Friday, March 25, 2005

I'll have pre-emptive war on the rocks
At the Foundation for the Defense of George Bush's foreign policy U.S. hegemony completely unsustainable hypotheses Democracies, Cliff May says the history of the Iraq War is being twisted by Evil Liberals. You see, it really wasn't about Weapons of Mass Destruction at all, it was about those 23 other reasons that the U.S. Senate supplied as justification for its illegal violation of the UN Charter! It was about human rights and freedom and terra, and...and...freedom! See? He writes:

Isn't it odd that such clear and compelling justifications for the war and where it might lead have been largely forgotten in what passes for debate these days?Instead, the talking point we hear -- over and over -- is that the casus belli for the invasion was simply and exclusively Saddam's possession of stocks of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). That is usually followed by the assertion that since no such caches of WMD have been found, the war was unjustified and, it is customary to add in an outraged tone, based on a bald-faced “lie.”

Which is itself a bald-faced lie – as the quotes above establish, as does the fact, noted by historian Victor Davis Hanson, that in the run-up to the invasion, the U.S. Senate “on its own cited 23 causes of action, well beyond the issue of weapons of mass destruction, and thus established bipartisan agreement on several grounds for removing Saddam.”

But it is true that Saddam's possession of WMD stocks was something every major intelligence agency in the world believed. By contrast, many people – Democrats and Republicans alike -- disagreed with Bush when he said he intended to “defend the world from a grave danger.”



It may be true that in their desire to justify a war they had clearly decided to launch in 2001, the President and eager apologists like Cliff May advanced a number of reasons to invade Iraq, from the idea that it would solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the idea that it would help get steroids out of baseball. But the only justification that was advanced before the UN Security Council was the allegation that Saddam was hiding WMD and that the professional inspectors who were so rudely tossed out of the country when Bush decided time was up couldn't possibly have found them. Let us have a look at UN Security Council Resolution 1441, which Bush claims provided legal cover for the invasion. The Resolution resolves that

5....Iraq shall provide UNMOVIC and the IAEA immediate, unimpeded, unconditional, and unrestricted access to any and all, including underground, areas, facilities, buildings, equipment, records, and means of transport which they wish to inspect, as well as immediate, unimpeded, unrestricted, and private access to all officials and other persons whom UNMOVIC or the IAEA wish to interview in the mode or location of UNMOVIC’s or the IAEA’s choice pursuant to any aspect of their mandates; further decides that UNMOVIC and the IAEA may at their discretion conduct interviews inside or outside of Iraq, may facilitate the travel of those interviewed and family members outside of Iraq, and that, at the sole discretion of UNMOVIC and the IAEA, such interviews may occur without the presence of observers from the Iraqi Government; and instructs UNMOVIC and requests the IAEA to resume inspections no later than 45 days following adoption of this resolution and to update the Council 60 days thereafter;


and concludes:

13. Recalls, in that context, that the Council has repeatedly warned Iraq that it will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its obligations;
14. Decides to remain seized of the matter.

On this reading of 1441, Iraq was in compliance with the demands of the Security Council. We now know, of course, that there were no WMD in Iraq at the time, that they had most likely been completely destroyed between 1991 and 1998, just as Scott Ritter said they had been. You can also see from this resolution that because Iraq complied with point 5 of the resolution, the U.S. needed (and failed) to obtain a new resolution authorizing the war. No clause of any of the relevant UN resolutions authorized member states to invade Iraq if Saddam complied with the demands of the Security Council. The inspectors on the ground, who had found absolutely nothing, could have provided this information in a matter of weeks without anyone having to go to war.

But -- and here's where I agree with Cliff May -- the war was never about WMD. This was merely the legal and political cassus belli for a much larger strategic power grab in the region. Yet while the architects of the war may never have believed the war was about WMD, the public certainly did, because that's what they were told by the president and his advisors again and again. Here's Condi Rice in September 2002:

The problem here is that there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.
For the president's apologists to argue now that the WMD were never an important part of the president's case is pure political sophistry. The WMD and the fake links to al-Qaeda were the only reasons anyone supported the war in the first place. Had the president told the truth about the war, he would not have had majority support for it it, and he would likely not be in office right now. So whatever the administration's actual strategic designs, and whatever Cliff May's fleeting sympathies for Iraqi human rights, in a very real sense the war was about WMD. The only revisionist history being written right now is by the victors in the White House and their fellow travelers.

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