May 06, 2003

Kevin Drum Is Unhappy

Kevin Drum is extremely unhappy about the Iraqi WMD situation. It seems to me that there are three possibilities:

  1. We suffered a truly massive intelligence failure: Iraq had next to no WMD around.
  2. Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon failed to realize what its mission was, and Iraq's WMD are now in the hands of guys who (unlike Saddam Hussein)cannot be deterred--guys who don't like to live in palaces, and don't hope to die in bed--and we are in much bigger trouble than before.
  3. President Bush deliberately lied to the Congress about Saddam Hussein in order to get a resolution authorizing the attack on Iraq.

It seems to me that the grownups in the Republican Party need to find out--and find out quickly--which of these three possibilities is correct. If (1) is correct, they need to tell us so and need to fix the "intelligence community" and fix it now. If (2) is correct, they need to tell us so and need to fix the NSC and the Pentagon, and fix it now. If (3) is correct, they need to tell us that George W. Bush needs to be impeached and needs to be impeached now.

(3) is, of course, the most terrifying possibility--the worst for the country. But (1) and (2) are plenty bad as well: they require immediate high-level personnel changes near the top of the executive branch: it is the responsibility of the DCI--Tenet--to make sure mammoth intelligence failures do not occur; it is the responsibility of the Secretary of Defense and the National Security Adviser--Rumsfeld and Rice--to make sure that the military forces the Pentagon sends are sufficient to do the job needed to achieve America's (and not just the Pentagon's) objectives; it is the responsibility of the President--Bush--to make sure that the laws are faithfully executed.


CalPundit: Iraq and WMD: IRAQ AND WMD....Chris Bertram asks: did Tony Blair lie when he told the House of Commons that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction? The same question, of course, could be asked of George Bush, who very clearly made WMD the central part of his argument for regime change, both to domestic audiences and to the UN.

The answer, of course, is that it's too soon to tell. WMD, or evidence of substantial manfuacturing capability, may still turn up. But even so, the evidence so far is disturbing.

Before the war, we had the problem of the Iraqi exiles who said the WMD programs were all defunct, the forged Niger document, the plagiarized "dossier," and the aluminum tubes. Why frame a guilty man? At best, these incidents indicate an appalling failure of our intelligence operations; at worst, they indicate a deliberate attempt to deceive.

During the war, another disturbing fact cropped up: Saddam folded like a cheap tent and never used any of his WMD against us. Why? There has been speculation about why he might possess WMD but not use it, but it's been less than convincing.

After the war, the problems have grown further. No WMD has been found. No factories have been found. High ranking Iraqi officials have been captured, but they've revealed nothing. Perhaps more time is needed, but then there's this: the actions of the military have not been consistent with a genuine fear that Saddam's regime possessed WMD.

To wit: the Pentagon had only two MET teams ready to search Iraq when the war ended. They ignored known nuclear sites for a month. They have refused the help of UN inspectors, who would have provided much needed manpower, expertise, and international confidence in any findings.

Is this important? Of course it is. It's obviously important if the President of the United States lied or even seriously exaggerated about a threat in order to gain support for a foreign war, but it's important beyond that as well. Although seeing the end of Saddam Hussein is an unqualified good, this by itself is not enough. Any serious foreign policy must accept that there are many other actors on the world stage who are just as odious as Saddam Hussein, and we can't police them all. There must also be some credible threat to national ? or world ? security to justify a war of this kind, and WMD in the hands of an unstable dictator is exactly that kind of threat. It was critical as justification for this war.

Only a fool would declare at this early date that Iraq didn't possess either WMD or WMD programs. But the fact patterns emerging so far do not inspire confidence. For the sake of America's credibility with the world, I hope that changes soon.

Posted by DeLong at May 6, 2003 01:06 PM | TrackBack

Comments

In fairness, there's a fourth option: the WMD is there but we haven't found it yet. That still has some pretty negative implications for our intelligence agencies, but I think it would be less bad than the other three possibilities.

Posted by: Kevin Drum on May 6, 2003 01:17 PM

In fairness, there's a fourth option: the WMD is there but we haven't found it yet. That still has some pretty negative implications for our intelligence agencies, but I think it would be less bad than the other three possibilities.

Posted by: Kevin Drum on May 6, 2003 01:22 PM

Doesn't that fourth option require that Al Qaeda and its ilk be as incompetent at figuring out what they could gain in the chaos of postwar Iraq as... as... as... Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon is incompetent at figuring out what its important missions are?

Posted by: Brad DeLong on May 6, 2003 01:28 PM

No, it could mean that the "very good" intelligence indicated the existence (blueprints, requisitions, orders for the making/deployment/hiding of), but not the location of, the WMD. How simple is that?

Eddi

Posted by: Eddi Vulic on May 6, 2003 01:57 PM

Would it help if Bush declared that WMD had been located but their nature and location had to be classified in order to prevent terrorists from either finding them or learning how to make them?

That way anyone who complained could be labeled as unpatriotic and endangering national security by disclosing potentially useful information to the terrorists. I am surprised they haven't come up with this strategy yet.

Posted by: bakho on May 6, 2003 01:58 PM

No, it could mean that the "very good" intelligence indicated the existence (blueprints, requisitions, orders for the making/deployment/hiding of), but not the location of, the WMD. How simple is that?

Posted by: Eddi Vulic on May 6, 2003 02:02 PM

In terms of there being a legitimate threat to the US from Iraq, the answer is likely closer to 3, though the Administration may have been as wishfully delusional as deceitful. And, I'm afraid, they don't think it matters and, incredibly, much of the mainstream media seems to agree.

Not only was this not a preemptive war, it was not even a preventive war. This was a political war to change the balance of power and political dynamics of the Middle East and to provide a demonstration of U.S. willingness to use military power to achieve its ends. The war's core proponents believed this was a desirable and achievable objective and cared little that it would violate international law and have to be sold with lies. I'd like to get on board for the important task of ensuring that this war (given its political, economic and human costs) does have some desirable outcomes in its aftermath, but my disgust for this war makes it difficult for me to overcome my ambivalence toward even the beneficial aspects of this enterprise.

Posted by: Ben Brackley on May 6, 2003 02:10 PM

Sorry about the double post.

RE: Al-Qaeda: if Iraq hid WMD from both inspectors and the US, why assume they did not hide them also from terrorists? Contrariwise, if Iraq were to give WMD to terrorists after the US invasion (i.e., tell Al-Qaeda where they were), why not assume they would do so before the invasion, also?

Posted by: Eddi Vulic on May 6, 2003 02:13 PM

Eddi, never let logic intrude on a good round of Bush-bashing.

Posted by: Will Allen on May 6, 2003 02:29 PM

In response to Eddi Vulic 5/6/03 2:13pm:

Lets assume that Al-Quaeda may have been able to cooperatively acquire WMDs from Iraq after the invasion. This is an unsupported assumption but a plausible scenario, along with uncooperative acquisition (looting) and no acquisition. You ask why wouldn't they have cooperatively received WMD before the war --- assuming that there were any in any significant amount to be given away. My supposition is that Saddam was trying to play for a peaceful end of the scenario for as long as possible --- see his willingness to destroy the Al-Samoud 2 missiles which were in the gray area of violating sanctions (some went over 150kms, some did not)He did not want to give up everything, but he did not want to provoke or give a clear causis belli. He knew that militarily the United States could accomplish its objectives, the variable would be time, but not outcome. His hope was for a political victory. That hope would be destroyed if there was any credible evidence of a WMD transfer pre-invasion. It is a low probability event esp. after Sept 12, 2002 speech, but it was his best shot at emerging from this confrontation still in power and alive.

Fester

Posted by: Fester on May 6, 2003 02:31 PM

In response to Eddi Vulic 5/6/03 2:13pm:

Lets assume that Al-Quaeda may have been able to cooperatively acquire WMDs from Iraq after the invasion. This is an unsupported assumption but a plausible scenario, along with uncooperative acquisition (looting) and no acquisition. You ask why wouldn't they have cooperatively received WMD before the war --- assuming that there were any in any significant amount to be given away. My supposition is that Saddam was trying to play for a peaceful end of the scenario for as long as possible --- see his willingness to destroy the Al-Samoud 2 missiles which were in the gray area of violating sanctions (some went over 150kms, some did not)He did not want to give up everything, but he did not want to provoke or give a clear causis belli. He knew that militarily the United States could accomplish its objectives, the variable would be time, but not outcome. His hope was for a political victory. That hope would be destroyed if there was any credible evidence of a WMD transfer pre-invasion. It is a low probability event esp. after Sept 12, 2002 speech, but it was his best shot at emerging from this confrontation still in power and alive.

Fester

Posted by: Fester on May 6, 2003 02:36 PM

In response to Eddi Vulic 5/6/03 2:13pm:

Lets assume that Al-Quaeda may have been able to cooperatively acquire WMDs from Iraq after the invasion. This is an unsupported assumption but a plausible scenario, along with uncooperative acquisition (looting) and no acquisition. You ask why wouldn't they have cooperatively received WMD before the war --- assuming that there were any in any significant amount to be given away. My supposition is that Saddam was trying to play for a peaceful end of the scenario for as long as possible --- see his willingness to destroy the Al-Samoud 2 missiles which were in the gray area of violating sanctions (some went over 150kms, some did not)He did not want to give up everything, but he did not want to provoke or give a clear causis belli. He knew that militarily the United States could accomplish its objectives, the variable would be time, but not outcome. His hope was for a political victory. That hope would be destroyed if there was any credible evidence of a WMD transfer pre-invasion. It is a low probability event esp. after Sept 12, 2002 speech, but it was his best shot at emerging from this confrontation still in power and alive.

Fester

Posted by: Fester on May 6, 2003 02:36 PM

Fester: you are assuming the very thing I am arguing against. My point was that there exist other reasons that we have not found WMD yet. If Saddam hid them before the war started, we have no reason to assume he had the time (or inclination) to reveal their position to terrorist groups. Therefore, they would remain hidden still.

Posted by: Eddi Vulic on May 6, 2003 03:13 PM

I guess it's pretty difficult to accept that your (gasp!) President could have (gasp!) flat-out Lied. But if Republicans think back really, really hard, perhaps they can remember a time not so long ago when they found such a proposition easier to credit.

I was a tad skeptical of the existence of these WMDs from the start. I grew a lot more skeptical when the government's reaction to UN inspectors not finding any such weapons was a mad, tumbled rush to war. It looked exactly as if they didn't dare allow the process to proceed. So color me not surprised if WMDs are never found.

But color me very surprised indeed if a move to impeachment gains any traction.

Posted by: Canadian Reader on May 6, 2003 03:45 PM

"For the sake of America's credibility with the world, I hope that changes soon."

One, that horse bolted a long time ago. The USA only gets diplomatic results when it deals COD, when there is an ulterior motive for playing along (Blair, Howard), or when there is some separate duress (not shown, at least to its own public).

Two, many in the USA really don't care and aren't concerned, taking the Roman view of "let them hate me so long as they fear me", oderint dum metuant.

Three, those people are mistaken in two ways. They expect their threats to be taken as "do this or else" rather than "damned if you do and damned if you don't" (which means they don't know which way the cat will jump when threatened after all, so they really DO need credibility to give their threats direction). And worst of all, by creating a sort of strategic high place from which to dominate, they run the risk of losing it to others when their attention slips - just as rules to help gerrymandering backfire when control of the rigging mechanism passes. Yes, we know they think "it will never happen"; that is precisely the nature of hubris, and precisely why it is better to have a safe system for everybody since nemesis does mean that one day the USA will not be on top and will be on the receiving end (maybe not from outside causes but from someone taking advantage of an opportunity arising from internal US flaws, which that same hubris also guarantees one day).

Posted by: P.M.Lawrence on May 6, 2003 04:44 PM

I find myself in the peculiar position of rooting for George Bush to produce a good outcome in Iraq.

The WMD argument was always suspect as was the threat to US security from Iraq. The latter has been shown to be totally false. The WMD argument seems likely to to be if not false, at best wildly overstated.

Consequently, based on false or overstated arguments, my country has initiated the killing of at least 10,000 people of whom at least 1000 were non-combatants...and these numbers are probably quite low. My country has destroyed much of the infrastructure of Baghdad, allowed the looting of a museum that holds some of the records of our rise as a species toward civilization, the looting of a major university, etc. etc.

Given that the stated premise for our invasion was manifestly false, the only way to wipe the blood from our hands is to produce an Iraq that is manifestly better faster than might have been achieved by other means.

I sincerely hope the outcome justifies the lies, the deaths and the destruction.

I know it is tacky to mention killing people (and don't bother to tell me how many Saddam has and might have killed, that is not the issue) but as one who does not have a hotline to god, I believe we are responsible to ourselves for our actions and those done in our name.

Thus, since George Bush acted in my name, I root for him to produce a good outcome.

Sam Taylor

Posted by: Sam Taylor on May 6, 2003 06:50 PM

Nice comment, Sam.
Brad, your remarks on what actions the administration should take in these circumstances are well-reasoned. But I'm sure you'd be the first to agree that they might be unlikely under any administration, and are in essence incomprehensible to this administration. They're not going to happen. And the media is going to roll over on it. And the Dems most likely are going to roll over on it as well, along with the American electorate.
The only thing left is a roll of the dice in 2004.

Posted by: John Isbell on May 6, 2003 07:15 PM

Sam--
I don't see why it's so peculiar to root for Bush to produce a good outcome in Iraq. We ought to root for good outcomes everywhere, regardless of partisanship.

Well, that's what I say when I'm pretending to be a good person. Actually, I root for the outcome to appear disastrous until December 2004. Once Bush is safely voted out, I root for things to turn out to have been great all along.

Posted by: Matt Weiner on May 6, 2003 09:22 PM

"If Saddam hid them [WMD] before the war started, we have no reason to assume he had the time (or inclination) to reveal their position to terrorist groups."

I beg your pardon. The Bush Administration has been frantically selling the point that Saddam's WMD were a threat to the US precisely because he was supposedly willing to give them to terrorist groups. Remember the "links" between Saddam and al-Qaeda? Remember the glee at the capture of the Achilles Lauro terrorist?

"Eddi, never let logic intrude on a good round of Bush-bashing"

As I have said before, he who condones malfeasance, corruption and incompetence in matters as serious as pre-emptive international war, for reasons as trival as and akin to loyalty towards a baseball team, is morally bankrupt. Bush is not immune to the dictum that power corrupts just because you like him and happen to vote for him. And if you are unwilling to hold him accountable for his actions, and encourage others to show the same attitude, then you are in a very immediate sense sowing the seeds of tyranny, all pious and self-righteous chants to the contrary.

Posted by: StrontiumDog on May 7, 2003 12:37 AM

Strontium: If you look carefully at what I wrote, I am referring to potential reasons WMD have not yet been found. Just because there was the pre-invasion threat that Saddam might give WMD to terrorist groups, does not imply that if we do not find WMD, therefore terrorists must possess them (or the administration is lying or...). There are other logical options. Whatever intentions Saddam had, it is still true that if he hid them, they may still be hidden. Or do you deny that possibility exists?

Posted by: Eddi Vulic on May 7, 2003 04:53 AM

This isn't that hard.

If Iraq had WMD (we are talking biological and chemical weapons here; nobody expected that Iraq had nukes or was close to developing them), then Saddam would have had to allocate them among his military commanders. Otherwise, they would have been useless. But the regular army and the Republican Guard fell apart almost immediately (except for the armored brigades of the Medina Division, which wouldn't have been the one to use bio and chemical weapons anyway). They not only didn't use their WMD, they didn't use their artillery, their rifles, or much of anything else. The chief opposition came from irregular forces armed with RPGs in the end; they wouldn't have had WMD.

Therefore, we saw no WMD used in combat, and the distintegrating regular military had every incentive to remove any WMD it had from the possibility of discovery by the Americans. I bet we find it sooner rather than later, though.

Posted by: JiminVirginia on May 7, 2003 05:50 AM

Of course it's a possibility. Likewise it's a possibility, albeit very unlikely, that aliens from Sirius spirited the WMD away. We can go on all day imagining possibilities of greater or lesser probability, but that is not cogent to the matter at hand.

There are merely two cogent issues: the question of malfeasance on the part of the US government (in which case only the issues raised by the Bush administration matter); and the issue of US national safety (in which case the issue of whether Saddam sold his WMD to passing aliens or buried them in the modern equivalent of the pharaohs' tombs or whatever, is irrelevant).

There is nothing intrinsically interesting about WMD on its own merits. Explosives are just as deadly. In fact, the only sliver of interest the chemical and biological varieties of Saddam's WMD hold is the fact that they might have fallen in the hands of anti-US terrorists; their military value otherwise is effectively zero. Without this context we might as well be speculating about the whereabouts of Saddam's prophylactics.

Only nukes count as WMD of power and regional dominance, and it was clear before the start of the war that Saddam didn't have any. The fact that we are reduced to discussing whether Saddam's WMD were transferred to the sunken isle of Atlantis is another indication of how obscurantism has replaced analysis.

Posted by: StrontiumDog on May 7, 2003 06:00 AM

Eddi, what you (and the Bushies) are proposing is not practical.

Iraq was (or should have been) intensely scrutinized by multi-facet US and British - and probably Isreali - intelligence assetts; everything from personnel imbedded in Iraq to high resolution satellite surveillance. We are not talking about a crate of guns here, but large quantities of ordnance (remember the tons and tons that Bushies proposed?) that would have to be moved in fairly easily identifiable fashion.

Indeed Iraq has been observed very closely for since Bush came into power, as well as before then. Coalition intel. would have identified and tracked any suspect operations in Iraq. They would have recorded and mapped all activity and movement related to those sites.

The presence of the UN inspectors would have been a boon to coalition intel. as the inspectors being sent to suspected sites before the war narrowed the field of possible storage/production locations.

This is the way it's done, so we are back to Brad's three possibilities. Yours is not a real possibility, but, if it turns out to be true (and I doubt it, putting my money on the mendacious and agressive administration angle) it is at most only a symptom of a poorly functioning intelligence community.

I agree with those who propose that if, at the end of the day, we do not locate WMD in any real quantity, America will have lost more than it gained by attacking Iraq. There is simply no acceptable excuse to not find those weapons if they really did exist subsequent to 1998.

Posted by: arslan on May 7, 2003 06:02 AM

It is possible that our intellegence agencies are incompetent. It is possible that Al Queda types beat the Pentagon to WMD sites (the nuclear dump flap may be bad), and it is possible that the Administration lied.

But didn't the Administration say that Saddam had hidden his WMD and that the UN inspectors would never find them? Wasn't Powell's presentation basically saying that unless the regime was actively cooperating, finding these weapons was like finding a needle in a haystack? Aren't these constant calls for proof basically arguing the opposite?

The Administration didn't lie about what the UN knew Saddam had and yet wasn't accounted for. Basically Saddam had to have simply destroyed these unaccounted for items in order for this whole line of reasoning that he didn't have WMD to have any meaning. He would have had to have done that during a time that there was no oversight nor threat to his regime. Will is right, "never let logic intrude on a good round of Bush-bashing."

Posted by: Stan on May 7, 2003 06:18 AM

Stan

I don't know whether you are being deliberately obtuse, or just yanking a few chains.

The US has just waged a pre-emptive war on Iraq. Pre-emptive warfare is a serious matter.

The only reason for such a war was purportedly the immediate and present danger Iraq's WMD posed to the US. This immediate and present danger was also the reason why containment and continued UN inspections, in combination with performance benchmarks, was deemed untenable.

The US administration's case as presented prior to the war was already considered shaky. False links to al-Qaeda, forged documents from Niger, ambiguous presentations from Powel, failed to convince the world of the existence of a clear threat to US national security that warranted the sidelining of inspections procedures and called for pre-emptive war. Let me remind you that this is not mindless Bush-bashing: in the aftermath of September 11 2001 the world supported and aided Bush after the clear and present danger the attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon demonstrated.

The Bush administration claimed to have sufficient evidence to warrant warfare, and Congress rubber-stamped the invasion.

This is not a question of "sufficient time" for inspections. This is a matter of demonstrating that Iraq posed such a threat to the US that a pre-emptive attack was necessary and inevitable, and that continued UN inspections and containment policies would have increased that threat. This is the case made to the UN, this is the reason why UNSCR 1441 was wrested forth, this is why Frances "intrasigience" threatened US safety and must apparently be punished.

This is no game of "find the WMD", this is the very serious question of whether the US can legitimize its invasion of Iraq in the same terms it set out last year.

And, as a number of serious commentators have pointed out, the fact that Saddam did not employ any WMD against US forces even as his palace was targeted by cruise missiles, casts very serious doubt on the validity of the casus belli; the clear and present danger to the US. Hence the equally serious question: was Bush convinced by intelligence servces on the basis of incorrect information that Iraq's WMD were a threat to the US, or was he informed correctly but lied to Congress and the UN?

I grow more sober about the ability of the Us electorate to keep its leaders accountable for their actions when I read posts like yours. is that all the war means to you?

Posted by: StrontiumDog on May 7, 2003 07:13 AM

Iraq can have a favorable outcome but it will require serious commitment of money and manpower over several years. I have always said that it will be far more difficult to win the peace than win the war in Iraq. Mr. Bush has failed to prepare the people for this commitment. Senator Lugar wonders aloud whether the administration recognizes how much that commitment will cost. Either the administration is stonewalling Lugar or possibly worse, they don't know yet because they don't have a plan completed.

Switching administrators from the DOD guy to the Foggy Bottom guy in Iraq may be a good move but it does not indicate that a solid plan is in place. It resembles seat of the pants decision making.

It is very unlikely that the US will be out of Iraq anytime soon. After all, we are still in Cuba, Japan, Germany, Korea, Bosnia, etc. Our commitment to nation building and the costs involved will likely be an issue in 2004. It is not a matter of "rooting" for a good outcome in Iraq. It is a matter of commitment, both political and economic.

Posted by: bakho on May 7, 2003 08:08 AM

StroniumDog, maybe I'm just not very bright (at least by dqsuared measures of intelligence), but I find the self re-enforcing lack of logic being used under this line of reasoning hard to follow. You said:

"The US has just waged a pre-emptive war on Iraq. Pre-emptive warfare is a serious matter."

As I've pointed out ad naseum on this site, the US did not engage in pre-emptive war. Bush may well have said that he was acting pre-emptively, but go down to your local UN and read the U.S. justification. The U.S. justification is 12 plus years of Iraqi non-compliance with UN resolutions and the U.S.'s commitment to fulfill the UN's threatened serious consequences of 1441.

Further, you say:

"The only reason for such a war was purportedly the immediate and present danger Iraq's WMD posed to the US. This immediate and present danger was also the reason why containment and continued UN inspections, in combination with performance benchmarks, was deemed untenable."

Iraq had already been in violation of its UN cease fire commitments long before 9/11. The U.S. like all other UN Security Council members had been content maintain containment until 9/11 proved that Saddam did not need long range weapons to launch an attack against the U.S. 9/11 PROVED Iraq's WMD posed a clear and present danger through the potential for him to hand them over to Al Queda-esque others.

Your quote:

"The US administration's case as presented prior to the war was already considered shaky. False links to al-Qaeda, forged documents from Niger, ambiguous presentations from Powel, failed to convince the world of the existence of a clear threat to US national security that warranted the sidelining of inspections procedures and called for pre-emptive war. Let me remind you that this is not mindless Bush-bashing: in the aftermath of September 11 2001 the world supported and aided Bush after the clear and present danger the attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon demonstrated."

The attempts to draw connections to Al-Queda were disengenuous at best, but they hardly made the Administration's case shaky. The crux of the argument was that the UN knows Iraq has 100X. Iraq shows it has destroyed 50X. Where is the other 50X? There is nothing shaky about that case.

You say:

"The Bush administration claimed to have sufficient evidence to warrant warfare, and Congress rubber-stamped the invasion."

In no way does a claim to sufficient evidence mean that they know the exact locations of. As pointed out above, the Administration was saying that Saddam had developed an elaborate cat and mouse system designed to hide his WMD program from UN inspectors. As I pointed out above, one should assume that it is very hard to locate the pieces of this system from the Adminsitration's presentations. The information will likely have to come from the heads of Iraqi scientists.

"As a number of serious commentators have pointed out, the fact that Saddam did not employ any WMD against US forces even as his palace was targeted by cruise missiles, casts very serious doubt on the validity of the casus belli; the clear and present danger to the US."

One can conjecture a lot of reasons for why Saddam didn't use his weapons during the campaign. I do understand that Saddam did not have a lot effective delivery systems available to him. Aerial spraying was not possible since we clearly controlled the skies. His missile systems were not reliable so his primary delivery method would have had to have been artillary. Officers had all been warned of war crimes charges for using these weapons. Perhaps all of this acted to prevent Saddam from deploying them? It is all simply conjecture.

Your quote:

"This is no game of "find the WMD", this is the very serious question of whether the US can legitimize its invasion of Iraq in the same terms it set out last year."

I understand the importance of the issue, but these "where's the beef" charges are way premature. The important information all rests in the heads of Iraqi scientists. Finding the scientists and getting them to talk are not necessarily easy tasks.

Posted by: Stan on May 7, 2003 08:35 AM

The billions of words written on this appear to boil down to two arguments:

1. Failure to find WMD implies WMD do/did not exist.

2. Failure to find WMD implies the existence of an infinity of alternative realities in which WMD exist invisibly.

Aren't these, practically speaking, identical in their implications for US security?

Posted by: Russell L. Carter on May 7, 2003 09:10 AM

Stan

"The U.S. justification is 12 plus years of Iraqi non-compliance with UN resolutions and the U.S.'s commitment to fulfill the UN's threatened serious consequences of 1441."

Nonsense.

Congress authorized a bipartisan resolution authorizing the use of military force against Iraq in October 2002, well before Resolution 1441 was adopted on November 8, 2002.

Congress' resolution authorises Bush, and I quote, "to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to (1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and (2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions regarding Iraq.""

Bush asked for, and Congress authorized war *before* Resolution 1441 was passed. How on Earth does Resolution 1441 magically become the sole justification of a war *post hoc*? Prior UN resolutions do not guarantee the US the right to warfare without a Security Council vote either. A vote which was never passed. As to the supposed wish of the Bush administration to unilaterally enforec UN resolutions: Am I the only one who remembers the US administration declaring the UN "irrelevant"?

As to the rest of your post: what part of "clear and present danger to the United States" do you not understand?

Posted by: StrontiumDog on May 7, 2003 09:33 AM

Stan:
Your opening salvo just landed in your own foot. The US doesn't get to enforce UN resolutions without the UN's approval. It's just that simple.

How about this: you have a policy of spanking your child if he backtalks to an adult. Your child backtalks me in your presence, and I spank him. Unless you agree that I had the right to enforce your policy, then guess what? I just assaulted a minor, and I'm going to jail. It doesn't matter if the child turns out better due to the spanking. It doesn't matter if you had plans to spank the child when you got home. My actions are only justified by your policies if you approve of them.

So your claim that the war was not pre-emptive, but simply a perfectly legitimate execution of UN policy, is nothing less than absurd.

Posted by: JRoth on May 7, 2003 09:42 AM

If I get Stan and Jimi right, they appear to be saying that

a) the war on Iraq was justified

and

b) the administration misled the American people, both houses of Congress and the United Nations on material issues relevant to their decision.

Is not b) grounds for an impeachment on its own, whatever the merits of a)? Compare Clinton's deceit on the Lewinsky affair, despite being innocent on the central Whitewater charge.

Posted by: dsquared on May 7, 2003 10:30 AM

StrontiumDog, nonsense? What part of "enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions regarding Iraq" are you having problems with? Saddam was violating the terms of the CEASE FIRE that ended the military action in 1991. All of the UN resolutions that sanctioned military action in 1991 continue to apply. No additional vote was needed. At the first point that Saddam broke the terms of the cease fire military force was authorized. Just because the members hadn't done that doesn't mean that the authorization had magically disappeared. Another vote would have been helpful politically, but it wasn't needed for UN authorization.

As for your inability to comprehend why a body might make itself irrelevent by threatening serious consequences and then saying it will never make good its threat, I can't help you.

Posted by: Stan on May 7, 2003 10:46 AM

dsquared, you are right! Iraq's WMD posing a real and present threat to the U.S. does constitute the Administration misleading "the American people, both houses of Congress and the United Nations on material issues relevant to their decision."

Posted by: Stan on May 7, 2003 10:55 AM

Coming in at the end of these things always makes me feel a bit silly, but I'm a blabber-mouth, so here goes. Is it an intelligence failure when the rank and file intelligence officers don't support the conclusions drawn from their reports? There seems to me to be a 4th alternative, a combination of Brad's 1 and 3. If the intelligence being presented to the White House prompted regular spankings, the White House didn't need to lie about what it knew. It created a situation in which ambitious senior intelligence officials knew what they had to do, and did it. Maybe this is just a very specific instance of Brad's #1. There was a feedback at work here, I'm pretty sure, one in which only one kind of answer would do. That answer was, at last, presented.

The rotating rationale for attacking Iraq remains on desplay, in the exchange here. What reason did Bush have for attacking? What day are you asking? The same arguments that could be heard before the war can be heard now, because no standard for justifying the war was ever agreed upon.

By the way, here's the latest:

*DJ Pentagon: U.S. Has Found Possible Mobile Bioweapon Lab
Dow Jones Newswire

Posted by: K Harris on May 7, 2003 11:21 AM

JRoth, your example is seriously flawed for the problem it is designed to illustrate. It probably explains the problem you are having understanding UN authorization. The coalition members are part of the UN and part of the UN Security Council. A better example:

As part of a body called "The Parents," you have a policy of spanking your child if he backtalks to an adult. Your child backtalks to someone in the presence of both parents. One of you decides not to spank him. Unless you both agree that nobody has the right to enforce your policy, then guess what? The other can rightfully enforce the policy and spank the child. It doesn't matter if the child turns out better due to the spanking. The policy is already approved.

In the UN votes had already occured authorizing military action. A veto of action was threatened so no additional vote was taken. The vote did not occur, the veto did not occur, and the prior authorization remains. Claims that the war was not UN sanctioned are not based on a strong understanding of UN authorization.

Posted by: Stan on May 7, 2003 11:33 AM

Stan,

You have confirmed once more that the USA are never to be trusted. Blair is a fool and Chirac is right.
Aznar does not count for anything.
DSW

Posted by: Antoni Jaume on May 7, 2003 01:30 PM

Letterman:  Top Ten Excuses for Not Finding Weapons of Mass Destruction

10. "We've only looked through 99% of the country"

9. "We spent entire budget making those playing cards"

8. "Containers are labeled in some crazy language"

7. "They must have been stolen by some of them evil X-Men mutants"

6. "Did I say Iraq has weapons of mass destruction? I meant they have goats"

5. "How are we supposed to find weapons of mass destruction when we can't even find Cheney?"

4. "Still screwed up because of Daylight Savings Time"

3. "When you're trying to find something, it's always in the last place you look, am I right, people?"

2. "Let's face it -- I ain't exactly a genius"

1. "Geraldo took them"

Posted by: bakho on May 7, 2003 01:33 PM

Antoni, coming from you it means so much. Chirac being such a swell guy and all. His stance didn't have anything to do with making the U.S. keep 200,000 plus troops in a powder keg. He only stood up for what was good and right!

Posted by: Stan on May 7, 2003 02:17 PM

Stan,
Did the cease fire agreement in 1991 authorize the United States to resume hostilities in the event that we concluded noncompliance, without further UN OK?

Posted by: Jonathan on May 7, 2003 02:27 PM

>>Eddi, never let logic intrude on a good round of Bush-bashing.<<

And never let logic weaken your support for the Commander in Chief. How about an Moral Infallibility Act?

With due apologies, of course. ;-)

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on May 7, 2003 03:02 PM

Jonathan, the UN authorization applied to the same grouping of countries as it did when it was drafted for the U.S.-led 1991 engagement. It never expired because doing so would have removed the teeth to enforce the WMD provisions. There is no reason to assume that it didn't continue to apply to the U.S., U.K., Australia, etc.

Posted by: Stan on May 8, 2003 06:59 AM

Eddi,

You're assuming that Saddam hiding WMD in Iraq is like a bank robber burying money in the wilderness: that you can know he had it and still not know where it is because if he doesn't tell, there are few other cues.

But constructing and hiding WMD takes a large conspiracy containing (at the very least) many dozens of people, and considerable other witnesses whose evidence (when put together) adds up. While Saddam held power there were considerable checks on those people. But currently I see many reasons for them to 'fess up (traditional reasons like money and power, amongst others) and few reasons for them to stay quiet. Further, only ONE such person would have to tell for the whole secret to be out - which makes people likely to sell out sooner because being the third person to reveal a secret gets you nothing, while being the first gets you an in with the new rulers.

So yes, it is possible that there was real hard evidence that WMD existed (evidence which has, strangely, still been keep secret), and that there is still no intelligence of where those WMD now are. But this seem very unlikely.


Sean
PS: But why do US citizens get so upset and start talking impeachment when your presidents are revealed to be liars? The rest of the world remembers that this is par for the course for US presidents. Even Eisenhower (for whom I have great respect) told complete fibs about the US spy planes that you were sending over other countries. Do you people not know your own history?

Posted by: sean on May 8, 2003 07:24 PM

sean,

I can think of several reasons why it may well be closer to the bank robber senario than you think. First, there is the problem of compartmentalization. If most people know only small pieces of the puzzle, putting together a complete picture will take time. The only way to speed it up is to get the top people to talk. Second, if everybody comes forward at once verifying who has accurate and up to date information can take time. Third, some may hold key evidence, components, or end products for which they are trying to determine the highest bidder. Fourth, some top people with key knowledge may no longer be alive. Fifth, some of the participants may have plans of their own for their evidence, components, or end products.

I believe we could assume that every one of these potential cases are occuring. Time will surely tell. If in 4 months or so, we don't have anything solid then there is likely good reason to question. Based just on what the UN knew, I would be very surprized though.

Posted by: Stan on May 9, 2003 07:19 AM

"Immediate and present danger" is a silly red herring. Remember the dust storms that hampered early coalition operations? That sort of weather has to do with something called *seasons*, guys. Large-scale military operations in the *deserts* of Iraq are hard in December-March, very hard in October-November and April-May and *extremely* difficult for the rest of the year. So if (as I strongly suspect) the leaders of the coalition governments had reason to fear that Saddam might develop usable mass-murder weapons before late 2003, their *only* chance to do anything about that was in the (Nothern Hemisphere) Winter
or early spring of this year.

When the French and Russians delayed UN voting, they were forcing the coalition to either
(1) put off the invasion until next (Northern Hemisphere) Fall or Winter, or
(2) invade despite sandstorms, days hot enough to harm soldiers even if they aren't wearing full body NBW protection gear, etc.
(I suspect they were really hoping for option (1).)
And all the governments involved knew this, including the French and Russians. This is something for which current French and Russian governments should not be quickly forgiven.

Anyhow, the point I am trying to make is that the
Bush administration *had* to look at what Saddam
might have been able to give to his pet terrorists in several months time, not just at "immediate and present dangers".

Posted by: Chris Chittleborough on May 9, 2003 09:00 AM

Some of the comments here are making a common but serious mistake: they assume that "Saddam's links to Terrorism" means "Saddam's links to Al-Qaeda".

Not so. The Baathists did have some links to Al-Qaeda, at the level of (it seems) one or two meetings a year, and they did hire a group with a
strong Al-Qaeda connection to terrorise Kurds, but their connections to Hamas are much stronger. More importantly, they grew their own terrorists. (Bureaucrats are bureaucrats, even those who amputate tongues and ears as a matter of routine; they want to control the people they work with.)

So Saddam was never (IMO) going to give mass-murder weapons to Hamas, much less Al-Qaeda. He would have used people loyal to him, not to non-Iraqi religious extremists who my lose their grip on the idea that "my enemy's enemy is my friend even if he used to persecute my fellow Muslims" once they'd got the WMD.

Posted by: Chris Chittleborough on May 9, 2003 09:19 AM
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