Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Saturday, November 19, 2005

We Didn't Invade Iraq To Pick Cherries

An informative (and long) post over at The Mudville Gazette on the history of the Iraq War from 1990-2003 got me thinking about why we find ourselves occupying Iraq. The Mudville Gazette post has most of the source documents, so I'll just write my thoughts without the usual number of links.

When we stopped the "Gulf War" ground offensive after 100 hours, it's clear that the first Bush administration assumed that Saddam would be overthrown from within; after all, he had basically said that God would decide who would win the war, and then he lost... in the Western experience, such a leader would be replaced. Not for the first time, we didn't understand the Arab mindset. They don't really believe all the slogans they shout. (Actually, some of them do, but they remove themselves from the political discussion by becoming suicide bombers in a kind of Darwinian self-unselection.) Arab governments rule by fear and ruthlessness; the political opposition in Arab countries expects to be tortured -- it's just their way of doing things.

We ended up with a situation where Saddam wasn't replaced after having initiated, and lost, a war of aggression. (I can't think of a non-Arab example of this happening in the last 150 years.) Clearly, he deserved to be removed for his crimes, but we didn't do it when we had the chance. There followed a decade of petty brinksmanship from Saddam, with frequent spankings by the U.S. and Brits that would make him settle down for a while.

After 9/11, it seems like the new Administration decided that they had the political backing to finally give Saddam his just desserts. Not from a "finish Daddy's job" or "grab their oil" point of view, but from a "this guy is going to realize he's going to die before becoming the next Nebuchadnezzar; who knows what he'll do when he starts to feel his own mortality". I think they realized that there was a good chance that he'd do something unbelievably stupid in order to ensure his "place in history", especially if he wasn't sure his sons would inherit his office. As a result, they decided to take him out while they could.

How to convince the American public, and the rest of the world, to go along with it? Well, WMDs seemed to offer the easiest road... everyone "knew" that he had them, and it'd provide convenient cover to the more progressive element who knew, deep down, that it was the right thing to do, but couldn't justify a pre-emptive attack to their more liberal constituencies. (Most of the politicians who voted for the war, but are now complaining about it, knew that the war wasn't about WMDs, and anyone who thinks they did should consider if they want someone so naïve representing them.)

A current complaint is that the Administration "cherry-picked" intelligence to bolster their claims of an active Iraqi WMD program. I guess I'm not sure that a group attempting to gain support for their position is required to present both sides of the argument. [As far as why we were so sure the Iraqi's still had more than the small amounts of chemical weapons we found, I pretty sure it was because: 1) They admitted they had them in the mid-90s, 2) We made the assumption they were telling the truth, 3) We saw no evidence that they destroyed them after this time, and 4) They sure acted like they had something to hide. It looks like the assumption we made in step 2) was incorrect -- another example of us not understanding the Arab mindset that to show weakness (admitting destroying the weapons) was more dangerous than the hardships caused by continued UN sanctions.]

Back to the "cherry-picking" argument. Full and complete disclosure of both sides of the argument by the Administration hasn't really been required before -- it seems like presenting the "con" side is the job of the political opponents of a given action.

I can imagine how they would have liked to see the Declaration of Independence: "The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States... For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent... but, to be honest, he was just trying to recoup the costs of defending us during the French and Indian War, so he's kind of got a point there."

Or FDR's request for a declaration of war against Germany: "The forces endeavoring to enslave the entire world now are moving toward this hemisphere. Never before has there been a greater challenge to life, liberty and civilization. Delay invites great danger. Rapid and united effort by all of the peoples of the world who are determined to remain free will insure a world victory of the forces of justice and of righteousness over the forces of savagery and of barbarism... Now, I admit that Germany hasn't actually attacked us, and I have been in secret talks with the British Prime Minister on how to run this war against Germany many months before I requested this, and I plan on fighting Germany first even though they didn't attack us at Pearl Harbor..."

In summary: The administration, for right or wrong, decided that we should remove Saddam Hussein and his Baathist thugs from power in Iraq. (I agree with this decision.) As I've mentioned before, essentially all the political decision-makers knew why we were doing it, and decided, either because of political calculation or because they really thought it was the right thing to do, to go along with it. Now that we've let it get a little bit out of control they are looking for a politically-expedient way out. I was hoping that, so soon after 9/11, it wouldn't have returned to "politics as usual" in D.C... but it appears that it has.

Disclaimer: None of the ideas I mention above came from any classified material I read... it's just what I think.

Bell-ringer 2016 19 Nov: Rob blogs on-line journals about this topic twice in a row: here and here. For the record, I've never denied that we sold Iraq dual-use techology, including chemical weapons precursors, when they were fighting Iran in the 80s, and I know we didn't protest too much about their use of chemical weapons against our Iranian adversaries then. Still, the fact that we "aided" them 20 years ago shouldn't preclude us from fighting them later (a couple of commenters at the Mudville Gazette post brought that argument up as well, so Rob isn't alone). Historically, of course, there's no precedent for this; otherwise, in a recent example, we couldn't have fought our WWI allies Japan and Italy in WWII.


Blogger Robert Schumacher said...

I think another reason we were so sure they had chemical/biological weapons was the fact that Rumsfeld and the Reagan Administration provided Iraq with said weapons.

The right continues to conveinently forget that. Given that now we condemn those who provide terrorist-supporting regimes with aid and arms, I suppose we should invade ourselves. Then again, at the time these transfers were made Iraq was not on the list of terrorist nations (Reagan took it off).

I notice we weren't nearly as quick to condemn the use of chemical/biological weapons in the Reagan years, either. Something about us blocking condemnation of said weapons by the U.N., and even refusing to sign on to a resolution in that regard.

I guess it's a good thing no one from the Reagan days is in an influential position in the government now. Glad we ditched that Rumsfeld guy, and since George H.W. Bush was Ronnie's veep, I'm sure glad no one in the current administration is a Bush.

11/19/2005 11:09 AM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

Ah ha -- you've walked right into my trap. Yes, we know they had the weapons -- and we didn't exactly sell them finished nerve gas. This does tend to eliminate the claims by some (OK, mostly tin-foil hat DUers) that Iraq never had chemical weapons. Still, this has been an interesting argument from the left -- we once supported Iraq, therefore we shouldn't be able to ever go to war against them. By the same logic, we shouldn't have been able to go to war with our WWI allies Italy and Japan. Our "support" of Iraq in the 80s was, as you know, Cold War-style power politics against an enemy who was perceived at the time as more of a threat:Iran. (Remember, they had taken our diplomats hostage.) Plus, we were making "inroads" with a Soviet client state. (I was reading last night some people saying we had provided Iraq with "most" of their arms... I seem to remember the Iraqi army driving tanks that started with "T" rather than "M" though...

11/19/2005 11:24 AM

Blogger Robert Schumacher said...

"The enemey of my enemy..."

Yes, once being an "ally" does not preclude becoming an enemy later. And (unlike the DU crowd) I'll admit Iraq did have them (they rank up there as one of the worst uses of WMD's, behind Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in terms of people killed).

However, Iraq clearly did not have said weapons as of our invasion (and likely did not have them for some years prior). Seems on the issue of banned weapons the decade plus of sanctions worked pretty well...

And the statement of supplying them with "dual use technology"...we knew full well what we were supplying them with and for what purpose. The historical context surrounding it makes it very clear.

I still do not think we should have invaded Iraq. The justification was not there, to me. Never let it be said that Saddam was a "good guy" or that Iraq was any sort of bastion of goodness and light, but when we laid out the resolution for invasion the bulk of it's justifications were just dead wrong.

And I think Bush and company knew it. They left out any of the "well, maybe not" information in their sales pitch. I believe he misled us in the case for the war.

Fact Check has an article (I got the email just as I got the notification of your comment), and it pokes some holes in both sides of the argument. I'm still reading it, and I still have my doubts about the use of (and ommission of) the intelligence. I don't know that the case of Bush manipulating the intel is so strong, but in what was presented in the sales pitch (or rather, what was not presented) he did engage in a lot of manipulation. True, Congress got most of the unadulterated intel...and many (most) were guilty of only reading the "Cliff's Notes" at the front. On that point both sides are issue as important as going to war you'd think would deserve the full attention of all members of Congress.

Did Bush falsify intelligence? Probably not. Did he/his administration very carefully pick what they used, and very carefully keep a lid on what didn't support their goal of invasion in Iraq? I'm sure of it. And while many took the "fixing facts and intelligence" statement from Downing Street as an indication that the intel was falsfied, what is more realistic is that the "fixing" was salesmanship; a slick campaign around what supports one's views, and a suppressing/distracting away from/covering up of what does not.

11/19/2005 1:10 PM

Blogger Skippy-san said...

I don 't care about the WMD issue. The point is that GHWB probably forsaw what a mess occupying an Arab nation would be...something his son could not. You have hit the nail on the head when you say Bush decided to go to war in Iraq and then needed a reason. The issue in this whole debate is the misguided decision to go to Iraq in the first place.

If one believes that by occupying Iraq you are furthering the defense of the US, then one probablu supports the president. If as I do though, you believe that being in Iraq is just defending a bunch of useless Arabs who will f**k it up no matter how we try to keep them from it, well then, you see the situation differently. Please see my post about James Webb. He's been opposed to this from the start and he is no liberal........

11/19/2005 1:54 PM

Blogger Vigilis said...

Does anyone remember Saddam's announcement after the first Gulf War that he actually won the war? That claim is supported by some military scholars, Generals, and even an ex-U.S. AG, but more importantly, most of the Arab world also believed that he had won, including 'Sammy' bin Laden.

The civilized world needed to counter Saddam's claim to victory. By defying years of U.N. resolutions and aiding terrorists on Iraqi soil, he invited the 2nd war.

George Bush would rather 9=11 had never happened. Clinton opined how he wish it had been on his watch (so he could have done what?).

11/19/2005 6:21 PM

Blogger ninme said...

(Okay I'm commenting before reading the other comments so I don't lose my train of thought)

Not only was Japan our ally during WWI, but our war gave them the industrial boom that brought them out of the Meiji Restoration (which brought them out of the middle ages) and into the modern age. It also gave them the money and resources for their military buildup that necessitated their annexation of Manchuria and invasion of China for more raw materials. In fact, the whole thing led to the increased strength of their (the Japanese) military, which, through a kind of long and twisted path including a lot of interbranch competitiveness, led to them (the Japanese) bombing Pearl Harbor.

So basically, according to that logic, that's a lot we were at fault for, and the nerve and temerity to subsequently invade (and rebuild) THEM is quite incredible.

Secondly: If the President can "cherry-pick" his own evidence to support and argument he wants to make, and then he gets in trouble for doing so, why on earth do we bother with an opposition party?

11/21/2005 2:04 PM


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