Monday, March 20, 2006

# Posted 2:18 PM by Patrick Porter  

CONSISTENCY AD ABSURDUM: Three years after the war in Iraq began, there are post-mortems about who said what. Debating the Iraq war, there were consistent and well thought-out arguments to be found on either side. And there were people who changed their minds before and after the conflict, after much doubting and questioning.

And then there was George Clooney in early 2003. On January 20 of that year, it was reported that

Denouncing President Bush for planning to kill ‘innocent people’ in Iraq, actor George Clooney insisted on Monday's Charlie Rose show on PBS that pursuing war with Iraq while not doing so with North Korea illustrates how ‘we’re picking on people we can beat.’

So it’s immoral to wage war against weaker countries who can be defeated without fighting stronger opponents too. For the sake of consistency, America must wage Armageddon against a nuclear power, which would potentially result in catastrophic attacks on South Korea. If we're truly serious about doctrinal purity, I guess that would oblige America to wage war against Iran. But presumably only after they acquire nuclear weapons so that its a fair game. And then we can all go inside and cut the birthday cake.

This is the universe of the more unreflective elements of the antiwar movement: only absolute peace or total war will do.

Clooney’s opposition to any war against a weaker opponent would also rule out peacekeeping and humanitarian operations, most of which are not conducted in the territory of powerful nations. Under Clooney’s vision of world order, heaven help targeted minorities in Third World countries.

And then on 23 February 2003,

‘I believe he thinks this is a war that can be won, but there is no such thing anymore,’ said Clooney, who starred in a film about the 1991 Gulf War "Three Kings" that took a dark look at the war to drive Iraq out of Kuwait. ‘We can't beat anyone anymore,’ added Clooney.

So we shouldn’t wage wars because it is impossible to win? I thought Saddam’s regime represented ‘people we can beat.’

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C'mon, those quotes are over a month apart! Clooney's not a self-contradicting idiot, he merely possesses a sophisticated, evolving intellect.

Three years after the fact, you, the pro-war side, have a lot more explaining to do than questioning. What George Clooney said is one thing. What George Bush said/says is another.

Have we been greeted as liberators?
Has this been inexpensive?
Were there WMDs?
Were there any ties with Al Quada?
Has OBL been caught/killed?
Are we safer?

Yesterday there was an OpEd by Major General Paul Eaton, who was in charge of training the post-Saddam Iraqi Army from 2003 to 2004, calling for Rumsfeld's resignation.

Your side needs to show accountability for the failure that Iraq has become.
Training the Iraqi army 2003-2004 -and how well did he do.
Talked to some soldiers who went to Iraq. Yes. They were greeted as liberators. By some, not all, but the implication that it did not happen is false. And see Michael Yon's reporting.
Who said it would be inexpensive?
Ties to al Q? Yes. And, for more information on the subject, see the drip-drip of the newly-released documents.
OBL is not in captivity. May be dead, may not, does not seem to be in charge of anything. All in good time.
Safer than what?
WMDs. No large stockpiles of weaponized WMD found--yet. But see Syria (per Israeli intel and Iraq officers from the old regime) and the newly-released documents.

If I were you, I'd get some new talking points, if there are any, because these are so lame they discredit you even without being refuted.

I agree that some of the post-war occupation has been incompetently formulated or executed. I don't support that, and am not accountable for it. Just as you, as someone who disagrees, are not accountable for the more eccentric or offensive statements of the antiwar group.

In my original post, I was careful to observe that there were good arguments on both sides of this. I was not dismissing the entire antiwar movement, among whom are honourable voices. I was being critical of more unreflective opinion.

But to answer your questions:

Have we been greeted as liberators? Not universally. But millions of people have taken part in the constitutional and political elections. And according to several polls, 70% of Iraqis think it was worth removing Saddam. Could it go terribly wrong? Yes. What were the chances of things getting better quickly beforehand? Modest. Most wars that are worth fighting also involve the real possibility of failure and defeat.

No-one said it would be cheap or inexpensive. But the alternatives may have been more costly: removing the sanctions and letting a demonstrably aggressive state rearm, or continuing a sanctions regime that was starving and killing Iraqis. The UN, meanwhile, was sticking its snout in the trough and robbing the Iraqi people of their wealth in a disgraceful crime of financial abuses. You seem to think there are easy alternatives here.

Not much evidence for them. But
even Saddam's generals thought there were WMD's and were disappointed to hear that there weren't. as did the intelligence agencies even of governments that opposed war. Much antiwar opinion also presumed that Saddam either had WMDs or wanted to develop them. It may have been inaccurate to say Saddam had them, but it was not unreasonable.

There were indeed ties with Al Qaeda, though their extent continues to be debated: Saddam sheltered Zarqarwi before the war, who was part of the Islamist Ansar al-Islam group that fought against Kurdish-nationalist forces. Saddam sheltered the man who blew up the World Trade Center in 1993. After the Taliban were deposed in Afghanistan, they found refuge, guess what, in Iraq. Some of the sworn enemies of the United States who had supported the terrorists in 9/11 were given refuge there. if that isn't a link, what is?

Has OBL been caught?
No. As far as we know. Is that the result of incompetence? Possibly. But I support the process of capturing him. And as I understand it, your post asked about my views on Iraq. Capturing Osama was not one of the primary stated goals of attacking Iraq, as I understand it. Besides, manhunts for millionaire fugitives possibly aren't that easy when they are travelling around a long border with lots of folk willing to help. In the meanwhile, Saddam Hussein is on trial.

Are we safer? I think we are more safe than if we had not gone to war in Afghanistan and Iraq, yes. More to the point, Kurds are now safer, Marsh Arabs are now safer, refugees have returned to Afghanistan in their millions, music is no longer banned there,
and the one regime on the planet that openly celebrated the attacks on 9/11 is now deposed. Terrorists who were prepared to commit murderous attacks on the USA still abound, but they are also in greater danger than before.

You are of course entitled to disagree with some or all of this. I was simply challenging the moronic demands for absolute consistency which some of America's critics seem to expect.
sorry, I meant to say that it was Al Qaeda forces, rather than 'Taliban' forces, who found shelter in Saddam's Iraq after fleeing Afghanistan.
First, Afghanistan has nothing to do with Iraq. 9-11 had nothing to do with Iraq.

"No-one said it would be cheap or inexpensive." Cheney and Rumsfeld both said this war could be won on the cheap. They attacked on the cheap and they didn't plan for an expensive occupation and rebuilding. Instead they thought Iraq with its oil would be a revenue source. They were wrong by 400B and counting. [By comparison, the Persian Gulf war was won on the cheap because Bush senior created a coalition and had Japan etc. pay for it.]

Have we been greeted as liberators? "Not universally." Actually a majority think it is ok to kill Americans because we are perceived as occupiers, as non-Muslim occupiers.

WMDs: "But even Saddam's generals thought there were WMD's and were disappointed to hear that there weren't." I hadn't heard that one. Do you have a source?

About al-Zarqawi. The BBC says "He first appeared in Iraq as the leader of the Tawhid and Jihad insurgent group, merging it in late 2004 with Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network." Note that that's after the war started, not as a guest of Sadaam.

"sorry, I meant to say that it was Al Qaeda forces, rather than 'Taliban' forces, who found shelter in Saddam's Iraq after fleeing Afghanistan." I'm sure most of them went back to Saudi Arabia where they're from. Recall that OBL is an aristocratic Saudi, along with 15 of the 19 hijackers.

And note to Aubrey. Unless you can point to some sources about Al Queda's relationship to Sadaam, you're just making it up. With a little thought you'll notice that Al Queda was Saudi funded and Muslim fanatic. Sadaam, bad as he was, was an Iraqi secular. Consequently, Sadaam and Al Queda were in opposition.

I direct you in particular to this paragraph:

'The Iraqi dictator was so secretive and kept information so compartmentalized that his top military leaders were stunned when he told them three months before the war that he had no weapons of mass destruction, and they were demoralized because they had counted on hidden stocks of poison gas or germ weapons for the nation's defense.'

Reported by the New York Times and Foreign Affairs, from a US military intelligence report.

Meanwhile,before the insurgency, Zarqarwi moved to Iraq in late 2001 or 2002 to join Ansar al-Islam, a body of Kurdish Islamists from the north of the country.

Of course Saddam was purely secular. That's why he encouraged jihadists to come and fight in Iraq. Its why he used the rhetoric of holy war personally and via state media for at least thirteen years. And its why he had a Mosque named after him.

If that doesn't persuade you, try these apples:

"Newsweek's Christopher Dickey, who covered one of those meetings in 1993, would later write: "Islamic radicals from all over the Middle East, Africa and Asia converged on Baghdad to show their solidarity with Iraq in the face of American aggression." One speaker praised "the mujahed Saddam Hussein, who is leading this nation against the nonbelievers." Another speaker said, "Everyone has a task to do, which is to go against the American state." Dickey continued:

"Every time I hear diplomats and politicians, whether in Washington or the capitals of Europe, declare that Saddam Hussein is a "secular Baathist ideologue" who has nothing do with Islamists or with terrorist calls to jihad, I think of that afternoon and I wonder what they're talking about."
Thank you for the IHT link. Sadaam's 'secrecy' was not proof. And I doubt it was that secret. UNSCOMM had monitored the defanging of Iraq over the 90's.

WRT Zarqarwi, the CIA concluded that there was no link:


"Of course Saddam was purely secular."

I'm sure that Sadaam knew how to use religious symbols as well as Bush or Octavian Augustus.

But all of this is pointless. What you don't get, three years after the fact, 400B spent, 2000+ US lost, is that Sadaam was a bad guy, but Scowcroft was right: Sadaam wasn't worth taking out. We're much worse off now.
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