Tuesday, July 12, 2005

We're better off without Saddam in power.

Bob Herbert's latest New York Times column "It Just Gets Worse" is, in a sense, a restatement of the Kerry campaign's standard critique of the war with Iraq. You know the storyline already: a cynically manipulative yet absurdly short-sighted President Bush deliberately bamboozled the country into supporting a ridiculously ill-advised war that was both a cover story for and an essential consequence of the ideological pretensions of his neoconservative puppetmasters. Thus, if only the Democrats had been in charge, they would have demonstrated how they could have conducted the war in both exactly the same way and entirely differently to produce an amazing victory with no negative consequences.

The article begins by evoking President Bush's stupidity:
Back in March 2004 President Bush had a great time displaying what he felt was a hilarious set of photos showing him searching the Oval Office for the weapons of mass destruction that hadn't been found in Iraq. It was a spoof he performed at the annual dinner of the Radio and Television Correspondents' Association.
What you aren't told here is that an attempt at self-deprecating humor is the tradition at this event. But the stupidity charge aimed at President Bush has always consisted of cheap shots. Moving on, the cynical manipulation comes next:
If there's something funny about Mr. Bush's misbegotten war, I've yet to see it. The president deliberately led Americans traumatized by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, into the false belief that there was a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda, and that a pre-emptive invasion would make the United States less vulnerable to terrorism.
Conservatives have been going nuts for years trying to get liberals to acknowledge the mountains of evidence that the Bush Administration was debunking links between Iraq and Al Qaeda immediately after 9/11. The existing links between Saddam Hussein and terror were also not anything more substantial than those of many other Middle-Eastern dictators. The real danger, as I also mention below, is that Saddam Hussein would launch his own terror war on America once the 9/11 terrorist proved that terror attacks can produce mass murder on a hitherto unimagined scale. Thankfully, the article at least skips the tired old canard about the Bush administration's claims about the "immanent threat" of Iraq.

The next point in the standard media narrative is the negative consequences of the war. The ritual invocation of the exact current death toll in Iraq is, of course, a media obsession and must be repeated. Then the column states that:

The C.I.A. warned the administration in a classified report in May that Iraq - since the American invasion in 2003 - had become a training ground in which novice terrorists were schooled in assassinations, kidnappings, car bombings and other terror techniques. The report said Iraq could prove to be more effective than Afghanistan in the early days of Al Qaeda as a place to train terrorists who could then disperse to other parts of the world, including the United States.
Now just imagine the situation of Saddam Hussein was in power: Iraq would be just as bad of a training ground in which novice terrorists were schooled in assassinations, etc. and the authorities would be protecting them and helping them instead of trying to kill them. Or, to put it another way, while the 9/11 plotters had to hijack planes to commit their terror attacks, Saddam Hussein owned an entire air force of planes. Worried about increased recruitment of terrorists after the Iraq war? Just imagine how many terrorists Saddam Hussein could have recruited while he still had the entire GDP of Iraq to spend. It just boggles the mind that people can seriously believe we'd be better off with this killer dictator in power.

And, finally, we come to the article's mention of the neoconservatives (aka "true believers"):
Has the president given any thought to leveling with the American people about how bad the situation has become? And is he even considering what for him would be the radical notion of soliciting the counsel of wise men and women who might give him a different perspective on war and terror than the Kool-Aid-drinking true believers who have brought us to this dreadful state of affairs? The true believers continue to argue that the proper strategy is to stay the current catastrophic course.
You see, if only the president would just replace all those neoconservatives with wise men and women with a different perspective (aka "liberal Democrats"), we'd be on the way to recovery. Yeah, right. But even this point gets radically contradicted at the end of the article:
The immediate challenge to President Bush is to dispense with the destructive fantasies of the true believers in his administration and to begin to see America's current predicament clearly. New voices with new approaches and new ideas need to be heard. The hole we're in is deep enough. We need to stop digging.
How is President Bush supposed to level with the American people when even he can't see the situation clearly?

What I'd really like to know after going through this article is how many of those "new voices with new approaches" are going to be believers of the Daschle/Clinton standard of miltary operations (i.e. if only one life is lost then the effort is a failure)? Does anyone still seriously believe that the Iraqi insurgency can be defeated by cruise missile attacks on empty warehouses launched from hundreds of miles away? Or that the Iraqi insurgents will just drop the arms and surrender once we pull out our troops and replace them with unmanned aerial drones? Or that jihadists and terrorists around the world won't be dancing in streets if we "bug out" from Iraq?


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