Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Monday, July 14, 2003  

To step back a second from measuring Pinocchio Bush’s nose, I’ve been meaning to go back to an argument I made in September about why the invasion of Iraq was a bad idea. I’m just a random citizen, someone without even so much as a history or poly sci degree. Still, the whole affair seemed a doomed venture. Now that Bush is busy defending his lies by pointing to the "success" of the invasion, we can go back to the scorecard (one scorecard, anyway; mine).

Strategic Refutation
I wrote: "On the points Bush has provided, we can grant every single one without drawing the same conclusion that invasion is the best way to address them. Rather, one should assert that unilateral invasion would result in catastrophe." I then broke down the strategic argument into the Administration's assumptions, as follows:

Hussein can be killed
Here I was a bit overeager, perhaps. I wrote: "If he sneaks out the back door like bin Laden, many will regard the whole operation as a failure." Hussein got away, but it didn't matter. Although Baathists continue to kill Americans, there's little reason to believe Hussein's capture is significant in terms of American national safety.

Invading Iraq will stabilize the Middle East
I wrote: "In fact, there is almost no scenario one can imagine in which an invasion of Iraq does anything but further destabilize the region." Immediately after the war, the US threatened Syria, but has since backed away from the swagger. The Middle East was happy to see Saddam gone, but seems critical of Bush's handling of post-war Iraq. Meanwhile, Iran's building long-range missiles. Probably too early to tell yet, but I'm feeling like this was pretty good analysis.

Iraq, which Bush declares is in possession of WMD, will not use them during a US invasion
Brings up an interesting point, doesn't it? What if the Bushies suspected Saddam had some old, unusable WMD, but none that would seriously threaten troops? Invading would pose only conventional threat to soldiers, but the discovery of outdated WMD would justify the attack.

World opinion is irrelevant
I wrote: "While world opinion would not translate into any kind of overt action, it is clear that continued US “interventions” are dependent on soft support, at a minimum." Just today, New Delhi announced it would not help the US without UN intervention. Populations in other countries are incensed at the US. In his tour of Africa, Bush, who was there to hand out goodies, was greeted with suspicion. Thanks to Bush, we're the most feared nation on earth.

Legal Refutation
I wrote: "George W. Bush has very clearly made the argument that the US should move away from international cooperation and adopt a strategy of pre-emption and unilateralism. In order to do this, the Bush Administration has tried to create some kind of legal claim for its unilateralist agenda. It started by retrofitting its policy with a couple of minimum criteria. The context of 9/11 gave them the first: terrorism. What actions qualify as 'terrorism' are not defined; it seems that a simple US designation is adequate. Second, there must be the threat of harm--and this one is easy to meet because not just to the US or its citizens qualifies as a threat, but even 'our interests.' This is a wholly bogus extension of the premise of 'imminent attack,' which according to international law is a justification for pre-emptive strike."

I believe history will regard this as the most important consequence of invading Iraq, though it is the least important in America three months after the war. The argument of pre-emption was really always a game of wink-wink crapshoot. You assert terrorism and danger, and when you invade, you find enough to retro-warrant your fears. But on their very first outing, the Bushies have brilliantly demonstrated the flaw of this strategy. Iraq appears not to have been associated with terror and not to have been a threat. We're left with the specter of the country most associated with human rights and democracy engaging in what can only be described as a war crime. This won't hurt Bush, but it could severly damage America's standing in the world.

Moral Refutation
I wrote: "The very premise of invading Iraq is the threat it poses to innocents. History has shown that Americans aren’t in the business of ensuring the liberty of foreign citizens until the safety of its own are at risk. No, Bush wishes to attack Iraq to protect American lives. In prioritizing invasion above non-militaristic approaches, he’s made a clear distinction: American lives are more important than Iraqi lives. Most US citizens would agree with him, but the rub is that Americans aren’t at risk. For the Iraqis it’s damned by the hand of Hussein or damned by the hand of Bush--does anyone think they find Bush’s platitudes just compensation for their lives?"

It's very hard to evaluate the morality of war. But here's how I'd demonstrate the duplicity of American policy. Although Bush now characterizes the Iraq invasion as a success because of its humanitarian benefit, he ignores Liberia, Congo, Burma, and any number of other human rights catastrophes--catastrophes that dwarf the difficulty of Iraqis. There was never anything moral about this war, and the result reflects the confusion of the original intention to invade.

I wrote: "Sixty percent of Iraq is comprised of Shi’ites who have never held power in the country. Kurds comprise another 19%, and have, of course, never held power. The ruling Baath Party represents a Sunni minority of just 17% of the population. Hussein’s regime gained and maintains control through intense violence, which has left the country seething. If the warlords of Afghanistan are proving more difficult to manage than the American military predicted, how will the US or even the UN manage a post-Hussein Iraq? It is guaranteed to be a mess."

That sound you heard was a hammer hitting the nail on the head.

As this whole fiasco about Bush lying plays out, people are missing the very biggest picture regarding the invasion of Iraq: it was misguided from the start. It was based on extremely tenuous legality, confused foreign policy, and a gross misunderstanding of geopolitics and the Middle East. Bush will continue to try to narrow the focus of judgment (whether the British intelligence was good, for example). Instead, the press, other politicians, and citizens should use it as an opportunity to broaden the inquiry into the Bush White House. Bush has failed to serve the interests of American citizens, and lying is just part of it. He should be held accountable.

posted by Jeff | 3:48 PM |
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