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Did President Bush Mislead the Country ... Does It Matter?

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Mr. Pfiffner is University Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University.

In his recent book and testimony Richard Clarke charged that before 9-11 the Bush administration did not pay enough attention to his warnings about the threat of terrorism from al Qaeda. But this charge has tended to overshadow Clarke's more important assertion that president Bush "has squandered the opportunity to eliminate al Qaeda and instead strengthened our enemies by going off on a completely unnecessary tangent, the invasion of Iraq."

Clarke's line of reasoning raises the question of the arguments underlying the president's decision to go to war to depose Saddam Hussein. According to Bush's former Treasury Secretary, Paul O'Neil, the president was intent on confronting Iraq from the beginning of his administration. And according to Clarke, who was in charge of counterterrorism for the National Security Council in the Bush (and before that the Clinton) administration, immediately after the 9-11 attacks President Bush charged him with finding "any shred" of evidence of possible Iraq's involvement, even though Clarke had assured him that the FBI and CIA had not found any evidence of it. Given these revelations, it might be useful to review the arguments made by President Bush and his administration for going to war with Iraq.

Possible justifications for war with Iraq ranged from the idealistic goal of bringing democracy to Iraqis, to the humanitarian desire to rid them of a tyrant, to geostrategic concerns about the future of the Middle East. That Saddam was a vicious tyrant who tortured his political enemies, gassed his own people, and invaded other countries was known long before the Bush administration decided to go to war to depose him. But the most compelling arguments to the American people were the arguments that Saddam was implicated in the terrorism of 9-11 and that the national security of the United States was at risk from his weapons of mass destruction.

Two days after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, a Time/CNN poll found that 78 percent of respondents thought that Saddam Hussein was involved with the attacks on the twin trade towers in New York and the Pentagon in Washington. In a major address to the nation on October 7 the president closely connected the need to attack Iraq with the 9-11 attacks: "Some citizens wonder, 'after eleven years of living with this [Saddam Hussein] problem, why do we need to confront it now?' And there's a reason. We have experienced the horror of September the 11th." Thus, according to the president, the terrorist attacks of 9/11 were a major reason for attacking Iraq.

The problem was that evidence for a connection between Saddam and al Qaeda was never very solid. Investigations by the FBI and CIA concluded that there was no convincing evidence of such a connection. Despite the lack of solid evidence, president Bush continued to connect the war in Iraq with al Qaeda and 9-11. In his victory speech on May 1, 2003 on an aircraft carrier off the coast of California he continued his implied association of 9-11 with Iraq.

But on September 18, 2003 President Bush conceded: "No, we've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with September the 11th." The careful phrasing of administration statements implying a link between Saddam and 9-11 suggests that they knew there was no compelling evidence. If there were, they would have made an outright claim for the link, and the argument for war would have been much easier to make.

In 2002 president Bush and his administration made a number of claims about Saddam Hussein's potential nuclear capacity, allegations that culminated in a statement in the president's State of the Union speech on January 29, 2003. The claim that Saddam Hussein had reconstituted his nuclear weapons program and was potentially "less than a year" away from possessing nuclear weapons was a powerful argument that deposing Saddam Hussein was important for U.S. national security. Even those who thought that Saddam could be deterred from using chemical and biological weapons (as he had been in 1991) might be persuaded that an attack was necessary if they were convinced that Saddam was closing in on a nuclear weapons capability. Thus the claim of Saddam's nuclear capacity was one of the strongest arguments that President Bush could make for war with Iraq.

In his speech in Cincinnati on October 7, 2002, President Bush said: "The evidence indicates that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. . . . .he could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year. . . .Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud." Then in his State of the Union Address on January 28, 2003, President Bush said the sixteen words that would become the center of controversy: "The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

The problem with this series of statements was that the evidence upon which the president's claims was based turned out to be questionable. Two claims of evidence for Saddam's nuclear capacity that the administration relied upon were of dubious authenticity: the claim that Iraq sought uranium oxide, "yellowcake," from Niger and that aluminum tubes shipped to Iraq were intended to be used as centrifuges to create the fissile material necessary for a nuclear bomb.

The CIA was doubtful about the Niger claim because after the reports arose, the vice president's office requested that the CIA investigate the claim. The CIA sent former Ambassador Joseph Wilson to Niger to investigate and concluded from his report that the initial claims about Niger had no evidentiary basis. Later, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director, General Mohamed ElBaradei disclosed that the documents relied upon were forgeries.

In addition to the Niger yellowcake claim, the administration also adduced as evidence for Iraq's reconstituting its nuclear program reports of large numbers of aluminum tubes purchased by Iraq. The State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, however, dissented from the intelligence assessment, saying: "INR accepts the judgment of technical experts at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) who have concluded that the tubes Iraq seeks to acquire are poorly suited for use in gas centrifuges to be used for uranium enrichment. . . ." The physical characteristics of the tubes matched closely the dimensions of aluminum tubes used in Medusa Rockets, but did not match the dimensions commonly used for centrifuge rotors. There is no doubt that Iraq sought nuclear weapons in the 1970s and 1980s. After the 1991 Gulf War, however, U.N. inspectors destroyed Iraq's physical capacity to construct nuclear bombs.

That Iraq had chemical and biological weapons in the 1980s is certain, in part because some of the materials came from the United States and because Saddam used chemical weapons against Iran and against the Kurds in northern Iraq. Thus it was surprising that little evidence of these programs was found by U.S. troops in the aftermath of the war, especially since the United States devoted considerable manpower and expertise to the effort to discover them.

The administration's inference that Saddam Hussein was continuing his previous weapons programs was not an unreasonable conclusion, one that was shared by intelligence agencies in other countries. The problem was that there was little evidence to support their conclusion, and they used claims of dubious validity to make their case to the American people. What can we conclude from this record about President Bush's arguments for war with Iraq?

1) His series of statements connecting Saddam to the atrocities of 9-11 created a false impression that the administration had evidence of a connection between Saddam and the 9-11 terrorist attacks.

2) His pattern of statements about Saddam Hussein's nuclear capacity were also systematically misleading.

3) His claims about Iraq's chemical and biological capacity were shared by many, including allied intelligence agencies, U.N. inspectors, and the Clinton administration. Bush cannot be fairly blamed for using such widely accepted claims, even though little evidence of such weapons were found in Iraq after the war.

Should the president be held responsible for what he said during the course of his argument that war with Iraq was necessary? It is true that much of what the president said about nuclear weapons was supported by the National Intelligence Estimate of October 2002. But it is also true that there were serious caveats in the NIE that called into question the certainty of the conclusions the president expressed. Although it is too soon to come to firm historical judgments, the publicly available evidence so far seems to support the conclusion that President Bush, despite the lack of compelling evidence, did encourage the general public belief that Saddam was connected to the attacks of 9/11 and that Saddam was close to having a nuclear capacity. Whether his misleading statements were due to poor staff work or to the president's ignoring conflicting evidence is uncertain.

The issue here not whether the war with Iraq was wise; whether it was a wise war will become clear only with the passage of years. At issue here is a matter of democratic leadership. Citizens must trust the president because they do not have all of the information that he has. If the president misrepresents the nature of crucial information, he undermines the democratic bonds between citizens and president upon which this polity is based. Insofar as President Bush misled the congress and the citizenry, either from deliberate misstatements or through creating an atmosphere in which he was not well informed by his advisors, he undermined the crucial trust upon which the nation depends.


This essay is based on the article, “Did President Bush Mislead the Country in His Arguments for War With Iraq?” in Presidential Studies Quarterly , Vol. 34, No. 1 (March 2004), pp. 25-46.


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Tim Fisher - 7/19/2004

It bothers me that USA rushed to war so quickley with Iraq. Bush claimed that the threat from Iraq was imminent and that we should invade the country as soon as possible. But if he had listened to the weapons inspectors he would have been told that we don't know yet whether or not Iraq have any WMDs or WMD programs etc. The fact is that the weapons inspectors needed more time and if they were given more time then one of two things would have happened.

1. We would have found out that Iraq had WMDs. They would have been in breach of the UN resolution and USA would have had the full backing of the UN to go to war. Probably, with UN backing, more countries would support the USA and more people in the USA would have the backing of the war, because it would no longer be an illegal war.

2. We would have found out that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. In that case Bush would have had to find another excuse to wage a war. He probably would have picked humanitarian reasons (Saddam is evil- the Iraqis need liberating). We would still have gone to war unilaterally and illegally but at least Bush wouldn't have been embarrassed later on when no WMDs are found.

Two more points i'd like to make:

1. Before the war, conservatives rarely mentioned the fact that Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator and that the Iraqi people needed liberating. Their reason for going to war was because Iraq was a danger to America. Now all they talk about is how Saddam Hussein was an evil man and they never talk about how it was a danger to America. I agree - Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator with human rights abuses that are on a par with Bush's best friends the Saudis. Iraq is better off without him, but lets be honest - thats not why conservatives wanted war with Iraq is it.

2. If we put this in a wider context, what use is the UN if one country can wage a war without its support and get away with it? No matter how good or how bad the intentions of America were, doesn't this set a bad example to the rest of the world? i.e. If you don't like the government of a country, or if you think that that country might one day be a threat to your country, then you are allowed to strike them pre-eminently. India might think that Pakistan are a threat to them. Both countries have nuclear weapons. What if India followed USA's example and went to war with Pakistan unilaterally and pre-eminently?


Tim Fisher - 7/19/2004

test


Johnny Ramburg - 4/12/2004

You can spell check your posts, though I do not always do so due to laziness. Just write your post in Word. The spell check will be on, as always. When you are done, move the arrow with your mouse to the beginning of what you have written. Push the left button on the mouse and move the arrow down until all that you have written is highlighted. Let go of the left mouse button. What you wrote should all be still highlighted. Next, right click (hit the right button on your mouse). A little menu should pop up. Select "copy." Then, click on the Explorer Icon at the bottom of your desktop that has the website where you want to put up your post. Move the arrow to the spot where you would write your post and right click again. This time select from the menu "Paste." This should place the passage that you wrote in Microsoft Word onto the message board. This may seem confusing, but it is not after you have done it once or twice. You must befriend your computer and it will help you.

As for the war in Iraq, this debacle should have led to Bush's impeachment. Remember when Clinton got impeached for holding a private "staff meeting" with a portly intern?

I have no explanation as to why so many Dems were mistaken about Iraq. This does a lot more to bolster arguments that the Dems are really a center-right party in the U.S. and there is no left anymore. At any rate, none of this gets Bush off the hook since he (and Cheney and Rummy and Powell) said so many things that can easily be proven to be things that the administration knew, or should have known, were dubious. There also should be a higher burden of proof for arguments being made to start a war. For a preemptive war, if one is ever to be justified (and I am not saying it could be) the case should be airtight. It was not. Where does the buck stop?

Sadly, the Right controls all three branches of government as well as the media. God save us.


David C Battle - 4/11/2004

Weak. And "Holy Grail" and monty python DON'T belong in a chatroom? Pot calling Kettle black.

You still haven't addressed how all those other people quoted above didn't lie, but Bush did. I really want to understand your illogic.


Dan A Fox - 4/9/2004

If Bush lied, then so did all these people. This sounds like one of those old Medieval arguments like I saw in the “The Holy Grail” by Monty Python. David, I have never been able to understand your baiting, anger, attacks, and hatred of those who have different views than yours.
You have never really addressed any of the issues. You always do the same thing as most conservatives: you answer with another question or you dodge the issue outright. Your posts would do better on a chat or other forum where you can rant away. Instead you seem to be cluttering up some rather interesting views. Yes even ones I do not agree with, but I can at least take their points to heart because most offer an intelligent argument.
If you check back in the postings you will see some good debating going on, not just attacks or tangents. By the way, should Bush be held accountable for 9/11?


John H. Lederer - 4/9/2004

Ah..yes, the "proper international observers" in a combat situation to advise the marines about whwther in their considered opinion they ought to lob a round at the fello in the minaret shooting at them.

I am sure they were consulted. They are easy to identify in their distinctive yellow coveralls with the circle and crosshair identification symbol.


chris l pettit - 4/9/2004

being from Chicago I can't stand the Yankees...first time I would ever support "evil" to describe something...the "Evil Empire" led by Steinbrenner...hahahaha.

Go White Sox (I played baseball in high school and college so I am kind of hardcore about it)


chris l pettit - 4/9/2004

Ben...

A nice short post today...a change I know. I want to recognize your academic approach and idealism. THis discussion has been educational for me and I greatly respect your viewpoints. I also want to acknowledge your fine points regarding fascism and its definition. It truly is more advantageous and scholarly to adapt the narrower definition that you have outlined, and I will be trying to adhere to that in the near future...and in that definition, the current US regime does not fit. In a weak sort of defense, I did make the caveat that I was saying a case could be made, but under the narrower definition, even this is not the case. Authoritarian is a much better term to use, but I agree that we should stick to the facts and allow people to fit their definitions to them.

I really appeciate your idealism, even though I may think it is misplaced. While my posts come off as negative or pessimistic towards the US, my idealism simply lies elsewhere...in the international community and those people you identify as those handing out food and doing humanitarian work. I simply cannot any longer place my faith in the US government as it stands. War has become a video game in a lot of ways where one does not have to look into the eyes of the enemy he or she has been trained to see as evil or an animal. The horror at looking into a persons eyes and realising they are human just like you are is what caused great philosophers and scholars to try and rise above war in the first place. I would speculate it is why we draw the strongest response from the population when the fighting rages as it does now city to city and house to house, with the slaughter of thousands of innocents taking place.

I simply have no answer to you point about the US staying or going. It is what dismays me the most. We screwed up things so badly in Iraq that it will be a disaster for the next 10 years at least I fear. The fact is that it was a western creation in the first place. I agree that a religious theocracy under someone like Sadr is not agreeable, but we must allow independent individuals to determine their own fates in the international community. Democracy and freedom is not brought at the point of a bayonet or the barrel of a gun. If we can encourage the new government to join the international community and recognise international human rights, that is a start, but that will never happen as long as the US has a sustained presence. So should we stay or go? I am saddened to say that this has become a quagmire very similar to Vietnam, and I know some misguided soul will try and refute that. We cannot win this battle because it was wrong to begin with. I think the UN would have no success at this point..we simply need to engage in a true dialogue of peace, not one dictated by US government interests or "nation builders." This is where the UN could play a key role...if the US could keep its nasty fingers out of things. I know that you are right in thinking that people just want peace...that is what a majority of most humans want. It is those elites that insist on controlling others and amassing vast resources for themselves that cause the problems. That is why we must go to those NGO's and well intentioned individuals on the ground to work things out, not US government or military actions or enforced settlements. What we see in Iraq is what happens when oppressive occupations occur. Even the common man is compelled to join the resistence in the name of cultural and national pride, however misplaced that may be. These are not stupid individuals...they are mostly as intelligent as you or I. We are not dealing with savages and I know you are aware of that. They think that the way to peace is by getting the occupiers out...and can you really blame them with what we have done? First bringing in Saddam to overthrow a democratically (relatively) elected government...and now this to get rid of our own creation? If you look at things from their viewpoint, this is very understandable.

Sorry this got longer than I wanted. I hope that we can share in our idealism and desire for peace, and continue to have destructive dialogue about how to bring this about. I want to reiterate that I have great respect for you as a scholar and appreciate that we discuss our differences in such a way that we can work towards a better world instead of polarising ourselves on either side of what seems to be an ever widening chasm.

CP


David C Battle - 4/8/2004

So you admit they ALL lied; and that would be the only logical conclusion if you believe Bush lied. At least you're consistent.

Consistent, but not logical. It defies all realms of possibility that all those other people were lying also lying. But I doubt you're that illogical. Therefore, your claim to be "non-partisan" is hardly credible, and I'm willing to bet it's even a lie.


William S. Monroe - 4/8/2004

So they ALL lied. For me it's not a partisan issue.
But Bush is the one who said we could not settle the matter through peaceful means (the U.N.) because the threat was too severe and too imminent. NOW, he would like the "useless" and "incompetent" U.N. to help bail him out of his predicament. I would at least expect him, first, to admit that he is in one, and that it is of his own making (with help, of course, from the con men surrounding him, and the Congress that refused to ask the tough questions before they unleashed him). Kerry, yesterday, said, "I'm not the president, and I didn't
create this mess ...." But he sure helped.


Ben H. Severance - 4/8/2004

Chris,

This is as convenient a place as any to address a number of matters with you.

First, I do realize what is going on, and I am gravely concerned by the current developments in Iraq. A full-blown insurrection places U.S. reconstruction efforts in jeopardy. But I expected a certain amount of paramilitary resistance, as I am sure Bremer and the U.S. military did as well. The task now is to suppress the Sadr faction even as we press on with nation-building.

This brings me to my comment title. U.S. intervention in Iraq was unjustified, at least on the grounds the Bush Administration laid out fifteen months ago. But the war came and the pacification ensues. Here is where American professionalism and general good will and largess can save the day. We must fight the insurgency justly, and I believe that we are doing that, or attempting to do that.

Chris, given your earlier definitions of state terrorism, I concede that the U.S. does regard political/military terror as a legitimate option in fighting wars. Strategic bombing undeniably has terror as one of its components. But I do not see U.S. soldiers and marines resorting to such methods. And I do not consider "collateral damage" a by-product of terror tactics. Unfortunately, propagandists can use one instance of collateral damage to erase ten instances of U.S. troops distributing food or medical supplies, or arresting local guerrillas. I can't speak for the Iraqis, but I have to believe that most of them want stability; they want a safe environment where they can raise their families and go to work. To this end, many look to the U.S. for help. No one wants a foreign army in their land, but no one wants bands of armed vigilantes roaming around either. Law and order can only be restored by an Iraqi constabulary that has legitimate coercive power. And such an organization won't appear without U.S. support. A theocracy under Sadr is simply unacceptable. And so the just fighting progresses. Perhaps it's a fools errand, but it's too soon and irresponsible to just bug out.

As for your observations about American "fascism" I wanted to make a few more comments. When I mentioned "cult of personality," I was referring to a phenomenon whereby a nation identifies itself through its dictatorial leader. One could call it Absolutism in the vein of Louis XIV ("I am the state"). A familiar manifestion of the Cult is the disturbing billboard size posters of the Leader--Stalin and Saddam especially liked plastering their image all over the place. In this sense, I do not see Bush as a Cult figure; an infantile frat boy, yes, but not a fascist dictator. This is why I tend to refer to the Administration instead of the man himself because I don't think Bush is formulating policy, or is even intellectually capable of making important decisions. Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rove, and Wolfowitz run the cabinet.

Your statement that many Americans identify the state of the union with the president is quite correct. And quite unfortunate. Although the old "great man theory" still has its applications, governments rarely function solely through the personality of one person (except under fascist totalitarianism, where the leader is everything). But again, the U.S. government is not fascist. It is arguably authoritarian, at present anyway, and the executive has certainly ushered in an imperialist foreign policy (I've acquiecsed to the prevailing definition of imperialism, though not the negative judgement of that term). But I am hopeful that this nation can take what has amounted to an awkward, even unpalatable, start to the war on terror and transform the world in its image. Is this arrogant, probably. But it is very American. I get the feeling that you think the country got off track somewhere, but it has been riding the same train from the beginning--Winthrop's City on a Hill, Jefferson's Empire of Liberty, Polk's Manifest Destiny, Lincoln's Last Best Hope, Wilson's Fourteen Points, FDR's Arsenal of Democracy, Kennedy's New Frontier, and Bush's New World Order. Where one stresses the base self-interest in all this, I stress its idealism. America is not going to stand down and become passive; the country is too wealthy and powerful to become like Denmark or other neutrals. Our duty as citizens is to join the pursuit of global happiness, while protesting abuses, and punishing corruption, and refining the mission, and ensuring that justice is served in the end.

Maybe I'm just fleeing the depression that comes with being pessimistic about everything. Enough.

Sola Fide,

Ben


chris l pettit - 4/8/2004

It is unfathomable to me that Americans can be so ignorant as to believe the assertion that the uprising in Iraq is the work of a few Shias and Sunnis who either want to bring back SH or are "terrorists" wanting to derail democracy. I just read Friedman's incredibly misinformed and arrogant editorial in the NYT today and am appalled at his self righteous thought that he knows what true "Iraqis" are. Having spoken to a friend in Doctor's Without Borders currently in Iraq yesterday, the situation there on the ground is one of a popular insurgency against the US occupation that has brought nothing but more misery to the normal Iraqi. US officials are gleeful because they have returned water, food and electricity levels to pre-invasion levels...what, you mean when we were helping starve 500,000 Iraqi children in what Albright called a reasonable price to pay to remove Saddam? That is truly something to be proud of. The reason that the Kurds are not joining in is becasue they have been a protectorate of the US since the first Gulf War and have reaped the benefits. Truly Iraqi? Are you kidding me? Iraq was a Western creation...a conglomeration of vastly different tribes and sects of Islam...there was no truly democratic indigenous Iraqi structuring. The ignorance of the US government and its supporters to the history and culture of the region is staggering. And now Daniel Pipes wants to start a group aimed at establishing an "Islamic Reformation"?!? So called scholars such as Pipes are a disgrace to the historical profession and the US as a nation...imperialism and self interested "religion building" never has and never will build a viable international community and bring peace. What our nation has become is a truly sickening beast. And, no, this is not saying anything negative about the soldiers...they are simply undereducated and ignorant to the ways of the region, as well as brainwashed on nationalistic fervor to be used as tools of oppression. The soldiers should be respected and treated as the good intentioned individuals that they are...for the most part.

As for US ignorance of international law...the Geneva Conventions were patently misinterpreted yesterday by a US commanding officer (big surprise). Our bombing of the mosque and slaughtering of innocent Iraqis...TERRORISM guys (look at the dictionary definition)...do violate the provisions of the Geneva Convention. While the officer correctly stated that if a religious center is turned into a military battlement, the Geneva Conventions cease to apply, he neglected to note that the military officers in charge of an area are not the ones to make the determination. If this were the case, the US soldiers could fire on anything they wished and claim that they had taken fire from the building so it was allowable...in other words, civilians cease to have any protections under international standards which is exactly what the Geneva Conventions endeavor to give them. Our forces had no right to fire upon the mosque, and were responsible for treading even more carefully than usual in attacking the mosque even if it were determined to be a military entrenchment by the proper international observers. In addition, using a laser guided missle to bomb a mosque (or part of a compound) in the middle of prayers violates the laws of necessity and proportionality of international law (both codified and customary). The US signed these documents and they were ratified by the Senate guys, making them part of the "supreme law of the land"...that means we are not only violating international law but US law as well.

The Iraqi Council of Jurists (established by US) issued a statement saying that the arrest warrant for Sadr was both invalid and illegal...what does that say about our occupying forces. The fact that Sistani condemns the occupying forces and calls for calm on both sides is also an idictment of what can be termed state terrorist activities. This is not just some stragglers causing trouble...this is a popular uprising against the injustice of an occupier that is not promoting democracy, has not provided even the basic services as required under international law, and is making the situation worse than it was under Saddam (our rate of killing civilians...women and children, grandparents, the invalid...is greater than it had been under Saddam for the past ten years).

This is what you should be outraged about...this is why Bush qualifies as a war criminal under the Rome Statute of the ICC and why charges have already been brought against Blair and his government...not silly charges and personal attacks of lies against Clarke or the others who have come out to shed light on the crimes of this organisation as well as the Clinton administration prior to that. When will you wake up and realise that we as Americans are part of a global system that is based on humanity, not nation-states or sovereignty. That is the reason we have been able to pass human rights treaties that have been ratified by almost all nations (gee the US is left out again) and agree that certain rights are inalienable and inherent in every man woman and child on this Earth no matter where they live. It makes me sick that there are those prejudiced, arrogant, and immoral enough to support this occupation. The US truly has become a monster of our time and our government needs major changes to overcome it. Kerry is not the answer, nor is Bush or Nader (shudder)...major change is needed.


chris l pettit - 4/8/2004

Can't refute anything or even address the points I made...including the fact that this is not a non-partisan issue and I agree with many of the quotes you listed but not with your ridiculous partisan position.

Last I heard, completely drowning your lack of scholarship with viable facts and analysis of relevant history and correct, precise definitions, no matter how long it may take was not something to look down upon. In fact, if you could actually provide any substance to your arguments or would actually be open minded to learning something once in a while you might someday become someone who could contribute something other than partisan noise to this website.


David C Battle - 4/7/2004

I'll never match the sheer volume of your bloviating, but I decided I didn't need to. The quotes I provided speak for themselves.


chris l pettit - 4/7/2004

You know...I apologise for the errors in spelling...too bad I can't spell check this. I guess all that can be said is that I am human, like everyone else.


chris l pettit - 4/7/2004

I never mentioned that US soldiers would ever be considered terrorists...and I would defend to the last any soldier who, in good faith, carried out the orders of his commanding officers believing them to be within the realm of international law and for the good of the US and the world. I am sorry if I insinuated such a thought or if my words left enough ambiguity as to be interpreted in such a manner. What I refer to is our government's policies. It is quite acceptable to defend our soldiers and criticise the government. The two are quite separate and far apart from one another. While there are many intstances of US ground troops being highly insensitive and violent, there are also, as you rightly point out, many wonderful humans in Iraq trying to help the people there. Unfortunately, all too often, the US soldiers have been instilled with a fear and misunderstanding. I have heard and spoken to way too many individuals who see a terrorist in every man woman and small child in Iraq, much like what happened in Vietnam, and is a feature of every guerrilla type conflict which is supported by the general population. The soldiers on the ground have very little education period much of the time, not to mention no education of the area, its history, its people, and its cultural heritage and traditions. Good intentions lead to bad outcomes sometimes, which is why is hurts and enrages me even more to see them being killed for what amounts to a facist government policy (more on that in a minute). It is so encouraging to see NGO's and individuals going into Iraq and setting up hospitals and other humanitarian projects. These are the individuals who we should be listening to and having run things. Again, the American ideal of the government is far from that of the individual...and the difference between those in power and those actually doing good in the world is vast. i think you hit upon the main difference between the elite and their realpolitik and those truly compassionate individuals who are doing good works and stand for true American ideals.

Sorry if this meanders...I may return to the above points, but want to discuss your thoughts on facism. In answer to your question, I do believe that our system of governance has reached a point that it does not function anymore and major changes are needed. The system needs to be torn down and things need to be rebuilt. The Constitution is a wonderful document but has been rendered largely meaningless. As a human rights law scholar, I am only too familiar with how little our "rights" mean these days. One can write several articles or a text on how the government or those private interests within the government have restricted those rights we so cherish. Utilising your definition of fascism, I can still make a case for fascist principles within our system of governance. Our US culture is truly a culture of fear at the present time. From terrorists, to WMD, to the anonymous black man stalking the streets, to murderers, to immigrants...we are raised on fear. Just a look at the evening news demonstrates that. A majority of citizens do not have passports (15% do) and are scared to leave the country because they think they are somehow "safer" in the US, even though that can be shown to be completely erroneous. Our history books demonstrate that every time something good or bad happens, we, as other nations in the past, look to the President as leader, and the President often gets credit for things that have nothing to do with him or his policies. You will have to define a cult of personality for me, but I think a case can be made that Americans do feel that their country is superior to all others. Not just nationalistic tendencies, but a definite superiority. There is also the matter of the flags everywhere you go, the songs, the overemphasis on how great we are and how we have to teach the rest of the world our greatness. The US has wonderful qualities, but we have as much to learn from others as we have to show them, and an imperialistic outlook is not the way to do it. Fascism also emphasizes the corporate elite as the main source of policymaking, which is something that is unarguable in our current context. The military industry, agribusiness, pharmaceutical, chemical, and other huge corporate entities dictate the majority of our nations foreign and domestic policies at the moment. The oil and energy companies play a huge role in the strategic decisions made regarding where we invade and where we do not. hence the reason genocide is ignored in Sudan while we concentrate on Iraq. I concede that fascism may be too harsh a word, and I made a caveat in the above post, but then again, it may not be since a coherent case can be made. THis is also why i choose to term it war profiteering, authoritarianism, and imperialism. All I was stateing is that a case can be made for fascism. Oh...W's messianic tendencies and the ascention of the religious right to prominence also contribute to the fascist discussion. All the talk about "mission" and the delineation of the world into spheres of "good" and "evil" certainly constitutes a religious, if not deified policy

As for the terrorism debate...I think maybe the difference in our views stem from the way we define our terms. i stick to a dictionary definition of terrorism. i say this because there is an American and Israeli (realpolitik) view of terrorism that simply does not jive with international. If one sticks to the international law and dictionary definition of terrorism, it can be factually shown, on the basis of the historical events of the past century that the US and Israel are the two largest perpetrators of terrorism in the past century. The former Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, and Cambodia under Pol Pot are also highly ranked. Our government most certainly does participate in terrorism in the form of assasinations and participation in violent coups. The claims of "collateral damage" in response to the facts that our forces have killed millions of civilian Vietnamese, Iraqis, Panamanians, Ecuadorians, Hatians, the list goes on and on...is completely empty of legitimacy under international law and the dictionary definition of terrorism. The fact that we employ nuclear weapons and threats of use, DU munitions, biological and chemical weapons is terrorism. Your use of the legal word premeditated is a bit off regarding international law and the international community. While it is a bit difficult to talkk in terms of dictionary terms and legal terms together, pre-meditated is not the standard used to judge a terrorist act. There have been pre meditated acts in previous wars and the list is great. The assasination policy of the US is premeditated. In international law and the international community, the standard of culpability can range from gross negligence to recklessness. This means that even if one has a reasonable idea that casualties and such will result, one can be held criminally and civilly liable for the atrocities that ensue. The ICJ has ruled this on several occasions and the terminology is included in many international and multilateral treaties.

The US definition of terrorism goes something like this as far as I know...if you attack government troops, it is ok...if you attack civilians, it is terrorism. This still does not address the fact that civilians are often if not always killed (again colateral damage is not a viable argument, especially in the amounts that we are talking about). Also unaddressed is the fact that, in many nations, one has to look at the fact that conscription is required and that all citizens could reasonably be considered military at some point or another, rendering the international law helpless to protect them, which clearly violates the purpose of the international treaties. This cannot be about the black and white law but must also incorporate the general principles involved.

Ben, I respect your views and think that you make very quality points. however...I think we need to define our terms a bit better before we have the terror discussion. I think it comes down to a matter of philosophy. You can define terms as you wish and then put events in those categorizations. i am fine working within your definitions and debating the principles that way...I just need to know your defintions. I do think a very persuasive case can be made from an international law perspective that many US policies are terroristic and problematic. I would also submit that a case can be made that the US regime is at the least authoritarian and at the most fascist. I do prefer to use terms other than fascist and would like to point out the caveats I list in the above post.

I apologise for the length of the post but wanted to fully extrapolate the definitions of my terms and their ramifications on the discussion. i look forward to pursuing the matter further and also hope that my points look a little less absurd when taken in context...

CP


Ben H. Severance - 4/6/2004

Chris,

Thank you for reminding me of the difference between colonialism and imperialism. I often blur the two. Although I dislike the notion of colonialism, imperialism remains, for me, an effective means of maintaining a benign, global order. This of course presupposes that the imperial power is benevolent, which I happen to think America is while many other HNN readers do not.

I do take umbrage at your insinuation that America is fascist, even terroristic. Here your normally nuanced efforts at careful definition collapse. In my basic understanding, fascism is a totalitarian form of government based on the deified "Leader Principle," which breeds a Cult of Personality and an environment of public fear. Do you really think of Bush jr as an American Fuhrer? Or as the administration as a neo-Stalinist regime? If so, then I think you need to stop writing and start fomenting revolution. One could accuse the current presidency of authoritarianism, but not fascism.

As for American foreign policy being a veiled form of terrorism, your intimation is equally ridiculous. Yes, our government mixes euphemisms and epithets for propaganda purposes, but this country is not a sponsor of terrorism. My proof and my hope lies with the conduct of our armed forces in the Middle East. There have been no pre-meditated atrocities. There has been no liquidation of anti-American communities. U.S. troops have reacted to understandable hostility and unacceptable insurgency with remarkable forbearance. I personally think that Bush is an imbecile and that his cabinet is too Machiavellian in its outlook. But U.S ground troops, especially the junior officers and NCOs are professionals who respond to the cries of displaced civilians with genuine compassion. Moreover, many of them really believe in Apple Pie America and want Iraq to become a peaceful and stable nation, one with safe schools, hospitals, and market places. So, where Bush may fail, his foot soldiers (grass roots nation-builders if you will) might succeed, or at least leave behind a legacy of generosity. American soldiers as terrorists? That's absurd.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 4/6/2004

1) “It bothers me that our intelligence failed as it did.”

Does it not bother you then, that there has been no accountability for this massive failure? Of course, some would argue (including the intelligence community) that the intelligence was not wrong since it only indicated possibilities, not definitive conclusions. That leaves the policymakers, i.e. Bush.

2) “And despite being bothered by the intelligence failures, I'm pleased with the results. Saddam is gone, and that should be as good news to Liberals as it is to conservatives.”

You will get no argument from me and many others. No one has ever argued that Saddam ruling Iraq was a great thing.

3) “But you're too worried about "colonialism" to be pleased by the fall of Saddam and his fascism.”

Clearly, you must have confused me for someone else. I don’t remember ever using that word or even making the insinuation. The comment does seem like the classic “anyone against the war is a radical that hates America” argument that I hear many conservatives make. Then again, perhaps the comment was aimed at someone else.


chris l pettit - 4/6/2004

And facism fits pretty well also.

David - I think of the quotes you listed there is one that actually has any content, that of Ritter...and you took that quote completely out of context...for you a common mistake. Why must you insist on making this some sort of partisan issue instead of actually formulating a coherent argument? I understand if you want to stand and play childish who did what games with some liberal who takes the same type of stances you do except from the left, but the rest of us who actually care about the direction our country is headed and not simply about political stances want to hold all those who lied (any politician you can think of who doesn't?) accountable for their lies. I completely agree with you that all those listed lied or misinterpreted information...with the possible exception of Ritter (and I actually think he switched sides and also exagerrated, but currently does the best job of those listed of interpreting international standards of inspection and what constitutes violations of UN regulations).

You would do well to figure out the difference between colonialism and imperialism. While one can make a case that the military may be "colonising" (forward bases for tens of thousands of troops for the forseeable future as the Iraqi "army" will have no air force and be small and lightly armed) there is no effort to set up a truly "colonial" state apparatus (a puppet regime? certainly, but not a colonial administration). However, with the permanent military bases, control of iraq's economy, attempts to set up a puppet regime, blatant violations of sovereignty and no forseeable withdrawal date, imperialism is quite accurate. With the raping of the Iraqi economy and blatant violation of the Geneva Conventions requirements regarding the economies of occupied territories, along with the war profiteering taking place that benefits those in power in the US, facism would also be an apt definition (although this word is commonly thrown about, so it easier just to call it war profiteering and a violation of international law). A colonial fragment may be had in the various penal colonies we are setting up in Iraq that pattern after the legal black hole of Guantanamo and violate not only international but also US law. We have brought the term "disappearances" back into vogue as well...and those who have been released are not terrorists or even threats. Do they get apologies or reparations? No...and most of those who have been slaughtered by US troops do not either since the US government has made the process for receiving compensation near impossible and the burden of proof has been forced upon those making the claims who may have no clean water, much less access to evidence or attorneys. This is the gulag that we have created based on falsehoods told by many individuals across party lines. This is the bankruptcy of the US foreign policy and political system. This is what happens when you take intelligence as doctrine and shape it to fit your purposes. Was there a failure of intelligence? Yes, but nowhere near as large as the failures of politicians and the military to use the intelligence for what it was and to tell the truth to the American public instead of inflating dangers and single source claims to promote imperial money making opportunities.

Of course we are now hiring some of Saddam's torturers and intelligence men to work for us...how is this not continuing the terror? And the "mass executions" that some people claim would be taking place if we were not in Iraq...I have still not heard an explanation as to why most of the mass graves that they speak of are from the late 80's when the US was supplying Saddam (shouldnt we be killing W's dad and half the current administration as well then?) and the early 90's when W's dad encouraged a revolt against Saddam and then did not provide any military support (gee I wonder what W would do if a group of people in the US rose up to overthrow him backed by a foreign government and what you would say about the actions he took?...it is more similar than you think since W was not legally elected and is in all aspects an imperial president). The fact is that US and UN sanctions murdered far more individuals over the past 10 years than Saddam did (speaking of Madeline Albright...remember her comment that 500,000 lives of Iraqi children was an acceptable number of lives to sacrifice to get rid of Saddam?). Was he an evil dictator...yes...did he have WMD...not that we have found and not that could do any significant damage. Does having "plans" (not that we have found anything that can really be claimed as legitimate) constitute a reason for regime change? Only if you are a proponent of empire and facism looking for a reason to invade...and not according to international law.

By the way...what is the largest terrorist state in the Middle East...maybe you ought to look a bit to the west of Iraq...namely towards Israel. Between Israel and the US...the market on terrorism seems to be pretty occupied (oh wait...those are "freedom fighters"...fighting to preserve the freedoms of the pure blooded American and Israeli peoples...where do I sign up for my armband?)


Ken Melvin - 4/5/2004

This misleading and compromising of so many alone is grounds enough to hang the bastard. True, they should have recognized the ploy, but their real sin was in trusting Bush in the first place (getting others to also steal does not the thief make innocent). Seems the half witted twit burns everyone he has dealings with. Oh well, as they say, once burned, twice learned. Who, say you, will hence be so quick to believe or follow?


David C Battle - 4/5/2004

Does it bother me? Sure it bothers. It bothers me that our intelligence failed as it did. And I'm also bothered by the false charges of "lying". They are false and manipulative.

What I am NOT bothered by is that Bush "lied", because he didn't. And despite being bothered by the intelligence failures, I'm pleased with the results. Saddam is gone, and that should be as good news to Liberals as it is to conservatives.

But you're too worried about "colonialism" to be pleased by the fall of Saddam and his fascism.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 4/5/2004

David,
You are right, of course, many people have made the claim that Saddam had WMD, although many of your examples do not fit that description (I count 9 or 10 that I believe are simply incorrect, at least without context- the rest are factually correct), and many more are by people whose support of the war was never in question (such as Republican or Democratic supporters of the war).

The issue, at least for me, is not that Bush thought Saddam was a potential threat, almost everyone agreed he was. It is not that Bush thought Iraq had WMD, many others thought so as well. The issue is this: Bush assured the nation and the world that Iraq definitely had WMD, not in some press briefing or to shore up political support from his base by sounding tough, but in order to convince people to support a war and fullscale invasion of another country. Doesn't it bother conservatives- the same croud that spent 8 years lamenting nation-building, the same people who believe that America can't be the world's police officer- that it turns out the inspections were working quite well and that this war was not neccessary and indeed, may have very well harmed the overall war on terror by (1) Taking attention and resources away from bin Laden and al Qaeada, (2) Giving terrorists a base of operations from which to mount another front, (3) Created a huge resiviour of mistrust and contempt ffrom which to recruit new members, (4) Created a situation in which it would be very difficult to mount another military campaign against REAL threats to our safety


David C Battle - 4/5/2004

Since we haven't found WMD in Iraq, a lot of the anti-war/anti-Bush crowd is saying that the Bush administration lied about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Well, if they're going to claim that the Bush administration lied, then there sure are a lot of other people, including quite a few prominent Democrats, who have told the same "lies" since the inspectors pulled out of Iraq in 1998. Here are just a few examples that prove that the Bush administration didn't lie about weapons of mass destruction...

"[W]e urge you, after consulting with Congress, and consistent with the U.S. Constitution and laws, to take necessary actions (including, if appropriate, air and missile strikes on suspect Iraqi sites) to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq's refusal to end its weapons of mass destruction programs." -- From a letter signed by Joe Lieberman, Dianne Feinstein, Barbara A. Milulski, Tom Daschle, & John Kerry among others on October 9, 1998

"This December will mark three years since United Nations inspectors last visited Iraq. There is no doubt that since that time, Saddam Hussein has reinvigorated his weapons programs. Reports indicate that biological, chemical and nuclear programs continue apace and may be back to pre-Gulf War status. In addition, Saddam continues to refine delivery systems and is doubtless using the cover of a licit missile program to develop longer- range missiles that will threaten the United States and our allies." -- From a December 6, 2001 letter signed by Bob Graham, Joe Lieberman, Harold Ford, & Tom Lantos among others

"Whereas Iraq has consistently breached its cease-fire agreement between Iraq and the United States, entered into on March 3, 1991, by failing to dismantle its weapons of mass destruction program, and refusing to permit monitoring and verification by United Nations inspections; Whereas Iraq has developed weapons of mass destruction, including chemical and biological capabilities, and has made positive progress toward developing nuclear weapons capabilities" -- From a joint resolution submitted by Tom Harkin and Arlen Specter on July 18, 2002

"Saddam's goal ... is to achieve the lifting of U.N. sanctions while retaining and enhancing Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs. We cannot, we must not and we will not let him succeed." -- Madeline Albright, 1998

"(Saddam) will rebuild his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction and some day, some way, I am certain he will use that arsenal again, as he has 10 times since 1983" -- National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, Feb 18, 1998

"Iraq made commitments after the Gulf War to completely dismantle all weapons of mass destruction, and unfortunately, Iraq has not lived up to its agreement." -- Barbara Boxer, November 8, 2002

"The last UN weapons inspectors left Iraq in October of 1998. We are confident that Saddam Hussein retained some stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and that he has since embarked on a crash course to build up his chemical and biological warfare capability. Intelligence reports also indicate that he is seeking nuclear weapons, but has not yet achieved nuclear capability." -- Robert Byrd, October 2002

"There's no question that Saddam Hussein is a threat... Yes, he has chemical and biological weapons. He's had those for a long time. But the United States right now is on a very much different defensive posture than we were before September 11th of 2001... He is, as far as we know, actively pursuing nuclear capabilities, though he doesn't have nuclear warheads yet. If he were to acquire nuclear weapons, I think our friends in the region would face greatly increased risks as would we." -- Wesley Clark on September 26, 2002

"What is at stake is how to answer the potential threat Iraq represents with the risk of proliferation of WMD. Baghdad's regime did use such weapons in the past. Today, a number of evidences may lead to think that, over the past four years, in the absence of international inspectors, this country has continued armament programs." -- Jacques Chirac, October 16, 2002

"The community of nations may see more and more of the very kind of threat Iraq poses now: a rogue state with weapons of mass destruction, ready to use them or provide them to terrorists. If we fail to respond today, Saddam and all those who would follow in his footsteps will be emboldened tomorrow." -- Bill Clinton in 1998

"In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members, though there is apparently no evidence of his involvement in the terrible events of September 11, 2001. It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons. Should he succeed in that endeavor, he could alter the political and security landscape of the Middle East, which as we know all too well affects American security." -- Hillary Clinton, October 10, 2002

"I am absolutely convinced that there are weapons...I saw evidence back in 1998 when we would see the inspectors being barred from gaining entry into a warehouse for three hours with trucks rolling up and then moving those trucks out." -- Clinton's Secretary of Defense William Cohen in April of 2003

"Iraq is not the only nation in the world to possess weapons of mass destruction, but it is the only nation with a leader who has used them against his own people." -- Tom Daschle in 1998

"Saddam Hussein's regime represents a grave threat to America and our allies, including our vital ally, Israel. For more than two decades, Saddam Hussein has sought weapons of mass destruction through every available means. We know that he has chemical and biological weapons. He has already used them against his neighbors and his own people, and is trying to build more. We know that he is doing everything he can to build nuclear weapons, and we know that each day he gets closer to achieving that goal." -- John Edwards, Oct 10, 2002

"The debate over Iraq is not about politics. It is about national security. It should be clear that our national security requires Congress to send a clear message to Iraq and the world: America is united in its determination to eliminate forever the threat of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction." -- John Edwards, Oct 10, 2002

"I share the administration's goals in dealing with Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction." -- Dick Gephardt in September of 2002

"Iraq does pose a serious threat to the stability of the Persian Gulf and we should organize an international coalition to eliminate his access to weapons of mass destruction. Iraq's search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to completely deter and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power." -- Al Gore, 2002

"We are in possession of what I think to be compelling evidence that Saddam Hussein has, and has had for a number of years, a developing capacity for the production and storage of weapons of mass destruction." -- Bob Graham, December 2002

"Saddam Hussein is not the only deranged dictator who is willing to deprive his people in order to acquire weapons of mass destruction." -- Jim Jeffords, October 8, 2002

"We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction." -- Ted Kennedy, September 27, 2002

"There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein's regime is a serious danger, that he is a tyrant, and that his pursuit of lethal weapons of mass destruction cannot be tolerated. He must be disarmed." -- Ted Kennedy, Sept 27, 2002

"I will be voting to give the president of the United States the authority to use force - if necessary - to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security." -- John F. Kerry, Oct 2002

"The threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real, but as I said, it is not new. It has been with us since the end of that war, and particularly in the last 4 years we know after Operation Desert Fox failed to force him to reaccept them, that he has continued to build those weapons. He has had a free hand for 4 years to reconstitute these weapons, allowing the world, during the interval, to lose the focus we had on weapons of mass destruction and the issue of proliferation." -- John Kerry, October 9, 2002

"(W)e need to disarm Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal, murderous dictator, leading an oppressive regime. We all know the litany of his offenses. He presents a particularly grievous threat because he is so consistently prone to miscalculation. ...And now he is miscalculating America抯 response to his continued deceit and his consistent grasp for weapons of mass destruction. That is why the world, through the United Nations Security Council, has spoken with one voice, demanding that Iraq disclose its weapons programs and disarm. So the threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real, but it is not new. It has been with us since the end of the Persian Gulf War." -- John Kerry, Jan 23, 2003

"We begin with the common belief that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and a threat to the peace and stability of the region. He has ignored the mandates of the United Nations and is building weapons of mass destruction and the means of delivering them." -- Carl Levin, Sept 19, 2002

"Every day Saddam remains in power with chemical weapons, biological weapons, and the development of nuclear weapons is a day of danger for the United States." -- Joe Lieberman, August, 2002

"Over the years, Iraq has worked to develop nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. During 1991 - 1994, despite Iraq's denials, U.N. inspectors discovered and dismantled a large network of nuclear facilities that Iraq was using to develop nuclear weapons. Various reports indicate that Iraq is still actively pursuing nuclear weapons capability. There is no reason to think otherwise. Beyond nuclear weapons, Iraq has actively pursued biological and chemical weapons.U.N. inspectors have said that Iraq's claims about biological weapons is neither credible nor verifiable. In 1986, Iraq used chemical weapons against Iran, and later, against its own Kurdish population. While weapons inspections have been successful in the past, there have been no inspections since the end of 1998. There can be no doubt that Iraq has continued to pursue its goal of obtaining weapons of mass destruction." -- Patty Murray, October 9, 2002

"As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, I am keenly aware that the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons is an issue of grave importance to all nations. Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology which is a threat to countries in the region and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process." -- Nancy Pelosi, December 16, 1998

"Even today, Iraq is not nearly disarmed. Based on highly credible intelligence, UNSCOM [the U.N. weapons inspectors] suspects that Iraq still has biological agents like anthrax, botulinum toxin, and clostridium perfringens in sufficient quantity to fill several dozen bombs and ballistic missile warheads, as well as the means to continue manufacturing these deadly agents. Iraq probably retains several tons of the highly toxic VX substance, as well as sarin nerve gas and mustard gas. This agent is stored in artillery shells, bombs, and ballistic missile warheads. And Iraq retains significant dual-use industrial infrastructure that can be used to rapidly reconstitute large-scale chemical weapons production." -- Ex-Un Weapons Inspector Scott Ritter in 1998

"There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons and will likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years. And that may happen sooner if he can obtain access to enriched uranium from foreign sources -- something that is not that difficult in the current world. We also should remember we have always underestimated the progress Saddam has made in development of weapons of mass destruction." -- John Rockefeller, Oct 10, 2002

"Saddam抯 existing biological and chemical weapons capabilities pose a very real threat to America, now. Saddam has used chemical weapons before, both against Iraq抯 enemies and against his own people. He is working to develop delivery systems like missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles that could bring these deadly weapons against U.S. forces and U.S. facilities in the Middle East." -- John Rockefeller, Oct 10, 2002

"Whether one agrees or disagrees with the Administration抯 policy towards Iraq, I don抰 think there can be any question about Saddam抯 conduct. He has systematically violated, over the course of the past 11 years, every significant UN resolution that has demanded that he disarm and destroy his chemical and biological weapons, and any nuclear capacity. This he has refused to do. He lies and cheats; he snubs the mandate and authority of international weapons inspectors; and he games the system to keep buying time against enforcement of the just and legitimate demands of the United Nations, the Security Council, the United States and our allies. Those are simply the facts." -- Henry Waxman, Oct 10, 2002


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 4/5/2004

An excellent article and one that I think articulates the problem many have with Bush's statements on Iraq. Many of those who support the war in Iraq tend to frame it as the logical extension of the war on terror and thus creates the straw man argument that puts everyone against the Iraq war into being against the war on terror. Or since the world was batter off without Saddam in power, those against the war must be wrong. Pfiffner has it right on that at issue was whether Bush misled (to use the popular euphemism since so many want to avoid just saying what they mean, lied to) the American people.

The facts are these:
Bush told the American people that there can be no doubt about Iraq’s WMD, even though the intelligence reports were not that decisive
The vast majority of American believed that Iraq was connected to 9/11 even while the president knew that they were wrong and did nothing to correct the impression until after the war
A University of Maryland PIPA study revealed that over 60% of American held misconceptions of the Iraq war
George Tenet said that all intelligence documents included any doubts about Iraq’s potential
Bush assured the world that Tenet’s job is not in jeopardy

In conclusion, the American public supported the war on premises that turned out to be false… neither the administration that sold the war nor the intelligence community that got it so wrong has taken any responsibility for the mistake.


John H. Lederer - 4/5/2004

I hope Mr. Pfiffner is a historian who is generally careful with his facts. He is not in this column.

He also seems to miss the President's case on terrorism and Iraq. Confining the discusiion to terrorism, the President's case for war with Iraq was not a simple one of "Iraq helped destroy the World Trade Center, therefore we will invade Iraq". Rather it was one of "We cannot allow to exist countries that harbor and facilitate terrorism and terrorists". Iraq fell into that category as did Afghanistan and other countries. In such a view, it is not necessary that Iraq be the sinister hand behind a specific historical act of terror, rather it is intolerable that they might be behind a future act.

Failure to correctly state one's argument, and failure to correctly state the historical facts e.g."from Niger" makes one's own "argument suspicious.