Republican Candidates Repeat Bush Lies on Iraq and Terrorism

There was a time when it felt like the absurd foreign polilcy of the Bush administration was an aberation, not only from what we would expect from a rational leader, but even from what we would expect from a Republican. It appeared that in George Bush we had a poorly informed President who followed the lead of extremists like Dick Cheney which did not represent the more moderate views of other Republicans. I suspected that even when Republicans backed Bush’s policies, it was more out of party loyalty than out of being so out of touch with reality to really believe what they were saying.

As the campaign for the 2008 nomination goes on, it is becoming increasing apparent that the views of the Bush administration now represent the Republican mainstream. This may partially be a result of so many moderates and sane conservatives leaving the GOP, but we are still left with the prospect of a major party candidate continuing to advocate policies which undermine the national security of the United States.

The Boston Globe reviews many of the claims being made by the Republican candidates which have been shown to be counter to fact:

In defending the Iraq war, leading Republican presidential contenders are increasingly echoing words and phrases used by President Bush in the run-up to the war that reinforce the misleading impression that Iraq was responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

In the May 15 Republican debate in South Carolina, Senator John McCain of Arizona suggested that Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden would “follow us home” from Iraq — a comment some viewers may have taken to mean that bin Laden was in Iraq, which he is not.

Former New York mayor Rudolph Guiliani asserted, in response to a question about Iraq, that “these people want to follow us here and they have followed us here. Fort Dix happened a week ago. “

However, none of the six people arrested for allegedly plotting to attack soldiers at Fort Dix in New Jersey were from Iraq.

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney identified numerous groups that he said have “come together” to try to bring down the United States, though specialists say few of the groups Romney cited have worked together and only some have threatened the United States.

“They want to bring down the West, particularly us,” Romney declared. “And they’ve come together as Shia and Sunni and Hezbollah and Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda, with that intent.”

Assertions of connections between bin Laden and terrorists in Iraq have heated up over the last month, as Congress has debated the war funding resolution. Romney, McCain, and Giuliani have endorsed — and expanded on — Bush’s much-debated contention that Al Qaeda is the main cause of instability in Iraq.

Spokespeople for McCain and Romney say the candidates were expressing their deep-seated convictions that terrorists would benefit if the United States were to withdraw from Iraq. The spokesmen say that even if Iraq had no connection to the Sept. 11 attacks, Al Qaeda-inspired terrorists have infiltrated Iraq as security has deteriorated since the invasion, and now pose a direct threat to the United States.

But critics, including some former CIA officials, said those statements could mislead voters into believing that the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks are now fighting the United States in Iraq .

Michael Scheuer , the CIA’s former chief of operations against bin Laden in the late 1990s, said the comments of some GOP candidates seem to suggest that bin Laden is controlling the insurgency in Iraq, which he is not.

“There are at least 41 groups [worldwide] that have announced their allegiance to Osama bin Laden — and I will bet that none of them are directed by Osama bin Laden,” Scheuer said, pointing out that Al Qaeda in Iraq is not overseen by bin Laden.

Nonetheless, many GOP candidates have recently echoed Bush’s longstanding assertion that Iraq is the “central battlefront” in the worldwide war against Al Qaeda and have declared that Al Qaeda would make Iraq its base of operations if the United States withdraws — notions that Scheuer said do not withstand scrutiny.

“The idea that Al Qaeda will move its headquarters of operation from South Asia to Iraq is nonsense,” said Scheuer.

The belief that there is a clear connection between Iraq and the 9/11 attacks has been a key determinant of support for the war. A Harris poll taken two weeks before the 2004 presidential election found that a majority of Bush’s supporters believed that Iraq was behind the 9/11 attacks — a claim that Bush has never made. Eighty-four percent believed that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had “strong links” with Al Qaeda, a claim that intelligence officials have long disputed.

But critics have maintained that Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney encouraged these ideas by using misleading terms to describe the threat posed by Iraq before the war.

Bush, for instance, repeatedly spoke of Hussein’s support for terrorism — which many Americans apparently took to mean that Hussein supported Al Qaeda in its jihad against the United States. The administration, however, sourced that claim to Hussein’s backing of Palestinian terrorist groups targeting Israel.

Now, some GOP presidential candidates refer to “the terrorists” as one group, blurring distinctions between Al Qaeda, which has attacked the United States repeatedly, and groups that former intelligence officials say have not targeted the United States.

Romney said Friday: “You see, the terrorists are fighting a war on us. We’ve got to make sure that we’re fighting a war on them.”

Romney’s comment in the earlier debate that “they’ve come together as Shia and Sunni and Hezbollah and Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda” struck some former intelligence officials as particularly misleading. Shia and Sunni, they said, are branches of Islam and not terrorist groups. There are an estimated 300 million Sunni Muslims in the Middle East, many of them fighting Al Qaeda.

The article provides additional examples, and quotes one CIA analyst a saying, “There’s a tendency to exaggerate in a debate. You push the envelope as far as you can.” In this case, pushing the envelope is just a polite way to say they are lying. We’ve already seen the consequences of one Republican President who has based his foreign policy on claims which are counter to fact. We cannot afford another President who both plays politics with our national security, as the Repubicans do, or who fails to understand the basic issues on matters so crucial to our national security. I’m not sure which is worse–a candidate who repeats these claims which have been discredited by most experts, or a candidate who is ignorant enough to believe these claims. Regardless of whether these views are stated out of political expediency or out of ignorance, those who repeat them are not fit to be President.

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34 Comments

  1. 1
    Chuck says:

    “The Bush administration never claimed that Iraq had any hand in the events of Sept. 11, 2001. But it did point out, at different times, that Saddam had acted as a host and patron to every other terrorist gang in the region, most recently including the most militant Islamist ones. And this has never been contested by anybody. The action was undertaken not to punish the last attack—that had been done in Afghanistan—but to forestall the next one.”

    Christopher Hitchens

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    Bush and others in his admministration have been quoted many times making false claims as to a connection between Saddam and 9/11, regardless of what Hitchens said.

    The last attack was not punished in Afghanistan as Bush left before the job was done.

    Nor did Bush’s actions act ot forestall the next attack. Bush’s actions led to a strengthening of al Qaeda, and has placed us at a greater risk of attack. Bush’s sole goal was to attack Saddam, and he has ignored the actions which a responsible President would have taken to reduce our risk of attack. When the next attack comes, Bush’s incompetence will be partially to blame.

  3. 3
    Chuck says:

    Ron

    I would be very interested in seeing any example of such a quote from any senior administration official. I have never found any. Saying there is a “connection” between al Qaeda and Saddam (see 9/11 Commission Report) is not the same thing as saying he had a hand in 9/11.

    While you are at it, try googling “boogie to Baghdad”. Who said it, when, and about whom.

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    Chuck,

    Bush, and more frequently Cheney, have intentionally misled the country implying that the war was justified because of a connection between Saddam and 9/11. They seem to alternate between saying this, and then denying that they said it when confronted with the facts. Every time there has been a denial of this, multiple examples have been posted in the media to contradict this. A few things which come up quickly on a search:

    CNN report from June 15, 2004: Bush stands by al Qaeda, Saddam link

    On March 18, 2003 Bush wrote a letter regarding use of force against Saddam, justifying it based upon “continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.”

    Think Progress had a post on this last week with several links.

    Googling “boogie to Baghdad” just brings up a bunch of right wing publications and blogs which regularly present the standard Bush administration lies about the war with a variety of distortions. This looks like just another one of the typical attemts to distort the facts. Overthrow of secular dictatorships such as in Iraq was one of the chief goals of bin Ladden, but this is too complicated for the right wing propagandists who just want to lump all forces opposed to the US into one unified group.

  5. 5
    Chuck says:

    Ron

    I still stand by my statement that none of the Bushies said that Saddam had a hand in 9/11. There was a report from Czech intelligence about a meeting in Prague between Atta and Iraqi intelligence which later was discredited.

    It is amazing to me that people keep repeating this mantra when there is ample evidence that Saddam operated what amounted to a general store for terrorists, including training camps, (one complete with a parked airliner!), giving sancturary and medical attention to Abu Abbas, one of the perpetrators of the Achille Lauro hijacking, and Abdul Rahman Yasin, one of the ’93 WTC bombers.

    Do I care whether Mr. Yasin was a member of AQ or not? Hell, no. It is all part of the same franchise, my friend.

    Look, I apologize to the long-suffering people of Iraq for the ideological battleground their country has become, but I think they would probably have less sympathy for those who feel they have been denied the opportunity to find out what Uday Hussein’s Iraq would have been like.

  6. 6
    Ron Chusid says:

    Chuck,

    Of course the reports such as the the one you cite were discredited. The point is that the Bush administration passed off such stories to claim a nonexistent connection between Saddam and 9/11.

    There is not ample evidence that “hat Saddam operated what amounted to a general store for terrorists. ” There have been many such claims in the right wing publications and blogs, but these claims haven’t held up. Generally they come down to small terrorist camps which were in parts of Iraq which weren’t under Saddam’s control.

    There is no doubt that Saddam was evil, but that did not justify the war. There have been plenty of evil regimes, but we cannot go to war against them all. If we were to decide to go to war, it should have been with a plan for victory instead of in a manner which was doomed to fail from the start.

    At most Yasin could provide a connection between Saddam and one of the ’93 WTC bombers, but there is doubt as to this. Being from Iraq does not prove that Saddam had anything to do with the bombings, especially as Saddam claimed to have arrested him and had offered to turn him over to the US in exchange for favors. The fact that another terrorist once received medical attention in Iraq means nothing.

    On the one hand you deny that the Bush administration has claimed a connection between Saddam and 9/11, and then you proceed to present questionalbe claims to argue that Saddam had connections to terrorism.

    The inept way in which this war has been handled has resulted in strengthening al Qaeda and Iran in the region, as well as strengthening North Korea and China internationally, along with weakening the United States. The claims of spreading democracy to Iraq has also acted to discredit and hamper the work of democracy movements working in non-democratic societies. The net result of the war will be more people living under non-democratic regimes.

  7. 7
    Chuck says:

    Ron

    Thanks for taking the time for your thoughtful reply;

    Your statement regarding Yasin is one interpretation. Obviously, Saddam hoped that producing him in prison garb for the Leslie Stahl interview in 2002 would be enough to convince the world that he indeed was an ally in the War on Terror. This came after he had publicly praised the attacks of 9/11. Sorry, but that bit of theater does not suspend my disbelief. The guy had been seen moving freely about the country during the time Tariq Aziz claimed he had been in prison.

    One other bit of info about Abu Abbas that might interest you is that the Italians had to let him go because he held, of all things, an Iraqi diplomatic passport. Gosh, I wonder how he got one of those?

    It is true that Zarqawi, fresh from his falling-out with OBL and the susbsequent routing of the Taliban in 2002, did end up in Kurdistan doing battle with the PUK, who were also the sworn enemies of Guess Who. How does the saying go again? “The enemy of my enemy, etc.” When he had the chance, Saddam did not choose to arrest him and turn him over to the Jordanian government as was requested of him.

    I think it is reasonable to assume that Saddam only supported terrorism when it was to his advantage; not for any ideological reasons. This certainly did not make him any less dangerous.

    I happen to believe that Iraq will turn out to be an even more dangerous place for al Qaeda no matter who ends up running that country. The Sunnis in Anbar have had enough and are rounding them up (Google Anbar Salvation Front). You see, Osama took the eye off the ball and sub-contracted the terror campaign to the bumbling Zarqawi, who, being unable to stop the elections, decided the next best thing was to start blowing up Shiites and threatening the Sunni tribes. Al Qaeda has just made a lot more enemies; all of them muslims.

  8. 8
    Ron Chusid says:

    Chuck,

    I agree the situation with Yasin is ambiguous. However even if we go along with the most incriminating arguments regarding him and Abbas, this is still pretty weak evidence. We have one person in the Iraqi government who supported terrorists in the past (and who may or may not really have been arrested for this). This is hardly evidence that Saddam was supporting terrorism. If support for terrorism was the criteria by which we decide to invade a country, there was a far stronger case to invade other countries such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan where far more people in government have been aiding terrorists.

    There’s also no doubt that Saddam was uncooperative with the US, but that is not the same as supporting terrorism. The US government’s own reports ultimately concluded that there were no ties between Saddam and al Qaeda.

    You very well may be right that Iraq will be a dangerous place for al Qaeda. I’ve seen speculation that, once they don’t have to the issue of kicking the US out, al Qaeda will be next. Others predict that Iraq will wind up providing training camps for al Qaeda for years to come. We will have to wait and see what will happen. Regardless, if the goal was to reduce terrorism, there is enough potential for al Qaeda to benefit from Iraq to doubt the wisdom of this war. More importantly, even if al Qaeda ultimately doesn’t wind up with influence in Iraq, their recruitment increased tremendously as a result of the war throughout the middle east. Al Qaeda might have made some enemies, but the United States has made far more, including among moderate Muslims who were much more sympathetic to the US post 9/11.

  9. 9
    Ron Chusid says:

    I just came across an article cited as a reference to something else I was reading which is quite relevant to this. The article both debunks the claims of terrorist ties by Saddam and notes how the White House had been spreading such bogus arguments:

    April 6, 2007

    Hussein-Qaeda Link ‘Inappropriate,’ Report Says

    The Pentagon provided ”inappropriate” analysis for its reports of a strong link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, a finding that was cited by the White House as a rationale for invading Iraq, a report by the Pentagon inspector general says.

    The declassified report said Defense Department officials ”undercut” the intelligence community.

    It specifically said that analysts reporting to Douglas Feith, who was the under secretary for policy, told Stephen J. Hadley, the deputy national security adviser at the time, and I. Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, that there were ”fundamental problems with how the intelligence community is assessing information.”

    The 121-page report, which had been summarized at a Congressional hearing in February by the acting inspector general, Thomas Gimble, was released Thursday by Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan and the chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

    By coincidence, it appeared on the day Vice President Cheney again drew a link between the war and Al Qaeda, telling the radio host Rush Limbaugh that ”to advocate withdrawal from Iraq at this point seems to me simply would play right into the hands of Al Qaeda.”

    Mr. Gimble’s report drew a direct connection between a briefing at the White House on Sept. 16, 2002, and public comments Mr. Cheney made in the days leading to the war four years ago. The criticism of the intelligence community is one of several on a slide used in that briefing.

    Inclusion of the slide, which was omitted from an earlier briefing with George Tenet, who was director of central intelligence, ”clearly did not bolster support for the intelligence community,” Mr. Gimble wrote.

    Mr. Levin, in a statement Thursday, said the analysis from Mr. Feith’s office ”was not supported by available intelligence and was contrary to the consensus view of the intelligence community,” yet was ”used by the administration to support its public arguments in its case for war.”

    The slide used by the Pentagon analysts to brief the White House officials states the intelligence agencies assumed ”that secularists and Islamists will not cooperate, even when they have common interests,” and there was ”consistent underestimation of importance that would be attached by Iraq and Al Qaeda to hiding a relationship.”

    The Pentagon, in written comments included in the report, strongly disputed that the White House briefing and the slide citing ”Fundamental Problems” undercut the intelligence community.

    ”The intelligence community was fully aware of the work under review and commented on it several times,” the Pentagon said, adding that Mr. Tenet, at the suggestion of the defense secretary then, Donald H. Rumsfeld, ”was personally briefed.”

    Four days after that briefing at the White House, Mr. Cheney referred at fund-raiser to a ”well-established pattern of cooperation between Iraq and terrorists.”

    And on Dec. 2, he warned in a speech that Mr. Hussein’s government ”had high-level contact with Al Qaeda going back a decade and has provided training to Al Qaeda terrorists.” His language mirrored that on a briefing chart titled ”Summary of Known Iraq-Al-Qaeda Contacts — 1990-2002.”

    Mr. Gimble noted that Mr. Cheney, in an interview in January 2004, praised a memo compiled by the Pentagon analysts that was cited in the conservative magazine Weekly Standard as ”your best source of information” on the purported link.

    The analysts’ appraisal of the intelligence community was in contrast to that of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in its 2004 report on prewar intelligence. That committee praised the C.I.A.’s approach to assessing a possible link between Mr. Hussein and Al Qaeda as a ”methodical approach for assessing a possible Iraq/Al Qaeda relationship” that was ”reasonable and objective,” Mr. Gimble wrote.

    Mr. Levin also pointed out, ”The report specifically states that ‘the C.I.A. and D.I.A. disavowed any ”mature, symbiotic” relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda.’ ”

    The Pentagon policy offices set up by Mr. Feith have been abolished, and he has left the Pentagon and is writing a book on the war. Mr. Gimble said the establishment of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence should prevent similar inappropriate conduct.

  10. 10
    Chuck says:

    Ron

    Thanks for the refresher on the NYT’s take on Carl Levin’s interpretation of the IG’s report. He makes it sound like the Pentagon, under the spell of that prince of darkness, Dick Cheney, thought there were connections (or a mature, symbiotic relationship) to AQ while the CIA didn’t. This is not accurate. I direct your attention this letter from George Tenet to Sen Bob Graham in Oct of 2002:

    “Regarding Senator Bayh’s question of Iraqi links to al- Qa’ida, Senators could draw from the following points for unclassified discussions:

    Our understanding of the relationship between Iraq and al- Qa’ida is evolving and is based on sources of varying reliability. Some of the information we have received comes from detainees, including some of high rank.

    We have solid reporting of senior level contacts between Iraq and al-Qa’ida going back a decade.

    Credible information indicates that Iraq and al-Qa’ida have discussed safe haven and reciprocal non-aggression.

    Since Operation Enduring Freedom, we have solid evidence of the presence in Iraq of al-Qa’ida members, including some that have been in Baghdad.

    We have credible reporting that al-Qa’ida leaders sought contacts in Iraq who could help them acquire WMD capabilities. The reporting also stated that Iraq has provided training to al-Qa’ida members in the areas of poisons and gases and making conventional bombs.

    Iraq’s increasing support to extremist Palestinians, coupled with growing indications of a relationship with al- Qa’ida, suggest that Baghdad’s links to terrorists will increase, even absent US military action.”
    Sincerely,
    [signed:] John McLaughlin (For)

    George J. Tenet
    Director of Central Intelligence

    http://www.fas.org/irp/news/2002/10/dci100702.html

    Doug Feith defends himself here, including the now-infamous power point presentation:

    http://www.foxnews.com/printer_friendly_story/0,3566,251358,00.html

    Once again I appreciate your interest in this issue; and your willingness to share your views.

  11. 11
    Ron Chusid says:

    You appear to be cherry picking whatever might support your argument regardless of the reliability. Using a letter sent to Graham is particularly weak considering that, after reviewing all the evidence available at the time, Graham rejected the validity of these arguments.

    All you are showing is that peole claimed such a connection, however when the evidence was reviewed such claims never held up.

  12. 12
    Chuck says:

    Ron

    Cherry-picking is what everyone does to support an argument, isn’t it? My purpose in mentioning the letter was only to show what the CIA was telling lawmakers in 2002. I would be curious to know what Bob Graham said at the time regarding the letter, of course. Did he vote against the AUMF because he he didn’t buy the Saddam/AQ link? WMD’s? Maybe he just thought it was bad strategy. If you find anything, let me know. Lieberman acknowledged the disagreement among intelligence people, yet he voted for the intervention.

  13. 13
    Ron Chusid says:

    Chuck,

    “Cherry-picking is what everyone does to support an argument, isn’t it?”

    Perhaps, but only if the goal is trying to win an argument regardless of the facts. For those of us who are more interested in finding out the truth, such cherry picking is not of value.

    Graham has cited his review of the intelligence as reason to dismiss the whole Bush administration justification for the war. Lieberman has other motivations for supporting the war, which leads to him accepting claims which have not been substantiated.

  14. 14
    Chuck says:

    Ron

    Well there is argument in which you present quotes from a newspaper article quoting a political opponent and selected comments from a 350-page report and I reply with a 1 page declassified letter that is a matter of public record in the Senate. Whose facts are correct? There are obviously conflicting narratives which can both be supported.

    Thank you for getting back to me about Senator Graham. I think the Senate Intelligence Commitee was fairly evenly split (5-4, 4-5?) on the AUMF, was it not? I still think there was plenty to be concerned about regarding Saddam in 2002, given that what was known. I have read every NYT article that I have come across about Iraq through the end of the first Gulf War, through 8 years of the Clinton administration, the Iraq Liberation Act, the no-fly zones, Operation Desert Fox, and all the rest. My question is, when did Saddam CEASE to be a threat? 1999? 2001? It seems as if this has all been forgotten by the loyal opposition now.

    God help me, I can’t wish it undone.

  15. 15
    Ron Chusid says:

    “There are obviously conflicting narratives which can both be supported.”

    There is only the appearance of conflicting narratives because one side was putting out false information. At the time maybe there appeared to be two plausible narratives, but the subsequent evidence has been overwhelming that Bush and Cheney wanted to invade Iraq from the moment they took office and took every opportunity, especially 9/11, to twist the facts to support this.

    ” I still think there was plenty to be concerned about regarding Saddam in 2002, given that what was known.”

    Again, much of what was “known” was based on intentionally misleading information from the Bush administration. Being concerned was reasonable, but the evidence never justified actually going to war. We needed to get the inspectors back in, as was happening, and otherwise keep Saddam contained. Beyond that, going after al Qaeda, not Saddam, should have remained the priority in 2002.

    “I have read every NYT article …”

    Not enough. While the NY Times is critical now, in the post 9/11 period the Times, along with pretty much every other American news organization (with the notable exception of Knight Ridder) uncritically reported the claims of the Bush administration as fact. The foreign press did a much better job, and there are now many excellent books out which review the run up to the war, and the manner in which the Bush administration deceived both Congress and the public.

    “My question is, when did Saddam CEASE to be a threat? 1999? 2001? It seems as if this has all been forgotten by the loyal opposition now.”

    You are largely asking the wrong question. Saddam was never really a threat. As for having meaningful WMD, Saddam had destroyed them under pressure at some point before 2002, but continued to bluff Iran into thinking he had them.

    The real question is whether war was justified. At the time of the war, Saddam had allowed the inspectors back in. Sure, he was still misbehaving (primarily to bluff Iran as well as internal enemies) but there was no evidence he presented any threat to us. A President has the burden of proof in showing that going to war is necessary, and this should only be done as a last resort. It made absolutely no sense to go to war in 2002 when Saddam capitulated on the inspectors, especially when al Qaeda should have been a far higher priority.

    Even if there was justification to go to war, it should have been done through a true international coalition, which Bush could not achieve because it was obvious to most of the world that he was lying about Saddam. Even if the US went in alone, there needed to be some plan to secure the country after toppling Saddam.

    “God help me, I can’t wish it undone.”

    No, but we can avoid making the same mistakes in the future. We have two narratives. One is based upon facts and one is based upon lies. One party has established a massive propaganda machine to pass off a distorted view.

    There’s a tremendous number of books out now on the run up to the war which present overwhelming evidence of the dishonesty and incompetence of the Bush administration. While honest people could have been deceived in the past, there is really no excuse for those in power to lend and credence to the claims of the Bush administration.

    This gets back to the topic of this post. Republicans like Giuliani, McCain, and Romney are repeating the same false claims as the Bush administration has. Either they are lying, or they are totally deluded as to the reality of both the situation in Iraq and the terrorist threat. In either case, such people are unfit to be considered for President.

  16. 16
    Chuck says:

    Thanks for the reply, Ron.

    I presume you are not implying that Cheney in the ’90’s was feeding stories to Judith Miller from his redoubt at Halliburton. Please elaborate.

    Thanks to OIF, Iraq is now certified to be in full compliance with the UN resolutions regarding unconventional weapons; proving the CIA (and every other country’s intelligence body) wrong. (We can talk about the logistics of keeping a large army at readiness on the border while small teams of inspectors combed the countryside in another forum, perhaps) Regarding the terrorism issue, it may take another 10 years to go through and translate all the documents that have been recovered. Putting them out on the internet seemed like a good idea, ….well, except for those nuclear bomb plans somebody stumbled across. Anyway, stay tuned.

    While touching on the WMD issue, I think you are correct about Saddam needing to keep Iran guessing; which in a post 9/11 world, makes about as much sense in his case as threatening NRA conventioneers with an unloaded gun. He still must have believed that the West would not do anything except lob a few cruise missles at him once in a while. My guess is that he dismantled his programs simply because they were costing him too much. This could have easily changed if he had been sitting on $70-a-barrel oil, crumbling sanctions, and the AQ Khan network still in business. But again, this would be a subject for whole new thread.

    There is certainly no shortage of univerity professors and retired public servants selling LOTS of books on this subject. The staff at my local Borders Books (San Francisco) had to remodel the section 3 times in the last 3 years to accomodate all the new hardcovers. You name it: Bush lied, Bush spied, Bush is in league with Christians who want to destroy the world, AIPAC is pulling the strings of our foreign policy, wait, no, its the Saudis!!!, ex-Trotskyite Republicans, etc. So far I haven’t found any “Bush KNEW” books; maybe I have to go to a different store to see those. Pick a book for me and I will read it.

    I hope we can agree on at at least one terrorist act that Saddam was responsible for, which was the launching of SCUD missles at Israeli population centers during the Gulf War. Is it really all because of Bush that most lawmakers were not willing to give Saddam the benefit of the doubt in 2003?

    Looking forward to your response.

  17. 17
    Ron Chusid says:

    Chuck,

    Many books dealing with the run up to the war show the manner in which Bush concentrated on finding excuses for invading Iraq regardless of the facts. Not being at home right now, I’m going by memory but among the best overall books on the war which come to mind are Cobra II and Fiasco. Al Gore’s recent book is obvioiulsy more partisan, and therefore you might not be interetsted, but he does a good case of summarizing the case against Bush. Also review the Downing Street Memos. Check out the Iraq and Terrorism tags here for links to other sources.

    As I’ve said before, there’s no doubt that Saddam was a bad guy. This includes his actions against Israel, as well as his actions against his own people. What Saddam did in the past was not justification for going to war at the time when he was well contained. Bush I and Clinton both saw a number of things Saddam did wrong, but both were smart enough not to attempt regime change.

  18. 18
    Chuck says:

    Thanks Rick, I’m taking a trip soon and I’ll take one of those books along.

    I did see the House subcomittee’s hearing on the Downing Street Memos on C-Span. Joe Wilson seemed to squirm a bit sitting next to Ray McGovern as he launched into his anti-Israel tirade. Conyers himself permitted himself to indulge in a conspiracy theory of his own- that the Republican majority were trying to silence them by making them meet in the basement.

    I don’t see what the big deal is myself about the memos. I’m pretty sure the British Foreign Office was aware of what was in the offing before the meeting ever took place. Given that everyone from Hans Blix to Jacques Chirac believed that Saddam was hiding weapons from inspectors, it made legal sense to advance this case under the banner of international law. Paul Wolfowitz, in an interview with Vanity Fair has already said that, though there were many reasons to seek the removal of Saddam Hussein, the legal minimum basis for it was to be sought, inside the U.S. government bureaucracy and at the United Nations, in the unenforced resolutions concerning WMD. At the time as I recall, this mild observation was also hailed as a full confession of treachery. Who is there who does not know that the Bush administration decided after September 2001 to change the balance of power in the region and to enforce the Iraq Liberation Act, passed unanimously by the Senate in 1998?

    There I go again, talking about WMD’s, sorry.

  19. 19
    Ron Chusid says:

    “I don’t see what the big deal is myself about the memos. ”

    They sure suggest that Bush was willing to bend the truth to push for war.  They outright report that Bush wanted to remove Saddam and was fixing the intelligence and the facts to make this case. There have been a number of similar reports coming from former White House employees all presenting a consistent view of Bush wanting to remove Saddam from the moment he took office, and distorting the intelligence to justify this.

  20. 20
    Chuck says:

    Ron

    Regarding the Downing Street Memos; I recommend you read this short article by Fred Kaplan:

    http://www.slate.com/id/2120886/

  21. 21
    Ron Chusid says:

    That may be his opinion, but many others consider them to be far more significant.

    Kaplan is really waging a strawman argument against the memos. He’s portraying them as being more significant than most claim they are, and then argues they are not that significant. Sure, most of what was in the memos was nothing new. We’ve had further evidence of the same. Kaplan sees that as reason to put down the memos. I see this as making them part of an overall body of evidence which demonstrates how Bush intentionally fixed the evidence to make the case he wanted to make.

    There’s also been a lot written on the interpretation of “fixed.” Most evaluating the papers do not agree with Kaplan’s interpretation.

    You can always find people who will twist things around to try to make Bush look innocent. If you look objectively at the facts, and apply Occam’s raxor rather than engaging in intellectual gymnastics to explain away the facts, but far the most likely interpretation of the facts is that the Bush administration intended to invade Iraq from the start and was intentionally distorting the intelligence to present its case. The memos also make it clear that Bush was planning to go to war when in public he was claiming to still be working towards a diplomatic solution.

  22. 22
    Chuck says:

    Thanks for taking the time to read the article and giving me your input. I think we agree that there was no NEW and compelling intelligence about Saddam in 2003. I seriously doubt that he would have been taken out had 9/11 not happened. Would Clinton have ordered an invasion if it had happened in 1998? Google Operation Desert Fox and Iraq Liberation Act to provide the context. I think it is a fair question. Clinton has contradicted himself on this issue, saying in 2004 that he would have “let the inspectors finish their job first” but also that “we couldn’t take the chance” (that Saddam might be hiding something). I would be less inclined to give much weight to his statements on this scenario now that his wife is campaigning.

  23. 23
    Ron Chusid says:

    “I seriously doubt that he would have been taken out had 9/11 not happened.”

    If not for Bush, 9/11 and Iraq would not have become connected. Whether Saddam ultimately should have been taken out was a totally separate question from how we should have responded to 9/11.

    If not for 9/11 we might have still had the war for two reasons.

    First reason is that Bush wanted this from the moment he took office and was looking for an excuse. He brought up toppling Saddam in his first cabinet meeting. Right after 9/11, after he finished My Pet Goat, his first questions to his national security advisors was whether Saddam was involved and he was obsessed with finding a connection even when advised there was no such connection. If not for 9/11, Bush might have found some other excuse.

    The second reason is that Saddam might have continued to be Saddam. Ultimately there might have been a strong enough international concensus that he needed to go. While Bush used 9/11 as the reason for the war, in actuality 9/11 was a reason why we should’t have gone to war. It was more important to finish off al Qaeda. However, if 9/11 hadn’t happened, we wouldn’t have had that reason not remove Saddam. However, if this was to be done, it needed to be done as an international effort, and needed to include the support of Muslim states so that this wouldn’t be seen as a US vs. Muslim war. We also needed a reasonable plan for after Saddam was remeoved to avoid what has happened.

    In reality, these conditions would have made it very difficult, which is why Bush I and his people were against removing Saddam, and why Clinton never tried. As long as we had some degree of inspections and could keep Saddam from doing anything worse than he has, we probably would have stuck with containment.

    “Clinton has contradicted himself on this issue,”

    That could apply to both Bill and Hillary. Still, people often use quotes from Bill (while he was President) to justify the war, and such quotes do not provide justification. Regardless of the problems he described with Saddam, he refrained from starting such a war.

  24. 24
    battlebob says:

    Another war candidate will not be elected for a long time. As far as Bubba, the no-fly zones and embargos were an attempt at regime change. Bubba never figured out that Sadaam would butcher everyone in his country to stay in power.
    The issue for me is always the conservative belief that the ends justify the means. That rarely – if ever – is true because how you do things defines repeatability.
    So let us suppose Bush never attempted to “skew” the evidence to go to war but went about convincing the world in a systematic repeatable manner. The insane assumptions about few troops needed and low cost were not made. Realistic estimates of time, troop levels, and costs were given. Bush went to the UN honestly to try and encourage regime change because Sadaam was a menace to his neighbors and his people were suffering. Since there are twenty-five or so other despots who murder their own, suppose he made a case that Sadaam should be at the top of the list because of the influence he has with oil supplies. Could Bush get agreement that this is a just war per the definitions by the Catholic Church?

    Here are the principles:

    The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time:
    • the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
    • all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
    • there must be serious prospects of success;
    • the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.
    These are the traditional elements enumerated in what is called the “just war” doctrine. The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.

    In my opinion, if Bush was a capable, honest president, he could have gotten a just war provision to change regimes. However, the Decider had no intention of trying. This lack of ability doomed the Iraq mission before it started and may doom in advance future legitimate missions.

  25. 25
    battlebob says:

    For more details on the just war provision, see
    http://www.catholic.com/library/Just_war_Doctrine_1.asp

  26. 26
    Ron Chusid says:

    Looking at these principles

    1) Not met by Saddam yet, but I will grant Chuck that it is possible that at some time Saddam might have crossed the line here.

    2) Bush failed to give other fair means a fair trial. Evidence such as the Downing Street Memos show that, even when Bush was claiming he would go thru the UN and seek a non-military settlement, he had already decided to go to war.

    3) Prospects for success were poor based upon the plans of the Bush administration.

    4) Bush failed on this count, as was inevitable in light of 3.

    Bush very well might have gotten international approval over time. At the time Bush announced that the time for diplomacy had ended and started the war, countries such as France were not willing to go along but were basically asking for another few months. If the inspections continued, they probably would not have given approval. However, if Saddam had gone too far in being uncooperative, this could have changed things.

  27. 27
    battlebob says:

    Article 1 – The inspectors are still looking for WMDs. Is this provision met by Sadaam butchering his own people or by using poison gas earlier? A case could be made that Sadaam deserved to beousted. But why him and not others? A skilled politician could have got this provision due to Sadaam murdering his own people

    2 – The no-fly zones and embargos would never work. Would more UN sanctions be effective? As you said, they were never tried. The important thing is to procede in a consistant process so that if it fails, the world body agrees everyhing possible was tried.

    3 – The overthrow was never in doubt. The post-war was never planned and were a disaster from day 1.

    4 – We left a world worse off then the one that existed before. Add in Quantanimo and abu Graib and we have been a negative influence.

    The real goal all along was the oil. As soon as the oil contracts are signed, Bush will declare victory and move the troops to guarding the oil infrastructure.

  28. 28
    Ron Chusid says:

    It might be argued that the first provision was met with any of many things Saddam has done. However if that condition is used too loosely, war with a tremendous number of countries could be justified.

    Supporters of the war often try to extend this to say the war was justified because Saddam violated UN sanctions. This argument quickly breaks down due to the lack of support by the UN for the war. A decision to go to war based upon violations of UN sanctions must be made by the UN. The US cannot unilaterally make this decision and use the UN sanctions as cover.

    Goal was undoubtably the major goal for most neocons and backers of the war. However, I’m not certain this was the main goal in Bush’s mind. There’s no way to prove it, but I’ve always suspected that deep down Bush supported the war on a more personal level. Bush went through life as a serial failure, who was repeatedly bailed out by Daddy’s friends. Now he was President (The Decider/The Commander Guy). He thought he was no longer a failure. (The old idea of being born on third base and thinking he hit a triple). Daddy couldn’t get rid of Saddam. Saddam even threatened to kill Daddy. Bush decided he would get rid of Saddam, and had plenty of people willing to go along because of oil.

  29. 29
    Chuck says:

    Did the Gulf War pass muster on the “just war theory”? Was not OIF a continuation of this war as Saddam was in material breach of the cease-fire agreement? Did Bush II not right the wrongs committed by his father who chose not to intervene in Saddam’s vendetta against the southern Shiites and the Kurds in the North after he had called for an uprising? Thousands of people died; and the “coalition of the willing” did nothing. Not to mention the thousands of others who suffered because Saddam had turned the UN sanctions and the resulting kickbacks from the Oil-for-food program into a huge patronage system in which he was able to further tighten his grip on every aspect of public life in that country.

    And what if Saddam had been overthrown by his domestic enemies? Talk about a power vacuum, there would have been a true sectarian war, not the current “war of sectarians” that we are observing now. Don’t forget that one of the successes of OIF was the election of a legitimate government, no matter how imperfect. It is now our job–everyone’s job– to do all we can to support and defend it. One of the things Ambassador Khalilizad said that I found interesting was that he was constantly amazed at the diversity of the groups asking for his help in resolving disputes. That was because they knew that they could not get what they wanted by force.

    “bear any burden, pay any price”

  30. 30
    Ron Chusid says:

    The first Gulf War was in direct response to Saddam attacking another country. We really have mirror situations. In the first Gulf War we have the United States acting along with the international community to defend the principle that nations do not have the right to invade other nations.

    In the current war we have the United States acting contrary to the international community in declaring it has the right to invade another country.

    Breach of the cease fire agreements and other justifications for the war you give were not those used by Bush to justify the war. Bush fails based upon the justifications he provided.  Even if these were used to justify the war, it wouldn’t excuse the many mistakes made, including going to war before finishing the job against al Qaeda, failing to create a true international coalition, and failure to have a plan for after Saddam was removed.

    If Saddam had been overthrown internally we may or may not have had the same power vacuum. There wouldn’t have been the destruction of the infrastructure as occured when the US invaded. Either way, it wouldn’t have been caused by the United States. It is not a valid defense of what the US did to Iraq to claim that maybe it would have happened anyways. Plus, if Iraq slipped into chaos due to Saddam being removed by an internal enemy, the response could have been international. We wouldn’t have the problem of inflaming the problem of terrorism by having a situation of the US being seen as waging a war on a Muslim country.

  31. 31
    Chuck says:

    Good points, thank you.

    A couple of things if I may. Resolution 1441 was a direct response to Iraq’s failure to comply with the cease-fire agreements of the Gulf War, I hope we can at least agree in that. In all, Iraq was not in compliance with a number of SC resolutions since the end of hostilities. Some legal experts have even argued that these were actually self-enforcing; and as such should not have required an additional resolution. A few points of interest did emerge from Powell’s “Dog-and-pony show”: The Iraqi authorities were caught on air trying to mislead U.N inspectors (nothing new there), and the presence of Zarqawi was established. The full significance of this was only to become evident later on.

    Regarding the power vacuum issue, I’m afraid I have less faith in the international community than you. It took Clinton’s strong leadership and NATO to intervene in Bosnia, and it was done without the approval of the UN. I don’t recall Boutros Galli going on TV and calling that an “illegal war”. China’s blocking of resolutions against Sudan’s Darfur genocide shows just how ineffective the UN continues to be to this day.

  32. 32
    Ron Chusid says:

    Enforcement of UN sanctions was up to the UN (obviously with the military assistance of the United States if this was decided.) The United Nations did not support going to war. The United States cannot use UN sanctions as justification for their near unilateral actions.

    What would have happened in Iraq if we hadn’t gone in is hypothetical. Regardless, the important point is that we wouldn’t be the cause. We also wouldn’t have the presence of the United States military there which inflames the conflict creating more problems than we would have seen if Iraq collapsed on its own.

  33. 33
    Chuck says:

    The sad truth is that the Ummah does not need an occupying foreign army as a precondition for violent political Islam to take root. Take Gaza for example,(after the Israelis pulled out) or Somalia. Now we have radical Palestinian muslims fighting the Lebanese Army. Add to the list the recent problems in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Algeria, who has been battling the radicals for the past 12 years. Don’t forget Southeast Asia, too. The Philipines, Indonesia, and Thailand, where Islamic radicals in the south have been killing Buddhists.

    To some extent, Iraq has become flypaper to these knuckleads. I just read that 40 of the radical Palestinians in Lebonon went to Iraq to fight the Americans. Well that is 40 fewer that the Lebanese army has to deal with. We are cautioned by the experts that Iraq is a “training ground” for terror much the same as Afghanistan was for al Qaeda. I’m not sure I buy this. Aside from the roadside bomb, what effective tactic have they acccomplished? Certainly one cannot say much for the learning curve of a suicide bomber. They HAVE learned that spectacular marketplace bombings and 24-hour news cycles are a good way to convince squeamish westerners to throw in the towel.

    For the Iraqis in many ways it is the year zero. General Patreaus said that a helicopter flight over Baghdad opened his eyes to how much activity and commerce actually goes on in spite of the carnage we hear about every day. John Burns, NYT beaureau chief, said that it is like looking at a kaleidoscope. You get a different picture every time; some of them hopeful, others pessimistic.

    I have great fear that the Iraqi people are going to be abandoned in the current political climate. So much is at stake. I wish every member of Congress who is entertaining the idea of withholding funds or de-authorizing the war could take a moment and see this video:

    Link

    Chuck

  34. 34
    Ron Chusid says:

    As Barack Obama wrote in the Guardian today, the best chance for Iraq is to bring the American toops home.

    There question is not whether there will be problems if the US leaves, but whether our staying there will make things any better. There may be problems if we leave over the next year, but there will also be problems if we stay around for five years or ten years. There’s also an excellent chance these problems will be even worse there after a longer period of American occupation. There’s also the cost which will be paid for remaining longer.

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