The debate continues…

Wow. I was so overwhelmed and lulled into a placid state by the kind comments in response to my Sunday column that I didn’t notice until just now that this debate was still going on (and this one, too, in a related vein).

Rather than continue to jump in with my answers and asides in the comments stream, I’m going to respond to a couple of my correspondents with this new posting — largely because I still haven’t mastered a way to insert links, much less files, conveniently into the comments format. I continue to admire those savvy folk who have figured it out.

Anyway, Portia said I had explained my lack of military service — one of the great regrets, or perhaps I should say gripes (since it wasn’t my choice), of my life — in a recent column, but she couldn’t get to it to provide a link. I’ve mentioned it more than once, but I have a feeling that this is the one to which she refers. If not, I’ll go back and look for another one.

Also, the link that Mike C provided was interesting, and I recommend it (although I got lost in exactly what the late William Jennings Bryan Dorn‘s namesake was urging Woodrow Wilson to do; I really need to bone up on that period). But I bring it up here because its title, and this passage …

The profound interpretation recognizes that if there is an invasion the decision for it and for its sweeping historical consequences will be in the hands of one man, The President of the United States, and that he – and he alone – must take complete moral responsibility for this massive intervention in the fate of our species. And this fact is conveyed in the title of Mr. Hammerschlag’s article: it will forever be Bush’s War, no matter what the outcome.

… reminded me of an older column of mine (and here’s where I really had to go to a posting rather than a comment, since I had to attach a Word file, that piece no longer being online).

Oh, and in answer to "Amos Nunoy‘s" last question, namely, "Did you know it wasn’t about mass weapons the whole time? You didn’t say," I most certainly did NOT write "Hey, there’s no WMD." Why? Because I thought, like everyone else, that Saddam had at least one variety of WMD (he had used it in the past, after all), and was working feverishly to develop others. In fact, we mentioned it editorially among the reasons to invade at the time — partly because that cause was more important to others on our editorial board than it was to me, but also because it WAS part of the argument. It just wasn’t what was important to me, and would not have been reason enough alone to justify invasion in MY mind. You can tell this by what I did stress at the time, such as (at least in passing) in the column linked in the paragraph above. Or, more to the point, this one. In fact, the latter is worth quoting here, in case you have trouble calling up that old file:

The answer to all of the above is: Sept. 11.

Before that, U.S. policy-makers didn’t want to destabilize the status quo in the Mideast. What we learned on Sept. 11 is that the status quo in the region is unacceptable. It must change.

Change has to start somewhere, and Iraq is the best place to insert the lever, for several reasons – geography, culture, demographics, but most of all because Saddam Hussein has given us all the justification we need to go in and take him out: We stopped shooting in 1991 because he agreed to certain terms, and he has repeatedly thumbed his nose at those agreements.

Iraq may not be the best place in the world to try to nurture a liberal democracy, but it’s the best shot we have in the Mideast.

That was written, by the way, the month before the 2003 invasion. You’ll notice, "Amos," that while I didn’t specifically mention WMD (because, once again, I thought that threat, while insufficient, was real) I DID say that the president, for Realpolitik reasons, wasn’t frankly stating exactly WHY we had to go into Iraq — or at least, wasn’t stressing it enough to suit me. That’s why that column was headlined, "The uncomfortable truth about why we may have to invade Iraq." I thought it was important to state those reasons more prominently beforehand, so I did.

16 thoughts on “The debate continues…

  1. Mike C

    WMD, more precisely, Saddam’s failure to fully disclose the whereabouts or disposition of the WMD, put Saddam in violation of the UN resolutions. Bush and Blair used that noncompliance as the legal justification for the invasion. While this legal entrée was useful as a tool in international politics, Bush made the case for Middle East security, US security, and humanitarian purposes too. Over and over again. Sort of a drumbeat, especially in the weeks leading up to the invasion.
    In a speech on February 26, 2003 Bush made this clear:

    In Iraq, a dictator is building and hiding weapons that could enable him to dominate the Middle East and intimidate the civilized world — and we will not allow it. (Applause.) This same tyrant has close ties to terrorist organizations, and could supply them with the terrible means to strike this country — and America will not permit it. The danger posed by Saddam Hussein and his weapons cannot be ignored or wished away. The danger must be confronted. We hope that the Iraqi regime will meet the demands of the United Nations and disarm, fully and peacefully. If it does not, we are prepared to disarm Iraq by force. Either way, this danger will be removed.

    But that was not Bush’s only rationale. He cited too peace in the Middle East.

    The current Iraqi regime has shown the power of tyranny to spread discord and violence in the Middle East. A liberated Iraq can show the power of freedom to transform that vital region, by bringing hope and progress into the lives of millions. America’s interests in security, and America’s belief in liberty, both lead in the same direction: to a free and peaceful Iraq.

    He cited benefits to the Iraqis.

    The first to benefit from a free Iraq would be the Iraqi people, themselves. Today they live in scarcity and fear, under a dictator who has brought them nothing but war, and misery, and torture. Their lives and their freedom matter little to Saddam Hussein — but Iraqi lives and freedom matter greatly to us.

    And warned that it would not be a cakewalk.

    Bringing stability and unity to a free Iraq will not be easy. Yet that is no excuse to leave the Iraqi regime’s torture chambers and poison labs in operation. Any future the Iraqi people choose for themselves will be better than the nightmare world that Saddam Hussein has chosen for them.

    He spoke of the challenges to reconstruction too.

    The United States has no intention of determining the precise form of Iraq’s new government. That choice belongs to the Iraqi people. Yet, we will ensure that one brutal dictator is not replaced by another. All Iraqis must have a voice in the new government, and all citizens must have their rights protected.

    Heck, read the whole thing. Then you can take a look at his March 8, 2003 radio address wherein he emphasized Saddam’s noncompliance and refusal to cooperate with UN inspectors.
    In his radio address of March 15, 2003 Bush cited Saddam’s chemical attack on Halabja, spoke of the US, Great Britain, and Spain working with the U.N. Security Council to confront this common danger, and cited what the Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel, said that week, “We have a moral obligation to intervene where evil is in control. Today, that place is Iraq.”
    On St. Patrick’s Day Bush addressed the nation and gave Saddam 48 hours to get out of Iraq.

    My fellow citizens, events in Iraq have now reached the final days of decision. For more than a decade, the United States and other nations have pursued patient and honorable efforts to disarm the Iraqi regime without war. That regime pledged to reveal and destroy all its weapons of mass destruction as a condition for ending the Persian Gulf War in 1991.
    Since then, the world has engaged in 12 years of diplomacy. We have passed more than a dozen resolutions in the United Nations Security Council. We have sent hundreds of weapons inspectors to oversee the disarmament of Iraq. Our good faith has not been returned.

    Again, read the whole thing. You’ll see that he mentioned the Congressional authorization, too:

    The United States of America has the sovereign authority to use force in assuring its own national security. That duty falls to me, as Commander-in-Chief, by the oath I have sworn, by the oath I will keep. Recognizing the threat to our country, the United States Congress voted overwhelmingly last year to support the use of force against Iraq. America tried to work with the United Nations to address this threat because we wanted to resolve the issue peacefully.

    There is some bitterness evident (prominent?) in the comments on your previous blog entries, folks who are so sure that Bush lied or that Saddam was not a threat or whatever. But as Lee Harris, whom you quote above, writes of the bitter truth:

    Did we have “real certainty” that he [Saddam] would use these weapons [WMD], if he had them, in Howard Dean’s clinical sense of “real certainty.” No, we did not because we could not. Our invasion was a gamble, and it may well have been a gamble that was unnecessary because Saddam Hussein might never have gotten around to using his weapons, even if he had them. We will never know.
    We will never know: that is the great leitmotiv of our epoch. We will never know if Saddam Hussein might have provided weapons of mass destruction to those whose work on 9/11 he had already hailed so enthusiastically. We will never know whether the invasion of Iraq was really in our national defense. We will never know how many, if any, terror attacks we may have thus prevented.
    The Bitter Truth
    But come to think of it: Tell us something that we will ever know for certain about the war on terrorism — like, when is it going to end, and how on earth will we be able to tell when it is over?
    This is a bitter truth that both sides of the political fence must be brought to recognize, and as quickly as possible. We can no longer know for sure the very things that we most want to know, such as when they will try to kill us again. It is not possible knowledge. There are too many people in the world who could do it to ever be certain who will.

    Read the rest.
    But if it’s true that we’ll not know much about this for certain, dose that mean that Bush doesn’t have a clue?

  2. kc

    The answer to all of the above is: Sept. 11.
    Ah, yes, 9/11. “9/11 changed everything!”
    Do you still not see the irony inherent in using 9/11 as a justification for invading one of the few countries in the ME that had absolutely NO CONNECTION to 9/11?

  3. Brad Warthen

    It’s impossible for any mere mortal to say “absolutely” that Iraq had no “CONNECTION” to 9/11, even in the extremely narrow, concrete way in which war opponents assert that.
    But that’s not the way in which “9/11 changed everything.” It didn’t change things merely in the in simple terms of “now we’re going to go after the people who hurt us.” It changed our entire strategic posture toward the world, and ESPECIALLY what you term the ME (which confused me initially, because in my world, ME means “managing editor.”)
    You want to encapsulate things briefly? Well, I can’t get it to bumper-sticker brevity, but here’s a rough attempt: “It isn’t about oil any more.” For 50 years, we tolerated all sorts of otherwise intolerable situations in the Mideast because our one, overriding strategic interest was in keeping the oil flowing. You want to talk about a war that was about oil? Look at the first Gulf War (which many war opponents now point to as evidence of the greater wisdom of Bush pere vs. Bush fil). Why did we have to stop Saddam from invading Saudi Arabia, and push him out of Kuwait? To protect the oil flow. Why did we not go ahead and topple him, when we had enough forces in place not only to do that easily, but to occupy the country effectively (something we haven’t achieved yet this time)? Because we didn’t want to disturb the status quo, because the status quo — brutal tyrants and hate-instilling madrassas aside — kept the oil flowing.
    On 9/11, we realized — or some of us realized — that the status quo was extremely dangerous to this country and the rest of the civilized world. It was time to stopping preserving the status quo. It was time to start shaking things up.
    Since over the last 12 years, Saddam had given us all the reason in the world to resume the hostilities that ceased in 1991 (since he had regularly and systematically violated the terms of the that cease-fire with impunity throughout that time). So that’s where we started the shaking-up. It was a logical place to insert the lever of change. It was an extremely risky thing to do then, and it still is (not “prudent,” as the president’s daddy would say). But 9/11 left us little choice but to start taking risks. The safe route had turned out to be the most dangerous of all.

  4. VN Vet

    How can any war on terror be serious when we can’t even control our own border? Literally thousands cross daily illegally.
    Who are these people, what is their real intent? If our government had bothered to address this problem long before 9/11 maybe this wouldn’t have happened. Regardless how much military we put in / out of Iraq, this war can’t be won without first closing the border to illegals.
    Some are right, we aren’t fighting this war in America, yet.
    In closing, is anyone really surprised by the resistance/insurgency/terror currently in Iraq? Come on, no one needed to be clairvoyant for this one.

  5. Michael Molder

    Dear Senators Graham and DeMint
    Representatives Sprat, Clyburn, Brown, Barrett, Inglis, and Wilson.
    As a tax payer I’m interested in any action that YOU have taken regarding the $8 BILLION that has seems to be unaccounted for in Iraq. While no public inquires seem to be tracing this (our ) money, and the people in Iraq seem to have little relief in the way of public utilities or security.
    In light of the documented short-funding of our troops in Iraq, if I were in the government of the United States, I would be keenly interested in this issue.
    I would greatly appreciate your attention to this problem.
    Michael S. Molder

  6. David

    To Michael Molder, You must be a bean counter to raise the bookkeeping issue as a serious one. Please tell us you are a CPA and you think its critical that we balance the books in the commission of the Iraq war. If we can just get Al Qaeda to comply with Sarbanes-Oxley, we will have peace at last and the war on terror will be won.

  7. David

    Does anyone else agree with me that Saddam Hussein himself was the WMD? I think about 500,000 to 2 million dead Kurds, Iranians, Kuwaitis, and others would possibly agree if they were alive to talk. This is the year 2005 A.D., not 1005, and we have savage barbarians who cut off prisoner’s heads, drag burned bodies through the streets, blow up buses filled with children, and the only thing that excited the left was some terrorist prisoners were made to wear women’s underwear. As to Gitmo, Dick “Turban” Durbin called our troops Nazis because the interrogators turned the air conditioners on very cold. To the left, 9-11 is long gone especially since NBC, ABC, CNN and the other usual liberal media refuse to show the horrifying films of what happened. When is the last time anyone has seen the planes hit the buildings on network TV? Oh no, that wouldn’t be politically correct, would it?

    At the same time, the anti-American left who would repeal the Patriot Act, open our borders to anyone who wanted to come in, among other stupidities, would be the first in line to criticize the administration for NOT doing enough to protect us if we have another act of terrorism on US soil. Very predictable. I agree with Brad that 9-11 is all about Iraq and hopefully soon Iran and Syria. If the terrorist breeding grounds are not stopped there, we will be experiencing much more of terrorism right here.

  8. Amos Nunoy

    Thanks for addressing my question, Mr. Warthen. I wasn’t aware of all the reasons we had for confronting Iraq.
    I thought it was all about mass weapons of destruction.
    But as you pointed out its about terrorism, and it seems to be working pretty good in that regard.
    Keep up the good work at State paper.

  9. Mark Whittington

    Recently, someone who disagrees with me quoted Strom Thurmond (and no, I don’t hate you, even if we disagree). Read Thurmond’s 1946 gubernatorial platform in the following column:
    GIs came home and pushed SC towards change
    to end the poll tax
    to create a state minimum wage
    stronger child-labor laws
    the current system of county governments
    advocated free textbooks
    federal aid for education and better schools to raise the literacy rate among the state’s black residents
    My dad, a WWII combat vet, would have agreed with all of these points (as do I), and all the ideas are rooted in Social Democracy (i.e., Democratic Socialism). There’s that nasty word “socialism” again! The whole point of the article was that returning vets had seen the how the rest of the world lived, and that these vets wanted change here. My dad, not known for euphemism, used to put it another way: “You know, if things hadn’t of changed after WWII, there would have been a revolution in the US. Once all the vets had fought the war and found out what they could really do, they weren’t willing to treated like peasants anymore”.
    Now why did men like my dad think like this? Could it have been the Great Depression? Specifically, it was the response to the depression by the arrogant elite who ran the country before the New Deal that pissed off men like my dad so much. You see, a lot of people were on the verge of starvation, and all the Republicans could do was talk about the market being on the rebound. The New Deal (Democratic Socialism) was fought tooth and nail by the free market fundamentalist of that day, and people knew it. My dad worked for the CCCs and his dad worked for the WPAs-he knew that the New Deal had saved the country. When the depression hit, all the mills closed, and the people who had run the country into the ground seemed to care less. My dad’s recollections of living in a mill town were not happy. Many families were constantly being evicted from their homes. The mills owned everything. Some people went back to share cropping just to survive. I remember he used to talk about not having shoes to wear to go back to school-he wasn’t exaggerating.
    What was he thinking about during the time? Well, here is the stuff I remember him talking about:
    The Bonus Army-He never forgave Hoover or MacArthur for this. He used to call MacArthur “Dugout Doug”. He always blamed McArthur for leaving Wainwright, the nuns, and the Marines at Baaton. He thought the McArthur took credit for what Admiral Halsey did. He thought the guy was a coward.
    Honea Path-right here in SC-where seven striking workers were murdered with the consent of a criminal governor.
    Lynchings-My dad loathed this criminal practice, and he was ashamed that it ever took place in SC.
    Racism-My dad was one the first people here to advocate equal education for black people. He never treated black people as second-class citizens-ever.
    But there is an element that the before mentioned article doesn’t expound on that needs to be talked about. WWII was a war against FASCISM. You know, the right wing extremist philosophy also known as the CORPORATE STATE. Fascism was the end-result of unfettered capitalism, colonialism, and imperialism. Many returning veterans were savvy enough to realize that they same mentality that they had been fighting in Europe and in the Pacific permeated their own local governments back in the US (yes, corporations ran the US back then too).
    So what is Fascism and why were men like my dad fighting it? Next time.

  10. Mike C

    Mark –
    What an interesting take!
    Fascism may indeed have been “the end-result of unfettered capitalism, colonialism, and imperialism,” but it was not a system run by and for what we know as corporations today. When Giovanni Gentile, the “the philosopher of Fascism,” used the word “corporatism” (Italian corporativismo) he was referring to a political system:

    in which legislative power is given to corporations that represent economic, industrial and professional groups. Unlike pluralism, in which many groups must compete for control of the state, in corporatism, certain unelected bodies take a critical role in the decision-making process. This original meaning was not connected with the specific notion of a business corporation, being a rather more general reference to any incorporated body. The word “corporatism” is derived from the Latin word for body, corpus.
    Ostensibly, the entire society is to be run by decisions made by these corporate groups. It is a form of class collaboration put forward as an alternative to class conflict and was first proposed in Pope Leo XIII’s 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum, which influenced Catholic trade unions which were organized in the early twentieth century to counter the influence of trade unions founded on a socialist ideology. Theoretical underpinning came from the medieval traditions of guilds and craft-based economics.

    Among the implications is that an elected legislature or parliament should be abolished because the special interest groups were in charge. Corporatism was viewed by many as an antidote to the twin “dangers” of the egalitarianism of the French Revolution and the laissez-faire economics of Adam Smith.
    Fascism was typified by attempts to impose state control over all aspects of life.

    Many scholars consider fascism to be part of, or in coalition with, extreme right politics. The definitional debates and arguments by academics over the nature of fascism, however, fill entire bookshelves. There are clearly elements of both left and right ideology in the development of Fascism.

    I think it’s correct to regard fascism as the “third way.” Between WW I and WW II it was the self-description of rural populists in Eastern Europe and was a favorite buzzword of fascist intellectuals everywhere — Fascism being the third way between capitalist anarchy and Communist dictatorship. Again, fascism is the rule by self-appointed groups, not elected officials and legislatures, and not by Microsoft, Wal-Mart, and General Mills.
    You can find more links about fascism and corporatism in this entry on a blog run by a libertarian law professor.

  11. David

    Mark, you said — WWII was a war against FASCISM. You know, the right wing extremist philosophy also known as the CORPORATE STATE. Fascism was the end-result of unfettered capitalism, colonialism, and imperialism.

    You may not want to hear this but Hitler was a socialist to the fullest extent. He won popular support by raging against the business class (aka corporations). He may have hated the Kaiser more than anyone. I believe his original party was called the Socialist Workers Party but I need to look it up. Hitler promised many of the same things Hillary talks about, national health care, redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor, the workingman this and the workingman that. What bunk….. I would agree that as he embarked into his wartime mode, he certainly became very fascist, but he wasn’t that way as he came to power. Some may consider this a reach but the socialist left in America has as its goal the disarming of the American citizenry. Guess what Adolf did to the German citizens. Yes, disarm them so they became putty in his hands. I see many similarities with the liberal left and the Nazi regime but we will never see that comparison in the mainstream media. Only on blogs. Also, Mike C. above made some excellent points that I wish I had time to comment on – but too busy for now..

  12. Mike C

    David –
    Nazi = National Socialist German Workers Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei). Members usually referred to themselves as National Socialists; “Nazi” was a pejorative term in Germany at the time. Follow the link and you’ll find that although “capitalists” (industrialists) supported Hitler’s rise as an alternative to Communism, the whole mess was a mix of romanticism, totalitarianism, nationalism, and that particular type of xenophobia directed at those alleged to control the world, those some refer to today as “The Joos.”

  13. Mark Whittington

    It’s late, but I have to ask you, in your opinion, were the Nazis “Socialist”? Also, do you believe that Socialists, Social Democrats, and Christian Social Democrats considered the Nazis to be “Socialist” in any sense? Do you believe that the Jews in Germany considered the Nazis to be “Socialist”?
    Do you mind if I visit your website? Would you provide a link for me?

  14. Mike C

    Mark –
    If you click on “Mike C” on the entry above or at the bottom of this entry, you will be directed to my website. Most of the links open in a new window when you click on them. The links in the early posts are not highlighted, so you have to move your mouse pointer across the text to find the links. I apologize for that inconvenience and hope to fix that soon. Please leave comments wherever you find something you’d like to comment on.
    I don’t think one can consider Hitler’s Nazi as either socialist or capitalist, or apply any standard economic classification. The link I posted above indicates that it was a mishmash of romanticism, totalitarianism, nationalism, and anti-Semitism. As Hitler’s search for lebensraum grew, industrialists at first benefited, but the need to fund the war machine resulted in a virtual state takeover of industries and manpower was absorbed into the military or military research establishments. After the war a sizeable title and deed recovery effort was undertaken to return property (private and commercial) to the rightful owners, assess damages against those rightful owners of capital stock of industrial concerns, and provide reparations to the displaced and survivors of the murdered (Jews, Slavs, Gypsies, etc.) I don’t believe that any of the parties you listed regarded the Nazis as socialists, but the Nazis clearly had socialist policies as part of an effort to recover from the depression and inflation of the Weimar era. (Some economists held that the Weimar Republic put plans into place that improved the economic situation that the Nazis inherited.)

Comments are closed.