Iraq: Short memories about going to war Posted by: McQ
on Monday, September 12, 2005
Interesting column in the Washington Post today by Robert Kagan. It addresses the apparently short memories of some of the political players today as concerns Iraq. Kagan specifically addresses a particular column which contends that the war in Iraq is all Bush's idea. Kagan disagrees, in my opinion, rightfully so:
That's not the way I recall it. I recall support for removing Saddam Hussein by force being pretty widespread from the late 1990s through the spring of 2003, among Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, as well as neoconservatives.
Yeah, that's kind of the way I remember it. And to lend more credence to that remembrance, Kagan becomes specific in his rememberance. Some snippets:
A big turning point for me was the confrontation between Hussein and the Clinton administration that began in 1997 and ended in the bombing of Iraq at the end of 1998. The crisis began when Hussein blocked U.N. inspectors' access to a huge number of suspect sites (I'm still wondering why he did that if he had nothing to hide). The Clinton administration responded by launching a campaign to prepare the nation for war. I remember listening to Albright compare Hussein to Hitler and warn that if not stopped, "he could in fact somehow use his weapons of mass destruction" or "could kind of become the salesman for weapons of mass destruction." I remember Cohen appearing on television with a five-pound bag of sugar and explaining that that amount of anthrax "would destroy at least half the population" of Washington, D.C. Even as late as September 2002, Gore gave a speech insisting that Hussein "has stored away secret supplies of biological weapons and chemical weapons throughout his country."
[forehead smack] Oh yeah, I remember that.
In his second term Clinton and his top advisers concluded that Hussein's continued rule was dangerous, if not intolerable. Albright called explicitly for his ouster as a precondition for lifting sanctions. And it was in the midst of that big confrontation, in December 1997, that Kristol and I argued what the Clinton administration was already arguing: that containment was no longer an adequate policy for dealing with Saddam Hussein. In January 1998 I joined several others in a letter to the president insisting that "the only acceptable strategy" was one that eliminated "the possibility that Iraq will be able to use or threaten to use weapons of mass destruction." That meant "a willingness to undertake military action" and eventually "removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power." The signatories included Francis Fukuyama, Richard Armitage and Robert Zoellick.
Francis Fukuyama? Now a critic of doing what he then recommended?
Fukuyama now claims that he, much like Kerry's vote for the war, didn't mean to support what happened by signing the letter:
"I signed the letter, but I have not been at all happy with the way they have executed this," he told the UK daily The Independent. "The letter did not say you should go into this unilaterally, that you can do this in contempt of the views of the rest of the world. That was not what I signed up to. I don't think Iraq is the single most serious problem in the world and that therefore you can subordinate all of your alliance relationships and goodwill with the rest of the world to do this. It is not a good trade off."
No, Mr. Fukuyama, it said that Saddam Hussein should be removed, even if the force of military action must be used. And all the post action caveats in the world doesn't mitigate the intent of the letter you and the rest signed and now want to disavow.
And even more:
About a year later, the Senate passed a resolution, co-sponsored by Joseph Lieberman and John McCain, providing $100 million for the forcible overthrow of Hussein. It passed with 98 votes. On Sept. 20, 2001, I signed a letter to President Bush in which we endorsed then-Secretary of State Colin Powell's statement that Hussein was "one of the leading terrorists on the face of the Earth." We argued that "any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq." That letter, too, was signed by Fukuyama, Eliot Cohen, Stephen Solarz, Martin Peretz and many others.
98 votes in the Senate. That's not bi-partisan support, that's a Senate slam-dunk. And our friend Fukuyama put pen to paper again.
And the support for war continued, egged on by both sides of the political spectrum:
I recall broad bipartisan support for removing Hussein right up to the eve of the war. In March 2003, just before the invasion, I signed a letter in support of the war along with a number of former Clinton officials, including deputy national security adviser James Steinberg, ambassador Peter Galbraith, ambassador Dennis Ross, ambassador Martin Indyk, Ivo Daalder, Ronald Asmus and ambassador Robert Gelbard.
Remember Richard Cohen? Cohen wrote an article, prior to the invasion, saying that the Bush administration had botched the run up for the war, was operating on a bunch of unproven and unfounded assumptions and its bumbling diplomacy had alienated most of the world, but still, and despite all of that, war was the way to go:
Despite all that, however, and despite acknowledging that "war is bad—very, very bad," Cohen argued that it was necessary to go to war anyway. "[S]ometimes peace is no better, especially if all it does is postpone a worse war," and that "is what would happen if the United States now pulled back. . . . Hussein would wait us out. . . . If, at the moment, he does not have nuclear weapons, it's not for lack of trying. He had such a program once and he will have one again—just as soon as the world loses interest and the pressure on him is relaxed." In the meantime, Cohen wrote, Hussein would "stay in power—a thug in control of a crucial Middle Eastern nation. He will remain what he is, a despot who runs a criminal regime. He will continue to oppress and murder his own people . . . and resume support of terrorism abroad. He is who he is. He deserves no second chance." I agreed with that judgment then. I still do today.
Yes indeed, so do I. But, as Kagan entitles the piece, memories are short aren't they?
Time to dust off the real history again and remember that regime change in Iraq was the policy of the Clinton Administration, that, as we've recently here, Gore, Clinton and the Democrat leadership all found Saddam an intolerable dictator and a terrorist threat who's government shouldn't be left to stand, even if it required military intervention.
That was then, this is now, and it's interesting to see the outright disavowals, such as Fukuyama's, of a war they touted and supported. Even more interesting are those trying to rewrite history and put this all in the lap of the current administration while attempting to portray their roles as other than what they were.
Kagan ends with a line from Thucydides which Pericles delivered to the Athenians during a tough war with Sparta:
"I am the same man and do not alter, it is you who change, since in fact you took my advice while unhurt, and waited for misfortune to repent of it."
What don't need now is a bunch of politicians and academics who pushed for regime change in Iraq backpeddling and backfilling as they try to wash their hands clean of the whole affair.
What we do need are politicians and academics who not only acknowledge their hand in calling for war, but then also call for us, despite the mistakes, to see it through and finish the job regardless of the difficulties.
If the nation had that sort of bipartisan support going, there's very little doubt we could create an atmophere, especially among the public, much more conducive then to bipartisan cooperation leading to an administration most likely much more open to alternative solutions in Iraq.
Instead we have the former supporters turn critical (even though they still support the "policy" in general), and with absolutely no risk to themselves, deny that sort of cooperation and bipartisanship to the tough problem of Iraq. They glibly wave off their support, as Fukuyama has, by saying, "that's not what I meant" after the fact.
I agree with Kagan ... memories, as usual, are very short. I, for one, think it's important to remind those who are such vociferous critics of this war in general (not the post war problems, that's a different story) that this isn't something which, as Teddy Kennedy once charged, was cooked up in Texas by Bush. And the way to end it quickly is to get behind the effort to end it through finishing the job.
After we do so, after we succeed, then punish the politicians of your choice. Make them pay for their inepetness or their incompetence if that's how you see their effort. Until then, it makes much more sense to have a united effort toward success in Iraq and to deny our enemies any hope divisiveness within our ranks brings them.
GOV. BUSH: I’d like to, of course, and I presume this administration would as well. But we don’t know—there’s no inspectors now in Iraq. The coalition that was in place isn’t as strong as it used to be. He is a danger; we don’t want him fishing in troubled waters in the Middle East. And it’s going to be hard to—it’s going to be important to rebuild that coalition to keep the pressure on him.
* * *
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Well, when I—when I got to be a part of the current administration, it was right after I was one of the few members of my political party to support former President Bush in the Persian Gulf War Resolution. And at the end of that war, for whatever reasons, it was not finished in a way that removed Saddam Hussein from power. I know there are all kinds of circumstances and explanations, but the fact is that that’s the situation that was left when I got there. And we have maintained the sanctions. Now, I want to go further. I want to give robust support to the groups that are trying to overthrow Saddam Hussein.
An endorsement of invasion? Not exactly. But Gore was making three points: he wanted the US to support the overthrow of Saddam, he disapproved of George HW Bush failing to overthrow Saddam when he had the chance, and (implicitly) he was promising to take a harder line on Iraq than George W. Bush.
My, how times change. I actually think Gore would have gone to war with Saddam had he been president - which only makes his opposition to that war all the more shamefully partisan.
Fukuyama: "The letter did not say you should go into this unilaterally..."
Ah. Unilateralism again. As I recall, the prefix "uni-" means "one". Not "few". Or "several". Or "twenty". You’d think a lettered man like Fukuyama would know that.
So Fukuyama (et al) said we should do it. Or at least that he thought we should do it. Or that maybe we’d do it if we could find another like-minded country. Or maybe other like-minded countries. But apparently it would be okay if (and only if) one of those like-minded countries was "France".
People still listen to what Fukuyama says?? I mean he was SOOO prescient when he claimed that the end of history was near... (Yes, I know, he’s got an "out" because of the scale of how he measures the "end of history", but still)
True it wasn’t unilateral we have support. Although no other country has even 10,000 troops involved, the UK is leadin with about 8,000. Our other allies include South Korea, Italy, Poland, and the Ukraine with between 1000 and 5000 troops. We also have support of less than 1000 troops from Romania, Georgia, Japan, Denmark, Bulgaria, Australia, El Salvador, Mongolia, Azerbaijan, Albania, Latvia, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Slovakia, Estonia, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Kazakhstan.
You could have included Clinton’s 1998 Iraqi Liberation Act which formally committed the United States to remove Hussein from power. This policy was in effect when George Bush was still Governor of Texas.
After we do so, after we succeed, then punish the politicians of your choice. Make them pay for their inepetness or their incompetence if that’s how you see their effort. Until then, it makes much more sense to have a united effort toward success in Iraq and to deny our enemies any hope divisiveness within our ranks brings them.
Let’s say that henceforth, all criticism of the Bush administration with respect to Iraq ceased. Let’s say Bush got what he wanted: North Korean style unanimity.
It wouldn’t make a godamm bit of difference. Bush would still be the bumbler in chief that he has always been.
The problem has not been Bush’s critics, or former supporters of the war, or Cindy Sheehan, or Michael Moore, or France, or the UN, or whatever. The problem is Bush. Indeed, Bush not only doesn’t listen to critics, he never hears them in the first place. So what would it matter if his critics stopped criticizing? It wouldn’t.
It’s not about support on the home front. Our troops are too professional to be affected by Bush’s critics. And our enemies are going to attack regardless of what some blogger says about Bush.
It’s the incompetency, stupid. Bush is incompetent. Focus here, people.
Another blogger set out a good analogy that captures our dilemma: You go into a hospital to have your tonsils removed. The doctor cuts off your arm instead. You want to sue for malpractice. Bush supporters would say no - stop criticizing your doctor and instead stay the course. You go back for a second try, and instead of taking out your tonsils, the doctor cuts off your leg.
Go see what Bill Maher had to say about Bush on his show last week. Classic. Like he said, it’s time for a recall.
It’s the incompetency, stupid. Bush is incompetent. Focus here, people.
Yeah, focus ... and do WHAT about it? We still ain’t scheduled to install a new president until early 2009, and YOU, plus your whole dumbocrap party, have got NO useful ideas about what to do in the mean time. No ideas about how to win this war, and no ideas about how to fix Louisiana, either. So whynchoo go bother the dems about this? Whynchoo persuade them to run a PERSUASIVE candidate next time out? Way I see it, the only times GWB ever DID look good was when he was running against those two pompous narc douchebags that you people ran in the last two prex elections. If you can’t do better than THAT, why the fuck should anybody listen to your incessant bitching and carping about the president we’ve got?