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November 15, 2005

Comments

...the time Bush made his speech outlining the threat and laid the groundwork for his case for war at the Cincinnati Museum Center (October 7, 2002), a point at which it's clear he thinks we should invade.

I agree its clear that he intended to invade at that time, and that it is clear that he intended to invade long before this. It was simply a matter of how to sell the intention politically (and profit from it also).

But its worth remembering that he said the opposite at the time -- just another lie from this scam artist. He allegedly just wanted authorization to threaten force, and that war was the last resort -- rather than what it really was, the top item on his "to do" list.

Its odiouis to now hear him rant about how the Dems also voted for war in October in order to oust Saddam, 2002, except he told them at the time they weren't.

Liar.

the top item on his "to do" list

Followed shortly thereafter by:

2. Take nap.
3. Tell Mr. Cheney to stop looking at me like that.

dmbeaster,
Yes, I too was convinced by that October 2002 speech he wanted to invade.

But I can't read his mind. I can read his speeches though, and his insistence that he hadn't made up his mind yet makes it very inconvenient for Rice et al, who are going around now claiming that spreading democracy was always the goal. If that was indeed the goal, how was that to come about without invading? Are we to assume that if Hussein had gone into exile and a new leader was democratically elected that he/she would have permitted US bases in Iraq?

Essentially, the Democrats are right. The President was lying. There is no scenario I can see where he wasn't lying about something here. It doesn't add up.

While that assessment certainly is bland, it does represent the truth of the matter as I see it and I am a war supporter. Another aspect that you simply touched on at the end (recruiting tool for terrorist), should be expanded upon.
This certainly has come about with most of the insurgents coming from other countries to fight U.S. forces. The thing is, isn't that a good thing. Let's think about it a minute. We know there are radicalized Muslims who want to give their lives to destroy the "Great Satan," right? The problem is we don't know where they are or in many cases, who they are. If a U.S.-led war in the Mideast can attract these people into fighting us over there, isn't that better than having American civilians dying here? One aspect of the war rationale has to be that, "If they want to fight us, fine. Let's just make sure the battlefield is in Baghdad and not in New York City." Why would the President of the United States allow the battlefield of a war we're already in continue to be in our homeland where the people he is responsible for protecting live and work? Regardless of the WMD stuff, it is obvious that at least one of the reasons Bush chose to go to Iraq is that it provides a better battlefield for the War on Terror. Iraq is easier for the terrorists to get to, it provides an up close and personal venue for the Muslim world to see exactly what the terrorists are up to, and the American casualties will be predominantly soldiers who bravely volunteered to give their life for their country instead of civilians on their way to work. Why has America gone without an attack since 9/11? At least part of the reason has to be that many of the terrorists who would travel to our shores to kill our people are getting shot by American troops in Iraq, and that is a good thing.

Another aspect that you simply touched on at the end (recruiting tool for terrorist), should be expanded upon. This certainly has come about with most of the insurgents coming from other countries to fight U.S. forces. The thing is, isn't that a good thing.

Well, that depends. If you can get ALL of them there, fine. If your actions inspire the creation of more terrorists, then not so fine. If you create more terrorists than you shoot or draw out into the open, then REALLY not so fine.

J.A. Davis

The fly paper strategy you project onto the president has always struck me as even more odious than any other. It's built upon the notion that innocent Iraqi lives are ours to spend to protect ourselves.

There's no honor in that at all, IMO. We have no right to organize the battle in the backyard of a nation that had absolutely nothing to do with the attacks on this country, where innocent civilians are certain to be caught in the crossfire and be killed.

That's totally unacceptable to me as an American. Even as an American who doesn't want to see any more Americans killed by the terrorists. Even as an American who lives mere blocks from Ground Zero.

That scenario costs us more than our potential safety, IMO. It costs us our collective souls.

Davis sez: This certainly has come about with most of the insurgents coming from other countries to fight U.S. forces.

false. google foreign fighters in iraq and you'll learn that 3.5% of all detainees are foreign.

Davis also sez: Why has America gone without an attack since 9/11? At least part of the reason has to be that many of the terrorists who would travel to our shores to kill our people are getting shot by American troops in Iraq, and that is a good thing.

Alternative explanation: Al Qaeda is a small organization that took advantage of a glaring weakness in homeland security. Insurgents are going to Iraq not out of support for Al Qaeda but in solidarity to their Muslim brothers, where they speak the language.

hypo: China invades Canada and takes control of the oil sands. you are outraged. To fight the Chinese, you (a) fly to China where you don't speak the language and have to get a visa or (b) sneak across the border into Canada.

"The thing is, isn't that a good thing."

The number of fallacies on display here certainly overwhelms the amount of time I have compared to what I would need to go through them all. Short answer: no.

Besides the immorality, are our enemies that stupid? Sure, some, but all? So we eliminate the stupid ones, leaving the clever ones to grow stronger. Ugh.

JA Davis: as Edward says, it's immoral to do what you say. As others have said, it's also important to ask whether we are creating more terrorists than we are killing.

Two more points: (1) We are also providing them with an invaluable opportunity for training against the US military. Lots of observers more competent than I am find this very scary.

(2) One of the things a terrorist organization badly needs is a base of operations. Under Saddam, Iraq would never have been a base for al Qaeda: as I have said before, he was a paranoid control freak, and al Qaeda was uncontrollable. Now, one possible outcome of the war is that Iraq will become a failed state. In that case, we will have given bin Laden exactly what he needed most. Along, of course, with confirmation of his basic story line about us and our ambitions in the Middle East.

If this is an effective anti-terrorism strategy, then I'd hate to see a counter-productive one.


The flypaper strategy also has a flipside which is working against us.

We're stuck in Iraq. In the meantime, Syria and Iran are saying to themselves, "We'll fight America in Baghdad so we don't have to fight them in Damascus and Tehran."

They know Bush wants to invade them, too. They know that, if American troops aren't 'kept busy' in Iraq, they'll be moving on to new conquests. So Iran and Syria have no incentive to close their borders with Iraq to shut off insurgent supplies and reinforcements.

And that hurts our troops.

" In that case, we will have given bin Laden exactly what he needed most."

Also, in symbolic/ideological terms, we'll have handed him the capitol of the Caliphate.

The Shorter Case:

"My fellow Americans the attacks of 9/11 just pissed me off. This Afgan thing seems kinda weak. Chasing raggedy tribal types all over the landscape just isn't doing it for me. I wanna be an AVENGING WAR PRESIDENT!

I wanna kick some muslim ass! Saddam's over there smirking. We know he's a bad guy. Let's take him out like my dad shoulda done if he'd had the balls. If you love America, you have to support me on this."

[the flypaper strategy] is immoral [because we have no right to make Iraqis do the suffering and dying for us].

Not knowable, but I suspect otherwise, because this depends on whether total deaths of Iraqis (or of noncombatants) are higher in this reality than in the alternative reality of Saddam remaining in power, likely with the sanctions regime weakening and eliminated over time (as desired by France, China, Russia). Saddam killed thousands every month, and had a history of several wars/genocides, making for millions dead.

DWP, the logic in your post is the same as saying "We might as well kill these Jews since Hitler's going to kill them anyway" in the 1940s.

DWP,

I don't agree.

Not knowable, but I suspect otherwise, because this depends on whether total deaths of Iraqis (or of noncombatants) are higher in this reality than in the alternative reality of Saddam remaining in power, likely with the sanctions regime weakening and eliminated over time (as desired by France, China, Russia).

This ultimately boils down to suggesting that our indirectly killing 9,999 innocents is better than Hussein directly killing 10,000 innocents, so we win, morally speaking.

That's not a case I'd want to wage my soul on.

We are also providing them with an invaluable opportunity for training against the US military.

Not likely, at least regarding the foreigners in Iraq. Apart from #1 Zarqawi, who is in constant flight and has made some narrow escapes, they can't even keep their commanders alive, so it is highly likely that the US is correct when positing the very high rates of death for their lower-level officers and fighters. Also, if combat were doing much for them, they wouldn't be using so many suicide VBIEDs.

The Iraqi pro-Baathists were already pretty well trained as soldiers; they do of course get training against us now, which they didn't before, but they really aren't fighting us all that much now. Most of their attacks are also IEDs (not suicide, usually side of road).

Note that in combat, death ratios are about 20 to 1 or higher in our favor, and most of our deaths are due to IEDs and VBIEDs.

All that said, I grant that we are in a way playing our hands, and intel people with potential or current enemies can study our methods, and particularly our use of newer weapons and their vulnerabilities. At the same time, of course, our soldiers are gaining real battle experience, with almost all surviving to return and retain or pass on their knowledge, and our weapons are being improved by experience (particularly our drone airplanes and composite armor).

Edward,

1) What if the numbers didn't magically work out so close as in your example?

2) When we invaded Normandy (Okinawa, etc.), we knew that the enemy -- and we for that matter -- would end up killing many noncombatants. Isn't the fact of removing a greater evil (i.e., under the alternate option where we do nothing, even more will be killed) the best one can hope for in any war?

"Saddam killed thousands every month"
While not disputing this I would like to see a cite. Just to clarify statistical methodology.

The various German governments have also, on average, killed thousands a month in industrial death camps over the last 70 years.

No apologist for Saddam here, by the way.

My point, DWP, is that for your logic to stand, you have to draw the line somewhere. At what point does the "Hussein would have killed more anyway" cease to convince you?

Isn't the fact of removing a greater evil (i.e., under the alternate option where we do nothing, even more will be killed) the best one can hope for in any war?

The people Hussein might have killed are not interchangeable with the people we did kill. It doesn't work like that, as nice as it would be if it did. Further, I'd rather not be an evil at all. I'd rather that my actions were totally justifyable. The way a war of choice can never be, IMO. The only justifyable war is one where there really was no alternative.

DWP writes: "but they really aren't fighting us all that much now. Most of their attacks are also IEDs (not suicide, usually side of road)."

And most of our attacks have been by missiles or bombs or tank shells, especially if you count the ordinance dropped in March of 03.

What difference does that make? We aren't exactly eager to engage face-to-face, either. We avoid that as much as possible, preferring to be able to knock out the enemy while our troops remain safe.

People who know how to make IEDs could make them anywhere on earth.

"and our weapons are being improved by experience (particularly our drone airplanes and composite armor)."

So are theirs. They're working around our counter-IED tactics, they're improving their charges, etc.


And I shouldn't have to point this out, but if they can learn how to make a remote-detonating IED that we can't detect in Iraq, that knowledge would be transferable to making smaller bombs for trains and airplanes and boats and public buildings.

Not knowable, but I suspect otherwise, because this depends on whether total deaths of Iraqis (or of noncombatants) are higher in this reality than in the alternative reality of Saddam remaining in power

This is exactly what the 2004 Lancet study was designed to show. They found that the most probable number for extra civilian casualities was around 100,000. This American Life did a wonderful explanation of this study on 10-28-2005 (Episode 300, "What's In A Number?"). Click < href="http://www.thislife.org/">here and navigate around the archives to listen.

now you're just scaring me Jon H.

Oops.

Under Saddam, Iraq would never have been a base for al Qaeda:

Of course, many believe that it already was (including Clinton officials, back then). At any rate, it unquestionably hosted and aided many Islamic terrorists who saw themselves as at war with the West, including us.

Now, one possible outcome of the war is that Iraq will become a failed state.

Indeed, and concedely one reason not to start the war (although many reasonable people might see it as easily outweighed by factors on the other side).

This is also of course a reason to hope that the war goes well, and to agree with Bush that it is essential that we win this war, regardless of how we felt about starting it.

The flypaper strategy also has a flipside which is working against us. We're stuck in Iraq. In the meantime, Syria and Iran are saying to themselves, "We'll fight America in Baghdad so we don't have to fight them in Damascus and Tehran." They know Bush wants to invade them, too.

Possibly, although if our goal is to invade either country, it would be useful to have a few divisions in Iraq, since we have to start from somewhere (i.e., an abutting piece of land, not too mountainous, with a friendly government that is not Israel, lest we further inflame the "Arab Street"). Further, these countries risk that we will invade precisely because of their actions. Further, our military strength has not significantly eroded in Iraq, although I concede that our political will may be doing so. (The "Bush lied" meme of several Democratic Senators might have something to do with that.)

Edward,
And the people killed in Okinawa were not interchangeable with the people who'd have been killed by the Japanese in China, etc., either. Again, isn't the fact of removing a greater evil the best one can hope for in any war?

I see I we'll have to agree to disagree on that point DWP, but, again, where would you draw the line with regards to civilian causualties? I ask because I believe as soon as you start to try and measure the greater good or evil, you have to do so in such terms.

JohnH: "And most of our attacks have been by missiles or bombs or tank shells... We aren't exactly eager to engage face-to-face, either.

JohnH, my point wasn't that we're better because we prefer hand-to-hand combat, my point was that our enemies in Iraq aren't increasing their battle experience, they're losing it. And the fact that many of them are killed by us at a distance, often before they can engage us in direct combat, is more evidence in favor of this thesis of mine. Thank you for your support.

"Further, our military strength has not significantly eroded in Iraq, although I concede that our political will may be doing so."

Ask the military recruiters failing to meet their quotas. Ask the troops who keep getting hauled back by stop-loss. Ask the ex-military folks who had been planning on going career before the war in Iraq. Ask the states whose National Guard divisions have been mostly gone for years. I think they would give slightly different answers to our military readiness.

"(The "Bush lied" meme of several Democratic Senators might have something to do with that.)"

Bush's lies leading up to the war on Iraq, lack of planning for the occupation, staged events, the dozens of corners victory was "just around", and all the rest of the deception and incompetence surrounding the execution of the war in Iraq might have something more to do with the flagging political will.

"(The "Bush lied" meme of several Democratic Senators might have something to do with that.)"

This also seems to suggest that even if we believe the president did lie, we should go along with it. Where does that end?

One point that an honest argument for war should include would be that the number of troops sent to restore Iraq would be far below the numbers that General Shinseki, among others, believed would be necessary.

Davis also sez: Why has America gone without an attack since 9/11? At least part of the reason has to be that many of the terrorists who would travel to our shores to kill our people are getting shot by American troops in Iraq, and that is a good thing.

Considering the attacks upon Bali, London, and Madrid, the terrorists still seem to be getting around pretty well.

Another problem with the flypaper argument is that not only are you using Iraqis as bait, you are using your own armed forces as bait; you are sending them into an anarchic country in order to flush out the people who want to kill them. This does not strike me as a particularly responsible use of the military.

Jon H: if they can learn how to make a remote-detonating IED that we can't detect in Iraq, that knowledge would be transferable to making smaller bombs for trains [etc.].

Their work on remote detonation (usually on thoroughfares) has little application to use in, say, subways in London or NYX, and none at all concerning the power/size ratio of such bombs.

Remote detonation could be used on trains, thus saving the life of an otherwise suicide-bomber, to bomb again. But low-tech timers would do the same, and the sophisticated remotes wouldn't add much here since they're not attacking convoys with radio scanners/blockers, but rather soft targets.

The power/size ratio of bombs has been improving over the last decade. This has nothing to do with detonation methods, but is a matter of making or obtaining more powerful chemical compounds that may be harder to make or obtain (e.g., C4 versus gunpowder), but making them is a matter of knowledge that can be picked up in books or the internet, combined with a safe place for a chem lab. Putting the bomb-maker in Iraq and making him active there greatly increases the bomb-makers' attrition compared to setting him up in a peaceful place (such as the US) to work on production over time before sending out the bombs.

And the fact that many of them are killed by us at a distance, often before they can engage us in direct combat, is more evidence in favor of this thesis of mine.

The thesis assumes that the people being killed are, in fact, the enemy. This assumption is not valid in a guerilla war.

At any rate, it unquestionably hosted and aided many Islamic terrorists who saw themselves as at war with the West, including us.

At this point, the notion of realpolitik has to raise its head. By having an actual state that bears some responsibility for a group's actions, it becomes more likely to inflict retribution. (a sort of terrorism version of Mutually Assured Destruction) This is a very strong argument for keeping what was the status quo (which is how one must view Scowcroft and Wilkerson's recent contributions in light of), yet the administration forged on ahead. Ironically, you cite a form of realpolitik when you say

Further, these countries risk that we will invade precisely because of their actions.

I also think that there should be some principle of accountability. It was the administration that brought us into this war, so the administration needs to be accountable and not try to suggest that it was a bipartisan decision.

Further, our military strength has not significantly eroded in Iraq

This assertion is countered by statements like this. This frontline link has a number of interviews pro and con about this question.

DWP writes: "JohnH, my point wasn't that we're better because we prefer hand-to-hand combat, my point was that our enemies in Iraq aren't increasing their battle experience, they're losing it."

Experience using IEDs counts as much as experience flying combat missions in B-52s, or experience manning an artillery battery against targets who cannot respond. It's experience in warfare. Period.

They're learning our tactics, our capabilities, our weaknesses. Those can and will be applied in Syria and Iran, should we go on to either place. Either country will be fighting at a significant advantage compared to where the Iraqis started.

Jackmormon,

Clearly if you believe the Lancet study (100,000 dead) is accurate you will have a different numerator in your Iraqi domestic cost/benefit calculation than I do.

But if you do, note that:

1) Saddam has certainly killed many times more than 100,000 people. (That said, I concede we don't know how many he would have killed prospectively.)

2) Even the Lancet gave a 95% confidence interval starting at 9,000 people.

3) This confidence interval only covers sampling error (i.e., error due to the number of samples), and assumes away all methodological problems, and assumes complete honesty, consistency and accuracy in the survey results.


DWP, Al Qaeda was not based in territory under Saddam's control. They were based in Iraqi territory under our control, in the no-fly zone.

Bush could have taken Zarqawi out before launching a full war on Baghdad. That would have made things much easier. He failed to do so, because he needed that thin thread of bogus evidence to pin an Al Qaeda connection on Saddam.

"Saddam has certainly killed many times more than 100,000 people. (That said, I concede we don't know how many he would have killed prospectively.)"

Over 30 years.

Do I "believe the president did lie, [but] we should go along with it.?" No. I think that several Democrats in Congress are lying about Bush's "lies." This is not going to be resolved here tonight, and I can't do better than Podhoretz at
Commentary

Jon H: "Syria and Iran... will be fighting at a significant advantage compared to where the Iraqis started."

I'm not sure exactly what you're comparing with what, and doubt the relevance of your position, since I doubt you'd argue for invading either country regardless, but here goes.

It's possible that it would be easier to attack Syria if we had never attacked Iraq, if Saudi Arabia still let us keep troops there, if Saudi Arabia let us attack from there, and Jordan permitted us to cross. (Three big ifs.) Otherwise the absence of a place to attack from would matter a lot more than any experience they might have gained regarding IEDs.

While Syria is a smaller and weaker country than Iraq, Iran is a larger and stronger one, which we probably do not want to invade under any circumstances. (I think we'd sooner nuke them.) That said, invading Iran would only even be possible because we are now in Iraq. Where else would we attack from? (Iran's other borders are water or mountains; there is no Kuwait to launch from; armor can't be massed well in mountain passes, and an amphibious attack would mean a lot more US deaths than a land attack, indeed it might even be repulsed.)

So if we wanted to invade all 3 countries (not likely, but otherwise there's no point in debating this), we would in fact attack Iraq first for tactical reasons (never mind the legalistic ones, like we were already at war with Iraq). Then we'd attack Syria, and Syria of course would not have Syria on its border helping itself, and then Iran, if Iran were not yet cowed, or we didn't use aerial power or even nukes to keep them from same.

The people of Iraq were trapped between the sanctions and Saddam. No matter how you cut it, people were dying as a result of that fact. I believe that US involvement in the sanctions leaves us with some measure of responsibility for those deaths, and therefore responsibility to end them. Removing sanctions would have been a disaster, since Saddam would have been able to rearm in short order, posing a significantly greater threat to his neighbors and the Iraqis. That leaves the option of removing Saddam (and his immediate circle, who were no better than him). This is why I supported the war. In addition, the possibility of building a democratic society in the middle east is very appealing, for the reasons Edward_ laid out.

What I did not anticipate was that the occupation would be handled so incredibly badly. The extraordinary pattern of incompetence displayed by this administration was not yet clear when the war started. I honestly (and stupidly) believed that the neocons would have spent some of the previous decade of agitation for war thinking about the postwar scenario. I'm still surprised that these idiots screwed up so badly.

Is there a cite for 'Clinton officials believed that Iraq was serving as a base for al Qaeda'? I don't recall this. Nor did it host many active terrorists. (Serving as a retirement home for aging dreadful people, while hardly my preferred career choice, is different.) Still less, active terrorists working against the US (as opposed to Israel. Though even there, it was never in the same league as Iran or Syria.)

Podhoretz can't see the forest for the trees here, DWP.

He doesn't discuss what seems the undeniable big lie: the assertion that there was no forgone conclusion to invade. If that is a lie (and the evidence seems unshakeable), it's a doozy, because Bush denied it several times. And if it is a lie, then it suggests all the other evidence provided was colored by this forgone conclusion, meaning that whether or not Bush really believed the uranium story or the Chalabi stories or the Italians or whomever is totally irrelevant, given that he was always going to come to the same conclusion: we were going in. If it was irrelevant whether he believed them hten it's irrelevant whether they were true or not.

But if it's not a lie, then Rice is lying when she says our goal was always to spread democracy.

DWP, the link to the This American Life program, and this one from Daniel Drezner here, all make it clear that the methodology of the study was rigorous and completely standard in epidemiology. Oh, and that the confidence interval is shaped like a bell curve, with the apex being the most probable number.

If neither of these two sources will convince you, I certainly can't.

I hated the sanctions, and I hated Saddam, but I did not support the war, partly because I thought it would be incredibly difficult to get the reconstruction right (though never in my wildest nightmares did I imagine the level of incompetence we've shown), partly because we hadn't given Blix enough time to work, and partly because wars, according to me, tend to have unpredictable consequences, and thus should be undertaken only in the face of obvious need. Since I did not accept the administration's reasons for going to war (other than 'it would be great to have a democracy in the Middle East', to which I tended to say: 'yes it would, and can I please have a pony too?'), I saw no such need.

I seem to have been in the distinct minority who kept thinking that GHWB was right not to push on to Baghdad.

And about Podhoretz: I suppose lots of different people identify different things as 'Bush's lies'. Pod. and others try to refute them by imagining that what they object to was the claim that Saddam had WMDs. Personally, I don't see any reason to think that that was a lie (as opposed to a mistake). The suggestion that he had nuclear weapons, not just chem or bio, on the other hand, was really not supported by clear evidence, and what evidence there was (aluminum tubes, yellowcake) really was both cherry-picked and then used as the basis for claims made with a lot more certainty than the evidence could possibly have warranted.

Likewise, the idea that Saddam's weapons could have been used on us requires either that he have some method of delivering them to the US, which there was no evidence for, and which was implausible in any case, or that he have a relationship with al Qaeda or some other groups that goes well beyond the 'sometimes some of them met' evidence that Pod. provides. Again, I think the evidence for that claim was both cherry-picked and then inflated way beyond what it warranted.

Suppose I have 100 conflicting intel reports, and I pick the one that says that some horrible danger might possibly lurk, and choose to ignore the twenty-six others that call that into question in various ways. Suppose further that I go around telling people that I have conclusive evidence that shows that the danger is not just lurking, but about to spring from the shadows and destroy all of us; and spend months on an elaborate campaign of warning about the awful, awful danger, and the calamities that will befall if we do not deal with it. Suppose further that everyone knows that I have the intel and they do not, and so they cannot check for themselves. Did I lie? Maybe, maybe not. I could, for instance, have talked myself into believing what I say. But in any case, I have behaved recklessly with the truth.

In this case, that recklessness has cost tens of thousands of lives, billions of dollars, destroyed our prestige abroad, destabilized the middle east, and broken the army.

Jon H: Al Qaeda was not based in territory under Saddam's control... Bush could have taken Zarqawi out before launching a full war on Baghdad.. [but] he needed that thin thread of bogus evidence to pin an Al Qaeda connection on Saddam.

1) I only mentioned Zarqawi when pointing out that his top commanders other than himself (#2s), keep getting killed.

2) Regardless of the location of the Ansar camp, there were a number of connections between Saddam and al Qaeda, in and out of the country, that even people like Richard Clarke knew about, for at least as long as Bill Clinton was President. Yet I did not get into this, because I don't have the time or energy to convince you on this, and it is still somewhat speculative, and so I said:

"At any rate, [Iraq] unquestionably hosted and aided many Islamic terrorists who saw themselves as at war with the West, including us."

Since Saddam hosted a WTC (first time) bomber, several Palestinian terrorists with US blood on their hands, and gave $25,000 to suicide bomber families in Palestine/Israel (some with US blood on their hands), he of course supported terrorism, including that run by religious groups (like Hamas) that "Saddam could never work with" as the left likes to put it now.

3) We don’t even know for sure how many legs Zarqawi has, yet alone his exact relationship with Saddam.

4) Assuming ill motives in your opponent ("[Bush] needed that thin thread of bogus evidence") doesn't really make for an argument.

hilzoy,

If I accepted your mathematics (1 out of 100, etc.), I would agree with you. Oddly, people who saw similar info before the war, some of them Bush's opponents, agreed with Bush then. Rather than go into the scores of details that would refute you (seems pointless to recreate so many other articles), I will point out that only the State Department's intel agreed with you on nukes, the CIA and several others agreed with Bush. And the State Department agreed with Bush on chem and bio.

I don't see why Saddam Hussein should have gotten a free ride on biological weapons. Nothing to fear from a little anthrax, right?

If you don't agree with my characterizations, one fact we can all agree on is slightly staler; on 7/22/2003, Bill Clinton told Larry King "it is incontestable that on the day I left office, there were unaccounted for stocks of biological and chemical weapons."

The cases for war (in 2003) presented by:

Orianna Fallaci

Doug Feith

Nick Cohen

togolosh writes: "I believe that US involvement in the sanctions leaves us with some measure of responsibility for those deaths, and therefore responsibility to end them."

But even then, there was no particular urgency requiring that this be done in 2003.

It could have waited. We were kinda busy with a problem that was challenging enough on its own.

(And, at this point, it's laughable that the Torturer In Chief would have much humanitarian concern for the Iraqis he'd just as soon make disappear on the flimsiest of evidence.)

"the CIA and several others agreed with Bush."

So why did Laurie Mylroie, tinfoil hat hawk from the true-believin' AEI, publish a book in 2003 describing the CIA's nefarious efforts to undermine Bush's case for war?

Ah, Douglas Feith. Widely regarded as one of the dumbest bastards ever to blight the Pentagon, if not the earth as a whole.

"only the State Department's intel agreed with you on nukes"

Have to chime in as a physicist and note that the world experts in the question, people at Oak Ridge, also disagreed about the famous aluminium tubes.

And if you've got a refutation of hilzoy's points, or can point to one, well bring it on!

So why did Laurie Mylroie, tinfoil hat hawk from the true-believin' AEI, publish a book in 2003 describing the CIA's nefarious efforts to undermine Bush's case for war?

You're saying she's at least mildly insane, yet you believe her when she says the CIA was trying to undermine Bush's case for war?

Curious, that.

Dumb Feith, dumb bastard:

If the Iraqi regime gets ousted because it ultimately proves unwilling to disarm itself in a co-operative fashion with the UN, and if the United States leads a coalition and overthrows that government, I think that the combination of those two actions will influence the thinking of other states about how advisable it is for them to continue to provide safe harbour or other types of support to terrorist organisations.

It worked on Kaddafi, but not on Iran. Syria and Saudi Arabia still not decided yet.

a paragraph from Fallaci:

The final reason for my dilemma is the definition that Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair and their advisors give of this war: "A Liberation war. A humanitarian war to bring freedom and democracy to Iraq." Oh, no. Humanitarianism has nothing to do with wars. All wars, even just ones, are death and destruction and atrocities and tears. And this is not a liberation war, a war like the Second World War. (By the way: neither is it an "oil war," as the pacifists who never yell against Saddam or bin Laden maintain in their rallies. Americans do not need Iraqi oil.) It is a political war. A war made in cold blood to respond to the Holy War that the enemies of the West declared upon the West on September 11. It is also a prophylactic war. A vaccine, a surgery that hits Saddam because, (Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair believe), among the various focuses of cancer Saddam is the most obvious and dangerous one.

Slarti, just to be pedantic, Jon H.'s point doesn't require that he believe Mylroie's arguments concerning the CIA, only that he believe that she believed her arguments concerning the CIA. He's questioning why, if the CIA agreed with Bush on nukes -- thus bolstering the case for war -- there were prominent hawks accusing the CIA of opposing Bush's case for war.

Dave, if, somehow, I could bring lasting peace to the entire benighted Arab world tomorrow by stabbing one of your kids in the chest with a steak knife, would you let me do it?

Slarti: "You're saying she's at least mildly insane, yet you believe her when she says the CIA was trying to undermine Bush's case for war?"

She's good enough for the AEI, she's good enough for the administration hawks. I believe Wolfowitz even blurbed her book. If she's making the argument, it's the hawks' argument.

But yeah, I think she's nuts.

DaveC writes: "It worked on Kaddafi,"

Libya was talking before we even invaded Iraq.

I doubt anyone else will come forward. Our moral standing has been crippled by Bush's acceptance of torture, the neighbors know our military is stretched, and we're going to have a hard time making a case for another invasion after bullshitting the UN.

In other words, to the extent it worked at all, it was only good once.

Feith shot his wad, and pretty much failed.

DaveC: why should anyone give a rat's ass what Oriana Fallaci thinks?

Oh, also this bit from Feith is disingenuous: "If the Iraqi regime gets ousted because it ultimately proves unwilling to disarm itself in a co-operative fashion with the UN"

Iraq did disarm. It was cooperating with the UN.

DWP:

as a threshold matter, I admire your willingness to debate a crowd that very much disagrees with you and to stay the course.

That said, not surprisingly i have some disagreements.

as revealed by this thread, one important fact for you as justifying the war appears to be the "badness" of Saddam, as evidenced by his brutality to his own people and his prediliction to cause wars.

oddly enough, i mostly agree with this position; it's essentially the classic liberal hawk point of view.

but if you're going to take the liberal hawk position, it seems to me that you need to buy into the hard part: nation building. If we assert the right to invade to make people's lives better, then we better live up to that commitment.

This is where I parted company, early on, with the Bush admin. I saw no serious commitment to winning the peace. Where was the equivalent of the Yalta Conference?

you assert that foreign insurgents now appear to be causing most of the casualties to US military, through suicide bombings. Have you considered the possibility that the domestic insurgents are simply keeping their powder dry, comfortable in the knowledge that they can outwait the US occupation, and saving their military operations against iraqi police forces and other centers of iraqi nationalism?

put yourself in the position of a baathist or a religious Sunni (or, for that matter, Shia) extremist. What's your strategy? Here's mine: keep up a steady stream of low-level attacks on the americans, to keep up the pressure for them to go home while staying alive yourself. Continue to destroy power and water stations to keep the population restive and discontent. Husband the bulk of your forces for a quick coup once the americans leave, offering an exhausted populace stability. Negotiate side deals with the Kurds, who are going to control the north anyway.

Our inability to provide basic security following the invasion means that we are now almost universally despised. That means that the next government will either (a) hate us and likely align with / tilt toward Iran; (b) be a strongman propped up by US military might; or (c) collapse into civil war. Or so i'd bet.

In all seriousness, given where we are today, how do you define "winning" in Iraq?

rilkefan: "Have to chime in as a physicist and note that the world experts in the question, people at Oak Ridge, also disagreed about the famous aluminium tubes."

They're not an intelligence agency, and right or wrong, they were refuting a single specific piece of evidence, not making a statement about whether Iraq had or was seeking nukes. If we're going to look at everybody who had a take on any piece of evidence, I concede that more than just State had some refutation, but also many more had evidence for WMDs, and many would fall into both camps.

And if you've got a refutation of hilzoy's points, or can point to one, well bring it on!

Which points? I will if I can. (I've been pretty busy with a lot of points made by several people, as you may have noticed.)

If she's making the argument, it's the hawks' argument.

Um...no. That she may be making arguments that overlap with part of some hawks' argument doesn't in any way imply total overlap with all rationale for war.

But thanks for clearing that whole thing up; for a second there I though Mylroie had sucked you into her own private...Idaho?

hilzoy: I seem to have been in the distinct minority who kept thinking that GHWB was right not to push on to Baghdad.

Well here we are again, hilzoy and I, in the same club.

What is the missing factor that lets us argue about, say, attacking Syria or Iran? How can we discuss this as if we were playing Risk?

In the first Gulf war, how many Iraqis died? The number is uncounted. There are a few photographs of the "highway of death," leading back from Kuwait. So they were soldiers. So what? Many were conscripts with the Republican Guard at their backs, with guns pointed at them. At the end of that war, they were surrendering to CNN camera crews and praising George H. W. Bush.

In another thread I termed 9/11 a "pinprick." I knew this would provoke some response -- I was surprised by how little response I got. I think DaveC may have misunderstood me. I did not intend to belittle the lives that were lost. I meant to juxtapose it with the much greater dangers we face, and the much greater damage we have caused.

Of course, comparing numbers is not really a valid way to look at a war. Our current crop of leaders tell us that every life is precious. They wear that idea as if it were a badge, and also use it as a political bludgeon.

Can we trust the people in charge nowadays to weigh these matters? I say "no."

slarti: "But thanks for clearing that whole thing up; for a second there I though Mylroie had sucked you into her own private...Idaho?"

Actually, I could imagine her living in a giant potato.

I admire your willingness to debate a crowd that very much disagrees with you

ditto for me. I'd also suggest (despite evidence that DWP's a pretty fast typist and has a speedy internet connection) that we slow the pace down just a bit and allow for a little more room. As they say in gardening, work the soil, not the plant. Rather than try and catch DWP out, (and vice versa), stating individual opinions and why they are held would help prevent burnout, I think.

I seem to have been in the distinct minority who kept thinking that GHWB was right not to push on to Baghdad.

Well, I was in the apparent majority, but the experience of this time has me reevaluating a lot of those previously held positions.

The Bush administration lied to sell the war, big time. In fact, it has brought a new standard of dishonesty to politics -- it has not limited its scam artist talents to the Iraq war. Think the cost for the new medicare drug program, social security bamboozapalooza, "we are halving the deficit in five years," anything having to do with Katrina, etc.

Its defenders seem to have a standard for lying that is very strict and narrow, and all sorts of other deception can be excused as just some form of over-exuberance since it does not fit the narrow definition.

Unfortunately, unlike eskimos who have 20+ different words for snow in its numerous conditions and forms, we just have one basic word for speaking falsely -- lying.

And if it makes the apologists happy, then the Bush adminsitration just engaged in innumerable forms of deception in selling the Iraq war.
___

By the way, I always chuckle at the argument that it was more humanitarian to wage aggressive war on Iraqis, killing and maiming thousands in the process and wrecking their country, than to impose those awful sanctions on them.

We did them a favor by attacking them and lifting the sanctions!!

Francis: "you assert that foreign insurgents now appear to be causing most of the casualties to US military, through suicide bombings."

No, the foreign insurgents are more active, man-for-man, but are outnumbered by an order of magnitude or so by Iraqis. I don't know the proportions of US casualties due to each, and doubt anyone has a good number on that.

"Have you considered the possibility that the domestic insurgents are simply keeping their powder dry, [to] outwait the US occupation, and saving their military operations against iraqi... forces?"

Of course, but waiting is a long-shot bet for them, given that the Iraqi Army and Police are growing.

"Here's [my extremist strategy]: keep up a steady stream of low-level attacks on the americans, to keep up the pressure for them to go home while staying alive yourself."

OK, although if there had been NO attacks we would probably already have gone.

"Continue to destroy power and water stations to keep the population restive and discontent. Husband the bulk of your forces for a quick coup once the americans leave, offering an exhausted populace stability. Negotiate side deals with the Kurds, who are going to control the north anyway."

OK, but who are you now, Sunni or Shia? You could get a partitioned territory, Sunni, Shia and Kurd, but you're not likely to keep the Sunni and Shia area together with such a strategy. If you're a Sunni this strategy is a loser because the Shia and Kurds get over 90% of the oil. If you're a Shia this strategy isn't all that appealing because under a republic you'll dominate an intact Iraq anyway, with 60% or more of the population.

And in any case, with Saddam out of the picture there is no clear leader of any such faction; there would be infighting to contend with before or immediately after any such coup. In any such struggle, a Sunni commander who gives up Kurdistan ("dismembers Iraq") will likely be killed by someone more militant.

"Our inability to provide basic security following the invasion means that we are now almost universally despised. That means that the next government will either (a) hate us and likely align with / tilt toward Iran; (b) be a strongman propped up by US military might; or (c) collapse into civil war."

Maybe, but I don't really accept your premise. Regardless, I still think we're better off without Saddam.

"In all seriousness, given where we are today, how do you define "winning" in Iraq?"

By that stuff not happening once we leave. Politically a healthy constitutional republic would be better for us as well as the Iraqis.

I think it's clear to anyone paying attention to the war beyond the "climbing bodycount" (as if one could go down), that militarily we are winning. A year ago the insurgents could hold cities and overrun police stations, killing everyone. Now they can do neither. A year ago we had to clear out towns one at a time, leaving them undefended afterwards. Now we attack strings of towns simultaneously, often with significant help from the Iraqi Army, and leaving Iraqi police in charge in most cases.

Of course, it could all go to shite politically, or if we leave precipitously.

Unfortunately, unlike eskimos who have 20+ different words for snow in its numerous conditions and forms...

Sorry, dm, that is an urban myth. Here's a good explanatory page with links. Obviously, this doesn't take issue with anything you write about the admin.

Invitations have been extended for the last stand in the bunker. The first 100 members will receive a luger, cyanide tablets, and a complimentary bag of cheetos!

You’ve come across the beta version of No End But Victory. This site must and will be the online rallying-point for all Americans and Iraqis from all political persuasions who understand that the war in Iraq must be won. Please read our Manifesto, pass this site on, and stay tuned.

DWP, the tubes were the only bit of hard evidence on the nukes issue, which was in my view the only significant non-humanitarian issue and the most important one in the debate. And saying ORNL isn't an intelligence agency is a plus for my point in my view. Did I believe sanctioned Iraq could produce weapons-grade uranium from sand with the right tubes? No. So this isn't an issue for me - just for the public debate.

Was referring to "Rather than go into the scores of details that would refute you" above.

Hope you don't feel piled on. Maybe you could round up some like-thinking friends to share the replies...

Rilkefan, I'm not even a physicist, but after I first saw those quotes by the guys at Oak Ridge (buried on like A14, of course), anyone who cited them as positive evidence for Iraq's nuclear program dropped at least %25 in credibility for me. Those aluminum tubes sure got around.

That "bland assessment" is exactly the reason I supported the invasion then and still do. I never thaught Saddam had anything to do with 9/11. We gave him MORE than enough warning; we were EXTREMELY patient. But our threats and warnings in the future will have no effect if we don't follow through on them, and that's what we did.

There is one other point that you missed, although, in fairness, I can't recall hearing anyone talk about it but myself... Economic sanctions lasting indefinately hurt nobody but the Iraqi people. Removing Saddam allowed us to remove the sanctions.

If not for the invasion, the Iraqi people would still be suffering under economic sanctions, we'd still think Saddam has WMD, and Saddam would still be terrorizing his fellow Iraqis who dare to disagree with him.

DWPitelli, good luck here!

The point of the Iraq war was to have a clear old-fashioned fight against a state sponser of terrorism, against a clear enemy of the US, and to introduce an alternative, even progressive, model of a nation in the middle east (besides the despised 1949 country).

I thought that GWHB and Colin Powell did the right thing in Gulf War I, but I was proven wrong. So now Saddam has really been defeated, and the fight is between those who want a civil society in the ME, and those who want no US influence in the region. I don't know how Lebanon will turn out, or whether women's right to vote in Kuwait or other liberalizing movements will succeed in the ME, but I know one thing and that is that a lot of liberals want those things to fail. But the stakes are high because if they do fail, the inevitable result will be carnage that is way beyons what has been occuring in the past 3 years.

What about the Nick Cohen piece? Anybody have problems with that? My point in linking to those posts was to show that there were many reasons for the War against Saddam Hussein. That part of the war is over. Now is the time to show whethr you are more interested in US politics or whether you want real change in the Middle East.

We gave him MORE than enough warning; we were EXTREMELY patient. But our threats and warnings in the future will have no effect if we don't follow through on them, and that's what we did.

Given that he didn't have WMD, precisely what could he have done to satisfy US demands?

Googling for exile Saddam, this, this story just popped up recently.

"She said a bad day is when I lie in the bed
And I think of things that might have been"

DaveC
I know one thing and that is that a lot of liberals want those things to fail

Please, that's just an embarassing assertion. I know you can do better than that.

DWP: the premise was that the liberal hawk case for war means a commitment to nation building.

WE may be better off without Saddam, for now. what about the iraqis?

put simply, is it moral for the US to wander around the globe smashing evil regimes, without installing something better? who do the haitians want running their country now? how 'bout the panamanians? or yugoslavs?

It's been aeons since I last checked the Lancet study (the best resource on Lancet-debunking-debunking is still Tim Lambert at Deltoid, IMO), but I thought the number wasn't the casualty figure per se but rather the increase in deaths over the casualty rate under Saddam. [I remember D^2, in particular, pointing out the significance of the fact that the confidence interval excluded 0 for precisely this reason.] Is that wrong? Have I misremembered?

Of course, many believe that it already was (including Clinton officials, back then).

hilzoy beat me to it, but I'd be very interested in any cites from Clinton officials claiming that Iraq was (or was host to) an Al Qaeda base under Saddam. As to the factual point, whether Iraq was an Al Qaeda base... well, no, that's wrong. Many may believe it; they too are wrong. There's been no credible evidence whatsoever for that assertion and in fact it's been pretty much eviscerated by now.

[There was an Al Qaeda-sponsored organization, Ansar al-Islam, operating within the official boundaries of Iraq, but it was based in the Kurdish territories beyond Saddam's reach. I believe the same is true of the organization whose name I never remember operating under the Iranian aegis in the east of Iraq as well, namely that they weren't operating within Saddam's zones of control.]

At any rate, it unquestionably hosted and aided many Islamic terrorists who saw themselves as at war with the West, including us.

I'm not entirely sure which groups you're referring to here but I'm a little dubious at the quality of that proposition. Could you say more specifically which terrorist organizations you're referring to?

I googled around for Gary Farber's reasons to go to war, but didn't find it. (Gary was reluctantly in favor of, but changed his mind). The other best overview of the situation in 2003 was by E Nough

lj,
Please, that's just an embarassing assertion. I know you can do better than that.

OK. you're right, liberals dont want those things to fail, they just dont care to admit that the success of global liberalism (as I understand it) and freedom (again, as I understand it) depends a great deal on whether the US wins or loses.

put simply, is it moral for the US to wander around the globe smashing evil regimes, without installing something better? who do the haitians want running their country now? how 'bout the panamanians? or yugoslavs?

Probably better for Panamanians, and the various yugoslavs, Croatian, Bosnian, maybe Kosovars and yes, even Serbians who were at least havent had massacres or been at open war with each other in the past few years.

Haiti is not so good.

they just dont care to admit that the success of global liberalism (as I understand it) and freedom (again, as I understand it) depends a great deal on whether the US wins or loses.

Hmmm. What exactly is 'global liberalism'? Cause as we all know, "freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose" ;^)

DaveC, Gary's original case is linked on the left side of his blog.

You might take a gander at unfogged.com btw.

"...that 'Saddam could never work with' as the left likes to put it now."

That's "as some on the left like to put it now" or "as the anti-war left likes to put it now," if you please.

I'm fairly sure that people such as Paul Berman, Norman Geras, the folks at Harry's Place, and the varied other smatterings of pro-Iraq-invasion lefties are still lefties. No matter that the majority of people on either side of the aisle seem to wish to deny this (and the existence of the pro-Iraq-war left, and the hawkish liberals, in general), or are sincerely ignorant about it.

I'm fairly sure that people such as Paul Berman, Norman Geras, the folks at Harry's Place, and the varied other smatterings of pro-Iraq-invasion lefties are still lefties...

That depends on one's definition of "lefty", I think, more so than usual.

"(Gary was reluctantly in favor of, but changed his mind)."

Not precisely, but not a million miles away, either; it would be unreasonable for me to expect anyone else to grasp the nuances of my never-reducible-to-a-bumper-sticker, admittedly rather complex, opinions regarding the war.

So I wouldn't quite agree with your summary above, but it's a not unreasonable impression for you or anyone to have. The three opinions of mine on the war I've linked on my sidebar are this, this, and this, but as I said in the first one, I tend to not write Big Formal Pieces, but to give my opinion in bits along the way.

On February 05, 2003, I said, among other things, that:

I'm still on the fence about war with Iraq. But I have been leaning a bit more heavily on the pro side with each passing week, for a number of reasons.

One reason is that so few of the anti-war arguments I hear hold up, or are based on assumptions I know to be false, or are logically and factually fallacious.

There are, on the other hand, a number of valid anti-war arguments, number one being that war is terrible, and if there is any way to find a better alternative, it should be looked for to all the borders of reasonability.

And that's the primary reason I'm still not ready to march for war -- yet, at least -- although I am not inclined to march against war. It's also a primary reason that I respect any thoughtful person and argument against this war. War should only be undertaken for the most serious of reasons; even incoherent and ignorant arguments against it should be listened to, and at worst, responded to and corrected. And I believe it would be immoral to not examine all the possible arguments, and give them due consideration, when so many lives are at stake.

[...]

his is something everyone has to decide for themselves. And I respect those who believe the answer is "no, it's not moral." I think there are some good cases to be made for that.

And it's the reason I'm not ready to go march for war. Today. But, uncomfortable as I am with it, I do lean strongly in the direction of believing that practicalities of what is possible, and least awful, have to be weighed against other awfulnesses.

[...]

The hard choice may need to be made.

The choice of war now, rather than war later.

I welcome any and all thoughtful arguments to convince me the way I'm leaning is wrong. I'd be very happy to see a better answer. This is not my dogma, this is my thinking, offered in good faith.

Pretty wishy-washy, that guy was, if you ask me. (That's the kind phrase; others might say "weaselly.")

But I would definitely be saying something somewhat different if I were sent back in time to be me Then, now.

Like "hey, I think it's a really good idea to hold off on this for now! Why don't we at least see how things look in the fall?"

And then take it from there, with a general extreme reluctance to believe the Bush Administration would do a competent job, and thus should be given authorization to go.

But this is now and that was then. And I was wrong about some things. Important things. (Completely understimating the ideological blinders of the policy makers, and completely underestimating how overwhelmingly they'd interfere with the professionals in uniform and at State, were the two hugest.)

"Ah, Douglas Feith. Widely regarded as one of the dumbest bastards ever to blight the Pentagon, if not the earth as a whole."

I have to question the premise that either you, or many people, have the requisite knowledge to speak to Mr. Feith's intelligence or lack thereof. I can certainly say that I don't.

As a rule, taking a vivid quote of a single individual as indicative of a "widely" held view by qualified individuals isn't a reliable method.

Was there a survey I missed?

One could go to rightwing blogs, and find endless similar assertions about everyone from Michael Moore to Nancy Pelosi to John Dean, but the fact that the echo chamber holds those views "widely" is not indicative of a factual basis to these opinions.

Doesn't actually matter which echo chamber is mocking Those Idiots On The Other Side, though.

Of course, if you actually have had several lengthy conversations with Mr. Feith, and concluded that he is "one of the dumbest bastards ever to blight the Pentagon," well, then, I'd still have to ask you how familiar you are with the majority of dumb bastards ever to blight the Pentagon, before I'd have reason to accept your evaluation as knowledgeable.

Unfortunately, unlike eskimos who have 20+ different words for snow in its numerous conditions and forms...
Sorry, dm, that is an urban myth. Here's a good explanatory page with links.
From that page: The Yup'ik Eskimo Dictionary (Steven A. Jacobson, Fairbanks: University of Alaska, 1984) has, according to Pullum's colleague Anthony Woodbury, about 24 if you're very generous. By "very generous", I mean including words for "stuff for sinking habitually into", "blizzard", "avalanche", and so on. It's not as if dmbeaster said "dozens" or "hundreds" of words. (This is where you can point out that English arguably has at least 40 words for snow, but I don't need to discuss eggs with you, grandma.)

On the other hand, dmbeaster did say "...we just have one basic word for speaking falsely -- lying," which turns out not to be true. It turns out to be mistaken. Untrue. False. Erroneous. Apocryphal, bogus, concocted, cooked-up, counterfactual, deceitful, deceiving, delusive, dishonest, distorted, erroneous, ersatz, fake, fallacious, fanciful, faulty, fictitious, fishy, fraudulent, illusive, imaginary, improper, inaccurate, incorrect, inexact, invalid, lying, mendacious, misleading, misrepresentative, mistaken, phony, sham, sophistical, specious, spurious, trumped up, unfounded, unreal, unsound, non-operative, inoperative, el-wrongamundo!

This should have been in blockquotes:

The Yup'ik Eskimo Dictionary (Steven A. Jacobson, Fairbanks: University of Alaska, 1984) has, according to Pullum's colleague Anthony Woodbury, about 24 if you're very generous. By "very generous", I mean including words for "stuff for sinking habitually into", "blizzard", "avalanche", and so on.

At any rate, it unquestionably hosted and aided many Islamic terrorists who saw themselves as at war with the West, including us.
I'm not entirely sure which groups you're referring to here but I'm a little dubious at the quality of that proposition. Could you say more specifically which terrorist organizations you're referring to?

Palestine Liberation Front (PLF), Arab Liberation Front (ALF), Abu Nidal organization (aka Fatah Revolutionary Council, the Arab Revolutionary Brigades, or the Revolutionary Organization of Socialist Muslims), and aid to Islamic Jihad and Hamas and al Aksa Brigade "martyrs" families. Not to be confused with any of the rival groups that HQed in Syria, such as the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), or the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC).

What, everyone can't tell them apart without a program?

:-)

(Of course, these groups were primarily interested in killing Jews; but occasionally some Americans were handy, whether simply within the bomb blast, or, again, Leon Klinghoffer.) (But if we're talking hosting terrorists as casus belli, the case is probably somewhat stronger against Syria and Iran than it was against Iraq [if one hasn't forgotten Beirut, particularly] and, of course, there's also Saudi Arabia to consider.)

An interesting counter-factual to debate might be whether there was, in fact, anything at all Saddam Hussein might have done in, say, January or February of 2003, or Nov-Dec, 2002, that would have caused Bush & co to not go ahead and invade.

What if he had done what Kadafy (pick your spelling) has done? Or said "do what you will"?
Or fled the country? Or...?

Are there any circumstances under which it seems likely the invasion would have been called off? If so, would that mean G. W. Bush wasn't lying when he said various things about when the decision was made to invade? Or is it no and no?

Crep. Sorry.

"Now is the time to show whethr you are more interested in US politics or whether you want real change in the Middle East."

Dave, to pose a genuine and logical set of opposing choices, you have to rephrase that.

One way would be to "Now is the time to show whether you are more interested in US politics or more interested in real change in the Middle East."

The other obvious way would be to "Now is the time to show whethr whether you want real change in US politics or whether you want real change in the Middle East."

Those are both dichotomies. Yours isn't. Being "more interested in in US politics or whether you want real change in the Middle East" are not, you know, opposing choices. (Because "more" has no antecedent, so is anchored to no comparison to say what the "less" might be.)

Certainly plenty of people are simply "interested in US politics" and also "want real change in the Middle East."

Now, on those dichotomies, we can ask with precisely equal validity whether you are whether you are more interested in US politics -- in defending Republicans, and defending George W. Bush's foreign policy -- or more interested in real change in the Middle East.

Beats me. I have as little idea of your priorities there as you have of what the priorities are of folks you disagree with.

I try to avoid implying that one side of the discussion is Sincere and the other side is a bunch of unpatriotic lying scoundrels, though, myself. I tend to think most people are actually fairly sincere in their policy preferences, insofar as they have opinions that are their own, and are similarly sincere, most of the time, in their blindness in not understanding how any reasonable person could possibly see things differently.

"OK. you're right, liberals dont want those things to fail, they just dont care to admit that the success of global liberalism (as I understand it) and freedom (again, as I understand it) depends a great deal on whether the US wins or loses."

I wouldn't know how to even discuss this without first getting definitions of "liberals," "global liberalism," "freedom," "wins" and "loses," in this context.

But my initial leaning is that this doesn't sound far afield from declarations that conservatives are just mean hateful people who want poor people to starve and die.

(The number of statements that start "[conservatives/liberals] are..." that are false when completed seems to be considerably larger than the number of statements that are true; at least, that's how the ratios seem to play in popular discourse, by my perhaps faulty observation.)

In the spirit of exactitude, Tony Woodbury's own essay here lists 15 lexemes and presents the following points

(a) Are all fifteen lexeme meanings really 'snow'-meanings? That is, do words with these meanings really count for you as words for snow?[2]

(b) There are some synonyms present--alternative lexemes with the same meaning, like garbage vs. trash in English. Are you going to count them separately, or together?

(c) If you decided to count synonyms together, will you also count together both of the members of noun-verb pairs having basically the same meaning? (The members are, technically speaking, separate lexemes since partly idiosyncratic morphological changes mark the verbal forms, and must therefore be listed separately in any truly informative dictionary, as indeed Jacobson's dictionary does.)

(d) Following Jacobson, I've specially labelled those lexemes that only occur in a small subpart of the Central Alaskan Yupik-speaking region. Are you going to try to make counts for each separate dialect? If yes, you will wonder if you really have enough information to do so. (You're not alone in this-such information is difficult to compile, whether or not you are a linguist, and also whether or not you are a native speaker of a language.)

I also highly recommend Geoff Pullum's essay about this in The Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax and Other Irreverent Essays on the Study of Language. The essay ends up with this

[The next time you hear this stated] Stand up and tell the speaker this: C. W. Schultz-Lorentzen's Dictionary of the West Greenlandic Eskimo Language (1927) gives just two possibly relevant roots: qanik, meaning 'snow in the air' or 'snowflake', and aput, meaning 'snow on the ground'. Then add that you would be interested to know if the speaker can cite any more.

Saddam killed thousands every month, and had a history of several wars/genocides, making for millions dead.

HRW:

In examining whether the invasion of Iraq could properly be understood as a humanitarian intervention, our purpose is not to say whether the U.S.-led coalition should have gone to war for other reasons. That, as noted, involves judgments beyond our mandate. Rather, now that the war’s proponents are relying so significantly on a humanitarian rationale for the war, the need to assess this claim has grown in importance. We conclude that, despite the horrors of Saddam Hussein’s rule, the invasion of Iraq cannot be justified as a humanitarian intervention. [...] In stating that the killing in Iraq did not rise to a level that justified humanitarian intervention, we are not insensitive to the awful plight of the Iraqi people. We are aware that summary executions occurred with disturbing frequency in Iraq up to the end of Saddam Hussein’s rule, as did torture and other brutality. Such atrocities should be met with public, diplomatic, and economic pressure, as well as prosecution. But before taking the substantial risk to life that is inherent in any war, mass slaughter should be taking place or imminent. That was not the case in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in March 2003.

Just a small comment about the flypaper theory. "They" are engaged with "us" in Iraq only as long as they care to be. At any time international terrorism can simply disengage in Iraq and move their war elsewhere. Or they can stay engaged and move at the same time, viz Madrid, London, Jordan, Bali, etc. The flypaper theory is rediculous strategy for us--we are the ones now more or less stuck on the Iraq Front, with a great deal at stake should we choose to unengage before some sort of acceptable end situation is reached. There is really no argument that justifies the Iraq War in a calm, bland context. That's the problem. Subtract 9/11's emotional wallop on the American people and on Congress and this war is simply a mistake on both real politic grounds and on moral grounds.

Just look at what the administration has been successful at and you have their case for war. They got two elections and have been spectacular at transferring large amounts of money to cronies. I submit that the only things they pulled off were their entire justification at the start.

David Lamb writes:

If not for the invasion, the Iraqi people would still be suffering under economic sanctions,

Perhaps. But an extra 3 years wouldn't make much difference. The war was not launched as a humanitarian effort; the economic sanctions may be gone now, but so is their clean water, thanks to the war.

we'd still think Saddam has WMD

By the time we invaded, it was pretty clear he had none. The only people who still believed it were those who needed to believe it to justify the war they wanted. They hurled insults at Hans Blix, who turned out to be right.

We could have kept the army sitting ready to invade for a year, and let the inspections continue, and it would have been far more cost-effective.

and Saddam would still be terrorizing his fellow Iraqis who dare to disagree with him.

And this has been replaced by several factions terrorizing their fellow Iraqis. Including the Iraqi government we put in place.

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