Friday, May 30, 2003

Road to Surfdom covers Wolfowitz with some excellent stuff

Tim Dunlop --


First, let's pull out the comment about “liberation” as this is the justification that so many hawks continue to soothe their souls with. As I've pointed out at length, this was never a reason for launching an invasion and Wolfowitz confirms this:

The third one (that is, rescuing the Iraqi people from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein) by itself, as I think I said earlier, is a reason to help the Iraqis but it's not a reason to put American kids' lives at risk, certainly not on the scale we did it.

This gels with what Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, has said and I think we can safely now confine it to the realms of proven convenient fiction. So hawks, you can, if everything goes swimminingly and considerably better than it currently is, mention “liberation” as a side-effect of invasion, but you really should stop pretending it was the reason for invasion.

The three bears scenario

The real reasons for invasion, the only ones strong enough to get them to commit troops, according to Wolfowitz, are the first two--links to terrorism and the existence of WMD and, if you like, the link between these two facts, namely, that WMD could be passed onto terrorists.

So three reasons (sort of four if you follow his logic), but for "bureaucratic reasons" they decided to run with the WMD alone. He is quite specific here: liberation alone doesn't cut it; the links to terrorism are "the one about which there's the most disagreement within the bureaucracy"; while finally (WMD) "we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on which was weapons of mass destruction as the core reason."

So we've got a three-bears scenario: the first one (terrorism links) is too hard; the second one (liberation) is too soft; but the third one, WMD, is just right.

What is completely unclear here is what he means by that last sentence. Does he mean that “everyone” agreed that WMD were an unequivocal problem; or does he mean that “everyone” agreed that WMD was just the best cover story? If he meant the former, then that means they really thought there were WMD. If he meant the latter, then that means they knew there weren’t any but they decided to run with it anyway.

Mess up or cover up?

If they really thought there were WMD and it turns out there aren't any, then they are incredibly incompetent (and deserve to lose office). If they really thought there weren’t any, and there never were any, but they said there were, then they lied through their teeth (and deserve to lose office).

So this is his logic, if I'm reading it right: we need to stabilise the Middle East; Saddam is causing instability because of his support for terrorism and his WMD. So we need to have a war and we need to sell that war to the American people and the world at large. We ourselves (the Administration) don't believe liberation is a good enough reason, so nix that; we amongst ourselves (the Administration) are divided over the seriousness of Saddam's ties to terrorists, especially al Qaeda (which is really just Wolfowitz's polite way of saying, there is no proof--though he does give a couple of misleading examples) so nix that too; WMD is something we all agree on, so let’s go with that.

But again, what do they agree on: that he really has them or that this is the best cover story?

Here’s one thing that is absolutely clear: Wolfowitz's entire argument relies on the existence of WMD. If they are not there, the whole argument for Iraq causing instability falls apart.

We can kind of accept the idea that they wanted to stabilise the region as Wolfowitz said. But if his argument is that Saddam was causing the instability then you also have to accept that they believed Saddam had serious WMD. You simply have no choice: without serious WMD, Saddam couldn’t destabilise a sandcastle let alone a Saudi palace let alone an American Administration.

But if Saddam didn’t have them, and the US thought they did, then Saddam has pulled off one of the biggest con jobs in history, all to no good end. In other words he created an imaginary threat so believable that his biggest enemy fell for it and wiped him out on the basis of it. This might be all to the good, and kind of funny, but the ramifications are awful, especially if Iraq itself doesn’t turn into the pristine democratic timeshare we were shown in the brochures.

As I say, there are really only two options here, neither of them pretty. Either the Bush Administration lied and continues to lie about the reasons for invading Iraq or it was hoodwinked by a two-bit dictator of their own invention. (And if the latter, talk about blowback!)

If it isn’t obvious by now, you should never accept the word of the person whose only excuse is that the end justifies the means, that in order to save the village you have to destroy it.

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