10.14.2004

On Iraq

I just have to get a few things off my chest because I've heard or seen no one talk about many of them anywhere else. I'm a conservative, and this is why I could never vote for Bush. Warning: written poorly and without regard for a much needed editing.

I was against the war but not from the beginning. At first I thought we were only rattling the sabers to get Saddam to open up. That is supposed to still be true and an invasion was supposed to be the last resort, but I doubt anyone really believes that now.

The thing that turned me against the war was Colin Powell's presentation to the U.N.

Aside: I love Colin Powell. This guy is no politician or partisan hack. He was a well respected military leader who worked his way to the top. He's probably the most respected American in the world today and every bit of it is earned. I deeply regret that he doesn't want to run for president. I don't blame him, but if there's one man we need to lead us, and the world, in the war on terror it's Colin Powell. He would be the precisely right man at the right time. It's like all his life's work has culminated to this destiny but some frat boob crook got it instead. What a tragedy.

So anyway... a closer look at his presention showed it to be ... lacking. Very lacking. I realized that the only intelligence tools that I possessed were google and a brain that is good at piecing together information so maybe they knew something I didn't, but this was supposed to be our very super duper bestest information in the whole wide wide world on Saddam's weapons programs and it still didn't hold up to a magnifying glass much less the microscope it should have. As Steven Aftergood of globalsecurity.org later put it "I'd be a lot happier with one good reason that a lot of bad ones."

Then I began to examine the situation more closely and I came to the realization that it was all a smoke screen, there was no way we weren't going to invade Iraq. We had troops in place long before inspectors and it's not like they just flew over there and could fly back in a couple of days. We had built and expanded bases for the operation. We weren't flexing our muscle, we were telegraphing our intentions. There would be no turning back.

At the time we were giving lip service to inspections yet the information we were supplying them actually hampered their operations more than anything. We were sending them on wild goose chases to abandoned sites in the desert where they constantly found nothing.

Those months were frustrating as every chance to avoid confrontation seemed to be squandered by the very people who were saying they wanted to avoid war. Now let me say that I didn't care about avoiding confrontation with Saddam. He was a bad guy who the world wouldn't miss but I was against it because we didn't have the time or resources to focus on this two-bit dictator while we're in the middle of a war or terror. Want to save the Iraqi people and promote democracy? Great, I'm with you. But later. Not now. We're a little busy right now. Let's worry about ourselves right now and worry about Iraq later.

What was so maddening was watching our "leaders" lie every single day in order to promote this thing they said they didn't want and they even blamed the other guy for.

The war itself was based on Saddam's supposed failure to disarm. Every day we'd hear how those 10,000 liters of anthrax that he never accounted for "threatened the world". But here's a little reality, folks. Saddam's chemical and biological weapons had a shelf life that was usually measured in months, weeks, or even days, not in years. None of the weapons that were "unaccounted for" were a menace to us. It takes a lot of technology and know-how to make these weapons stable over time and Saddam never was any good at it before sanctions and there's most certainly no way he could have became so after sanctions were in place and 95% of his capabilities were destroyed in 1998. No, that's like saying a homeless man is a business threat to Warren Buffet. Maybe in some crazy alternate universe but not the one you and I inhabit. Ok, not the one I live in anyway, I don't know about you.

The whole illogic of this war is what bugs me. We were going to war on the basis of U.N. resolutions that we couldn't prove had been violated. The U.N. was deemed "irrelevant" but the rules it had in place that could benefit us were said to be very relevant. I'm not a fan of the U.N. but if you're going to use them as a reason to do what you're trying to do then you have to play by their rules and at every step we were trying our best to undermine those rules while at the same time harping about the importance of a select few of them.

As an example of more illogic is the war resolution itself. It gave Bush the right to use military force but it never gave him the right to invade and occupy the country. I'm sure the lawyers could outargue me on that but the resolution gave the President to use the military to do two things: defend U.S. national security against the threat posed by Iraq and enforce U.N. Security Council resolutions with Iraq. It said nothing of emptying the treasury on a bloody occupation. Maybe that's implied in "military action" but not for me. "Military action" is taking out a few targets. Invasion and occupation is much more serious.

Another aside: the lawyers might want to take a look at the definition of "national security" to see if it justifies an invasion of a soverign nation.

First off, even if Iraq did have weapons during this time that doesn't mean he was a threat to our national security. "Seen in the light of 9-11", as the president likes to say, it may mean there's a chance, but it's far from a certainty. "Seen in the light of 9-11" or not some of our best allies could well be seen as much more of a threat. Pakistan has a top scientist who "went into retirement" in 2001 only to turn around and sell nukes to anyone who wanted them until later "discovered". It's painfully obvious that his "retirement" was only a way for the Pakistani government to deny their equally obvious association with his acitivities. When he got caught he was left to rot in prison for the rest of his life pardoned with the full public support of the Bush administration. (this is the A. Q. Kahn nuke smuggling network that Bush keeps mentioning in the debates as having such wonderful success disrupting)

Back to Iraq... the resolution gave Bush the authority to enforce UNSC resolutions and protect our national security, but it said nothing of invasion and occupation. "Protecting national security" never starts with a massive long term invasion/occupation. We may do it to Grenada or something but not on a large scale. A good litmus test for protecting national security is that operations should always first be attempted without costing more than doing nothing.

Let's expand on that. With Iraq, for example, if we did nothing, the worst case scenario is that Saddam would pass chemical weapons to terrorists. There are several points to note about this. One, we didn't know if he even had chemical weapons. Two, it wasn't clear if Saddam was even on a friendly basis with terrorists. Three, even if he were it's not likely he would trust them with chemical weapons. Four, there are dozens of mechanisms in place to prevent an attack even if terrorists acquired them. Five, chemical weapon attacks are extremely difficult to carry out (remember the sarin attacks in the Japanese subway). I don't believe our actions were in our own interest given these requirements.

If Bush were reading this he would say that I'm trusting a madman with the security of the United States. On the contrary, I'm simply saying that a massive invasion was not warranted over remote possibilities. I believe we could have used smarter and cheaper military action to rid ourselves of this imagined menace. Namely, I think we should have sent inspectors in with a vengence. If Saddam denied access to a certain facility, bomb it to smithereens. If he acted up in some other way, bomb him until he changed his mind. Saddam was never the madman they make him out to be. Evil maybe, but not totally mad. He always caved in when he saw his options running out. During the first gulf war he signed the cease fire. He didn't stand to fight until death during the invasion, he ran. Self preservation was always his top priority, not vengence.

It could have been handled in a much smarter way. Now we're stuck there for years, spending billions that we don't even have. This country should never tie it's own hands the way we did with Iraq, to do so during a worldwide campaign against terror is not only foolish but borderline treasonous. In fact, I think this was the plan all along.

Take, for example, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. This is the guy who is allegedly going around Iraq decapitating any Americans he can get his hands on. He is our public enemy #1. Persona na grata. Yet, before the war we knew precisely where he was living. He was living under the no fly zone in northern Iraq and the military was pressuring the White House to wipe him out. And what happened? I'm sure you know. Bush defended freedom against evil wouldn't allow it because he was afraid it would hurt our argument for invading Iraq.

Another example. We went to Iraq to disarm Saddam of any NBC (nuke-chem-bio) weapons didn't we? Yet during the invasion we never secured the facilities that we were told housed these weapons. The Al-Tuwaitha nuclear facility outside Iraq was looted after the invasion. Kids were outside playing with contaminated material! This site was full of nuke material that was sealed by the U.N. after the first gulf war. It was just recently determined that a bunch of it seems to be missing.

Nonproliferation, that means making sure bad stuff doesn't fall into the hands of the wrong people. That's what this war was fought for yet that is possibly what this war caused to happen. Nonproliferation, that's what Bush says we went to war over, yet when Joe Wilson said something the president didn't like, someone in the White House broke federal law and released the identity of Wilson's wife who worked for the CIA on nonproliferation. She was forced to retire and her networks of informatns were blown. There is a traitor in this administration but no one seems to care. It seems politics, to this administration, are much more important than our lives.

There were about four people in Iraq who could theoretically pose a threat to the United States. Saddam, his two sons, and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. If Bush wqasn't so impatient he would have found out that the list was only one name long; al-Zarqawi. And if he had our interests at heart rather than his own, Zarqawi would have been killed with a safe push of a button in a jet in early 2003 and our military would not be tied somewhere we never needed to be in the first place.

What most people don't realize is that military units are usually only rated for one active duty rotation in a warzone roughly every 5 years because after returning it takes so long to decompress and replace men and equipment and train them all to go back out that anything quicker only results in less effectiveness. What we have done in Iraq has done more to weaken our military and national security than arguably anything anyone else could do to us.

The question is, how could we get Afghanistan so right and Iraq so wrong? The answer is politics. This was a politcal war from the beginning and anyone who says the White House isn't micromanaging operations in Iraq is deluded. That's why it keeps getting worse and will continue to do so as long as we have a man in the White House who values himself over the country.

That is why I was and continue to be against this war. At least partially. It's such a huge subject that I know I probably left out about 90 things that I will think of later but that's it for now. My opinions haven't changed since before the war began.



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