Nine Arguments for War

A lot has been written on the case for war so far, but the Chicago Tribune's editorial truth squadding is among the most comprehensive. The conclusions are so heavily fortified with facts and context that even if you don't agree with them, you've got to admire their effort.

The Tribune editorial board has identified nine major areas of argumentation advanced by the Bush administration in making the case for war. For each general rationale, the board is producing an expansive editorial to deconstruct the arguments, examining what was said then and exploring what we know now. So far, the first three in the nine-part series have been published.

The first of these ginormous editorials, which ran on Nov. 20, examined administration claims about Iraq's biological and chemical weapons capabilities and assessed how much of a threat Iraq really was in that area. The editorial concluded that although there may not have been evidence of stockpiles, the Iraqi regime was working hard to create and maintain rapid production capabilities. As the editorial notes, who needs stockpiles of weapons when they can be made on the spot?

But, argues the Tribune, "In putting so much emphasis on weapons, the White House advanced its most provocative, least verifiable case for war when others would have sufficed." Hussein, a supporter of Palestinian terrorists and a breaker of U.N. resolutons, was a destabilizing force in the Middle East, according to the Tribune, and he needed to be taken down. "Put short, the bumper-sticker accusation that 'Bush lied -- People died' would be moot today if the president had stuck to known truths."

Editorial number two in the series examined the issue of the U.N. resolutions, Hussein's violations of which formed another key component of the administration's case for war. This part of the case was of utmost importance to our soon-to-be coalition partners, particularly British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who needed to seek some sort of international mandate in order to convince the folks back home of the war's necessity.

The issue here is not whether the administration genuinely cared about preserving the legitimacy of the United Nations; rather, it is whether the statements the adminsitration made about Hussein's violations of U.N. resolutions were truthful, and indeed, it appears those claims were among the most stable foundations of the case for war.

Today's editorial looks at the administration's contentions that Iraq was attempting to reconstitute its nuclear weapons programs, which had been dismantled following the Gulf War. The Tribune notes that the adminsitration was relatively frank about the fact that it didn't know exactly how far Iraq's nuclear program had come, although all the statements did assume that Iraqi nukes were somewhere in the pipeline. Cheney at one point asserted that "we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons."

The editorial points to lots of intelligence information that had for years warned of Hussein's nuclear ambitions and concludes, "If the White House manipulated or exaggerated that intelligence before the war in order to paint a more-menacing portrait of Saddam Hussein, it's difficult to imagine why. For five years, the official and oft-delivered alarms from the U.S. intelligence community had been menacing enough."

So far, it seems the Tribune is coming down on the side that there was no manipulation of the intelligence itself -- largely, the administration seems to have been sticking to claims, at least on WMD, that were straight from the intel agencies. I am still unconvnced, however, that the presentation of the intelligence was not manipulated insofar as key information that cast doubt on the really scary stuff was conspicuously absent from administration statements.

Yes, as the Tribune points out, the president did explicitly state in 2002 that we didn't know exactly how close Hussein was to possessing a nuclear weapon, but he finished that statement of uncertainty by adding, "and that's the problem." But why omit the major U.S. intelligence studies (see page 2 of the pdf) conducted between 1997 and 2000 that concluded that "Iraq did not appear to have reconstituted its nuclear weapons program."

One expects politicians to leave out information that challenges their positions when they're on the campaign trail or on the Senate floor, arguing for more money to build a bridge or some such. One hopes they would not do such a thing when making the case for something as serious as a war.

Keep an eye out for the Tribune's upcoming editorials on issues like Iraq's alleged ties to Al Qaeda, at I'll also post links right here to the other editorials in the series as they appear.

The Once and Future Threat, 12/04/2005

Did Iraq Export Terror?, 12/07/2005

'The Virus of Democracy', 12/11/2005

Iraq and Al Qaeda, 12/14/2005

Butchery in Baghdad, 12/18/2005

'Your liberation is near', 12/21/2005

Judging the case for war, 12/28/2005

By Emily Messner |  November 30, 2005; 12:53 PM ET  | Category:  Misc.
Previous: This Week's Debate: The Case for War | Next: What About the War Powers Act?


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And here are the nine arguments against withdrawal from Iraq that are refuted by Lt. General William Odom, former Reagan Director of NSA, in his recent writings about the Iraq war:
1) We would leave behind a civil war.
2) We would lose credibility on the world stage.
3) It would embolden the insurgency and cripple the move toward democracy.
4) Iraq would become a haven for terrorists.
5) Iranian influence in Iraq would increase.
6) Unrest might spread in the region and/or draw in Iraq's neighbors.
7) Shiite-Sunni clashes would worsen.
8) We haven't fully trained the Iraqi military and police forces yet.
9) Talk of deadlines would undercut the morale of our troops.

Odom then goes on to debunk each argument as invalid due to the fact that what they are warning against is already occuring in Iraq right now anyway, withdrawal or no. It's all in his piece called 'What's Wrong With Cutting & Running' at This link should get you to his compelling case for withdrawal:

Posted by: ErrinF | November 30, 2005 07:59 PM

Watching Bush search for an exit strategy is like watching a dog work a doorknob.

Posted by: Turnabout | November 30, 2005 11:21 PM

Erinn F,

So what about pulling out troops from Korea, Germany, and the loads of other countries the US is 'occupying'?

Or is it that you don't care about those because they are less trendy?

Since you have all the answers what should the US have done? Should the US have continued the no-fly zones for 10, 20, 50 years? Or should the US have let Saddam have his way with the Shiites and Kurds and continue to kill them en masse? Did you know that bin-Laden was angry about US troops on Saudi soil? Did you know those troops were there to enforce the no-fly zones? Should the US have waited a few years until one of Saddam's crazy sons was in charge and Iraq actually had a nuclear weapon or two?

Any sane person could recognize that the status quo was untenable. Could your brilliance have better solved a problem that the Mideast, the US, the EU, and UN could not figure out?

Posted by: GetaClue | December 1, 2005 12:17 AM

Our occupation of Iraq is causing us and the Iraqis a great deal of trouble. That is the only country we need to withdraw from. You exagerrate and try straw men arguments when you try introducing other countries to the topic. The issue at hand is Iraq; Stick to it, instead of seeking out straw men to debate with. No other country is comparative to Iraq right now.
You can argue all the imaginary 'shoulds' you want; The truth is we SHOULDN'T have invaded Iraq. No WMD there, remember? Saddam wasn't much of a threat after all; Rather, his threat was overblown, and his scientists were making off with Saddam's money, not making him WMD. We SHOULDN'T have opened up a Pandora's Box in the Middle East simply chasing an experimental, neocon pipe dream. We SHOULDN'T have taken our eyes off capturing Osama Bin Laden.
GetaClue, your argument is full of fear and hysteria. You are hardly 'any sane person', but are instead displaying an extremist OVERreaction to 9/11. This war was a mistake, and the majority of Americans feel that way now. Perhaps you'll get a clue yourself and realize that the withdrawal is beginning to occur regardless of your objections. Despite Bush's chest thumping yesterday, plans to draw down troops in 2006 are being put into effect, and the withdrawal will snowball once it begins. Look for 2006 to be a year of heavy disengagement from this entire Iraq debacle.

Posted by: ErrinF | December 1, 2005 12:31 AM

Emily, you wrote: "I am still unconvnced, however, that the presentation of the intelligence was not manipulated insofar as key information that cast doubt on the really scary stuff was conspicuously absent from administration statements. "

Go back and re-read the Senate Intelligence Report. The mantra over and over is "....the claim that Saddam....(insert your favorite war claim here) either overstated or was not supported by the underlying intelligence.

They didn't say the intelligence was bad, they said conclusions were made from it that "either overstated or were not supported by the underlying intelligence".

Emily, the real world isn't black and white, or composed of mostly far righties and lefties. Most of us hover around the middle but feel one side better gets to where we want to go when appropriately buffered by the other side.

What the Chicago Trib series does is show the nuance and complexity of the situation. Saddam was thumbing his nose at UN sanctions and he would love to stick it to us if he could hide behind someone else while doing it. But both Bush I and Clinton understood that launching an invasion would be opening a Pandora's box that was likely better not rushed into. So what to do?

Well, it was time to scare the hell out of Saddam. Bush actually did a good job scaring Saddam into accepting the inspectors and he was indeed getting the job done putting Saddam back in his box. Had he walked softly with his big stick instead of swaggering arrogantly he might well have pulled it off without giving up the fight in Afghanistan or having to take his eye off the ball in North Korea. Remember what it was like after 9-11, the media was thoroughly cowed and Bush walked on water. He got the UN resolution and had the political capital to keep the pressure on Saddam, but he lacked the finesse or apparently the will to use it wisely, opting for a "final solution' against the advice of pretty much every retired general in the nation and avoiding a national debate by creative writing with intelligence conclusions.

Instead of a nuanced debate (in which the pliable media gave him an edge), he chose to overplay his fearmongering post 9-11 hand, setting up a network to rework the intelligence into conclusions that "either overstated or were not supported by the underlying intelligence" to support the desired invasion. And then he botched it. He showed the world the US doesn't hesitate to use its shock and awe mighty army to do as pleases it, but he also showed them a handful of Davids armed with IED's can tie Goliath up playing whack a mole forever. Not a good trade.

Arrogance and even ineptness are commonly forgiven in the face of a good outcome. We lionized Reagan after he apologized for Iran Contra. But Bush mismanaged the war and further mismanaged the peace. Its been two and a half years since "Mission Accomplished". In WWII the US turned half-starved Depression kids fresh from the farm into a mighty army in less than half that time. Heck, the Marshall Plan only took 4 years to rebuild an entire continent. We were told we had 200,000 trained Iraqi's, until we hauled their arses under oath before Congress, when it suddenly became 1 battalion. Now we're failing at the propaganda machine over there clumsily forging stories in their newspapers.

I think we owe Murtha a big debt for focusing the debate and forcing this administration to do something - either enable our brave soldiers to accomplish their mission or get off the pot over there. We'd really rather not walk away from something we broke without fixing it, we'd really rather not see civil war there, we'd really rather not see an Islamic theocracy there - but this administration needs to either poop or get off the pot before it gets any worse. Either reconstruct the country and get them trained, or push the Iraqis out of the nest and get the hell out. Hanging around playing whack a mole is not only disrespectful to our soldiers its making us less safe.

Posted by: patriot 1957 | December 1, 2005 12:42 AM

"Did you know that bin-Laden was angry about US troops on Saudi soil?"

So we invaded Iraq to appease BinLaden?

Posted by: patriot 1957 | December 1, 2005 12:44 AM

And Patriot 1957...You seem to think decision-makers operate with perfect intelligence. No doubts, no uncertainties allowed.

If a decision-maker guesses wrong, their judgment sorting through imperfect facts and intel is wrong...then they lied! They lied!

Fortunately, at least on 9/11, people were unwilling to act and we got the whole world going "awwwww! Poor Americans!" for a week for a little bloodshed. Nobody lied, even though 3,000 died.

I guess, coming from a life as a decision-maker who acts on incomplete info - that it doesn't get any better for you Lefties than Frenchies politely expressing "sorrow" between their appetizer and main cousine for a few days, for a little CYA and inaction.

Posted by: Chris Ford | December 1, 2005 01:14 AM

Saddam was not. He didn't have squat. So the CIA thought. But Bush was bought. By the Halliburton lot. And look what you got:

Our kids? Shot.
Our budgets? Shot.
Our cred? Shot.

Our Pres.? ____

Posted by: emily-is-hot | December 1, 2005 01:17 AM

3000 died under Bush's watch, Chris Ford. Ever heard of accountability? Or does that not apply to politicians on the Right?

Posted by: ErrinF | December 1, 2005 01:42 AM

Our Pres.? ____

Bush has a life insurance policy better than any money can buy. Vice President Cheney.

Posted by: | December 1, 2005 01:49 AM

"If a decision-maker guesses wrong, their judgment sorting through imperfect facts and intel is wrong...then they lied! They lied!"

Nice try. The Senate Intel Report uses all or part of the phrase "either overstated or was not supported by the underlying intelligence reporting" six times in just Conclusion 1 in just the Summary document. A systemic plan to distort judgements is not honest.

Posted by: patriot 1957 | December 1, 2005 01:53 AM

Patriot 1957 - "Well, it was time to scare the hell out of Saddam. Bush actually did a good job scaring Saddam into accepting the inspectors and he was indeed getting the job done putting Saddam back in his box. Had he walked softly with his big stick instead of swaggering arrogantly he might well have pulled it off without giving up the fight in Afghanistan or having to take his eye off the ball in North Korea."

The only reason Saddam allowed inspectors in after almost 5 years is that the US and UK had an invasion force on his border. Even with that he failed to comply with UN Res 1441 according to the inspectors. By early March of 2003, we all have learned that Saddam had begun plans for a full Sunni insurgency knowing he would not ever comply, and the American-led forces would dust his ass in a stand-up fight.

There was no way we could park 300,000 men in a desert in interminable while Saddam stalled for the 1-2 years Blix wanted for his hide and seek hunt absent Saddam's full compliance with Res 1441. We would use them, or be forced by the Saudis and Kuwaitis to send them home in the spring of 2003, at which point if we had blinked rather than Saddam, we would have had no clout and he could just toss Blix out on his ass after us and keep up the fiction he told all his commanders that while they didn't have WMD, the next regiment over was fully equipped, but tell anyone that, and die.....

N Korea has absolutely nothing to do with troops engaged in Iraq. It boils down to China's intents on it's client state, and what S Korea wants to do with US airpower supporting Korean ground forces. The Chinese are not yet ready to ditch Kim Jong Il, and the S Koreans have no intent of invading at this time. The US knows this. What Iraq Sunnis and Islamic terrorists did in bogging us down is give Syria a little margin of safety and Iran, even more. But only until we rid ourselves of Iraq, regroup, then Syria and Iran best worry starting in late 2006 if they still back radical Islamists..

The Afghanistan Lefty fantasy is even more bizarre, which holds that if we had only stayed there, even though Binnie fled to Pakistan, we would have caught him somehow while of course refusing to interrogate any Islamist as to his hiding spot. Then, with Binnie in custody, he would have had 1,000 ACLU and other Leftists serving as his attorneys as we gave hime the Trial of the Century, exposing America's crown jewel Justice System to an Admiring, Awestruck world. Upon his conviction 5 years later, the "evildoers" would collapse like a house of cards and the war be over as Binnie joined the 1993 WTC bombers in their swank Manhattan special "Muslim religious needs and cuisine" prison suite. And even France would love us and beg us for ACLU lawyers to show France the right way to correct minor misunderstandings with the Religion of Peace......

What a crock! Getting Binnie as the be all and end all sounded like sheer boobery when Richard Clarke and other fringe characters began squawking in late 2003, and it sounds even more screwed up now..

Posted by: Chris Ford | December 1, 2005 02:04 AM

Errin the non-Leftist Marxist sez: "3000 died under Bush's watch, Chris Ford. Ever heard of accountability? Or does that not apply to politicians on the Right?"

The 3,000 died in a plot started in 1998 under Clinton's watch, actually, but I don't blame Bush or Clinton for what the enemy does in unlawful combat anymore than I blame Lincoln for 660,000 dead Americans and 2 million casualties or blame FDR for 420,000 dead and 2 million casualties on "their watches".

A clue, Errin...

There is no way America will be perfectly safe. We are too open, with too many targets to be guarded. What we CAN do is go after the responsible Muslims and kill them or make their lives a sorry, miserable existence in consequence to their deeds - as we are doing now with the 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed - despite the ACLU pissing in their panties about his "rights". When the country is too open with too many targets to be defended, the only solutions are to go on the offense or kill/deport any Muslim here who could be an unlawful combatant....

Posted by: Chris Ford | December 1, 2005 02:15 AM

Never said Bush was responsible for 9/11. I said he was accountable. You're just an apologist for Bush, Chris Ford. I feel our public officials should be held accountable for when they fail in their sworn duties. How can you claim national defense and security is not a matter of the Presidency? You are so blind in your partisanship that you will excuse anything in the name of your quixotical battle with the Left.
The only solution is not to just go on the offense, you party line aping excuse maker. One solution is to have a proper defense and prevent incidents like 9/11 in the first place.
Honestly, every conversation with Chris Ford is a waste of time.

Posted by: ErrinF | December 1, 2005 03:36 AM

How the CIA created Osama bin Laden


"Throughout the world ... its agents, client states and satellites are on the defensive -- on the moral defensive, the intellectual defensive, and the political and economic defensive. Freedom movements arise and assert themselves. They're doing so on almost every continent populated by man -- in the hills of Afghanistan, in Angola, in Kampuchea, in Central America ... [They are] freedom fighters."

Is this a call to jihad (holy war) taken from one of Islamic fundamentalist Osama bin Laden's notorious fatwas? Or perhaps a communique issued by the repressive Taliban regime in Kabul?

In fact, this glowing praise of the murderous exploits of today's supporters of arch-terrorist bin Laden and his Taliban collaborators, and their holy war against the "evil empire", was issued by US President Ronald Reagan on March 8, 1985. The "evil empire" was the Soviet Union, as well as Third World movements fighting US-backed colonialism, apartheid and dictatorship.

How things change. In the aftermath of a series of terrorist atrocities -- the most despicable being the mass murder of more than 6000 working people in New York and Washington on September 11 -- bin Laden the "freedom fighter" is now lambasted by US leaders and the Western mass media as a "terrorist mastermind" and an "evil-doer".

Yet the US government refuses to admit its central role in creating the vicious movement that spawned bin Laden, the Taliban and Islamic fundamentalist terrorists that plague Algeria and Egypt -- and perhaps the disaster that befell New York.

The mass media has also downplayed the origins of bin Laden and his toxic brand of Islamic fundamentalism.

In April 1978, the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) seized power in Afghanistan in reaction to a crackdown against the party by that country's repressive government.

The PDPA was committed to a radical land reform that favoured the peasants, trade union rights, an expansion of education and social services, equality for women and the separation of church and state. The PDPA also supported strengthening Afghanistan's relationship with the Soviet Union.

Such policies enraged the wealthy semi-feudal landlords, the Muslim religious establishment (many mullahs were also big landlords) and the tribal chiefs. They immediately began organizing resistance to the government's progressive policies, under the guise of defending Islam.

Washington, fearing the spread of Soviet influence (and worse the new government's radical example) to its allies in Pakistan, Iran and the Gulf states, immediately offered support to the Afghan mujaheddin, as the "contra" force was known.

Following an internal PDPA power struggle in December 1979 which toppled Afghanistan's leader, thousands of Soviet troops entered the country to prevent the new government's fall. This only galvanized the disparate fundamentalist factions. Their reactionary jihad now gained legitimacy as a "national liberation" struggle in the eyes of many Afghans.

The Soviet Union was eventually to withdraw from Afghanistan in 1989 and the mujaheddin captured the capital, Kabul, in 1992.

Between 1978 and 1992, the US government poured at least US$6 billion (some estimates range as high as $20 billion) worth of arms, training and funds to prop up the mujaheddin factions. Other Western governments, as well as oil-rich Saudi Arabia, kicked in as much again. Wealthy Arab fanatics, like Osama bin Laden, provided millions more.

Washington's policy in Afghanistan was shaped by US President Jimmy Carter's national security advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and was continued by his successors. His plan went far beyond simply forcing Soviet troops to withdraw; rather it aimed to foster an international movement to spread Islamic fanaticism into the Muslim Central Asian Soviet republics to destabilize the Soviet Union.

Brzezinski's grand plan coincided with Pakistan military dictator General Zia ul-Haq's own ambitions to dominate the region. US-run Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe beamed Islamic fundamentalist tirades across Central Asia (while paradoxically denouncing the "Islamic revolution" that toppled the pro-US Shah of Iran in 1979).

Washington's favoured mujaheddin faction was one of the most extreme, led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. The West's distaste for terrorism did not apply to this unsavory "freedom fighter". Hekmatyar was notorious in the 1970's for throwing acid in the faces of women who refused to wear the veil.

After the mujaheddin took Kabul in 1992, Hekmatyar's forces rained US-supplied missiles and rockets on that city -- killing at least 2000 civilians -- until the new government agreed to give him the post of prime minister. Osama bin Laden was a close associate of Hekmatyar and his faction.

Hekmatyar was also infamous for his side trade in the cultivation and trafficking in opium. Backing of the mujaheddin from the CIA coincided with a boom in the drug business. Within two years, the Afghanistan-Pakistan border was the world's single largest source of heroin, supplying 60% of US drug users.

In 1995, the former director of the CIA's operation in Afghanistan was unrepentant about the explosion in the flow of drugs: "Our main mission was to do as much damage as possible to the Soviets... There was a fallout in terms of drugs, yes. But the main objective was accomplished. The Soviets left Afghanistan."
Made in the USA

According to Ahmed Rashid, a correspondent for the Far Eastern Economic Review, in 1986 CIA chief William Casey committed CIA support to a long-standing ISI proposal to recruit from around the world to join the Afghan jihad. At least 100,000 Islamic militants flocked to Pakistan between 1982 and 1992 (some 60,000 attended fundamentalist schools in Pakistan without necessarily taking part in the fighting).

John Cooley, a former journalist with the US ABC television network and author of Unholy Wars: Afghanistan, America and International Terrorism, has revealed that Muslims recruited in the US for the mujaheddin were sent to Camp Peary, the CIA's spy training camp in Virginia, where young Afghans, Arabs from Egypt and Jordan, and even some African-American "black Muslims" were taught "sabotage skills".

The November 1, 1998, British Independent reported that one of those charged with the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, Ali Mohammed, had trained "bin Laden's operatives" in 1989.

These "operatives" were recruited at the al Kifah Refugee Centre in Brooklyn, New York, given paramilitary training in the New York area and then sent to Afghanistan with US assistance to join Hekmatyar's forces. Mohammed was a member of the US army's elite Green Berets.

The program, reported the Independent, was part of a Washington-approved plan called " Operation Cyclone".

In Pakistan, recruits, money and equipment were distributed to the mujaheddin factions by an organization known as Maktab al Khidamar (Office of Services -- MAK).

MAK was a front for Pakistan's CIA, the Inter-Service Intelligence Directorate. The ISI was the first recipient of the vast bulk of CIA and Saudi Arabian covert assistance for the Afghan contras. Bin Laden was one of three people who ran MAK. In 1989, he took overall charge of MAK.

Among those trained by Mohammed were El Sayyid Nosair, who was jailed in 1995 for killing Israeli rightist Rabbi Meir Kahane and plotting with others to bomb New York landmarks, including the World Trade Center in 1993.

The Independent also suggested that Shiekh Omar Abdel-Rahman, an Egyptian religious leader also jailed for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, was also part of Operation Cyclone. He entered the US in 1990 with the CIA's approval. A confidential CIA report concluded that the agency was "partly culpable" for the 1993 World Trade Center blast, the Independent reported.
Bin Laden

Osama bin Laden, one of 20 sons of a billionaire construction magnate, arrived in Afghanistan to join the jihad in 1980. An austere religious fanatic and business tycoon, bin Laden specialized in recruiting, financing and training the estimated 35,000 non-Afghan mercenaries who joined the mujaheddin.

The bin Laden family is a prominent pillar of the Saudi Arabian ruling class, with close personal, financial and political ties to that country's pro-US royal family.

Bin Laden senior was appointed Saudi Arabia's minister of public works as a favour by King Faisal. The new minister awarded his own construction companies lucrative contracts to rebuild Islam's holiest mosques in Mecca and Medina. In the process, the bin Laden family company in 1966 became the world's largest private construction company.

Osama bin Laden's father died in 1968. Until 1994, he had access to the dividends from this ill-gotten business empire.

(Bin Laden junior's oft-quoted personal fortune of US$200-300 million has been arrived at by the US State Department by dividing today's value of the bin Laden family net worth -- estimated to be US$5 billion -- by the number of bin Laden senior's sons. A fact rarely mentioned is that in 1994 the bin Laden family disowned Osama and took control of his share.)

Osama's military and business adventures in Afghanistan had the blessing of the bin Laden dynasty and the reactionary Saudi Arabian regime. His close working relationship with MAK also meant that the CIA was fully aware of his activities.

Milt Bearden, the CIA's station chief in Pakistan from 1986 to 1989, admitted to the January 24, 2000, New Yorker that while he never personally met bin Laden, "Did I know that he was out there? Yes, I did ... [Guys like] bin Laden were bringing $20-$25 million a month from other Saudis and Gulf Arabs to underwrite the war. And that is a lot of money. It's an extra $200-$300 million a year. And this is what bin Laden did."

In 1986, bin Laden brought heavy construction equipment from Saudi Arabia to Afghanistan. Using his extensive knowledge of construction techniques (he has a degree in civil engineering), he built "training camps", some dug deep into the sides of mountains, and built roads to reach them.

These camps, now dubbed "terrorist universities" by Washington, were built in collaboration with the ISI and the CIA. The Afghan contra fighters, including the tens of thousands of mercenaries recruited and paid for by bin Laden, were armed by the CIA. Pakistan, the US and Britain provided military trainers.

Tom Carew, a former British SAS soldier who secretly fought for the mujaheddin told the August 13, 2000, British Observer, "The Americans were keen to teach the Afghans the techniques of urban terrorism -- car bombing and so on -- so that they could strike at the Russians in major towns ... Many of them are now using their knowledge and expertise to wage war on everything they hate."

Al Qaeda (the Base), bin Laden's organization, was established in 1987-88 to run the camps and other business enterprises. It is a tightly-run capitalist holding company -- albeit one that integrates the operations of a mercenary force and related logistical services with "legitimate" business operations.

Bin Laden has simply continued to do the job he was asked to do in Afghanistan during the 1980's -- fund, feed and train mercenaries. All that has changed is his primary customer. Then it was the ISI and, behind the scenes, the CIA. Today, his services are utilized primarily by the reactionary Taliban regime.

Bin Laden only became a "terrorist" in US eyes when he fell out with the Saudi royal family over its decision to allow more than 540,000 US troops to be stationed on Saudi soil following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.

When thousands of US troops remained in Saudi Arabia after the end of the Gulf War, bin Laden's anger turned to outright opposition. He declared that Saudi Arabia and other regimes -- such as Egypt -- in the Middle East were puppets of the US, just as the PDPA government of Afghanistan had been a puppet of the Soviet Union.

He called for the overthrow of these client regimes and declared it the duty of all Muslims to drive the US out of the Gulf states. In 1994, he was stripped of his Saudi citizenship and forced to leave the country. His assets there were frozen.

After a period in Sudan, he returned to Afghanistan in May 1996. He refurbished the camps he had helped build during the Afghan war and offered the facilities and services -- and thousands of his mercenaries -- to the Taliban, which took power that September.

Today, bin Laden's private army of non-Afghan religious fanatics is a key prop of the Taliban regime.

Prior to the devastating September 11 attack on the twin towers of World Trade Center, US ruling-class figures remained unrepentant about the consequences of their dirty deals with the likes of bin Laden, Hekmatyar and the Taliban. Since the awful attack, they have been downright hypocritical.

In an August 28, 1998, report posted on MSNBC, Michael Moran quotes Senator Orrin Hatch, who was a senior member of the Senate Intelligence Committee which approved US dealings with the mujaheddin, as saying he would make "the same call again", even knowing what bin Laden would become.

"It was worth it. Those were very important, pivotal matters that played an important role in the downfall of the Soviet Union."

Hatch today is one of the most gung-ho voices demanding military retaliation.

Another face that has appeared repeatedly on television screens since the attack has been Vincent Cannistrano, described as a former CIA chief of "counter-terrorism operations".

Cannistrano is certainly an expert on terrorists like bin Laden, because he directed their "work". He was in charge of the CIA-backed Nicaraguan contras during the early 1980's. In 1984, he became the supervisor of covert aid to the Afghan mujaheddin for the US National Security Council.

The last word goes to Zbigniew Brzezinski: "What was more important in the world view of history? The Taliban or the fall of the Soviet Empire? A few stirred up Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?"

Posted by: Che | December 1, 2005 07:01 AM

Quite honestly, I don't find any of the arguments for a war with Iraq all that compelling. Sadaam Hussein was completely marginalized, hemmed in and was no longer considered a serious threat by even his closest neighbors.

Evidence for that point of view is rather starkly indicated by the fact that one of Sadaam's most compelling motivations for allowing the world to believe that he had such fearsome weapons was the hope that it would scare off his enemies.

History will note that the invasion of Iraq was one of the stupidest strategic foreign policy decisions in history, worse even that Cornwallis' ignoring the possibility of a French-American alliance that could threaten the Crown's military activities against the American Colonies' insurgency against British rule.

The most likely outcome in Iraq after the Americans leave is a protracted period of violent instability with the yultimate formation of an Iranian-style Shi'ite Theocracy taking hold in the South and Central part of Iraq and a Kurdish dominated principality in the North which will drive the Turks up a wall.

Thank you George W. Bush for leaving the world with a far worse nightmare than a secular Iraq with a more moderate and stable Sunni Iraq government that would likely have occurred once Sadaam was toppled or murdered.

Bush will go down in the books as one of the stupidest Presidents in our history. His name will stink in the records.

Posted by: Jaxas | December 1, 2005 11:04 AM

Chris Ford, you think we are weak. We think you are shortsighted. It is highly unlikely we'll ever see eye to eye.

If being better off with Saddam in power means Iraq would not be a terrorist spawning machine, Iraq would not be in civil war exporting terror and destabilizing its neighbors, Zarquawi's group would not have had the golden opportunity to organize, finance and evoke sympathy, the US would still have some moral authority in the world, and we would have finished the fight in Afghanistan and really taken out the Taliban instead of just saying we did (and guess what, they're back and now they're armed), if we had not taken our eye off the ball on North Korea, then, yes, we would be safer today with Saddam in power.

But, you may well say, that all happened because the war was mismanaged, not because the war was a bad idea. I say relying on the might of your military to engage in a first strike war in a land where you don't know what the hell you are doing agaist a culture you do not understand, against the advice of the generals who are free to talk (i.e. retired) and in which you cannot look your people in the eye and be truthful about the reasons you are going to war and in which you only playacted at pretending to engage in diplomatic solutions first - flies in the face of history. The might of Ghengis Khan, Rome, the Spanish Armada, Napolean, Hitler, Imperial Japan, the Ottoman Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, to name a few, all foolishly overextended the reach of their armies and where are they today? No Chris Ford, sometimes strength is in wisdom, not brute force. And this administration is not wise.

I make life and death decisions every day in my profession. You ask "what's the worst that could happen" and act accordingly - the patient might die if I do this surgery, but the patient will die if I don't - you do the surgery. There were worse outcomes than Saddam staying in power while we actually really exercised diplomatic solutions and finished the job in Afghanistan. Our retired generals outlined them pretty well before the war, and they have come true.

We had not even come close to needing to risk this invasion yet. If world support was so slow in coming because Saddam had bribed them, we had deeper pockets. It would have been money better spent than filling the pockets of Halliburton.

I care for children from a nearby base. Their dads come in with them when home on leave. They are telling me the roof is slowly caving in in Afghanistan and that they do not have enough soldiers to accomplish their mission there - they try to keep the major cities safe and the rest of the country has gone back to the Taliban. Pulling our soldiers out of Afghanistan before the job was done to invade Iraq was stupid. Now we have both Bin Laden and Zarquawi to worry about, two places to train terrorists, and Islamic sympathy to repel the occupiers moving ever onward toward their side.

Posted by: patriot1957 | December 1, 2005 01:57 PM

ErrinF - Here are some questions, so I can try to get a better understanding of your perspective:

a) if Al Gore had been president, do you think he would have prevented 9/11?

b) if not, would you also be asking for accountability?

c) what consequences do you propose to hold the president accountable?

You have mentioned "accountability" a few different times. If I recall correctly, you had been in the military. Military accountability is (for better or worse) different than political accountability, and is sometimes different than "justice."

I think we have all seen where the careers of promising officers have been essentially terminated by something that happened "on their watch," even though they had no hand in the incident and may have inherited the conditions that made the incident possible and had little opportunity to change those conditions.

Posted by: Dave20640 | December 1, 2005 05:17 PM

You recall incorrectly about me having a military background, Dave. Anyway, I'll gladly answer your questions:
a) It would probably be more likely that a Gore administration could prevent 9/11 in that Gore's NSA team would be more of a continuation of Clinton's NSA team, and therefore Richard Clarke would have had much more leeway to take on the Al Qaeda threat he had perceived earlier on in 2001. That's just supposition, though, so I cannot distinctly say Al Gore could have significantly made a difference in preventing 9/11.
b) Yes, I would still ask for accountability. I am not being partisan at all; I think public officials should be held accountable for failing to do their public duties. Partisanship is used more to deflect accountability than to embrace it.
c)Good question. Drastic actions like impeachment would be uncalled for, since it is the terrorists after all that are responsible for 9/11, not the President. In this situation, I think the fair consequences would be a chastisement of Bush by the public (which I feel he effectively avoided by doing a good job rallying the nation immediately after 9/11), and probably some resignations being called for from the NSA, most notably that of Condaleeza Rice. The key is to have an accountability that is productive in it's fairness, not a vengeful punishment. I simply want accountability so that future 9/11s won't happen. I accept that our government is imperfect, but that doesn't excuse corrective accountability when mistakes have been made.

Posted by: ErrinF | December 1, 2005 07:55 PM


So you were against continuing the Gulf War from 1991? What were you for? It's easy to criticize things after the fact, but did you have any better ideas? You can't just sit there and say 'I'm against this, I'm against that because it's all bad, bad, bad. Everything Bush does is evil because he does it.' That's not logic you can argue with because it isn't logic at all.

Did you favor continuing the no-fly zones and sanctions (something that many on the left said was hurting thousands of Iraqis each year)? Or did you favor ending both of those and letting Saddam have his way in his own little fiefdom of a country?

To say Bush was wrong you have to provide a better alternative. I have yet to see you or many other war critics even try to present one. Until you do, you cannot be taken seriously.

Posted by: GetaClue | December 1, 2005 10:45 PM

Once again failure to parse 'the left'.

Sure lots of lefties were against the sanctions, but most of the realists were for them. Guess who dominated Congress? The realists. Sanctions worked. We knew they were working.

We also had enough information at the time to make nuanced judgements about Iraqi corcive capacities domestically and internationally. Shin Bet analysts informed me before the war that Iraq was number four on Israeli's worry list. We invaded number 4?!!!

Most of the administrations analyses could be disproven or had significan doubt cast on them by previously published analyses (RAND for example), or by speaking to academics (who were not spoken to).

The trouble is, of course, that looking at similar data different analyses are possible. Realists and academics called for sanctions and no war. The admin for war. Most lamentable is Congress, they simply swallowed what the admin gave them, then voted for a massively popular war (at the time). Now, all the dems are trying to prove they weren't slimy politicians voting with the wind without so much as looking into the existent evidence.

Posted by: Chris | December 1, 2005 11:41 PM

Get a clue,

You want a list on what to do? Here you go.

1. Establish near absolute security control:
a. disarm militias.
b. confiscate assault and heavy weapons.
c. create a military, police, and security apparatus wholly centered on the state, not sectarian groups.

2. Establish an economy:
a. create enough jobs to lower the 40-60% unemployment to around 15%. This will take billions of dollars in long term microfinance and business loans. And security. Business does not flourish in chaos.
b. Centralize taxation and mineral rights to either provices, superprovinces or the state. Have whichever level of tax superstructure responsible for governance. Currently, superprovinces are running taxation and mineral rights, but the state is responsible for governance. Not a good situation.
c. evidence suggests that democracies remain most stable when average per captia income is approximately $8,000 per year. Currently, Iraqi police and military are among the best paid groups. Average monthy salary: Under $200.

3. Establish lines of civil communication:
a. A free press. Try to resist running psy ops in that press, it undermines your efforts. Also try not to censor voices, like banning al-Jezeera.
b. Allow for government or private mediated discussions on important social issues. This way, if Shi'ites don't want liquor stores, they can ask the Christians for concessions, instead of firebombing the stores and driving Christians out of the country.

4. Address social and sectarian cleavage.
a. attempt to utilize econonmic, civil, and governmental tools to mitigate sectarian cleavages. Sectarian divides break down social communication and often lead to fighting.

5. Centralize political power:
a. Elites will only move toward the center if they have something to gain. Currently, economic and power gains are to be had only in breaking up the country into sectarian super-provinces. This leads to sectarian cleavage, economic disparity, and poor central governance.

6. Infrastructure: A stable economy, military, and government are all dependent on running water, sewage systems, and electrical power. In turn, producing these is prefaced on a secure environment.

Well, I only got to six. There is plenty more to do. And to be fair, we have succeeded to some small extent in some of these. Probably the most important are the economic and social cleavage goals. These are also where we appear to be doing the worst. Countries and societies with strong ethnic divides seem to fall victim to civil war and ethnic cleansing most often when there exist said social difficulties coupled with a poor economy. Even effective coercive power is often ineffective in stopping economically depressed ethnic groups from gleefully exterminating each other.

Now, can we do this before the American public loses patience with Iraq?

Posted by: Chris | December 1, 2005 11:59 PM

Taken seriously by you, Getaclue? Like I care what somebody like you thinks; I don't take seriously you or your constant straw man arguments. There is no impetus on me to offer alternatives; Indeed, the only alternative I need to argue is not invading Iraq in the first place.
For the record, I would have continued the containment and inspections of Saddam Hussein, and instead focused all my efforts on bringing Osama Bin Laden to justice. The War On Terror would remain solely focused on the destruction of Al Qaeda, and no sidetrack experiments of regime change would be undertaken. I would begin to disassociate with oppressive regimes in the Middle East rather than trying to create some sort of theoretical domino effect by thinking I could forcibly change one of those regimes into a democracy.
Again, Getaclue, you are full of histrionics rather than having a strategic, cool mind about how to best deal with our problems.

Posted by: ErrinF | December 2, 2005 01:20 AM

Chris (not Ford), I like the sentiment behind your 6 points, but I think a lot of them are unattainable. We can try to guide the Iraqis as best we can, but we are not supermen and we cannot change human nature. SO much is out of our hands when it comes to this. As we all know, the best plans of mice and men often go astray. I think much of the plan you have laid out has room for chaos and deviation. The human factor in all this makes it so. Not to mention a MUCH different culture in Iraq than ours.

Posted by: ErrinF | December 2, 2005 01:27 AM

Thanks for your reply re: Al Gore and accountability. They sound fairly reasonable, although "accountability" in politics usually occurs like the "resignation" of ex-FEMA head Brown. For people like Louisiana governor Blanco and mayor Nagin, it looks like accountability will have to come at the polls.

Posted by: Dave20640 | December 2, 2005 09:21 AM

"The size of the lie is a definite factor in causing it to be believed, for the vast masses of the nation are in the depths of their hearts more easily decieved than they are consciously and intentionally bad. The primitive simplicity of their minds rends them a more easy prey to a big lie than a small one, for they themselves often tell little lies but would be ashamed to tell a big one." Adolph Hitler, Mein Kampf.
Bush's whole presidency is based on lies, from vote fraud to Iraq fraud, including 9/11 fraud. The information is out there that Bush had to have a hand in 9/11. The lie is so big people will fight to ward off their own disbelief. It is too crazy. Crazy ideas do not have the kind of evidence that exists. People are just to afraid to look. A government is like a parent to each of us, no one wants to admit that they have been decieved and that the parent is so evil.

Posted by: gael | December 2, 2005 12:09 PM

Errin F,

I would agree, none of these are attainable in the next decade or so.

The economic and social goals (the most important of the set) could take a century.

However, I am tired of the belief that opponents of the war have no plan. Note that none of the usual gang of 'righties' has bothered to post counter as of yet. I consider that a success.

Nor have the 'righties' bothered to place their own plans in the grinder. The gauntlet is down. Lets see what our American right is made of.

Posted by: Chris | December 2, 2005 08:35 PM

Sorry if I came off too negative, Chris. You definitely earn points for putting that plan out for contemplation. I just feel we've opened too much of a Pandora's box over there for many of your points to occur. Murphy's Law, you know?
I wasn't aware that the anti-war crowd was considered to not have a plan. But that's probably just because I've been aware for a while of a few plans for ending the war strategically. I mainly subscribe to the strategy of Lt. General William Odom. Here's a couple links to articles of his detailing his approach to the Iraq problem:

As for 'what the American right is made of', I think most of them are rational, intelligent people into conservatism as a political philosophy they identify with. The problem with the right is the large number of delusional extremists that have been warped by the likes of Rush Limbaugh into becoming petty, ugly fanatics full of extreme emotions and irrationality. What else do you expect of people who willingly listen to propoganda as 'entertainment'? In the long run, such cultivated extremism is going to be detrimental to the right.

Posted by: ErrinF | December 3, 2005 03:45 AM

You have made an excellent point ErrinF. I too believe that the vast majority of conservatives in the country are rational and intelligent, and are probably part of that 60% or so who now disapprove of George W. Bush's handling of the Iraq war.

Look. There is an old adage that applies to the media as well as to any other endeavor: "The squeaky wheel gets the grease." For Bush, that squeaky wheel represents not the rational and intelligent conservatives that worry about fiscal recklessness and foreign entanglements, but the kooky fringe made up of religious evangelicals who want their Biblical litralism expressed in legislation and Court rulings, and the neocons who want a sort of benign despotism in our foreign policy and a new Gilded Age type of domestic and economic agenda.

For some reason that might intrigue some perceptive psychaitrist, Bush eschews more moderate rational conservatives in favor of this far more destructive form of conservatism that in many ways is little different from the radical liberlism of the New Left in the 1960s.

Posted by: Jaxas | December 3, 2005 11:54 AM

It seems to me this debate lacks some structure........
1. There is the "Case for War". A look back at the reasons advanced for initiating the war. The Trib's analysis of the 9 reasons, of which we now only have 3. There are really two questions here. Were these arguements well founded in facts, were they "true"? The second is, do these support, do they justify, this nation's decision to go to war against Iraq?
2. There is the question of the preparation and execution of the war and subsequent occuppation. This is a very different debate having nothing to do with the "Case for War" per se.
3. There is the question of what we do now, looking forward. This too has nothing to do with the "Case for War". Whether you agreed or disagreed with the affirmative decision the nation made in response to the case, we are there. You may think we are there as a consequence of our national mistake, as I do, but we are stuck with it and the damage is done. Given that, what do we do now?

General Odom, whom I admire greatly, took no 3 on in the Aug 5 piece you find in the link supplied earlier. He does it without demonizing individuals or impuning their motives.

Is it possible that this debate might get back to the subject at hand, i.e. "The Case for War" and do so in the style of the good general?

Posted by: Cayambe | December 3, 2005 03:56 PM

I think one of Bush's weakest points in the case for this war is establishing Iraq as the 'central front on terrorism' so that the terrorists will have to fight us abroad rather than strike us domestically.
For one, such a strategy seems like we're feeding the Iraqis to the wolves so as to protect our own hides. That doesn't seem very American to me.
For another, it assumes that directly engaging the terrorists will somehow suppress their activity. The reality of the situation seems to be that giving them a central front is only empowering them all the more.
And lastly, it assumes the terrorists cannot walk and chew bubble gum at the same time. Al Qaeda is most definitely still plotting another terrorist attack on U.S. soil, and no warfare on the ground in Iraq is going to change that. And, although Al Qaeda now has an Iraqi presence thanks to this war, the top leadership plotting our demise is NOT in Iraq, but in the Afghanistan/Pakistan region of the world.

Posted by: ErrinF | December 4, 2005 02:54 PM

First, we need some context for the Trib's presentation of the 9 arguments they have extracted from what the administration said in the months leading up to the war. The 9 arguments are:
1. Biological and chemical weapons ........ Was Iraq a serious threat?
2. Iraq rebuffs the world ...... Would the UN enforce its edicts?
3. The quest for nukes ....... Could Iraq wield the bomb?
4. Hussein's rope-a-dope ...... Was he stalling for advantage?
5. Waging war on terror ....... Did Iraq play a menacing role?
6. Reform in the Middle East ...... Would democracy advance security?
7. Iraq and Al Qaeda ...... Did a connection exist?
8. The Butcher of Baghdad ...... Why did the world avert its eyes?
9. Iraqis liberated ...... Would bitter rivals birth a government?

The Trib supported this war editorially. Like all too many in Congress, they have a public position to defend. Like politicians, newspapers find it excruciating to change public positions once taken, to admit mistakes. Consequently, their analysis is and will not be exactly unbiased. Let me illustrate with their conclusion from the first editorial:

"In making their case for war, Bush and his top aides frequently implied--speaking with genuine belief or with Machiavellian wiles--that Iraq was an imminent threat, even if they didn't use that word. Bush, in fact, rejected an imminence test in his 2003 State of the Union address: "Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent," he said. "Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike?"

Absent new disclosures in future reports, memoirs or other evidence, history's likely verdict is that the president overplayed the weak hand that the intelligence services dealt him. Those agencies had their own nightmares to live down: Prior to the Gulf war, they had underestimated Iraq's progress toward building nuclear bombs.

But there was no need for the administration to rely on risky intelligence to chronicle many of Iraq's sins. This page stands by an opinion argued here in January 2004:

In putting so much emphasis on weapons, the White House advanced its most provocative, least verifiable case for war when others would have sufficed. With his support for Palestinian and other terrorists, Hussein was a destabilizing force in the Middle East. His ballistic missiles program, which threatened such U.S. allies as Israel, Kuwait and Turkey, grossly violated the UN's last-chance Resolution 1441--as did his refusal even to divulge the status of his weapons programs. Worse, with the UN failing to enforce its demands, Hussein freely perpetuated the genocidal slaughter of his people.

Based on Hussein's indisputable record, the president had ample cause to want regime change in Iraq. Put short, the bumper-sticker accusation that "Bush lied--People died" would be moot today if the president had stuck to known truths."

At the very beginning they also define their purpose with these words:
"Did George W. Bush intentionally mislead this nation and its allies into war? Or is it his critics who have misled Americans, recasting history to discredit the president and his policies?"

Today the Tribune begins an attempt to help readers resolve those questions. This re-examination of the administration's rationale for war offers doses of discomfort for the self-assured--those who have unquestioningly supported, or opposed, the ongoing war in Iraq."

From these two elements we already know that the Trib is not going to change its own conclusion, it is just going to narrow the basis of it to facts which can be defended in hindsight. That is OK, even helpful, but don't expect them to seriously debate whether these pruned sets of facts justify the invasion. In their view, they do.

Following is a cutting from General Odom's August 2005 justification for "Cutting and Running":

"So why is almost nobody advocating a pullout? I can only speculate. We face a strange situation today where few if any voices among Democrats in Congress will mention early withdrawal from Iraq, and even the one or two who do will not make a comprehensive case for withdrawal now. Why are the Democrats failing the public on this issue today? The biggest reason is because they weren't willing to raise that issue during the campaign. Howard Dean alone took a clear and consistent stand on Iraq, and the rest of the Democratic Party trashed him for it. Most of those in Congress voted for the war and let that vote shackle them later on. Now they are scared to death that the White House will smear them with lack of patriotism if they suggest pulling out.

Journalists can ask all the questions they like but none will prompt a more serious debate as long as no political leaders create the context and force the issues into the open.

I don't believe anyone will be able to sustain a strong case in the short run without going back to the fundamental misjudgment of invading Iraq in the first place. Once the enormity of that error is grasped, the case for pulling out becomes easy to see."

Prescient, isn't it? Congressman Murtha stepped into the political leadership role and, lo and behold, was not smearing the first instinctive reaction? Of course it was. (We might note that the Plame CIA leak case illustrates exactly the same instinct.) Fortunately, smearing didn't sell in Murtha's case and a limited debate of substance is ever so gingerly becoming politically acceptable in Congress. I say limited because they have little stomach for revisiting the decision to invade, just visiting what do we do now looking forward. I do take issue with Odom's complaint about the failure of the mainstream Democrats to raise the issues during the campaign. Their larger failure was not to take issue in the extended period preceding the invasion itself, again excepting the then relatively unknown Howard Dean, along with a very few others like Senator Byrd.

The Trib is providing a frame for addressing Odom's last paragraph above. Was the invasion a fundamental misjudgment? This is not the same question as framed by the Trib. It is not about who fooled whom then or who is trying to fool whom now. It is important for the nation to revisit Odom's more basic question, not so much to extract us from our present predicament in Iraq, but because if a misjudgment was made, it was the nation which made it, and it is the nation that needs to learn from it. One thing that is ever so clear is that most politicians in Congress follow the polls, follow public opinion. If there is to be resistance to misadventure in the future, it must come from a more thoughtful and skeptical public, and this does not mean cynical.

That is enough about context.


The Trib focuses most of its attention on the question it framed, accepting the disconnect between the pre-war intelligence and post-war facts, focusing on what Kay and Duelfer found and concluded and what the various post-war intelligence investigations found and concluded. But for the purpose of examining whether a misjudgment was made this can all be reduced to a simple assessment. Iraq did not actually have material CW and BW stockpiles but we believed they did. Iraq had intentions of redeveloping CW and BW capabilities and we believed they did.

So we were at least half wrong. But let us suppose we were entirely right in our intelligence assessment. Would that then justify an invasion by our nation?

Take the Trib's assessment:

"In making their case for war, Bush and his top aides frequently implied--speaking with genuine belief or with Machiavellian wiles--that Iraq was an imminent threat, even if they didn't use that word. Bush, in fact, rejected an imminence test in his 2003 State of the Union address: "Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent," he said. "Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike?"

There are substantive differences between "terrorists" of the Al Qaida ilk and "tyrants" of Sadaam's ilk. Consider Bush's last sentence above; with the additional word "us" added for clarity after "strike". Supposing Sadaam actually had CW and BW capability. Would that be a threat to this nation? I would argue it takes a well-developed paranoid imagination to answer that in the affirmative. He lacked the aircraft or missile capability to deliver these materials in quantity to the North American landmass. Even with that (remember our fears of those little unmanned drones?), he would lack the capability to do enough damage to avoid an obliterating retaliation. For him, for the state of Iraq, such a strike would be plainly suicidal. Al Qaida is quite a different matter. Had they CW or BW capability they would not likely strike with missiles. More likely it would be infiltrated by stealth into a specific local target area and delivered by local means. Would the threat of retaliation deter them? Not necessarily, not even likely. After all, retaliation first requires fixing a retaliatory target, and with globalized kinds of terrorists this is not so easily done. Is it possible that Sadaam might be insane enough to adopt the Al Qaida tactic himself? Of course, possibilities are endless, but this one is surely as extraordinarily remote as the one based on air or ballistic delivery, for the same reasons. Bundling such apples and oranges together in the sentence, as Bush did, does not make this particular threat less remote in Sadaam's case.

The counter usually put forward to this argument is the additional possibility that Sadaam might share his CW and BW capability with Al Qaida. This is one of several reasons why the administration insists on putting the rationale for the Iraq invasion in the context of the War on Terror. It is a reason why it is so necessary for them to flog the Iraq/Al Qaida connections as hard as they do. But this notion too takes a considerable degree of paranoia to accept, given Sadaam's self-interest, which was to singularly intimidate both his people and immediate neighbors with his WMD capability. People seem to forget that Sadaam's government was on Al Qaida's target list along with Egypt's, Saudi Arabia's, Jordan's, Kuwait's, etc., etc. As a practical matter there are far more likely sources for Al Qaida to acquire some form of WMD. Pakistan, Russia, North Korea, Iran, even Syria; and certainly in the case of Pakistan and Russia, this need not necessarily require the complicity of the source state; private enterprise, criminal or not, might well suffice. This is not to say that Sadaam was above providing shelter and/or aid to selected terrorists when he saw it in his interest to do so. But his CW and BW? Give me a break!

No. I challenge anyone to make a rational and reasonable case that Sadaam was a serious threat, imminent or otherwise, to us on the North American landmass as a consequence of his actual CW or BW capability or potential for such capability.

What one could argue is that this capability, in his hands, would be a threat to our national interest because it would directly threaten our allies and friends in the immediate region. This is a much more respectable argument because it has some real truth embedded within it.

The problem here is that we are now talking about launching a pre-emptive war ostensibly for the direct benefit of our allies and friends and the indirect benefit of ourselves, i.e. to protect our national interest in maintaining our access to our friend's oil. It is difficult to mold this case into any acceptable concept of our self-defense. Israel might in their self-defense. Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Iran might in theirs; but pray tell, how in the world can we make such a case? In particular, when none of the directly adjoining neighbors has demanded such aid, and has provided, at best, tepid support for it. In certain respects this is the same line of reasoning which led to the pre-emptive strike on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. We threatened their national interest by cutting off their oil supply, which left them little choice but to invade Southeast Asia to secure that alternate source, and to pre-emptively destroy (Pearl Harbor) our ability to interfere in the process. We didn't accept that line of reasoning then. How do we justify it now?

Absent a direct attack or concrete evidence of a plausible and imminent direct threat from Iraq's CW and BW to US territory, I see no cause of action here for the invasion on the basis of self-defense. Absent a direct attack on an allied state or friendly state, which threatens our national interest, or an actual request for pre-emptive assistance by such a state, I see no cause of action here for the invasion on the basis of national interest.

It is noteworthy that within this focused view, the actual quality of the intelligence with regard to CW and BW just doesn't matter. Taken at its best, the administration's case in this area is entirely unpersuasive.

The most fundamentally disturbing notion to me is contained in President Bush's words:

"Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent," he said. "Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike?"

I came to my own conclusions as a member of the "some" group. I disagree with the President. I think we must not act until the threat is at the very least imminent. Consider, if not imminence as a standard, then what? Id est., when do you act? The next level lies in seeing threats in terms of "capabilities". This is in fact a respectable concept, what the military sensibly and justifiably uses in military planning, strategic and tactical. But the notion that the mere possession of certain capabilities, even by a tyrant, is enough to morally and politically justify a pre-emptive attack has never been historically acceptable by this nation, and has no broad support within the world today. On this basis alone, India might feel free to attack Pakistan, and vice versa. Iran should surely feel justified in attacking Israel, and vice versa. And surely, we must therefore attack North Korea and Iran. Etc., etc. In the real world, given our hyper power status, this formulation can only be seen as giving us carte blanche to attack anyone who develops capabilities that might threaten to erode our hyper status. Given our unique level of military power, we could only be seen as unpredictable, arbitrary, and hegemonic, to use the favorite term of the Chinese. We, who maintain the relatively unique military capability of executing an overwhelming first strike, seek an expansion of the justified conditions for using it. Is this a door we wish to open?

Certainly the more disciplined and restrained principle (I might justifiably say Conservative principle) embodied in the concept of an imminent threat raises the risk of surprise. On the other hand, the less disciplined and unrestrained principle embodied in the concept of a capability based threat raises the risk of being wrong, and clearly, in this instance we were inescapably wrong, and it expands the opportunities for justifiable wars. It also makes us less predictable, and thus less tolerable, to the world as a single hyper power.

The important question before the nation is which standard is the American standard? Which best embodies our values, our historical traditions, and our long-term best interest?

Bush is also at least partially wrong in his implication that terrorists and tyrants don't put us on notice before they attack. Al Qaida has provided repeated notice of their intentions. Do they supply dates and places? Of course not. This is called preserving tactical surprise. We do exactly the same thing.


The Trib fairly describes what the administration has said and Iraq's defiant attitude towards UN resolutions. I have no quibble with that. Their conclusion is something else again. Here it is:

"When Bush addressed the UN General Assembly, and when Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke to the Security Council, the fix was in. Hussein had shunted enough lucre to enough profiteers to keep the UN from challenging him. That in turn enabled Hussein to continue his brutal reign and cost untold thousands of Iraqis their lives.

UN resolutions ought to carry at least as much credibility, and warrant as much enforcement, as a court summons or a parking ticket. Yet in a dozen years the global organization had mass-produced 17 resolutions on Iraq, all of them toothless.

The opponents of military action could not seriously argue that Hussein had complied with the UN's repeated demands. Nor could they point to brighter days if only the U.S. and other nations held their fire. This particular argument for war, one of nine advanced by the White House, was not disputable. Iraq had rebuffed the world, and the UN had failed to respond."

This particular argument advanced by the White House may not be disputable; that war is the proper remedy, that the argument either justifies or compels us to war, most assuredly is disputable.

Let us look at how President Bush ultimately framed it, as presented in the Trib:

" On March 17, 2003, Bush primarily cited Iraq's failure to obey UN orders as the reason for the impending launch of the war. He spoke of Iraq's weapons programs but pivoted his speech on Hussein's intransigence:

"My fellow citizens, events in Iraq have now reached the final days of decision. For more than a decade, the United States and other nations have pursued patient and honorable efforts to disarm the Iraqi regime without war. That regime pledged to reveal and destroy all its weapons of mass destruction as a condition for ending the Persian Gulf War in 1991.

"Since then, the world has engaged in 12 years of diplomacy. We have passed more than a dozen resolutions in the United Nations Security Council. We have sent hundreds of weapons inspectors to oversee the disarmament of Iraq. Our good faith has not been returned. ...

"The United Nations Security Council has not lived up to its responsibilities, so we will rise to ours," Bush said.

"In recent days, some governments in the Middle East have been doing their part. They have delivered public and private messages urging the dictator to leave Iraq, so that disarmament can proceed peacefully. He has thus far refused. All the decades of deceit and cruelty have now reached an end. Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours.

Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict, commenced at a time of our choosing. For their own safety, all foreign nationals--including journalists and inspectors--should leave Iraq immediately."

Early on March 20 in Iraq--the night of March 19 here--the first missiles struck Baghdad."

There is a certain absurdity to the Trib's own argument. "This particular argument for war, one of nine advanced by the White House, was not disputable. Iraq had rebuffed the world, and the UN had failed to respond." Indeed. Are we then to go to war whenever the UN fails to respond to a provocation?

We can all agree that the UN is in fact quite toothless. The best it can muster is to authorize individual nation states to enforce its resolutions, or threaten to so authorize; it has not the power to compel them to do so (and we should note that there is some dispute within the Security Council whether 1441 was an authorization itself or a threat to authorize). But the UN cannot so much as compel its member states to pay their dues; we have our own experience thumbing our nose at the UN in that regard. More seriously, we have frequently been the singular obstacle to UN resolutions addressed at the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. I have no problem with this. I am entirely opposed to ceding any of our national authority to the UN; I am quite happy to keep it toothless. When it works in the arena of world security, as it did in the first Gulf War, as it did in Korea, its wonderful. When it doesn't work however, this is hardly an argument in support of a particular war. It just reflects that the UN is often defied, can be defied, and it is our policy to make sure that this state of affairs will continue.

Bush is actually more straightforward and honest about it. "The United Nations Security Council has not lived up to its responsibilities, so we will rise to ours."

I'm not so sure I like the formulation that conditions our rise to our responsibilities to a failure of the UN to rise to theirs; but I quibble over a reading that was surely not intended. So what is our "responsibility here"? Is it to enforce the UN resolution? I think not. It is to consider whether we have adequate cause for and the necessity of an attack on and invasion of Iraq. This must be seen through the nation's lens, not the UN's, our national security interest, not the worlds. I have no desire to cede our sovereign authority or ability to take unilateral action, especially with regard to our nations security. The far more important and material question is under what circumstances should we take such action within our own interest.

The facts are really not so favorable to this defiance of the UN as an argument for war. The facts are that Iraq had in fact largely complied, admittedly kicking and screaming, with the substance of the resolution. They did account for the missing CW and BW materials by saying they didn't have them, simply claiming not to have the evidence to prove it. We didn't believe them. It turns out it was largely true. Proving a negative is always a dicey kind of proposition and the Iraqi's are entitled to some discomfort at being tasked to do just that. The point is that there are some elements of their intransigence that are entirely understandable.

I do not accept that defiance or intransigence with respect to the UN is per se an acceptable justification for us to take up arms against another sovereign nation. I think we must have a more immediately direct threat to our nation or interests than that.


This particular Trib editorial doesn't come to any useful conclusion. Basically they readily acknowledge that Iraq did not in fact have a nuclear program and at best, we thought they might have one or might develop one someday. But in its conclusion the Trib limits itself to the following:

"On multiple points, such as the murky accusations about Iraq's quest for uranium and aluminum tubes, the administration spouted assertions that were at best dubious. Each of us is free to conclude whether that represented a hyping of what little was known about Iraq's nuclear capabilities--or a determination to protect this country and its allies in the region.

That said, assertions that the Bush administration strong-armed intelligence analysts in 2002 and 2003, or misled the nation in making its nuclear case for war, challenge logic.

During and after Clinton's presidency, the intelligence community repeatedly warned the White House that Iraq was one cache of fissile material and one year short of wielding a nuclear bomb.

If the White House manipulated or exaggerated that intelligence before the war in order to paint a more-menacing portrait of Saddam Hussein, it's difficult to imagine why. For five years, the official and oft-delivered alarms from the U.S. intelligence community had been menacing enough."

In the last paragraph, is it really so difficult to imagine why? Perhaps, given that the nuclear warnings during the Clinton era didn't seem threatening enough to justify action, it might be a useful move for the administration to flesh out this threat, to put meat on the bones, to refresh the nation on potential consequences. Worked for LBJ against Goldwater in '64 didn't it?

But I digress here into the useless speculation about the motives behind the argument and what is more important is to look at the argument itself, whatever the motives for making it. Fortunately, Vice-President Cheney argued the issue directly as follows:

"We know that, based on intelligence, he has been very, very good at hiding these kinds of efforts. He's had years to get good at it, and we know he has been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons. And we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons."

Say what? Read in context, that passage suggests Cheney actually meant to say Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear program. But we can't be sure. Interviewer Tim Russert changed the subject. Cheney added later in the interview:

" We're now faced with a situation, especially in the aftermath of 9/11, where the threat to the United States is increasing. And over time, given Saddam's posture there, given the fact that he has a significant flow of cash as a result of the oil production of Iraq, it's only a matter of time until he acquires nuclear weapons. And in light of that, we have to be prepared, I think, to take the action that is being contemplated. ... " "

It doesn't really matter much whether Cheney meant weapons or programs. After months of searching post-war, about the best that could be said was that he had or would have had intentions. Aside from being speculative, as reading minds inherently is, it doesn't matter. The important element is the last paragraph that directly provides the policy and its justification.

If these are acceptable conditions for going to war, let us take a broader look at who we might be looking at. Iran has an even larger cash flow than Iraq. Its nuclear infrastructure is clearly well ahead of Iraq's. Indeed, had we not changed regimes in Iraq, Sadaam would likely have been compelled to restart a nuclear program for self-defense, as Pakistan was by India. Iran has as much if not more enmity for our nation as Iraq, and, with some reason, is even more paranoid about us meddling in their internal affairs than Sadaam was. Then there is North Korea. Now they do lack the rich cash flow of either Iran or Iraq; on the other hand they would appear to be the furthest along with perhaps even a few working weapons in stock, so diligence and discipline can substitute for cash flow. In terms of tyranny and population control the North Koreans are in a class by themselves, having no other equal on this earth. So too with regard to their level of paranoia towards us. As important, they clearly have or are very close to having the capability of delivering their warheads to the American mainland via ballistic missiles. As Cheney spoke in 2002, both of these particular nations were much more immediate and much larger real threats to our nation than Iraq was, even were our intelligence on Iraq correct. Why would one act on the weakest and most distant threat first?

Consider Venezuela, home to the latest South American thorn in our side, President Hugo Chavez. I can't say I am a fan of his, but he is not the raving lunatic he is made out to be; far from it. But the important thing is that Venezuela is moving on a path that will take it into Cheney's criteria for war on the basis of his argument. They have cash flow (primarily from our nation). Chavez is arguably a tyrant, albeit a democratically elected one. He is working on a nuclear plan based on Brazils nuclear technology, which moved further along than we were comfortable with until they decided to go straight. In addition to all that, Chavez is messing around in our internal affairs by providing us with foreign aid in the form of cheap oil to the poor in New England to keep them from freezing this winter. By spring he would probably be able to win an election for Governor in New Hampshire or Vermont. As I said, he is not a stupid fellow. It is only a matter of time before this tyrant acquires nuclear weapons. In light of that ..........

Pakistan acquired the bomb, to the surprise of many, but not all. There did exist some suspicion in some quarters that they had a program underway. Pakistan is a large nesting ground for terrorists, whether officially welcome or not, hosting far more than Iraq ever did under Sadaam. Ostensibly, they are now an ally of ours, but, hosting both terrorists and nukes in close proximity, and with a substantial chunk of their population quite willing to see us nuked, there is a non-trivial possibility this alliance could turn into something quite different overnight.

Libya had a nuclear weapons program courtesy of Pakistan's willingness to share, whether officially or unofficially is not entirely clear. All during this time Libya was labeled a terrorist state, not without reason as PanAm 102 demonstrated. For whatever reason, they have recently decided to turn off the nuclear path.

So there are a fair number of states that have fit, or do fit, or both, Cheney's criteria for "taking the action contemplated". I don't know about you all, but this gives me pause. I mean, where does this end with this formulation, this line of reasoning??

The nuclear cat is out of the bag and has been for many years now. We were the first and only nation to use this particular WMD offensively, on Japan in 1945. Since then other nations, one by one, have developed it under the rationale of self-defense. The Russians, the British, the French, the Chinese, India, Pakistan, Israel (unofficially), North Korea (so they claim), and so on it continues. No country, with the exception of us, has actually used a nuclear device offensively or defensively. This is not very likely to change in the foreseeable future. There is no country other than Russia who has enough nuclear capability to even begin to threaten our overwhelming retaliatory capability anywhere on the globe. A state, by its geographic nature as a state, is a fixed target. To this day, there is no effective defense to a ballistic nuclear attack. Apart from the special case of Russia, for any state to launch a nuclear attack on this nation is to commit state suicide. States don't do that. People do, even cults do. States don't.

Perhaps a better way to use our joint overwhelming nuclear capability with the Russians for the good is to jointly formulate a Putin/Bush doctrine, namely: Any state in the world, without any exceptions of any kind, who uses a nuclear weapon offensively or supplies it to others, will be targeted and obliterated by one or both of us. Israel might quibble with that, but that's tough. No one else gets a vote, which is one of the things that would keep the neocons happy. Another is the breath taking unilateralism of it. With such a doctrine we could get out of the business of trying to read minds and the tea leaves of the intentions of all states. With such a doctrine regional nuclear intimidation would lose much of its value, as would nuclear development to achieve regional nuclear supremacy. That just leaves us only the Russians to worry about and, with many many years of practice we have learned to read each other quite well. This doctrine also gets us out of the role of bully policeman to the world and puts us in the much easier role of chief executioner. After all, after 60 years of experience there has been not a single cause to swing the ax at anyone's neck. Pretty cushy job compared to the one Cheney suggests we do.

This doctrine is not without precedent. The seeds of it are to be found in President Kennedy's imaginative response to the Russians in the Cuban missile crisis. An essential element of that response was his declaration that any attack on the United States from Cuba would be considered an attack by the USSR on this nation and would be followed by a retaliatory attack on the USSR. And so we avoided war, with either the USSR or Cuba, in circumstances where the actual threat to us was so much higher than the Iraq circumstances in 2002 as to make comparisons between them pathetic.

True terrorists, i.e. global terrorists having allegiance to any state, are another matter. Retaliation in this case is not likely such a straightforward matter. On the other hand, they have not the infrastructure to develop nuclear weapons; they must obtain them by theft from or collusion with a state that already has them. Certainly it is possible for a nuclear state to provide a nuclear weapon or too to some selected terrorist but I assess the likelihood of that to be awfully awfully tiny. Look what happened with the Stingers we gave to the Afghan muhajedin (back in the days when they were the good guys instead of the bad guys). We thought these would be a threat to the Russians, and they were, but it didn't occur to us that they would become in time a threat to us, as they have become. States that develop nuclear weapons are just not going to take the risks associated with willingly giving or selling even one or two to an outside party. There are unacceptable consequences from disclosure or discovery and there are unacceptable consequences from unintended consequences. No one absolutely trusts terrorists. Theft and/or corruption are far more likely paths than state collusion and Pakistan or Russia the more likely locales. We would be far more secure today had we spent the 200 billion that has gone into the Iraq war on helping the Russians and the Pakistanis get an absolutely secure handle on their nuclear weapons and infrastructure.

I believe President Bush has done a large disservice to the nation by his choice of terms in his rhetoric. The term "War on Terror" is meaningless. Terror is a tactic used to achieve a political result. A nation doesn't go to war against a tactic. You go to war against the people or the state that has used the tactic of terror against you, or the tactic of blitzkrieg, or the tactic of aerial bombardment, or whatever. With some exceptions, we have not gone to war until some physical attack on our nation has occurred, i.e. in self-defense. Grenada was an exception. So was Panama. So was Bosnia and Serbia. Vietnam was arguable depending on whom you choose to believe, and, if anyone remembers, was technically not a war; as Korea was technically not a war, but a conflict. I'm not aware of any case in which we have pre-emptively gone to war in the name of self-defense. The so-called War on Terror is quite different from the War with Iraq. Neither is actually a war. Only Congress can declare war and they haven't. They have authorized the President to use military force if necessary in his judgment to achieve certain objectives in Iraq. They have also authorized the President to use military force against Afghanistan for harboring the terrorist Usama bin Laden who was responsible for the attack on the World Trade Center in New York (among other physical attacks on US facilities and ships abroad). The cause of action in the Afghan case is clearly and unambiguously self-defense, and my only quarrel with it is that it took so long. The Cole attack and the Kenya/Tanzania attacks were equally compelling causes of action, and comprehensive action then might well have forestalled the more effective World Trade Center attack.

I don't believe there is any issue before us as a nation more important than formulating, as a nation, the circumstances under which we, as a nation, are willing to commit our military to attack another nation. I do not accept the ill-conceived formulation advanced by Vice-President Cheney or implied by President Bush. These provide us latitude to attack based on our assessment of the present or potential future intentions of other states and the present or potential future capabilities of other states. These are an enormous expansion of what we have historically allowed. They encourage the development of national paranoia. They depend upon the excellence of our mediocre intelligence. They incentivise the political manipulation of it. Most important of all, they intrude upon the broadly accepted right to self-defense. Every one who has nuclear weapons, including ourselves, claims to have them for defensive purposes. The administration's formulation of our policy puts us in the position of determining in advance whether each such state's declaration of defensive purpose is and will be true or not. As Secretary Rumsfeld so often said, "This is unknowable." Let us suppose Israel was to implement Cheney's formulation as their policy. Iran, to them, is a credible nuclear threat, rapidly developing the capability for nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them against the relatively small geographic target of Israel. The possibility of an obliterating first strike by Iran on Israel is entirely conceivable. Iran's recently elected President has proclaimed a policy of wiping Israel off the map. Iran, learning from Israel's prior application of its pre-emptive doctrine, the conventional aerial attack on Iraq's nuclear reactor facility some 20 years ago, has hardened and dispersed its nuclear facilities against this threat. Do they not have a compelling case to pre-emptively obliterate Iran's nuclear capability with their own nuclear weapons? A case far more immediate and far less uncertain as to facts than Cheney's case with regard to Iraq. At the same time, how can you not accept that it is entirely reasonable for Iran to see Israel's nuclear capability as a current and future threat to Iran's security and one that they must somehow deter and/or defend against? Suppose Netanyahu wins the Israeli election and does pre-emptively destroy Iran's nuclear infrastructure? Do we veto the UN Security Council resolution condemning this sneak attack by Israel?

This is not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue. This is a National issue and we must take responsibility for it as a Nation.

Posted by: Cayambe | December 8, 2005 04:10 PM

The Trib has changed the title of their 4th editorial from "Hussein's rope-a-dope" (Was he stalling for advantage) to "The once and future threat". I suppose it finally occurred to someone at the Trib that because someone stalling for advantage is hardly an argument for war. In any case a lonely sentence before the beginning of the editorial clarifies what they are addressing here:

"The White House argued that Saddam Hussein's refusal to obey UN demands posed not only present but also future dangers to America."

This does narrow the question but still leaves it somewhat up in the air. The UN demand was for Iraq to disarm itself of certain specified weaponry. We now know for a fact that substantively, they did. Clearly it was not then a present danger. With regard to the future, it is not clear to me how the attitude Iraq took towards the UN demand makes it more or less of a threat in the future.

But it turns out this is exactly what the Trib is getting at:

"Boiled to its essence, this argument was: We need to wage a pre-emptive war. That belief hinged not only on weaponry Hussein allegedly possessed at the time, but also on what his rebukes to the United Nations said about what he aspired to achieve. In making their case for war, White House officials threaded their major speeches with warnings about Hussein's options if, year after year, the world allowed him to continue flouting those UN resolutions."

Now this is approaching directly the nature of the problem when you discard "imminent" as a necessary property of the threat before it may become a cause for war. The Trib frames it this way:

"Was pre-emption a worthy cause for war? The assertion that it was can't be assessed on its accuracy in anticipating a future that, we now know, will never arrive. Instead, each of us faces an individual assessment of whether this was reasonable precaution or reckless paranoia."

This is poor framing on the Trib's part. It fails to address the distinction between imminent threats and future threats that even Bush distinguished in his arguments. In the current example of Iraq, the assertion that it was an imminent threat could be assessed, has been assessed, and we have concluded it was not. What cannot be assessed with certainty is whether he would in time develop an imminent threat to us or use it if he had it.

Bush himself acknowledges the distinction and positively asserts that imminence is not a necessary condition. Here he is (again):

"Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option."

In his March 17, 2003, address to the nation on the eve of the war, Bush amplified this theme:

"We are now acting because the risks of inaction would be far greater. In one year, or five years, the power of Iraq to inflict harm on all free nations would be multiplied many times over. With these capabilities, Saddam Hussein and his terrorist allies could choose the moment of deadly conflict when they are strongest. We choose to meet that threat now, where it arises, before it can appear suddenly in our skies and cities.

"The cause of peace requires all free nations to recognize new and undeniable realities. In the 20th Century, some chose to appease murderous dictators, whose threats were allowed to grow into genocide and global war. In this century, when evil men plot chemical, biological and nuclear terror, a policy of appeasement could bring destruction of a kind never before seen on this earth. ..."

Two days later, as the war began, Bush told the nation: "Our nation enters this conflict reluctantly--yet our purpose is sure. The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder. We will meet that threat now, with our Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Marines, so that we do not have to meet it later with armies of firefighters and police and doctors on the streets of our cities."

On March 17, 2002 when Bush spoke those words each of us could assess whether, as the Trib put it, "this was reasonable precaution or reckless paranoia." I thought this was reckless paranoia myself, but a substantial majority of us did not. Why not?

I wish I could comprehend that. Bush's first paragraph above frames the relative risks of inaction vs. action. The risks of inaction are as large as your imagination can create. The risks of action are so tiny he does not see them worth defining or addressing. Does anyone seriously anticipate within Hussein's life expectancy that the Iraqi threat would "appear suddenly in our skies and cities."? This is not the USSR we are talking about. Having chosen the paranoid path we can now quantify the cost to insure us against the imagined risks of inaction (and of course we now have hindsight to help us understand better what they really were). So far this cost is around 200 billion bucks and a bit over 2000 American lives and a far higher number of Iraqi lives. Was the risk of inaction really so high as that? Was the threat actually this real and this large?

His second paragraph frames inaction as appeasement. Where does this come from? I always thought appeasement had something to do with providing something your opponent demands in order to avoid conflict with him. Has it reached the point where if one nation does not attack another, it is "appeasing" the other? I have a really difficult time equating this situation with the actual matter in Munich back in Chamberlain's and Hitler's day. As I recall appeasement there involved acceding to Hitler's demand for some more extraterritorial land thus allowing him to take it without having to fight for it.
I would surely like someone brighter than I to explain how not attacking Iraq constitutes a policy of appeasement. Are we to believe then that not attacking North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, etc. means we are appeasing them? Is this actually persuasive to anyone?

In the end, on this issue, the Trib just punts the ball, as follows:

"So two questions hang in midair: Would an Iraq still ruled by Saddam Hussein have reconstituted its deadly weaponry or shared it with terror groups? Or was that possibility sufficiently remote to declare America safe from those threats?

The Bush administration argued before the invasion that the answers were yes to the first, no to the second.

Of the nine reasons the White House offered in making its case for war, the implications of this warning about Iraq's intentions are among the most treacherous to imagine--yet also the least possible to declare true or false."

I love that second sentence in the first paragraph. "Or was that possibility sufficiently remote to declare America safe from those threats?" What is "sufficiently"? 1%, 0.1%, 0.0000001%, or do you require 0.0%? What exactly is "safe"? Are we talking about safe in an absolute sense, meaning the event is simply impossible, or in a relative sense where the likelihood of the event is lower than some value?

Let me reframe that second question this way: "Or was that possibility so large that we are compelled to sacrifice 2000 American lives and 200 billion dollars?"

Who amongst you really thought so, still think so, and why?

Finally we get to the bottom line of the Trib on this 4th argument for war. Essentially paraphrased, the implications from Iraq's intentions are hard to figure out and impossible to declare true or false. Whaaaaaaat? That's it?

I don't think so. This argument for war is another illustration of the can of worms you get into once you accept President Bush's expansion of the concept of self-defense to include preempting even the future possibility (intention) of developing WMD. Think about it. Had we employed this formulation over the last 20 years, surely we would have taken out Libya by military force somewhere along the line. It surely would have justified a first strike on the USSR. We wouldn't actually do that to the USSR because we are a state and states do not commit suicide. But Libya; that would be, as someone said of Iraq, a cakewalk. So we are into an odd form of "selective" self-defense, one that really requires no facts at all, just possibilities of future facts together with being unable to do us material harm right now. Do we really want to go there?

Posted by: cayambe | December 10, 2005 03:37 AM

Well, it would appear that the Chicago Tribunes Nine Arguments for War has increased to ten. We will see when we get to the end I suppose. In any case, argument no 5 is set up as follows in the Dec 7 Trib:

"Did Iraq export terror?
Published December 7, 2005
The White House asserted that Saddam Hussein's fiefdom could become what Afghanistan had been: a state enabler of global terror groups. Part 5 of a Tribune series examines another of the Bush administration's nine arguments for war."

They then go on to say:

"In 2002 and early 2003, the White House included in its case for war the charge that with Afghanistan no longer a haven for terror groups, Saddam Hussein's Iraq was its likely successor."

Which they follow with excerpts from various speech's by members of the administration supporting their summary. As usual the clearest expression of that comes from Cheney, the March 16,2003 interview on Meet the Press:

"Now, if we simply sit back and operate by 20th Century standards with respect to national security strategy, in terms of how we're going to deal with this, we say wait until we are hit by an identifiable attack from Iraq. The consequences could be devastating for the United States. ...

"We have to be prepared now to take the kind of bold action that's being contemplated with respect to Iraq in order to ensure that we don't get hit with a devastating attack when the terrorists' organization gets married up with a rogue state that's willing to provide it with the kinds of deadly capabilities that Saddam Hussein has developed and used over the years."

Of course an obvious thing to notice is the use of "when" and not "if" "the terrorists' organization gets married up with a rogue state...". Reminds me of the recently vilified Mr. Woodward's conversation with President Bush about any doubts he might have about taking the "bold action contemplated" as Dick Cheney puts it. Per Woodward, the response was a confident "No doubts, none" or words to that effect. These are not men who lack conviction. It is a bad mistake not to grant them that. The more important question is, should we share these convictions as a nation, do we share these convictions as a nation?

On the issue the Trib finally comes to the following conclusion:

"The bottom line on Hussein as a past and probable instigator of global terror: The administration's case reflected the intelligence community's evidently exaggerated surmise--and the administration's convictions--beyond the less bombastic facts on the ground.

- - -

Without proof that Hussein armed, or would arm, global networks, how could an American president assert that the possibility of such ties was a compelling argument for war?"

The answer to this last question is no mystery. Proof is unnecessary. Conviction will suffice. One cannot prove what the future will be. It is enough to have no doubts, to believe, to have faith, no "ifs", just "whens". Dick was not being devious about it, he was being blunt and coherent within the framework provided by the "Bush Doctrine". No, the question each of us must ask ourselves is, are we justified in attacking another country on the basis of our fears of the future development of a threat, not a currently imminent threat, but the future development of a potentially imminent threat? We attack based not on what we know, but on what we can imagine. This is where preemption always takes you and without the qualification of current imminence, your imagination is free to roam the universe as this particular case illustrates so well.

The Trib then goes on to muddy its own conclusion by using some of Clinton's words to shed crocodile tears over the burden's Bush must carry post 9/11. Come on, that's what we pay him the big bucks for. The Trib still supports this war so they are not going to give up any more ground than they absolutely must given the current set of facts on the ground.

Its also interesting that the Trib did not answer its own question, "Did Iraq export terror?"

The answer is simply no; they did not. Did he fund the families of Palestinian martyrs? Yes, and so did the Saudi's, Kuwaiti's, Egyptians, etc. This is supporting a cause, in the same way we have supported the muhajedin in Afghanistan, the Contras in Nicaragua, and a variety of unsavory governments or groups in Central and South America. Did he harbor terrorists? Yes, Sadaam harbored Abu Abbas, who did the Italian Achille Loro cruise ship thing. Of course the last thing I remember about it was reading somewhere that he had his intelligence organization assassinate the bugger for some murky reason. So we can say Sadaam did us a favor by delivering justice to a bad guy and saving us the trouble of a trial followed by 15 years of appealing his death penalty.

Another thing floated to support the Sadaam as terrorist image was his plots and plans to assassinate the elder Bush and the Kuwaiti royal family. This is not what terror is about. Assassination is assassination and when it involves the heads of government it has historically been called "statecraft". As for the notion that Sadaam would host Al Qaida as the Islamist Taliban did, this is nothing if not just plain stupid. He headed a secular government despised by the Islamist Al Qaida. And he crushed and terrorized in particular the Islamist elements within the Shia population in Iraq.

The chances of Al Qaida getting a foothold in Iraq are a whole lot higher now than they ever were under Sadaam. A good part of Al Qaidas success in Afghanistan was due to the presence of a civil war there, a condition that is now approaching in Iraq. But even that can be easily overestimated. The Iraqi's are not going to want other foreigners messing around in their affairs once they have gotten rid of us.

Finally, we should ask ourselves; does it make more sense to attack Al Qaida where it is, or to attack the places Al Qaida might be some time in the future? Seriously, how can anyone support what sure seems to me to be a really dumb argument?

Posted by: Cayambe | December 11, 2005 04:20 AM

Well, it may be we shall see just 9 arguments and not 10 after all. The Trib seems to be simply changing the titles on these arguments at will. I suppose we won't find out for sure until the end.

In any event, here is their introduction to the sixth editorial:

" 'The Virus of democracy'
Published December 11, 2005
In theory, Mideast democracy would channel energy away from forces that breed terrorism, and thus make America safer. Part 6 in a Tribune series explores another of the Bush administration's nine arguments for war.

What the White House said

In making its case for war, the White House argued that Arab populations were ready to embrace the liberties that regime change would bring to Iraq. Supplanting Saddam Hussein's reign with a representative government would, President Bush suggested, transform governance in a region dominated by dictators, zealots and kings.

The argument, then, was not that the spread of freedom justified a war, but that a war would, over time, marginalize Islamist hatred for liberal values. The administration wanted to convert populations of subjects into citizens. In theory, Mideast democracy would channel energy away from forces that breed terrorism--and thus make America safer."

The first thing I notice is the Tribs confusion and incoherence between the first and third paragraphs above. Was this an argument for war as asserted in the first paragraph, or not an argument for war as asserted in the third paragraph?

The truth is that neither the Trib nor the Bush administration wants to defend this action on the basis that it is OK to impose Democracy at the point of a gun. How could we then deny Communists the same logic for imposing socialism, or the Ayatollahs for imposing theocracy, etc. So they take the duplicitous route of talking about it as a side-effect of the war. Sure, I'm not to believe this was one of their purposes here, an objective?

We operate in a world in which the only uniformly acceptable justification for war is self-defense. It is this that forces the administration to hang everything on self-defense and to distort the concept of self-defense beyond recognition.

In any case the Trib goes on to credibly discuss the "side-effect" and outline a respectable case for the positive benefits consequent to the invasion. The negative side gets less attention, but given where the Trib stands, this is to be expected. I would encourage everyone to read it.

Their conclusion is as follows:

"The Bush administration's case for war included arguments, particularly about illicit weapons, that proved dead wrong. The White House was correct, though, that democracy in Iraq could spark revolutions of rising expectations. As a result, several other regimes have faced the question, "Why not us?" Rulers who have survived by fomenting hatred of the Great Satan now confront the aspirations of their people."

Of course the question I would ask of the Trib at this point is: "Given that the other arguments so far are 'Dead Wrong', and this one is not an argument for war, why do you still support the war?" I don't know, perhaps we will find out in the coming editorials.

But let the administration speak for itself, first Condi Rice as presented by the Trib:

'Rice rejected the timid U.S. diplomacy that let so many Lebanons fester. "For 60 years my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region, here in the Middle East--and we achieved neither," she said at Cairo's American University. "Now, we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people." She confessed that the U.S. has "no cause for false pride" and "every reason for humility" in advancing that agenda. "It was only in my lifetime," Rice said, "that my government guaranteed the right to vote for all of its people."'

Yes Miss. Rice, but the pressure that forced your government to provide this guarantee came from within, from a committed and courageous people who civilly demanded it, not from the outside at the point of a gun.

And now President Bush:

"The terrorist movement feeds on the appearance of inevitability. It claims to rise on the currents of history, using past American withdrawals from Somalia and Beirut to sustain this myth and to gain new followers. The success of free and stable governments in Afghanistan and Iraq and elsewhere will shatter the myth and discredit the radicals. ...

"For decades, free nations tolerated oppression in the Middle East for the sake of stability. In practice, this approach brought little stability, and much oppression. So I have changed this policy."

I like Bush's last paragraph, I applaud it, I agree with it. I have great respect for President Bush. He is a man of great conviction and political courage. He is not afraid to tackle important and challenging issues, the Middle East, Social Security, immigration, education, etc. He deserves great credit for his disciplined behavior with respect to Mr. Fitzgerald, and Mr. Fitzgerald deserves enormous credit for conducting his investigation as a professional prosecutor should conduct it, to the eternal frustration of the media. I despise the manner in which Bush sometimes, even often, plays politics. The recent white flag ad, the trashing of Murtha, of Wilson and even his wife, are all despicable. But this is how politics is played in the modern age, by all sides. It is played this way because it works. It will continue so long as it continues to work. The public controls the working of it and therefore the duration of it. I am reminded of courage and conviction by the recent death of a man who was possessed of both in very large measure, Senator Gene McCarthy. He was a graceful and thoughtful man who expressed his convictions with a wit, humor, and clarity unrivaled in my memory, even as I could not so often agree with him. Another man of extraordinary integrity, conviction, and courage was Senator Barry Goldwater, with whom I most rarely disagreed, and who would today be hard pressed to recognize conservatism in today's breed of conservatives. The point is, it is not necessary to demonize and vilify the people you might disagree with.

I give little credence to the panoply of ulterior motives posited for the decision to invade Iraq; not the neocon cabal, Big Oil, little oil, military/industrial complex, avenging Dad, finishing the Gulf One job, whatever. These are unnecessary speculations. It is more credible to me that Bush believes he is right and for the reasons outlined in his own words above. I believe that Bush made this decision, not Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, Rove, or Tenet. I am sure they provided their best advice coherent with their own convictions. I am sure he was fully informed with the best information we had, which everyone now admits was not very good. I am sure there was a full debate on all aspects of the matter. I am sure that at least Powell, who I admire greatly, and perhaps even Rumsfeld, who I also think most highly of, raised most if not all of the issues that concerned me then and now. These are not evil men. At the time of the decision a large majority of the nation agreed with the President, a large majority in Congress agreed with the President. Why they did, I still do not understand.

The issue at hand is not the change to the policy as Rice states it. I have no quarrel with: "...supporting the democratic aspirations of all people." Where I take exception is with the means used to support those aspirations. War is simply not the appropriate means, and supporting democracy is not an acceptable cause of action to justify war.

What made this war possible was the September 17, 2002 national security strategy document:

"America is now threatened less by conquering states than we are by failing ones. We are menaced less by fleets and armies than by catastrophic technologies in the hands of the embittered few." The strategy called for, among other priorities, "defending the United States, the American people and our interests at home and abroad by identifying and destroying the threat before it reaches our borders."

There are no limits to the scope of this hunting license beyond the legislature, our Congress, the War Powers Act. The actual threat of Sadaam reaching our borders was a distant one even given that he had WMD. Nonetheless, both Democrats and Republicans in large numbers unwisely bought into this potential future threat in the paranoia following 9/11, and thus we invaded Iraq. This was and is a radical departure from our longstanding standards of justification for armed conflict.

It was, I believe and believed then, an unnecessary step to achieve the broad results Bush wished in the Middle East. The successful Afghan campaign was our finest hour. We had an overwhelmingly just cause to launch that campaign. We did not dither about it and Secretary Rumsfeld did an outstanding job, surprising everyone with the speed with which the primary objectives were achieved, and the imaginative use of resources. Yes, Bin Laden slipped away, but he lost his protectors, his base of operations, and large elements of his forces. This operation, and the speed and skill with which it was executed, would necessarily give pause to any state, failing or not, considering hosting an organization such as Al Qaida. In addition, the subsequent progress in the development of a democratic government in Afghanistan has proceeded with far less disorder and far less violence than Iraq and may well be a more effective object lesson in democracy for the Middle East and Central Asia than Iraq. No doubt two examples would be more effective than one, but at what cost the second? This was, as they say, overreaching.

Posted by: Cayambe | December 12, 2005 05:07 PM

Here is how the Trib opens editorial no 7:

"Iraq and Al Qaeda
Published December 14, 2005

Beyond its warning that Iraq could be a haven for terrorists, the White House implied Saddam Hussein already had close ties to the most feared terror group on Earth."

It then goes on to provide quotes from the many occasions when administration officials spoke to this subject; followed by a review of the facts as they emerged from the various investigations. Their assessment of the facts is as follows:

"To this day, no compelling evidence ties Saddam Hussein to Sept. 11. Nor is there proof linking Al Qaeda in a significant way to the final years of Hussein's regime.

In arguing that Iraq and Al Qaeda were closely allied, the Bush administration overreached. But those who say Hussein's government and Al Qaeda had no links also are mistaken. Several of the White House's statements appear certifiably accurate, or backed by then-credible intelligence. Even now, investigators are beavering through Iraqi files and other records, autopsying arcane clues about both Iraq and Al Qaeda."

Finally, the Trib comes to its conclusion:

"But by stripping its rhetoric about Iraq and Al Qaeda of the ambiguity in the intel data, the White House exaggerated this argument for war.

Bush synthesized a better argument, properly invoking Sept. 11, during an Oct. 6, 2004, campaign stop in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. He said that given the dictator's prior use of illicit weapons, his record of aggression, his hatred for the U.S. and his identification by Democratic and Republican administrations as a terror sponsor, "There was a risk--a real risk--that Saddam Hussein would pass weapons, or materials, or information, to terrorist networks. In the world after September the 11th, that was a risk we could not afford to take."

That argument, before the war, would have lacked the impact of implying that Iraq played a role in attacking America. It would, though, have had the virtue of being true."

Of course there was a real risk. Russia poses a risk, and China, and Pakistan, India, Israel, North Korea, Iran, France, and Britain. What matters is the size of the risk and how well you estimate it.

There are two risks to estimate. The risk that a state will use the weapon itself against us, and the separate risk that a state will supply it to a terrorist network for that purpose. As I have stated earlier the only state which could possibly think of using nuclear weapons against us would be Russia because any other would knowingly be committing suicide. Which state might trust a terrorist network enough to provide them such a weapon with which to attack us? Iraq to al Qaeda? And could Iraq trust them to use it as intended, or might they instead use it against the King of Saudi Arabia, or the King of Kuwait, or Israel, or Musharef who they twice attempted to assassinate, or Sadaam himself? Iran to Hezbollah? Here the trust between state and network is very much higher and the joint target, Israel, very much more accessible; is it not? How much higher is this risk compared to our risk from Iraq? Does anyone suppose that it is possible that Iran's current rush to become nuclear capable might be partly inspired by their need to defend themselves should we decide to hang a right and sweep into Iran from Iraq? One thing no one can doubt now is that there is no conventional force that can stop our armored ground forces and air force from going wherever they want within the confines of our logistics. To Iran, we must seem and we are, a far greater threat than Iraq ever was to us. If this argument we have used on Iraq justifies a preemptive attack, how much more justification does Iran now have to attack us on the basis of precisely the same argument? At what risk are we now from Iran? Is it larger or smaller than the risk that we had from Iraq before the war?

Unlike the Trib, I have no problem whatsoever rejecting this argument as a valid one for war. If a threat is to be valid, it must at the very least be both credible and imminent.

Posted by: Cayambe | December 17, 2005 04:20 AM

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