and our honorable young men - just as dead as if he had pulled a trigger. Worse than yelling fire in a theater, he told the world our soldiers are criminals. He told the young muslim men they should defend themselves. He is as much responsible for those women Marines dying today as Zarqawi or OBL.
Bill


Michael Barnes Thomin - 6/24/2005

http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig5/marcus3.html


Bill Heuisler - 6/24/2005

Derek,
Durbin compared our troops' handling of prisoners to the Nazis, the Soviet Gulag and to Pol Pot. Not one prisoner has died in Gitmo; they are generally living in better conditions and with a better diet than they ever have in their lives. Our troops in the field in Iraq do not eat as well and endure far worse conditions. He knew that.

Dick Durbin knowingly lied about his own country. He slandered American troops whose lives are on the line protecting him. He gave aid and comfort to terrorists and handed them a recruiting tool. His words will, without a doubt, be the cause of more deaths of Americans.

He's the Senate Democrat whip. His party deserves to be judged by the anti-military, anti-American words of their leadership - by the reckless words that will become enemy propaganda and used to kill our soldiers and Marines.

Eleven Marines and one sailor were victims of a suicide bomber today. Many were women Marines. Many died. That bomber probably thought he was doing God's righteous work by punishing Infidels who are torturing his bretheren.

Durbin is either profoundly stupid or a knowing traitor to the country he took an oath to support and defend. Either way, there will be deaths of young men and women on his hands. Either way he should be charged...or at the least he should resign in disgrace.
Bill


Bill Heuisler - 6/24/2005

Mr. Bacharach,
The memos are questionable. The core information on those questionable memos was well known at the time. The press comments are ridiculous and Liberal comments are full of phony angst. There's nothing in the tempest worth denying or affirming - all heavy breathing and wishful thinking

Six points:
You admit the possibility of fraud, but say you believe the memos nonetheless. "Is there anything in the memos that is wrong or inaccurate? I honestly don’t know, but I will say that thus far, to be the best of my knowledge, the administration has yet to deny the facts presented..."
The "facts" presented? Make up your mind.

The D. Street Memo gives the MI6 Chief's impressions of others' (NSC, Joint Chiefs, President) opinions. Do concepts of "hearsay" or evidence "without foundation" mean anything? Would you like to be judged on what other people thought you thought? Orwell wrote about that.

Are you aware this memo is much ado about nothing? Do you know Iraq regime change was U.S. policy since October of '98 when President Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act. It was not a state secret. Bush didn't make it up.

February 12, 2002, (before the D. Street memos) Secretary of State, Colin Powell said,"With respect to Iraq, it has long been, for several years now, a policy of the United States government that regime change would be in the best interests of the region, the best interests of the Iraqi people. We are looking at a variety of options that would bring that about."

Clinton's Iraq Liberation Act has always had Democrat support as well as Republican; in June 2002 (before the D. Street memos) Majority Leader Daschle said, "There is broad support for a regime change in Iraq. The question is how do we do it and when do we do it."

On April 6, 2002 (before the D. Street memos) at a summit with Bush, Prime Minister Blair said regime change in Iraq was policy in Britain, and failure to act against Saddam was "not an option." He also said he supported military action against Iraq should it be necessary.

Apologies to Archibald Macleish:
There with black wings across canceled skies, in the sudden blackness of nothing, nothing-nothing at all.
Bill Heuisler


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 6/24/2005

Michael, you are certainly not the only one, but until we see another divided government, I am afraid we are stuck with a Congress unwilling to harm their electoal chances by doing or saying anything that might make their man look bad.


Michael Barnes Thomin - 6/24/2005

Regarding the memos authenticity: This might indeed be the case. It is interesting to note that Rupert Murdoch owns The Sunday Times, the Australian turned American citizen chicken hawk who was a loud supporter of the war and who also owns the Fox News Channel. It might be that these memos are nothing more than an attempt to poison the well. At any rate, even if these memos are forgeries, although nobody in the British or American administrations have even alleged this, there is still circumstantial evidence that supports the suspicion over the intel used to justify the war. I asked a question in an earlier post that nobody has answered: if we can have an inquiry by a committee into the use of steroids in major league baseball based on one accusation made in a book by a former player, than how come we cannot have one about something as critical as misleading the American people into war? Why on earth did the Senate Intelligence Committee decide to postpone phase II of their investigation about this very matter and then later turn around and basically concede that it is not going to take place? What are they so afraid of? Am I the only one who senses something is wrong?


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 6/24/2005

The Downing Street Memo relates discussions about Iraq between Richard Dearlove, chief of British intelligence agency MI6, and “Bush administration officials.” What do I believe? I believe that most of what is in the memos support what many other people both inside and outside the administration have said for a long time. They support the views of Richard Clarke and Paul O’Neil, or Bob Woodward and countless others.

Is there anything in the memos that is wrong or inaccurate? I honestly don’t know, but I will say that thus far, to be the best of my knowledge, the administration has yet to deny the facts presented, and when Rice was confronted with them by George Stephanopoulos and she said nothing that would cast doubt on the memos accuracy.

The following is the exahnge, from the June 19 edition of ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos:

STEPHANOPOULOS: As you know, there's also been a lot of talk back here in the United States about these Downing Street memos, the minutes of a meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair in the spring and summer of 2002 where they discussed their meetings with the United States. I want to show you what one mother, Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a U.S. soldier, had to say about that memo this week --

SHEEHAN (video clip): The so-called Downing Street memo, dated 23 July, 2002, only confirms what I already suspected. The leadership of this country rushed us into an illegal invasion of another sovereign country on prefabricated and cherry-picked intelligence.

STEPHANOPOULOS: How do you respond to Mrs. Sheehan?

RICE: Well, I can only say what the president has said many, many times. The United States of America and its coalition decided that it was finally time to deal with the threat of Saddam Hussein. There had been multiple resolutions against Saddam Hussein and his activities -- everything from concerns about his weapons of mass destruction programs and his continued unwillingness to answer the legitimate questions of the international system about those programs, his having used weapons of mass destruction in the past, everything concerning the way that he treated his own people. After all, we found more than 300,000 people in mass graves.
You know, people are talking about, in the U.N. [United Nations] reform, a responsibility to protect [people]. We happen to think that the Security Council is the place that that discussion ought to take place. When you consider what the Iraqi people had gone through in the Saddam Hussein regime's reign, what about the responsibility to the Iraqi people?
We finally undertook an action that got rid of one of the worst dictators in modern times, sitting in the center of the world's most troubled region. And sitting here today in Jerusalem, I can tell you, George, that this region is far better for it, and we now really have a chance to build a different kind of Middle East with a different Iraq in the center of it, with potentially a Palestinian state that is democratic and with changes taking place all over this region that are democratizing, that will be more stabilizing and that will bring greater security to the American people. Saddam Hussein is gone, and that's a good thing."

Also telling is that the fact that Congress refuses to investigate the memos at all. If they are wrong, why not expose the dangerous implications rather than give the illusion that Republicans simply don’t want to expose their party leader?

http://www.cnn.com/2005/POLITICS/06/16/downingst.memo.ap/

Finally, if the momos are wrong, why have many conservative been trying to argue that there has been some kind of mistranslation, or that they add nothing new? Indeed, Ruch Limbagh is even suggesting that they are a fake.

To the best of my knowledge, there has been no official denial of what is contained within them.


Bill Heuisler - 6/24/2005

Mr. Bacharach,
To paraphrase Hitchins or Robbins or half a dozen other commentators from the Right and Left, the "fixed" memo some are breathless about contains the impressions of an aide of the impressions of British-cabinet officials of the impressions of unnamed people they spoke to in the United States about what they thought the president was thinking. To say you believe the memos begs the question:
What exactly is it that you believe and why?
Bill Heuisler


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 6/24/2005

Edward,
Sorry for the misunderstanding.

Adam was a name I created a while back when HNN switched to full names. I used it so that I could demonstrate the futility of requiring real names since they could be faked, but once it was in my computer, I really didn't know how to change it and saw no real need.

But the editors at HNN were able to change the name to my "real" name and also go back and change all posts by "Adam Moshe" to Marc Bacharach.

In case anyone is curious, by the way, Adam is my fathers Hebrew name, and Moshe is my own Hebrew name.


Edward Siegler - 6/24/2005

I was referring to N's theory that once Iran gets nuclear weapons it will be emboldended to support terrorism much more aggressively. By the way, if you're Marc, what happened to Adam?


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 6/24/2005

I agree, which is one reason I chose it as a title.

The pleasure is all mine, I assure you.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 6/24/2005

I would humbly suggest that your analysis of the memos misses some important elements:
1) “We decided to go to war before we invaded unless Saddam essentially capitulated?”

In fact, the memos suggested that the administration decided to go to war even while it was telling the American people and the international community that it was trying to find another alternative. Even when such an alternative was found, a new stronger UN resolution resuming weapons inspections, the administration had no intention of settling for a “disarmed” and “harmless” Iraq, only a Saddam-free Iraq. This may be a laudable goal, but it was not the goals that Bush told the American people, or the international community.

2) “We convinced the public that Saddam had WMD --which, the memo shows, we sincerely thought he had?”

The missing piece of this statement is that according to the memo, the administration was “fixing” the intelligence to support its policy, rather than basing its policy on the intelligence. This is important, since it implies that when administration officials made statements about what “intelligence” shows, they were, if the accusations in the memos are correct, picking and choosing what to agree with and what to ignore.

3) “We really wanted regime change-- like the 1998 Senate resolution said was our policy?”

Regime change as policy goal and regime change as justification for war are two very different things, as everyone agreed prior to the conflict. After all, if regime change alone was enough, why did Bush not simply attack immediately whenever he wanted? Why the speeches, the UN resolution, the congressional resolution, all of which was aimed at disarming Saddam Hussein and none of which based its justification on the necessity of regime change? The idea that regime change was American policy was never meant to imply that war was how to go about it, as no one in Congress who signed the original resolution in 1998 ever claimed.

4) “Bush is bad, therefore the memos must in some way show that he is bad.”

Obviously, the easy response for critics and supporters of any figure is to assume that any indication to the contrary is based on nothing more than partisanship or emotion. Democrats made the allegations against Republicans when Clinton was president (often not without justification) and Republicans make the same accusations (again, often not without justification).

Nevertheless, if we can get beyond such dismissals, I do believe that memos, while not introducing much that is new, did confirm what many people (myself included) have believed for a while.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 6/24/2005

I do not now, nor would I ever, argue that disarmament is not a worthy objective or that war would not be an acceptable means of achieving it. I posted the article merely to demonstrate how, contrary to what many have claimed, Saddam Hussein was not undeterable.

If we are going to invade another nation and occupy its country, I think people should at least have the facts, and in the case of Iraq, they did not, but instead a series of myths that were taken as facts.

I am not really sure what “my” theory on Iran says, according to you, but I would note that a full invasion of Iran is made astronomically more difficult because of our decision to attack Iraq. The key to dealing with nations, also contrary to what many may thinks, are both carrots and sticks, rather than just empty threats and demands. The alternative is already being witnessed: more and more dangerous countries acquiring nuclear weapons with America pounding its fists and refusing to talk.


N. Friedman - 6/23/2005

Ignore the last post - it has a typo - and read this one:

Marc,

You will always be "Adam" to me (but I shall call you Marc for the fun of it). :)

I gather, from a bit of checking, that you have some expertise regarding the Supreme Court and the Death Penalty and the evolving standard of "decency." I always love when the court chooses such an elegant phrase to say very little.

Nice to meet you.


N. Friedman - 6/23/2005

Marc,

You will always be "Adam" to me (but I shall call you Marc for the fun of it). :)

I gather, from a bit of checking, that you have some expertise regarding the Supreme Court and the Death Penalty and the evolving standard of "decency." I always love when the court chooses such an elegant phrase to same very little.

Nice to meet you.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 6/23/2005

I don't have time to respond to the posts right now, but I did want to drop by and tell you that I am Marc, not Adam. Adam was a name I started using a long time ago and was simply saved on my computer when I visited HNN. The HNN editors have made the corrections in all of the HNN posts for me, so there would be no confusion.


N. Friedman - 6/23/2005

Edward,

Europe is convinced that they can buy off terrorism by paying tribute in the form of technical assistance. They are fools!!!


Edward Siegler - 6/23/2005

The article Adam (or Marc?) and I were discussing makes the case that Saddam could easily have been contained even if he had full nuclear capability. It does this by constructing a straw man, which is the charge that Saddam is "crazy", and then proceeding to demolish this by portraying everything from the Iran-Iraq War to the invasion of Kuwait as "rational" acts proving that Saddam was not a madman and could have been dealt with through "deterrence", which was never really tried (according to the author).

Your theory about Iran will be soon be tested. Europe seems convinced that Iran can be dealt with through rational negotiation, while the U.S. would like to, perhaps one day, try deterrence through sanctions. Both approaches will fail. I can't help but wonder how the world will respond when a major city becomes a radioactive crater. I suppose this will depend on where that city is located. Am I being an alarmist here?


Michael Barnes Thomin - 6/23/2005

On second thought, what the hell?

"1) Most American people (and servicemen) would applaud."

The majority of Americans now seem to be against the war, not applauding it.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/07/AR2005060700296.html

"2) Oil prices would plummet."

Oil prices have gone up, not down.

http://www.financialexpress-bd.com/index3.asp?cnd=6/23/2005&;section_id=5&newsid=2398&spcl=no

"3) Muslims and US Liberals would wring their hands, decry US policies, bemoan the mistreatement of Muslims, demand withdrawal and say the President should be impeached."

You forgot to include conservatives.

(Robert Novak, Pat Buchanan, and Walter Jones- granted he is in the budding state).


N. Friedman - 6/23/2005

Professor,

I agree with you that Durbin did not precisely do what some of his critics said. On the other hand, a Senator, during times of war, really must choose words carefully, a lot more carefully than Durbin did. And for that, he is properly criticised.

I think the word "lie," as it relates to Bush, is a bit extreme, even if Bush, in 2002, was set on war. I do not think he made much of a secret of his intentions. And, certainly they made clear, whether directly or indirectly through their various press organs, that they only went to the UN to make the UK happy.


Michael Barnes Thomin - 6/23/2005

Bill,
The question of "why" was raised and that is exactly what I answered. The three assumptions you made are just that (assumptions), so I need not comment upon them.

Regards


N. Friedman - 6/23/2005

Bill,

"believing unauthenticated, unsourced copies of memos - after Rather tried the same stupid ploy - is just plain dumb."

That is certainly the case. But then again, assuming that what is in the memos is false is rather pre-mature.

More to the point: the memos, even if real, provide only a partial glimpse (documents A and B of who knows how many documents by how many people over what period of time) at what was, perhaps, under discussion as seen by an outsider with only partial access to information - or perhaps only to information and opinions the US wanted to be heard by the British government in order to persuade them that they had to go along with whatever the US might pursue -. Which is to say, the picture may not be complete and may be quite misleading.

And, the memos do not get at what Bush actually believed, much less at the complete details of US policy. If, however, the memos are the real thing, they certainly are valuable information that needs to be flushed out someday when historians look back and see all, not some selected, documents.

As for the treason charge: treason requires proof of both aid and comfort to an enemy. Giving a speech, no matter how distasteful (unless it, for example, reveals secrets or the like) probably does not qualify as aid; only, perhaps, a form of comfort. On the other hand, the speech certainly qualifies as incredibly naive and stupid.

I note: oil prices are not exactly plummeting (unless you reverse gravity). Were they plummeting, I suspect Bush would be a bit more popular.

The real issue here is that we have no ongoing moral direction from the President about what the war is intended to accomplish (and compare Bush to FDR at war), no explanation why the war should continue after Bush's stated justification proved incorrect (and note: I do not claim false as I do not buy into the "he's fundamentally lying" theory) and no adequate explanation of what we are up to now.

Instead, we have the press defining events - and note: the press got the Iraqi election issue entirely wrong so there is no reason to think that they are correct now (although they might be) -. And the press has no better information about a country and culture and people they do not remotely understand or even seemingly care to study.

And the issue is not simply a press which does not favor the war. What reason has been clearly articulated whereby you would let your kid die to bring democracy to Iraq? Bush says that democracy will help make us safer. But of course, the issue is "when?" and "how?".

My other point: Bush gives the impression of being about as rudderless and confused a leader as anyone could imagine in a time of crisis - and there is a real crisis -. Such may or may not be the reality but it certainly is the impression he gives.

Now, as you know, the Iraq adventure was not something I have generally thought reasonable. However, having spent years reading and studying about the Arab and Muslim regions, I know that the war in Iraq is, in fact, actually about the Jihad against the US and the West. Surely, the President could make an argument which supports the argument he almost certainly has bought into, viz., Jihad is a unique form of warfare that cannot - if history is any guide - be appeased or defeated merely by defensive measures. Hence, the notion of fighting a war for "democracy" in order to create a counter-ideology as part of the US war against Jihad.


Derek Charles Catsam - 6/23/2005

Bill -
Of course divining intent is not all that easy to do. This is why the memos are problematic -- did Bush intend to go to war no matter what? If so, then by definition, he lied. I think it is rather cavalier to toss around words like "lie" because of the intent issue, but I do not think the government levelled with us all the way -- thus again I ask, is there something in between.
You go overboard with treason. There also has to be intent to do harm to the country.
I disagree with you on intent with Durbin in any case. Durbin did not do what his critics said he did, and I am still somehow astounded that he has taken so much heat for condemning acts that never should have happened. It's never never land.

dc


Bill Heuisler - 6/23/2005

Derek,
The ground between lie and truth is intent - good vs evil. A lie evidences evil intent unless a higher purpose can be established. Truth shows good intent unless a low motive is established.

Lying to the wife of a murder victim or a Marine's widow about the extent of injuries can spare her further grief.
Telling the truth to a co-worker about his wife's serial affairs, or detailing a friend's shortcomings each goes to motive and alters the act.

To speculate on a "level of duplicity" in a series of decisions without establishing clear motive is to misuse the language in a way that allows criticism of W while remaining above the fray. The American people reelected the President because they interpreted his motives as good and agreed with his decisions. You are correct that this constant carping is useless. My further comment is that this constant carping is designed to weaken our war effort and is resulting in more casualties.

Full circle: What Durbin said - and to a lesser extent Smith's phony copied memos - fulfils definition and intent implicit in a bad act, the crime of treason.
Bill


N. Friedman - 6/23/2005

Peter,

You have made some very good points.


N. Friedman - 6/23/2005

Edward and Marc,

A number of points:

1. Saddam, presumably, wanted to survive. Looking weak is a form of humiliation in the Middle East (and elsewhere) and would, accordingly, have been a recipe for his demise - likely, given the nature of the Middle East, his physical, not just his political, demise -. So, Saddam could not really agree to the demand to step down or to disarm.

2. Faith in inspections makes rather little sense. A country intent on avoiding an inspection regime can almost certainly avoid it. More than likely, Saddam made a political decision to make the world think he had WMD as such made him appear stronger than he actually was. Which is to say, he played a weak hand over the years in order to remain in power by means of a bluff.

3. The only evidence that exists suggests that the Pakistani government, perhaps via Islamist elements in the ISI, was part of AQ Khan's efforts to provide nuclear technology primarily to the ummah but, evidently, also to N. Korea.

4. The lesson likely learned by world when it views nuclear armed countries is that possession of nuclear weapons frees a country to pursue its objectives with less fear of counter-attack. That, frankly, makes Iran the most dangerous imaginable nuclear country (for the US) - other than Pakistan -. This is because Iran, unlike Korea, is squarely behind the Jihadi movement. Which is to say, a nuclear Iran will almost certainly increase its support of terrorism because it will not likly have to fear a nuclear reply. The world will rue the day it allows Iran to become a nuclear weapons power.

Lastly, Marc, are you Adam?


Bill Heuisler - 6/23/2005

Michael,
Were W to arrest the Saudi royal family and declare Saudi Arabia a US territory three things would happen:
1) Most American people (and servicemen) would applaud.
2) Oil prices would plummet.
3) Muslims and US Liberals would wring their hands, decry US policies, bemoan the mistreatement of Muslims, demand withdrawal and say the President should be impeached.

Gee, that's what they're doing now, isn't it?

The memos are part of a campaign to help the terrorists. Durbin disgraced himself. Dems add to the disgrace by defending him. The memos are another attempt to undercut war support and put American troops in further danger. Giving aid and comfort to the enemy is treason; believing unauthenticated, unsourced copies of memos - after Rather tried the same stupid ploy - is just plain dumb.
Bill


Edward Siegler - 6/23/2005

I thought I was talking with an Adam Moshe, now I see you listed as a Marc Bacharach. What happened? A name change? Are you related to the songwriter Burt Bacharach now?


Edward Siegler - 6/23/2005

I agree with you totally about the Vietnam analogy, which has been advanced with such relentlesness that I have to wonder why. I can't help but conclude that the people who constantly compare Iraq with Vietnam (but not Afghanistan, which wouldn't be a perfect analogy either, but would make infinitely more sense)WANT Iraq to be another Vietnam. However I will give them credit for not wanting 58,000 American casualties or a genocide in Iraq following an American withdrawal. They are most likely ignorant of these aspects of the Vietnam War, or are deliberately choosing to ignore them.


Edward Siegler - 6/23/2005

From the relentless conspiricy theory mongering that has marked the analysis of this war from before its start, I conclude the following: That 9-11 was just the break that Bush was looking for because it provided an excuse to supress civil liberties at home, "take over" Iraq and "control" its oil, murder Muslims, make profits for the corporations that helped get him elected, intimidate everyone and pave the way for further invasions around the world. In short, terrorism was just what the doctor ordered to provide justification to implement a previously planned agenda for advancing American hegemony.

I think it's only a matter of time before our understanding of Pearl Harbor and World War II will be subjected to a similar analysis. There's certainly a receptive and lucrative market for books and articles along these lines, and enterprising writers will soon take notice and respond accordingly.


Derek Charles Catsam - 6/23/2005

Isn't there some ground between "lie" and "truth"? Is it not possible that, believing that there were wmds and that here were other justifications, the administration believed things for which there was not sufficient evidence? Is it also not possible that there was some level of duplicity after the fact, so that Bush and his underlings were not wringing their hand in a sinister fashion throughout the buildup, but that after the fact they have been less than sincere? I do not think there was some sort of conspiracy to get soldiers into harm's way, but ratgher an honest desire for war in which obviously our men and women would be sent to battle. But if some of the duplicity comes after the fact, then there is the oldest motivation in the book: covering one's arse.
There also seems to be a middle ground between the views on the meos. They do not mean nothing, and are substantially more than a "dog barking." But I also do not believe that they are all that those who are trying to use them as evidence of perfidy would have us believe.
In the end, I think the administration made both the wrong and a bad case for a war for which a case could have been made. All along I have said that the administration seems to have come to the religion of human rights and democracy and nation building (which they derided prior to 9-11) only after the main motivations for war that they proferred fell into the popert. I am still glad that Hussein is gone, I am worried that very poor planning will scuttle a very important endeavor, and that the administration is less concerned with victory on the ground in Iraq than they are in the press room of the White House.

dc


John H. Lederer - 6/23/2005

What do these memos show? I have read the articles twice and am still at a loss as to the point.

What is it?

1. We decided to go to war before we invaded unless Saddam essentially capitulated?

2. We convinced the public that Saddam had WMD --which, the memo shows, we sincerely thought he had?


3. We really wanted regime change-- like the 1998 Senate resolution said was our policy?


What is the point? I am beginning to think that it is this:

4. Bush is bad, therefore the memos must in some way show that he is bad.


Charles Edward Heisler - 6/23/2005

The "just because" is the motivation for going to war, not to "lie" to the American people. Personally, I believe the motivation has been clearly stated since 9/11 and anyone listening objectively hears that motivation.
Clearly, invading Afganistan was not intended to be the termination of the war on terror, Bush stated as much early on in very clearly stating that this war, global in nature was going to be very long and difficult. No one in this country or any other country should be surprised that Iraq was in the crosshairs in this long and difficult war.
Since democracies do not war with each other, the removal of Hussein and freeing the Iraqi people is merely one of the tactics in a strategy aimed at democratizing the Middle East---something that appears to be successful at this early stage in the war on terror.
Bush believes, with very good reasoning, that free people do not engage in worldwide terror.
There is no doubt that a stable flow of oil is important to America and all free nations. That motivation can never be overlooked and America and the West have every right to protect their economies, especially when in doing so they free millions of oppressed people. There is no reason why a powerful nation whose economy has been damaged by international terrorism cannot defend that economy from future terrorist attacks. An American president would be irresponsible in not making sure the flow of oil continues. Bad economies, sustained over time, create conditions where peoples are likely to be oppressed by tyrants. Thus we see the efforts of this administration to put Iraq on a road to economic freedom, using their natural resources to help themselves and hopefully America.
Bush did not have to lie to the American people to mount this war. It had strong public support from the gitgo as well it should have. That the going is difficult was to be anticipated but given the success and security this war has realized for the American people, one has to wonder why there is any concern at this point. I certainly know of no world war that has involved so few casualties and so little sacrifice for the countries involved. This effort is simply amazing in the efficiency with which it has been waged.
I would anticipate that the American people will once again express their feelings in support of Bush in the next election, just as they did in the last two national contests--even with the steady drumbeat of negative silliness about naked bad guys and car bombs, the voters will be able to understand that more people are murdered daily in our largest cities than die in Iraq bombings.
My biggest fear is that the Democrats will once again waste their efforts in the coming election and lose even more ground--that may be the greatest danger of all, giving the Republicans large majorities that could last for decades simply because moderate Democrats cannot wrest power from the self destructive leftists in their Party.
If anyone is "lying" to the American people it is the anti-war left that looks past the ravages of evil doers worldwide to quibble about the noble effort we have undertaken for oppressed and terror ravaged peoples worldwide. Since their motivation is to recapture political influence by undermining this effort and by undermining, condemning millions to oppression, just as their deception condemned millions of Vietnamese and Cambodians in the 70's, their's is the biggest lie ever told to the American people.


Michael Barnes Thomin - 6/23/2005

Charles,

"You might note, as I have, that in all these silly discussions about the alleged Bush "lies" that no one has come up with a motive for the lies--the assumption that an American President would send our youth in to Harm's way "just because" is ridculous."


You raise a good question that needs to be addressed. Unlike a dictator, Bush needs support for war from the public. A dictator does not have to answer to anyone, but an elected president does. Bush's decisions are answerable to the American citizens and American citizens are, for the most part, decent people who want things done in their name to have a just cause. Let us just assume that the real reason why Bush went to war is because people in his administration convinced him it was the right thing to do (let us say, just for the sake of the argument, it was about control of oil and a geo-strategic foothold in the region). Let us also suppose that these same individuals believed it was the right thing to do as well, but knew that the American people might not grasp their point of view, or oppose it if they knew that it was really about these, perhaps necessary, but controversial, issues. So, let us presume that they decided to "cook" or "fix" certain intelligence information in order to scare the public into war mode. Note that this is not without precedent (Creel Commission, for example).

In a democracy leaders can not just get away with doing as they please because they are elected and risk impeachment, and moreover, can be held accountable under the laws of this land. In short, if he did lie, then he lied not “just because,” but because he had to convince the public to support it. Without it, he would not have gotten his war.

Regards


Michael Barnes Thomin - 6/22/2005

To O'reilly's credit, he did (kind of) live up to his word.

http://www.nydailynews.com/front/story/163375p-143201c.html


Charles Edward Heisler - 6/22/2005

Bill, they are dupes because the "memos" precisely fit their belief systems so well. It could be suggested that the reporter created these papers to feed this need the dupes have--after all the motive for doing so for Smith is far easier to understand and justify (fame) than the motive for Bush to "create" a war with Iraq! You might note, as I have, that in all these silly discussions about the alleged Bush "lies" that no one has come up with a motive for the lies--the assumption that an American President would send our youth in to Harm's way
"just because" is ridculous.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 6/22/2005

Mr. Friedman,
Sounds like a fair enough compromise :)


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 6/22/2005

Edward,
I would not disagree at all with the summery that you sent me, it sounds pretty accurate to me.

I am also glad that you enjoyed the article, although I hardly gleaned the same conclusions as you (unless you were simply being sarcastic, which is possible). There is no reason to rest easy about either Iraq, Iran, or North Korea having WMD (although between the 3, I would sooner tolerate a nuclear Iran than the other 2). The reason is that the regimes are so unstable, there would be no way to ensure that future leaders would show any restraint, or be able to prevent others from acquiring their technology, just as Pakistan was unable to prevent one of its own scientists from spreading the information. Also, possessing WMD is a virtual guarantee of national security, a guarantee that I would just as soon see such nations without.

Furthermore, an observer looking at the Iraq war could likely conclude that it is the US that is not deterable, and that obtaining WMD is the only way to starve off an attack. After all, North Korea is, so far as we know, a nuclear power today and without any resistance from the US.

It is true that Saddam could have talked to us nicer and sounded more enthusiastic about the UN resolution, but then again one could say that same about the US: had we been more diplomatic about waging war, we likely could have gotten many more allies aboard, especially had we waited for something (anything) that amounted to incontrovertible proof that Iraq represented a threat that could neither be controlled nor postponed but must be militarily confronted.

As for how Saddam handled the threat from the US, I am not really sure which threat you mean, other than the ultimatum to leave Iraq. If this is what you are referring to, I do not see how remaining in power contradicts the contention that his ultimate desire to remain in power.

As for the theory of containment working with other regimes, it really depends on the circumstances and the personality of specific leaders but generally speaking, I would say that it is a pretty accurate description of heads of national governments and currently see very little evidence to indicate otherwise.

A Hitler or Napoleon only really worked in a multi-polar world where victory was possible, not in a unipolar world where victory is substantially more risky.


N. Friedman - 6/22/2005

Mr. Siegler,

Thank you for the compliment.


Edward Siegler - 6/22/2005

Here's how the Funk and Wagnalls encyclopedia, which I take to be an objective source, describes the run-up to war:

Although the U.S. cited no evidence directly linking Iraq to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon of Sept. 11, 2001 (see Terrorism), the U.S. government soon began to reassess its policy toward the Hussein regime, which it considered a threat to security and stability. President George W. Bush in early 2002 approved an order expanding the techniques and resources the Central Intelligence Agency could use to topple Hussein; in his State of the Union address in January, Bush named Iraq as part of an “axis of evil” that, by seeking to develop weapons of mass destruction, posed a threat to world peace. In March, U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney, who had been U.S. secretary of defense during the Persian Gulf War, was dispatched to the Middle East to enlist Arab support for a new U.S.-led campaign against Iraq, but his mission was overtaken by the worsening Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Later that month, Iraq used an Arab League summit conference to shore up regional support, winning a pledge from other Arab governments not to cooperate with any U.S. military offensive; in return, Iraq agreed not to violate Kuwait's territorial integrity and independence. The country also improved its ties with Russia and Saudi Arabia.

The U.S. stepped up the pressure on Baghdad in September, when President Bush, in an address to the UN General Assembly, warned that if the UN did not take action against the Hussein regime, the U.S. would do so on its own. In October the U.S. Congress authorized the president to use force against Iraq, and in early November the UN Security Council unanimously approved Resolution 1441, warning Iraq that it would face “serious consequences” if it failed to cooperate fully and unconditionally with UN weapons inspectors. During the next several months, UN inspection teams found little evidence of banned weapons, but also reported that Iraqi officials had failed to substantiate their repeated claim that Iraq had destroyed all of its weapons of mass destruction. These inconclusive reports led many Security Council members to insist that the inspectors be given more time. The U.S., however, which by February had sent more than 100,000 troops to the Persian Gulf, believed that action should be taken. President Bush on March 17 demanded that Hussein and his sons leave Iraq within 48 hours. When Iraq rejected the ultimatum, the U.S. and the UK, supported in various ways by a handful of other allies, launched an invasion.

I enjoyed the article on containing Saddam, especially the last sentence claiming that Saddam had no more reason to give WMDs to al-Qaeda than the U.S. does. That was funny. And it gives us reason to rest easy about Iran and North Korea aquiring nuclear weapons because the same arguments about Saddam's supposive rational instinct for self-preservation should apply to these regimes as well.

Saddam easily could have avoided the invasion through full compliance with the U.N. and at least somewhat more diplomatic rhetoric than what he engaged in during the lead-up to war. The article says that Saddam wouldn't do anything, such as nuclear blackmail, that would result in his destruction, but is contradicted by Saddam's actions in dealing with this very threat from the U.S. Let's hope that the author's sunny optimism about endless containment and the "rational" instincts of self-preservation will apply to other tyrannical regimes that might aquire WMDs. I doubt we will have much choice than to trust in this view, because I think the adopt-a-country era has drawn to a close.


Bill Heuisler - 6/22/2005

Arnold,
Glad to help. Google British intelligence briefing on OBL and Al Qaeda in 2002 since you surely don't trust US intel. The Brits call him Usama so maybe google UBL.

In 1989 Osama Bin Laden and others founded "Al Qaeda" (the Base) to drive Soviets from Afganistan. From 1989 until 1991 OBL was based in Afghanistan and Peshawar, Pakistan. In 1991 he moved to Sudan, met with intel officers from NIF, Iraq and Libya and trained terrorists in camps 850 miles from Mogadishu. In 1996 he returned to Afghanistan and is thought to be back in Pakistan.

OBL has sinced bragged and been filmed bragging about the 9/11 attacks. Detailed planning for 9/11 was carried out by one of OBL's close associates. Of the 19 hijackers in 9/11, three had close links with Al Qaeda. Google the Kuala Lumpur meeting of Al Qaeda group (Jemaah Islamiah) with Khalid al Midhar and Nawaf al Hazmi who hijacked Flight 77 on 9/11 and the meeting of Abu Zubayr, of Saddam's Mukhabarat, with Ramzi Bin al-Shibh in Madrid with a Spanish Al Qaeda group on 9/5/2001.

This last information about Kuala Lumpur and Madrid is in the 9/11 commission report (not the staff "summary", but the actual report) in case you take the time for research before simply denying everything again.
Bill




Arnold Shcherban - 6/22/2005

Somebody has to yet explain what al-Qaeda is...
As far as I know a clear explanation has not been delivered even by intelligence agencies of this country, not mentioning that some intelligence analysts argue that
such thing does not exist per se.
Being approached from the point of view of iron-clad proof
demanded by the booers of Downing Street memo, noone has ever proven that 9/11 was al-Qaeda's deed.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 6/22/2005

1) “Hussein's incredible stupidity in dealing with the U.S. in the October-March '02-'04 period made war, if not inevitable, at least extremely likely.”

I disagree, and in fact believe that Saddam acted quite rationally during this period. Remember that they agreed to the new UN demands that were placed on it and according to Hans Blix and the weapons inspectors, “Since we arrived in Iraq, we have conducted more than 400 inspections covering more than 300 sites. All inspections were performed without notice, and access was almost always provided promptly. In no case have we seen convincing evidence that the Iraqi side knew in advance that the inspectors were coming.” Indeed, all of the evidence that I have seen indicates that it was the US, not Iraq, that made war inevitable. I do not mean to make a man like Saddam Hussein look like a victim here, for that is one title he shall never be entitled to, but from a historical perspective, I honestly do not see how Iraq’s behavior could have prevented the US from doing what we obviously intended on doing from the outset.

http://middleeastreference.org.uk/un030214.html
http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/iraq/attack/2003/0526course.htm
http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/iraq/attack/2003/0212charade.htm

2) “War with Iraq was not "neccessary" in 1990, when Kerry voted against it. Iraq did not pose a threat to the U.S., and in effect had asked for American permission to invade Kuwait. As Kerry pointed out at the time, all diplomatic efforts to negotiate an Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait had not been exhausted, and therefore war was not neccessary.”

Kerry was wrong. Iraq invaded another sovereign nation, in clear violation of international law and the US had to send a message to the world of how it was going to respond to the first major international crisis since the end of the Soviet Union. By contrast, in 2002, Iraq didn’t actually “do” anything specific and was even willing to undo what it was guilty of in the 1990’s, such as allowing inspectors back in the country.

3) “The aftermath of the Gulf War, I believe, made a second war with Iraq inevitable. The U.S. won the war brilliantly at practically no cost, and then lost the peace shamefully - by betraying the Iraqi people who had been promised U.S. support in the event of an uprising against Hussein only be ignored when then took up the offer.”

The US never should have made such false promises to the Iraqi people, but I believe that Bush the elder was correct in his decision not to remove Saddam from power, and I also believe that the latest conflict has fully vindicated that decision, as much of what Bush predicted could happen did happen.

http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/bush/walt.htm

4) “Bush made offers to Hussein up to the last minute in the hopes of avoiding war - the last was to tell him that if he stepped down the invasion would be called off.”

This offer was no offer. It was an ultimatum that no dictator nor many governments in general would acquiesce to. The offer was, to me, simply a way of covering all the bases by giving the country of Iraq the opportunity to face chaos and anarchy on their own rather than an American invasion doing so.

5) “If Kerry and other Senators really sought to avoid a war they would not have supported this Authorization. Kerry gives a plethora of reasons why he saw Hussein as a threat that neccessarily needed to be dealt with, and sounds as hawkish as George Bush himself.”

You are correct that Kerry and others sound rather hawkish, as they believe as I do that threats like Saddam Hussein must not be ignored but must be addressed and resolved. That alone however, does not mean that invasion and occupation were the only, or even the best alternative. As for the Congressional resolution, it did nothing more than to formalize what was already a recognized principle, that the president of the United States is authorized to wage war on behalf of the country.

I cannot really think of any rational reason why a Senator would NOT have signed it, particularly since those who did on the grounds that it endorsed war were immediately rebuked by the administration and its supporters that war had not been decided and that the resolution was not necessary in any event.

Furthermore, even if I disagree with the resolution itself, it is an unfortunate reality that Senators must bow to overwhelming public opinion regardless of the genuine merits of the bill or resolution.


Edward Siegler - 6/22/2005

Mr. Friedman,

Your attempt to see the Middle East in Middle Eastern terms is refreshing (and depressingly rare) in its objectivity. If the war in Iraq ends with a genocide of Sunnis by Shiites, which looks like a distinct possibility the longer the Sunni insurgency continues, we will need this type of objectivity even more. As you must be aware, situations like this end up being seen in terms of value judgments and blame, and not by attempts to understand other's situations.


Edward Siegler - 6/22/2005

As Kerry pointed out in his floor statement, Hussein has been known for extreme miscalculation. Hussein's incredible stupidity in dealing with the U.S. in the October-March '02-'04 period made war, if not inevitable, at least extremely likely. Kerry's floor statement presents war with Iraq as being very likely, so the question comes around to the meaning of "neccessary." War with Iraq was not "neccessary" in 1990, when Kerry voted against it. Iraq did not pose a threat to the U.S., and in effect had asked for American permission to invade Kuwait. As Kerry pointed out at the time, all diplomatic efforts to negotiate an Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait had not been exhausted, and therefore war was not neccessary. The aftermath of the Gulf War, I believe, made a second war with Iraq inevitable. The U.S. won the war brilliantly at practically no cost, and then lost the peace shamefully - by betraying the Iraqi people who had been promised U.S. support in the event of an uprising against Hussein only be ignored when then took up the offer.

Bush made offers to Hussein up to the last minute in the hopes of avoiding war - the last was to tell him that if he stepped down the invasion would be called off.

Perhaps war was not viewed as inevitable in October '02, but it was certainly seen as a great likelyhood. What impresses me about Kerry's statement is its similarity to subsequent White House statements about the origins of the war. If Kerry and other Senators really sought to avoid a war they would not have supported this Authorization. Kerry gives a plethora of reasons why he saw Hussein as a threat that neccessarily needed to be dealt with, and sounds as hawkish as George Bush himself.


N. Friedman - 6/22/2005

Adam,

Fair points all and well argued. While I am not persuaded that we have a case of fundamental lying, I agree with you that there one ought not trust the Bush administration. I thought that in 2000 and I still think the same.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 6/22/2005

Mr. Friedman,
Your points are well taken and thoughtfully presented.

I maintain my harsh use of the word “lie” because I believe it fitting for what the administration has said. Although others on this site disagree on legitimate grounds, I would humbly submit only that I cannot reach that conclusion based on the evidence.

When Condoleezza Rice said that aluminum tubes found in Iraq “are only really suited for nuclear weapons programs, centrifuge programs,” it was a lie, as she knew at the time that many experts, indeed perhaps a majority within the intelligence community, believed that the aluminum tubes not only had other uses, but were unlikely to be used for enriching uranium.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A36348-2002Sep18?language=printer
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/3056626.stm

When President Bush said that Iraq “possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons” and “It is seeking nuclear weapons,” he was not only factually wrong, but failed to add that this was opinion and conjecture and that according to David Kay, “to date we have not uncovered evidence that Iraq undertook significant post-1998 steps to actually build nuclear weapons or produce fissile material.” No evidence, and yet Bush presented this fact as so unequivocal, even some today maintain that they will be uncovered.
http://www.cia.gov/cia/public_affairs/speeches/2003/david_kay_10022003.html

When the administration continuously implied (not explicitly stated, I freely admit) that Iraq was somehow connected to 9/11, the nation took the cue, and over 70% of the country believed that Saddam Hussein was involved with the 9/11 attacks. 70% of the population believed something that was not true. Were they simply part of some mass delusion? I would argue that those 70% made legitimate inferences from administration statements and it was only after the war that Bush came out and explicitly denied any evidence of such a connection. Is this a lie? Many would argue that since there is no “smoking gun” statement from the administration, it is not, and perhaps they are correct. But in my view, it is yet another example of administration statements that lead to a conclusion which they know to be unsupported by the evidence.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/3119676.stm

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A12115-2004Oct6.html
http://www.cfr.org/publication.php?id=6023
http://www.americanprogress.org/AccountTempFiles/cf/{E9245FE4-9A2B-43C7-A521-5D6FF2E06E03}/PRIRAQCLAIMFACT1029.HTM#3

For another good case against the war, written in October 2002, the following author acknowledges what was known before the war, that “we simply do not know whether Iraq has developed weapons of mass destruction, or whether it will, or when. Still less do we know what Hussein would do with them if and when he obtained any. What is more, we do not seem greatly interested in finding out. Pleas from our closest allies, including even Tony Blair in Britain, that there must be a real effort to get UN inspectors back into Iraq before taking any other action against it, meet with impatient skepticism; any suggestion from Iraq that it might agree to this demand is dismissed as a bad joke; Vice President Richard Cheney insists that even actual UN inspections would not be enough. In short, the administration really does not know whether there is a clear and imminent threat from Iraq, cannot prove that one exists, and resists proposals for finding out because the answer might undermine its plans for war.”

http://www.amconmag.com/2002_10_21/iraq.html

In short, I do not believe that the administration was simply wrong, as hindsight clearly and unequivocally demonstrates, nor do I claim that the administration was too concerned over nothing. The concern was valid, and the suspicion may have been valid. What was not valid was the vehement certainty with which the administration made its case, certainty that all but excluded it from debate.

I defer to the conservative pundit Bill O’Reilly on this one. Before the war started, O’Reilly stated that “If the Americans go in and overthrow Saddam Hussein and it's clean, he has nothing, I will apologize to the nation, and I will not trust the Bush Administration again.” I agree.


N. Friedman - 6/22/2005

Adam,

With due respect to you whom I greatly respect, I do not see the contradictory information as being clear-cut evidence of lying.

I see a plethora of contradictory material that said all sorts of things. I see an administration which believed its own rhetoric (which, to me, is blameworthy on its own merits but is something different than lying). I see good reason for the the administration to be underwhelmed by anything coming from the spy agencies (i.e. the agencies who did not connect the 9/11 dots, which thought the USSR was stronger than ever when it was collapsing, etc., etc.) that contradicted the administration's belief. And I see large numbers of people who really thought that Iraq had stockpiles of WMD (e.g. Kaye).

Again. None of this means that the administration should be let off the hook for the mess they have made - to the extent they have made messes (which they have) -. Instead, I am saying that the case for them being called "liar" is, at least on my reading, mostly 20/20 hindsight.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 6/22/2005

With all respect, and at the risk of stating the obvious, I disagree that it is a false premise and believe that the evidence not only exists, but is overwhelming. I base this on this on a reasonable assumption and a great deal of evidence. The assumption is that the American people supported war with Iraq because they believed that Iraq had massive stockpiles of WMD, and was prepared to use them against us or our allies. That is to say, I do not believe that the violation of UN resolutions or the humanitarian argument (both valid causes for war in my opinion) was compelling enough for most people, which is why they remained tertiary issues.

As for the evidence, all that need be done here is to look over the administration’s statement before the war, and then compare that with the actual data that they had access to at the time. If the data conforms to what they said, even if it ended up being wrong, one can hardly fault the administration for relying on it. If, however, their statements did not conform to the data, and in many cases contradicted it and with their knowledge, then I would call it a lie.

There are so many examples, some of which I already posted, of how the administrations words conflict with the available evidence at the time, there is no point in rehashing them now. I would merely contend that the charge of deception, which I do not make lightly, is, in my opinion, completely valid based on the facts.


Charles Edward Heisler - 6/22/2005

Does it occur to anyone else that all this speculation and opinion giving is based on an entirely false premise?
The "Bush lied" argument is specious from the outset since there is absolutely no evidence to show that the invasion of Iraq was based on lies, at least as I understand "lies" to be defined.
To engage in an extended argument and discussion that is based on a false premise seems to me to be nothing more than some kind of strange self gratification. When I see all this "intellectual" effort and the referring of numerous articles (all supporting the false premise), I visualize hamsters on spinning wheels--nothing more than meaningless scritching and clicking.


N. Friedman - 6/22/2005

John,

That is certainly true. Of course, it is certainly not true of Russia. And it is not really true of Israel.


John Henry Haas - 6/22/2005

OK, makes sense. I think it should be mentioned the degree to which other nationss' intelligence assessments are parasitic on our own.


N. Friedman - 6/21/2005

Adam,

I am aware of most of the inconsistencies noted in the President's speech. I have this observation other than noting that some of the supposed mistatements are contested as being accurate:

I am not sure the correct standard to judge a politician. One side of me says they should be judged harshly for their errors and inconsistencies and, certainly, Bush deserves very, very harsh criticism regarding Iraq - even if everything was based on the best available evidence - as he has not shown great competence in carrying out his policy and the policy may have been dumb to start with.

Another side of me says that the same standard applied to any presidential speech will probably yield about as many errors and mistatements. Which is to say, the fact that some analyst worried that this or that might be wrong or believed this or that to be wrong is, to me, to be expected.

What catches my curiousity is how a large number of people deluded themselves. And that, to me, is the real lesson here, not lying. So (a) Bush should be judged harshly for failure but (b) the failure was basically one of negligence and delusion, not design or gross dishonesty.


Bill Heuisler - 6/21/2005

Mr Donahue,
Precisely my objection: Either the "the context of who said it, where it was said (or) why" is missing in nearly all the memos. Added to that sloppiness is the dubious authenticity of original documents and the purported reason for their destruction: "to protect the source". Destroying the source identification by destroying the originals means the source was printed on the documents. Cutting or blacking out names and origins has been suitable security for over a hundred years when using documents as evidence. Also, in British courts it is permissable for the identity of a witness to be known only to the Judge in cases involving national security.
These memos are either false or have been altered to an agenda. Also, your "context" is missing in each case because surrounding memos have been (or may have been) ignored. We must trust one man's story. Do you?

Further, coverage is replete with anonymous commentary by people listed as critics or not listed at all. These so-called "documents" would not survive an evidentiary hearing during pre-trial in any court in the US or in Britain. The hue and cry is ridiculous and the huers and criers are become eager dupes.
Bill Heuisler


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 6/21/2005

The following is also an editorial from the American Conservative, a conservative (obviously) magazine that has been against the war from the beginning. Many of its articles (though not neccessarily this one from 2002, before the war) have proven prophetic:

http://www.amconmag.com/2002_11_04/iraqi_intelligence.html


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 6/21/2005

A fair point. I posted it as one example of many of how intelligence at the time was not unanimous of Iraq's programs or intent.

Perhaps the following better illustrates that even before the war, Bush should have known that his statements were misleading.

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/files/story168.php


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 6/21/2005

It should be noted that at the time of the resolution, many supporters believed that it was neccessary in order to add teeth to the president's threats against Iraq. It worked. Iraq started to comply with the beefed up inspections and the UN knew that America was prepared to take action if it didn't. Had things ended there, at least for a time to see how things worked out, I personally would have commended Bush for a job well done.

The following is John Kerry's floor statement about the resolution. Aside from being perfectly consistant with every future statement he ever made on the issue, it also articulates how Senator's did NOT believe that they were voting for war, only for the president to have the authority to wage war if it becomes neccessary. The difference is significant.
http://www.independentsforkerry.org/uploads/media/kerry-iraq.html

As CNN reported at the time, "The resolution requires Bush to declare to Congress either before or within 48 hours after beginning military action that diplomatic efforts to enforce the U.N. resolutions have failed.

Bush also must certify that action against Iraq would not hinder efforts to pursue the al Qaeda terrorist network that attacked New York and Washington last year. And it requires the administration to report to Congress on the progress of any war with Iraq every 60 days."

http://archives.cnn.com/2002/ALLPOLITICS/10/11/iraq.us/

Upon signing it, Bush said the following:

"With this resolution, Congress has now authorized the use of force. I have not ordered the use of force. I hope the use of force will not become necessary."
http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/10/20021016-1.htm

In short, at the time it was voted on, war was not viewed as inevitable and thus the vote itself should not be viewed as support for the war that was to come.


N. Friedman - 6/21/2005

Adam,

I have never read any of my namesake's books. I do read his articles.

My "knowledge" - or at least my pretense of knowledge - comes from reading historians of Islam and the Muslim regions.


N. Friedman - 6/21/2005

Adam,

Not to be a stickler against a friend, but I do not see how the article you cite from MSNBC supports your claim regarding Bush misleading anyone. The article shows that David Kay certainly believed.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 6/21/2005

Mr. Friedman,
You may very well be correct. I wonder if you are a reader of Thomas Freidman, who has a great deal of experience and observation in the region.

In his book, From Beruit to Jarusalem, Friedman coins the phrase "Hama Rules" and implied what you have just stated: that the Arab world operates (at least to some degree) on a different set of rules than Western cultures and that, according to him, those rules are based on 3 conflicting elements of Arab culture that has shaped its recent history:
1) Tribalism (which dates back generations)
2) Authoritarianism (neccessary in order to compel people to act as a nation when they are really tribal at heart), and finally,
3) the nation-state, imposed by the West but now integrated into Arab culture

I don't know if Friedman is correct, and he writes much that I disagree with, but if you have not already done so, I would recommend some of his books.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 6/21/2005

I would argue that when war is on the table in a democratic nation, the people should be told the truth and not be lied to because the president believes that those lies will ultimately be vindicated.

However, to answer your question directly, yes, I do believe that Bush basically believed what he said, even if it did not conform to the information avaliable. However, I still maintain that it was a deliberate lie in that he knew his claims were not supported by the intelligence at the time.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4122113/


N. Friedman - 6/21/2005

Adam,

As always, you make some very good points.

I take issue with your comment (up to the point I quote) that "It is hypocritical of many on the Arab street to ignore the wanton slaughter of innocent Muslims in Iraq and elsewhere and to ignore the gross human rights violations committed by fellow Muslims..."

The assumption is that there is a deep, untapped or overlooked belief in human rights. I think the evidence is decidedly otherwise. The absence of a sense of human rights is necessary to a society where the Jihad mentality exists, the apostate nonsense exists, the blasphemy mentality (e.g. the fatwa/hukm against Rushdie and many others) exists. And such is why nothing is said about beheadings. These things simply do not shock the conscience of the region because the region views rights differently than you and I do.

My point: human rights is very much Western concept. It is not part of the Muslim belief system. That type of system has its own ideas of what is and is not right in society and in warfare. And these ideas are so different than ours that it is difficult for us to grasp. This is because we live in a basically secularized post religious society where religion has been largely confined to a private affair - the very opposite of what exists in the Muslim regions -.

Such, you will note, is not intended as a criticism of the Muslim regions. It is stated with the aim at explaining societies which produce Jihadis, beheadings, etc., as if such things were "normal." Evidently, in their region of the world, such things are normal. And so, there is no reason to expect them to be outraged at things which, to them, are not outrageous in the same manner they are to us.

To my detractors: I am not suggesting a less or more civilized society. I am suggesting a society with a very different history where very different values remain dominant - values more akin to Western values during the Middle Ages -.


N. Friedman - 6/21/2005

Adam,

Then what you are saying is that he made the little lies of a politician or parent, not the big lies of a person who does not believe what basically underlies what was said.


Michael Barnes Thomin - 6/21/2005

WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE?!?

Bush placed it around George Tenet's neck.

http://www.medaloffreedom.com/GeorgeTenet.htm


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 6/21/2005

Edward,
I have great respect for your intelligence on these posts, so I hope you would allow me to respectfully disagree with you on this particular issue.

1) “The result of these attacks, outside of horrific bloodshed, has been to make Iraq the most anti-al-Qaeda country in the Middle East. Althougth they claim to be fighting against foreign invaders, most al-Qaeda operatives in Iraq are foreigners themselves.”

This is probably true, but I don’t think that causes any dent in the charge that the invasion has made Iraq a terrorist haven. Indeed, that is exactly what the CIA says. As the Washington Post reported earlier this year:

“Iraq has replaced Afghanistan as the training ground for the next generation of "professionalized" terrorists, according to a report released yesterday by the National Intelligence Council, the CIA director's think tank.

Iraq provides terrorists with "a training ground, a recruitment ground, the opportunity for enhancing technical skills," said David B. Low, the national intelligence officer for transnational threats. "There is even, under the best scenario, over time, the likelihood that some of the jihadists who are not killed there will, in a sense, go home, wherever home is, and will therefore disperse to various other countries." …

“According to the NIC report, Iraq has joined the list of conflicts -- including the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate, and independence movements in Chechnya, Kashmir, Mindanao in the Philippines, and southern Thailand -- that have deepened solidarity among Muslims and helped spread radical Islamic ideology.”
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A7460-2005Jan13.html

In other words, whatever sympathy AQ lost among Iraqis has been more than compensated for by the overwhelming popularity elsewhere in the Arab world (this has been observed and well written about in Thomas Friedman’s book, Longitudes and Altitudes).

2) “They would much rather fight this battle on American soil. But the U.S., for now, is engaging them on ground of its own choosing.”

I do not believe that this is correct. AQ is far more active in the Middle East than it is in the US or Europe, and always has been. The reasons are straightforward: since their short term goal is the removal of pro-US governments in Saudi Arabia and other Muslim states and the consolidation of various countries into one Islamic super-state, it makes sense that the battle is exactly where they want it and producing exactly what it wants, which is the popular perception in the Arab world that America is fighting a war against Islam.

It is hypocritical of many on the Arab street to ignore the wanton slaughter of innocent Muslims in Iraq and elsewhere and to ignore the gross human rights violations committed by fellow Muslims, it’s true, but as for what AQ “wants,” I do not believe that the current situation is necessarily disadvantageous to it.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 6/21/2005

Mr. Friedman,
Thank you for the kind words.

I do believe that the Bush administration lied countless times, but I also think that they viewed such lies as essentially framing a guilty man. The logic of certain discovery of the truth tells me that Bush was probably so certain of what he believed, he figured that he could say anything he wanted to, even if the evidence did not support it, and then would be vindicated once the war was complete. The ends, in other words, would have justified the means.

Indeed, had we found the WMD, evidence of a strong alliance between Saddam and bin Laden, collaboration with the 9/11 attacks, or an active nuclear program, no one would have cared that Bush didn't really have the evidence to back up his claims, because they would have turned out to be true anyway.

As it turns out however, the guilty man being framed was, in fact, innocent of many of the charges against him (though not all charges, obviously- he was a monster of a leader, and his violations of UN agreements without punishment was no secret), and now the United States is bogged down and far weaker (both politically and militarily) than before the conflict.

To make matters worse, NO ONE has been held accountable for the discrepancy between what was known and what was said. Neither the policy makers, nor the intelligence community; neither the administration nor the policy analysis have been held to account and asked what went wrong. Republicans stand by Bush for partisan reasons, Democrats oppose him for the same reason, and intelligent people, both liberal and conservative, are left asking aloud what Newt Gingrich famously asked about Democratic corruption: WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE?!?


Edward Siegler - 6/21/2005

Mr. Chamberlain,

Certainly there were other ways that military force could have been used against Iraq. The status quo of no-fly zones and air strikes could have been continued for a time. Or Hussein's regime could have been knocked out of power, and Iraq then left to sort out the pieces alone, without the interference of what many in the region call "the Jews." I believe this scenario - military action without any commitment to reconstruction - will be America's response to the next major terrorist attack on its soil.

I don't know how you define "congenial battlefield", but it helps to take a look at the military situation in Iraq today. Al-Qaeda has been mounting a never-ending string of suicide bombings and other attacks that have largely been directed at non-Sunni Iraqis and their allies. These attacks are meant to incite civil war, which is something the vast majority of Iraqis do not want. The result of these attacks, outside of horrific bloodshed, has been to make Iraq the most anti-al-Qaeda country in the Middle East. Althougth they claim to be fighting against foreign invaders, most al-Qaeda operatives in Iraq are foreigners themselves. This hypocrisy, as well as al-Qaeda's declared war against the "infidel institution" of democracy (an institution which is enthusiastically supported by most Iraqis), is not lost on the Iraqi people. They are responding accordingly by joining the military in large numbers despite the direct threat to their lives. Such is the unpopularity of al-Qaeda that the Baathist wing of the insurgency, which aims to reestablish Sunni control over the country (another wildly unpopular goal), has been forced to distance itself from these foreigners, leaving them in many cases isolated in the Western desert where they are being destroyed by coalition forces.

The conflict in Iraq is almost entirely an outgrowth of the ancient Sunni-Shiite rivalry. Most of the Arab world is Sunni. They see the democracy in Iraq as installing Shiite control over this country, which they fear will unite with a nuclear armed Iran and then dominate the region - as Shiites have attempted to do at times throughout the last 1,000 years. This fear is what drives the regional support for an insurgency that is increasingly an embarrassment to the Arab world. The deliberate targeting of civilians, despite what some believe in the West, is not considered a particularly honorable thing in the Middle East.

Al-Qaeda has been drawn into battle in Iraq, but to call that battlefield a "congenial" one seems at least a little off-base. They would much rather fight this battle on American soil. But the U.S., for now, is engaging them on ground of its own choosing.


N. Friedman - 6/21/2005

Adam,

I think you make a lot of sense.

I note: I am not convinced of the liar theory. I think Bush and his advisors really believed - just like Clinton believed - in the WMD.

But I also think that no one really thought Iraq, taken alone, is a threat. I think they viewed the war as necessary to deal with the Jihadis. Such, you will note, was the view pushed by Professor Lewis at the time and nothing has convinced me that the was - despite Bush's predilection to want to attack Iraq going back to times before his election -, post 9/11, was motivated by anything other than dealing with the Jihadis.



Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 6/21/2005

Although as an opponent of the war, I do not feel “required” to reply to the article, since I have a few minutes before heading out, I think I will reply to express my tremendous disagreement with the authors conclusions. Before I get to the points that bear the most mention, the problem with the article in general are as follows,
- As already mentioned by Oscar Chamberlain, the alternative to invasion was not to do nothing. The spectrum from nothing to invasion involves too many alternatives to count, but it will be sufficient to say that there were many alternatives.

- The author has failed to realize that the alternative to waging war when we did and how we did could have been a war with international support, and regional legitimacy. It is my contention that it was the arrogance and predetermined

- The United States was in the middle of a war against a terrorist organization whose leaders still remained free and from which resources were diverted in order to launch an invasion of Iraq.

- In his analysis of what could have been, the author ignored the cost that was paid, assuming that we would have incurred those costs in any event. However, I don’t see how this is true. The international position of the US was incredibly strong in the US, there were virtually no AQ terrorists in Iraq, and we were prepared to deal with any threat that might come up. Today, with America’s image shattered in the worst way throughout the globe, we now face threats that we are simply not prepared to respond to.

- The article ignores that fact that the war was based on “misinformation.”
http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=168
As studies have indicated, Americans who supported this war believed things that were not true, and known to be untrue even before the conflict as well as after. Although many have avoided the “L” work regarding this administration, I have no shame in saying that the administration lied, both directly and through omission about the nature of the threat, and the circumstances of going to war.
http://www.philly.com/mld/philly/news/special_packages/iraq/6918170.htm
http://www.amconmag.com/2002_10_07/the_road_to_folly.html


Now, that being said, on to the specific problems I had with the article.

1) “Hussein… had contempt for human life and no qualms about killing thousands of his own citizens… This alone placed him in a special class of historical figures, a not irrelevant factor in determining whether his removal, even at the present cost, was worth it.”

Unfortunately for humanity, I do not find Saddam’s behavior particularly unusual in a historic sense. Assad of Syria murdered over 20,000 of his own people in one famous massacre in 1982, and countless more incrementally. Obviously the genocide of Rwanda and Sudan do not bear repeating here, but what of the insanity of North Korea, a country that could properly be called a slave state in that all of its inhabitants are enslaved? I really could go on (sadly) but I think you get the idea: there was nothing peculiarly “cruel” in Saddam Hussein, and if he was worse than the rest, it was by inches and not miles.

2) “There is a strong argument to be made that Hussein would have pushed toward confrontation and war at some point, no matter what we did.”

I disagree, and do not believe that any such argument could cogently be made. If the Downing Street Memos are correct, the US began bombing Iraq almost a year before full scale invasion in order to goad Iraq into retaliating, thus giving us a pretext for war. As we know, he did not, nor did he refuse or even resist the conditions the UN placed on it prior to the conflict. No, much like the Soviet Union or Cuba, Saddam cared far more about holding on to power than he did some suicidal vendetta against the US. We also now know, in hindsight I admit, that he didn’t even have the weapons capacity TO make any confrontation necessary. Thus I find the argument that Saddam was akin to Hitler in his territorial ambitions to be baseless.

3) “In the early 1980s he invaded Iran and fought it to a bloody standstill for the better part of a decade. No sooner had that war ended than he invaded Kuwait. He fancied himself the new Saladin, much as Napoleon and Hitler had fancied themselves the new Caesar.”

This is, to be generous, a common revisionist belief, that Saddam’s actions made him insane. In fact, attacking Iran was, without question belligerent and premeditated, but it was not without logic, given the recent turmoil in the country after the revolution. More to the point, WE SUPPORTED HIM IN THAT CONFLICT, a fact too often forgotten. The fact that the war dragged out longer than anyone is a hypocritical charge coming from a nation which spent countless lives and money to fight a loosing war against Vietnam. As for Kuwait, this is another good example of Saddam’s belligerency, but not his irrationality. The case has been made rather convincingly to me, that Saddam assumed the West would not intervene and he had nothing to fear.
http://www.ips-dc.org/iraq/primer4.htm#35

In short, I have seen no evidence either in Saddam’s personal life, or in his actions as dictator, that would lead me to believe that we could not have deterred him, as we had throughout the 1990’s, and as George H.W. Bush clearly believed.
http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/iraq/history/2003/0419reasonsnot.htm

As George A. Lopez noted in his article in Foreign Affairs:
“The unique synergy of sanctions and inspections thus eroded Iraq's weapons programs and constrained its military capabilities. The renewed UN resolve demonstrated by the Security Council's approval of a "smart" sanctions package in May 2002 showed that the system could continue to contain and deter Saddam. Unfortunately, only when U.S. troops invaded in March 2003 did these successes become clear: the Iraqi military that confronted them had, in the previous twelve years, been decimated by the strategy of containment that the Bush administration had called a failure in order to justify war in the first place.”
http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20040701faessay83409/george-a-lopez-david-cortright/containing-iraq-sanctions-worked.html

4) “For another fact not in dispute is that Hussein… was only waiting for the international community to lose interest or stamina so that he could resume his programs unfettered.”

This is too true of Iraq as well as many other international hotspots. But this contradicts the previous point. Saddam could not have simultaneously been un-deterable and also been “waiting for the international community” to stop deterring him!

5) “The main concern of senior officials in both administrations was that, in the words of then-national security adviser Samuel "Sandy" Berger, containment was not "sustainable over the long run."

If this is true, and it very well may have been, why not tighten the restrictions and close any loopholes that exist, and then either make the case for war that he was not complying, or based on sound intelligence. Had Bush done that, I can assure you, people like me would have been so suspicious about the entire enterprise. It was Bush’s shifting rationale, his inconsistent statements, and his outright hostility to answering questions or justifying his actions that immediately made me skeptical of his intentions.

6) “Nor should we assume that, even if the United States and others had remained vigilant, Hussein could have been deterred from doing something to provoke a conflict. Tragic miscalculation was Hussein's specialty, after all, as his invasions of Iran and Kuwait proved.”

I am a little surprised I am ever reading this passage. What is the author trying to say exactly, that we should have invaded because if we didn’t, Saddam might one day do something that would have promoted an invasion? I have a hard time understanding what makes this justification from the very enemies that we are fighting. After all, all of the great dictators in modern history have justified their invasions on the basis of some phantom threat the enemy supposedly has or might have.


N. Friedman - 6/21/2005

Oscar,

You raise some very good points.

One note:

You write "Third, moving into Iraq as we did disrupted the war against Al Qaeda by limiting our ability to expand along the Afghan-Pakistani border and by reducing the number of active American allies."

I am not quite sure you are entirely correct here. First, I do not think that we could really move on the Afgan-Pakistani border without taking on Pakistan which, most likely, is the main supporter of the Taliban resistance as well as al Qa'eda.

Second, the issue with Europe (and I assume you mean European allies), I think, runs much deeper than Iraq. The countries in the French sphere of thought picture Europe as the dominant player controlling the Arab regions by means of a series of agreements beginning in around 1973 but continuing to this date. Such agreements basically push those in the French sphere toward buying off the Jihadi threat. While the agreements are formally a product of the EU bureaucracy, such agreements are based on French interests and analysis.



Oscar Chamberlain - 6/21/2005

First of all, the alternative was not "nothing." That's cheap. The alternative was a range of policies, including other uses of military force.

Second, the "X" factor here is the Bush administration's near total diplomatic incompetence--and what more and more looks like the liberal use of dishonesty--in 2002-2003, something that is getting well publicized. The US is now in the unenviable position of having to convince any leader whose help we need to go against public opinion in supporting us. (So what's new in that? someone might reply. What's new is that these leaders will have to convince their publics why they don't think we are lying.)

Third, moving into Iraq as we did disrupted the war against Al Qaeda by limiting our ability to expand along the Afghan-Pakistani border and by reducing the number of active American allies.

Fourth (really the third point continued), Iraq today has provided Al Qaeda a congenial battlefield, in which it has the advantages of language, familiarity, and the resentment built up by American forces actions (This is not meant as an insult to our troops. Even intelligently run occupations almost inevitably create resentment, and we made no attempt early on to shape an intelligent occupation. Our troops have done a remarkable job despite bad leadership.)

Finally, in comparing what has happened to hypothetical possibilities, one must remember that we have not won the war yet.


Bob Harper - 6/21/2005

A brilliant article, to which opponents of the war should be required to reply before indulging in their usual Bush-bashing.


N. Friedman - 6/21/2005

The term is dhimmitude.


Ricardo Luis Rodriguez - 6/21/2005

See the Iranian "negotiations" with the Europeans. Realize that the use of European "soft power" is culminating in the acquisition of WMD by Iran. Witness the rigging of elections in Iran (weeding out of moderates, totally unexpected rise of minor candidate to runoff slate). Predict the future. Not necessarily war, but the bending of Western will to Islamic threats of force.


Edward Siegler - 6/21/2005

It might be of help, for the purposes of this debate, to refer back to the Congressional Authorization for the use of force against Iraq, passed in October '02. It lists, I believe, 23 seperate reasons for the invasion. These include the violation of the '91 cease-fire agreement; violation of many different U.N. resolutions; firing on U.S. aircraft; Iraq's use of chemical weapons on its own people and the people of Iran; the invasions of Iran and Kuwait; plotting to assasinate a former U.S. president; and others. This act was co-sponsored by the '04 democratic candidate for vice-president, John Edwards.


Edward Siegler - 6/21/2005

The following article is one of the best I've read recently about Iraq. It asks an unanswerable question, but one that is indirectly raised by the debate over the origins of the War: What would have happened if the U.S. had not chosen to go to war with Iraq in '03?

Whether This War Was Worth It
In Analyzing Iraq, Consider the Effects of Having Done Nothing

By Robert Kagan

Sunday, June 19, 2005; Page B07

Serious scholars still debate whether the Civil War was necessary, never mind the more obvious "wars of choice" such as World War I, the War of 1812, the Spanish-American War, the Korean War, wars in Vietnam and Kosovo, and the Persian Gulf War. To a certain brand of American isolationist, even World War II was unnecessary and counterproductive. So there is nothing remarkable about polls showing Americans wondering whether the recent Iraq war was "worth it." It is a great American myth, voiced by John Kerry last year, that

the nation goes to war only when there is no question about the necessity of going to war. There's always a question. Even if the Iraqi insurgency disappeared tomorrow, George Ibrahim al Washington became president of Iraq and every liter of Saddam Hussein's onetime stockpile of chemical and biological weapons suddenly appeared in the desert, his-


torians would still spend

the next century debating whether the war was "worth it."

Wars remain subjects of debate not just because their "necessity" is in doubt but also because their results are mixed. No war has produced unmitigated successes. The Civil War did not completely "free" African Americans, who remained oppressed for another century. World War I destroyed Europe, and helped pave the way for the rise of Hitler and the Soviet Union. World War II defeated Hitler but enslaved half of Europe behind the Iron Curtain and introduced the world to nuclear warfare. The Persian Gulf War drove Hussein out of Kuwait but helped produce the Osama bin Laden we know today. Add to that the millions of innocent lives lost, and the toll of these wars, generally regarded as "successful," is high. Does that mean those wars were not "worth it"? Demanding unmixed results and guarantees against the unintended consequences of war is as unrealistic as demanding absolute confidence in the "necessity" of going to war in the first place.

One simple answer to the problem is not to go to war, ever. But for those not inclined to absolute pacifism, the question of whether a war is worth it has to go beyond such simple categories as "necessity" and whether or not the aftermath of war is an unmitigated success. It requires delving into the messier and hazier calculations that good historians spend careers contemplating.

One problem is that we always know what did happen as a result of war, but we never know what didn't happen. What if we had not gone to war in Europe in 1917, Korea in 1950, or even Vietnam in the 1960s? Would we have rued those decisions not to act as much as we now rue the decision not to drive Hitler out of the Rhineland in 1936? To answer such questions requires predicting, with only the conflicting and incomplete evidence available, what the world would have looked like had we not gone to war. We know what happened as a result of not going to war in 1936. We know, in particular, that British efforts to avoid war in 1936 and then in 1938 at Munich did not prevent war at all but only delayed it. Yet we can only try to guess what might have happened had Imperial Germany been allowed to conquer Europe, or had communist victories in Korea and Vietnam been allowed to stand unchallenged. A few years ago Michael Lind wrote a provocative book titled "Vietnam: The Necessary War," in which he argued that, even knowing what we know now, it was correct for the United States to fight a limited, losing war in Southeast Asia -- to "lose well," as he put it -- rather than allow a quick and easy communist victory.

To assess whether the Iraq war was worth it requires seriously posing the question: What would have happened if the Bush administration had not gone to war in March 2003? That is a missing but essential piece of the current very legitimate debate. We all know what has gone wrong since the Iraq war began, but it is not as if, in the absence of a war, everything would have gone right. Those who want to have this debate cannot simply point to the terrible toll in casualties. They have to address the question of what the alternative to war really would have meant.

There is not much dispute about what kind of leader Saddam Hussein was. Former secretary of state Madeleine Albright once compared him to Hitler, and the comparison was apt in a couple of ways. Hussein, as we will soon relearn in excruciating detail, had contempt for human life and no qualms about killing thousands of his own citizens and many thousands more of his neighbors' citizens, about torturing women and children and about using any type of weapon he could buy or manufacture to burn, poison, infect and incinerate political opponents and even entire populations, so long as they were too weak to fight back. This alone placed him in a special class of historical figures, a not irrelevant factor in determining whether his removal, even at the present cost, was worth it. Was it not worth at least some sacrifice to remove such a man from power?


Amore intriguing question is whether a decision not to go to war in 2003 would have produced lasting peace or would only have delayed war until a later date -- as in the 1930s. There is a strong argument to be made that Hussein would have pushed toward confrontation and war at some point, no matter what we did. His Hitler-like megalomania does not seem to be in question. He patiently, brutally pushed his way to power in Iraq, then set about brutally and impatiently making himself the dominant figure in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf, using war and the threat of war as his principal tools. In the early 1980s he invaded Iran and fought it to a bloody standstill for the better part of a decade. No sooner had that war ended than he invaded Kuwait. He fancied himself the new Saladin, much as Napoleon and Hitler had fancied themselves the new Caesar.

Many argue that, even if all this is true, Hussein was nevertheless contained through sanctions and no-fly zones and therefore could be deterred. Many advanced this argument before the war, too, even when they believed with as much certainty as the Bush administration that Hussein did have stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. And, indeed, although for most Americans the question of whether the war was "worth it" revolves around the failure to discover the stockpiles that most believed he had, nevertheless the key issue, I believe, remains the same as before that failure: whether Hussein could have been contained.

For another fact not in dispute is that Hussein remained keenly interested in and committed to acquiring weapons of mass destruction, that he maintained secretive weapons programs throughout the 1990s and indeed right up until the day of the invasion, and that he was only waiting for the international community to lose interest or stamina so that he could resume his programs unfettered. This is the well-documented, unrefuted -- and unnoticed -- conclusion of both David Kay and Charles Duelfer. Whether Hussein would have eventually succeeded in acquiring these weapons would have depended on other nations' will and ability to stop him.

That is a question to which we will never have a definitive answer, and yet it is critical to any judgment about the merits of the war. The most sensible argument for the invasion was not that Hussein was about to strike the United States or anyone else with a nuclear bomb. It was that containment could not be preserved indefinitely, that Hussein was repeatedly defying the international community and that his defiance appeared to both the Clinton and Bush administrations to be gradually succeeding. He was driving a wedge between the United States and Britain, on one side, which wanted to maintain sanctions and containment, and France, Russia, and China, on the other, which wanted to drop sanctions and normalize relations with him. The main concern of senior officials in both administrations was that, in the words of then-national security adviser Samuel "Sandy" Berger, containment was not "sustainable over the long run." The pattern of the 1990s, "Iraqi defiance, followed by force mobilization on our part, followed by Iraqi capitulation," had left "the international community vulnerable to manipulation by Saddam." The longer the standoff continued, Berger warned in 1998, "the harder it will be to maintain" international support for containing Hussein. Nor did Clinton officials doubt what Hussein would do if and when containment collapsed. As Berger put it, "Saddam's history of aggression, and his recent record of deception and defiance, leave no doubt that he would resume his drive for regional domination if he had the chance." Nor should we assume that, even if the United States and others had remained vigilant, Hussein could have been deterred from doing something to provoke a conflict. Tragic miscalculation was Hussein's specialty, after all, as his invasions of Iran and Kuwait proved.

It is entirely possible, in short, that if the Bush administration had not gone to war in 2003, the United States might have faced a more dangerous and daring Saddam Hussein later on and felt compelled to act. So, in addition to whatever price might have been paid, certainly by the Iraqi people and possibly by Iraq's neighbors, for leaving Saddam in power, we might have wound up going to war anyway. There is the further question of what the entire Middle East would have looked like with a defiant, increasingly liberated Hussein still in power. To quote Berger again, so long as Hussein remained "in power and in confrontation with the world," Iraq would remain "a source of potential conflict in the region," and, perhaps more important, "a source of inspiration for those who equate violence with power and compromise with surrender." Whether historians judge the war favorably will depend heavily on whether post-Hussein Iraq does indeed provide a different sort of inspiration, but, again, the effort to change the direction of the region was surely worth paying some price.

This may be no solace to those who have lost loved ones in this war -- and it certainly does not absolve the Bush administration from the errors that it made before and after the war and continues to make today. But these are the kinds of considerations that ought to be part of any serious debate over whether the war in Iraq was "worth it."

Robert Kagan, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, writes a monthly column for The Post.




N. Friedman - 6/21/2005

John,

I think they never questioned the WMD closely because it was assumed - as in an accepted fact - that there were WMD in Iraq. I think that such was accepted by all the governments of consequence at the UN. Such was also President Clinton's view. That is why, despite President Bush's misgivings, after Tenet described the supporting evidence to Bush, Tenet could say and Bush accepted the "slam dunk" statement.

Yes, they should have checked further. My contention, however, is that the bulk of the political class - and not only in the US - never thought there was any serious doubt regarding the WMD.

A bit of collective insanity, if you will.

And, I further note: the Bush administration assumed the WMD was true and they assumed it would be easier to explain to the country - as WMD in the Muslim regions is, in fact, a real concern, as many such countries are unstable and led, in some instances (e.g. Iran) by people with great interest in altering the world's order - than to explain that they US was invading to put pressure on, for example, Saudi Arabia to crack down on its militants and/or to implant another ideology into the region that might fight the Jihadist ideology.


John Henry Haas - 6/21/2005

I appreciate that clarification. You are saying they believed the cw about wmd, but because it wasn't actually their chief concern or the main cause of the war, they probably didn't investigate it as closely as otherwise they might? I'm still not sure that clears the deck of difficulties. Among their beliefs was a proposition concerning the proper grounds for war: thus the need to merge pre-emptive war (accepted as legitimate under certain conditions by just war theory) and preventive war (not so accepted, but arguably entailed by the pre-emptive justification given the nature of terrorism's tactics and weapons). Thus, the wmd claims were central to their argument, and they chose to make them so because they believed a) this was the most compelling argument for war, and b) that they were true. Did they have good reasons for b at that time? Did they make their case convincingly so that, even with what we know transpired once on the ground in Iraq, we can look back and say, "Well, honest mistake"? I don't see it. I think that's why they fall back to the "everyone thought so" (sic) argument which, as I have said, strikes me as lame beyond belief.


E. Simon - 6/21/2005

Chris - you talk of others "worshipping the golden calf of nation-state sovereignty," as if the modern basis for delegitimizing offensive wars had nothing to do with a respect for the sovereignty of nations. Obviously there is an element of human catastrophe in war, as there is at least as much of such an element in the widespread denial of political rights, torture and murder of one's citizens. If for any reason other than an internationalist political agenda - which rightly or wrongly is still an ideology, and yet, for the purposes of these discussions I'm not judging or focusing on - why should the former incense you more?


N. Friedman - 6/21/2005

John,

You are discussing morals. I am hoping to understand what the administration was thinking. Different issues.

I do not disagree with you that the administration ought to have better assessed the situation.

On the other hand, I really do not think they ever really invaded over the WMD. I think the real issue was more likely always how to put pressure on the Arab regions to reign in the Islamists by, for example, helping establish an ideology to counter the Jihadists. Such, you will note, is consistent with the views of many at the Defense department who considered themselves devotees of Professor Lewis.

Again. I am not speaking morals, law or anything of the sort. I am attempting to explain what those in power believed and why they acted as they acted. And, my assumption is they actually believed in the WMD, just like President Clinton and Senator Kerry believed in the WMD.


John Henry Haas - 6/21/2005

"... President Clinton was rather emphatic in believing in such weapons. He, unlike Gary Hart who had been out of government for years, was in a position to have a belief. Hans Blix was not part of the US government so his opinion as to his beliefs are interesting but not decisive."

Hart (along with Sen Rudman) had just completed their assesment of national security and he was very much in a position to have a belief. Indeed, his beliefs seem to be of higher quality than those he opposed on this issue. The same is true for Mr. Blix. I think, Mr. Friedman, that, with your dismissals of anyone who was saying anything that diverged from the administration's chosen line, you are in danger of replicating the same self-incured tunnel vision that facilitated this mess in the first place. In the end, they did not begin to adequately answer their critics questions. That there were a lot of people who agreed with them is immaterial. When you are taking a nation to war you and you alone are responsible for the decision and for the arguments you use to justify that decision. Nothing could be lamer or more irrelevant than this "they thought so too" approach. "They" do not determine US policy, and they do not have to live with the consequences.


N. Friedman - 6/21/2005

Michael,

I did not say the US and Britain were necessarily sincere about sending in inspectors. I said that they believed that Iraq had WMD - which is pretty much what President Clinton claims - and that historically, a determined country can beat any inspection scheme.

And, moreover, the US and Britain knew that there were no circumstances where France would support force which meant that, no matter what, France would veto the US position.

I suggest, if you are interested in understanding French politics regarding the Arab regions, that you read Bat Ye'or book Eurabia. If her argument is correct, the US and the French position were a collision waiting to occur as the French see their future as a power by championing Arab, not American, causes.


N. Friedman - 6/21/2005

Michael,

I did not say the US and Britain were necessarily sincere about sending in inspectors. I said that they believed that Iraq had WMD - which is pretty much what President Clinton claims - and that historically, a determined country can beat any inspection scheme.

And, moreover, the US and Britain knew that there were no circumstances where France would support force which meant that, no matter what, France would veto the US position.

I suggest, if you are interested in understanding French politics regarding the Arab regions, that you read Bat Ye'or book Eurabia. If her argument is correct, the US and the French position were a collision waiting to occur as the French see their future as a power by championing Arab, not American, causes.


Michael Barnes Thomin - 6/20/2005

Mr. Friedman,
If what former President Clinton says is true regarding Bush and Blair's sincerity over sending weapons inspectors back in, then why in the world did both governments have Jose Bustani removed from his position over trying to do exactly that?

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8099747/


Charles Donald Donahue - 6/20/2005

Two notes: First, so much of what you have said here in your response ignores the context of who said it, where it was said and why. Second, it appears that the only way that there could be true evidence according to your scenario is if George Bush himself actually wrote the Minutes. Anything else is just "Dogs Barking!" Thank God for Barking Dogs! If one never listens to them, one may live to regret it!


N. Friedman - 6/20/2005

John,

See this article by President Clinton.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,916233,00.html


N. Friedman - 6/20/2005

Michael,

My position is that the memos do not get at what the administration believed.

For those who doubt the sincerity regarding belief in WMD by those in the US, consider this article by President Clinton: http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,916233,00.html .

Note: Clinton does not doubt the existence of stockpiles. And note: Clinton has little to gain by siding with Bush.


N. Friedman - 6/20/2005

No need for an apology. I merely wanted the record to be clear.


N. Friedman - 6/20/2005

Charles,

Chris and I tend to have harsh disagreements. Here he is imagining my position.


N. Friedman - 6/20/2005

John,

I was making an evaluation of what certain people thought and why, not whether they should be judged harshly.

I note that President Clinton was rather emphatic in believing in such weapons. He, unlike Gary Hart who had been out of government for years, was in a position to have a belief. Hans Blix was not part of the US government so his opinion as to his beliefs are interesting but not decisive.

You will note that the French government thought - if the news reports I read are correct - that Iraq actually had nuclear weapons but thought Iraq was not a threat to France. The Russians thought they had WMD but, again, that such weapons were not a threat to Russia. The main hold out on the existence of WMD, so far as I know, was Israel's Mossad which, if the Israeli papers are to be believed, never reached a firm conclusion on the issue but believed that whatever Iraq might have was not a major threat to Israel.


Bill Heuisler - 6/20/2005

Mr. Donahue,
The second-hand (sometimes third-hand) information brings little news that was not already known. The "news" is in the slant of commentary and the fact we don't know what was selectively excluded or included.

For instance:
"The truth is that what has changed is not the pace of Saddam Hussein's WMD programs, but our tolerance of them post-11 September," said a typed copy of a March 22, 2002 memo obtained Thursday by The Associated Press and written to Foreign Secretary Jack Straw."
Written by whom?

"But even the best survey of Iraq's WMD programs will not show much advance in recent years on the nuclear, missile or CW/BW (chemical or biological weapons) fronts: the programs are extremely worrying but have not, as far as we know, been stepped up."
As far as we know? This is an intelligence source in a Cabinet Meeting referring to a "best survey of Iraq's WMD"

"Details from Rice's dinner conversation also are included in one of the secret memos from 2002, which reveal British concerns about both the invasion and poor postwar planning by the Bush administration, which critics say has allowed the Iraqi insurgency to rage."
Critics say? What critics?

Most troubling to me is the chain of evidence:
"The eight memos -- all labeled "secret" or "confidential" -- were first obtained by British reporter Michael Smith, who has written about them in The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Times. Smith told AP he protected the identity of the source he had obtained the documents from by typing copies of them on plain paper and destroying the originals." Why trust Smith?

"The AP obtained copies of six of the memos (the other two have circulated widely). A senior British official who reviewed the copies said their content appeared authentic. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the secret nature of the material."
Appeared authentic?

This is dogs barking, not news.
Bill Heuisler


N. Friedman - 6/20/2005

Dear Chris,

I was making a comment regarding the historic record, not the legality of the war. My interest is in history, not whether some lawyer can make a case. And, I am interested that the record might be correctly understood for its own sake, not to advance a political position.

In any event, your comment regards the legality of the war. I have read arguments on varying sides of the issue to the extent that I think a good lawyer could make a good case for either position and notwithstanding what the British attorney general thought. I, however, have no strongly held view as, in fact, I really do not think the issue is an important question in that no one is going to be prosecuted.

I further note that all sorts of wars have been fought with no concern regarding legality. I dare say that about 99+% of wars fit that category. I take that fact to mean that International law regarding the making of war is mostly honored by indifference to such issue or, in the rare case when a stink is made, to advance some country's political or economic interests, not the just administration of law. Or, to put the matter simply, I do not think that International law and war mean very much.

I do, by contrast, care a lot about the morality of war. My view is that except in unusual circumstances, war is a pretty immoral thing. And even in those special circumstances where war is moral, war is still pretty vile.

You, evidently, want me to say that I dislike the UN. I do not dislike the UN. What I dislike is when the UN sides with regimes (or other parties) which have no interest at all in the rule of law while working to undermine nations which, for the most part, respect the rule of law. So, my objection to the UN goes to some of its policies, not to its existence.





Charles Donald Donahue - 6/20/2005

Dear Chris Pettit...........you have a quick and passionate way with words. As a newcomer to this forum, I don't know if there is a history between you and N. Friedman, or, if something which he or she wrote particularly ercked you, or, something else. But OK.

Yes, I do recognize the role and purpose of international law, etc, though I know very little about it. Seems to me, unfortunately, that "Power is as Power does" But I too had my doubts in 2003 about whether or not the UN would do anything, if we as a nation were indeed under threat of attack by a nation or entity in possession of WMD. 9/11 made that threat very real and, yes, I was swayed by the Bush Administration's arguments and my own "fear" of an even more serious disaster. In fact, I don't think that my own position at the time, right or wrong, was that far from where many people were. I would say that I bought it "hook, line and sinker"--and I regret it, to some degree. My argument then was that I did not have all the information necessary. That only those in power had that information and that therefore it was necessary to "trust" them. Why? Because surely they knew more about it than I did, and, that that was why we elected them in the first place (irregardless of one's position on the Florida decision.) They knew more. Therefore, they should make the decision. To me, this is a sacred, though albeit, "naive" trust which we the people place in our leadership.

I began to turn on the war in the April of 2004 with that particularly deadly month surrounding Fallujah. Something was wrong. That's all I knew.

As things have proceeded, we are now coming to find through various sources that things were not absolutely as they had been presented. As to what is the truth, beyond or beside the international law issue, I am no closer to it, in some ways, than I was at the beginning of the war. But, I have my suspicions.

Thus, I entered this forum with one major concern. That concern was and is that these Downing Street Minutes not be swept completely under the rug without dialogue. Why? Because it is dialogue, I think, which will further our efforts at finding the truth, or, at least a perspective that makes some sense, more sense than what we have been given.

In the interest of dialogue, I submit this response.


Timothy McGettigan - 6/20/2005

Dear Friends of Democracy,

Please consider signing the petition at the following web address which calls for a full investigation of the Downing Street Memos by the United States Congress.

http://www.petitiononline.com/DownSt/petition.html

Also, please help spread the word.

TM


John Henry Haas - 6/20/2005

Mr Friedman writes "Up until the discovery after the war, nary a politician nor analysist thought that Iraq lacked WMD. . . . Now, people knowing that whatever program Saddam had must have been, if it existed, relatively insignificant, are attempting to write a history which ignores what leaders - in both major US political parties and in most other countries including, most particularly, France - believed . . ."

I think this has become a kind of legend. Gary Hart was interviewed prior to the war and said that the best intelligence showed Iraq had very little in the way of WMD and that it was seriously degraded. Scott Ritter and Hans Blix each vigorously offered dissent from the administration's interpretation. Other nations assessments were based on old information regarding Iraq and while good enough for the policies then being pursued, were generally not considered sufficient to justify a war. While the administration may have believed they "knew where the wmd were" (I think we were told they were in the norht, the south, the east, the west, and also central Iraq--great intelligence there), it seems they chose to believe that based on intelligence that was unsubstantiated, and obviously needed more rigorous interrogation. And this was quite obvious at the time. But it ios not so much what the administration believed that is relevant for those who would write the history now: what should be investigated is what the administration said, and on what basis? To what degree did they have reason to believe the specific claims they made? How firm of a case did they make in response to critics of these claims? In sum, was the run-up to the war conducted in a responsible manner? Mere belief that one is doing the right thing is far too low a bar to set for the evaluation of political leaders.


chris l pettit - 6/20/2005

sorry...the resolutions referred to are the previous Iraq resolutions from Gulf War I...particularly since the release of information detailing that strikes launched on Iraqi targets were aimed at provoking Hussein as well as destroying his infrastructure (the strikes generally are highly questionable if not blatantly illegal under international law, as well as the "no fly" zones...they are at best totally hypocritical and a total contradiction of the usual US position regarding its own sovereignty and that of its allies, such as Israel). The war was also in violation of Article 2(4) of the UN charter, along with many other international legal standards. Again...this does not matter much when the powerful make the rules and cannot be held to universal standards.

It is also interesting that the US lied to the UK about the use of advanced napalm weapons in Iraq, which are violative of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, which the UK is party to, and which they can be held responsible under for complicity in US usage of banned weapons...it is funny that anyone can make an argument that the US is anything other than a "rogue state" like those that we purport to "straighten out."

CP


chris l pettit - 6/20/2005

Mr. Friedman may not have "supported" the war, but you will notice that he is stuck in politics and the war of ideologies instead of taking a long look at what the law is. Basically, the Downing Street memos offer hard evidence that the war was in breach of the UN Resolution and international law, and was, in fact, a war of aggression under international law that implicates the leaders of the nations waging the war in criminal complicity. Now, as Mr. Friedman will probably gleefully point out right before bashing the UN, is that because of US and P5 control of the UN, and the US governments refusal to submit to the authority of the international community and international law, state as well as individual criminal responsibility for these acts is most likely not forthcoming anytime soon. Where Danner is correct is in stating that we did know that this war was illegal from the start, and these "signposts" only solidify that fact. What the memos show is that the US and P5, along with nation-state manipulation and self interest is what is wrong with the UN, not whatever silly complaints UN bashers want to make about "dictatorships" and whatnot. The law is there to hold states and individuals responsible for their crimes under international law...unfortunately the procedure and the institutions are so dominated by power politics and disrespect for international law that law is thrust to the wayside and those who have the power do what they want with impunity. The next time Mr. Friedman wonders why certain groups turn to violent insurrection, in violation of "rights" and "international law" ask him why he is such a hypocrite and to never speak of international law or rights unless he is ready to apply them universally. In terms of international law, the "belief" (what BS) that someone has WMD is not a reason to go to war. International law is very clear on the topic, despite cynical political attempts to redefine the topic (much like in the case of torture and government "lawyers"). Instead of descending into the non-sensical realm of ideologies and politics, where law and rights do not exist (granted, this is where the majority of governments and their ignorant supporters spend their time) why don't we deal with international law and human rights law as they are articulated by the brightest jurists in the world, and maybe make some progress towards the principles underlying the UN Charter? Somehow, with the majority of individuals still worshipping the golden calf of nation-state sovereignty and power politics, I doubt it is forthcoming...not matter how pathetic the arguments of those individuals are...

CP


Charles Donald Donahue - 6/20/2005

My apologies..............again! I think that I have been reading too many things on the internet. Again, my apologies at misrepresenting you.

Sincerely,
Charles Donald Donahue


N. Friedman - 6/20/2005

I never supported the war.


Charles Donald Donahue - 6/20/2005

Yes, I understand your points and I too thought that such was the case before the Downing Street Memos, etc. Like yourself, I too supported the war, based on the information which I was receiving at the time. Yet, I'm not sure that President Bush was absolutely that concerned about WMD. The
Time Magazine article which was published in May of 2002 certainly presents another view as to causes and motives.

"We're Taking Him Out"
His war on Iraq may be delayed, but Bush still vows to remove Saddam. Here's a look at White House plans
By DANIEL EISENBERG http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,235395,00.html

Even as late as April of 2004, I believed that Bush and his administration believed it. But, I do not hold this view any longer. There were other motives. For further information, though obviously biased, the timelines on AfterDowningStreet.org are informative.

By the way, I have not read "The Terrible Secret," but often refer to Thomas Kuhn's work. Thanks for the suggestions!


N. Friedman - 6/20/2005

Charles,

So far as I know, I have seen that which is publicly available. I think it shows a lot less than you evidently do.

I think that the evidence shows that belief in Iraq's WMD program was widespread among those in power in the US. I have seen nothing contradicting that point. And, to note, evidence such as the Downing Street memos does not show otherwise.

What people believe and what the evidence shows to support the belief are often very, very different things. Many years ago, Walter Lacquer wrote a very good book (The Terrible Secret) regarding knowledge in Nazi Germany and outside Nazi Germany regarding Nazi plans and acivities vis a vis Jews. As Lacquer shows, evidence was all around regarding what the Nazis were up to. And the various world governments had even more information than the public. Yet, as he also shows rather clearly, while people outside of Nazi Germany, including those in power, had clear evidence, they really did not quite believe what the evidence showed was, in fact, the case.

You might also consider Kuhn's book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. He shows that science - where evidence is supposed examined rigorously - will ignore evidence for years and years inconsistent with a scientific theory, as if the evidence did not exist. Again, what people believe and inconsistent evidence are just not seen - even though the evidence is recorded by the experimenter -.


So evidence and belief are not necessarily one and the same thing. And, I think we have in the Bush administration a classic case of belief despite seemingly contradictory evidence.

My contention is that the administration believed its assertions that Iraq had a substantial WMD program. My other suggestion is that they mentally dismissed inconsistent evidence - not to deceive but because it was not mentally digested (as occurs frequently in science and as occurred during WWII, see above) - as if it did not exist. Or, as Bush was told, the case for weapons is a slam dunk.


Ricardo Luis Rodriguez - 6/20/2005

The reporter in question now admits to having retyped the manuscript from a photocopy which he then destroyed. While the allegations may be true, scrupulous media does well to hold off for confirmation.


Charles Donald Donahue - 6/20/2005

Respectfully, I can only ask whether or not you have read the Minutes, both I and II? As I understand them, these "scraps," as well as other reporting at the time leading up to the Downing Street Minutes, argue strongly against your own conjecturing about causes and motives. And this is the point, I think. An inquiry into causes and motives is needed in order to clarify the record.


Michael Barnes Thomin - 6/20/2005

If Congress has time to investigate the use of steroids in Major League Baseball based on one accusation made by a former player trying to sell copies of his book, then I think an inquiry into whether or not the Bush administration "fixed" intelligence around their justification for war is just as warranted. What is the worst that could happen? A) We find that it was indeed an intelligence failure and no harm no foul, or B) We find that we were lied the American people into a war. Or maybe those who want to just imagine these memos do not exist are too afraid of what they just might find down ther rabbit hole that is our government...


N. Friedman - 6/20/2005

I note that a person can be against the Iraq war - as I am - but still believe that the historical record has yet to be uncovered sufficiently to make the sort of sweeping conclusions made in the above articles.

Up until the discovery after the war, nary a politician nor analysist thought that Iraq lacked WMD. On this point, the evidence is rather clear. In fact, President Clinton, it is to be noted, believed that such weapons existed and he hawked for Bush's war in Europe. His argument for war was published in the UK paper, The Guardian, shortly before the war. Senator Kerry also appears to have believed that Iraq had WMD, as he left fairly clear testimony to that effect in the Congressional Record - long before 2003 -.

Now, people knowing that whatever program Saddam had must have been, if it existed, relatively insignificant, are attempting to write a history which ignores what leaders - in both major US political parties and in most other countries including, most particularly, France - believed and which focuses instead on the scraps of information then known to the spying agencies.

Much more likely: those in power - and, for the most part, out of power as well - believed Saddam had weapons and saw the "intelligence" as consistent with what they believed was true. Such is still a blameworthy issue but it does not suggest deception of the public.

As for making the decision to go to war: presumably a contingent decision was made early on. Whether that decision was a final decision as suggested is another matter. Most likely, the decision was nearly final because the administration likely believed (a) the weapons existed notwithstanding what the "intelligence" showed, (b) a determined party can obviously avoid a detection program so trust in the inspectors would be foolish and (c) the war was not about the WMD in any event.

The real question is not, I suggest, whether the administration believed that Iraq had WMD. On that, I think the evidence is that the belief was very real. The question turns on the issue of why, even with their belief, they decided to go to war. Clearly, they could not have thought Iraq an imminent threat, even if it had nuclear weapons.

So WMD is an unlikely causa bellum. Of considerable interest is the fact that shortly after 9/11, senior Defense Department people met with renowned historian Bernard Lewis. He, if he spoke consistent with his public position, may have advocated that nothing could be done to calm the Muslim regions down without taking on Iraq. He also was an advocate for the notion that the Arab regions would, with appropriate assistance, be ripe for the introduction of democracy, perhaps as a counterweight to the Jihadist movement.

His view may have obtained a good hearing as many in the administration - some of whom were his former students - may already have held the noted view. Which is to say, the policy always advanced by the administration as the second tier reason (i.e. to bring democracy to the Arab regions) may always have been the real reason for the war. And this is not to blame Professor Lewis. He was preaching to the converted and, perhaps, was used to provide expert information to those who may have had doubts.

Then again, maybe not. Maybe the real issue has yet to emerge.




Charles Donald Donahue - 6/20/2005

My apologies. I didn't realize that this was a repost of several articles appearing elsewhere. Again, my apologies.


Charles Donald Donahue - 6/20/2005

Thank You for stating the case so pointedly. The burden of proof has become impossible, if not ridiculous, in today's CSI world. In the least, the Downing Street Minutes suggest that an inquiry into the causes and justifications for the Iraq war is warranted--whether it's "old news" or not. Even if it is "old news," it is "old news" which has not been adequately addressed. Again, thank you!