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How the Bush administration sold the Iraq war
February 18, 2013 9:04 AM   Subscribe

“Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction,” Cheney said. “There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies and against us.” Zinni, sitting right next to Cheney’s lectern, says he “literally bolted” when he heard the vice president’s comments. “In doing work with the CIA on Iraq WMD [weapons of mass destruction], through all the briefings I heard at Langley, I never saw one piece of credible evidence that there was an ongoing program.” Rachel Maddow hosts Hubris: The Selling of the Iraq War, a documentary special, based on the eponymous book by Michael Isikoff and David Corn, that will air Monday, February 18 on MSNBC at 9 p.m.
posted by shivohum (218 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
I would like to "." 4488 times for the Americans lost in Iraq, and 121,466 for the estimated number of Iraqi citizens we killed. The vote to invade Iraq is one of the reasons Hillary will never get my vote for anything.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:19 AM on February 18, 2013 [20 favorites]


And Cheney will go to his grave swearing through his crooked face that it was the right thing and history will vindicate them blah blah blah.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:20 AM on February 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


One of the biggest WTF moments I've ever had reading a newspaper was seeing an article in the NY Times very shortly after 9/11 saying that the Bush administration was looking at how to focus military attention on Iraq. It was as if War had turned into only a marketing exercise that didn't even need to be hidden from view. Cheney and Rumsfeld esp. deserved jail for this.
posted by mcstayinskool at 9:23 AM on February 18, 2013 [25 favorites]


Surely this...
posted by Thorzdad at 9:25 AM on February 18, 2013 [19 favorites]


"The resolution cited many factors to justify the use of military force against Iraq:[2][3]
Iraq's noncompliance with the conditions of the 1991 ceasefire agreement, including interference with U.N. weapons inspectors.
Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction, and programs to develop such weapons, posed a "threat to the national security of the United States and international peace and security in the Persian Gulf region." Iraq's "brutal repression of its civilian population."
Iraq's "capability and willingness to use weapons of mass destruction against other nations and its own people".
Iraq's hostility towards the United States as demonstrated by the 1993 assassination attempt on former President George H. W. Bush and firing on coalition aircraft enforcing the no-fly zones following the 1991 Gulf War.
Members of al-Qaeda, an organization bearing responsibility for attacks on the United States, its citizens, and interests, including the attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, are known to be in Iraq.
Iraq's "continu[ing] to aid and harbor other international terrorist organizations," including anti-United States terrorist organizations.
Iraq paid bounty to families of suicide bombers.
The efforts by the Congress and the President to fight terrorists, and those who aided or harbored them.
The authorization by the Constitution and the Congress for the President to fight anti-United States terrorism.
The governments in Turkey, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia feared Saddam and wanted him removed from power.
Citing the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, the resolution reiterated that it should be the policy of the United States to remove the Saddam Hussein regime and promote a democratic replacement."

this is from the Iraq resolution wiki page.

Are we really up to "debate this again" esp. with the Obamas extension of the war.
posted by clavdivs at 9:26 AM on February 18, 2013


121,466 for the estimated number of Iraqi citizens we killed

If you use a different methodology to every set of casualty estimate figures accepted for previous wars not involving the UK/USA, why yes! If not, then the Lancet cross-sectional cluster sample survey (2006 version) seems likely to be closer to the truth. It is, unlike the somewhat dubious lower figures, peer reviewed.
posted by jaduncan at 9:26 AM on February 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


As I understand it, based on none other than Robert Jervis' retelling, the National Intelligence Estimate that said that Iraq had an ongoing WMD program, was not politicized intelligence and accurately reflected what the CIA believed at the time. I wonder how this documentary will treat Jervis' report.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:27 AM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


And they sold that war not only on the American people, but also to Democrats in Congress, who should be filled with shame for being so spineless as to green-light this. Here are the exceptions to that shame, which include my senate heroes Russ Feingold and the late Paul Wellstone.
posted by mcstayinskool at 9:28 AM on February 18, 2013 [10 favorites]


> Are we really up to "debate this again" esp. with the Obamas extension of the war.

Eh? It's good to have this out in the public light again. It will quickly be forgotten, but just because we've had the debate before does not mean this should not be discussed.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:28 AM on February 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


I just set my DVR. I am so glad to see Maddow doing this. The Iraq War was the single worst decision by an American president since the Civil War. No one who was in Congress and voted to approve it is fit to hold office. I will never vote for Hillary Clinton for president based on her vote for the war. Her service as Secretary of State was exemplary. She should retire and count herself lucky.
posted by vibrotronica at 9:28 AM on February 18, 2013 [9 favorites]


suuurrreee. Ok

"What's amazing, four years later, is how much influence Iraq War supporters still have in U.S. foreign affairs. After persuasively arguing that Democratic support for the conflict was disqualifying, Obama proceeded to choose Joe Biden as his running mate and Hilary Clinton as his secretary of state. He initially wanted to replace Clinton with Susan Rice, who failed in 2002 to take a clear position on the invasion. For unrelated reasons, she is no longer seeking the job. Multiple reports suggest it has been offered instead to John Kerry, yet another Democrat who voted with the Bush Administration and against the party's small anti-war faction in 2002. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta last year described the Iraq War as "worth it." And Republican Chuck Hagel, who may replace him, voted for the 2002 Iraq War resolution" too.

yeah... quickly forgotten.
posted by clavdivs at 9:32 AM on February 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


the National Intelligence Estimate that said that Iraq had an ongoing WMD program

First of all, the National Intelligence Estimate must be an oxymoron because I was an idiot living in Minnesota with questionable intelligence and limited (which means zero) foreign policy experience and EVEN I KNEW THERE WERE NO WMDs.

But also, this whole WMD thing...that's grounds for invasion? Why haven't we invaded: Pakistan, North Korea, etc. ?

The Bush administration took 9/11 and used it as a wedge to allow them to assert their military goals wherever they pleased. Shame on everyone that allowed this to happen.
posted by mcstayinskool at 9:33 AM on February 18, 2013 [23 favorites]


As I understand it, based on none other than Robert Jervis' retelling, the National Intelligence Estimate that said that Iraq had an ongoing WMD program, was not politicized intelligence and accurately reflected what the CIA believed at the time.

Well, Iraq was all but saying that it did. But we pay the CIA to be smarter than the people who are trying to lie to us, and not just the ones who are lying about how weak they are.
posted by Etrigan at 9:34 AM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Iraq War was the single worst decision by an American president since the Civil War.

A few examples of your argument would be GREAT...like worse then incinerating 200000 japanese?
posted by clavdivs at 9:34 AM on February 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


It still amazes me that the conspiracy theorist subculture survived the Iraq war. When you can get away with lies like these, what's the point of having a conspiracy?

They weren't even good liars.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:34 AM on February 18, 2013 [24 favorites]


I love Lewis Black's take on this. He said something like "I knew there were no WMDs in Iraq and I was sitting at home on my couch."

Amen to this: "I would like to "." 4488 times for the Americans lost in Iraq, and 121,466 for the estimated number of Iraqi citizens we killed. The vote to invade Iraq is one of the reasons Hillary will never get my vote for anything.

Hillary could have walked into the White House in 2008 if she had had enough political courage to vote against the Iraq War.
posted by zzazazz at 9:35 AM on February 18, 2013 [13 favorites]


It's about time this all got re-examined, maybe there's enough historical distance from the runup to the Iraq War that people can start thinking rationally about it. I'm particularly interested in the Big Lie the Bush Administration engineered, the idea that Iraq somehow had something to do with the Al Qaeda terrorist attack on 9/11. The WMD story was our official public reason for invading, but I believe in most Americans' minds they were glad to support the war because somehow it was going to be retribution for 9/11. A misconception the Bush Administration was all too happy to encourage.

But as much as the primary blame for this false war belongs to the Bush Administation, the Democrats definitely were complicit in enabling it. So was the New York Times. And the populace. Plenty of insanity to go around, and it bears re-examining in a historical context. It's only been 10 years' distance and Rachel Maddow is hardly the scholar I'd choose, but at least it's a start.
posted by Nelson at 9:37 AM on February 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm sorry, but anyone who says "I knew there were no WMDs" is deluding themselves. You believed that there were no WMDs, you didn't know it. Intelligence isn't Gnosticism.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:38 AM on February 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


> Rachel Maddow is hardly the scholar I'd choose, but at least it's a start.

Maddow is a bit of a clown on her show, but she's certainly capable of journalism.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:40 AM on February 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


[I am not sure what is going on in here but grousing about the existence of the thread or whatever is not something to do in here and neither is complaining about moderation. Go to Metatalk if you need to discuss this.]
posted by cortex at 9:41 AM on February 18, 2013


The WMD story was our official public reason for invading

I think this was the biggest lie and a mistake. There was enough to invade witout the spector of WMDs emmient use.
posted by clavdivs at 9:42 AM on February 18, 2013


Hillary could have walked into the White House in 2008 if she had had enough political courage to vote against the Iraq War.

She would have marginalized herself and alienated much of the centrist institutional constituency she'd spent decades amassing. She wouldn't have had the resources to mount a serious effort, and she would not have been able to position herself as a reasonable centrist Democrat (and convince the right people that she could do so in what everyone expected would be a withering assault upon her from the right, should she make it out of the primaries).

She was betting, just like everyone else who was in favor (and a good many of us who were opposed), that Saddam's Iraq was hiding something, and whatever it was would be enough to justify the decision.

Oops.
posted by notyou at 9:49 AM on February 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


A few examples of your argument would be GREAT...like worse then incinerating 200000 japanese?

Well, yes. The difference between possibly using excessive force during a completely justified war in which an actual sneak attack was launched upon your people and killing a comparable number of innocents in a completely unjustified war is stark. Of course the Iraq war was worse than our prosecution of the second World War.
posted by Justinian at 9:49 AM on February 18, 2013 [11 favorites]


so, you think the 2003 invasion was completley unjustified. Well, have to disagree.
Not sure what you mean about worse than our prosecution of the second World War.
posted by clavdivs at 9:53 AM on February 18, 2013


After hanging on every word of Powell's dog & pony show at the Security Council I knew three things to be absolutely true:

1) Everything I had just heard was absolute, concocted bullshit.
2) We were absolutely going to war against Iraq anyway.
3) There was absolutely nothing to be done but watch.
posted by jim in austin at 9:53 AM on February 18, 2013 [14 favorites]


Not sure what you mean about worse than our prosecution of the second World War.

Hey, you're the one that brought it up. If you can't follow your own analogies that's not my fault.
posted by Justinian at 9:54 AM on February 18, 2013 [13 favorites]


Wasn’t MSNBC one of the networks that was culpable in selling this fraud to the American public? Didn’t they have Phil Donahue fired (in spite of high ratings) for daring to speak out against the war?
posted by 1970s Antihero at 9:55 AM on February 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


The Iraq War was the single worst decision by an American president since the Civil War.
What decision by what president are you referring to, with regards to the Civil War?
posted by Flunkie at 9:57 AM on February 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


[Seriously, clav, cut it out, this is not the You And Burhan Sniping At Each Other show.]
posted by cortex at 9:57 AM on February 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Didn’t they have Phil Donahue fired (in spite of high ratings) for daring to speak out against the war?

David Frum threw out all the Paleocons for the same thing.
posted by mikelieman at 9:58 AM on February 18, 2013


If you can't follow your own analogies that's not my fault.

There are two (2) analogies working there with two possible answers or more.
the premise
The Iraq War was the single worst decision by an American president since the Civil War.

my take. NO. and then i give an example so what are you trying to convey.
posted by clavdivs at 10:00 AM on February 18, 2013


In addition to Phil Donahue, Ashley Banfield was banished for criticizing the media's coverage of the Iraq War in 2003. I'm glad to see she has restored her career.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:01 AM on February 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


understood cortex and I have be positing an argument since you posted that.
posted by clavdivs at 10:02 AM on February 18, 2013


I was in London in the months leading up to this, with this (still proud, still patriotic) American earnestly explaining to a Londoner how "if the WMDs exist, we *have* to invade." Well, they didn't, and even if they did, we didn't *have* to invade, and certainly didn't have to do it on the cheap.

I often think about that conversation. Rarely does one have such a clear example of one's own foolishness to point to for future reflection. Won't be fooled again. Hopefully.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:02 AM on February 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


Figure if you haven't seen Eugene Jarecki's Why We Fight, now is a good a time as any...
posted by vonstadler at 10:05 AM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


They weren't even good liars.

didn't need to be, because the people asking the questions were never interested in questioning the answers.
posted by any major dude at 10:07 AM on February 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


This might make a good companion to No End in Sight, which is one of the most chilling documentaries I've seen about - well, anything.
posted by piyushnz at 10:15 AM on February 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I still don't believe anyone believed this for a second, at best it was willfull self delusion, because its tameness was just sitting right out there in the open for everyone to see - even in a country like America that doesn't really have great news reporting.
posted by Artw at 10:17 AM on February 18, 2013


There was enough to invade witout the spector of WMDs emmient use.

Such as?
posted by Thorzdad at 10:18 AM on February 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


I thought it was common knowledge now that Iraq did not have WMDs and the whole invasion scheme was a sham? I mean, you have the whole George Tennet "slam dunk" fiasco, the incredibly incompetent yellowcake affair, and multiple other very clear examples of this.

That this is still being debated is farcical. What I think is a much more interesting conversation revolves around asking and trying to answer the question "why invade Iraq?"

Was it out of stubborness because G.W. Bush senior refused to do it once the Kuwait affair was settled? Was it to appropriate, or control, the oil? Was it to install a "democratic regime" friendlier to the US? Was it to just destabilize the entire Middle-East to gain a strategic advantage on the global sphere?

Anyways, as vonstadler suggested, if you haven't seen Why We Fight, I highly recommend it. It is a good intro to the whole 9/11 & Iraq affair, and will lead the curious to seek out more information to form their own opinion.
posted by Vindaloo at 10:22 AM on February 18, 2013


Hasn't anyone noticed yet that the same thing is being done with respect to Iran?
posted by fredludd at 10:23 AM on February 18, 2013 [9 favorites]


How quick we forget, everyone sitting quietly on their couch also know that any serious protest would at the minimum be political suicide and at worst just might get you a free trip to a foreign country on one of those rendition charters. Whether you know the phrase rendition or not.
posted by sammyo at 10:23 AM on February 18, 2013


Yes we've noticed re: Iran - I think thats why we let Mattis go... see previous thread "Your Favorite Army General Sucks."
posted by vonstadler at 10:27 AM on February 18, 2013


There was enough to invade witout the spector of WMDs emmient use.

Such as?


I would also note that just having "reasons" to invade Iraq at that point would have to be pretty significant, in light of the fact that we were already committed to another war against an entity that actually attacked us and was undoubtedly planning to do so again.

So, it wasn't just "Iraq is enough of an issue that we should invade", it needed to be "Iraq is such an issue that we need to invade and divert resources and attention from the war we're already fighting in an area notorious for defeating fully committed invading armies, and by the way, we'll need to prop up two separate governments in unstable regions shortly thereafter". I certainly can't think of any argument for invading Iraq that passes that test. I'm not sure the actual existence of WMDs would do it.
posted by LionIndex at 10:32 AM on February 18, 2013 [10 favorites]


Last Friday I was thinking I should blog something about the tenth anniversary of the worldwide anti-war protests that had been held, just a month before the War on Iraq started. That day really was a day of hope, to see millions of people all over the world, from Brisbane to Durban, from London to the South Pole. I had been in the biggest demonstration Amsterdam had seen in years, well over 70,000 people, including me and my dad and my brother, while over in London my girlfriend was in an even more massive demo, two million strong. It seemed inconcievable that politicians in the UK or Holland or Spain would ever go along with Bush's insane plan now they'd seen the visible expression of the vast majority of people's opinion.

As the reports of demos elsewhere rolled in, and I collected them on my Progressive Gold blog, still on blogspot, this feeling of hope only increased.

But it didn't matter. The Serious People had decided we needed a war and a war we got. And noboby but some low level cronies caught up in the moment have ever been punished for it. Bush, Blair, all their minions, should've been hauled up in front of the court in Den Haag, but instead all have found cushy jobs, making millions doing nothing, a reward for their services to the arms industry.

A couple of thousand US/UK/etc war deaths, tens of thousands of same wounded and/or traumatised, anywhere from 500,000 to over a million Iraqis dead from the invasion and occupation, Iraq ethnically cleansed into Kurdland, Shia country and Sunniville, three trillion of dollars wasted that could've been spent on, well, anything else than what it was spent on.

Long live democracy, protest as much as you want to, it's pointless.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:38 AM on February 18, 2013 [23 favorites]


Hasn't anyone noticed yet that the same thing is being done with respect to Iran?

Yes, Josh Rushing. He was the US Marine lieutenant in the documentary Control Room about Al Jazeera and its relationships with US Central Command during the Iraq War.

Rushing quit the Marines and became a journalist for Al Jazeera. In "Spin: The Art of Selling War" (pt 2/2), he analyzes how the same sales formula has been used over and over and over to justify every US military action since Vietnam.

He's a Hitler.
He's a threat to national security.
Iterate ad masturbatorum until the President cries "Havoc!".

Again.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:46 AM on February 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Pirate,

That procedure has been going on long before Vietnam. In the 1950s, the Eisenhower administration compared Gamal 'abd al-nasir to Hitler. See here.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:49 AM on February 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


I really want to visit the parallel Earth where President Gore instructed the CIA and NSA to find where bin Laden was hiding, and a few months later sent in a small, elite team to blow him and his key leaders to hell in a focused action that everyone on the planet knew was more than justified, and then used the sympathy from 9/11 and the good will of the world to press hard for democratic and human rights reforms across the Middle East. Actually, I want to move to that universe.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 10:49 AM on February 18, 2013 [23 favorites]


While the drumbeats of war with Iran sound quite similar, my perception of how the Democrats are handling it is much different. They genuinely seem to not want to invade Iran, but political realities require genuflecting repeatedly before the altar of "all options are on the table".

Have I missed something? Does the Obama administration seem to want war with Iran?
posted by fatbird at 10:50 AM on February 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


... based on the eponymous book by Michael Isikoff and David Corn.

BTW -- in related news: George Polk Awards: David Corn Wins For Romney '47 Percent' Scoop.
posted by ericb at 10:55 AM on February 18, 2013


The vote to invade Iraq is one of the reasons Hillary will never get my vote for anything.

You know, I could forgive her for that. What I couldn't forgive was her unwillingness to admit the Iraq war was a mistake. That's why I didn't even consider voting for her in 2008, and won't consider her for 2016 until she clarifies this point.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:57 AM on February 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Meh. Not seeing the Iran thing at all - nobody wants it except Israel, and recent elections mean they are not likely to get it. You might see some small scale military action in response to their brinkmanship but there's no will for an invasion at all - nothing like the INVADE ONE COUNTRY FOR FREE card that 9/11 handed Bush.
posted by Artw at 11:01 AM on February 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


The WMD story was our official public reason for invading, but I believe in most Americans' minds they were glad to support the war because somehow it was going to be retribution for 9/11.

I think many were glad to support the war that was already underway in Afghanistan. Like in the place where Al Qaeda was based at the time and prior to 9/11. Iraq? Not so much.
posted by ericb at 11:01 AM on February 18, 2013


And, as to your point Nelson, yes, Bush and others were responsible for 'spinning a yarn' that confused a segment of the American public into believing Iraq was somehow also complicit in 9/11.
posted by ericb at 11:03 AM on February 18, 2013


mcstayinskool: ut also, this whole WMD thing...that's grounds for invasion? Why haven't we invaded: Pakistan, North Korea, etc.?
While I agree with your fundamental moral premise in this statement, stategically speaking:

We can't invade North Korea because: China.

We can't invade Pakistan because: they keep India distracted. This one is a bit less clear, but India is an emerging superpower that is not deeply allied with the US; defeating its greatest enemy would remove a lot of roadblocks to its global military importance (freeing up resources spent carefully guarding their long, dangerous border).
posted by IAmBroom at 11:05 AM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


We can't invade North Korea because: China.

And nuclear weapons.

We can't invade Pakistan because: they keep India distracted.

And nuclear weapons.
posted by eriko at 11:10 AM on February 18, 2013 [13 favorites]


Long live democracy, protest as much as you want to, it's pointless.

Hey, I was out there in those protests (getting miserably wet in LA with a huge crowd of people), and I felt the same sense of sick disbelief that they were going to go ahead with this ridiculously unnecessary war, no matter what the evidence showed. But to hold this up as some sort of failure of democracy is to commit the Pauline Kael fallacy of saying that no one she knew voted for Nixon. Polling at that time in the US was complex--with strong diffences of opinion over what role the UN should play in any eventual invasion--but there was never a clear majority of opinion against the war and on the eve of war a strong majority in favor. The war was a clusterfuck, certainly, but it was not imposed upon a clearly unwilling citizenry.
posted by yoink at 11:15 AM on February 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


clavdivs: The Iraq War was the single worst decision by an American president since the Civil War.

A few examples of your argument would be GREAT...like worse then incinerating 200000 japanese?
... which, in turn, forced the surrender of a nation that was apparently prepared to lose many more times as many people defending their island from an invasion, and at least that many US soldiers during the initial invasion battle.

So, yes: I'd say that incinerating 200,000 Japanese is a better idea than slaughtering several times that many people, and continuing the destruction of Japan's infrastructures for months (at a minimum).

But taken in isolation, as though the decision to drop the A-bombs was done on a whim, unrelated to any other potential strategies to end the war and allow people to live in peace... it sounds atrocious. Of course, that framing is naive at best, and possibly deceitful.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:24 AM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's a whole massive pointless derail, but there's a lot to suggest that Truman had a pretty massive hardon for the a-bomb, and had Roosevelt still been in office things may have played differently.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:27 AM on February 18, 2013


As I remember it, the vote to invade Iraq was presented to lawmakers as a way of giving the president "a stick" that would force Iraq to capitulate on the issue of independent weapons inspections.

UN inspections were ongoing when the Whitehouse/right wing noise ramped up all the chatter about the UN being incompetent, serving a new world order, perhaps in league with the muslims,...and tons of fresh justifications for invasion popped up everywhere like mushrooms.
posted by bonobothegreat at 11:29 AM on February 18, 2013


Pirate,

That procedure has been going on long before Vietnam. In the 1950s, the Eisenhower administration compared Gamal 'abd al-nasir to Hitler.

Isn't it amazing how that works every.damn. time?
posted by BlueHorse at 11:31 AM on February 18, 2013


I should clarify that Eisenhower himself never publicly compared Nasir to Hitler, and only made the comparison behind closed doors and in private meetings. In fact, no US president made a direct comparison between a foreign leader and Hitler. The first president to do that was George H.W. Bush.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:36 AM on February 18, 2013


This feels a lot like reading Ebert's review after I have said "Well that movie sucked" as the credits roll.
posted by srboisvert at 11:40 AM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


nothing like the INVADE ONE COUNTRY FOR FREE card that 9/11 handed Bush.

I believe it was more a of a buy 1 get 1 free deal.
posted by srboisvert at 11:42 AM on February 18, 2013


Re: Truman and the bomb

Iwo Jima is 8 square miles -- about a fourth of the size of Manhattan. Taking that island took more than a month and resulted in 22,000 Japanese deaths. Only 216 soldiers were taken prisoner.

Okinawa is 100 times the size of Iwo Jima. Taking it took 82 days and cost more than 100,000 Japanese lives.

Now, Shikoku, the smallest of the four Japanese home islands, is 10 times the size of Okinawa...
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:46 AM on February 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Right, but the argument is a whole lot more involved than the simple arithmetic equation that is usually presented.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:53 AM on February 18, 2013


based on the eponymous book by Michael Isikoff and David Corn

David Corn: New Documentary Reexamines the Iraq War "Hoax"

Michael Isikoff: The co-author of ‘Hubris’ on torture, secrets–and what we still don’t know
posted by homunculus at 11:54 AM on February 18, 2013


I hate war, but a superpower should have a draft that includes everybody, Jenna Bush, everybody.
But then we would just use drones, I guess. Fuck.
posted by angrycat at 12:10 PM on February 18, 2013


This might be a good time to revist our old friend Curveball:

60 Minutes: Iraqi defector "Curve Ball" speaks out

Previously
posted by homunculus at 12:18 PM on February 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Right, but the argument is a whole lot more involved than the simple arithmetic equation that is usually presented

No, it really wasn't. The Japanese leadership told the world to fuck off, and that was pretty much that.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:24 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Eh, no, there was all kinds of posturing going on there besides that, including the Japanese insistence on keeping their precious Emperor (which they managed to anyway). I don't care either way, but to reduce the use of the A-bomb to a simple numerical equation is really an outdated oversimplification.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:27 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's not the selling that interests me so much as that so many people bought it.

Or said they did.
posted by IndigoJones at 12:28 PM on February 18, 2013


I love a good argument about dropping the atomic bombs, but seriously, let's not do that derail here, now.
posted by fatbird at 12:28 PM on February 18, 2013 [13 favorites]


i thought the best evidence that iraq didn't have nuclear weapons is precisely because we invaded them - i.e., we never would have considered invading them had they possessed nuclear weapons. that's why we don't invade pakistan (a nuclear-armed islamic state) but instead funnel billions of dollars to them.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 12:40 PM on February 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


That Iraq posed no threat was not just obvious to us, it was obvious to the intelligence agencies, which is why the neocons established the Office of Special Plans to bypass them.
posted by moorooka at 12:41 PM on February 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


It may be that we never see the day that those who brought us to this calamity are punished. I like to think that sometime before 2018, we will see some measure of justice delivered.
posted by humanfont at 12:48 PM on February 18, 2013




but there was never a clear majority of opinion against the war and on the eve of war a strong majority in favor.

There was in Australia - roughly 70% of the public against, if memory serves. Those protests were amazing, everyone in Canberra was out on the street; I had never seen so many people in one place. And they weren't all young people, alternative people. There were old people, starchy conservative-looking people, every shape, size, colour, ethnicity you could imagine. As we slowly weaved down the streets ,cars were stopping to beep in solidarity. It was an amazing - inspiring - example of people from all walks of life and colours of ideology saying that waging war was unacceptable. That the cost of innocent lives would be to high. That we did not want this war, did not believe in it, and - through our choked and captured democracy - were doing something to express our beliefs.

I'm happy and proud to say our main opposition party - Labor, at the time - voted against it on the floor of parliament.

None of it mattered in the end, Howard ignored everyone and everything and went anyway. And won the next election, too.

But, there was something powerful that day, at least for this kid who never saw 1968 or any other mass protest movement. It was an affirmation of respect, and life and dignity. We should never forget what we did, and why we did it. And we should never forget how happily our leaders and democracies ignored us. It's always worth a protest to save someone's life, even if it doesn't succeed.
posted by smoke at 2:23 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


The only people with any authority on the subject, who were actually there, were the UN weapons inspectors, and they were reporting - prior to the war - that there were no wmd, and that iraq was in compliance for all intents and purposes bar politically-manufactured bs. You didn't hear that much in the USA though, and people were outright calling them ”Inspector Clouseau” in the media. It was obvious to anyone paying attention there were no wmd, and it was obvious that iraq was not planning to attack. Saddam's biggest wish would have been a return to the good old days when the US was his powerful friend.
posted by anonymisc at 2:34 PM on February 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Am I misremembering when I remember the MeFi population as generally supporting the war? Or was it only a few loud users who have since departed the site?
posted by five fresh fish at 2:46 PM on February 18, 2013


anoymisc-

It wasn't obvious at all to the CIA that there were no WMD in Iraq. Many intelligence officials reasonably believed that there were WMD in Iraq.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 2:57 PM on February 18, 2013


I have to wonder about the mefites declaring they will never vote for Hillary based on her Iraq war resolution vote.

Reminds me of the single issue voters of the Tea party. Careful there kiddies. You may come to rue your 2016 presidential vote as much as Hillary rues her go to war vote.
posted by notreally at 3:05 PM on February 18, 2013


Mother Jones - Lie by Lie: A Timeline of How We Got Into Iraq

“The No-Fly Zone War” (U.S./U.K.-Iraq Conflict) 1991-2003.
The estimated, unofficial cost of this war to U.S. and British taxpayers is around $1 billion per year.
Economist - Iraq, Kurds, Turks and oil - A tortuous triangle
But Turkey is hatching a different plan for its section of the Kirkuk-to-Ceyhan pipeline. Its souring relations with the government in Baghdad have spurred it to cultivate new ties with the Iraqi Kurds’ regional government in Erbil, which oversees the oil and gas that Turkey’s growing economy craves. A wide-ranging energy deal is in the works that will see state-backed Turkish firms and Western oil majors plough money into Kurdish infrastructure and oilfields, connecting them to Turkey and the world beyond.
A decade after the invasion of Iraq, the Kurds emerge as surprise winners
posted by Golden Eternity at 3:13 PM on February 18, 2013




Why are the Kurds "surprise" winners? They've been US allies since Gulf War I days, and if there's one thing history has taught me: It always pays to be a US ally.


I mean, until it doesn't, as Saddam learned.
posted by absalom at 3:25 PM on February 18, 2013


Nobody wanted this war except for the People Who Control Things. I wonder, would a world where every nation was subsumed into one country still have wars? They are very profitable, after all. I bet we could find a way.
posted by rebent at 4:15 PM on February 18, 2013


I wonder, would a world where every nation was subsumed into one country still have wars? They are very profitable, after all. I bet we could find a way.

Robot Jox.
posted by absalom at 4:23 PM on February 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Abs, I actually just watched that a few years ago! It was very, very exciting.
posted by rebent at 4:28 PM on February 18, 2013


Thanks For The Memories
posted by homunculus at 4:35 PM on February 18, 2013


Artw wrote: Meh. Not seeing the Iran thing at all - nobody wants it except Israel [...]

And Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states. Remember Wikileaks? The messages saying "no not Iraq you fools, Iran" were quite funny.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:08 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


the National Intelligence Estimate that said that Iraq had an ongoing WMD program

First of all, the National Intelligence Estimate must be an oxymoron because I was an idiot living in Minnesota with questionable intelligence and limited (which means zero) foreign policy experience and EVEN I KNEW THERE WERE NO WMDs.

But also, this whole WMD thing...that's grounds for invasion? Why haven't we invaded: Pakistan, North Korea, etc. ?

The Bush administration took 9/11 and used it as a wedge to allow them to assert their military goals wherever they pleased. Shame on everyone that allowed this to happen.
posted by mcstayinskool at 9:33 AM on February 18 [15 favorites +] [!]


A few people have already addressed this comment, but I was affected enough by the 15 favorites this comment got to feel it worth re-emphasizing the point.

What you're doing here is no less intellectually dishonest than what Metafilter would be quick to point out, in an innumerable amount of instances, as intellectual dishonesty by the Republican Party. If we're going to have a productive and intelligent discussion about the Iraq War, then we can't resort to this sort of silliness.

To get to the point, you didn't know anything about Iraq's WMD's. As the fact stands, Iraq did not have WMD's. As the facts stand, the intelligence community failed to properly represent this fact due to a myriad of reasons including:

"inadequate Intelligence Community collaboration and cooperation, analysts who do not understand collection, too much focus on current intelligence, inadequate systematic use of outside experts and open source information, . . . and poor capabilities to exploit fully the available data. Perhaps most troubling, we found an Intelligence Community in which analysts had a difficult time stating their assumptions up front, explicitly explaining their logic, and, in the end, identifying unambiguously for policymakers what they do not know. In sum, we found that many of the most basic processes and functions for producing accurate and reliable intelligence are broken and underutilized." (From the government investigation into the WMD intelligence failure)

This isn't to defend the intelligence community. Clearly, this was an enormous screw up.

But when you start flaunting your opinions on some empirical matter concerning intelligence, classified intelligence at that, over and above an organization whose sole job is to analyze intelligence and actually has intelligence in which to analyze... that's when you start sounding like a Climate Change Denial person who somehow believes that 99% of peer-reviewed science is just flat out false.
posted by SollosQ at 5:28 PM on February 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


“literally bolted”
What does that mean in this context. He ran away out of control? He fastened himself to something with a bar of wood or metal? He ate some food hurriedly? He deserted the political party? He blurted? He shot an arrow? He produced some seeds prematurely?
posted by unliteral at 5:57 PM on February 18, 2013


Am I misremembering when I remember the MeFi population as generally supporting the war? Or was it only a few loud users who have since departed the site?

The latter option there jibes with my memories of that time. I hardly ever commented back then, but I gleaned a lot of anti-war talking points from here.
posted by LionIndex at 6:27 PM on February 18, 2013


Speaking of Dick: Cheney Takes On Obama’s ‘Second-Rate’ Nominees
posted by homunculus at 6:35 PM on February 18, 2013


Am I misremembering when I remember the MeFi population as generally supporting the war? Or was it only a few loud users who have since departed the site?

Just for fun, here's the mefi thread: The war has begun.
posted by DarkForest at 6:54 PM on February 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


Jesus, DarkForest, that's painful.
posted by mfu at 7:26 PM on February 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


One shouldn't overlook Judith Miller and the New York Times complicity in the drumbeat for war. The Pentagon would leak fake intel to Miller who would print it in the Times and then the White House would cite the Times as a source for justifying an invasion.

Paul Krugman was virtually the only person at the Times with the guts to oppose the invasion and was vilified for it. This pre-war column is quite prescient. It's interesting that Krugman came to his conclusions as a result of watching the similar pattern of deception and salesmanship in pushing for the Bush tax cuts previously.

You think people would have gotten a clue when Andrew Card, Bush's chief of staff, when asked why they were waiting until after Labor Day to begin their press for war, said ""From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August."
posted by JackFlash at 7:26 PM on February 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


Just for fun, here's the mefi thread: The war has begun.

Holy moley, the discourse here sure has changed a lot - for the better - in that time. Amazing how many people were defending it, sure would play differently with mefites these days. Good on you FFF, for being a voice of reason.
posted by smoke at 7:27 PM on February 18, 2013


Just for fun, here's the mefi thread: The war has begun.

The TV pundits were creaming their pants chanting "Shock and Awe" on every newscast. The journalists embedded (or is that in bed with) the troops provided live first-person night-vision video game views from tanks on their way to Baghdad. Whoops of joy as video showed laser guided bombs incinerating anonymous trucks and buildings.

Good times.
posted by JackFlash at 7:42 PM on February 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also previously: War of the Words
posted by homunculus at 7:51 PM on February 18, 2013


I hoped that Iraq, freed from Saddam and his junta, could be transformed into a liberal democracy. I'd probably have paid more attention to the opposition if there had been fewer apologists for Saddam, and more people identifying the strategic faults in the USA's plans for reconstruction.

That experiment failed for a whole lot of reasons, but at least some good things have come from it - the Kurds, for instance, have a lot more freedom, as do other minorities who were persecuted under Saddam. And in any event I don't think that Iraq is worse off than Egypt or Libya, let alone Syria; and their problems can't really be blamed on the USA.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:15 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd probably have paid more attention to the opposition if there had been fewer apologists for Saddam.

You know, that knee-jerk contrarianism will come back and bite you. You see a lot of it around here.
posted by JackFlash at 8:24 PM on February 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'd probably have paid more attention to the opposition if there had been fewer apologists for Saddam, and more people identifying the strategic faults in the USA's plans for reconstruction.

Keep telling yourself that.

Everyone opposed to the invasion was painted as an apologist for Saddam and there was no "published" reconstruction plan to criticize.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:43 PM on February 18, 2013 [12 favorites]


There was handing everything over to Ahmad Chalabi and Haliburton, that was sort of a plan. Not a very good one.
posted by Artw at 8:56 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd probably have paid more attention to the opposition if there had been fewer apologists for Saddam.

Name one...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:00 PM on February 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


I hoped that Iraq, freed from Saddam and his junta, could be transformed into a liberal democracy.

I don't know what possible basis you could have had for that belief, given the incredibly bad track record of unilateral invasions for democracy. Informed critics were everywhere. Andrew Wilkie lost his job and was persecuted for whistleblowing dodgy intelligence. Richard Butler was considered a laughing stock. Hosts of academics and middle east specialists were criticising the war from day one. To lump the huge, heterogenous variety of opposition to the war into "pro Saddam apologists" is grossly unjust, and absolutely retconning what happened and who supported it.

And in any event I don't think that Iraq is worse off than Egypt or Libya, let alone Syria; and their problems can't really be blamed on the USA.

Are you kidding me? America's involvement with Syria and Egypt stretches back decades. We never would have had Al-Bashar and Mubarak in power for so long, if not for America.
posted by smoke at 9:01 PM on February 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Holy moley, the discourse here sure has changed a lot - for the better - in that time. Amazing how many people were defending it,

We had more prominent, frequently commenting conservative voices back then, but I'm just a bit through that thread (maybe 1/8) and I haven't come across anyone cheerleading for it yet. Whole lot of gallows humor though.
posted by LionIndex at 9:04 PM on February 18, 2013


Name one...

George Galloway did some pretty dippy stuff. That's about it though really.
posted by Artw at 9:08 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


My grandfather was in Changi, a Japanese prisoner of war camp, when the bomb fell. However, these days I no longer believe that dropping the atom bomb was right.

The Japanese had already made offers to surrender through the Russians before the first bomb fell. They did want conditions, but the only one they wouldn't discuss was that the Emperor have immunity from ware crimes.

Truman insisted on no conditions, and then dropped the Hiroshima bomb. Then he refused again to negotiate, then he dropped the Nagasaki bomb. The Japanese surrendered with no conditions - but then the Emperor was spared a trial anyway...

It seems clear from information obtained after the war that once Russia was against them, the Japanese command knew that the war was completely lost.

All that said, I do not consider "using a powerful weapon on your enemy in a war where they made the first attack" is anything at all like "invading a country that has never offered you any harm based on deliberate lies".

I would also say the aftermath of the attack is very important in making a moral estimation. Compare the obviously very successful reconstruction of Japan with the wasted attempt at cleaning up Iraq - bungled, corrupted and systematically looted from start to end...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:21 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't know what possible basis you could have had for that belief, given the incredibly bad track record of unilateral invasions for democracy.

Back in 2003? The reconstructions of Japan and Germany went pretty well after WW2; there didn't seem any intrinsic reason why something of the sort couldn't be done again.

To lump the huge, heterogenous variety of opposition to the war into "pro Saddam apologists" is grossly unjust, and absolutely retconning what happened and who supported it.

The fact that there were any pro-Saddam apologists gave me concern. Also, his supporters weren't all "Brave Saddam will lead the glorious Iraqi people to victory!" types; there were many people who were effectively supporters of his regime because they argued that an externally imposed regime change was immoral in itself. I could respect consequentialist arguments, but I don't think dictators have any intrinsic right to rule people.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:24 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


You understand that the vast majority of protestors just didn't want another war, and looked at Saddam as another tyrant among many. This talk of apologists is simply a straw argument.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:26 PM on February 18, 2013 [10 favorites]


A comment from the 10-year-old thread that I found particularly chilling:

and if there are few civilian casualties, and if the forces are welcomed as liberators, if WMD are discovered, if in 10 years time the region is a better place I feel that many of you will be angry, disappointed that you are wrong.

So many would rather see failure then success, you must truly be miserable people.


I guess we'll never know for sure, but I am pretty sure I would have been much happier to be wrong.
posted by naoko at 9:36 PM on February 18, 2013 [9 favorites]


there were many people who were effectively supporters of his regime

Ah: the "objectively pro-terrorist" argument.

an externally imposed regime change was immoral in itself.

This is a coherent position to take, and does not entail supporting a right for Saddam Hussein to rule Iraq. If I refuse to shoot a wife batterer, my refusal to do so is not an argument in favour of spousal abuse.
posted by fatbird at 9:38 PM on February 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


About a year or two after the war started, I think, I was playing poker at a card room near a marine base and was seated with three marines (about 19yrs old) who had just come back from Iraq. They told a crazy story about how one of them fell out of a helicopter into a river in enemy territory and had to be rescued at night.

They asked me if I was for or against the war, and I said not before it started - that I'd actually gone to protests - but now that it had started I really hoped for the best. They looked truly hurt after I told them. I went to the protest mainly because I thought it was outrageous for the 'leader of the free world' to bullshit its way into an invasion that could cause hundreds of thousands of deaths. Even though, as I recall Michael Kinsley at the TNR had saying at the time, it seemed plausible to me that there may have been a reason for the war despite the outrageous "we do not want this smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud" bullshit put forward by the administration.

Fresh Air: 'The Twilight War' Between The U.S. And Iran (David Crist, government historian)
CRIST: This is not a lie. I wrote a history that I think five people read because of the sensitivity of it. It is an absolutely fascinating story and 70 years from now when that thing's declassified people will look at Desert Storm and the invasion of Iraq - really, our whole wars with Saddam Hussein in a different light. But it's just not going to - and it's classified for some very good reasons. There is a lot of people's lives on the line if these things are exposed.
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:50 PM on February 18, 2013


Most of the crazy stories I've heard have involved sleep deprivation. Driving a humvee full of soldiers off a road kind of sleep deprevation, and it only being luck it was the side of the road that wasn't a steep drop off a mountainside. Those guys were seriously undermanned, and the whole thing was a clusterfuck.
posted by Artw at 9:55 PM on February 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


an externally imposed regime change was immoral in itself.

when this external imposition involves the near-certainty of extraordinary destruction and carnage, hundreds of billions of dollars in waste, the most blatant possible violation of international law, and is being undertaken by the most remarkably corrupt and incompetent administration in modern American history, without even a pretense of a postwar plan beyond naked graft, and literally nothing remotely resembling an actual reason, then its immorality should have been pretty damn obvious.
posted by moorooka at 10:14 PM on February 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


Fatbird: I think your position ("If I refuse to shoot a wife batterer, my refusal to do so is not an argument in favour of spousal abuse") is really a consequentialist argument: you would refuse to shoot a wife batterer, but not necessarily restrain him in some other way. If you said that spousal abuse is wrong, but you would not interfere because marriage is a sacred institution then I'd say that you tolerate spousal abuse; if your support for marriage led you to prevent other people from interfering in spousal abuse then I'd say that you effectively support it.

At the time there weren't many people making consequentialist arguments: both sides had drunk the Kool-Aid and thought it would be cheaper and more effective than it was. In fact one argument used by opponents of the war was that it would be profitable for the USA - that it was really an attempt to control Iraq's oil supply. I don't think people realised at the time just how profitable the war would be for military suppliers; and that this money would come from the USA, not Iraq.

Moorooka: You're making another consequentialist argument, and one which really wasn't canvassed at the time. Except for the bit about international law, and there the USA was actually on arguably solid ground.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:35 PM on February 18, 2013


That's simply not how I recall it, Joe. I recall a wide variety of arguments against it. I recall arguments based on "it will go well/badly" being appropriately called out for being speculative. I recall arguments being made that an action that depends upon success for its moral support, is pretty much by definition unjustified in and of itself.
posted by fatbird at 11:14 PM on February 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'd probably have paid more attention to the opposition if there had been fewer apologists for Saddam

This shit again? FFS.
posted by homunculus at 11:24 PM on February 18, 2013 [10 favorites]


The Peace of Westphalia lays out some fundamentals of international law that you might be interested in. Basically, sovereign countries are sovereign, able to decide for themselves when regime change is appropriate. Foisting a regime change on another country is a violation of international law.

Why is this such a difficult concept?
posted by fredludd at 11:36 PM on February 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oil.
posted by telstar at 11:47 PM on February 18, 2013


The arguments I was making most certainly were being canvassed at the time, all over the place! The most obvious case against the war was that a disastrous bloodbath (at enormous expense) was a highly likely outcome. and of course that's exactly what happened; you didn't need to be Nostradamus to predict this.

As for the legality, read your own link! Pretty much the only argument in favor of the war's legality is that US and UK officials asserted that it was legal - well that doesn't count as "arguably solid ground" by a long shot, unless Iraqi officials asserting that the invasion of Kuwait was legal somehow makes the matter "arguable" as well.
posted by moorooka at 1:21 AM on February 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


No no, Moorooka, don't you remember? Robin Cook was nothing more than a pro-Saddam booster?
posted by smoke at 1:46 AM on February 19, 2013


The argument in favor of the war's legality is basically "If the UN didn't mean to authorise a war then it shouldn't have said that Iran had one last chance to comply with UN resolutions". And that's true. It shouldn't have passed a stupid resolution that meant (if it meant anything) that it was authorising a war. On the other hand, the discussions that led up to the resolution were clearly on the basis that this was just another "stop it or we'll warn you again" resolution. So do you look at the text, or do you look at the intent? The US decided to look at the text, and the US was the one with the ability to invade. The argument is plausible enough to allow people to deny that Bush the Younger is a warmonger, but I hope the precedent will stop the UN passing stupid motions of this sort in the future.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:02 AM on February 19, 2013


Hah! The reason that the "text" of 1441 didn't authorize force is because France, Russia and China made damned sure that it didn't authorize force - because they didn't intend it to authorize force! It was because 1441 didn't authorize force that the UK and US tried, and failed, to get a second resolution passed, one that did.

The argument that the "intent" of 1441 was to authorize force is the precise opposite of the truth.

The US had the "ability" to ignore the will of the Security Council and international law, and so it did. The "argument" you are making is certainly not plausible enough to deny that Bush the Younger was a warmonger; it's basically an admission that he was.
posted by moorooka at 2:20 AM on February 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


Fatbird: I think your position ("If I refuse to shoot a wife batterer, my refusal to do so is not an argument in favour of spousal abuse") is really a consequentialist argument: you would refuse to shoot a wife batterer, but not necessarily restrain him in some other way. If you said that spousal abuse is wrong, but you would not interfere because marriage is a sacred institution then I'd say that you tolerate spousal abuse; if your support for marriage led you to prevent other people from interfering in spousal abuse then I'd say that you effectively support it.
About two of every seven licenses for the export of "dual use" technology items approved between 1985 and 1990 by the U.S. Department of Commerce "went either directly to the Iraqi armed forces, to Iraqi end-users engaged in weapons production, or to Iraqi enterprises suspected of diverting technology" to weapons of mass destruction, according to an investigation by House Banking Committee Chairman Henry B. Gonzalez. Confidential Commerce Department files also reveal that the Reagan and Bush administrations approved at least 80 direct exports to the Iraqi military. These included computers, communications equipment, aircraft navigation and radar equipment

The al-Anfal Campaign, also known as the Kurdish Genocide,[3] Operation Anfal or simply Anfal, was a genocidal[4] campaign against the Kurdish people (and other non-Arab populations) in northern Iraq, led by the Ba'athist Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein and headed by Ali Hassan al-Majid in the final stages of Iran-Iraq War. The campaign takes its name from Surat al-Anfal in the Qur'an, which was used as a code name by the former Iraqi Baathist regime for a series of systematic attacks against the Kurdish population of northern Iraq, conducted between 1986 and 1989 and culminating in 1988
posted by ersatz at 2:32 AM on February 19, 2013


Moorooka wrote: Hah! The reason that the "text" of 1441 didn't authorize force is because France, Russia and China made damned sure that it didn't authorize force [...]
The argument that the "intent" of 1441 was to authorize force is the precise opposite of the truth.


I think you need to reread what I said. The text spells out Iraq's "final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations". The word "final" means that Iraq was to have no further chances, which sort-of implies that further action has now been authorised. What action? By whom? Well, the UN has no army, so the duty of enforcing this falls to its constituent States.

Of course, this is not what the document was supposed to mean. On the other hand, in a world where the UN doesn't pass stupid resolutions to fill up the time, a resolution like this would have been an authorisation for war. So the USA pretended that that's what it meant. It's a case of arguable legality, which is frankly all that you need when you have the biggest army around.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:48 AM on February 19, 2013


in a world where the UN doesn't pass stupid resolutions to fill up the time

Really?
posted by jaduncan at 3:06 AM on February 19, 2013


I stress that the UN's competence would be in a hypothetical, counterfactual world. One where trained mice battle armored cats in miniature colosseums, we zoom around in miniature Zeppelins, and corn syrup is a nutritional supplement.

Seriously, the argument just needed to be good enough that the US didn't have to say "stuff this, we're going in anyway." If the USA accepted the jurisdiction of the ICJ then I guess they might get taken to court over it, but I don't see that happening.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:18 AM on February 19, 2013


Yeah, I was confused by what you wrote and assumed you'd made a mistake, as the "text" of 1441 nowhere authorizes force.

To see what an actual resolution authorizing force looks like, look at what the UN passed when Iraq invaded Kuwait.

"Final" does not at all "imply" that force has been authorized; it may imply that if Iraq is judged by the Security Council to fail to comply with 1441, then the Security Council might consider force as an option under a subsequent resolution. Under international law, only the Security Council can authorize non-retaliatory force. Nothing in 1441 gave authority to the US/UK to determine unilaterally that Iraq was non-compliant with the resolution, let alone invade the country.

The fact is that Iraq did comply with 1441 and let in Hans Blix and his inspectors, who were there until the US and UK told them to get out or get bombed. The rest of the Security Council never determined that Iraq had exhausted its "final" chance. The resolution demanded that the weapons inspectors be let in, and they were.

Really, to suggest that this massively expansive interpretation of the single word "final" somehow meant that the "text" of the resolution actually authorized the invasion that the US and UK subsequently undertook is so patently ridiculous that nobody could possibly make it in good faith.

Not that you're even making it - you seem to be saying that it doesn't matter how absurdly pathetic your legal justification is, as long as you have a strong enough military then it doesn't matter. (Not for the first time).
posted by moorooka at 3:38 AM on February 19, 2013 [3 favorites]



It wasn't obvious at all to the CIA that there were no WMD in Iraq. Many intelligence officials reasonably believed that there were WMD in Iraq.


No, it was obvious. The guys actually on the ground were crystal clear about it. if the cia was so incompetent or ideologically blinkered to stock their fingers in their ears, that's on them. (And from the sound of it, left to their own devices, even the cia was coming to the correct answer, but people higher up weren't happy with that assessment...).

As a demonstration of how obvious it was if you pay attention to the best available evidence, from reading the inspection reports, I assessed a date where I decided that saddam changed tactics from attempting to evade the inspections to attempting to comply. I did that long before the war. Long after the war, the us intelligence services finally figured out the same date. Their reasons for being wrong were not ”reasonable”, they were institutional and political, plain and simple.
posted by anonymisc at 3:49 AM on February 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


No, it was obvious. The guys actually on the ground were crystal clear about it. if the cia was so incompetent or ideologically blinkered to stock their fingers in their ears, that's on them. (And from the sound of it, left to their own devices, even the cia was coming to the correct answer, but people higher up weren't happy with that assessment...).

aonymisc,

I'm not going to belabor the point, but it simply wasn't obvious to the CIA. According to no less a scholar than Robert Jervis, in 2002 “the most reasonable assessment would have been that Iraq probably (but not certainly) had active and broadly based WMD programs and a small stockpile of chemical and perhaps biological weapons.” (Why Intelligence Fails, p155.) Moreover, the natural of intelligence is that is is uncertain, nebulous, and suspect. Reasonable conclusions are always made with equivocation, and the presence of doubt within one category of CIA officers does not negate all other evidence.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 6:57 AM on February 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


I believed Scott Ritter, the UN weapons inspector, when he said that there were no WMD. Believed him from the start.

I dunno about the multiple charges against him about soliciting minors for sex over the internet, but it does seem that it was a cop on the other end each time it happened. Funny about that.

Very convenient for the war-mongers that one of their loudest, boots-on-the-ground WMD inspectors who was calling bullshit on the Neo-Con war drums had so many cops trying to catch him in a sting operation.

Maybe Ritter is in fact the kind of guy who sloicits 16 yo girls to video chat or whatever. Maybe he was set-up by people who wanted to discredit him.

All I know is he was right about WMD from the start and the charges against him came at a very convenient time to water-down his voice calling bullshit on Cheney's war.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 7:14 AM on February 19, 2013


That "The war has begun" thread is fascinating on so many levels.

War hasn't begun, disarmament of the iraqi regime has begun. Get your terminology right.

(I changed the original link to raed's site, since it's just as informative. Add more links to this thread as you all see fit)
posted by mathowie at 9:26 PM on March 19, 2003 [+] [!]


Indeed.
posted by absalom at 7:18 AM on February 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


So even after a decade of being completely wrong about most everything, our resident warhawks are certain they were right.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:05 AM on February 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


"Vengeance is a lazy form of grief." - The Interpreter
posted by xjudson at 8:17 AM on February 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm not going to belabor the point, but it simply wasn't obvious to the CIA.

Of course it wasn't obvious to the CIA - the CIA wasn't on the ground inspecting the facilities. But a team of specialists was on the ground inspecting any and all suspected sites, and it was obvious to them, and if the CIA was going to ignore that - ignore the best evidence available to them, then that's their failing. It was never a case of "reasonable" people coming to different conclusions, but simple the failure of one party to use reason and the knowledge available to them.
posted by anonymisc at 10:46 AM on February 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


If you know more about how intelligence should be conducted better than the people who a) do it for a living, and b) outside scholars who are hired to audit intelligence agencies and point out their deficiencies, you most likely have a very lucrative career ahead of you.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:49 AM on February 19, 2013


Yeah right. Like I said, the failures are institutional and political. Calling the sky blue isn't the same as having the power to make it green.
posted by anonymisc at 10:51 AM on February 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, that "The war has begun" thread is something else.

I wasn't a member then (plastic.com was my vice), but reading the arguments pro and con, the certainty and the vitriol on either side, brought back too much of that old web-board anxiousness I've worked to avoid. Flag it and move on are words to live by.

Must be worse for those of you who were so, so wrong.
posted by notyou at 12:46 PM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


You understand that the vast majority of protestors just didn't want another war, and looked at Saddam as another tyrant among many. This talk of apologists is simply a straw argument.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:26 PM on February 18 [8 favorites +] [!]


This has always confounded me. There seems to be a lot of reasons for why people protested the Iraq War, but the responses that protesters seem to have against the "warhawks" seemed too united.

People protested because:
(1) They were uncomfortable by the PR campaign/government motivations for war
(2) It was too soon after the Afghanistan War and thus an untimely financial headache and diversion from efforts in Afghanistan
(3) Even though they didn't like Saddam, they respected his sovereign right to tyrant rule against external regime change.

Yet they all seem to be vitriolic against anyone who supported, still supports, or seems to sympathize with some degree to the Iraq War which to me I have never understood, as if there was no way one could reasonably justify international action against Iraq. As if defending the principles of action against Iraq was no morally different than defending the actions of child abuse in the Church.

Yes, yes, people raise the question about why don't we step in against every evil regime? But that's not an argument against what we did in the past, but an argument against what we're failing to do now.
posted by SollosQ at 12:56 PM on February 19, 2013


(4) One million Iraqis could die as a result.

And did
posted by moorooka at 1:02 PM on February 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


People protested because:
(1) They were uncomfortable by the PR campaign/government motivations for war
(2) It was too soon after the Afghanistan War and thus an untimely financial headache and diversion from efforts in Afghanistan
(3) Even though they didn't like Saddam, they respected his sovereign right to tyrant rule against external regime change.


(4) Invasions on the cheap don't work out well in the long term; the resources aren't there to rebuild a society in the German/Japanese post-war style so the tendency is to win the war by blowing things up and then lose the peace.
(5) The only winner out of that scenario is Iran.
(6) Mass civil conflict was predictable, in full Yugoslavia 'hatred finally unlocked' style.

Of course, that was just my personal view. YMMV.
posted by jaduncan at 1:04 PM on February 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, Iraq did have WMDs. (Don't you guys read wikileaks?)
Nowhere near the compelling threat the Bush Admin said they were.

That's why the big lie works generally. It's got some truth to it.

But the big argument back then was that they (and Hussein) were an imminent threat. Sorry - a "Mortal" or "Grave" or "Immediate" threat to be accurate.

Which is where it goes off the rails. Because under international law if you attack a country that doesn't pose an imminent threat, you're committing an egregious war crime.

Here the administration (like countless others) is using the CIA as plausible deniablity. Because the way it's supposed to work is CIA's job is to deliver intelligence to civilian leadership who make a decision to go to war.
If the intelligence is wrong, then you can say "well, wasn't our mistake."
Except even if the intel was wrong - or even if it was completely accurate that Iraq had WMDs, the only folks who can determine "imminent threat" is civilian leadership.

This is why the Dr. Strangelove scenario is so scary. You can't have high ranking cadre unilaterally decide to start a war. It has to be civilian leadership that does that.

Which is why the Bush folks argue so vehemently they never said "imminent threat" - so as to deny the basis for the war and lay it off on bad intelligence.

But no matter how bad the intel was, Bushco knew it was their call. Thus the idea of arguing that rogue states don't use conventional means, thus saying "he's got WMDs" which insinuated: he's got WMDs and is going to use them in an unconventional manner - terrorism like 9/11 - so we have to invade to stop him.

Except by saying the mere fact Hussein had WMDs constitutes the basis for invasion, whether the intelligence was wrong or right, and heck, let's say he had a nuclear weapon for sake of argument, - the mere fact of that and denying that the war wasn't predicated on an imminent threat means Bush's war was a crime under international law.

You can't have it both ways no matter what the intelligence showed, no matter what the reality on the ground after the invasion, whether he had WMDs or not, either he was an imminent threat or he wasn't.

The SNAFU here is, no one from the administration has been held accountable. And all that happened was that Tenet resigned.
(Other than defense contractors like Haliburton getting a big payday, less liberty, ratcheting down on transparency in government, etc.)

Even strategically, same thing that happened under the Shah in Iran could happen in Iraq.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:49 PM on February 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yet they all seem to be vitriolic against anyone who supported, still supports, or seems to sympathize with some degree to the Iraq War which to me I have never understood, as if there was no way one could reasonably justify international action against Iraq.

War supporters are taking it on the chin these days because
  1. means matter (they'd still be guilty of error there, whatever the ultimate outcome (the price of the chosen means was 150k to 1M dead Iraqis, 4K+ dead coalition soldiers, about US$1 Trillion, ongoing low grade civil war); and
  2. if one has determined that the means don't matter, then the desired ends had better be met. (What were those ends? I don't know. Here's what we got: Saddam gone and a weaker, more compliant regime in its place, an end to No Fly Zone security expense (although discounted by ongoing security expense), a freer hand in the ME and Central Asia in general, improved access to oil resources.)
Most of those strike me as more of the icky real politik ends and less of the democracy-whisky-sexy ends liberal interventionists are all in favor of, but then, why would the ringleaders' goals (Dick Cheney's or Paul Wolfowitz') be the same as the cheerleaders' goals (Jonathon Chait's or Christopher Hitchens'*).

-----------------
*Hitchens, at least, had friends in Kurdistan he wanted to see live and prosper. Chait seems to have done it for the career boost.
posted by notyou at 1:52 PM on February 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yikes, I forgot to add a (4) that had to deal with empirical concerns over the war's handling. I'd take this to cover: "(4) One million Iraqis could die as a result.", "(4) Invasions on the cheap don't work out well in the long term; the resources aren't there to rebuild a society in the German/Japanese post-war style so the tendency is to win the war by blowing things up and then lose the peace." and maybe even (5) and (6).

Though I wanted to append to my (4) by saying that these would be empirical matters everyone would theoretically agree on, those for and against the war.

notyou: Ah, yes, you also put into words another view of the war that I was thinking of how to put across.
posted by SollosQ at 1:53 PM on February 19, 2013


empirical matters everyone would theoretically agree on, those for and against the war.

Yes, I'm not inherently against wars of liberation. There's just very few that are worth the butchers bill, and they cost a lot because you have to rebuild what you broke.

Now a trillion dollars in aid, what might that have done?
posted by jaduncan at 3:41 PM on February 19, 2013


Sanctions had been imposed on Iraq before the war, and it was clear that they weren't having any effect. But there were lots of people (disingenuously, in my view) claiming that the sanctions were killing people, and in any event sanctions tend to be less effective against governments as time goes on: they develop back channels to get all the things they care about. And at this stage Saddam had been trying to make it look as if he might have weapons of mass destruction, or at least that's how his actions were being interpreted. On the other hand, material support for the no-fly zone was weakening as countries found better things to do with their money; and in any event the only Western countries which really cared about Saddam's hypothesised WMDs were the USA and the UK, not coincidentally the ones with the biggest investments in Middle Eastern oil.

So there were three choices. The first was to continue with the current sanctions, which were getting less effective at pressuring Saddam and were allegedly killing people. The second was to give up, possibly allowing Saddam to retain his hypothesised WMDs and certainly emboldening him if he wanted to restart his program. And the third choice was war, but any hope of a UN-authorised, multinational attack was slipping away.

In retrospect there are three things that would have prevented a war. One is better intelligence: WMDs were the justification for the war, and intelligence agencies got this wrong. The second is genuine cooperation from Saddam - at least initially he really was behaving as if he had something to hide. And the third is a more unified coalition: Saddam was emboldened and the USA and UK acted precipitately because the Western coalition was weak and falling apart. A more unified coalition holding out plausible consequences threat might have made Saddam cooperate earlier, and reduced the incentive for the allies to act before their position was weakened any further. As so often happens in international politics, equivocation turned out to be the most expensive tactic of all.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:02 PM on February 19, 2013


THIS
posted by bonobothegreat at 5:35 PM on February 19, 2013


Joe you seem to actually believe that the US and UK went to war because they were genuinely worried about the threat of Iraqi WMD. So worried that they had to chase Hans Blix out of the country with bombs.

WMD was a transparent public-relations figleaf. War and regime change was the policy from the outset. Intelligence was "fixed" to suit these policy objectives. Refer to the Office of Special Plans and the Downing Street Memos for further details.
posted by moorooka at 6:28 PM on February 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Personally I'm just kind of gobsmacked that anyone is trying to defend the Iraq War and the decision to wage it at this point in time.
posted by smoke at 7:07 PM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Refer to the Office of Special Plans and the Downing Street Memos for further details.
Still waiting on the Chilcot report.

War, lies and video looks like it's going to be interesting.
Worth watching the trailer for Larry Wilkerson (former Chief of Staff for Colin Powell) alone.
Money quote: "If we were not the U.S., the most powerful economy, military in the world, there is no doubt in my mind that some of the people in the Bush Admin. would stand before a tribunal convened by the ICC. No doubt in my mind, they committed war crimes."

One of the few genuine worries was that Hussein would use WMDs within his own borders on the oil fields or to cause an ecological disaster of epic proportion.
International law provides (under the U.N. charter after Kosovo in 1999) that a country can use force to stop a humanitarian catastrophe.

But, oddly, I've never heard that one brought up by the Bush folks.
posted by Smedleyman at 7:55 PM on February 19, 2013


Smoke wrote: Personally I'm just kind of gobsmacked that anyone is trying to defend the Iraq War and the decision to wage it at this point in time.

If we didn't go to war on the basis of incomplete information we would never go to war.

It seemed like a good idea at the time?

I'm not defending the decision per se, I'm just pointing out that there were actual reasons for doing so. It's easy to be wise in hindsight, but I remember what was going on at that time: the coalition against Saddam Hussein was unravelling and it was generally acknowledged that the Kurds were screwed. It is uncontroversial that Saddam had had a WMD program, and that he had used it against his own people, as well as threatening to use it against other countries. He was a vengeful, violent, warmongering dictator whose response to an earlier attack had been to fire missiles against Israel - a country that had played no part in the hostilities. He had invaded neighbouring countries, twice, and there is no reason at all to think that he wouldn't have done it again.

It wasn't just warmongering reactionary profiteers who wanted Saddam removed from power. Read this report from Human Rights Watch, published in the lead-up to the invasion. It lists Saddam's crimes - the mass killings, the disappearances, the mass poisonings, the rape squads and so forth - and calls for his "timely and effective" prosecution by an international tribunal and the establishment of a truth commission in Iraq after the establishment of a new government. It does say that HRW "takes no position on the advisability or legitimacy of the use of force against Iraq", but really: HRW clearly supported Saddam's removal from office.

So if you believe we shouldn't have gone to war in 2003, what should have been done? Wait until he rebuilt his nuclear reactor? Until he invaded Kuwait again? Until he gassed the Kurds or the Marsh Arabs or whoever again? That would just leave us in the same position, but with a more dangerous and costly war to fight. And what about the people of Iraq? What would you have done to stop repetitions of the crimes outlined in that HRW report? I don't have any idea what a good solution might have been, but doing nothing was a very bad one.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:17 PM on February 19, 2013


The Israelis would never have let Iraq resume a nuke program. Invasion and occupation not necessary.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:21 PM on February 19, 2013


(2) It was too soon after the Afghanistan War and thus an untimely financial headache and diversion from efforts in Afghanistan

More so, it was a terrible distraction from the Afghanistan war and a squandering of the truly international effort to rid the world of al Queda. Starting a second war before the first was finished was the most collosal fuck-up of the Bush reign of error.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:20 PM on February 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Jesus, Joe, is there any deceit you won't tell to us? FFS, man, a good number of us were here on Mefi when it was all going down. The decade-old bullshit you spew is rancid and wrong, and has been known to be so since before the war began.

After Bush Sr kicked his ass around the block, Hussein wasn't threatening his neighbours. Blix was getting good access to facilities in the weeks before Jr and his puppetmasters pulled the trigger. The marketing for the war was transparent bullshit to thinking citizens.

Hussein was an evil fuck who did a lot of harm to his citizens and his entire family needed some good old-fashioned assassinating — but as terrible as his reign was, the US caused orders of magnitude more harm: killed more civilians, destroyed more infrastructure, destabilized the region, ignited old tribal conflucts, and FUBARed Iraq beyond all belief.

In short, your assertions range from wrong to absolutely wrong. It must be terribly important to you to not acknowledge that your 2003 self was gullible and misinformed, to be telling such gullywumpers in 2013.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:00 PM on February 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


The post-war reconstruction hasn't worked out very well, but it's plainly false to say "the US caused orders of magnitude more harm": the very highest estimates of deaths attributable to the US-Iraq war are comparable to the number of deaths attributable to the Iran-Iraq war. To this must be added Saddam's crimes against his own people, which would push the toll up higher. We haven't seen the final outcome in Iraq and it may well be that things will end up being worse than they would have been under Saddam and his coterie; we just don't know. Check back in fifty years.

As for my 'decades old bullshit", can you point to a refutation of HRW's report? One using facts known at the time, not revealed later?
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:17 PM on February 19, 2013


A million people died in the Iraq-Iran war. Therefore killing another million people twenty years later is perfectly justifiable.

I mean, it's obviously not ideal, but who could have predicted that starting a war would kill lots of people? Easy to say in hindsight...

Anyway, it will take fifty years for us to figure out if killing a million people was good or bad - it might actually turn out to be bad, you never know! On the other hand, fifty years is plenty time to look for WMD, and they gotta be out there somewhere...
posted by moorooka at 11:46 PM on February 19, 2013


Moorooka, did you not realise that I was replying to and quoting from the comment that immediately preceded mine? Your response is a ridiculous mischaracterisation, but I suppose it might be a lazy rather than a vicious one.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:53 PM on February 19, 2013


So if you believe we shouldn't have gone to war in 2003, what should have been done?

I dunno, what we do with every other tin pot dictator - including, let the record reflect a country that actually has WMDs (North Korea) - a combination of ignoring them, aid, sanctions and diplomacy.

The idea that there was no other choice, that our hands were tied, that no one could forsee etc was nonsense at the time, and in my opinion it's breathtaking nonsense - even grotesque - now.

There were hundreds if not thousands of eminently qualified people - militarily, politically, sociologically, historically - arguing that this was a terrible idea, and why. And doing it publicly, and lucidly. It was, and remains, indefensible. Anyone that chose to ignore those voices is morally culpable for the war and its outcomes, and the idea that, "well it's just as bad now in Egypt" displays a moral callousness that's quite breathtaking, imho, presupposing that it's our God-given right to invade countries at will, and that those poor citizens are entitled to no than 'what Egypt's currently like' from us, or the world.

Iraq didn't have to be no better than Egypt now (and, really, what does that even mean? How would you even start to assess that? The idea that Arabic countries are interchangeable is a noxious one, and arguably racist).
posted by smoke at 12:18 AM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


What, so you don't think killing a million people is justifiable, even though it "seemed like a good idea at the time"?
posted by moorooka at 12:36 AM on February 20, 2013


The death toll from the war itself was much less than a tenth of that. The only way to get to a million is by by estimating the "excess" number of deaths since that time due to violence and so forth, but even then most estimates are a lot lower. Also, those estimates rely on a number of very dodgy suppositions, chief among them being the assumption that Iraq was and would have remained peaceful; that Saddam Hussein wouldn't have started massacring people once more; and that he wouldn't have started another war.

In fact, here's what John Rentoul had to say about the ORB survey of civilian casualties, the probable source of your estimate: "the ORB estimate has rarely been treated as credible by responsible media organisations, but it is still widely repeated by cranks and the ignorant."
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:58 AM on February 20, 2013


But there were lots of people (disingenuously, in my view) claiming that the sanctions were killing people

Is the parenthetical sarcastic? Otherwise, this statement is absurd.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 5:49 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


It seems that Joe is just trying to convince himself here.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:01 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Was the Iraq War Worth It?"
http://www.cfr.org/iraq/iraq-war-worth-/p26820

Answer: Maybe. Time will tell.
posted by SollosQ at 6:23 AM on February 20, 2013


There is no doubt that Iraq under Saddam Hussein was a better place to live for the majority of people than it is now, notwithstanding the embargo and constant bombing by the US/UK. Whether you were Christian, homosexual or from some other minority group as long as you weren't perceived as a threat to the Ba'ath party you could live in relative peace and stability. That is no longer the case today.
posted by asok at 6:35 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


> Time will tell.

That's the absolute worst answer. Maybe in the future things will be better? Who will draw the straight line from invasion/occupation to change for the better? Tell that to the people whose lives were destroyed now.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:40 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Of course, the appropriate people to decide whether or not that the Iraq War was 'worth it' are five Americans, none of whom speak a lick of Arabic or have spent a considerable amount of time in Iraq. Never, whatever you do, ask a representative sample of Iraqi's or even people who study the region.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 6:46 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


none of whom speak a lick of Arabic or have spent a considerable amount of time in Iraq

That's somewhat assumptive, wouldn't you say?
posted by jaduncan at 6:54 AM on February 20, 2013


The death toll from the war itself was much less than a tenth of [a million].

I am stunned speechless by the audacity of this monstrous lie.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:06 AM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Come to think of it, responding to fantastical claims like that is like responding to a Creationist. Utterly futile.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:32 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not really, I'm familiar with all the authors and AFAIK only Bacevich spent any time in the region.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:07 AM on February 20, 2013


I am stunned speechless by the audacity of this monstrous lie.

100,000 give or take is the consensus figure for most credible estimates of the death toll from "the war itself." If you have some alternate research to point to in that regard it would be interesting to see it.
posted by yoink at 9:35 AM on February 20, 2013


It would be nice to hear more opinion from inside Iraq. I recall an interview on NPR with a pro-American Iraqi journalist about a year ago who had finally come to the conclusion that Iraq was worse off than it would have been under Saddam.

My guess is historians will see the invasion of Iraq as a disaster comparable to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The administration made a mockery of international law, the American people, and democracy itself by using 9/11 and WMD's so disingenuously as a "justification" for invasion, evaporating all of the international goodwill towards the U.S after 9/11 and resulting in hundreds of thousands of destroyed lives. But as already mentioned, perhaps the worst part of the whole thing was the dysfunction and blustering incompetence of the "rebuilding" after the decision was made.

This is interesting. Letter to Congress - Iraq Options (2006. Abu Khaleel - Iraqi Letters)
The political process in Iraq was born dead. It was based on sectarianism. No modern country can be built on sectarianism. Although ancient and complex, Iraq was and still is constantly portrayed as Sunni, Shiite and Kurd. The country is far more than that. In the early days after the invasion and while the people were still in disarray and in a state of shock, Iraqis were presented with mainly ethnic and sectarian blocs as their representatives.

The other, nominally secular groups packaged and presented to Iraqis were led by a few 'imported' gentlemen including a convicted felon, a CIA asset described by his own controller as a thug and a tired, uncharismatic old man. They had little credit with the people. They were also out of touch with the country for more than three decades during which the country and society were subjected to, and distorted by, enormous stressful forces that included a harsh tyranny, three major wars and years of strenuous sanctions.

The indigenous Iraqi voices were choked. There were other forces of reason, moderation and reconciliation in Iraq. But, in that prevailing climate with the overwhelming strength of those divisive forces and lack of organization, funds and support, those forces of reason and construction did not have a fair fighting chance.

The irony is that some of the most powerful political and armed segments that emerged under the American administration of Iraq are enemies of the United States or close allies of countries that are declared enemies of the United States. I fail to see how any American can see this as anything but total failure.

Countries of the region will continue to pour money and arms and personnel into Iraq. Criminals will go on unchecked, as they are doing now. This means years of strife.

America was made great, among other things, by leaders with vision, integrity and wisdom. America was turned into an ugly bully by men and forces ignorant of history and driven by greed, arrogance and short-term outlook.
Now at Law School, Veterans Work to Bring Those Left Behind to US
Recently I met three vets, all students at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law. We gathered in a small room on campus and the veterans broke out their laptops to show me documents, elements of growing case files aimed at helping their Iraqi and Afghan interpreters get US visas and out of danger.
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:36 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Whether you were Christian, homosexual or from some other minority group as long as you weren't perceived as a threat to the Ba'ath party you could live in relative peace and stability

That's a complex point you're making. Anyone doing anything vaguely political could be mutilated or tortured or imprisoned, or outright killed by the Ba'athists.
You still had Saddam's Fedayeen acting as the religious police under the revolutionary command council and they had the death sentence for sodomy. The difference being the pressure on homosexuals was used politically instead of being religious oppression. Which is what it is now. Not to gainsay your point. It just went from being ad hoc Sharia law enforced locally that exploited homosexuals for political means to blanket Sharia law.
Not "good" in any sense. But certainly, as to your point, less stable.

"Was the Iraq War Worth It?"

Y'know it's not just the "treasure squandered and lives lost or shattered" and "abandonment of any semblance of self-restraint regarding the use of violence as an instrument of statecraft" that's the problem.
In any sort of system you become habituated to certain types of action. In combat, for example, you can predict an enemy's movement based on how they've been trained, the terrain they're from, etc. etc. So too, you can get a good sense of how a country is going to go in terms of strategic policy based on what it's habituated to.

This is not to oversimplify and say we're going to war all the time or we're more warlike, etc. as that piece touches on. But rather, more dangerously, the rails to that action are more greased and we have to think harder about something not to go that route.
It's a matter of patterned response.

Given that, we have before us right now North Korea. It looks like a dilemma because we've narrowed the scope of tools we use to think about these things. And too we've narrowed the channels of force, the types of force, we use.
It's the old saw, when all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.
And here we are with a problem that looks exactly like a nail. Or rather, like the nail we said Iraq was.

So, for example, we have North Korea saying they will destroy the U.S. They actually do have nuclear weapons. They've said in disarmament talks they will destroy South Korea.
This is exactly the kind of crazy we said Hussein was.
So what's the move?

You see, our prior response in the Iraq war has affected the flexibility of our response to an actual danger.
As it happens, this is a potentially mortal one.

I was for the Iraq war when it first started because there was certain information I was aware of in all this and I thought, coupled with that, no one would yell "Fire" and use up all the water in our truck fighting a non-existent fire without either being stopped or exposed before the fact or receiving a major ass kicking afterward.

Precisely because the world scene is so dangerous right now. I believe, with my patron saint, that war is a racket. But I had thought it changed form enough to not endanger the whole world.

The war with Iraq put us in an extraordinarily dangerous position I thought people were too - not smart, not at all ... let's say aware of self-preservation - to not do.

Even if the war in Iraq was "worth it," in terms of stability, that is a very narrow scope.

At best a democratic Iraq is a pawn in the middle east. It's a buffer. It buys us 5 or 10, maybe 20 years at best.
We've lost so much in terms of freedom of military action, political will, domestic trust, that it's a massive failure when considered in the broader context of world affairs.

Worst of all we've shown what comes from a lack of response. Anyone we put pressure on now, and I'm thinking of Iran, will respond by threatening our allies (as N. Korea threatens S. Korea or as Iraq and Iran threaten Israel), threatening our troops in Afghanistan or Iraq or the gulf with missile strikes (again, thinking of Iran) - essentially, using a deterrent that strikes obliquely, against allies, foreign bases, resource streams such as oil, interests, etc.

We've made it so there's no upside to cooperation. Even if Iraq had/has been an overwhelming success, it screws our foreign policy moves for the next generation.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:54 AM on February 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Tell that to the people whose lives were destroyed now.
posted by Burhanistan

we cannot because they are dead. History is replete with these sentiments. when will things get better? etc.

Compare the obviously very successful reconstruction of Japan with the wasted attempt at cleaning up Iraq - bungled, corrupted and systematically looted from start to end...

You could say the same about reconstruction after the civil war.

So, yes: I'd say that incinerating 200,000 Japanese is a better idea than slaughtering several times that many people, and continuing the destruction of Japan's infrastructures for months (at a minimum).

you said it, not me. I am dismayed you see the incineration of people as the only way to end the war.

I certainly can't think of any argument for invading Iraq that passes that test. I'm not sure the actual existence of WMDs would do it.posted by LionIndex

see Iraq resolution or how about a comparison to say egypt, 18th dynasty. Mr. sun disk relocoated the captial and the infrastructure became weak as well as the state. Saddam did the same to a degree, hiding out and amassing a debt he could never pay. This led to war as it did in the 18th dynasty.


The Iraq War was the single worst decision by an American president since the Civil War.



so lincoln was the worst president?
posted by clavdivs at 3:12 PM on February 20, 2013


we cannot because they are dead. History is replete with these sentiments. when will things get better? etc.

Way to miss the point, again.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:35 PM on February 20, 2013


I am sure that when the Iran vote comes up, we'll be a bit smarter than we were then.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 5:10 PM on February 20, 2013


We've made it so there's no upside to cooperation. Even if Iraq had/has been an overwhelming success, it screws our foreign policy moves for the next generation.

The USA probably has more nations providing material support for its foreign policy than at any time since WW2. I agree that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan showed that there are hard limits to what the US can accomplish, but the "upside" to it is that the USA now has, e.g., bases in Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, and The Philippines. It turns out that nations, like people, gravitate towards powerful figures in times of crisis. Who knew.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:37 PM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]




the "upside" to it is that the USA now has, e.g., bases in Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, and The Philippines.

The bases in Saudi Arabia were one of the reasons we were attacked on 9/11.
Know what happened in the Philippines with Abu Sayyaf? That was a huge pain in the ass and took about a decade to resolve.
Ethiopia looks like it's going to take on Etria now, so they're not the model of stability.
We don't even need foreign bases, our navy is virtually unchallenged at sea, we can fly drone operations from just about anywhere.

All our foreign assets are more vulnerable as a result, Benghazi as an example, of our prosecution of the war in Iraq and our wasteful counterterrorism strategies during the Bush era.
Saying "with us or against us" might have some short term gains but in the long term everyon chooses "against." They have to. You can't be your own country and someone elses' as well.

We're about to have a great deal of trouble with Pakistan. That didn't have to happen, but Bush pretty much put that on the back burner for 10 years. We could have actually accomplished something, but for all the attention on Iraq.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:55 PM on February 22, 2013


Way to miss the point, again.
posted by Burhanistan

Hows that?
posted by clavdivs at 3:35 PM on February 22, 2013


It turns out that nations, like people, gravitate towards powerful figures in times of crisis.

They gravitate towards what they think is in their best interest. This is why the threat of force winds up a zero sum game. We can't act on our threats without creating more destruction than it's worth.
It's just plain stupid to spend as much on our war machine as we do. It forces us to race against our own inflation and rely on a threat we can't use.

And it's exactly why there is more terrorism. There isn't a country, or group of countries that could win a conventional war against us in the old sense. The U.S., as it is now, cannot be occupied or defeated, it can only be redirected.

So way back when Norway found AQ materials that said this was their plan. Strike our allies, force us to waste our strength in overreaction, force our allies to choose whether being our friend outweighs the costs of being their enemy.
The only real question there was whether to hit the U.K. or Spain or Poland and they hit Spain in 2004 just before the elections.
Pretty good move.
Spain withdrew from the coalition.

Y'know I make the same argument when people say "you can't fight your government because they have bombs." That only works if your government is willing to bomb their own population. If they are, odds are they're going to have some legitimacy issues.
If they're not, well, they're going to be more afraid of someone who has less force but is willing to use it.

So with Spain. The U.S. is far more powerful. But there's no way we were going to bomb Spain if they stopped supporting us. And it was quite clear the attacks would continue if they kept supporting us.
Simple.

It's obvious our strategy has made our vital interests more vulnerable to a lesser threshold of force.

Why do we need bases at all? Since the late 1960s until the Bush era we used offshore balancing to secure our oil interests without ground forces in Saudi Arabia or on the peninsula, and our logistics are such that we can move some pretty serious manpower pretty quickly anywhere around that region.

And I read someplace one time that mobility had some advantages in warfare. Comic books perhaps.
In any case it's a self-evident truth that the longer we sustain ground troops in one position the greater and increasing risk there is to a mass casualty causing attack. Biological, chemical, whatever.
The more spectacular the better.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:19 PM on February 22, 2013


Have you re-read "Small Wars" Smedleyman. The tactical advantages of mobility applied then as it does now... not now, more 2002-2006, are just as relevant.
not a comic book but required in many places.
posted by clavdivs at 6:47 AM on February 23, 2013


It's sitting on my nightstand as I type this along with The Utility of Force, some of Dunninger's stuff and David Galula's Pacification in Algeria (among his other works),

I was being a bit facetious.

Given the weapons we have now, mobility is the key in any engagement. Mobility has always been key in desert warfare. Since Saladin.
It's insane the way we fight now.
On the one hand we need less accountability to prosecute the war. Learned that from Vietnam. Don't show poor old Aunt Biddy the body bags.

Also have the CRS' Pakistan's nuclear weapons proliferation and security issues. Kerr and Nitikin's work.
I feel we're pretty screwed.

You'll have to excuse me I'm on some meds. Ah surgery.
I keep thinking of Superman in Frank Miller's THe Dark Knight. It's meant to make fun of superman. And yet.... there's a scene where he's trying to stop the nuke from exploding on the island since it woud provoke nuclear war, and he says "Twenty million die by fire, if I am weak."

In ten days, if I am not 100%.


It always comes down to this stuff though doesn't it? Life I mean. Every minute we make decisions.
I have to tell you, I'm a bit tired.
It's always something and it's always the end of the world.

And it' s always guys who have nothing to lose or nowhere else to go dealtng with it. Delta is anyway. Trapped. Nowhere else to go. Sham.e
I thinl, to a lesser degrre, but in the same vein, we have teachers.

Someoen said to be a while bakc that teachers were stuck in their jobs because they care. Ironic.
I feel trapped in my job because I don't want the world to end.

Funny how that can be considered just another chip or just another commodityl.

Anyway, they're goging to push us out anytime soon. We rape babies or torture people or whatever the lie du jour is and we'lll take it because it serves the world not ending.,

Tires me out man.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:53 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]




Iraqi People and UKUSA Service Families: Our relatives are still dead 10 years after the Iraq War
posted by jaduncan at 8:49 AM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]




Tony Blair: People are still 'very abusive' to me 10 years after the Iraq War

What an oily fuck, honestly. And comparing Iraq to Syria. Ugh.
posted by smoke at 2:03 PM on February 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


And comparing Iraq to Syria. Ugh.

I'd say there are some similarities, wouldn't you? Two adjacent countries, formerly part of the same empire, speaking the same language, each placed under a League of Nations mandate, each becoming independent within a year of the other (one in 1946, one in 1947), each one falling to a military coup (one in 1958, one in 1963), each junta subsequently overthrown by the Ba'ath party (one in 1966, one in 1968), and power eventually resting in a vicious dictator who nominally rules as the head of the Ba'ath party.

Incidentally, Ba'athism is an Arab Nationalist movement and one of its core goals is the unification of Arab countries, particularly Iraq and Syria. The Iraqi and Syrian branches of the Ba'ath party quietly dropped this position from their platform, but I understand that the unification movement is still around. In any event, if people referring to the so-called Arab Spring can implicitly group together, e.g., Tunisia and Lebanon, I can't see any reason to take exception to someone pointing out that Iraq under Saddam and his family might have ended up like Syria under Assad, and his.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:38 PM on February 26, 2013


The comparison is specious, Joe, because he's comparing the current civil war in Syria with the possibility of an un-invaded Iraq being subject to a similar civil war at this point in time.

No one has the expertise or qualifications to hypothesise so confidently about what an un-invaded Iraq would or would not be doing at this point in time - and that's putting aside the vast differences in military infrastructure, geography, citizen demographics and international support, just off the top of my head.

For someone whose track record of predicting events in the middle east is so graphically and catastrophically wrong, I would suggest that Blair never prognosticate about anything related to the middle east, ever again.
posted by smoke at 4:44 PM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]




It's a decent enough comparison. Ba'atthism, hereditary authoritarians, fractious tribal politics. Of course, it misses the key point of contrast: Syria hasn't got any oil.

Blair's still a murderous twit regardless.

It's a shame that Dubya hasn't expressed complaints about "very abusive" behavior toward him.
posted by notyou at 7:06 AM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Being hidden away from the public at large in the hope that people elect your parties candidates despite you has it's advantages.
posted by Artw at 7:09 AM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


and David Galula's Pacification in Algeria
I need to read that. I started to read Ted Morgans' book "My Algiers" but will try that instead.
They should have kicked us out years ago.

Joe in Australia has a good comparison there, it is relevant and not bad of an analysis.
Then defection of saddams' brother-in laws is certainly in-line with that thinking.
posted by clavdivs at 8:01 AM on February 27, 2013


It's a shame that Dubya hasn't expressed complaints about "very abusive" behavior toward him.

He had shoes thrown at him which proves he ducks well (whack0whack) or he is used to it.
posted by clavdivs at 8:05 AM on February 27, 2013


AFAIK nobody has ever straight up punched Tony Blair in the face, which would bd a thing I would enjoy reading about in headlines, especially if he was complaining that it just kept on happening all the time.
posted by Artw at 8:24 AM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think that's the real reason Desmond Tutu avoids him. He just knows if he meets Blair face-to-face he'll lose it and lay him out.
posted by homunculus at 5:22 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


On preview: what Artw linked.
posted by homunculus at 5:25 PM on February 27, 2013


"The immorality of the United States and Great Britain's decision to invade Iraq in 2003, premised on the lie that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, has destabilised and polarised the world to a greater extent than any other conflict in history."
Must...not...Godwin. Let me say that the German invasion of Russia in WWI and resultant Russian civil war had greater ultimate results than the Iraq war instead.
posted by jaduncan at 8:38 AM on February 28, 2013 [3 favorites]




How the Bush administration sold the war – and we bought it

Related.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:01 PM on February 28, 2013




In other news: Bradley Manning Tried to Leak to the New York Times and Washington Post Before Turning to Wikileaks

Headline is a tad bit misleading. Turns out he totally fucked up his attempt to approach the NYT (left a message with the public editor, not with reporters), and it says he "talked in vague terms" to a WP reporter. He also tried to get a video to Politico, but failed to make it to a meet due to weather. All in all Manning sounds fairly hapless, as he has from the first.
posted by yoink at 3:39 PM on February 28, 2013






Headline is a tad bit misleading. Turns out he totally fucked up his attempt to approach the NYT (left a message with the public editor, not with reporters), and it says he "talked in vague terms" to a WP reporter. He also tried to get a video to Politico, but failed to make it to a meet due to weather. All in all Manning sounds fairly hapless, as he has from the first.

Yes. It is a little ironic that Assange appears to have been the only journalist willing to work at developing a source rather than relying on access journalism.
posted by jaduncan at 12:22 AM on March 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Jaduncan, you're just ignoring what the article actually said because you have a story in your mind that you like better. Had Manning actually managed to A) contact a journalist and B) give some coherent account of what it was he had to offer them then we'd be in a position to know whether or not they were unwilling to "develop a source." Unfortunately, Manning seems to have been incapable of either of these two steps successfully.
posted by yoink at 6:58 AM on March 1, 2013


> Unfortunately, Manning seems to have been incapable of either of these two steps successfully.

Manning contacted the NYT and WAPO several times, trying different desks and departments. They didn't want to get near it until someone else broke it.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:04 AM on March 1, 2013


Manning contacted the NYT and WAPO several times, trying different desks and departments.

That's not the story that Manning just told the court, and which the Gawker link was telling. If you have evidence to support that version of the story I'd be happy to read it.
posted by yoink at 9:54 AM on March 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hmm. Maybe he did kind of flub that, or perhaps there is something else going on in the exchanges that he's not mentioning.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:58 AM on March 1, 2013




The Dangerous Logic of the Bradley Manning Case

That's an interesting piece, although it leans an awful lot on a fairly tendentious reading of the exchange between the judge and the prosecutors about prosecuting in the case of Manning dealing with the NYT rather than Wikileaks. The prosecutors obviously have to answer "yes" to that question as posed, because they don't want to make this an argument about "well, how is Wikileaks different from the NYT." The fact is, though, that had Manning dealt the the NYT, they would have saved him from himself by publishing far more selectively from the documents than Wikileaks did. That, in turn, would have left Manning in a far better position to make a serious claim for "whistleblower" protection than he now has. Obviously, from the point of view of the prosecutor's case, they have to treat the question as "if he'd leaked to the NYT and if the NYT had been jackasses enough to treat his leaks in the same way as Wikileaks did, would you still prosecute" because otherwise you end up drowning in hypotheticals. So their "yes ma'am" is yes to the implicit "all things being equal" question and not yes to any "if we followed our best guess as to the likelihood of how a real newspaper would treat this material" form of the question--which is what the author wants to pretend.

This bit, though, is just ridiculous:

I will explain at trial why someone in Manning's shoes in 2010 would have thought of WikiLeaks as a small, hard-hitting, new media journalism outfit—a journalistic “Little Engine that Could” that, for purposes of press freedom, was no different from the New York Times.

Nobody, in 2010, thought of WikiLeaks as being "no different from the New York Times." Nobody thought of it as a "new media journalism outfit" except for purposes of deliberately provocative argument. Manning certainly strikes me as naive, uninformed and rather muddleheaded, but not even he would have been this deluded.
posted by yoink at 3:39 PM on March 1, 2013


Jaduncan, you're just ignoring what the article actually said because you have a story in your mind that you like better. Had Manning actually managed to A) contact a journalist and B) give some coherent account of what it was he had to offer them then we'd be in a position to know whether or not they were unwilling to "develop a source."

Calling someone at the NYT with a large story should probably result in a call back from a journalist, if not the call being patched through to the news desk.
posted by jaduncan at 3:45 AM on March 2, 2013




Repent, Dick Cheney
posted by homunculus at 11:36 AM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


How the World Forgot About Iraq
posted by Artw at 12:11 PM on March 9, 2013




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