Sunday, May 01, 2005

What lies about Iraq?

I've been frustrated by the lack of any answer to a question I have had for a long time concerning the war in Iraq. It goes back to before the U.S invaded, and deals with THE reason the American people were sold on the war. We were to disarm Saddam Hussain. Saddam had large stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), including a substantial nuclear program. In addition, he had direct ties to al Qaeda, and Iraq played a role in the 9/11 attacks. Remember, President Bush originally did not say we were going in to change regimes, or install democracy in the Mideast, or fight al Qaeda in Iraq rather than in America, but rather disarm Saddam. In fact, it was implied that if Saddam somehow complied with a variety of United Nations (U.N.) resolutions, Saddam would likely remain in power.

We were able to put U.N. weapons inspectors on the ground as troops were being deployed to the Iraq border. Here is where my question comes into play. The weapons inspectors, headed by Hans Blix, had checked numerous sites around Iraq, including presidential palaces and military installations. Mr. Blix reported to the media that no weapons were found at the obvious places to look, and that was not a surprise. The decision to go to war, which is the ultimate decision any president will ever make, had to be based on "our best intelligence at the time." Well, the problem with the decision, in my mind at least, that Mr. Bush made is that he and the national security team had to have known our best intelligence was questionable at best, and likely bogus. The reason I say this is because I, sitting in my living room every night watching the news, realized our intelligence was flawed. How? Because the weapons inspectors reported that they were checking flagged sites provided by various intelligence agencies, including the CIA and British intelligence services, and highly suspected sites had no WMDs (I am trying to find the exact date of an NPR interview with Hans Blix where he explicitly stated this).

In other words, if we were checking high-confidence sites provided by the CIA, and every one of those sites turned out to be free from any hint of WMD, how could the president have any confidence at all in our intelligence?
Is this why Mr. Bush rushed to war, and rushed the inspectors out well before they were finished with their mission? Because no WMDs were found, why would the president not allow inspectors to continue to check more suspected sites to try and collect convincing evidence that would justify war? It is obvious that the war was going to happen regardless of what evidence existed, and the American people were, simply stated, lied to about why our troops had to go to war with an enemy that was not in any way an imminent threat or perpetrator of 9/11.
I have posed this question to my Republican Congressman, Mark Kirk, to the White House, to local papers, to friends who are supporters of the war, and I have received no satisfactory answer at all.
At this point we need to complete the task at hand and place the Iraqis in position to try and establish the rule of law and run their country with a more or less democratic government. The Bush administration has finally found a reason, after three or four attempts, to justify the war beyond an, "oops, we were not quite correct" sort of reason. I hope this all ultimately works out for the best, so our 10,000-plus troops and the 100,000-plus Iraqis will not have died or been wounded for nothing. Of course we all want eventual peace and, ideally, democracy in the Mideast, but we cannot forget the questions stated above. We have set a dangerous precedent for going to war, and we cannot let this happen again or be lied to by our leaders when the stakes are so high.

1 comment:

mark said...

Hey Von,

We had many reasons to unseat Saddam that ranged from self-serving to altruistic and all of them, including WMD, had some degree of validity. The Bush administration used most of the arguments at various times, democracy being the final one made a week prior to the Iraqwar at AEI.

Had Saddam complied with all of his UNSCOM ( later UNMOVIC) obligations he would have done a great deal to strengthen his position under International Law as well as received another $ 180 billion in oil revenues he had to forgo for noncompliance. It was a costly deception program all around.

Instead Saddam worked very hard to give the appearance of maintaining a clandestine WMD program even though most of it was gone after Hussein Kamal provided UNSCOM with Iraqi records. Probably, he felt being thought to have secret WMD enhanced the internal security of his regime vis-avis the Kurds and Shiites and " raised his face" in the Arab world for defying the U.S.

No one, including Hans Blix, were willing to certify that Saddam did not have WMD. Blix, who previously missed the North Korean, Iraqi and Iranian nuke programs while running the IAEA was not going to give Saddam a clean bill of health. Nor did his diplomatic record mark him as anything but an irrational actor and serial aggressor who negotiated in bad faith - moreso than say North Korea, which hasn't invaded anyone in a half-century.

Whether invading Iraq made strategic sense essentially boils down to whether the War on Terror is about al Qaida in isolation or more broadly is about Islamist terrorism acting interdependently with radical rogue states like Iran, Iraq or Syria. If you favor the former view then no, if the latter, then yes.

Did the Bush administration hype the WMD threat in making their case for war. Absolutely. Did a wide range of intellgence services here and abroad believe the threat existed to some degree ? Yes, they did and the fault for that is Saddam Hussein's, not George Bush's..

While I think the Bush administration badly blundered almost the entire occupation the decision to invade Iraq itself I was justifiable in my view and strategically sound.