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Dealing with WMDs

| 35 Comments | 1 TrackBack
So, let me get this straight: * We shouldn't have gone to war to depose Saddam, because we weren't absolutely sure that he was developing weapons of mass destruction. Even if he thought so. Even if we had underestimated his progress before. * We shouldn't go to war with North Korea, because we are quite sure they've developed weapons of mass destruction. Hmmm....
As Claudia Rossett points out: bq. "One might be tempted to conclude, then, that our only window for intervening in the quest of a threatening, terrorist-linked regime dabbling in WMDs is in that precise time window when there is irrefutable evidence that the rulers are developing WMD capability, but before the wares are ready to be handed out to terrorists or brandished in jelly jars as a "deterrent" to extort concessions from the free world. Except that this seems to be precisely the turf occupied at the moment by Iran, with its nuclear program, and while the clerics there are obviously rushing to get their bombs into production, no one genuinely seems to be preparing to stop that, either." Yeah, I've kind of noticed that. For some people, there never seems to be a good time to take a stand. But of course, they'll assure you of their firmness. They're just waiting for the right moment. Like, maybe sometime around 2150 A.D. or so. bq. "We seem to be heading for the surreal conclusion that it is all right to be a murderous tyrant who only thinks he is pursuing weapons of mass destruction--even if he apparently believes it himself strongly enough to take the risk of kicking out U.N. arms inspectors for four years. Somehow, I am not comforted by the vision of a Saddam presiding over a country where he is allocating resources for WMD, terrorists are traipsing through, and whatever is really going on is anyone's guess, including Saddam's." Me neither - but it seems that many Democratic Party Presidential candidates have a different comfort threshold for foreign dictators with ties to terrorism, a long history of diastrous miscalculations, and sons even worse than he is poised to succeed him. After all, our excellent intelligence organizations would tell us if sanctions et. al. were failing, so we'd still have time to protect ourselves... oh, wait. Of course, these same candidates and their apologists get very indignant if people accuse them of being less than serious about protecting their fellow citizens. Can't think why.

1 TrackBack

Tracked: January 29, 2004 9:23 PM
Excerpt: For some people, the only legit time to go to war against a tyrant with WMDs is between having irrefutable...

35 Comments

Call me crazy if you will but if

a. Intelligence gathering and reporting are agreed to be an inexact science

then

b. Isn't it most prudent, and shouldn't it be expected, that any errors be in the form of 'overestimation'?

I don't suggest that we should abandon our efforts to make Intel 100% accurate, or that we should go off half cocked deposing 'threats' around the world. But if we are to err we should do it in the direction of safety and security.

Sure works for me, Steve.

I think you got it right there Steve. Better to over-estimate rather than under-estimate. Wouldn't be prudent otherwise.

...at this juncture.

My compliments to you, Steve, as well. Right on the mark.

If I were to condense the lessons of 9/11 down to one thing, it would be that we can no longer accept the best case scenario when it comes to incomplete intelligence. Isn't that the accusation leveled at the Bush Administration by those who wanted an investigation? That no one had put together the obvious (in hindsight) clues and rounded up these men before they acted, never mind the howls of Racial Profiling that such an action would have taken, is given as proof positive that law enforcement under Bush was not up to the task.

Not that we can ever know, but could you imagine what the criticisms would be if we let Iraq carry on and one of their WMD's was used on us? The only thing I could say about it is that the intelligence would have looked the same.

Gamer

Rosett would seem to be an optimist.

After all, simply because a nation is DEVELOPING WMD hardly means that they will either BUILD them, much less give them to others. (Remember the pre-war arguments, wherein the claim was NOT that Saddam had no WMD, but that he would not share them w/ terrorists, especially Muslim fundamentalists?)

So, the actual window, it seems, is when a state has developed WMD technology, and has agreed to give them to others, but hasn't done so yet, AND hasn't weaponized the WMD that they DO have (e.g., mounted them on a missile).

Which gives a wide open window probably on the order of 45 minutes or so....

I recall the MoveOn.org pre-war ad that showed a little girl and a mushroom cloud (a re-make of the famous LBJ ad). The ad of course implied that invading Iraq was a bad idea because of the risk that Saddam had WMD's and was ready to deploy them.

You cannot win with the anti-war crowd.

Although I fully agree with Joe's point, and am a committed supporter of the war in Iraq, the obvious response is that "erring in the direction of safety and security" won't always mean intervention. The flip-side argument (one I spend a lot of time refuting elsewhere) is that in making decisions of this sort, the U.S. needs to consider both the short-term and the long-term effects of its actions. If I believe with, say, 80% certainty that country X has a full-blown 1+ megaton nuclear weapon, and that they'd be willing to use it against us or provide it to those who will, then it's going to be pretty hard to convince me that the possible long-term negatives of intervention don't counterbalance a million potential dead Americans and an irradiated city. But if "deposing the threat" is likely to create more problems than it solves, then I'm not sure we should go there.

In other words, I'm fine with over- rather than underestimating, and I'm fine with erring on the side of saftey and security, provided that we take into account the possible unintended consequences of our actions.

It's the wrong premise. We should be doing everything we can to prevent the proliferation of WMD's, regardless of whether the science of intelligence gathering is 100% accurate or not. Then the question becomes, what does "doing everything we can" really mean. I think even the most hawkish observer would have to conclude we cannot continually embark on invasion/occupations around the globe to control the threat. It's just not feasible. So, where does that leave us?
The question for many of us democrats was never about whether Saddam was a bad guy and deserved to go, but who should do it, and who should be responsible for the aftermath. We are now almost a year into the occupation and we still have soldiers dying at an average rate in excess of one a day, we have had over five hundred of our newly minted Iraqi police force killed, we have been unable to protect those Iraqi nationals who have chosen to become part of the Provisional Authority and we cannot see any light at the end of this tunnel. We have pumped over a $100b into this exercise and no one can tell me how much more will be required in blood and treasure before we are through. Talk of taking on any other dictators just now rings a bit hollow. We have incredible resources available to us but they are not infinite. The question is, are we using those resources wisely in light of the threat we face.

Cheers,
Nick Foresta

"The question is, are we using those resources wisely in light of the threat we face."

What are your suggestions?

Yes, I think we had to invade Iraq for the reasons everyone gave above. We put together the best coalition we could given the self-interest of several UNSC members. It's messy over there. We made some mistakes that have made it messier, but it's unrealistic to assume we would make no mistakes. If the yardstick is the occupation of Germany and Japan, we are doing no worse than we did then.

"The question for many of us democrats was never about whether Saddam was a bad guy and deserved to go, but who should do it, and who should be responsible for the aftermath."

No one else was willing to do anything but us, and our allies. We tried to get them to, but their oil/weapons contracts with Saddam were more important to them. No one has more expertise than us in post-war occupation. The UN does not have a good track record in this regard, runs away at the first sign of trouble, and is owned by the very dictatorships we are fighting. So who?

I have yet to hear anyone who criticizes our strategy come up with any realistic alternatives.

It's very difficult to "prove" that there were NO WMD in Iraq, and it is very difficult to "prove" that containment works as a policy.

The best we can hope for is to take the most accurate information we have, and the best estimates of experts, and then balance the costs and risks against one another.

But remember, there WAS a process in place to address Saddam's WMD -- the inspection regime being carried out by Hans Blix, which, it seems, WAS working. The world WAS taking a stand.

And, it turns out, that policy, and the policy of containment was working.

I don't mind the concept of shading things to the side of caution, but too much caution, too much risk aversity, is very inefficient, and probably self-defeating.

How many more WTCs is it going to take before we realize that we are in a WAR? As far as WMDs are concerned, see Belmont Club on the Wal-Mart approach to 'now!'-proliferation, under the watchful eyes of Hans Blix et al.

"the inspection regime being carried out by Hans Blix, which, it seems, WAS working."

Dream on. Kay may well be right, that the evil stuff was just driven across the friendly Syrian border when it became clear that Iraq would be invaded.

In any case, Blix was not providing a clean bill of health - remember he reported a lot of stuff unaccounted for - he just had a nice sinecure going, plus the attention of the world press, a great expense account and a chance to sneer at the U.S. for being overeager. Sure, it worked for Blix - is that what you mean about the inspections regime working?

I don't think that war is really the right word for the situation we find ourselves in. The war on terrorism is about as much a war as the war on drugs or the war on poverty. Parts of the struggle have been a war, such as the war in Afghanistan, or the war in Iraq, but calling the overall struggle a war is misleading at best. Vietnam was more of a war then this, and that was a police action. Maybe we should call it a police action on terrorism.

> the inspection regime being carried out by Hans Blix, which, it seems, WAS working. The world WAS taking a stand.

It was "working" only when US troops were on Iraq's borders. Before said troops showed up, the inspection team was cooling its heels elsewhere.

The Observer story story quoted below is pertinent. I suggest a Google advanced search for the complete phrase, "Salman Pak".

Kay said there weren't large stockpiles of WMD in Iraq. He said it was possible there were small operational quantities of chemical & biological weapons - the latter sufficient to kill tens of thousands of people. I said back in April 2002 that much of Iraq's WMD and related people of interest would be moved to Syria.

http://politics.guardian.co.uk/archive/article/0,,4296646,00.html

Sunday November 11, 2001

"... In Ankara, Zeinab was debriefed by the FBI and CIA for four days. Meanwhile he told the INC that if they wished to corroborate his story, they should speak to a man who had political asylum in Texas - Captain Sabah Khodad, who had worked at Salman Pak in 1994-5. He too has now told his story to US investigators. In an interiew with The Observer, he echoed Zeinab's claims: 'The foreigners' training includes assassinations, kidnapping, hijacking. They were strictly separated from the rest of us. To hijack planes they were taught to use small knives. The method used on 11 September perfectly coincides with the training I saw at the camp. When I saw the twin towers attack, the first thought that came into my head was, "this has been done by graduates of Salman Pak".'

Zeinab and Khodad said the Salman Pak students practised their techniques in a Boeing 707 fuselage parked in the foreigners' part of the camp. Yesterday their story received important corroboration from Charles Duelfer, former vice chairman of Unscom, the UN weapons inspection team.

Duelfer said he visited Salman Pak several times, landing by helicopter. He saw the 707, in exactly the place described by the defectors. The Iraqis, he said, told Unscom it was used by police for counter-terrorist training. 'Of course we automatically took out the word "counter",' he said. 'I'm surprised that people seem to be shocked that there should be terror camps in Iraq. Like, derrrrrr! I mean, what, actually, do you expect? Iraq presents a long-term strategic threat. Unfortunately, the US is not very good at recognising long-term strategic threats.'

At the end of September, Donald Rumsfeld, the far from doveish US Defence Secretary, told reporters there was 'no evidence' that Iraq was involved in the atrocities. That judgment is slowly being rewritten.

Many still suspect the anthrax which has so far killed four people in America has an ultimate Iraqi origin: in contrast to recent denials made by senior FBI officials, CIA sources say there simply is not enough material to be sure. However, it does not look likely that the latest anthrax sample, sent to a newspaper in Karachi, can have come from the source recently posited by the FBI - a right-wing US militant. 'The sophistication of the stuff that has been found represents a level of technique and knowledge that in the past has been associated only with governments,' Duelfer said. 'If it's not Iraq, there aren't many alternatives.' ..."

I need to say up front that I am not part of the knee-jerk anti-war crowd and that I support President Bush. And yes, there was more to the war than WMD. But we can spin this all we want, but at some point we must face reality.

Something just doesn't compute here. Secretary Powell famously presented to the U.N. translations of radio intercepts of Iraqi military arranging to hide nerve gas ahead of Hans Blix's team. Satellite photos can be ambiguous, defectors can talk a good game, but this is a case of a wiretap catching some Mafia guys describing a contract killing and the guy is still walking around. The code phrases on the wiretap had to be misinterpreted, or they have to be talking about a different guy. So what is going on?

Were these intercepts mistranslated? Were these intercepts part of a deception campaign to make our guys think twice about invading Iraq? Can we track down, if not the guys, the units generating that radio traffic to ask someone what that was all about? Are there guys in custody telling us that this was a deception? Are we offering the right incentives to guys in custody (i.e. talk and we will go easy on you)?

> the inspection regime being carried out by Hans Blix, which, it seems, WAS working. The world WAS taking a stand.

People who advocated a 'status quo' approach to Iraq never seem will to look beyond what was happening at that specific instant. If you want to argue that sanctions/inspections were working, you have to tell us what the end game was. And that was the problem with the inspections/sanctions route - there WAS no end game.

Are you going to maintain U.N. inspectors in Iraq forever? Are you going to maintain th 100,000 plus troops on his borders to get the cooperation they needed? If not, what happens when the troops go home? What happens when the inspectors leave? What happens when the sanctions are removed?

If anything, the Kay report showed how Saddam was preparing for the 'end game'. Destroy the actual chemical and biological weapons, but make sure you retain the ability to make them through 'dual use' facilities. Step up your research into ways to make them fast. Here's what the 'inspection route' would have led to:

1. Inspectors eventually declare Iraq weapons-free. Maybe it even was.
2. Inspectors go home. U.S. military stands down.
3. Sanctions end. Saddam now has access to vastly larger sums of money, and has the ability to restock his military.
3. Saddam begins building WMDs, and has a full stockpile in a matter of months.

NOW what is your plan? Load all the troops onto ships and repeat the process?

In the meantime, putting all those troops in the Gulf and then withdrawing them while leaving Saddam in power would have been a huge blow to U.S. credibility. It would have been yet another example of the 'paper tiger' attitude that Osama Bin Laden was relying on to motivate his people: "America may be militarily strong, but they are culturally weak! They have no stomach for this fight. They are too fat and comfortable, and can't stand even minor losses without political unheaval. That is why we can win." Remember Osama's comments about people wanting to follow the 'strong horse'? The only reason he made it was because he knew that the reputation of the U.S. in the Gulf was anything BUT the 'strong horse'. The ineffectual response to the bombings of the Beirut barracks, the Khobar towers, the first WTC attack and the U.S.S. Cole created that perception. Withdrawing the troops and letting Saddam get away scott-free would have emphasized this.

In short, here's the dilemma:

1. Saddam won't cooperate with inspections unless he is under threat of imminent war.
2. If you threaten war, you'd better damned well mean it, or you lose your credibility.
3. It's very expensive to gear up for war, which makes it a one-shot tool for gaining Saddam's cooperation. You can't keep putting 100,000 men on ships every time Saddam thumbs his nose at you. However -
3. Saddam can repeat this cycle forever, and his sons are waiting in the wings to take his place. The regime was locked down hard, and there was no chance of an internal coup or voluntary reform.

Given those constraints, what is your solution?

Yehudit,

So, this is your solution? Is it really a solution to our problem? Can you guarantee we won't be attacked ala 9/11 tomorrow because of what we've done in Iraq? No. Neither can I. I will say that we kept the piece all throughout the cold war by forming alliances with other nations, isolating our enemies and confronting them militarily only occasionally. What is your solution for North Korea? We both know it's not more invasion/occupation. What is your solution for Syria? It's not pretty but alliances are the best option. We are big, strong, and unchallenged militarily. We were all of those things before 9/11, we are all of those things now, and yet, we continue to be vulnerable. There are limits to military power. One would have thought we learned that lesson in Southeast Asia many years ago. My solution? It isn't going to be very popular in the current environment. It doesn't involve much "shock and awe". It's rather simple really. We should be spending all of our efforts attacking the most likely threat. Muslim fundamentalism. We should be enlisting our allies, we should be isolating those that give these people succor, we should be targeting the funding, command and control, and their communications wherever they may be. That strategy isn't without sacrifice because it leads us straight to Riyadh. Will it be mistake free? No. Will there be bumps along the way? Most certainly. Is it better than an unrepeatable strategy of invasion/occupation that leaves our primary enemy untouched? I believe so...

Nick-

"Then the question becomes, what does "doing everything we can" really mean. I think even the most hawkish observer would have to conclude we cannot continually embark on invasion/occupations around the globe to control the threat. It's just not feasible. So, where does that leave us?"

Clearly we need to rely on the French.

Seriously, while the above response was tongue-in-cheek, I understand your point. But I think you are missing something.

You state that (a) proliferation is a problem, and that (b) we don't have the resources to invade and occupy every country that might be proliferating. This is true.

The logical corollary to your point is that, because we do not have the resources to go it alone, we need to enlist the cooperation of allies who can supplement our scare resources.

The problem is that the allies, for the most part, have nothing to add. We have to go it alone.

The UN has a poor track record of nation-building. If we turned over the reconstruction of Iraq to the UN, for example, it might well end up looking like Palestine, Beruit, or Somalia -- three UN failures. The UN peacekeeping forces in Iraq would likely consist of a motley crew of ill-disciplined third world armies. It would be only a matter of weeks before they started (a) mowing down crowds, (b) accepting bribes, raping women, and stealing from the locals, or © withdrawing into their compounds and allowing the Iraqis to slaughter one another. I'd sure like to see a bunch of Pakistani and Bangladeshi troops face down a howling mob of former Ba'athists in Fallujah. Well, actually, I wouldn't like to see that; I certianly wouldn't want to be an eyewitness.

The reconstruction proper would be handled by a bunch of aristocratic Brazillian diplomats who have never had responsibility for anything more than inventorying paper clips and tinkering with the language of some meaningless treaty.

Call me crazy, but I have far greater faith in the the 82nd Airborne and Paul Bremmer than an international peacekeeping force and Kofi Annan.

But let's also consider a totally different situation: North Korea. The entire inernational community agrees that North Korea is a problem. There is no controversy. No one is making accusations of sinister neocon plots or a thirst for oil and empire. Instead, everyone is in complete agreement. Jacques Chirac and Dominque De Villipen see eye to eye with Paul Wolfowitz and Donald Rumsfeld on this issue.

So this means that if, heaven forbid, military action against North Korea became necessary, we can expect to see the French Foreign Legion charging accross the DMZ into Pyonyang, right? Wrong. Of course, the US and the South Koreans will do all of the work. Even though our allies all agree on the serious nature of the problem, we are the only ones who can actually help solve it. Our allies are useless. A "multinational approach" is good for nothing. And North Korea is an easy one. What about military action against Iran? Do you think that we can gain a multinational consensus on that issue? How about Syria? Saudi Arabia?

It would be wonderful if our allies had millions of well-trained, well-equipped troops to contribute to the fight against nonproliferation. But they don't. It would be great if they could make a signficant financial contribution to the war on terror. But they can't.

I realize that this does not address your point, which is that we don't have the resources to do it all ourselves, either. My answer is that we will have to make do as best we can. We'll take allies when we can get them, but that doesn't mean that we can pretend that a "multinational alliance" will provide us with a great deal of assistance, becuase it won't. Your question assumes that allies can provide us with a great deal of assistance, but the fact is that they cannot. Therefore, it is pointless to base our strategy on the illusory contributions of allies who have nothing to offer.

Wow, another person concerned about the cost in removing Saddam and rebuilding Iraq. Well, we are continuing over 50 yrs of UN/US containment of North Korea. Not to mention the over 10 years of Northern Watch and Southern Watch. If the next response is "Well Daddy should have taken care of Saddam in 91." Then should we start the meme "Truman\Eisenhower should have taken care of Kim in 53". True, Clinton did unilaterally* take care of Milosevic, but alas we are still in Kosovo.

Saddam was at war with the US. The only treaty between Iraq and US was a ceasefire that was not being adhered to (on either side really). That's why we took him out. If Pakistan or India declared war with the US, then maybe we would seek to stop them from having their WMDs with force.

The premise should always be "Should the US Government preserve its soveriegnty and protect the lives and freedom of its civilians?" Bush seems to believe this is the premise, as his response was, "America will
never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our country"

*Unilaterally definied as: Without UNSC approval

"a. Intelligence gathering and reporting are agreed to be an inexact science
then
b. Isn't it most prudent, and shouldn't it be expected, that any errors be in the form of 'overestimation'?"

Excellent point...keeping in mind that recent American Intelligence has a track record of under estimating. Witness... Saddam's WMD program in the early ninety’s and 9/11. It is unusual to have an over estimate...which should be the case. As for justification...sorry to use a cheap analogy but "The swamp needed to be drained". The sad fact is that WMD was even needed to be a banner for justification.

I posted the following in one of Roger L. Simon's threads addressing the same topic....

Personally, I think the reason that the WMD issue was front and center had to do with Tony Blair. Blair was in a somewhat-shaky political position, and insisted that Bush work through the U.N. in order for Blair to be able to swing British support. Once the U.N. is your crucial forum of interest, human rights goes right out the window. The whole bloody organization is full of dictators and people willing to overlook horrific atrocities for the sake of the almighty franc.

As a justification for taking down Saddam Hussein, the fact that he was running a totalitarian police state didn't have a snowball's chance in hell. What would China do, confronted with the precedent of the U.N. authorizing an invasion based on human rights violations? There's one guaranteed veto, and I think Putin would be next in line.

The ONLY common interest that the nations on the Security Council plausibly have is limiting further growth of the nuclear club, and minimizing terrorist access to chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. Even enforcing Security Council Resolutions isn't sufficient cause for action by itself--the case justifying additional efforts must be made again and again in solely self-interested terms.

To accomplish the necessary ends of our security goals, we had to make arguments that moved the ball down the field (WMD in the U.N.) and avoid legitimate, but counterproductive, arguments (human rights in the U.N.) that would have ended in flat failure. Did this limit us rhetorically, especially at home? YES. Could we have done it the other way? Well, there would be no unanimous approval of U.N.S.C. Resolution 1441, and possibly no support from the British. This is not an attractive possible world.

I have always rather liked James Liekes' suggestion that a day or two before a possible North Korean nuclear test, a nuke of appropriate size be lobbed into the NK nuclear facility and then huge regret expressed at the "tragic accident".

Nick,
You begin by saying "The question for many of us democrats...."

That is what disgusts me about the performance of the Democratic party since 9/11: you have questions, more questions and nothing but questions. You also have "concerns", concerns up the wazoo.

Well, I have a concern and a question. My concern: there are many very bad people in the world who have started a terrorist war to do grievous harm to America and its citizens. And I have a question: What, exactly, do you intend to do about it?

I think that, in general, I would be okay with what Joe is saying.

However, I would make several points:

1. The Administration's credibility both at home and abroad has taken a major hit because they said they were certain that Saddam had weapons, when what they should have said was that they thought he probably had weapons. Now what happens when we really do need to take action against one of the real threats out there?

2. We still really do need to improve the way we collect intelligence, in order to make sure that we are preventing the right countries from arming. The opportunity cost of what we did in Iraq was quite high. We need to prioritize our threats and act accordingly.

3. The biggest risk associated with invading North Korea, as I see it, is not WMDs but the conventional artillary arrayed against Seoul. Of course, we still need to work as hard as possible to prevent the Illmatic from getting nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Another point:

The UN has a poor track record of nation-building.

I think that the proper way to think about this is to remember that the world has a poor track record of nation-building. It's a hard, hard, problem.

The major US success stories, Germany and Japan, were nation re-building efforts. The difference is night and day: nation-building involves creating social, political and ecnomic institutions out of whole cloth, whereas nation re-building involves major reform and infrastructure investment.

Links:

*Neglecting Intelligence, Ignoring Warnings*

*Unravelling the Known Unknowns:
Why no Weapons of Mass Destruction have been found in Iraq
*

*Bush Admits Misleading on WMD*

*WMD in Iraq: Evidence and Implications*

I did not find anything in these comments that spoke about the tens of thousands killed & injured Iraqis because of the Administration's lies.

I do not understand why not. Do they matter in this discussion?

"We should be spending all of our efforts attacking the most likely threat. Muslim fundamentalism. We should be enlisting our allies, we should be isolating those that give these people succor, we should be targeting the funding, command and control, and their communications wherever they may be."

That's what we're doing. Deposing Saddam was part of that. He was a major funder and cheerleader of terrorist activities. We continue to roll up Al Qeda networks and freeze funding for terrorists, and many nations are helping us in this, from France to Pakistan. Libya would not have capitulated if we had not deposed Saddam.

We deposed Saddam to drain the alligator swamp. Saddam was one of the biggest alligators. We continue to hunt down the rest of the alligators, and now it's easier than it was before.

"I did not find anything in these comments that spoke about the tens of thousands killed & injured Iraqis because of the Administration's lies."

What you found in this thread is a discussion of why they are not lies. And the daily misleader is not exactly a source of factual information.

Yehudit,

On the other hand, you've got to admit that naming it "The Daily Misleader" is truth-in-advertising.

Yehudit says:

"What you found in this thread is a discussion of why they are not lies. And the daily misleader is not exactly a source of factual information."

1 I think there must be a bug in your web browser. The link you are referring to provided a series of quotes each with a citation. You might have (accidentally) set "Citation Blocking" in your browser's preferences. I would check.

2 Your statement seems to be w/o backing.

3 There were three other links, each saying basically the same thing. Are they all equally easy to dismiss?

4 So, the unspoken of Iraqi deaths and injured were worth it?

he just had a nice sinecure going, plus the attention of the world press, a great expense account and a chance to sneer at the U.S. for being overeager.

Until I got to the italicized part, I thought this might be a description of G. W. Bush!

Certain people can't forgive Hans Blix for being correct, whence the vilification. I'd have thought an apology was more appropriate.

China_Berry_Tree: "In other words, I'm fine with over- rather than underestimating, and I'm fine with erring on the side of saftey and security, provided that we take into account the possible unintended consequences of our actions."

Just how does one "take account of the possible unintended consequences" of actions? By underestimating them? Overestimating them? How does one even know what the unintended consequences of action will be, for purposes of estimation, over- or under-?

Erring on the side of safety and security is, and always will be, a bullet-train to tyranny.

For all the scare-talk about suitcase bombs passed by proliferators to terrorists (and for that matter, the brute reality of anthrax in the U.S. postal system), the plain fact is that any such attack would either (a) stem from political planning of some sort, or (b) be the act of people so crazy they wouldn't have the smarts to pull it off. So let's forget about option b.

The main purpose of a WMD attack on the U.S. from an unidentifiable source would be to prod the U.S. into some action that would work for the political purposes of the shrewd, careful perpetrators. An even better calculation would be to time the attack so that the reaction works for the political goals of whoever is in power in the U.S. at the time. "They would do it to scare us, and hurt us, just because they hate us" simply doesn't cut it (unless you're a demagogue selling that line to the public.) People can be motivated out of hatred, but planning of attacks is done by people who plan for the aftermath as well. (Just ask the Palestinian factions who have video biographies of child suicide bombers on the shelves of stores in the occupied territories the day after the attack.)

Saddam was in the crosshairs of Bush's braintrust from even before the 2000 election. This is no secret. But, they (1) needed to get into power, and (2) needed a casus belli for major action.

They got elected, getting that problem out of the way. But who supplied the casus belli? The 9/11 attackers, al Qaeda. Could al Qaeda not anticipate that they'd become the objects of a global manhunt, and trigger the invasion of Afghanistan? Of course they could -- the relatively dovish Clinton bombed their Afghanistan camps, so of course Bush et al. would go after them on an even larger scale, especially in response to such a huge terror attack. Could they predict that an invasion of Iraq would follow? Not with such certainty, but it worked for their real political agenda: destabilizing Saudi Arabia and throwing it further into the radical Islam camp, by inciting more hatred against both the U.S. and the Saudi regime it supports.

So someone please tell me again: why would Saddam Hussein (or his braintrust) be a party to proliferating WMD under political conditions that would very likely invite an attack on his country?

And someone tell me now: if Saddam ("increasingly out of touch with reality") was being sold fanciful WMD programs by his weapons development people, but the money got spent in other ways, why was our intelligence so poor as to not detect this reality on the ground?

And don't tell me it was because Saddam kicked out the U.N. inspectors in the late 90s. Those inspectors left Baghdad because Baghdad was about to be attacked with U.S. cruise missiles. Why? Because the inspections had been halted by the Iraqis, who charged that some inspectors were spying beyond the U.N. mandate -- spying that leaders of the inspections themselves had objected to.

Let's be realistic. Saudi Arabia is a social powderkeg with the world's largest reserves. Iraq is a social powderkeg with the world's second largest reserves, but it's probably a more manageable powderkeg. For all the evils of the Ba'athists, they were liberals compared to Saudi Wahabbists. Iraq has some Muslim holy sites, but Saudi Arabia has Mecca and Medina. Ask yourself: which would you choose to run under a U.S. occupation government, followed by a U.S. puppet pseudodemocracy: Saudi Arabia or Iraq? Time is running out for Saudi Arabia -- it will become an Islamic Revolution country before the decade is out, Iraq occupation or no. 9/11 just sped up the timetable, and gave al Qaeda the initiative.

By 2009, Americans will be saying, "Well, there was no WMD worth going after in Iraq. There was no discernible al Qaeda connection to Iraq (and now that we know better, we can see why there wouldn't have been one). Saddam is long gone but Iraq still looks like the former Yugoslavia did in 2003 [with pro-Milosevic partisans winning elections in Serbia, and all other republics broken off and under various limping administrations]. Saudi Arabia has gone south into Islamic Revolution; we wouldn't buy their oil even if they condescended to sell it to us. But .... hey, look at all that oil starting to flow from around Kirkuk. Don't we deserve it for all our trouble? And don't we need it, with world oil production having peaked in 2000, and Saudi Arabia now an embargoed al Qaeda Arabia?"

How many future al Qaeda-sponsored terror attacks on the U.S. mainland will this scenario require? None, I'll bet. A few airliners full of jet fuel, hijacked with weaponry no more advanced than boxcutters, might well have been sufficient. How many attacks will actually happen? Probably none -- why would they bother? They aren't stupid. Just evil. And when al Qaeda actually has Saudi Arabia -- sovereignty -- they'd be stupid to use any of that oil wealth to develop and deploy and WMD in ways that could cause a retaliation by the U.S. that few in the world would grumble about.

"But," you may argue, "why take even the slightest chance?" I'll tell you why: because perfect security (not achievable) is incompatible with adequate liberty. Hatred of the U.S. ebbs and flows with its degree of involvement. The tide is now as high as it was during the Vietnam War, if not higher. Why take the chance of the U.S. becoming a police state, and choking off its cultural lifeblood -- immigration -- in hopes of preventing deaths from terrorism that couldn't amount to more that a fraction of a percent of its total population?

Who was it who said: "He gives up liberty for a little security deserves neither"?

Erring on the side of safety and security is, and always will be, a bullet-train to tyranny.
I'm not sure I agree with "always", but it's true that the pro-Iraq posters in this thread have done nothing to explain how "over-estimating" for a margin of safety can be stopped from descending into paranoid madness. Enough of this, "We were wrong on the matter of WMD, but at least we erred on the side of caution". No one here would believe "We were wrong on the IJBC*, but at least we erred on the side of caution."
  • International Zionist-Bolshevik Conspiracy.

"Why take the chance of the U.S. becoming a police state, and choking off its cultural lifeblood -- immigration -- in hopes of preventing deaths from terrorism that couldn't amount to more that a fraction of a percent of its total population?"

What an excellent example of the false dichotomy fallacy. On the one hand, we have the vision of the U.S. as a police state. On the other, we have a laissez faire approach to security with the known side-effect of making us a doormat to terrorists. Gee, which am I to choose?

More to the point, how dare you slander my countrymen by implying that we would accept either situation? The long path of our history has led to more and more freedom for more and more people, and the spirit of liberty is quite vibrantly alive and well in this land. On the other extreme, I am appalled at the suggestion that ANY American would consider the sacrifice of even "a fraction of a percent of our total population" as something to be casually accepted.

Also, on what possible planet would the U.S. permit Saudi oil reserves to fall under the rule of an al Qaeda-led Islamic Revolution? It is sheer lunacy to suggest, much less ASSUME, that we would countenance such a situation. Once Iraqi oil production is brought up to the capacity that modern technology can provide, it will have enough flex to cushion a temporary halt of Saudi oil to the world market, not a permanent one. That gives us enough time to capture the Saudi oil fields, and get them back in business before the world oil market flies off the rails. There is no question that this plan would be instantly put into motion should the House of Saud be replaced by someone like bin Laden or some Wahhabist Ayatollah.

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