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U.S. Stops Iraq-Al Qaeda Talk
September 10, 2002 7:09 AM   Subscribe

U.S. Stops Iraq-Al Qaeda Talk From the Washington Post. Beyond the superficial significance of administration back-tracking, in regards to intelligence there seems to be two key aspects to this story: 1) The article talks about how the CIA was unable to "validate two prominent allegations made by high-ranking administration officials," implying that Bush/Cheney/etc. have been making baseless assumptions about Iraq in their pro-war arguments, and 2) it brings into question whether we know anything at all about Iraq, anyway. What if the same can be said of Hussein's nuclear plans?
posted by risenc (27 comments total)

 
"..links between Hussein and al Qaeda members who have taken refuge in northern Iraq .."

Northern Iraq..isn't that were the Kurds are hanging out? Since the US left the Kurds out to dry, ya think they may talking to Al Qaeda?

Please correct me if I'm wrong.
posted by CrazyJub at 7:38 AM on September 10, 2002


Well, William Safire must be feeling mighty embarrassed.
posted by gsteff at 7:51 AM on September 10, 2002


According to sources, the CIA believes that the last time Iraq planned an anti-American attack was in April 1993, when it organized a failed assassination plot against former president George H.W. Bush during a visit to Kuwait. The Clinton administration retaliated by launching a cruise missile strike against Iraqi intelligence headquarters in Baghdad.

Saddam tried to kill a US President. He wants weapons of mass destruction. He's invaded two countries. He despises the US and Israel. Yep, we should just sit around and wait. Easy for you to say, Europe, Saddam's not trying to blow the sh*t out of you.
posted by BirdD0g at 7:54 AM on September 10, 2002


BirdD0g: The point of the story can't be reduced to "Saddam's not so bad." That sort of trope - that all critics of the war plans are just Hussein apologists - seems to have a lot of currency, yet it's like calling Eisenhower a pinko for criticizing HUAC. The point is, rather, to call into question what we know in the first place - how do you know he has WMDs? Because the CIA told you? Or because Bush told you the CIA told him? More likely the latter; though that's the same thing he said about links to terror. And if the only thing we can be sure about Hussein is that he invaded a few countries more than a decade ago and tried to kill Bush nine years ago, yeah that sucks - but it's not a very good reason to launch a major military engagement.
posted by risenc at 8:00 AM on September 10, 2002


The administration will say whatever it feels can be used to forward it's agenda. The real question is why do they really want to go to war with Iraq so badly?

Do they really think America is in danger from Saddam? Is it to protect Israel as the only member of the nuclear club in the Middle-East? Is it to finish what Daddy-Bush started? Is it to protect US oil interests? How about all of the above. Of course, reasons 2, 3, and 4 are rarely or never discussed.

Saddam has show his primary interest is staying in power. If he uses WMD, we wipe him out. If he doesn't, he may stay in power. I'd say that is good motivation not to use WMD. Of course, if we attack, he definitely will use them.
posted by quirked at 8:02 AM on September 10, 2002


What we really need to figure out is, are we going to play imperialist forever, while some years just playing plain old world police for those countries who call for help? these same countries, who, probably, given the chance, would put up so much whining about us attacking someone like Iraq that it would be unbearable.

Our foreign policy is disjointed and we need to lean one way or another. We try and have our cake and eat it too. I'm not saying that attacking Iraq is wrong or right - it has its merits and its faults. But are we just going to start picking off leaders in countries we don't like?
posted by djspicerack at 8:07 AM on September 10, 2002


Saddam has show his primary interest is staying in power. If he uses WMD, we wipe him out. If he doesn't, he may stay in power. I'd say that is good motivation not to use WMD. Of course, if we attack, he definitely will use them.

This is EXACTLY what I'm most worried about regarding an attack. During the Gulf War, Pres. Bush famously told Iraq that if they used WMD, we would go nuclear (actually, chicken-hawk Brent Sowcroft actually delivered that message). The same promise would almost certainly be made this time. Except there is a non-trivial chance now that Saddam would ignore it (nothing to lose reasoning). Which means we might go nuclear. Which is fucking insane.

I believe that this is actually the primary concern of most world leaders- its just not something you can talk about to the press.
posted by gsteff at 8:07 AM on September 10, 2002


risenc:

How do you know he has WMDs? Because the CIA told you? Or because Bush told you the CIA told him?

I didn't say he has them. I said he wants them. A former Iraqi scientist told me.

Who knows how much we can trust statements from the US government? Not me, that's for certain. But I don't want Saddam leading a crusade for WoMD. He's too volatile of a leader to trust that he won't launch them as soon as he gets his filthy hands on them.
posted by BirdD0g at 8:46 AM on September 10, 2002


Everyday I pray that nuclear threats are only empty threats posing as certainties. God help us all the day ANY country launches a nuclear weapon.
posted by BirdD0g at 8:57 AM on September 10, 2002


He's too volatile of a leader to trust that he won't launch them as soon as he gets his filthy hands on them.

Why would he do that? Look, just because politicians and analysts make off-hand comments about other world leaders being "crazy" doesn't mean that they are, in fact, criminally insane. Hussein is one of the longest-lasting leaders in the Middle East, and not for nothing - he may be an enormously bad person, but he's not crazy. He knows how to keep power. If he used nuclear weapons, he'd lose that power. Now, using them as a threat is a different thing. But as history shows, having nuclear weapons is much less of an asset than people think, if only because the threat of use holds so little water. Which makes me wonder if it's worth risking an attack just to deprive him of that threat.
posted by risenc at 9:00 AM on September 10, 2002


Saddam tried to kill a US President. He wants weapons of mass destruction. He's invaded two countries. He despises the US and Israel. Yep, we should just sit around and wait.

W has ousted one nation's government and has plans for another. He has weapons of mass destruction. He's invaded one country so far, and has declared that he will invade anyone he damn well pleases, with or without the world (or his country)'s support. He despises the Muslim Middle East.

Yep, Europe and the UN should just give him free reign to do whatever he wants.

All of the arguments that can be used against our enemies -- that they're selfish, aggressive, autocratic, non-diplomatic -- can be just as easily used against us. The difference being, of course, that these enemies are tiny, un-developed, and unarmed nations whose greatest ambitions mean jack-all because they will never have the force necessary to carry them out. And we are a major super-power whose influence is felt around the globe.

The more we thumb our noses at the international community, breaking treaties and sponsoring unilateral military action against our so-called enemies, the less we look like a world leader. And the more we look like the enemy we're dead set on fighting.
posted by dogmatic at 9:02 AM on September 10, 2002


Birddog:
A former Iraqi scientist at the launch of his book (that's "a book launch") says Saddam has a bomb and you suggest we go to war just in case...

Since logic doesn't appear to be a pre-requisite these days you should be in government:

"Condoleezza Rice, asked about the extent of Iraq's nuclear capacity, said, "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud." She may as well have said, "If this person, who doesn't have any nuclear weapons, should come upon some, and then launch an attack upon us, with no care for the probable ramifications, well, that would be bad, wouldn't it?" Too right. It would be terrible, in a hypothetical kind of way.

Mr Cheney carried on with "I suppose we could be optimistic and say that [Saddam] is going to change his spots, but I doubt it," despite the fact that the leopard in question has never before launched a nuclear attack upon anyone and therefore, strictly speaking, would have to change his spots just to go for us in the first place. "

posted by niceness at 9:12 AM on September 10, 2002


Oh please. Yeah, America has the most powerful military in history, we should be so ashamed. Awful, warmongering us.

World opinion is important and should be bowed to whenever possible. But OBL and Saddam can legitimately be considered dangerous enough to risk flouting it if necessary. In 1982, Israel blew up an Iraqi nuclear reactor, acting unilaterally in the face of worldwide disapproval. Had they not, Iraq would have had nuclear weapons ten years ago.

The check on the president should be congress, not international opinion.
posted by gsteff at 9:13 AM on September 10, 2002


Jeez, I'm too scared to post a breaking-news-terrorism alert to the front page, but the news outlets are going nuts saying that the terror alert status is about to be raised, and MSNBC is saying that Rumsfeld is about to approve the positioning of surface-to-air missiles around the Capitol.
posted by gsteff at 9:23 AM on September 10, 2002


. . . it brings into question whether we know anything at all about Iraq. . .


The International Institute for Strategic Studies released a report on Monday detailing Iraq's current capabilities regarding weapons of mass destruction. Basically, it says they don't have nuclear capabilities and won't get them with out foreign aid. However, the report also indicates that Iraq most likely has significant stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons with only limited means/missiles to launch any attacks (which would be limited to Middle East using conventional military methods).

Thanks to Kuro5hin for the links.
posted by ajr at 9:30 AM on September 10, 2002


- how do you know he has WMDs?

How do we know he doesn't?
Or more precisley, Is it more likely that he does or is it more likely that he doesn't have WMDs?

Shoulder shrugs are not an acceptible response. Which position would you like to defend?

He was caught with WMDs after the Guld War, which was 10 years after the Israelis knocked out his Reactor/nuke research and construction facilty.

He failed to live up to the surrender agreements of the gulf war, and now you want to argue that absent proof, we should assume he hasn't the capacity?

I nominate you for this years prestigious Chamberlain Foreign Policy Intestinal Fortitude prize.
posted by BentPenguin at 9:33 AM on September 10, 2002


Don't kid yourselves, this is Israel's war, not America's. If Saddam reaches nuclear parity with Israel it will reshape the Middle East-- not because Saddam will launch an unprovoked attack on Israel, but because Israel will no longer be the Middle East's hegemon. With nuclear parity, Israel will be forced to make concessions to international law and UN resolutions, and perhaps even sign a peace deal with the Palestinians. They will also be more likely to return the Golan Heights to Syria, which Israel sees as incredibly important strategically.

Since most Americans believe in the notion that the Arab hordes are a giant group of bloodthirsty savages who hate Israel without cause, and will sacrifice everything in order to destroy them, it's quite easy to convince them that Saddam having a nuclear bomb would mean the destruction of Israel and a second holocaust for the Jewish people.

While I personally support action against Saddam, and think it would be awful for him to achieve nuclear parity with Israel, I do believe it's important to examine the real motivations behind the war. Iraq poses very little threat to America, and in reality the threat he poses to Israel is a diplomatic one not an existential one. However the problem is that Israel, as a country that is nothing if not responsive to its citizens, can be trusted to protect them from nuclear war, whereas Saddam's Iraq is a very different place. If a war for whatever reason were to break out, the last thing you'd want is a terrified Israel and a nuclear Iraq going at it. India and Pakistan are nothing compared to the potential for doomsday in that scenario.
posted by cell divide at 9:35 AM on September 10, 2002


However, the report also indicates that Iraq most likely has significant stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons with only limited means/missiles to launch any attacks (which would be limited to Middle East using conventional military methods).


And he has no doubt, thanks to to the loud slow preparations of the US Attack, already put into place substantial contingency plans should he in fact be taken out of the game. In this respect, the looming war in Iraq will be anything but distant for America.

My hunch is the real gameplay will be:

  • The US strikes Iraq hard
  • Iraq then strikes Israel harder to draw in the rest of the middle east (same strategy as last time
  • Israel then nukes Iraq hard, and is universally ostracized by the int'l community including the US (but with a wink & a nod). Since they have nothing to lose in int'l reputation, its easier for them, andnthe US will take care of the bill in the long run.

    Lots of dead people all over the place causes the whole region sober up.

    Meanwhile, China takes advantage of the US preoccupation to seize Taiwan, but thats for another day and another thread One way or another, much history is about to be written....

    On Preview: CellDivide's analysis is spot on, but only half the picture as it fails to take into account the formidable Hussein/Bush feud.

  • posted by BentPenguin at 10:00 AM on September 10, 2002


    I'm sure that replacing the government to get our hands on the vast oil reserves there is on absolutely no one's mind as well.
    posted by Espoo2 at 10:04 AM on September 10, 2002


    W has ousted one nation's government and has plans for another. He has weapons of mass destruction. He's invaded one country so far, and has declared that he will invade anyone he damn well pleases, with or without the world (or his country)'s support. He despises the Muslim Middle East.

    Our country ousted a government that supported the murder of nearly 3,000 innocent civilians. W is not a dictator. dogmatic, did you NOT support the removal of the Taliban? Yes, we have WoMD, but we also have a system of checks and balances. Democracy is the key word here, pal. Comparing an American president to a dictator is a joke. Seriously.
    posted by BirdD0g at 10:09 AM on September 10, 2002


    As for BirdDog's "checks and balances" - leaked documents from the Whitehouse reveal how your chief administrator's legal experts are arranging his circumvention of them. Lets have a look, shall we?

    1. the resolution authorising force in the Gulf War in 1991 was never repealed - so is still in force! Carte blanche licence to invade Iraq whenever he feels like it (let me know how well that 'check and balance' thing of yours is working there, will ya'?)

    2. by redefining 'pre-emptive war' as defensive, he allows himself to direct American troops as their Supreme Commander without reference to 'checks and balances'. Balanced - I like your word 'joke' here. Seriously.

    3. (the best in the context of this thread) Congress gave him licence to act against whomever he determined was responsible for the September 11 attacks. Proved Iraqi involvement = (unchecked) licence to invade. Hence the sand dance.

    "Is there any confirmed evidence of Iraq's links to terrorism? No," said Vincent M. Cannistraro, former head of the CIA's counterterrorism office. Oh dear.

    The check on the president should be congress, not international opinion.

    ermmm...no - the check on any country should be international opinion - for precisely this reason.
    posted by RichLyon at 11:12 AM on September 10, 2002


    I nominate you for this years prestigious Chamberlain Foreign Policy Intestinal Fortitude prize.

    And for advocating a major conflict based on flimsy evidence, I nominate you for: The Lyndon Johnson Shot in the Dark Prize!

    But seriously, the current situation has no parallel with Munich in 1938. Germany had a stronger army than Iraq, posed an immediate threat to its neighbors and was explicitly demanding, on the threat of war, international permission to invade Czechoslovakia. Hussein has a weak military, and he poses little threat to his neighbors (I know, I know, unless he builds a bomb, but he's not even positioned to threaten them currently). Chamberlain is derided for reneging on Britain's promise to defend the Czechs. How does that at all reflect today?
    posted by risenc at 11:33 AM on September 10, 2002


    RichLyon:

    The last thing I want to do is turn this into an US vs. you, but try and understand my position. My country was targeted on 9/11/01. My friends and family took the blow. Saddam has tried to kill my president. Saddam would love to do more damage to my country. Not yours. I don't want the bastard around anymore.

    It may be easy for you to say, "Let's wait and see what happens." For me, it's not that simple. Sure, the whole world, you included, would be behind us if Saddam did something along the lines of the WTC disaster. Personally, I'd rather he be removed now.

    It's a big mess, man, I don't disagree with that. But I do disagree with the implied argument that GWB is some maniac on a warpath. While many global issues should rely on international approval, our country trying to protect its own should not.

    Anyway, I'm tired of thinking about this sh*t all day. It's a horrible way to pass my time. So if anyone wants to say, "It's all about the oil," go nuts. I'm done.
    posted by BirdD0g at 1:24 PM on September 10, 2002


    It's all about the oil.

    (Sorry. I had to.)
    posted by *burp* at 1:39 PM on September 10, 2002


    BirdDog - I agree, and having had all of those things happen to me too (targetted country, injured friends, attacked Prime Minister, etc.) can well understand your feelings. I don't think the man is a maniac. I do think he is weak, that he is being bullied, and that he is leading you on a fool's errand. I'll have a rest, too.
    posted by RichLyon at 1:46 PM on September 10, 2002


    My country was targeted on 9/11/01.

    Yes, I've read about this. I think we all have. And I've also read that the US government has never developed convincing evidence linking this event to Iraq, despite its best efforts to do so. So how does that bear on this discussion?
    posted by SPrintF at 5:43 PM on September 10, 2002


    RichLyon - Thanks for the understanding. I understand your point, too. The Middle East is a mess and I really don't know what the best way to fix it all is.

    You would know how this bears, SPrintF, if you'd been part of the discussion or at least read it all. My point is the prevention of another 9/11. Why wait until Saddam has WoMD, as it would only make his removal more costly to the US and the rest of the world. I guess to understand my argument, you have to believe that Saddam is a bad man with bad intentions. If you don't believe that, there's not much I can do to make you understand what I'm saying.
    posted by BirdD0g at 7:43 PM on September 10, 2002


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