Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Imminent Threat

Republicans and Democrats shouted, hurled insults and in the end gave new and ferocious meaning to partisanship. A debate over withdrawal from Iraq has descended into rancorous accusations that exemplify a nation divided.

As some noted, this is a replay of Vietnam, a war decided in the corridors of Congress rather than the Southeast Asian battlefield. Surely, the lessons of the past are not lost on al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. They cannot defeat us in Iraq, but they can certainly test American fortitude.

Yet the ugly exchanges in the House of Representatives overlook critical dimensions of this war on terror, matters that have potentially catastrophic implications for the nation.

On November 5 the Global Islamic Media Front, a propaganda creation that disseminates al Zarqawi’s positions, announced a prize for the best proposed logo at its new website. The winner of the contest will be “privileged” to launch “three long range rockets against an American military base in Iraq (…the pressing of a button by a blessed hand.”

The announcement went on to note that Jaysh Al-Ta’ifa Al–Mansura, a radical Sunni Islamic organization composed of former military officers who served Saddam Hussein, has developed “a rocket, effective and precise, as we had promised you, using the highest level of technology …capable of launch from long range via remote control from anywhere in the world.” As these radicals note, they have the means – or claim to have the means – “to destroy the fortresses of polytheism and the infidels… .”

Whether this is merely an empty threat designed to appeal to adherents remains to be seen. However, it should be noted that this website has received more than 50,000 “hits.”

This website proposal is not unique. The Sunday Times of London reports that another al Qaeda website contains detailed instructions in Arabic on how to make nuclear, “dirty” and biological bombs. This site has 80 pages of instructions and pictures of kitchen bomb-making techniques.

Under the heading of the Nuclear Bomb of Jihad are instructions on ways to enrich uranium as a gift to the commander of jihad fighters, Osama bin Laden. Readers are encouraged to look for materials such as radium, which it claims is an “effective alternative to uranium and available on the market.”

Quoting the Koran, the anonymous architect of the site notes, “Fight them so that Allah will punish them at your hands and will put them to shame and will give you victory over them.”

John Hassard, a physicist at Imperial College London, maintains that this website offers “a proper instruction manual” for would-be terrorists. “It is a very real threat and one we can’t afford to ignore,” he said.

If this website is to be taken seriously, al Qaeda is striving to move directly from a stage where weapons of mass destruction are obtained to one in which they are deployed. Moreover, these threats serve as a propaganda vehicle and a recruitment device.

While the Congress dithers over whether we should leave Iraq precipitously or remain, our enemy is building or attempting to build weapons of mass destruction. There can be little doubt that if fissionsable material is obtained and converted into a weapon, it will be used.

This threat must be taken seriously. If it requires preemption, then preemption we must have. If it requires enhanced counter intelligence, then we must put that in place. If it means draining the Middle East swamp of fanatical jihadists, then we must be prepared to do so.

The websites that call for attacks against the United States and its allies cannot be dismissed as sheer hyperbole. We are at war and our survival is at stake. Those in the Congress who cannot recognize that do not deserve to represent the American people.

The appeasers in our midst believe that if we keep on feeding the carnivores red meat, they will become vegetarians. But history teaches a very different lesson. Those who refuse to fight are likely to die with their hands in the air. History can be merciless to those who won’t defend themselves. That is a point that must be shouted on the House of Representatives floor.

24 comments:

connie deady said...

The appeasers in our midst believe that if we keep on feeding the carnivores red meat, they will become vegetarians. But history teaches a very different lesson. Those who refuse to fight are likely to die with their hands in the air. History can be merciless to those who won’t defend themselves. That is a point that must be shouted on the House of Representatives floor.

I have a hard time with labeling language such as "appeasers" because I'm not sure that people are against "fighting". Even pacifist that I am, I supported going into Afghanistan and I'm fully ready, willing and able to fight terrorists.

The debate isn't about whether to fight or not, it's about how best to fight. If our goal is make ourselve safer from terrorists, it's always legitimate to ask whether the war in Iraq is helping us to achieve or goal, and if not, how to best direct our efforts.

Part of that question is raised with the understanding that Iraq is what it is. The position that "cutting and running" without more is harmful is certainly valid. I can buy Cheney's position that it gives the perception that America will give up if the cost is too high. By the same token, there is equally the perception that if terrorists just keep resisting us, we will stupidly continue with our same strategy, even though it may not be working.

I still haven't seen an answer to the argument that our presence in Iraq creates more converts among fundamentalist Islamics. Leaving existing extremists aside for the moment, I suspect that one consequences is that we risk destabilizing and friendly Arab nations such as Jordan and Egypt as we anger and inflame sentiments against the United States.

Tom is a fan of Hitchens. If he hasn't already seen it, Hitchens recent Slate column suggests that we need to honestly debate these national security issues and Iraq instead of just yelling and pointing fingers at those who disagree.

I do agree that whether we should have invaded is a moot point. It's worth debating to the extent that we learn from history and so we don't make the same mistakes, but the focus should be on what strategy do we develop to protect ourselves from terrorism now. What I absolutely reject is the assumption that militarily fighting in Iraq by necessity making ourselves safer.

Tlaloc said...

"The debate isn't about whether to fight or not, it's about how best to fight."

Precisely. Since terrorism evolved as a tactic effective against a militarily stronger opponent then it's simply suicidal to try and attack terrorists militarily. Psychological warfare is the only hope of something that can fairly be called victory in this latest war on a non-proper noun.



"I do agree that whether we should have invaded is a moot point."

Perhaps but that isn't what's being debated. What's being debated is the process of making the decision to go into Iraq and that is VERY relevent because if we aren't careful that same faulty process will be used to push toward Syria or (god forbid) Iran.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, for the record, you could have at least provided a a link to the Hitchens essay you refer to. Connie. ;-)

And for the record, I liked Hitchens before he became a retroactive neo-con. I especially admired him for taking on the the most sacred of modern sacred cows, Mother Teresa, although it was quite bitter medicine. The intellectual courage was astounding. Everybody dug Mother Teresa.

I do think Hitchens misses things, but he has the soul of a philosopher, and the philosopher's job is to think the unthinkable. Contrary to popular belief, that's encouraged around here. (It's just that some folks operate under the impression that what they consider bold thoughts haven't already been thunk many times over before.)


I liked your comment a lot, CD, because it is serious. There is no virtue in suffering fools gladly, and Hitchens' essay is a plea to consider things seriously:

How appalling it would be, at just the moment when "the Arab street" (another dispelled figment that its amen corner should disown) has begun to turn against al-Qaida and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, if those voters should detect an American impulse to fold or "withdraw."

The meme that our Iraq adventure is creating more terrorists is so 2004. These guys (to our luck) seem bent on proving themselves to any non-fool in the world as true enemies of humanity. Even to the Muslim world that was watching and waiting, the worldwide jihad that 9/11 was supposed to proclaim is showing itself to be just another bid for tyranny.

I think we're gonna be OK. Fortunately, evil is stupid.

connie deady said...

I realized I forgot the link after I posted it. I still haven't figured out the html language (as opposed to the and bulletin board) to imbed the links with text.

But I knew that Tom would find it. Hitchens has his moments. I think he thinks philosophically, but he really is a hardliner type when it comes to war issues.

What I liked about his column was that he urged us to go beyond the simplistic sloganing and to seriously debate the issue. That works for me because I get tired of the assumptions that people who want to pull out in same fashion are not in favor of fighting terrorists. As you point out Tom, saying we are creating more terrorists isn't helpful either.

To me these are the issues: The first is to define our goals in Iraq (let me caveat realistically). Having elections alone isn't democracy unless the democracy has the ability to sustain itself in power. The second is to somehow bring more of the world into our fight against terror. The third is decide how to "fight" extremist Islam. That includes more than just military options.

I truly believe we went into Iraq because as a country we wanted to kick someone's dupa for 9/11, to reassert ourselves and prove we weren't going to be kicked around and Iraq was convenient. When I say "we" I refer to America in general, as sort of a collective will.

While it might have made us feel better, was it the best way to fight against the extremists?

The answers involve both ethical vision and realpolitik and I'm tired being told that it's wrong to question. It's my child's future that's at stake.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Hitchens has his moments. I think he thinks philosophically, but he really is a hardliner type when it comes to war issues.


If I read him correctly, the point of Dr. London's original essay is that the current war issues are not political or partisan, but philosophical, and therefore serious.

"Hardline" implies implacable emotion over considered conviction, and does an injustice to both London and Hitchens.

connie deady said...

Not sure of your point Tom, hardliner is what it is. I don't object to being labeled a pacifist.

Sorry, that was all you had to offer. Please explain why you believe the war is philosophical. You mean you think that you and Hitchens want something that I don't? I read Dr. London's comments as practical rather than philosophical. There's nothing philosophial about whether or not we should avoid beint attacked with a nuclear bomb. I'm not fond of that idea.

So what are our philosophical differences?

JC said...

I truly believe we went into Iraq because as a country we [America] wanted to kick someone's dupa for 9/11, to reassert ourselves and prove we weren't going to be kicked around and Iraq was convenient.

That belief might make slightly more sense when applied to Afghanistan.

While it might have made us feel better, was it the best way to fight against the extremists?
Of course not, if that were really the reason we went to war.

It doesn't help, either, when we impute alternate motives to our country/administration/whatever for going to war. What I understood the reasons to be at the time were:
1. Saddam had, or was producing, procuring, or attempting to obtain, WMD's. All intelligence agencies in the world agreed on this, even the UN, France, and people that didn't like us too much.
2. Saddam was "evil" by any reasonable definition (list crimes against humanity here), and replacing him with a democracy would ultimately be a great benefit to most Iraqis, except some Sunis, who are mad now.
3. Though near the end Saddam partially cooperated, he was still holding out on full cooperation with the UN inspectors.
4. He violated a cease fire agreement, thus annulling it and engaging in war.
5. Saddam might have been connected to 9/11 terrorists. (Personally, I never put much faith in this.)

What we know since the war:
Though he used WMD's in the past, Saddam had no WMD's when we invaded. The reason he held out on the UN is that (according to post-war reports) even though he had destroyed most of his weapons, he was planning on starting the programs as soon as he could get sanctions lifted. So he forced scientists to stay in the country, held on to information for building WMD's, and kept as many "dual-purpose" programs as possible. None of this affects reasons 1-4. Reason 1 is still valid since it was a "reasonable belief." Most Iraqis would agree with 2. We now know why Saddam gave us 3 (he didn't want to give up all his cards). Finally, 4 gives a pretty good internationally legal reason for the war. The UN wouldn't do anything, since too many nations have veto power on the SC and some countries were actually benefiting from Saddam's rule (Oil-for-Food, anyone?). So 70 countries signed up to nail Saddam. The Iraq War was not a unilateral engagement by America, as people frequently imply.

That said, there were some mistakes made in the aftermath, and we do need a strategy to get Iraq on its feet so we can leave. I think the strategy 1) should not have a timetable, 2) does not involve "diplomacy," as Murtha says, since we should never negotiate with terrorists, 3) does involve helping Iraq with the politcal process, which we have done, and 4) should focus on training the Iraqi military to take over from ours. Right now, I think 4 is the most important.

Tlaloc said...

But JC,
your reason #1 is not an acceptable reason to go to war. A great many nations have or are attempting to get a WMD project. Iraq was at the very bottom of the list of those who could succeed or having succeeded actually threaten us with them.

Reason #2 likewise is not a justification for invasion. For one thing it presupposes that whatever puppet regime we put in place will be better than the puppet regime we were removing, a supposition now proven to be completely inaccurate. We took out a despotic torturing murdering autocrat and have replaced him with despotic torturing murdering theocrats. Not exactly a real gain for the Iraqi people. Somehow making Iraq an Iranian client state doesn't seem to really help civil rights in the country.
Since we've invaded we've seen the new government start torturing, start disappearing citizens, make concerted efforts to disenfranchise the Sunni minority, and make dramatic good will gestures towards Iran (including the president laying a wreath on Khomeini's grave, yeah the same guy who took americans hostage and coined the phrase "the Great Satan"). And what's more this was entirely predictable (indeed it was entirely predicted) based on our previous attempts at regime change in nations around the world.


#3 really doesn't apply since it was the US that forced the inspectors out, inspectors who evidently were doing a darn good job seeing as how they knew the score in Iraq and we didn't.


#4 doesn't really fly since the UN (as the arbiter of the cease fire agreement) didn't rule that Iraq was in violation. If you have two people in a contract one party cannot simply declare the other in breach. They can make a complaint but the complaint must be adjudicated. That didn't happen in this case.


#5 of course we know was false. Experts at the time said it was false and the president was briefed that it was false (but of course he continued to imply it anyway).


As for your suggested solutions, the Iraqis have now demanded a timeline from us, surely if they are a sovereign nation we have to accede right? As for negotiation Ireland should be the example of note. Despite the huge advantages of the british they failed to crush the IRA with decades of military force. The threat has now mostly been resolved thanks to what? Negotiation and compromise.

Something to keep in mind, you know, if you wanted to succeed or something.

tbmbuzz said...

Negotiation and compromise.

Something to keep in mind, you know, if you wanted to succeed or something.



Negotiation and compromise with fanatics whose sole aim is the destruction of Western civilization?? No thanks, your way has already been tried. One 9/11 is enough!

James Elliott said...

The discussion of withdrawal from Iraq is not and has never been about the larger War on Terror. It is a question of competence, of which the Bush Administration has sadly showed none, preferring instead political hay over guaranteed results.

Here is a fascinating account of what might occur if we were to withdraw, or even have a timetable for said withdrawal. The "terrorists" in Iraq make up no more than 10% of the insurgent fighters - roughly 5,000 men. A visible demonstration of America's willingness to let Iraq determine its own destiny would serve to alienate the jihadists and bolster the legitimacy of what is now seen as a quisling Iraqi government. Essentially, by preparing to withdraw American troops, the bottom falls out of the insurgency, isolating and delegitimizing the jihadists.

Of course, as we see here, there's little likelihood in doing so until the Bush Administration actually gets serious about creating an Iraqi Army that does not rely upon Kurdish peshmerga and Shia militias like the Badr Brigade. After all, the Kurds are out of there. They view the democratic process in Iraq as step one towards secession.

Iraq is a distraction from the War on Terror. The funds spent in the War in Iraq could have easily been devoted to a serious effort to securing American seaports and other facilities. I remember an exercise we ran in my undergrad years (I majored in International Peace and Security), overseen by a Navy captain from the National Security Council. I was on the team playing the "terrorists." We determined that the easiest thing to do would be to pack a shipping freighter with fertilizer, oil, and a gram or so of uranium. Detonating said ship in a harbor aerosolizes the particles of uranium, creating an unlivable area larger than New York City for generations to come. A bunch of college undergrads figured out how to do this. It's a fair bet that some more serious people on both sides have the matter have too.

We live in a country where people get fired for failing to mathematically model, predict, or account for the natural half-life decay of fractions of micrograms of fissile material. Russian authorities are unable to account for nearly 40 tons of Soviet-era radioactive material. And all this while the Bush Administration has rested on its laurels when it comes to securing the world's supply of radioactive material. While the Bush Administration wastes our time in Iraq, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf refuses to allow anyone access to the pardoned A.Q. Khan, head of the infamous "nuclear black market." Instead of dealing with countries like Pakistan, who actively supplied nuclear assistance to Iran, or with North Korea, the Republican government dithers and wastes resources on Iraq, a country that did not pose a threat then or ever.

The questions being asked and addressed by Democrats in Congress, Dr. London, aren't about "emboldening" or "giving in" to terrorists. They're about competence and direction. They're about a failed strategy that is going nowhere put into action by an administration incapable of admitting mistakes, drawing valuable resources away from real problems that do, as you pointed out, threaten our nation.

James Elliott said...

Negotiation and compromise with fanatics whose sole aim is the destruction of Western civilization?? No thanks, your way has already been tried. One 9/11 is enough!

This is flat nonsense. The goal of the fanatics - a small minority in Iraq - is the restoration of the Caliphate. You should at least know your enemy before giving him the gift of your hate.

Tlaloc said...

"You should at least know your enemy before giving him the gift of your hate."

Which is precisely why we are losing this "war." The american public is so easily manuevered and manipulated by jingoism.

Tbmbuzz, you don't understand how your reaction guarntees your failure against this oponent. You need to rise above the base anger feeling and learn to understand if for no other reason because it's the only way to win. Besides which you misunderstand the root cause of 9/11 which had nothing to do with negotiation na deverything to do with imperialistic policies in the middle east. In other words what lead to us being hurt is precisely what were are doing again.

tbmbuzz said...

Sorry, guys, my studies of history have convinced me that the world is in the midst of yet another phase of the real World War 1, i.e. the war that Islam has been fighting against everyone else for 1500 years. Sticking your heads in the sand, making excuses for the enemy and blaming the U.S. (which in particular disgusts me) solves nothing.

Tlaloc said...

"Sorry, guys, my studies of history have convinced me that the world is in the midst of yet another phase of the real World War 1, i.e. the war that Islam has been fighting against everyone else for 1500 years."

So you don't believe our severe meddling in their countries has anything to do with it? FOr example putting in place odious dictators (Saddam being the most obvious), overthrowing democratic governments (Iran), stealing the only local natural resource (Iran, Iraq), Unilaterally reshaping their nations (Iraq, Kuwait, Palestine), et cetera...

It's really easy to blame the wasps for stinging you but if you spent the last hour throwing rocks at their nest then you have to accept some of the blame. In particular if in response to their stinging you you go back and throw more rocks then you deserve to get hurt for being an idiot. That's exactly what we are doing in Iraq and we're going to pay for it sooner or later (in addition to the money and blood already wasted on this excursion).

Tom Van Dyke said...

Perhaps I'm wrong, Connie, but "hardline" is used as a pejorative. I have never known it to be complimentary.

Is Viggo Mortensen a "hardline" pacifist? If you're comfortable with that, then I withdraw my objection.

As for philosophy, Islamism's goals are not practical; they are existential. This is no little border dispute where both sides can give a little.

James Elliott said...

...my studies of history have convinced me that the world is in the midst of yet another phase of the real World War 1, i.e. the war that Islam has been fighting against everyone else for 1500 years.

So, what, the Moors conquest of Spain was just the opening salvo and George W. Bush is the reincarnation of Charlemagne? I'd love to see you back this one up, my ridicule not withstanding. By all means, explain to me how Islam's former history of aggressive proselytizing - a torch now carried by a radical, fundamentalist minority - is so much worse than Christianity's history of conquest, crusade, and persecution. Or fascism's. Or Nationalist Socialism's. Or Stalinist Communism's. Islam is hardly alone in having a history one should be ashamed of. After all, the U.S. is 1300 years younger, and we have plenty.

Sticking your heads in the sand, making excuses for the enemy and blaming the U.S. (which in particular disgusts me) solves nothing.

Tbmbuzz, this is highly reactionary and not worthy of some of the more considered opinions you have rendered elsewhere. Seeking to understand your enemy is light years beyond "making excuses" or "blaming the U.S." Just because someone engages in a reprehensible act in part because of something your country did does not absolve your country of responsibility for its previous action. Neither does accepting that responsibility excuse the act of your aggressor. This is such a basic thing that it beggars all reason that there are reactionary conservatives who cannot grasp it. Seeking to understand the motivations of radical fundamentalist Islam as well as the methods and tactics it employs is the furthest thing from traitorous possible. It is, rather, crucial to developing a comprehensive strategy to combat the threat it poses. Don't devolve into "love it or leave it" reactionary jingoism.

Tlaloc said...

"As for philosophy, Islamism's goals are not practical; they are existential. This is no little border dispute where both sides can give a little."

Well US troops out of the Middle East and discontinuing US aid to israel. Those sound fairly practical to me (and economic to boot). Those are by far the two largest goals of Al-qaeda. Compromising on them would go a long way toward reducing their ability to recruit.

James Elliott said...

No, but don't you see, Tlaloc? That would be giving in, cutting and running, surrender, emboldening the enemy! It would be an offense to God, to decency, to our need to make our genitals feel big by stomping on other people who offend us! Admitting we were wrong or our tactics were in error is to call into question the very tangibility of our existence!

Question not authority! Stay the course! And never, ever admit that we can do things smarter or better! You Godless pinko Commie pedophile.

JC said...

I think taloc's response is one of the best thought-out, so I will respond to it.

But JC,
your reason #1 is not an acceptable reason to go to war. A great many nations have or are attempting to get a WMD project. Iraq was at the very bottom of the list of those who could succeed or having succeeded actually threaten us with them.

Saddam did succeed. He had them and used them. Then he destroyed most of the rest of them. However, as I pointed out, he retained the scientists and design plans, as well as the "dual purpose" programs, fully intending to build WMD's in the near future. Read the Iraq Survey Group report, particularly sections like "Cooperating With UNSCOM While Preserving WMD."

Yes, some other countries have WMD's, but Saddam had used them before and was near the top of the "people we don't want to have WMD's list." Finally, #1 is not the only reason we went to war---just one of them.

Reason #2 [...] presupposes that whatever puppet regime we put in place will be better than the puppet regime we were removing, a supposition now proven to be completely inaccurate. We took out a despotic torturing murdering autocrat and have replaced him with despotic torturing murdering theocrats. Not exactly a real gain for the Iraqi people. Somehow making Iraq an Iranian client state doesn't seem to really help civil rights in the country.
Since we've invaded we've seen the new government start torturing, start disappearing citizens, make concerted efforts to disenfranchise the Sunni minority, and make dramatic good will gestures towards Iran (including the president laying a wreath on Khomeini's grave, yeah the same guy who took americans hostage and coined the phrase "the Great Satan"). And what's more this was entirely predictable (indeed it was entirely predicted) based on our previous attempts at regime change in nations around the world.

You must be misinformed, to compare the authoritarian rule of a tyrrant like Saddam to the democracy that is being built. Exactly who controls the "puppet" regime? The U.S.? Then why are they even suggesting that we leave? The "torture" and "disappearance" allegations are a few isolated incidents, compared the widespread crimes that Saddam committed. Prosecutors had to sift through 300+ different possible charges to pick a few dozen, just to keep things moving along. Saddam is "allegedly" (since he hasn't yet been convicted) responsible for killing more than 300,000 people. He used WMD's against his own people. He had an advisor executed, dismembered, and the pieces given to the (former) advisor's wife just because the advisor made a suggestion Saddam didn't like. To suggest that the democracy in Iraq is anything like this is ludicrous, at best. And as for "disenfranchising" Sunnis: They have been allowed to run and vote since Iraq started having free elections. They chose to boycott the first election, and realized that this is a stupid thing to do in a democracy, so they have started voting and participating. Of course they are bitter, because under Saddam, they enjoyed an aristocratic status above the majority of Iraqis. (I'm sure some of the white people in South Africa weren't too happy when apartheid ended.) The fact is that the vast majority of Iraqis just approved a new constitution in elections that the international community agrees were fair---the US stayed out of them. Compare this to life under Saddam, where you either vote "Yes" to Saddam or risk the execution of your entire family.

#3 really doesn't apply since it was the US that forced the inspectors out, inspectors who evidently were doing a darn good job seeing as how they knew the score in Iraq and we didn't.

As I said, after months (years?) of non-cooperation, Saddam only partially cooperated. He allowed about 100 inspectors into the country, but refused to let scientists be interviewed in a neutral location and refused to give evidence that he had actually destroyed all of his WMD's. His partial cooperation was just a sham to get sanctions lifted, as we know now (again, see the link above).

#4 doesn't really fly since the UN (as the arbiter of the cease fire agreement) didn't rule that Iraq was in violation. If you have two people in a contract one party cannot simply declare the other in breach. They can make a complaint but the complaint must be adjudicated. That didn't happen in this case.

The UN was not the unbiased "arbiter" that you imply. The reason the coalition circumvented the UN in the first place is that it was too bogged down by pro-Saddam countries with veto power. Seventy (70) countries joined the coalition. It was not a unilateral action by the United States.

#5 of course we know was false.
Never said it was true, but I included it for completeness :)


As for your suggested solutions, the Iraqis have now demanded a timeline from us, surely if they are a sovereign nation we have to accede right?
Sure, though it seems it is the minority Sunnis who want the timeline. All the news articles I have read said that Shiite and Kurdish negotiators opposed that resolution. As far as I know, their government has not formally asked us for a timetable.

As for negotiation Ireland should be the example of note. Despite the huge advantages of the british they failed to crush the IRA with decades of military force. The threat has now mostly been resolved thanks to what? Negotiation and compromise.
Can't say I'm much up on Irish history---but I do know that the government should not negotiate with terrorists. Period. If the terrorists want to stop blowing up markets, hotels, and weddings by using their bodies (or those of handicapped children) etc. and start voting and negotiating, that's great. I hope they do that. I hope we pull out of Iraq soon, for that matter. But anyone who knows the smallest bit of game theory realizes that if we say "ok folks, we're leaving in X months" the terrorists could just "stick it out" for X months, knowing the government will be greatly weakened after that. The Iraqi government would be foolish to "demand" a timetable. They must be ready to face the insurgency before we can leave for good. Then we can leave, and I'll cheer along with everyone else for the return of our soldiers.

James Elliott said...

Sure, though it seems it is the minority Sunnis who want the timeline. All the news articles I have read said that Shiite and Kurdish negotiators opposed that resolution. As far as I know, their government has not formally asked us for a timetable.

Funny, all the news articles I have read say it was a joint resolution.

Can't say I'm much up on Irish history---::snip::

All indications are that the "terrorists" in Iraq are a small minority. A great deal of the violence in Iraq is predicated directly because of our presence their. The mere act of keeping our military in-country and spread out the way they are undermines the legitimacy of the fledgling Iraqi government and creates the impression that they are merely quislings - puppets and collaborators.

To address the rest of your post on the motivations of war: The war was not predicated on Saddam's intentions or the possibility of being a future threat, but rather the imminent and deadly serious threat he posed at that moment. We now know this to have been entirely inaccurate. We in fact knew it then. Anyone who remotely studies this knows that. The Iraq Survey Group found that, while Saddam had the intention of someday reconstituting his program, the embargo and the inspections had so crippled his ability to do so that he was at least ten years away from doing so. You can't revise history to fit your dogma.

Let us not forget that those chemical weapons he had previously used were gifts from a loving Ronald Reagan, delivered with a big bow on top by Donald Rumsfeld, for his war with our "hated enemy" Iran.

BTW, Tlaloc, Iraq is not in danger of becoming a puppet state of Iran. While some prominent Shiite religious leaders found solace in Iran from Baathist persecution, popular feeling in Iraq still holds great animosity for Iran (thanks to the aforementioned war).

Tlaloc said...

"Saddam did succeed. He had them and used them. Then he destroyed most of the rest of them. However, as I pointed out, he retained the scientists and design plans, as well as the "dual purpose" programs, fully intending to build WMD's in the near future. Read the Iraq Survey Group report, particularly sections like "Cooperating With UNSCOM While Preserving WMD." "

Absolutely none of which makes him a credible threat to the United States.



"Yes, some other countries have WMD's, but Saddam had used them before and was near the top of the "people we don't want to have WMD's list.""

Really I can think of about 200 countries I'd be more worried about having WMD than Iraq. Iraq was emasculated. Their military torn apart. They had no way of even reaching us in the US with WMD even if they had had them. No submarine fleet. No airforce. No balistic missiles. The scariest thing we found was a drone made of Balsa wood! Lets be clear about one thing: Saddam was incredibly weak at this point. He was surrounded by enemy nations. His military (what was left of it) was of questionable loyalty. The only thing keeping some enterprising Iraqi from pulling a kennedy on him was that the US kept blowing through town acting as the heavy so that Saddam was able to play the Nationalism card to rally enough support behind him to cling to power by his nails.

This was not a guy who was a threat to us. Unlike say North Korea and Iran. Both of whom have been having a field day doing whatever they want knowing that the US can't hope to do anything to stop them at all. And hey let's throw Pakistan in there. You know our nuclear weapon possessing nominal ally who helped create al-qaeda and who is always about five minutes away from an Iran-1979 like revolution. Those are the people we'd be worried about if we were serious about WMD.



"Exactly who controls the "puppet" regime?"

We put in place the CPA and we tried very hard (and very illegally) to stack the deck so that they stayed in power. It failed partly because Iran was much better at manipulating events. SO we had one US puppet (Saddam) replaced by another US puppet (CPA) replaced by an Iranian puppet (SCIRI).



"The "torture" and "disappearance" allegations are a few isolated incidents, compared the widespread crimes that Saddam committed."

Funny I remember hearing that exact same line when the US torture at Abu Ghraib came out. It was a few bad apples. And then we found out about Guantanamo. Then we found about the torture in Afghanistan. Then we found about the torture chambers scatteredthroughout the world. And we got the memos ordering, allowing, and excusing it. Forgive me if my generosity for believing the reports of the Iraqi government torturing and killing are isolated is a little meager.



"And as for "disenfranchising" Sunnis: They have been allowed to run and vote since Iraq started having free elections. They chose to boycott the first election, and realized that this is a stupid thing to do in a democracy, so they have started voting and participating."

Well you are kind of leaving out the several campaigns by the shiites and us to prevent them from voting. For example remember the attempt just before the election to change the veto clause so that it had to be 2/3rds of all potential voters instead of actual voters? That was aimed squarely at the Sunnis.



"The fact is that the vast majority of Iraqis just approved a new constitution in elections that the international community agrees were fair---the US stayed out of them."

The US stayed out of them? Are you joking? Our ambassador was right in the center of the matter and it has been suggested by the UN that his incredibly deep involvement may constitute and illegal manipulation of the process. He went so far as to strong arm the parties into agreeing to change the constitution after the vote, essentially making the vote meaningless. People voted on a paper that everyone knows is going to change at which point it has to be voted on again. The constituion vote was in other words nothing but a publicity stunt. A way to score political points while accomplishing nothing.



"As I said, after months (years?) of non-cooperation, Saddam only partially cooperated. He allowed about 100 inspectors into the country, but refused to let scientists be interviewed in a neutral location and refused to give evidence that he had actually destroyed all of his WMD's. His partial cooperation was just a sham to get sanctions lifted, as we know now (again, see the link above)."

Sure, but none of that changes the fact that the inspections WORKED. There's a saying: you can't argue with success. And yet we decided not only to argue with it but to wage war on it.



"The UN was not the unbiased "arbiter" that you imply. The reason the coalition circumvented the UN in the first place is that it was too bogged down by pro-Saddam countries with veto power."

Democracy is a pesky thing, huh? The UN may not be perfectly impartial but you want to have it both ways, you want to claim legitimacy by saying Saddam violated the UN ceasefire agreement but you don't want to accept that the UN has the final call on that matter and they said "nope."



"Seventy (70) countries joined the coalition. It was not a unilateral action by the United States."

According to the initial list it was 48 countries. And that disguises the fact that the troops were 90%+ US or British. It further conceals the fact that we offered a truly disgusting series of bribes to countries in order to take part and give the illusion of a true multinational effort.



"Can't say I'm much up on Irish history---but I do know that the government should not negotiate with terrorists. Period."

Even if that's the only way to resolve the conflict? You'd rather watch America die than talk to these people?

Tlaloc said...

"BTW, Tlaloc, Iraq is not in danger of becoming a puppet state of Iran. While some prominent Shiite religious leaders found solace in Iran from Baathist persecution, popular feeling in Iraq still holds great animosity for Iran (thanks to the aforementioned war)."

I don't think so JE. There may be a great deal of resentment among the Sunni but remember that the Shiite are lining up among groups who were almost universally living in Iran at the time. Obviously they don't have much hatred for these guys. Iraq has already made deals with Iran to do joint military manuevers. The threat of it becoming a client state is very VERY real.

Especially if you read the latest about how the US is trying to push through with a plan to give the Iraqi oil industry to American and British corporations. If that sounds familiar it's because it's precisely what the Brits did that eventually led to the Iranian 1979 revolution that brought Khomeini to power.

connie deady said...

Sorry, guys, my studies of history have convinced me that the world is in the midst of yet another phase of the real World War 1, i.e. the war that Islam has been fighting against everyone else for 1500 years. Sticking your heads in the sand, making excuses for the enemy and blaming the U.S. (which in particular disgusts me) solves nothing.

Who here is making excuses for the enemy? I never in my life have said taht terrorism is right or excusable (However I might note there are a lot of Irish American Catholics who sent money to the IRA, but I suspect most of them hate Islamic terrorists).

However, it is completely reasonable to ask whether or military actions are effective. That's what we should be debated because gosh dammit anyway, none of us like Islamic Facists, most of us are afraid of them and most of us want to fight them. So resent like crazy arguments that say because I don't want to fight them the way that you do that I somehow condone them.

I like to think this is what Christopher Hitchen was addressing in his column. I think we might disagree on the severity of the threat or the best way to fight it, but I don't think anyone is indifferent to it.

JC said...

The war was not predicated on Saddam's intentions or the possibility of being a future threat, but rather the imminent and deadly serious threat he posed at that moment. We now know this to have been entirely inaccurate. We in fact knew it then.
Not true. Every intelligence service, even those opposed to the war, thought he had WMD's. In fact, even Saddam's closest advisors thought he had them. It's irrelevant whether he actually did. Congress voted for war based on the intelligence available to all members and to the entire world.

Forgive me if my generosity for believing the reports of the Iraqi government torturing and killing are isolated is a little meager.
You ignored my original statement, which is that Saddam's regime was far worse. Are you really equating the free Iraq with Saddam's Iraq?

For example remember the attempt just before the election to change the veto clause so that it had to be 2/3rds of all potential voters instead of actual voters? That was aimed squarely at the Sunnis.
I think we would have to say that the clause "disenfranchises" people who don't vote, not Sunnis. Nonetheless, the question is moot: the Constitution passed by an overwhelming margin even without the "anti-Sunni" provision. Sunnis have little power because they are a small minority in a democracy, and they are mad because they aren't used to that.



He went so far as to strong arm the parties into agreeing to change the constitution after the vote, essentially making the vote meaningless. People voted on a paper that everyone knows is going to change at which point it has to be voted on again. The constituion vote was in other words nothing but a publicity stunt.
Read American history: a very similar thing happened with our Constitution. Was our Constitution a publicity stunt?

Sure, but none of that changes the fact that the inspections WORKED. There's a saying: you can't argue with success. And yet we decided not only to argue with it but to wage war on it.
They didn't "work", because we had no way of knowing if they worked. Saddam was still not cooperating, and he was in violation of 19 different UN resolutions. Too bad the UN did nothing about it but impose sanctions, which (see wikipedia) killed 90,000 people a year. If that estimate is even close, then the sanctions did way more damage than the war ever did. The UN agreed with the coalition that Saddam was breaking all kinds of laws even up to the day we invaded his country, but they refused to do anything more productive.



According to the initial list it was 48 countries.

My bad, I saw 70 somewhere. Still a lot of countries, not unilateral action.

And that disguises the fact that the troops were 90%+ US or British.
Irrelevant. We have the most powerful military; the point is that the countries supported us.

It further conceals the fact that we offered a truly disgusting series of bribes to countries in order to take part and give the illusion of a true multinational effort.

So a large fraction of the world's countries are run by governments so corrupt that they sell their souls to the U.S. and Britain? You frequently attempt to discredit anyone who supported the war or who has any power in Iraq today by accusing them of being bribed, etc. Apparently, we live in a sad, sad world.

Even if that's the only way to resolve the conflict? You'd rather watch America die than talk to these people?
The conflict will not go away if we leave. Terrorists attacked Jordan 9/11 -style and we aren't "occupying" them. We need to continue to improve the Iraqi army so they can face the terrorists. We need to continue to increase public opposition to the terrorists. I still don't understand what you (or Murtha, or anyone else) mean by saying we should "use diplomacy" to deal with the insurgency. Who are we negotiating with? Terrorists hide and come out to murder as many people as possible. Should we set up an embassy for terrorists? If you have a solution that will "resolve the conflict" and "spare the death of America", write the administration or the government of Iraq and I'm sure you can run the embassy.