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April 06, 2007

Comments

No comment necessary.

It's all water bodies under the bridge.

mistakes were made, but we were correct to make them; because not making them would have been a mistake. and we don't make mistakes.

There's a house in my town that's known as the former residence of a notorious ship captain. My stepson used to date the daughter of the family that lives there now.

The ship went down in a storm with all hands, except the captain alone, who somehow escaped in a dory.

The widows of the lost seamen tarred and feathered the captain and whipped him out of town.

Good times.

THanks -

I never thought there were connections between Iraq and Al Qaeda (but I'm was still a war supporter so feel free to discount everything I have to say), but what do you make of this statement in the linked article?
"said that it lacked evidence of a long-term relationship like the ones Iraq had forged with other terrorist groups."

"said that it lacked evidence of a long-term relationship like the ones Iraq had forged with other terrorist groups."

it's simply impossible (and not in our interest) to go after every country that has links to some terrorist group. for example, we didn't invade Chechnya.

that means palestinian groups. that's not good obviously, but it's not al qaeda and it's not sufficient for war

Right.

"said that it lacked evidence of a long-term relationship like the ones Iraq had forged with other terrorist groups."

so what? we were supposedly going into invade Iraq b/c of their connections w/ Al Quaeda, not 'other terrorist groups.' that's way too general to be of any use whatsoever. It's like the constant propping up of straw men by the neo cons when they use "some Democrats say." Well define your terms. Say exactly who some democrats or 'other terrorist groups' are. Otherwise this is just more example of the Republicans gumming an issue.

Maybe we should invade parts of Spain because of indigenous support for ETA?

it's simply impossible (and not in our interest) to go after every country that has links to some terrorist group. for example, we didn't invade Chechnya.

not to mention that the US probably has 'links' to more terrorist groups, in every continent, than any other country out there.

Wrong byrnie.

They're not terrorists if they support causes that we agree with. Like destabilizing Cuba. Or other Latin American regimes we have issues with. Also, any group willing to bloody Iran's nose.

I hear that Great Britain has had prolonged negotiations with representatives of the IRA. I call for the immediate bombing of London.

For the sake of efficiency, we should outsource the job to somone who has experience bombing London. Germany's pacifist these days, so I suggest we contact the IRA.

Brilliant!

I guess the reports of us actually *supporting* Al Qaeda linked terrorists in Lebanon means we'll have to invade ourselves, now.

I see what you're saying (even through the rather substantial layers of snark/sanctimony and arrogance).

(To be fair Moe99, the quote is from the article, not me.)

I think you are right that they are referring to Palestinian terrorist groups. I'm not sure why that makes it okay. The Palestinians have been known to go international. Personally, I thought support of terrorism was only 1 piece that led to my support for the war.

I'm curious, if Iraq had links to Al-Qaeda as deep as their links to Palestinians would support for the war have been acceptable then? Assume we'd still be in the same spot we are now.

enrak gets at a larger point (one I think yglesias and others have been getting at lately). war is not a good solution. so even assuming all these doomsday scenarios (deep AQ ties, WMDs), it's not clear that war is the right way to respond to that.

i'm a little hesitant to rely too much on the Feith stuff, b/c i think war was a bad idea even if much of what he said was true.

america (and conservatives in particular) need to get rid of their embrace of war as a foreign policy solution. yes, maybe it's justified sometimes, but there needs to be a heavey presumption against. and it's b/c war has unintended consequences and (like the Heinsenberg(sp?) principle) it changes the society upon which it is thrust. hilzoy has made this point before and it's a good one.

it's not like you have Country X, war, then better Country X. You have X, war, and then some entirely different beast.

Meanwhile, never letting reality get in the way of politics, Cheney reasserts al-Qaida-Saddam link:

Vice President Dick Cheney repeated his assertions of al-Qaida links to Saddam Hussein's Iraq on Thursday as the Defense Department released a report citing more evidence that the prewar government did not cooperate with the terrorist group.

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Cheney contended that al-Qaida was operating in Iraq before the March 2003 invasion led by U.S. forces and that terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was leading the Iraqi branch of al-Qaida. Others in al-Qaida planned the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

"He took up residence there before we ever launched into Iraq, organized the al-Qaida operations inside Iraq before we even arrived on the scene and then, of course, led the charge for Iraq until we killed him last June," Cheney told radio host Rush Limbaugh during an interview. "As I say, they were present before we invaded Iraq."

Smart guy, Cheney -- he knows where to go for the audience that will buy his crap regardless of how out of touch with the facts it is.

Since the issue has been brought up, now seems as good a time as any to put forward a question which I have eben wondering about for years. Even before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, we have heard a lot about "Saddam's support for terrorism" - and the main instance of this that has usually been cited is the infamous offer of payments ($25000, I think) to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers blown up attacking Israel.
Does anyone know, or have a link to any proof that any such payments were actually made? Or was this just Saddam's way of getting cheap points with the "Arab Street".

I realize that the issue of said payments is moot by this time: I was just wondering if there really was any such Iraqi "program" in existence, or was it all just more scaremongering, a la Saddam's "nuclear" activities?

america (and conservatives in particular) need to get rid of their embrace of war as a foreign policy solution. yes, maybe it's justified sometimes, but there needs to be a heavey presumption against. and it's b/c war has unintended consequences and (like the Heinsenberg(sp?) principle)

The Law of Unintended Consequences, which conservatives have been banging liberal heads with for many, many decades.

Obviously, neocons think that this law doesn't apply to them...

Obviously, neocons think that this law doesn't apply to them...

To be fair, this is a universal human trait - irrespective of race, creed or political position.

What I find most depressing about the whole thing, was the big debate over moral justification, and the complete absence of debate over war aims and practicalities.

The administration never put forward any concrete war aims ('regime change', transforming the Mideast etc. are all vague waffle). I know quite a few conservative foreign policy wonks who were staunchly opposed to the war because, like most everyone else, they foresaw disaster for America's national interest.

The hawk vs. dove debate really was a smokescreen; things shouldn't even have gotten that far because the administration never even told us what they wanted to do, and how. (Why know now of course, that they had know idea themselves). Shouldn't they at least have had to put forward a solution that was feasible before we even debated whether it was moral?

The Feith, rogue-intelligence thing is just depressing. I study FP/national security stuff for a living, mostly stuff in the 1960s. I can see for myself, even with subjects for which we have 40 years of hindsight, how you could pretty much find 'evidence' for any damn theory you want once you're dealing with the vagaries, report-everything, qualify-everything of intelligence stuff. It's not that they lobbied for their own policy that irks me, it's that their independent intelligence-gathering was so damn amateurish. You wouldn't pass an undergraduate paper with their standard of argumentation, let alone make national security policy. It's such a sad window on the clownish realities of decision-making in Washington.

Jay C: Here you go.

OCSteve, from the article you linked to presented without comment:
"The Saudis used to give $US4000 to the martyrs, but now it depends on public donations."

"The Saudis used to give $US4000 to the martyrs, but now it depends on public donations."

remember all the conservatives demanding that we invade Saudi Arabia ? me either.

I think you are right that they are referring to Palestinian terrorist groups. I'm not sure why that makes it okay. The Palestinians have been known to go international.

Well, so do many other terrorists groups - some that we sponsor, tolerate or at least do not take action against.

As an aside: what international Palestinian terrorist acts are you referring to?

Klinghoffer, Munich.

What terrorist groups does the U.S. government support?

And, while I have learned my lesson and do not advocate invading Saudi Arabia, I and other war supporters would support action against SA. I consider them enemy number 1 in the GWOT (oops, War in Afghanistan/War in Iraq/no connection).

Publius, I'd be curious to see your thoughts on what we should do in the event we discover an enemy state actively supporting an international terrorist group? (feel free to point me to a prior post rather than rehashing something you've already discussed). Thanks.

As a side note, the payments to the families of suicide bombers always went primarily to rebuild their houses.
Why would they need to rebuild their houses, you ask? Because Israel destroys the house of the families of suicide bombers. It's roughly analogous to how we in the U.S. destroy the house of convicted murderers.
Wait, we don't do that? Well, why not? Because collective punishment is immoral and ineffective?
Well shoot. Somebody better tell the Israeli government.

Snark aside, the point is this: Though I don't know where all the money from Saddam/Saudi Arabia/wherever went, there's a huge difference between, on the one hand, supplying someone with money so they can buy bomb-building materials or fake documents that help them get into Tel-Aviv or whatever else a terrorist would need money for and, on the other hand (what I've read and heard from Americans who have spent time in Gaza), helping a family who has just lost a son and their home rebuild that home. The first enables terrorism, the second, frankly, doesn't.

Look, I'd love to kill every terrorist on earth if we could. But we don't have a policy of taking out every regime that lends support to any terrorist group anywhere, because it's complete pie-in-the-sky stuff. We do what we can.

If you're reduced to arguing that we took out Saddam because he supported Palestinian terorrists, and well, Palestinian terrorists killed people outside the boundaries of Israel in 1972 and 1985 therefore they're "international terrorists" just like al-Qaeda... forgive me but you don't have much of a case for war left.

And if your anti-terrorism strategy is that we should randomly pick a regime that lends some kind of support to terrorists and spend 5-10 years dedicating our armed forces to replacing that regime and restoring order, at which point we can move on to the next regime, I'm afraid I don't find your plan very realistic. Too bad, really, because these organizations are pure evil.

Klinghoffer, Munich.

I'm sure we can all agree that this act, while clearly wrong, is not really comparable to al-Qaeda type large scale terorrism. The key factor is not that there is some literal cross border, international component to a given group's actions, but rather the nature of the target, scope of operations, etc.

What terrorist groups does the U.S. government support?

Which decade?

In the 60s and 70s, Latin America provides a rich quarry. See, for example, Operation Condor as overseen by certain Argentinian generals and one Augusto Pinochet. This program's handiwork even involved a terrorist act committed on American soil - Washington DC no less! Targets: Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffett. Means: Car bomb.

During the 1980s, I'd say you could probably still stick around south of the Rio Grande and take a look at roving death squads targeting civilians (including American Catholic nuns) in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, etc.

Of course, the use of mercenary type proxy forces to commit acts of terrorism on the civilian population predated the 1980s, and was quite a common practice for US companies/government agencies in connection with exploitative industries in the region such as oil and agriculture.

More recently, the CIA has funded Cuban terrorists who have gone on to blow up civilian jet liners, and set bombs at a university in Panama in order to destabilize and target Castro. In fact, these guys were recently let back in the country and given sanctuary by the Bush admin.

If we want to shift gears toward the Middle East, there has been some questionable links to the MEK - a terrorist group targeting Iran. More recently, the Jundullah in Pakistan with the same target in mind.

http://americanfootprints.com/drupal/node/3375

There are other examples, of course, but there are only so many hours in a day.

Joe Thomas:

You don't think sending $25,000 to the family of a suicide bomber induces suicide bombing? I think one can build more than a house w/ $25,000 in Gaza.

Steve:

That's not what I'm arguing. Iraq wasn't random and you seem smart enough to know that.

Look, knowing what I know now I wouldn't advocate for war in Iraq. But keep in mind what we know now:
1) Iraq didn't have active WMDs or an active WMD program.
2) Iraq did not have operational ties to Al Qaeda.

We didn't know that then.

Iraq is not the last conflict in the war against whatever the heck you want to call it. Given that War is no longer an option, what are our options in the event of state-sponsored terrorism? (No I don't lie awake thinking about this, but I sincerely doubt that we will never face this issue in the future.)

Eric Martin: Weren't those supported by the realist school of international relations?

How about this decade?

Publius, I'd be curious to see your thoughts on what we should do in the event we discover an enemy state actively supporting an international terrorist group?

It depends on what you mean by "international terrorist group." If you're counting the Palestinians, then that is a pretty wide net. We'd have dozens of regime targets.

Further, it depends upon the aims and objectives of the international terrorist group in question. If the group is seeking an Irish homeland, Tamil homeland or some such nationalistic dispute, I'd say we'd be hard pressed to find that sound reason to launch a war.

Most importantly: are we being targeted? Is the threat credible?

Our particular response should also depend on the characteristics of the enemy state: size, military strength, possibility of deterrence, possibility of negotiated settlement, alternative dispute resolution, etc.

For example, if China were funding a terrorist group that was attacking some of our business interests in, say, Indonesia, should that necessarily lead to war with China?

We should not come up with a clumsy, one-size-fits all doctrine. Such black and white policies are seductive for their apparent ease, but in real life lead to a plethora of negative repercussions.

We didn't know that then.

yes we did.

How about this decade?

Uh, the activities vis-a-vis the MEK and Jundullah are ongoing as we speak - and are supported by neocon elements.

The Cuban terrorists are currently being shielded by the Bush administration - hardly a realist foreign policy bastion.

Also, the Bush administration has, reportedly, been aiding certain jihadist groups in Lebanon in order to attack Shiite Hezbollah. Those jihadist groups actually have ties to al-Qaeda.

If ties to Palestinian groups constituted a legitimate casus belli against Iraq, then surely we should be making plans to invade Gaza right now.

Sorry Eric, skimmed your post too quickly. I reread including the link.

I'm not advocating a one-size fits all policy. I'm interested in alternatives to war. As someone who has recently given up his "embrace" of all things war.

We are all going to need to think about that. I'm pretty sure that this group would be the first to point out that there just might be some "blowback" from our invasion of Iraq, yes?

And despite the fact that you are all sure that you are all always right, all of the time, you'll actually need to convince people like me. Whom, I'm sure this group would be the first to point out, aren't all that smart.

P.S. Sure we did cleek, sure we did. Just like we know that Iran is at least 5 years away from a nuclear bomb. Sorry, I mean we KNOW that Iran is at least 10 years away from a nuclear bomb.

We didn't know that then.

Not wanting to open that particular can of worms, I'll agree to call WMDs an open question. But as far as Iraq having operational ties to al-Qaeda, come on, there was no reason to think that was true. All you had were vague insinuations concerning a single meeting in Prague and lots of coincidental mentions of Iraq and 9/11 in the same sentence during administration speeches.

Iraq is not the last conflict in the war against whatever the heck you want to call it.

Well, it might be our last full-blown war of the type, actually, considering the loss of international credibility that we'd need for any non-unilateral action and the loss of domestic political capital for further adventures of the sort.

It doesn't mean we have to pack up and go home, but it means we have to get a lot smarter about our strategy. If we play our cards right, we can do an awful lot to isolate the bad actors of the world - look how Bush's father convinced all those Arab countries to actively take our side in the first Gulf War.

It's important to keep in mind, though, that there's not ever going to be some kind of zero tolerance policy, like you give one dime to a terrorist organization and blam, Uncle Sam kicks down the door. First, as with the example of the Iranian group, it seems we'd be in violation of our own zero-tolerance policy. Second, there simply isn't enough money and there aren't enough soldiers to take out each and every regime that violates this sort of policy. Nor, as we see from Iraq, does taking out one such regime have much of a deterrent effect. Hell, we've invaded TWO of Iran's neighbors and they still keep sticking their thumb in our eye. But there's a lot of room on the spectrum between a guy like Saddam, periodically writing checks to the families of suicide bombers (by the way, I'm not a big fan of the apologia above), and the Taliban and their deep-rooted relationship with al-Qaeda. There's still room for serious engagement with the latter, as long as we remember to set the bar high and not go around invading every country that's rumored to have some sort of connection to a group like al-Qaeda.

"We didn't know that then.

yes we did."

cleek, you beat me to it. We definitely knew there were no major ties, if any at all with al-Qaeda. And anybody that understood the ME knew that as long as Saddam was in poer there probably wouldn't be any.

And as far as WMD, we may not have been sure there weren't any, but by the time we invaded it was looking extremely dubtful.

OCSteve: Thanks: strange that I have never seen this til now.. oh well....

Enrak:

But keep in mind what we know now:
1) Iraq didn't have active WMDs or an active WMD program.
2) Iraq did not have operational ties to Al Qaeda.

We didn't know that then.

DID we "not know" that then? Or was it more of a case of the Bush Administration doing its damndest to make sure we "didn't know"
- or more, precisely, never bothered to find out? Both the points you cite were highly questionable - even at the time: the Adminstration, in its headlong rush to war, utilized every bit of leverage with every media outlet it could influence to shut off, dismiss or ignore any and all evidence that contradicted its flimsy "rationales" for launching the invasion/occupation of Iraq.
The evidence was there - and "known"; it was just that too few Americans bothered to question the Powers That Be.

Steve, I agree with everything you wrote. I would probably disagree on the specifics in an actual case. My main worry is that our intelligence is so poor, how do we draw these kinds of distinctions in the future knowing now that we know so little.

We could easily be wrong in the other direction in the future.

JayC: Where is the evidence that we knew either one of those things at the time? We may have had evidence that neither supposition was true, but we didn't KNOW it. There was no way to know it without being on the ground. Heck, it looks like Saddam didn't KNOW it.

There's a difference between the Bush administrations trumpeting of poor intelligence and actively knowing that the WMDs did not exist. The only person I know saying that at the time was Scott Ritter and he hadn't been on the ground in 5 years.

I'm not advocating a one-size fits all policy. I'm interested in alternatives to war. As someone who has recently given up his "embrace" of all things war.

We are all going to need to think about that.

Indeed Enrak. I agree completely. But I would argue that we'll mostly have to assess each case as it comes. And thinking hard about alternatives will be a must. Avoid the very human, knee jerk reaction to want to lash out at enemies real and perceived.

We must begin with a presumption against the use of the military where possible - it is clumsy, creates fertile ground for radicalism and terrorists, alienates moderates, is costly, and generally weakens our moral position.

That doesn't mean never: I was in favor of the intervention in Afghanistan, and still am.

But we must try to marginalize and push to the fringes the terrorists and extremists. Then use law enforcement and targeted military solutions to neutralize them when they are thus vulnerable. In the meantime, we must try to repair the immense damage to our standing that the Bush administration has done in order to embody the more compelling ideological node in the larger battle for hearts and minds.

Finally, we should not only avoid war ourselves, but put an emphasis on tamping conflicts in general. They breed radicalism and terrorism - yes, even when WE'RE not involved.

Sadly, that's just a start.

I suppose someone should make the obligatory point that while most thought Saddam had some WMD - at least before the inspectors got in pre-invasion and didn't find any - very few thought he had a nuclear program. No serious voice thought he had a nuclear weapon.

Chem and bio weapons are very hard to weaponize, and very hard to use in a terrorist attack. Even if Saddam had some of the chem and bio weapons most groups believed he had, this was not a major threat. That would be, even if he had such agents AND had ties to al-Qaeda AND decided to share them with al-Qaeda AND al-Qaeda could use them in a successful attack.

Keep in mind: the use of Sarin in the Japanese subways was a failure from a terrorist's perspective. Conventional explosives, ala Madrid, would have likely led to a higher death count. al-Qaeda was not, and is not, in need of Sarin gas to conduct successful ops.

In fact, they could probably still get more bang for their buck out of C-4.

We didn't know that then.

Yes, we did.

Iraq is not the last conflict in the war against whatever the heck you want to call it.

I don't want to call it anything. I'm not advocating a war against it, whatever it is.

If you think there's an existential threat to the US out there someplace, you really ought to be able to name it.

If you expect anyone to think it's important enough to go to war over, you better be able to say who the enemy is.

It's been five and half years. We really should be drawing a bead on that particular question by now.

Thanks -

Sure we did cleek, sure we did. Just like we know that Iran is at least 5 years away from a nuclear bomb. Sorry, I mean we KNOW that Iran is at least 10 years away from a nuclear bomb.

hmm. what? i'm afraid you've confused me.

your 2:28 sounds a lot you're saying like 'we' all thought, or had to assume, that those two things (Iraq+WMD, Iraq+alQ) were true.

i'm saying 'we' didn't know or have to assume those things were true at all. in fact, i've never believed either of them. and i don't believe BushCo believed them either.

Cleek, then I wrote poorly. I just meant to say that in 2003 we didn't know those two things. Now we do.


Russell: Why does the threat have to be existential? 9/11 wasn't existential. I do not believe there is a current threat out there that is existential, nor one in the near future (NF = 5 years). That is not the same as saying there is no threat. I believe there is a threat. I'm asking you all a hypothetical because I think we differ on that point. If there is a threat what are our options? If the threat is state sponsored what are our options. I for one think sanctions suck as an option. I'm becoming convinced that war sucks more. But, for me, lying back and waiting to get hit is also a fairly poor option. Do we have any others?

eric has my proxy on this (though said proxy does not extend to musical preferences)

I'd just like to thank those of you taking this seriously for doing so. I realize that many of you probably feel like "Man haven't we been over this, like a thousand times." or something like that. But I wasn't here for that.

For me discussion like this is how I learn, and frankly there are not many sites on the internet where you can discuss this. Mostly what I get is snark. (From both right and left, I generally only post when I disagree.)

Enrak,

I think you'll find that if you engage this site's commenters in good faith - which I believe you have - you will get a response in kind.

Initially some, including me, were probably a little on the snarky side but, hey, it's Friday. And we didn't know where you were coming from. At least, in speaking for myself.

PS: As publius' proxy I hereby proclaim, on his behalf, that in his most sober judgment Slanted and Enchanted is a better Pavement record than Brighten the Corners.

PPS: No backs.

Slanted and Enchanted is a better Pavement record than Brighten the Corners

like, duh.

Enrak, we, or at least I, will try to avoid snark.

In terms of WMD, by the time the actual invasion had taken place all evidence pointed to no WMD's. The inspection teams, who were at that time being given full cooperation from Iraq, had found nothing, even when the US told them where to look.

I believe the main reason Bush pulled the plug on the inspections was because he started to realize they weren't going to find anything, and there would go his primary rationale or the war.

The only terrorist group in Iraq was the one lead by Zarqawi, but Saddam had no relationship with them. In fact, they were based in the Kurdish area which was under our aerial protection. There are reasonable reports that the Pentagon gave Bush plans to wipe them out prior to the invasion but he nixed them, again because then he would lose part of his rationale.

The key phrase you used was "state-sponsored" terrorism. One of the rationales that this administration gives for why we shouldn't pull out of Iraq is that then al Qaeda would have a foothold because Iraq would become a failed state.

This is why they were in Afghanistan and in the tribal aera of Pakistan where the government had litle control. Afghanistan because the Taliban tolerated them (questionable if they really sponsored them) and Pakistan because the government has litle to no power in the regions where they are.

I question if any state (including Syria or Iran) is likely to actually sponsor a terrorist organization that is attacking any of the major western powers, simply because it would be suicidal to do so.

And if they did, then I would probably support some military intervention. But otherwise, the best IMO option is to work with governments around the world through intelligence and police work to locate and take care of the terrorists we find.

Most of the current in custody terrorists have been captured that way, not through military intervention.

Secondly, we have to figure out some way to lessen the attraction of those groups, and invasion is usually not the best way. Afghanistan did not have much recruiting benefit for al Qaeda, but Iraq has. Plus it has resulted in more splinter groups that are loosely allied with al Qaeda or totally independent.

Slanted and Enchanted is a better Pavement record than Brighten the Corners

Hear hear! And let it be further noted that Wowee Zowee is a criminally underrated Pavement record. (My kingdom for an indie-geek open thread...)

I post this with the preface that John Miller really did nail it. But since I like to hear myself type, I'll add what is most likely superfluous:

I believe there is a threat. I'm asking you all a hypothetical because I think we differ on that point. If there is a threat what are our options? If the threat is state sponsored what are our options. I for one think sanctions suck as an option. I'm becoming convinced that war sucks more. But, for me, lying back and waiting to get hit is also a fairly poor option. Do we have any others?

I can tell by your lack of engagement with my amorphous answers that you're not really digging them. But, again, if you're looking for a magic bullet, you will never be satisfied.

In my opinion, there is a threat from al-Qaeda, though not existential. This does not mean we should ignore it, though. As for responses - again, our reaction should be tailored to the contextual variables.

In order to find the right response for a given scenario, you must first answer the following questions:

What is the specific threat - ie which international terrorist group? What level of state sponsorship? What is the nature of the state doing the sponsoring? What is the likelihood that a non-military solution will affect the problem positively? Military solution?

Until you do that, you'll be stuck in the world of abstraction and generalized platitudes like: war is not the answer; or we need to take the fight to the enemy; or we can't just sit back and wait to get hit again, etc.

As John Miller pointed out, it's highly unlikely that an actual state would sponsor a group targeting America like al-Qaeda because of the likely response on our part. Further, absent such a clear cut case, starting wars to generate a pro-American wave of democracy is about as foolhardy a foreign policy as can be imagined.

But if a situation arose where there was clear evidence of an actual state providing meaningful support to a terrorist group targeting us, we should ask the questions mentioned above and figure out a response.

In the parlance of the day: all options would remain, of course, on the table.

I think you'll find that if you engage this site's commenters in good faith - which I believe you have - you will get a response in kind.
I generally find this to be true. On this site. Most others, not so much.

Don't worry about the snark. I can handle some, heck I probably deserve some. I just don't stick around when the snark/content ratio goes over 1.0. As far as where I'm coming from I could lay it out, but I'm sure it would only bore you as you've probably seen it all before.

One thing I'm confused by here is the insistence that we knew that there were no WMD/WMD programs in Iraq. If that was the case, why weren't the Democrats singing that from the rooftops?

Most of the current in custody terrorists have been captured that way, not through military intervention.

True. Keep in mind this has been accomplished through close coordination with our allies including France and the rest of the EU, despite the war in Iraq. I'm not sure that the WII has hurt us as much with our allies as the left generally maintains (I know, I hate that phrase ("the left") too, but what're ya gonna do).

I question if any state (including Syria or Iran) is likely to actually sponsor a terrorist organization that is attacking any of the major western powers, simply because it would be suicidal to do so.

Why not? In fact, this is one of the areas I think that I was most wrong about in my support of the invasion. My thought was that it would increase our deterrance in the Middle East. I think most people would agree with me that it has not.

I would not be surprised if Iran was covertly supporting terrorism in Iraq right now. Why wouldn't they? They just committed an act of war with no repurcussions (which I think was the right move - the no repurcussions, not the snatching).

Secondly, we have to figure out some way to lessen the attraction of those groups, and invasion is usually not the best way.
Agreed. How? One of the reasons I supported the war was the democratic-Iraq idea (fantasy). Laugh if you must, but that was actually my biggest reason for supporting the war. Given that that has not worked, what's the plan Stan?

2008 is less than 2 years away. It'll be your turn. What's the plan?

As John Miller pointed out, it's highly unlikely that an actual state would sponsor a group targeting America like al-Qaeda because of the likely response on our part.

Look, if this is true then there's no problem. But I'm not sure how comfortable I am with countries like Iran supporting groups like Hizb'allah. Sure, right now they are contained, same with the Palestinians, but that won't last forever.

BTW, for me, the plan wasn't invade Iraq then sit back and bask in the adulation and thanks of the now Pro-American Iraqi population. My feeling was democratic government, then I don't care if they hate us. I'm all for letting countries vote in Islamic governments (including Saudi Arabia, I'd rather an elected Islamic gov't than the current one) that hate us as long as it isn't one-person, one-vote, one-time. If the government is truly accountable to the people I'm not concerned with how they view Americans. Heck, the French hate us, but I'm certainly not worried about them.

I can understand why you think that was a "flawed" policy prescription, but describing it the way you did is not accurate.

States and non-state groups do business out of mutual interest, and it's general in a state's interest to have contacts with as many such groups as possible. Without contacts you can't keep an eye on them, you can't get them to keep on eye on someone else for you, and you can't influence them. The USA, which considers itself to have national security interests basically everywhere, therefore has contacts of variable and varying nature with all sorts of outfits.

I would also add that it's extremely rare that some non-state group genuinely is an extension of a state's foreign policy - they have their own agendas. One glaring exception would be certain communist parties during the Stalinist period, but even very loyal parties in Western Europe etc. were increasingly independent as time wore on. The most important parties, ie those that took over countries such as the CCP and Vietminh, were also the most independent.

It's for that reason that, although I personally know very little about them, I treat with skepticism claims that Hezbollah are Iran's proxy etc.

If the government is truly accountable to the people I'm not concerned with how they view Americans.

Well the current Iranian government has a pretty credible public mandate...

It's for that reason that, although I personally know very little about them, I treat with skepticism claims that Hezbollah are Iran's proxy etc.
Really? I'd be interested to learn where you get that idea. Yes, I'm serious. I have my own biases and read too much on the libertarian/conservative side of the blogosphere, but I try to keep an open mind.

Well the current Iranian government has a pretty credible public mandate...
Are you serious?

I understand that a vote was held in Iran. Even assuming, best case that the vote was not influenced by the mullah's, the candidate selection was limited to those mullah-approved. I'm not sure how that gives them a credible mandate. Also, from what I've been led to understand Ahmadinejad is only allowed to go so far by the Ayatollah.

it's highly unlikely that an actual state would sponsor a group targeting America like al-Qaeda because of the likely response on our part.

Eric, I generally agree, because the US is a powerful country, and they have declared Al Qaeda to be 'untouchables'. The glaring exception though, is Pakistan. Although they originally supported the Taliban/Al-Qaeda for regional motivations, it also serves as a good example of how contacts with a 'terrorist' group can be parlayed into cash and favours from another power (the USA here) who decides one day that they want you to cut that group off.

Hence, as a general rule it's useful to have contacts with such groups, as you never know when it might be profitable/useful. It's not unusual for a capital like Washington to maintain contacts with multiple opposing factions, since you never know who might ultimately win out and take over the country.

Really? I'd be interested to learn where you get that idea.

Well, based on the fact that history is chock-full of revolutionary/terrorist groups that were portrayed as being the puppets of one state or another, and hindsight has proven that this is in fact extremely rare. Even groups that really do get set up initially by a foreign power tend to grow more and more independently-minded as they grow.

Hezbollah is a very real political force in Lebanon, it could perhaps claim a plurality in an election. It is actively runs local politics in the areas it run. In other words, it is a real localised political force with a local constituency. I find it extremely dubious that an organisation like that, whose day to day activities mostly consist of getting the trains to run on time and getting the trash collected, is merely the puppet of a foreign government. I doubt that Hezbollah would do anything Tehran asked that would jeapardise their local political base. In fact, with a real prospect of coming to power, they might well currently enjoy being the dominant partner in that relationship, as they've become an asset too valuable to risk losing.

Yeah Byrnie, Pakistan is the wrench in all of my nice talk. I was kind of afraid Enrak was going to raise that specter and then ask where my formula would take us then. Lucky for me, he's playing nice for now ;)

It's the hardest nut to crack. But I will say this, my erstwhile AmFoot colleague Blake Hounshell has some pretty good ideas about where to start

Also, as you point out, Pakistan went from supporting al-Qaeda to being (at least officially) hostile. Now in my opinion certain elements of the Pakistani government (particularly in the ISI) are probably still more than just sympathetic to al-Qaed - and are doing more than just keeping contacts alive.

But how do you target a country for the actions of some of its governmental apparatus?

BTW this question:

But how do you target a country for the actions of some of its governmental apparatus?

Could easily apply to Iran now and in the future given the serious internal divisions.

Okay, I see what you are saying. I find that reasonable.

Yeah Byrnie, Pakistan is the wrench in all of my nice talk. I was kind of afraid Enrak was going to raise that specter and then ask where my formula would take us then. Lucky for me, he's playing nice for now ;)

I'm not playing nice. I'm just not sure what to do about Pakistan either. I'm all for democratic governance for Saudi Arabia, but my own theory (if you can call "Democracy for All - Yay!" a theory) hits a wrench when it comes to Pakistan. I'm not sure how a democratic government in Pakistan would play out for the U.S. in the short- to mid-term.

One more thought on Pakistan, the US and al-Qaeda:

I think Jim Henley was playing around with the theory recently that there might be an understanding between the Pakistani government and al-Qaeda that the govt will leave Waziristan (and al-Qaeda in it) more or less alone as long as al-Qaeda doesn't do anything spectacular to force Pakistan's hand - like a major attack on the US. In the meantime, there is a useful proxy force for exerting influence in Afghanistan eventually (and/or currently).

Obviously that's pure speculation in terms of the existence of such a deal - but in practical terms, the result is not that far off from the status quo. At least thus far.

And it would fit in with the hypothetical Pakistani plan to use al-Qaeda as leverage to get goodies out of the US govt. Fighter jets are nothing to sneeze at.

I think this is pretty much what Ethiopia has been doing vis-a-vis Somalia and the Horn in general - hyping the threat to get money and arms from the US. Also: US military support in neutralizing long time rivals.

But then, Von and me might start fighting again if he hears me say that;)

Why does the threat have to be existential?

Fine, dial it down. Make it "merely serious". Make it whatever you like.

Who's the enemy?
Who is our opponent in this "war against whatever you like to call it"?

Thanks

Russell: I'm not sure we have anything to discuss. Our points of view are too far apart for there to be value for either of us. I believe that there is a small set of radical islamists (radical muslims?people of islamic descent?) struggling achieve mass casualty attacks on the U.S. and the West to increase their own standing in the region and draw more supporters to their cause. I believe the Cole and 9/11 were both a part of that strategy, and I think the Cole worked and 9/11 sort of backfired. I don't think they can destroy the U.S. I do think they can hurt us further. I do think we should do everything we can to prevent that. Obviously, your mileage varies. We'll have to agree to disagree.

Enrak: about what we knew: that Iraq had no serious connection to al Qaeda was, to me, the default assumption. (By "no serious connection" I mean, basically: no connection beyond whatever sort of connection anyone operating in the ME might have picked up, just in virtue of operating in the same region. It would no amaze me to learn that the CIA had some connection to AQ, not in the sense of funding them etc., but e.g. having someone we paid who worked for them, having gotten information from someone linked to them, etc.)

I spent some time in the Middle East, and especially after 1988, when I was in eastern Turkey near the Iraqi border during part of the Anfal campaign, I followed events in Iraq (more or less; not the way serious experts do.) With this level of background, it was obvious that Saddam and AQ had next to nothing in common, other than being dreadful, and that they were in a lot of ways natural enemies.

Obviously, this didn't mean that they couldn't have been working together. Natural enemies sometimes do; e.g. Hitler and Stalin. But my default assumption was that they weren't, and I saw nothing in the runup to the war that made me think otherwise. On the contrary: I heard a series of attempts to run the two of them together on the grounds that they were Dreadful People Who Were Arabs, and who therefore somehow must be working together, but when I looked for the substance, it just wasn't there.

About WMDs: I believed that Iraq probably had them until maybe Jan. of 2003, on the grounds that they had had them before the first gulf war, and Saddam struck me as the sort of person who would probably go on trying to get them. But in Jan. 2003, or sometime around then (before the war began), I began to think: wait a minute. Blix is finding nothing. We have to be telling him where to look, both because it would be so obviously in Bush's interest for him to emerge from some warehouse somewhere clutching a flask of anthrax or something, and because it seemed to me that it was a perfect opportunity for us to test the reliability of our intelligence. (I mean, how often does this sort of opportunity come along for a country's intelligence services? And how could you possibly not want to take advantage of it?)

And yet Blix had found nothing. This didn't make me think Saddam didn't have them; far all I knew, he did. But it did make me think that we didn't know where they were. And this in turn implied several things: first, that Rumsfeld and the others who claimed they knew where the WMD were were either liars or misled, and second, that whatever we knew, we knew on the basis not of technical intelligence but of human sources, and human sources who did not know where the WMD were, but (at best) that they existed. This latter point made me think that our intelligence, if we had it, was a lot less reliable than people were saying.

Fwiw, I didn't think that Saddam's having WMD wold have been a good reason to go to war if he had had them; I opposed the war when I thought he did, and when I decided that we just had no clue, it didn't affect my views on the war.

About democracy promotion: the short version of my views on that score are: democracy promotion involves the creation of institutions and a bunch of other things that can only be done if a significant part of the population is willing to cooperate with you. Generally, people you invade are willing to cooperate with you only if they (or: a decent proportion of them) see your presence in their country as legitimate. This is true when their country commits an act of war against you, and you are retaliating in some basically fair way. (Japan, Germany, also Afghanistan.) It is also true when there is some ongoing humanitarian catastrophe that is bad enough that people really will understand why you invaded (Rwanda), or when the part of the country you invade will secede, and you have rescued its people in a way that they welcome (Kosovo.) In any such case, you have a reasonable reason for being there, and people (some people, at least) will probably react accordingly, even if they don't like it much. In such cases, therefore, you might be able to create a democracy. But this will generally not be possible if you invade just in order to create a democracy. And it was not possible in Iraq.

I had also watched with real dismay as this administration squandered the chance to really do Afghanistan right, and therefore had no confidence that they would do Iraq right. And even under the best conditions, democracy promotion is incredibly hard, and takes a level of thoughtfulness and commitment of which this administration seemed to me than, and seems to me now, to be incapable.

All the while, though, I loathed Saddam Hussein (being across the border during part of the Anfal campaign will do that to a girl.) I just didn't see how invading was going to be a good idea. What I did see was how it would empower Iran, distract us from fighting al Qaeda, and in the worst case (which is being realized) provide al Qaeda with a replacement for the safe haven we were then in the process of denying them in Afghanistan -- something I thought Saddam would never have given them. (He was a control freak, and would not, I thought, have tolerated uncontrollable people like AQ on his territory.)

What infuriated me was that to see this, I did not have to be an expert, just someone who had paid some attention to this area for a while. Ordinary citizens don't have to pay attention to it, but I somehow imagined that the people in my government would do better than I did, since I wasn't all that expert or capable. But no. Or rather, some of them did, but the people making decisions decided to disregard them. People like Feith.

Btw: guess where I'm going this summer? To the wrench in Eric's nice talk, that's where. (Capacity building in bioethics.)

This is an excellent jumping off point:
I think Jim Henley was playing around with the theory recently that there might be an understanding between the Pakistani government and al-Qaeda that the govt will leave Waziristan (and al-Qaeda in it) more or less alone as long as al-Qaeda doesn't do anything spectacular to force Pakistan's hand - like a major attack on the US. In the meantime, there is a useful proxy force for exerting influence in Afghanistan eventually (and/or currently).

How comfortable would you be if this is the case? Keeping in mind that Pakistan's current government is not all that stable and Al-Qaeda knows this. How long do you think this agreement can hold? Does Al-Qaeda keep this agreement even after it purchases a loose Russian nuke? (I'm aware of the low likelihood of that last one. But I think we can all agree that Kerry had a pretty valid attack point against Bush on that one, didn't he?)

What hilzoy said.

I believed that Iraq probably had them until maybe Jan. of 2003>

And this is one of the things I find frustrating. You can say this and no one here will laugh at you. But me saying that in March of 2003 I thought they had WMD is worthy of contempt. I understand what you are saying about Hans Blix, but Iraq is a big country. I did not have that much faith that Iraq wasn't capable of hiding the weapons. Remember Saddam was only cooperating as much as he had to. It wasn't really a free and open search until Jan or Feb of 2003. Plus, he was very much acting like he had something to hide.

Ordinary citizens don't have to pay attention to it, but I somehow imagined that the people in my government would do better than I did, since I wasn't all that expert or capable. But no. Or rather, some of them did, but the people making decisions decided to disregard them. People like Feith. I can understand your frustration here, but this is a fault of the Bush administration which I am not here to defend. They decided to push the WMD angle, not me. I had other reasons for my support.

This is true when their country commits an act of war against you, and you are retaliating in some basically fair way. (Japan, Germany,

Do you really think Japan and Germany were cooperative with democracy promotion because they figured, "well we did start this whole thing."? Or because we literally bombed them into submission. I think the latter. I also think that is the missing ingredient in democracy promotion in Iraq, now. I also think, knowing what I know now, that if bombing into submission was required, it most certainly was not justified. Therefore democracy promotion was not a suitable strategy. Too little, too late of course.

(He was a control freak, and would not, I thought, have tolerated uncontrollable people like AQ on his territory.)

You and John Miller can have your own discussion about that.
JM The only terrorist group in Iraq was the one lead by Zarqawi, but Saddam had no relationship with them.

I had also watched with real dismay as this administration squandered the chance to really do Afghanistan right, and therefore had no confidence that they would do Iraq right.

I was not as much of a critic of the job they did in Afghanistan at the time. I thought the way they took down the Taliban was a good strategy with the necessary consequence of Tora Bora. I did not realize at the time that not having boots on the ground was going to be such a preference for Rumsfeld et al. But as much as I would love to cling to the "Incompentent Bust" meme as an excuse for Iraq, I don't think that that explains the full monty.

I do agree that one is unlikely to create a successful democracy in a population like Iraq that has not been crushed by war. I also think that crushing a population like Iraq, already suffering from a totalitarian dictator like Saddam, is an undefendable thought.

Course, that leaves me in the same position that I had when I began this conversation. What do we do now? Which, I guess, has been answered. I'm not too happy with the answer, but what're ya gonna do?

I also think that is the missing ingredient in democracy promotion in Iraq, now. I also think, knowing what I know now, that if bombing into submission was required, it most certainly was not justified.

By "knowing what I know now" I mean knowing that democracy promotion is not going to work as it was fashined in Iraq, not anything about ties to Al Qaeda or WMD. I don't think those would have justified bombing into submission either. Just to be clear.

How comfortable would you be if this is the case?

Not very.

Which is why I think that Blake is right that we should start looking for other avenues of influence beyond Musharraf in Pakistan. If we can do that, we might eventually see a more capable and well-intentioned leadership. Also, tap into more flows of intel to better anticipate and react proactively to such an eventuality.

I expect Hilzoy to cultivate these entry points on her imminent trip. That is your mission Hilzoy, should you choose to accept it ; )

But seriously, Blake's article makes a lot of sense on this front - which is his habit.

Also, that fear is why we need to be spending more - not less - on securing Russian loose nukes. Which is what Kerry argued, quite correctly (as acknowledged).

Enrak: the thing about Zarqawi was that he kept being trotted out as an example, but his group was in a part of Iraq that Saddam had no control over, since it was in the Kurdish part, and we had kept Saddam from exercising control there since the first Gulf War.

I don't think that Japan and Germany were cooperative just because they thought that we had a good reason to be there. I absolutely think that it colored their attitudes towards us. -- I mean, I assume that most people's reaction to having someone take over their country would be fury and hatred, which is why I found the whole 'we will be greeted as liberators' thing bizarre. But I think this might be ameliorated somewhat if, say, one's country was Germany and it was 1945, since then you would probably hate the occupation, but you probably wouldn't think: and what are you doing in my country anyways? I'm not saying I'd expect anyone to like it; just that the difference between utter fury and bitter acceptance is significant, if you need people to help create institutions.

And Eric: I don't do that sort of thing. I restrict myself to generally hoping that the larger the web of personal contacts between citizens of different countries, the more chances there are to mitigate any misunderstandings that might arise.

And Eric: I don't do that sort of thing. I restrict myself to generally hoping that the larger the web of personal contacts between citizens of different countries, the more chances there are to mitigate any misunderstandings that might arise.

Only a joke ; )

And this is one of the things I find frustrating. You can say this and no one here will laugh at you. But me saying that in March of 2003 I thought they had WMD is worthy of contempt. I understand what you are saying about Hans Blix, but Iraq is a big country. I did not have that much faith that Iraq wasn't capable of hiding the weapons. Remember Saddam was only cooperating as much as he had to. It wasn't really a free and open search until Jan or Feb of 2003. Plus, he was very much acting like he had something to hide.

The thing is, though Enrak, not all WMD are the same. Nuclear weapons are leaps and bounds ahead of most chem and bio weapons in terms of destructive capacity (especially when you factor in difficulty of weaponization and delivery systems). It's not like Saddam, or al-Qaeda, was going to get a chance at aerial bombardment or massive, sustained artillery barrage on US soil.

So to say that you thought Saddam had WMD in March 2003 demands a follow up question: Which WMD? Because it matters. That is why the Bush administration's most egregious lies came in the context of hyping Saddam's nuclear capacity. That's the aluminium tubers, Niger yellow cake and ominous warnings about mushroom clouds.

Anyway, I'll repeat this earlier comment because it's still relevant:

I suppose someone should make the obligatory point that while most thought Saddam had some WMD - at least before the inspectors got in pre-invasion and didn't find any - very few thought he had a nuclear program. No serious voice thought he had a nuclear weapon.

Chem and bio weapons are very hard to weaponize, and very hard to use in a terrorist attack. Even if Saddam had some of the chem and bio weapons most groups believed he had, this was not a major threat. That would be, even if he had such agents AND had ties to al-Qaeda AND decided to share them with al-Qaeda AND al-Qaeda could use them in a successful attack.

Keep in mind: the use of Sarin in the Japanese subways was a failure from a terrorist's perspective. Conventional explosives, ala Madrid, would have likely led to a higher death count. al-Qaeda was not, and is not, in need of Sarin gas to conduct successful ops.

In fact, they could probably still get more bang for their buck out of C-4.

There's also the question of whether going in with an army and trying to overthrow the government/police everybody/find the bad guys is actually the best use of our cash and resources.

That's what really has pissed me off about Iraq--even if we had had more boots on the ground it's a textbook case of what Arthur C. Clarke outlines in his short tale "Strategy". About the only result so far has been one broken country, a la Yugoslavia after Tito, a lot of dead people on all sides, and the US having demonstrated that although it has nukes, it still can't handle a standard guerrilla insurgency. Rather than bolstering US power, Bush et al have demonstrated the soft yellow underbelly of it to everyone.

I'm not sure we have anything to discuss

Maybe, but through the magic of the internets here we are anyway.

The names of the small groups of Islamic militants that have attacked Americans are Al Qaeda, Islamic Jihad, and to a lesser extent Hizbollah. If you want to make an argument that an armed response against those groups is a good idea, I'd be happy to entertain it.

Talk about the "War on Terror", "the Long War", etc., seem to me to be talk about not much of anything at all. It's blather. Hot air. It's a phrase devoid of content.

What I find remarkable here is that, in 2007, four years into our increasingly futile adventure in Iraq, you, as a self-professed supporter of that war, have managed to engage the polite attention of folks here in a sincere effort to explain to you why invading Iraq might not have been a good idea.

I mean you no personal ill will, at all, and am happy to take your claim of earnestness at face value, but what I want to know is why every supporter of the invasion of Iraq isn't spending every minute of the time they spend addressing other folks apologizing and rending their garments out of grief for the calamity they have helped bring to this nation.

Why do folks who opposed the war have to explain why they opposed it? Look around you and see for yourself.

The topic of the original post here was Doug Feith's refusal, after all that has been said and done, to acknowledge or accept any responsibility for the travesty he contributed to. I think Doug Feith should be ashamed to show his face in public. I think he should be laughed off of any public forum on which he tries to appear. I think his name should be remembered, forever, as the man who deliberately distorted legitimate intelligence in a deliberate effort to lead the nation into an unnecessary and disastrous war.

So, if I seem to be impatient with your requests for explanations and justifications, that's why. I'm waiting for someone, somewhere, to say "I was wrong, I have incurred a debt I can never repay, and I am deeply sorry".

Haven't heard it yet. Not once.

Thanks -

Mr. Enrak, I'd like to offer two points for your consideration:

First, on the statement that terrorists can hurt us. You know, one of the interesting things about the immune system is that it works best when half of all deaths from infection come from the immune response rather than the infection itself (think about the survival factors and you'll understand why). My point is that the reaction to something can be more damaging than the stimulus itself. Such is the case with 9/11. That attack cost us about $200 billion (estimates vary). But our response has already cost us about $500 billion in direct costs and when you factor in deferred and indirect costs, the cost easily passes a trillion dollars. In other words, our ill-judged response cost us much more than the attack itself.

My second point concerns your comment about Germany and Japan embracing democracy because we bombed them into submission. There is very little causal connection between our victory and their embrace of democracy, other than wiping out the old government and creating fertile ground on which democracy could flourish. But it is important to remember that democracy succeeded in Japan and Germany because both societies were already prepared for it. They had all the necessary social factors in place. I am absolutely certain that, had we merely defeated them but not destroyed their political structures, both nations would have evolved into democracies of their own accord -- although it would have taken several decades.

Victory in war doesn't force democracy upon people. The basic concept that makes democracy work is a broad respect for the rule of law. A society that has that respect can readily become a democracy. A society that doesn't have that respect cannot become a democracy. Iraq doesn't have it; therefore Iraq will not become a functioning democracy at any time in the foreseeable future. The feeble democracy that we are propping up will collapse shortly after our departure, and a new despotism will rise in its place. That's what will happen no matter what we do. Even if the surge works and the place is completely pacified, that's how this scenario will end. Guaranteed.

john miller: from the article you linked to presented without comment

cleek: remember all the conservatives demanding that we invade Saudi Arabia

No doubt. I predict that dealing with the Saudis is going to be one of the biggest challenges of the next administration. Man I hate our dependency on the oil ticks. I repeat myself, but – even though I am not on this GW bandwagon I’ll support anything that gets the oil-tick boot off of our throat.

Enrak,

And this is one of the things I find frustrating. You can say this and no one here will laugh at you. But me saying that in March of 2003 I thought they had WMD is worthy of contempt. I understand what you are saying about Hans Blix, but Iraq is a big country. I did not have that much faith that Iraq wasn't capable of hiding the weapons. Remember Saddam was only cooperating as much as he had to. It wasn't really a free and open search until Jan or Feb of 2003. Plus, he was very much acting like he had something to hide.

Well, maybe...
But look at the statements of ElBaradei to the UN Security Council:
" To conclude: we have to date found no evidence that Iraq has revived its nuclear weapons programme since the elimination of the programme in the 1990s."
(Jan 27, 2003)
"After three months of intrusive inspections, we have to date found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons programme in Iraq."
(March 7, 2003)

During that later UN Security Council meeting he also "killed" the "aluminium tubes/centrifuges claim" ("There is no indication that Iraq has attempted to import aluminium tubes for use in centrifuge enrichment.") and the "uranium ore from Niger claim" ("Based on thorough analysis, the IAEA has concluded, with the concurrence of outside experts, that these documents - which formed the basis for the reports of recent uranium transactions between Iraq and Niger - are in fact not authentic.").

That took care of the most dangerous WMD.

And as to Blix:
"As I noted on 14 February, intelligence authorities have claimed that weapons of mass destruction are moved around Iraq by trucks and, in particular, that there are mobile production units for biological weapons. The Iraqi side states that such activities do not exist. Several inspections have taken place at declared and undeclared sites in relation to mobile production facilities. Food testing mobile laboratories and mobile workshops have been seen, as well as large containers with seed processing equipment. No evidence of proscribed activities have so far been found. Iraq is expected to assist in the development of credible ways to conduct random checks of ground transportation.
...
There have been reports, denied from the Iraqi side, that proscribed activities are conducted underground. Iraq should provide information on any underground structure suitable for the production or storage of WMD. During inspections of declared or undeclared facilities, inspection teams have examined building structures for any possible underground facilities. In addition, ground penetrating radar equipment was used in several specific locations. No underground facilities for chemical or biological production or storage were found so far.
...
How much time would it take to resolve the key remaining disarmament tasks? While cooperation can and is to be immediate, disarmament and at any rate the verification of it cannot be instant. Even with a proactive Iraqi attitude, induced by continued outside pressure, it would still take some time to verify sites and items, analyse documents, interview relevant persons, and draw conclusions. It would not take years, nor weeks, but months."
(March 7, 2003)

Note that Blix is asking for months, not years.

And of course we also had the Briefing Notes On UNSCOM Interview
With Hussein Kamel
published in February 2003. (Pretty much everything was destroyed after 1991 according to him.)

So - as hilzoy notes - one could get pretty skeptical about those WMD claims in early 2003. At least that´s what happened with me. Especially if assuming that Western intelligence agencies were giving information to Blix and ElBaradei. And still their teams found nothing significant.

And concerning hiding the production sites during inspections with accompanying reconnaissance flights ("American U-2 and French Mirage surveillance aircraft already give us valuable imagery, supplementing satellite pictures and we would expect soon to be able to add night vision capability through an aircraft offered to us by the Russian Federation. We also expect to add low-level, close area surveillance through drones provided by Germany."). Somewhat difficult - maybe even impossible - in case of nuclear WMDs. You need an awful lot of equipment for that.

And for chemical and biological weapons?
Probably depends on the amount you want to produce. You want to make a small amount? Sure, that´s possible to hide. Others have already mentioned the Sarin attack in Japan.

You want to produce an amount significant for your armed forces? Once again probably difficult because the production sites need to be somewhat larger. :)

Not to mention that even if you hide them in the desert or underground, you´d see traffic to the sites. You have to get the "raw materials" there, you see. Like precursor chemicals in case you want to produce chemical weapons. Larger sites also need "dedicated" electrical power. Which means either land lines or a power station on site. And you need to staff those sites. Not only technicians but also some of the experts. Not totally impossible but pretty difficult if foreign intelligence services are monitoring you.

To conclude:
- No evidence for nuclear weapons.
In fact, American and British claims were proven to be false before the war.
- No production sites (mobile or otherwise) found for chemical or biological weapons. Despite hundreds of trips, tests, interviews and accompanying air surveillance.
- The only thing remaining was the difference in documents between chemical (and maybe biological) weapons produced before 1991 and the amount "used" during the Iraq-Iran war / destroyed by the UN teams between 1991 and 1998. Here we had the Hussein Kamal interviews from 1995 (Everything destroyed. But unconfirmed by the UN). Still it was a question of how many of these "old" chemical weapons were still "functioning" after a shelf life of 10+ years.

russell: what I want to know is why every supporter of the invasion of Iraq isn't spending every minute of the time they spend addressing other folks apologizing and rending their garments out of grief for the calamity they have helped bring to this nation

There are only so many hours in the day?

Russell – you did not direct this at me and this is not directed at you, but it is something I get a lot, so this is just a bit of a rant.

Beyond expressing your regret, acknowledging your mistake, and abandoning your party, I don’t know what else we should do. Do I cringe at every new American death or report of toddlers blown up in the marketplace? Yes. Do I feel guilt and personal responsibility? Yes.

I drive by Dover frequently, up and down Route 1. Many days there is a cargo plane coming in for a landing. I always wonder, how many caskets on that one? What parts of the country are they going to? How many kids get their daddy back in a box this time? It is often 30 miles before my cheeks are dry.

I did that - my fault and my responsibility. I own a piece of each of those caskets.

I’ve attended memorial services for soldiers here in MD. No one I knew. Just close enough to make the drive and I felt an obligation. Stood in the back, hung my head, and avoided looking into the face of the spouse and kids. National Guard or RA, they bury them the same.

I don’t know what else to do dude. Other than promising you that I will never support another war short of our shores being invaded – I don’t know what else to do.

Detlef -

Correct.

The material "proof" for connections between Al Qaeda and Iraq were all found to be weak and insubstantial before we invaded.

The material "proof" for WMD programs -- aluminum tubes etc. -- were all found to be weak and insubstantial before we invaded. Anyone remember the "unmanned drones" that were going to fly across the Atlantic and bomb the US?

UN arms inspectors were in country for the months prior to our invasion, and in spite of their best efforts, found nothing.

The idea of inserting a democracy into the heart of the middle east is something that emerged after these other causi belli were proven false.

The war was bullshit. Hook, line, and sinker. Bullshit from beginning to end.

I'm not looking to pick on Mr. Enrak in particular, but instead of him requiring us to explain why we opposed the war, I'd like him to explain why he supported it.

Enrak, you were wrong. There was sufficient information available for you not to be wrong, but you failed to avail yourself of it. Own it. Or, at least, quit requiring the rest of us to explain why we thought it was a bad idea at the time.

You were wrong. Own it, and give it a freaking rest already.

I can't tell you how sick I am of hashing over these same stupid, tragic, idiotic arguments over and over again.

Iraq is a disaster, for us, for the Iraqis, and most likely for the entire region. 2,000+ Americans have been killed, tens of thousands wounded, and the Iraqi casualties are an order of magnitude more than that. Billions upon billions of dollars have literally been pissed away into the sand. The nation of Iraq is a train wreck. The end result is exactly the sectarian knife fight intelligent people predicted it would be four years ago.

Can we please stop having this debate. Enrak, you were freaking wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. For Christ's sake, please own it and move on. You were, and probably continue to be, wrong.

I suspect I'm on the verge of being rude, so I'll appreciate the editors letting me know if I look like I'm going to cross any of the lines of ObWi etiquette.

Thanks -

Russell – you did not direct this at me and this is not directed at you, but it is something I get a lot, so this is just a bit of a rant.

Hey man, rant away. You'll get no objection from me.

I don’t know what else to do dude. Other than promising you that I will never support another war short of our shores being invaded – I don’t know what else to do.

Not that you owe me anything, but that works for me. Many many thanks, in fact, I appreciate it.

I own a piece of each of those caskets.

We all own a piece of it.

Respect -

OCSteve, I don't think you have to do anything. This is not a matter between you and anybody else, and you owe nobody any apologies, rituals of remorse, or anything else. You made your call; you were wrong; that's a personal matter for your concern only. I do object to those who publicly refuse to admit that they were wrong, who loudly declare their continuing support of this ongoing disaster. Their pride is the cause of continuing suffering.

There weren't that many Americans who were dead set against this war from the getgo. I am proud to be among that group. But my pride does not extend to demeaning those who were wrong and now recognize their mistake. I've been wrong myself, too, and I won't genuflect and apologize to those who were right when i was wrong. I'll just pay more attention to what they have to say the next time.

russell: you haven't crossed the line yet, but you are in its vicinity. Enrak asked a polite question; I gave him a polite answer. The rest is his business alone.

Like you, I get angry at people who actually helped bring on the war -- in some more material way than thinking it might be a good idea -- and either don't admit their mistakes or go on talking as though those of us who did not get it wrong have something to prove to them. For this reason, I have been known to get mad at Cheney, Bush, Feith, Rumsfeld, the rest of the neocons, and also various columnists like, oh, Tom Friedman. But that's different from being mad at the likes of Enrak or OCSteve (assuming neither is Doug Feith under a pseudonym): those were people who had a responsibility to get it right -- a job or a position of influence that involved staking their judgment and asking the rest of us to trust it -- and who not only failed, but don't recognize that fact or draw its consequences.

If Richard Perle shows up here in comments (I can foresee that this will produce lots of spoofs, but what the heck), I will lecture him and demand apologies on behalf of people who have died and families who have been torn apart. But I will not lecture normal citizens who ought to have a government that they can trust to get things at least basically right, and who did their best, as I see no reason to doubt that Enrak and/or OCSteve did; nor do I think it;s any of my business to ask them why they don't spend the rest of their lives in self-abasement. As OCSteve reminds us, we don;t know what they do when they're not online; when they are, we owe them, like everyone else, generosity and the benefit of the doubt.

Erasmussimo: that's a personal matter for your concern only

I’ve said a few times that blogs are group therapy writ large. To that extent, I do owe honesty and remorse to the folks I wish to engage with on issues of the day. Can I honestly comment about potential conflict with Iran without acknowledging my complicity on Iraq? Hilzoy is the ethicist among us so I leave that to her. From my perspective, if I don’t come clean on Iraq, why the hell should I expect you to listen to me on Iran?

Hilzoy: assuming neither is Doug Feith under a pseudonym

You know my IP :) I know what you are saying. But Doug Feith? It’s a good thing I like you…

when they are, we owe them, like everyone else, generosity and the benefit of the doubt

This is why I think you represent the left. If I hadn’t stumbled across this site I would have thought Jane Hamsher represented the left. I’ll take Hilzoy any day.

you haven't crossed the line yet, but you are in its vicinity.

Noted. I think I'll take a break for a while. Thanks for the heads up.

For the record, I have no beef, nor have I ever had any beef, with OCSteve.

Thanks -

What terrorist groups does the U.S. government support?

Currently, at a minimum, the MEK and the Jundullah.

Historically, the contras, UNITA, a whole collection of Cuban terrorists.

For the record, and only because I was not aware of ObiWi, if it existed at the time, I offered an apology to members of another blog (that held many members from outside the US) an apology on the eve of the Iraq invasion. It drew nasty crticism from a couple but each year on the anniversary of same, I return to it and am both glad and sad that I offered it.

OCSteve: I don’t know what else to do dude. Other than promising you that I will never support another war short of our shores being invaded – I don’t know what else to do.

I don't think there is anything else you should have to do, OCSteve - well, with regard to starting wars, anyway.

Enrak, the notion that it wasn't possible to create a "successful democracy" in Iraq because it hadn't been "crushed by war" is just plain false. It would have been very difficult for the US occupation to "create a democracy" in Iraq, after the history of injustice and mistreatment towards Iraq that the US had, but we'll never know if it was impossible if tried, because the US didn't try.

Do you know what the first violent action of US troops against unarmed Iraqis in Fallujah was, and when? April 28, 2003. A few hundred Iraqis having a peaceful demonstration against the occupation and demanding free elections were fired on by US troops. 17 Iraqis killed, no US casualties (even though the US troops later claimed that it was gunfire from the protesters that had started the "incident"). For the first couple of months, Fallujah was one of the most peaceful areas of the country: the mayor of the city was pro-American.

The US did not succeed in creating a democracy in Iraq because, from the beginning, there was absolutely no intent to do so and, in fact, rooted opposition against the idea of Iraqis getting to vote in their own government which would then be in control of all Iraqi resources - including the oil.

And, this too was fairly obvious from the beginning, Enrak. In March 2003, no one in the US was making plans to run elections in Iraq in the near future. That wasn't at any point part of the invasion/occupation plan, even though the Bush administration then claimed they were planning to leave the country in a few months. So, whatever they were planning to do in those few months, it was obvious to anyone who cared to look that they weren't planning to run national elections and help Iraqis vote in a new government.

Concerning post-WW2 democracy in Germany
Quite a complex thing.
1.The country knew how democracy worked and there were a few democrats left from the first experiment.
2.Knowing what didn't work the last time played a huge part in the new constitution.
3.There was no real "de-Baathification" and even a lot of truly guilty officials either kept their job or got something similar(that reduced the number of people that would not accept the new way of things).
4.The democracy was quite authoritarian in the first 1-2 decades.
5.Nobody believed that the US was there to steal the resources.
6.There was a true outside threat (the USSR) and the US was seen as a protector (not a "loved" one but clearly better than the alternative).
7.The country was/is far more homogeneous (separatist lenings in Bavaria aside) than Iraq
8.The nazis had made themselves quite unpopular in the last days of the war.
9.The US brought real help to the people/country and without apparent evil intentions (including but not exclusively 5.)
...
It took decades for the democracy to take permanent hold here and there was no 100% guarantee that it would not go the way of Weimar (post-WW1 was a textbook example of how to botch it from both the allied and the German side).

Btw, Can anyone tell me how much direct contact Bin Laden had with any of the 9/11 hijackers? How many did he meet with personally? How often did they meet?

I would ask if the ones he didn't meet at all were still effective in their mission, but I think we all know the answer to that question.

Just wondering?

6.There was a true outside threat (the USSR) and the US was seen as a protector (not a "loved" one but clearly better than the alternative).

Maybe right up to the time we deployed the Pershing II missiles. My German friends were suddenly convinced that our intent was to have a nuclear war in Europe so as to spare the US (as if it would stop there). There was never much acknowledgement of all the SS-20s targeted on Europe – it was the Pershing that was going to bring about the destruction of Europe. Schwäbisch Gmünd was never the same. People who had been friendly to me in Darmstadt were mad at me personally, as if I somehow had control over the situation. And they never once protested against the Soviets or the SS-20s – just the Americans and the Pershings.

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