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03/02/2005

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Kevino-

What you're saying deliberately ignores what I wrote. I said that "it's incorrect to say that the war was only about WMDs" but that "it's certainly correct to say that this war was almost entirely sold to the public on the basis of WMDs." Yet you continue to focus on what you think was "implied" by my earlier post. What's more, your point "that IRAQ was not in compliance over WMD" makes no sense - how is that substantively different from my saying that Iraq's supposed production and possession of WMDs was the primary reason for war?

As for your statement that "large amounts of material was removed from Iraq prior to the war", it's still wrong - there's no indication that the looted material were WMDs, which is what we talking about. Nor is there any indication that anything was purposely transfered before the war. Any suggestion that WMDs were taken out of Iraq, pre- or post-war, by the regime or by looting, is completely unsubstantiated speculation belied by the rest of the report, in which multiple Iraq sources all say the same thing: we had destroyed our weapons, and were waiting to rebuild.

My summary of the ISG report still stands:

1. There were several stories during the initial invasion about how coalition forces had found WMDs, all breathlessly relayed by hawkish blogs. However, none of those stories, beyond the finding of a few '91-era relics, has stood up to further inquiry. There is nothing in the report about the "advanced" Sarin shells you describe.

2. "They HAD a capability, didn't they?" This is petty semantics, and fairly pathetic. The Key Findings section of the ISG report says that their capability was essentially destroyed in '91. They had capability in the same way that antiquated shells constitute hard evidence of WMD.

IN NEITHER CASE WAS IRAQI WMD OR WMD CAPABILITY A SERIOUS THREAT TO THE US ON THE SCALE OF NORTH KOREA OR IRAN. This is the point that should be addressed - bickering over possible intent and antiquated shells is a pointless sideshow.

It should also be pointed out once more that we didn't go to war because Iraq wanted to have WMDs - there are lots of bad guys out there who want to have WMDs. We went to war with Iraq because Dick Cheney was going around saying things like "We believe Iraq has reconstituted nuclear weapons." There has to be a line that justifies going to war from not going to war, and to me, somebody intending to someday have WMDs doesn't make it across that line.

The report talks about the IIS having their own labs. The report also says that "ISG has no evidence that IIS Directorate of Criminology (M16) scientists were producing CW or BW agents in these laboratories." So once more we have possible intent, but questionable productive capacity.

As for the rest of your post, again, you're deliberately ignoring what I wrote. I never said I thought Iraq wasn't a threat, I said (and keep saying) that Iraq was not a serious enough threat to make us go to war as we did, and that North Korea was a more severe threat. And as for your scenario, what on earth makes you think that terrorists would limit themselves to getting WMDs from Iraq? Russia and other former Soviet republics are treasure troves of loose nukes and nuclear materials. Al Qaeda still operates in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as an increasing number of other locations. And what on earth makes you think that North Korea is incapable of working with Al Qaeda, or any other anti-US group? You talk about Iraq possibly giving WMDs to terrorists, but North Korea has definitely given nuclear assistance to Libya and Iran, and NK has several underworld ties through its drug-trafficking connections. North Korea is clearly capable of interacting with people in the Middle East. What kind of ridiculous blind ideology leads you to believe that only Iraq could possibly collaborate with Al Qaeda?

RE: What you're saying deliberately ignores what I wrote. I said that "it's incorrect to say that the war was only about WMDs" but that "it's certainly correct to say that this war was almost entirely sold to the public on the basis of WMDs." Yet you continue to focus on what you think was "implied" by my earlier post.
I'm sorry you feel that way, but I'm responding to what you said. You introduced the whole WMD business with: "Case in point - most serious critics of the Iraq war weren't against it because "democracy in that region was impossible," but rather because the stated reason for going to war (WMDs, remember?) seemed somewhat weak." I saw "the reason" as singular: only one.

RE: What's more, your point "that IRAQ was not in compliance over WMD" makes no sense - how is that substantively different from my saying that Iraq's supposed production and possession of WMDs was the primary reason for war?
Because lack of compliance prior to the war was a fact, and production and possession were believed to be true by various intelligence groups -- but not proven. Because compliance is discussed in the Joint Declaration as an on-going problem while possession and production are referred to in the past.

RE: As for your statement that "large amounts of material was removed from Iraq prior to the war", it's still wrong - there's no indication that the looted material were WMDs, which is what we talking about.
I said "large amounts of material". The report says the same thing. If I recall, David Kay, Duefler, and others said that we may never get all the facts or find out everything. Furthermore, the places that had everything removed (for whatever reason) were UN monitored sites. Obviously this was pretty important.

(Sidebar: Wasn't it David Kay who first brought up this idea that WMD were moved to Syria?)

RE: My summary of the ISG report still stands
Not exactly, I've made a couple of additions that are significant. Consider:
1. A couple of WMD weapons were found. Were they under the control of Iraqi authorities or were they "lost". If they didn't have special markings (as reported by the press), then they may have been misplaced. Could privately-owned weapons have found there way into the hands of terrorists? Quite possibly. And Iraq authorities could then simply say that it is all a mistake.
2. The IIS had their own laboratory facilities. If Iraq produced even small amounts of Sarin or another chemical weapon and secretly gave it to a terrorist group, this would be the organization that would do it.

RE: Iraq versus Iran or North Korea
When I have time I can go into the choice between Iraq and Iran. It is an interesting question.
In terms of which is a greater threat to us, Iraq or North Korean, I think that my scenario makes sense.
You asked is al Qaeda could get WMD from Russia or the former Soviet republics?
Well, when I saw that al Qaeda was experimenting with what appeared to be Sarin, I looked at everything I could find about which countries had Sarin capability, and I asked that very question. The answer that I can up with was that it was not very likely because many of these individuals fought the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. The Russians, for example, would probably not be willing to help them. Secret meetings between al Qaeda and the Russians would be difficult to initiate, and there is no evidence that they have. And the Russians would have to be concerned that al Qaeda would rat them out after an attack to cause trouble between the US and the Russians.
You asked if North Korea could work with al Qaeda or other anti-US group. Its not just a matter of working with them: it has to be a secret. Any action by North Korea that results in a WMD attack against the US that can be traced back to them would have serious consequences. North Korea has a simple motivation: hating the US, but is that enough? North Korea is already having economic problems and is having trouble getting aid because of its WMD program. Supplying arms to terrorists probably isn't worth the risk. Saddam certainly hated the US, but he has other motivations as well. For one thing, al Qaeda can offer him highly effective forces for special missions. And prior to the war, Saddam was believed to be working with terrorist groups.
You correctly state that North Korea worked with other countries in the region, but that's a not the same as working with terrorist groups.

I'll try to get back with you about lunch time concerning your earlier post. Cheers

RE: The Bush administration vastly exaggerated the threat of WMDs to get us into war
This is a judgment call, and I agree with the basic decision. For one thing, I see a more severe threat than you do. As you yourself said the available information was that his weapons capability was strong. As it was, we gave Saddam too much time to prepare or for his allies to send aid and stall. The other thing worth mentioning is that the situation for the people in Iraq was pretty bad and getting worse. The regime was basically run by gangsters. We actually moved too late. If you believe that Bush saw an opportunity and took it, you may have a point. He probably had to act early in his first term, and he had to act while the memory of 9/11 was still fresh in everyone's mind.

RE: North Korea and Iran getting worse
If North Korea is to be believed they already have the bomb, so how is action against Iraq making it worse? Unfortunately, thanks to Presidents Carter and Clinton, North Korea is a serious problem. But we don't have the resources with or without the Iraq war to go after North Korea. As a national-building excercise, North Korea is a terrible problem: their economy is in much worse shape, and they don't have the resources that Iraq has. Of course, most of the foreign governments that are needed to isolate and resolve the situation don't see our involvement in Iraq as an issue. South Korea is threatened by North Korea. Japan is an ally. China is the major player, but we haven't heard a lot from them about Iraq once the war got going (more on Trade and Taiwan). China was a minor player in the Iraqi weapons-for-oil program, but not much. If the Iraq war caused them to pull out of multi-lateral talks with North Korea, then you might have something, but I don't see it.

Iran is an interesting country to consider. There are those who believe that we should have attacked Iran first. I don't agree. I think that they are a long way from building a nuclear weapon. When al Queda was appeared to be experimenting with Sarin, I dug around for any information I could find about chemical weapons capabilities for countries that could have supplied it. Iranian chemical weapons were too crude. Basically, they were making mustard gas. Which country is more of an imminent threat to us: Iraq. There are other reasons:
1. The problem with fighting either Iran or Iraq is that you may end up fighting both at the same time. If we invade Iran, then I think that it is possible -- even likely -- that Saddam would attack the US in Iran to get back at us, rally support for himself in the region, and take a piece of Iran. An Iraqi alliance with Syria is also possible. The Iranians have sent volunteers across the border to fight us in the streets, but they can't seem to raise an army against us, probably because they have an unpopular government, and their army appears to be more defensive.
2. We have the WMD threat, numerous UN resolutions, and the Gulf War ceasefire agreement as a "legal" basis to use against Iraq.
3. Once Afghanistan was settled, the major supporters for radical Islamic terrorism were Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq, and Iran. Iraq is centrally located, bordering all of the others.
4. Baghdad is an important political and cultural center in the Middle East. The US and its allies put a light force, a small fraction of the available firepower, put them on the road to Bagdad and took the capital in less than a month. Bin Laden and friends have been telling the Arab Street that America is week. The road to Bagdad was a spectacular demonstration of our capabilities.
5. Iraq is mentioned twice in bin Laden's 1996 declaration of war against the US. He highlighted two issues: (1) we had troops on the sacred soil of Saudi Arabia, and (2) the sanctions against Iraq were a critical example of US oppression. Regime change eliminated the need to keep armed forced in Saudi Arabia, and we promptly removed them. Regime change also created an environment where we could directly help the Iraqi people and get the sanctions lifted.
6. Iraq has huge oil resources that it can use to build an excellent economy, making it a success story, a good example, for other countries in the region. (Much like West Germany was a showcase for western ideals during the cold war.) It's not enough to use containment or confrontation, you have to show people that you have a viable alternative.

RE: "Bush is making a lot of happy-talk about the spread of democracy in the region."
Yes, and it appears that a lot of people in the region are joining in!

RE: "And while Iraq is certainly trying to move to democracy, that was not in any way, shape, or form, a major stated reason for us to go to war in the first place, and I rather doubt that Bush would have been able to convince Congress or the American people to go to war if it was."
It was, however, clearly stated up front. Yes, without the WMD arguments, I don't think that Bush could have made his case. Was it a "major" reason? Well, it made it into a lot of speeches. He told us what he intended to do. He made is case: the people in the US accepted it, and he's getting it done. Its called "leadership". If it works out, he deserves the credit. If it doesn't, he takes the fall.

Here's something to think about. FDR has been called a "war monger" by many hardline republicans. He squeezed Japan economically before WW2. He created the Lend Lease program. He didn't have to do that. After Pearl Harbor, the US declared war on Japan and Germany and Italy. Why? We could have made a deal with Hitler, and Hitler certainly could have broken his agreement with Japan the way that he broke his nonaggression pact with Russia. Even if we had declared war on Germany and Italy, we could have not done anything against Germany for a while (similar to the "Phony War" against Germany immediately after the invasion of Poland). That way we could have concentrated 100% of our resources on Japan. But we didn't. When you look back on it, FDR certainly seemed to be pushing the US into war against Germany. That's OK: it was the right thing to do.

A conservative writer had an interesting view of this a while back. He pointed out that the first major land operation by the US Army was at Kasserine Pass: "The US gets attacked by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor, and America responds by attacking the Germans in Africa." [The last bit is from memory and not an exact quote.]

I've got to go now...

Kevino-

I'm not sure how much point there is to discussing this with you if you keep dodging my points, focusing on wordplay, and asserting facts without any supporting evidence. That said:

"I saw "the reason" as singular: only one." You can see it as such, but it could just as easily be seen as shorthand for "the primary reason"... which is something I've since clarified. What good does it do anybody to try and debate a point that I was never trying to make?

No matter how hard you try to push it, the major problem with Iraqi non-compliance was not that they were in breach of UN resolutions, but that they were in breach of UN resolutions on WMDs. It's ludicrous to suggest that we would have had this war had Iraq been non-compliant over, say, fishing rights.

"Large amounts of material" can cover anything from typewriters to centrifuges to chemicals - obviously the type of material here is what's really important. Yet again, you keep suggesting that there were WMDs around, even though there's no proof of it, and you keep ignoring what the Iraqi weapons experts themselves keep saying: that the weapons were destroyed. Deal with this fact!

You keep mentioning that WMDs are found, I keep saying it's not supported by the report. Provide evidence on this or concede the point.

I admitted pages ago that the Iraqis possessed precursor components that might have been used to restart production. The IIS had labs, but there's no evidence that those labs were used to produce anything, and again, we run in to the scientists themselves saying that they weren't producing anything. Why are we arguing this? The facts simply aren't in conflict.

As for your increasingly complex scenario, off the top of my head:

1. There's no evidence that the gas AQ was using in the video was Sarin, or that AQ hadn't produced the gas themselves in Afghanistan. What's more, I said nukes and nuke material, not chemicals.

2. The danger with AQ getting nukes from the former Soviet Union is not that Russia or some other republic will sell them nukes, but that poorly paid former Soviet nuclear scientists will sell the stuff without the government's knowledge. You might want to do some reading on the subject before making any more suppositions on the matter.

3. AQ is known to work in Chechnya, a former Soviet Republic. The Chechnyan resistance has underworld ties that stretch all the way up to Moscow. There's absolutely no reason to believe that it's difficult for AQ to become involved with a black market in Soviet-era nukes.

4. You're using a double-standard here - North Korea wouldn't risk selling WMDs to terrorists, in case they were outed, but Iraq would. But, as I keep pointing out, North Korea was already doing secret deals in all sorts of contraband. They did these deals because NK is in economic difficulty, and needs the money - there's no reason to think that AQ's cash is any less valuable, or any more risky to NK than Libya's.

5. Meanwhile, there's no solid evidence to suggest that Iraq and AQ have ever worked together - the Ansar Al Islam organization's as close a connection as I've ever seen, and that's a long way from Saddam giving AQ WMDs. It's now well-known that Iraq was subverting the oil-for-food program; unlike North Korea, they didn't need to sell weapons for cash. And where the heck did you get the idea that Saddam needs AQ forces? The guy had a huge army, including a sizable cadre of Republican Guard soldiers far better trained than anything AQ had.

I highly suggest you step back, take a deep breath, and reread your last several posts: you started out talking about the power of evidence, but your last few posts have been sorely lacking in anything but heresy and supposition. You're now at a point where you're conjuring up theoretical scenarios to support your belief that the Iraq war was completely justified and worthwhile, rather than considering the evidence I've provided... and that's not science.

Chris:
I'm running late and have to run. We have guests over tonight.
RE: Large amounts of material missing
Both Kay and Duefler said that too much material is missing to get the complete picture. A quick google search of "syria iraq weapons 'david kay'" finds exactly what I remembered: ""There is ample evidence of movement to Syria before the war -- satellite photographs, reports on the ground of a constant stream of trucks, cars, rail traffic across the border. We simply don't know what was moved," Kay said." (http://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/meast/01/25/sprj.nirq.kay/) [no time to format this.]

RE: You keep mentioning that WMDs are found, I keep saying it's not supported by the report.
The roadside bomb was sarin. A google search of "polish sarin" finds numerous hits: ""Laboratory tests showed the presence in them of cyclosarin, a very toxic gas, five times stronger than sarin and five times more durable," Bieniek told Poland's TVN24 at the force's Camp Babylon headquarters." (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,124576,00.html). By the way, Polish forces claim to have bought the weapons on the blackmarket.

RE: IIG labs
It's significant because they have the capability to manufacture, and they would be the best choice for secrecy to supply terrorists with technical help or actual WMD.

RE: 1. There's no evidence that the gas AQ was using in the video was Sarin, or that AQ hadn't produced the gas themselves in Afghanistan. What's more, I said nukes and nuke material, not chemicals.
I'll come back to this as time permits. I believe I was talking about WMD. CW counts.

RE: 2. The danger with AQ getting nukes from the former Soviet Union is not that Russia or some other republic will sell them nukes, but that poorly paid former Soviet nuclear scientists will sell the stuff without the government's knowledge. You might want to do some reading on the subject before making any more suppositions on the matter.
We can't deal with North Korean, much less Russia. I'm aware of the danger. You should also be aware of the fact that nuclear expertise is widely available from Pakistani scientists. You should also know that finding useful work for Iraq WMD scientists is a priority, too. But more importantly, the problem you state is a problem whether we do anything in Iraq or not. Let's deal with the easiest routes for the terrorists to strike.
You jumped to a conclusion a while back when you said that that I believe that al Queda can only collaborate with Iraq. I never said that. My point is that a relationship between Iraq and terrorists already exists.

RE: 3. AQ is known to work in Chechnya, a former Soviet Republic. The Chechnyan resistance has underworld ties that stretch all the way up to Moscow. There's absolutely no reason to believe that it's difficult for AQ to become involved with a black market in Soviet-era nukes.
They have to get the money there, and they have to arrange transportation. By the way, I hope that the US is dealing with the blackmarket very simply: we offer 10% more than the highest bidder. And if you don't let us buy it and we find out about it: you die. We are easy and safe to deal with. Double crossing us is expensive.
Transporting radioactive material long distances without being detected may be a bit of a problem, too.

RE: 4. You're using a double-standard here - North Korea wouldn't risk selling WMDs to terrorists, in case they were outed, but Iraq would. But, as I keep pointing out, North Korea was already doing secret deals in all sorts of contraband. They did these deals because NK is in economic difficulty, and needs the money - there's no reason to think that AQ's cash is any less valuable, or any more risky to NK than Libya's.
Forget selling it. Iraq would give it to them.
If agents from Lybia hit the US with a WMD, we'd strike back -- hard. They know it. The worstcase scenario is that they give the weapon to a terrorist, but even then things get tricky. Are they responsible? Can the US prove it in the court of world opinion? No. Thast's what makes it hard. IIS gives sarin to terrorists and adds a little impurities to make it look crude. Or the IIS gives terrorists old WMD shells. Or IIS mixes up a some other simpler nerve agent for the terrorists. If they are caught, few people know about it, and all of them are hardliners. Even worse, the physical evidence pointing to Iraq is very, very thin. The bad guys will simply say, "We made it." Or, "We found some old shells lying around."

RE: 5. Meanwhile, there's no solid evidence to suggest that Iraq and AQ have ever worked together - the Ansar Al Islam organization's as close a connection as I've ever seen, and that's a long way from Saddam giving AQ WMDs. It's now well-known that Iraq was subverting the oil-for-food program; unlike North Korea, they didn't need to sell weapons for cash. And where the heck did you get the idea that Saddam needs AQ forces? The guy had a huge army, including a sizable cadre of Republican Guard soldiers far better trained than anything AQ had.

I never said al Queda and Iraq. I said "terrorists" and Iraq. Iraq already supported terrorist organizations. They already have a relationship with terrorists. North Korea doesn't. Special ops soldiers are like aces: you can't have too many. Saddam was certainly motivated to strike against us. North Korea has to get along with China, so there are probably limits to what they can do, too.

Kevino-

Well, this post does address some of my points more directly, but still makes a lot of misrepresentations. That said:

I never said that "the available information was that his weapons capability was strong," I said that both the US and Europe thought he had WMDs. I also said that only Bush thought the evidence on WMDs was strong enough to justify a quick rush to war, and relied on cherry-picked information to come to that conclusion. The ISG's report that Iraq had only the long-term intention to build weapons tends to suggest that Bush was wrong in this judgment.

The well-being of the Iraqi people was simply not a primary reason for us to go to war - the above-linked declaration mentions Saddam's cruelty only once or twice, in comparison to numerous WMD references. More importantly, from a logical standpoint, the Iraqi people's misery was hardly unique, either in the middle east or worldwide. We simply don't have the resources to make everybody's lives better, no matter how much we might want to.

As for Bush using 9/11 to justify Iraq, let's not even get in to that.

North Korea is more of a risk now because of Iraq for several reasons:

1. They may have had one or two atomic weapons prior to 9/11 - now they have up to a dozen, and the capacity to churn out more.

2. They've specifically said they're building nukes because they feel threatened by the US post-Iraq, and there's no reason to doubt this.

3. We no longer have any feasible military options with North Korea, given that the vast majority of our army is tied up in Iraq. Invading North Korea is a separate issue from rebuilding North Korea - the former would have been extremely dangerous and difficult, but it's just within the power of our army and should have remained on the table, both as a saber to rattle and as a deterrent to any nuclear attack by NK. Because of Iraq, that option is off the table.

Solving the current NK dispute doesn't have much to do with Iraq, you're right... but even there, Bush's refusal to open bilateral negotiations with North Korea (which SK, China, and Japan are all encouraging us to do) is a real problem.

And let's keep pointless bashing of Clinton and Carter out of this - the number of NK nukes didn't skyrocket under their watch because of their refusal to engage.

As for your discussion of reasons to invade Iraq, this is simply a lot of after-the-fact rationalization. The point I'm making has nothing to do with whether getting rid of Saddam was a good thing, or that we should have eventually done something about him. The point I'm making has much more to do with how the US was talked into war, the true effectiveness of the Iraq war in the greater middle east, and the opportunity costs of going to war the way we did.

"It appears that a lot of people in the region are joining in!" Not necessarily, as I pointed out in the case of Lybia, Syria, Saudi Arabia, etc. Saying stuff like this doesn't make it true, and ignores the very real diplomatic pressure and external events that appear to be more directly related to what's going on in the middle east.

"It was clearly stated up front... he told us what he intended to do." Funny, I seem to remember a much greater emphasis on "not allowing the world's worst weapons to be in the hands of the world's worst dictators" than "the vast importance in holding Iraqi elections". I seem to remember massive anti-war demonstrations and an Iraq resolution that was pushed through Congress before the people got to vote in the '02 elections. Beyond that, you and I seem to have a fairly sizable disconnect as far as our visions of "leadership" - I want a leader who'll present all the facts to the public, without spin or bias, and present a plan that makes sense in that context. I don't want a leader who talks up a phony crisis to push through a predetermined course of action, simply because I don't want the government trying to do the country's thinking for it on big issues.

And your historical analogies with FDR and WW2 are completely off-base for any number of reasons, the most important being that the Axis were close allies who had the motive and the capability of taking over the whole world. The same cannot be said for Iraq and Al Qaeda, no matter how you stretch the truth.

Let's just get this over with:

1. You fail, again and again, to address the fact that Iraq's own scientists say they didn't have WMDs, and thus there was nothing to transport. Any amount of supposition is therefore meaningless.

2. The Fox news story you link to has been discredited. If it hadn't been, it would certainly have been a main point of the ISG report, which it isn't.

3. "A relationship with Iraq and terrorists already exists." Yes, this is true... but the terrorists in question are Palestinian suicide bombers, the families of which were paid money by Saddam. There's a world of difference between this and arming a group with the express intent of setting of WMDs in the US... and to the best of my knowledge, Saddam had no relationship with a terrorist group that was capable of carrying such an attack out.

4. If North Korea and Libya, two ostracized countries separated by thousands of miles of land and water, with no common culture and no preexisting relationships, could work together on nukes, then there's absolutely no reason to suppose AQ couldn't work with with North Korea, or anyone else on the planet.

5. You're fixated on Iraq, inflating how easy and likely it would be for Iraq to set up a terrorist strike against us, and overstating how much less likely it would be for non-Iraq groups to set up a strike. You say "let's deal with the easiest routes for the terrorists to take," but other than some convoluted suppositions, you have no proof for any of this. My point is simple: that the idea of attacking Iraq to make ourselves safer is fatally flawed, since there are plenty of other ways to set up terrorist strikes on the US, and investing the majority of our military in Iraq deprives us of the opportunity to deal with other threats that may arise.

The problem of WMDs and terrorists is far too complicated for a single war to adequately address, even if that war is sold to the public as the first step in a campaign to change the culture of the middle east. If the war makes us more disliked in the middle east (and it has, see my link to the Pew poll above) and if the war diverts resources away from the more immediate threat of AQ (and it has, as plenty of reports suggest) then the war was a bad idea. End of story.

Chris:

Sorry for the delay, but duty calls. I put this together last night, but it didn't get posted as expected. I'll address one response (March 9, 2005 09:33 PM) for now:

RE: "I never said that "the available information was that his weapons capability was strong," I said that both the US and Europe thought he had WMDs. I also said that only Bush thought the evidence on WMDs was strong enough to justify a quick rush to war, and relied on cherry-picked information to come to that conclusion. The ISG's report that Iraq had only the long-term intention to build weapons tends to suggest that Bush was wrong in this judgment."
Bush and others had sufficient evidence to make his case for war. Period. You may not like the Joint Resolution, but the fact is: it passed. Did Bush believe that war was best? Quite probably -- for a number of reasons.

I don't see how you can say that only Bush felt that the case was strong enough given that Blair and others have been such strong advocates for quick action.

I don't see the ISG report that way at all. The report shows that he had the means and the intent to resume his activities when he thought that the time was right. If you opt for the "containment" strategy, then we have to maintain troops on the ground in Saudi Arabia, and the people of Iraq continue to suffer under UN sanctions. The US gets blamed for the problems, and Saddam stays in power. Saddam is free to help terrorists and is expected to resume full-scale WMD production when the time right.

Also remember that the ISG report is reporting on events that may have, if fact, changed as a result of the war itself. Did Saddam hide stockpiles prior to the war? We don't know because too much stuff was removed or destroyed.

What you think of David Kay's statement that material went to Syria?

RE: "The well-being of the Iraqi people was simply not a primary reason for us to go to war - the above-linked declaration mentions Saddam's cruelty only once or twice, in comparison to numerous WMD references. More importantly, from a logical standpoint, the Iraqi people's misery was hardly unique, either in the middle east or worldwide. We simply don't have the resources to make everybody's lives better, no matter how much we might want to."
If a reason for going to war is stated up-front, then it is fair to bring it up and discuss it. You can't dismiss it because it wasn't "a primary reason". The reason it is important is that bin Laden uses it as an example of US oppression on muslim people and US support for a corrupt regime in his Fatwa [sp?], the 1996 declaration of war.

I agree that we don't have the resources to fix everyone's problems. Eliminating this problem helps eliminate the causes of anger at the US.

RE: "As for Bush using 9/11 to justify Iraq, let's not even get in to that."
OK.

RE: "North Korea is more of a risk now because of Iraq for several reasons:
1. They may have had one or two atomic weapons prior to 9/11 - now they have up to a dozen, and the capacity to churn out more."
Yes, they probably did. As I'll demonstrate in a minute, there is precious little that we can do about it, too.

RE: "2. They've specifically said they're building nukes because they feel threatened by the US post-Iraq, and there's no reason to doubt this."
If I was in their shoes, I'd say it to try to shift the blame to someone else.

RE: "3. We no longer have any feasible military options with North Korea, given that the vast majority of our army is tied up in Iraq. Invading North Korea is a separate issue from rebuilding North Korea - the former would have been extremely dangerous and difficult, but it's just within the power of our army and should have remained on the table, both as a saber to rattle and as a deterrent to any nuclear attack by NK. Because of Iraq, that option is off the table."
The rebuilding effort post-war is not separate. In most situations in modern warefare, wrecking the place and leaving is not an option. That's a critical reason why the US rebuilt Europe after WW2, and it's been a guiding principle ever since.

We didn't have a military option before Iraq, either:
1. Last I checked, NK has an army of close to 1,000,000 men, and about 2/3 was deployed to protect their border. They are better trained than all but the best Iraqi troops and better equiped. We scraped together, what, 120,00 troops to put in Iraq? We have, what, 20,000-25,000 in SK? That's a fraction of the manpower required to fight a determined enemy on his own soil.
2. The last time we took on NK, we had to draft a great many men. As a practical matter, a draft today is impossible.
3. The last time we took on NK China jumped in. That may happen again.
4. The last time we took on NK we had big support from the UN. NK has friends in the UN, particularly China. China has already blocked UN resolutions concerning NK.
5. The last time we took on NK we had the support of SK. SK has demonstrated that they are not exactly friendly to the US even before Bush. I doubt that they would support any military option and would probably suck up to NK by making a US-led effort difficult.
6. NK has nuclear weapons and other WMD. They can't, probably, drop them on us, but they can deploy them in areas the US army is likely to move through and set them off.
7. We don't have the authority to act. Here's a radical question I've been thinking about for some time: what authority does the UN, the US, or any country have to tell another country they can't have nuclear weapons? NK signed treaties to not build nuclear weapons. I am not aware that there are any enforcement clauses in any nonprolifiration treaties that can be used to take action, certainly not military action. I admit that I haven't read the casefire agreement between the US. It may provide a legal basis, but I doubt it. At the time that th treaty was written, it was a tough negotiation. [N.B. I mentioned this in the comparison between Iraq and Iran because the problem also exists with Iran. By contrast, the Joint Resolution mentions the fact that Iraq has not met the terms of the ceasefire from the Gulf War.]

RE: "Solving the current NK dispute doesn't have much to do with Iraq, you're right... but even there, Bush's refusal to open bilateral negotiations with North Korea (which SK, China, and Japan are all encouraging us to do) is a real problem."
RE: "And let's keep pointless bashing of Clinton and Carter out of this - the number of NK nukes didn't skyrocket under their watch because of their refusal to engage."
OK, these are different subjects.

RE: "As for your discussion of reasons to invade Iraq, this is simply a lot of after-the-fact rationalization. The point I'm making has nothing to do with whether getting rid of Saddam was a good thing, or that we should have eventually done something about him. The point I'm making has much more to do with how the US was talked into war, the true effectiveness of the Iraq war in the greater middle east, and the opportunity costs of going to war the way we did."
I don't see a rational basis for the idea that this is "after-the-fact rationalization". The reasons were stated up front, before a shot was fired. The neo-cons made Iraq their number one target even before 9/11. Look at Project for the New American Century. The third tab down is "Iraq/Middle East". First article I hit in the archive, Wolfowitz Statement on U.S. Policy Toward Iraq, includes: "If this Administration could muster the necessary strength of purpose, it would be possible to liberate ourselves, our friends and allies in the region, and the Iraqi people themselves, from the menace of Saddam Hussein."
http://www.newamericancentury.org/iraqsep1898.htm
Also, I stand by my other reasons why Iraq is the better target than Iran, and those reasons came from a discussion with liberals as the war in Afghanistan was still going on. Many critics at the time saw that Iraq would be the next target because the Bush administration had been taken over by the dreaded neo-cons.

RE "It appears that a lot of people in the region are joining in!" Not necessarily, as I pointed out in the case of Lybia, Syria, Saudi Arabia, etc. Saying stuff like this doesn't make it true, and ignores the very real diplomatic pressure and external events that appear to be more directly related to what's going on in the middle east.
At last, you are getting back to your central theme: Bush's policy isn't responsible for the extraordinary events in the Middle East in the last few weeks. I am waiting to here evidence of this, particularly given the large number of people who live in the Middle East 24/7 who are directly pointing to things Bush has done.

RE: "It was clearly stated up front... he told us what he intended to do." Funny, I seem to remember a much greater emphasis on "not allowing the world's worst weapons to be in the hands of the world's worst dictators" than "the vast importance in holding Iraqi elections".
There may have been a "greater emphasis" on other things, but he told us what he wanted to do.

RE: "I seem to remember massive anti-war demonstrations and an Iraq resolution that was pushed through Congress before the people got to vote in the '02 elections. Beyond that, you and I seem to have a fairly sizable disconnect as far as our visions of "leadership" - I want a leader who'll present all the facts to the public, without spin or bias, and present a plan that makes sense in that context. I don't want a leader who talks up a phony crisis to push through a predetermined course of action, simply because I don't want the government trying to do the country's thinking for it on big issues."
If you believe that he "sexed up" the intelligence, then you're going to need proof. The British already tried this and got nowhere. He gave his plan, he got it passed, and he's getting the job done.

RE: "And your historical analogies with FDR and WW2 are completely off-base for any number of reasons, the most important being that the Axis were close allies who had the motive and the capability of taking over the whole world. The same cannot be said for Iraq and Al Qaeda, no matter how you stretch the truth."
You don't understand that the enemy isn't Iraq or al Qaeda. The Kennedy center study agrees with Bush: radical Islamic philosophy and conditions in the Middle East are creating the environment where terrorism grows. The situation in the Middle East is creating a culture that values young men blowing themselves up to kill people who do not follow their religion. That situation threatens the US and the West. Taking out al Qeada and leaving the Middle East as it was won't get the job done any more than going after Japan and leaving Germany. Sooner or later we will have to deal with this mess: sooner is better.

Yes, Bush is trying to transform the Middle East, and it may work. At first glance, it looks like a big risk. It's probably not. If we don't take action, we're in serious trouble. This isn't just a regional conflict. ( I'll try to write more about this later.)

By the way, in talking about FDR I suggest that you consider the Lend Lease program and programs to upgrade our military. FDR pushed hard, and it almost got killed by Congress. These moves we very controversial at the time. Most people wanted to stay out of the conflict. In fact, some even thought that FDR was so set on war that they spread the rumor that he knew about Pearl Harbor but kept it a secret. From WW2 through Vietnam, the GOP referred to the DNC as "the Party of War" because of their propsensity for starting wars. (I never agreed, but that was the tactic.)

By the way, WSJ's Best of the Web from Wednesday has a letter from a reader named "Eric Axelson" that struck a chord with me. For those who missed it:

As a Democratic elected official in the 1980s I had a similar response to any of Ronald Reagan's initiatives. I can recall a sinking feeling as the stock market took off in late 1982, worrying that Reagan would get credit. Or being peeved that the Grenada invasion was so successful. Or that Reagan engineered the tax reform that Bill Bradley and Dick Gephardt had staked out. And conversely, when the Iran-contra scandal blew up I was delighted that Reagan would be brought down a peg (although Oliver North pretty much cleaned the clocks of the lawyers and congressional inquisitors in his testimony). The bottom line for us partisan Democrats back then (as now) was that if it was good for Reagan (even if also good for the country) we opposed, belittled, quibbled, nattered and otherwise sought to diminish.

It was only well after Reagan had left office that I began to see how successful and far-reaching his policies actually were. In the 1990s I began to annoy my leftist friends by stating the obvious, that Reagan was the most successful U.S. president since FDR. And it was only a relatively short ideological journey (helped along by Clinton's feckless policies and corruption) to embrace the policies of President Bush that are engendering freedom in places that have known only tyranny.

Kevino-

I give up. I've highlighted the following facts several times now, and you continue to ignore them. So, to sum up:

Saddam's own scientists say there were no WMDs, and that they were not planning on building WMDs until the sanctions were lifted. Saddam himself kept saying this under repeated interrogation. Speculation, whether by you or David Kay, that there really were weapons transfered to other locations, and excuses that you can't prove it because of postwar looting, are completely unfounded and pointless.

You seem to think that because the resolution passed Congress, the reasoning behind it is above reproach. Well, clearly this is true - Congress would never pass flawed, harmful legislation. That's why I know the bankruptcy bill before Congress right now is a great piece of legislation, despite all the facts and arguments to the contrary!

You seem to think that as long as a laundry list of reasons for war contained something that might be somewhat valid, the overwhelming spin the administration placed on the WMD rationale can be ignored. The ends, in short, justify the means. That's crap, but if that's your position, clearly no amount of argument from me will make a difference.

The Senate committee investigating the Iraq intelligence just closed shop without interviewing any administration officials about any pressure they may have placed on the intelligence community so unfortunately we'll never know the final answer to how much spin was placed on it. But Dick Cheney strongly suggested Iraq had nukes, something that was almost completely unsubstantiated before the war, and laughable after it. That's a problem.

You make a false dichotomy between going to war the way the Bush administration did, and doing nothing at all, suggesting that Bush's approach was the only way to change the Middle East. I've pointed out that the recent democratic shifts in Saudi Arabia and Egypt were actually caused by diplomatic pressure about ending financial support, rather than the threat of war, but if you choose to ignore this, there's nothing I can do.

You're also completely ignoring the evidence that suggests we're more disliked in the region after Iraq, not less. I've already addressed Abbas's quote re: not being Saddam... too bad you ignored what I said.

And as for North Korea, it's actually comical how many reasons you give against a war that would clearly be in our own self-defense. I think you've entirely forgotten what the pre-Iraq thinking on war was: that it was a deadly serious thing to be pursued with every necessary resource, only to be entered into after careful consideration and debate. If North Korean nukes look to be a threat to the US, as they increasingly do, then I would fully support almost any measure taken by Bush administration, up to and including a draft, to secure the republic. (And I'm young enough to be drafted, fwiw.) In such a war, our security is paramount - any considerations about rebuilding, etc., would have to be dealt with after the fact, just as they were after WW2.

In short, if nothing else, this argument has given me a clearer insight into how a lot of Bush supporters think: that anything the president does is excusable if the words "freedom" and "liberty" are invoked, that repeatedly asserting stuff makes it true (This war is just like WW2! Everything's getting better because of Iraq! We don't have to worry about Iraq itself anymore, now that we've had an election!) and... ah, heck with it. As I said, thanks for that lesson, if nothing else. This is my last post on the subject; goodbye.

Well, Chris, I'm sorry you feel that way.

For starters, you exhausted yourself with the Senator Boxer's argument: that we went to war over WMDs, where WMDs are defined as "stockpiles" of WMDs. Its a strawman argument, and it's easily proved false.

RE: "You seem to think that because the resolution passed Congress, the reasoning behind it is above reproach."
This is another strawman argument: I don't think that at all.

RE: You make a false dichotomy between going to war the way the Bush administration did, and doing nothing at all.
This is another strawman: I said no such thing.

RE: "You're also completely ignoring the evidence that suggests we're more disliked in the region after Iraq, not less. I've already addressed Abbas's quote re: not being Saddam... too bad you ignored what I said."
I am well aware of how Mulims feel about the US -- both before the Iraq war and after. I regret that I did not have the time to write my response to you point.

RE: "And as for North Korea, it's actually comical how many reasons you give against a war that would clearly be in our own self-defense"
NK nuclear weapons are not a threat to the US taht is woth going to war over because countries can be contained. Even if they develop better missles so that they can deliver the weapons, they will -- eventually -- reach a level of threat that China or Russia has. When that day happens, the US may develop an anti-missle defense that will prevent them from reaching us. Even without a missle defense, NK has no pausible deniability. They won't launch an attack because the US will respond.

The bottom line is this: if there ever is a war with NK, it will not be a conventional war. And all this talk about the threat by NK is a red herring to distract people from the Middle East.

By the way, I suggest that read Sam Hunnington's article "Class of Civilizations." He talks about the anti-western views of NK and the Middle East. (Also note the conflict over WMD.)

RE: "In short, if nothing else, this argument has given me a clearer insight into how a lot of Bush supporters think."
Well, then you didn't learn very much.

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