ON GRAVE AND GATHERING THREATS
For days now, the news has been dominated by reactions to David Kay's statement that"we were almost all wrong" in the belief that Iraq had WMDs. Condoleeza Rice concedes that maybe there were no WMDs, but"Saddam Hussein had every opportunity ... to tell the world that he had destroyed them." Instead, he chose to remain silent and"secretive," allowing"the world to continue to wonder if he was sitting there with botulinum toxin and anthrax."
Now, I'm not about to defend the honor of a lying, murdering tyrant like Hussein. But, for months, Iraqi spokesmen and scientists were saying exactly that: that Iraq had no WMDs. Hussein himself denied their existence. Through a translator, the former Iraqi President told CBS News anchor, Dan Rather:
[T]he United States - the world - knows that there is nothing in Iraq [...] the fleets that have been brought around and the mobilization that's been done were, in fact, done partly to cover the huge lie that was being waged against Iraq about chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. And it was on that basis that Iraq actually accepted [the UN] Resolution - accepted it, even though [...] Iraqi officials ... had kept saying, that ... Iraq was empty, was void of any such weapons [...] But Iraq accepted that resolution ... in order not to allow any misinterpretation of its position.
Hussein also denied any linkage to Osama Bin Laden, and maintained again and again that"Iraq has not produced any such weapons [of mass destruction]."
Since UN inspectors were already in Iraq, and Iraq was submitting to an extended inspection process, and the US had surrounded that country with its military forces, where was this"grave and gathering threat to America and the world" that President Bush keeps talking about?
In the meanwhile, historian Victor Davis Hanson reiterates the pro-war case as if no stubborn facts have impinged on that case one iota."Success in Iraq cannot be measured by how much it resembles the Connecticut countryside next month," says Hanson,"but instead by whether — in two or three years — it is a country that no longer invades others, promotes terrorists, kills its own citizens, and uses petrol dollars to acquire a strategic arsenal to threaten the West."
This is nice, as far as it goes. If the US stays in Iraq, it's true: Iraq won't be invading its neighbors (it might have to leave that job to the US military) — or using its petrol dollars to threaten the West. But it will remain a fertile ground for the growth of the very terrorism the US seeks to fight.
For all the rhetoric about American corporate profiteering — the"Afghanistan pipeline," the Halliburton bonanza, the carving up of the Iraqi petroleum pie — the ultimate cost of restoring the two countries [Iraq and Afghanistan] will be enormous, yet justifiable not in economic advantages, but in both national-security interests and, yes, moral terms. This is as it should be, since we Americans recently have had a prior relationship with both the Afghan and Iraqi nations. Unlike the British or Russians, we have never attempted to colonize them, but we are nevertheless obligated to set things right since, at critical times when we had the ability to offer aid, we chose isolationism and retreat — and thousands died as a consequence.
Isolationism and retreat? Just because the US hasn't engaged in traditional colonization does not mean that it has engaged in"isolationism and retreat" in the Middle East. The neocorporatist reality is that the US spent years propping up the Shahs, the Husseins, the Afghani mujahideen, the House of Sa'ud; it has spent years ... decades ... funneling"foreign aid" — in the form of money and munitions — to these despotic forces, while also socializing the risks of oil companies that received monopoly concessions from various host governments. Indeed, US support of ARAMCO and the House of Sa'ud created a financial dynamic that has nourished the export of Wahhabi fanaticism to the rest of the Islamic world. It is not US"isolationism and retreat" that is to blame here. It is US interventionist policy in the Middle East that has been one of the most important contributing factors to the development of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism.
Hanson decries, justifiably,"scores of mistakes" made by the US in Iraq, but this does not stop him from seeing this war as"one of the brightest moments in recent American history." On this basis, he condemns the antiwar movement as if it is constituted only by the"ossified Left."
Another case against this war has been made by principled libertarians and a few conservatives too. Such individuals have been as opposed to the"ossified Left" as to the neocons who brought us this mess.
Hanson favors nation building (calling it, instead,"nation rebuilding"). But he makes a good point against the"quest for utopian perfection," that is,"the idea that a few modern-day Jeffersons and Madisons need be present to craft a suitable constitution" for Iraq.
The truth is: I'd settle for a few American Jeffersons and Madisons in the United States! Ultimately, it will take that kind of radical cultural and political shift to save Americans from the grave and gathering threats to life and liberty — at home and abroad.
- Five Things You Need to Know to be a Better Digital Preservationist
- Book on Losing British Generals Wins American History Prize
- Stanford scholar explores civil rights revolution's positive impact on the South's economy
- Harvard Historian Nancy Koehn on Amazon's Tentacular Reach
- Q&A with historian and author Nick Turse