Between August 1 and last night, 49 Palestinians were killed by Israel Defense Forces fire in the West Bank and Gaza Strip; around 180 were injured, with at least 65 of them sustaining wounds from live fire (including shrapnel from shells and missiles). Thirty of those killed were unarmed civilians. Another two Palestinians, both in their 70s, died of injuries sustained in July.
Among those killed during the month were seven children aged 15 and younger (including two girls under the age of 10), and two women from the Gaza Strip - one aged 50, the other 86.
Ten of the Palestinians killed were wanted men, with eyewitnesses reporting that two of them were killed after surrendering to IDF troops. One of the wanted men was killed when the house in which he was hiding was demolished, and another seven were killed in the framework of Israeli assassination operations. Nine civilians who were in the vicinity of such operations were also killed.
The month of August saw 49 Palestinians killed by Israel (51 if you count the two senior citizens who died of injuries sustained in July). Of the 49, only 19 were not unarmed civilians. The rest, thirty people, were somehow killed anyway, including a woman in her eighties, two girls under 10, and five other children under 15. These eight and twenty-two others were mistakes, collateral damage, justifiable. Thirty out of forty-nine.
The other nineteen -- the ones who were armed -- were just 39% of those killed. A good deal more than half the time, Israel is murdering unarmed people.
Even if you grant that 10 of the 30 civilians killed were men wanted by Israel, that still means that over 40% of the time (20 out of 49), Israel is killing innocents.
But why accept the assassination of wanted men? Two of the ten were killed after surrendering to IDF troops. It seems a bit unreasonable, now, to take Israel's word that every one of these men really was a terrorist and deserved to die without trial, evidence, or a jury of peers to sit in judgement of the facts. Is due process and the established system of law and order not good enough for the only democracy in the Middle East? Or is it just too good for the Palestinians?
The Talking Dog: "CNN reports that the President says, of Saddam Hussein, "this is the guy who tried to kill my Dad." Well, this reassures me that our nation is guided by objective, sober leadership, acting solely in the best interests of the nation as a whole, with no personal feelings clouding their judgment."
So, Jim of Unqualified Offerings (who, I say again, found William Burton long after I did) points out Aziz Poonwalla's interesting blog, Unmedia. At the risk of damaging my credibility, I swear that I also found this site weeks ago, long before Henley did, and just didn't get around to blogging it. Luckily, Jim Henley exists.
Tony Blair's promised dossier on Iraq has finally been released, to global cries of "what? that's it?" The BBC has published a summary of the dossier, as well as the full 50-page text, Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction: The Assessment of the British Government [PDF].
The document published today is based, in large part, on the work of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC). The JIC is at the heart of the British intelligence machinery. It is chaired by the Cabinet Office and made up of the heads of the UK’s three Intelligence and Security Agencies, the Chief of Defence Intelligence, and senior officials from key government departments. For over 60 years the JIC has provided regular assessments to successive Prime Ministers and senior colleagues on a wide range of foreign policy and international security issues.
Its work, like the material it analyses, is largely secret. It is unprecedented for the Government to publish this kind of document. But in light of the debate about Iraq and Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), I wanted to share with the British public the reasons why I believe this issue to be a current and serious threat to the UK national interest.
According to the JIC report, the damning evidence of Iraq's threat to the world includes the following:
Iraq is five years away from being able to produce a nuclear weapon on its own
Iraq is one or two years off building a nuclear weapon even if it can obtain weapons-grade material from abroad
Iraq has retained up to 20 al-Hussein missiles, with a range of 650km
Iraq may be able to produce missiles with a range of more than 1,000km by 2007
Despite Blair's attempt to characterize the threat from Iraq as "current and serious," it appears clear from his own dossier that the threat is years out at best.
Although Iraq may have a nuclear weapon (a weapon) in as little as one year if it can obtain fissile material, it will not have the capability to deliver such a weapon even the 650km range of its al-Hussein missiles, because the report indicates that these missiles are only "capable of carrying chemical or biological warheads."
While chem/bio weapons are distasteful, those in Iraq's possession do not represent a qualitatively different threat than conventional weapons do. According to the Carnegie Endowment for International peace, "if [Iraq's chemical and/or biological weapons are] delivered, dozens or hundreds would die, but not significantly more than would die from conventional military assaults or terrorist attacks on critical infrastructures" (link, scroll to Conclusion section).
Aside from its non-nuclear al-Hussein, Iraq's missile program is limited to a range of 200km or less.
Israel is over 300km from Iraq at the nearest point.
It has been noted by others that the type of bomb Iraq could produce from foreign fissile material in a year would be far larger than the suitcase-bomb of terrorist nightmare scenarios, and much more difficult to deliver through smuggling or other surreptitious means. "If Saddam manages one day to build a crude nuclear device, he's still far from having the technology to make a small, transportable weapon that terrorists could deploy," says a TIME Magazine article entitled What does Saddam have?
What are we left with? Not all arguments for war on Iraq rely on the notion that it represents a significant, imminent threat. But those that are couched in those terms continue to suffer from a dearth of evidence. Iraq has no nuclear weapon, is years away from producing one, and cannot deliver one if produced. Its chemical and/or biological weapons are also difficult to deliver, and have about the same destructive power as conventional explosive bombs. Condoleeza Rice was right, though she must hate to admit it: "There's no smoking gun."
I am missing a Waifs gig to go to the Blogger Bash. Maybe I will ditch out early to catch the second show. Or take you with me.
In the meantime, here are five classic posts from the Objectionable Content archives that (I think) are a good way to introduce people to this blog. If you're surfing over before the blog party to get a handle on who you might meet, look no further.
It's Monday. I send a note to the girl from the old days. Hello girl from the old days. How is she. It has been a long time. I say 'I feel' it has been a long time, but it isn't just a feeling. It has. Almost five months. I want to have dinner.
It's Tuesday. She says people from work are grabbing drinks on Friday. Do I want to join?
I have never had better chicken-wings. The beer is cheap for New York, and you can buy it in pitchers. We do. When I show up, there are six people. I make seven. By the end of the night, it's nine, plus the two firemen at the next table who we buy drinks for, plus their dates.
It's mostly people from her work, telling stories about other people from her work. The firm's new hires are turning out to be lame. I join in with ease, elaborating on fabulous stories about people I've never heard of. We're all talking at once -- to each other, across each other, half of us making fun of the other half. One of the firemen comes over to thank us for the drinks. We all shake hands. Mary, who I've just met, tells him her name is Betty.
Wait, did she lie to me or the fireman? The fireman she says.
We both agree that Betty is a great name, and underused.
We are several pitchers into the night when revelations turn into dares turn into a roun-robin of Stupid Human Tricks. The girl from the old days can move her toes completely independently of each other. The non-profit guy can make his thumb lie flat along the length of his forearm. The four-leaf-clover-tongue girl can make a four-leaf clover with her tongue (I swear). The boyfriend of the girl from the old days can put his fist in his mouth.
No. How can he do that? It's impossible.
He just needs time to warm up. It's not easy. You have to loosen the face muscles.
Twenty minutes later he does it.
One minute later, so does non-profit guy.
Five seconds later we are all doing it. "Like this?" we say, looking at each other, fists in our mouths. Putting your fist in your mouth is the easiest thing in the world. It's a new fad. An epidemic. We are all freaks of nature. The entire rest of the bar should be edging away from the nine people at the two center tables with their fists in their mouths.
No such thing happens.
I'm sitting next to the girl from the old days most of the time. It's Friday, and it's a work get-together, so she is dressed casually. And me. I am. We are not beautiful, like before, but we are still ourselves.
We will have dinner, just the two of us, next week.
She never actually puts her fist in her mouth.
And I don't have to twist myself into a different shape just to be able to be around her.
I don't really give a damn about whether his daughter Noelle somehow escaped prosecution for her possession of cocaine. What does bother me is the continuing refusal by huge swaths of this country to pay attention to the tragedy of our drug laws.
In Florida alone, 10,000 non-violent drug offenders are incarcerated. Our laws are strucured in such as way as to classify possession of even small amounts of drugs as "possession with intent to distriubute," allowing us to throw thousands of drug-users into jail by calling them drug-dealers.
Wandering through weblogs.com a few days ago, I ran across William Burton's weblog. While there, I came across a post of his on "the issues surrounding our former friend Saddam Hussein and his reign of terror in the Middle East."
William had me on-board right away when he wrote, "I'll try to delineate what I feel to be the salient points and draw policy from them, rather than start with the policy first and point out only the facts that support it." Thus began a twenty-point delineation of the current situation with regards to Iraq. I knew immediately I wanted to blog it, but there was no time, and so it went into the bookmarks file.
Three or four days later, out of the blue, I get an e-mail from William. He's added me to his blogroll (thanks!) and by the way, he posted something I might like to read. William might've e-mailed a few other people, because suddenly Jim Henley and Patrick Nielsen Hayden were mentioning his blog. Good company, I say. But I found William first and I'm staking my claim here and now.
Amazingly, Jim Henley doesn't mention the post of William's that I got excited about. More amazingly, neither did William in his e-mail to me. He wanted me to look at a much less interesting (in my opinion) post. But I will not be swayed. William's post on Iraq is singular, and it's going to get the attention it deserves.
Below is every one of his twenty points. They're highlighted in yellow. My thoughts on each one are below. My responses will be far less succinct, less elegant, than the original points are. If I spent more time tightening them up, this post wouldn't appear until next week. In places I disagree with what I interpret William to have meant, but what would be the point in posting if I didn't?
Anyway, here we go.
1) Saddam Hussein is a brutal, despotic scumbag who's proven he'll do anything to hold onto or increase his power. He's had relatives and lifelong friends tortured and killed. He's invaded both Kuwait and Iran. He's used poison gas against both enemy combatants (in Iran) and his own civilians (the Kurds). He allows Iraqi children to die of treatable illnesses because their deaths make the Western sanctions against his regime look bad.
William is right, and I'm not sure if there is anyone among the anti-war group that disagrees.
2) Hussein isn't crazy, stupid, or suicidal. You don't stay alive and in control this long by being stupid. He doesn't want to die and join Allah in heaven. He doesn't think he's a living God, nor does he think little green men from Mars or the neighbor's dog are giving him orders. He does what he does out of rational self-interest (as he sees it).
William is right again, though many of the hawks do argue that Hussein is crazy and stupid. One of the pillars of their arguments is his initiation of a war against Iran, one that they say ended disastrously for him. However, there are a few strong counters to this view:
Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution was a direct threat to Iraq's secular government. Iraq is ruled by Hussein's Ba'athist party, a secular government of Sunni Muslims. It's population is mostly Shi'a Muslims, the same brand of Islam practiced in Iran. Iran attempted to capitalize on this in 1979-80 by "embarking on a campaign designed to enflame the Shi'a population of Iraq and subvert the Iraqi government." Iranian-backed terrorists went so far as to attempt an assassination of Iraqi foreign minister Tariq Aziz. While war with Iran may not have been an attractive option for Hussein, it could well have represented the only possible response to the threat that Iran posed to his regime.
Iraq had many reasons to be confident of victory. Iran had recently undergone what was effectively two violent revolutions (the overthrow of the Shah and the fall of Mehdi Bazargan, the first president of the new Islamic Republic of Iran). The country was far from stable: most of the high-ranking officers of the army had been executed, Kurds were rebelling, and the army was judged to be weak. Indeed, Iraq's invasion was successful for two years before it was beaten back and Iran reclaimed formerly occupied territory.
In the final analysis, an aggressive war with Iran was a miscalculation if the goal was conquest. But it may have been Hussein's only option in the face of a Shi'a fundamentalist threat to his rule.
The attack on Kuwait may have been justified by mixed signals from the U.S. as most people know by now, but Iraq's failure to withdraw after a clear ultimatum had been given does suggest that Hussein might be stupid. However, is he so stupid that he hasn't learned from that mistake? I doubt it.
3) Hussein is a scumbag, but there are lots of other scumbags in the world. Some have even been our friends (see Somoza, Anastasio; also Sese Seko, Mobutu). Libya, Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia have all exported terror at one time or another and all treat their people like absolute shit. We just finished giving preferential trade terms to China, which forces women to have abortions, uses slave labor to manufacture exports, and sells the organs of condemned prisoners (few of whom did anything that would be worthy of the death penalty in the US).
William is right.
4) We can handle scumbags, just not ones bent on dominating the world's oil supply. We wouldn't have a problem with Hussein if he were simply a routine despot letting his people starve while he built palaces. It's his predisposition for conquest and domination that has us (rightly) freaked out.
A state's "predisposition for conquest and domination" should only be of concern if that state has the capability to achieve its goals. A neutered Iraq, no matter how grand its dreams, is of far less concern than an ambitions and powerful Iraq. If oil is our concern, then Hussein should only worry us to the extent that he can affect our supply of oil.
As far as I'm aware, few hawks are arguing that Iraq has such capabilities today, Some do argue that if Hussein acquires nuclear weapons, he will be able to use them to threaten or conquer his neighbors and so control much of the oil in the Middle East. William himself makes this point (#8 on his list) and so I will address it there.
5) Hussein wants to be a player. Life as the unchallenged dictator of a relative backwater is not the life for him, he wants power over other people. Preferably, he'd like to be the dominant military force in the oil-producing parts of the Middle East. If not, he'd settle for a being a hero to the Arab world, with his opinion having great sway over the fates of other leaders.
This is hard to dispute. The question is: to what lengths will Hussein go to achieve greater power? Even more critically: to what extent will Hussein risk losing all of the power he currently has (and possibly his life) in pursuit of even greater power?
Framed this way, it is a lot less clear how willing Hussein would be to resume large-scale belligerence in the vein of his invasion of Kuwait.
6) Hussein already has both biological and chemical weapons. Both are relatively easy to make and easy to hide once made. However, both are difficult to use in a way that would immediately threaten the West. He could use nerve gas against enemy troops in the field, or spread the plague to Hadjis in Mecca, but it would be much more difficult to use them against us directly. That is not to say, however, that it is impossible (it's not). Biological weapons could certainly do a lot of damage, especially if a contagious disease with a long incubation time were spread through Western Europe.
If this is not true, it is at least highly likely. Even Scott Ritter, perennial opponent to war with Iraq, concedes that Iraq could have reconstituted its chemical weapons capabilities since inspectors were withdrawn in 1998. In all likelihood, however, Hussein's chemical weapons are crude, as are any bio weapons he may have. When Anthrax was discovered by the inspection team, for example, it was not the sophisticated powdered version used recently in the U.S., but a cruder liquid form that is more difficult to deliver.
7) He doesn't have nukes, but he'd like to. Nuclear weapons are much harder to build, the components are much more rare, and they are much harder to keep hidden once built (radiation leaks and is relatively easy to spot, foreign scientists are noticeable, people talk). However, once in hand, Nukes are much easier to use effectively. A missile, an airplane, a container ship, or a delivery truck could all be used to explode a nuclear device in a foreign city.
William is right.
8) We really, really don't want him to get nukes. Not only would that make Hussein the de facto leader of the Arab world (as possessor of the long-sought "Arab Bomb"), it would make him a very real threat to our dear friend Israel and give him a veto over the actions of every country in the Persian Gulf region. It's not the use of the bomb, but its threatened use that would be enough. Every power in the region (other than Israel) would have to back down before his threats and Israel would have to consider itself at a stalemate. Even the US would have to think long and hard about confronting a fellow nuclear power.
There is no doubt that being the first Arab (but second Muslim) state to possess nuclear weapons would give Iraq tremendous prestige in the Arab world. It would indeed make Iraq more of a threat to Israel than it currently is. The question is how much more. Would a nuclear bomb give Hussein "a veto over the actions of every country in the Persian Gulf?" I doubt it.
First, it's important to consider the quantity of nuclear weapons that Iraq would have, if it succeeded in acquiring weapons at all. Israel may have as many as 400 nuclear weapons (or as few as 100). It is pursuing second-strike capability via sub-launched missiles. Iraq, on the other hand, must acquire the fissile material for any weapon from foreign sources.
Analysts at the International Institute for Strategic Study argue that it would be difficult for Iraq to acquire enough material for even one nuclear weapon from outside sources.
"We rate the chance of Iraq acquiring fissile material as low, even though you can't rule it out," Samore said. "It would be difficult for Iraq or any other group to obtain enough fissile material to build a weapon." (link, scroll down)
Regional hegemonies are not built on the backs of a single weapon, acquired in a non-repeatable (or at best, difficult to repeat) fashion.
Another argument against William's contention is our experience with the Soviet Union. The Soviets have one of the world's two largest nuclear stockpiles. This did indeed allow them to project their power (for example, in the invasion of Czechoslovakia in the 50s), but only up to a point. Where the U.S. felt it had vital interests, it was able to prevent Soviet encroachment -- despite the USSR's immense nuclear arsenal.
In the case of Iraq, the United States clearly has vital interests in the region, and so we'd have an incentive to contain Hussein. Further, in terms of relative power, we would also have the ability to do so. Whether or not Iraq can acquire a bomb from foreign sources, its military arsenal will be vastly inferior to our own. Our strength would prevent Iraq from projecting its power in the Persian Gulf, just as it prevented the Soviets from projecting theirs into Western Europe.
The U.S. is capable of protecting the other Gulf states, threatening massive retaliation in their name, and neutralizing any Iraqi "nuclear veto" that might otherwise have existed.
What it is more difficult to do is to prevent an attempted clandestine use of a nuclear weapons against us by Iraqi-backed terrorist organizations. As William noted in point #7, there are relatively easy ways to explode a nuclear device in a foreign city. The question for Hussein, assuming he wants to do this, is can he do it untraceably. If he can, then the barriers to his doing it are lower. If he can't, then deterrence may be an effective protection for us.
Another consideration is trust. A nuclear weapon is a valuable artifact and a dangerous tool. Such tools are rarely shared voluntarily even by nations that have enough to share. There is no known example of an entity in possession of only one weapon giving up that single weapon to others. But Hussein would have to give up the weapon if his aim is to detonate it in the U.S. without being linked to the attack. And therein lies the rub.
Once you get a nuke, you are somebody. Once you give it up, you are nobody again. The kind of nobody that might even be eliminated by the somebodies you just gave a nuke to. Who's to say that terrorists acquiring a bomb from Iraq wouldn't decide that messing with the USA is too much trouble and that the real payoff is liberating the Shi'a majority in Iraq from their oppressive, secular Sunni dictator?
You and I might discount this possibility and others like it, but could Hussein afford to?
Nuclear powers are likely to hoard their weapons until they have stockpiles large enough to make sharing feasible and to make proliferation less threatening to their own security.
9) We only care because of the oil. Let's face it. The only reason we don't write off the Middle East tomorrow (the way we have sub-Saharan Africa) is because they've got the oil and we need it to keep our lifestyle going. No one was beating the drum to invade Uganda just because Idi Amin was eating his enemies.
10) Motivation is irrelevant. The wrong thing is still the wrong thing even if we do it for the right reasons (see Vietnam, Cambodia, et al). The right thing is still the right thing even if we do it for the wrong reasons (see Noriega, Manuel; currently a guest of the Federal corrections system).
This is true if kept to a strictly logical hypothetical, but in reality there is a dangerous assumption, which is that motivation will not influence actions. If the US would do the right thing whether its motivations were honorable or evil, then motivation would be irrelevant. But it is very possible that motivations will end up affecting the kind of action we take with regards to Iraq.
If we are after a more direct hegemony in the Middle East, for example, that goal implies certain actions, and those actions, and certain consequences. We may find ourselves maintaining a significant military presence in Iraq for years to come. Such a presence could have dramatic positive or negative consequences.
On the other hand, if the U.S. was simply after the disarmament of Iraq, the necessary steps to achieve this goal might be quite different from those needed to achieve hegemony. Troops might be necessary to back up the inspection teams, but no long-term military occupation would be likely. Ignoring the issue of whether a long-term military presence in Iraq is a good thing or not, it's clear that different motives could lead to widely different outcomes for us.
Motivations matter. They are not adequate either as arguments for war or as counter-arguments against it, but they are not irrelevant. What should be focused on is how motivations might affect actions, and what the consequences of those actions may be.
11) Competence and staying power, however, are not irrelevant. If we do the right thing in the wrong way, it could turn out far worse than doing nothing at all (see Afganistan 1980-2001). If our leaders lack either the competence to pull off an invasion in the best way it could be done or the staying power to do what needs to be done afterwards, we need to take that into account when making a decision.
This is true not only with regards to invasion, but also with the alternatives to invasion. Ineffective inspection regimes are useless. It might be argued, however, that the difficulty in getting an invasion right is much greater than the difficulty in getting inspections right. It might be easier to fail at war than it is to succeed at disarmament.
12) None of our allies want us to invade, but allies are quite important when taking action, much less so when deciding what action to take. Just because other countries don't want us to invade does not necessarily mean that we shouldn't want to invade. We should factor into the Cost-Benefit Analysis the damage done to our relations with other countries by acting alone. Few things would be worth the cost if it involved every other nation cutting off relations and ceasing trade with us immediately (not that this is even a remote possibility). We also need to take the availability (or lack of it) of help into account when deciding if a plan is feasible.
The situation has changed somewhat since William wrote this, and it will probably change again soon after I write this. Now that the U.S. has bowed to domestic and international pressure and called for inspections instead of taking a short-cut straight to invasion, the U.S. has much more international support.
For example, after refusing to allow the use of Saudi bases for a unilateral U.S. invasion of Iraq, the Kingdom has now said that in the context of a UN resolution, its airbases will be open. Egypt has also toned down its opposition to war.
Both of these changes can be attributed to Bush's speech before the UN, called genius by conservatives. I see Bush's speech as an abandonment of his earlier policy, and essentially as a capitulation to the (proper) demands of his critics. Bush was forced to go to the UN just as he was forced to make his case to Congress. All early indications from the administration were that it preferred to act unilaterally. Only after sharp public condemnation at home and abroad did Bush change his tune.
But, motivation is irrelevant ;-) and whatever Bush's reasons, the effects of his appeal to the UN have been positive.
The U.S. is the only super-power, and ultimately, we will decide what we wish to do, and we are capable of acting unilaterally. A true realist, however, would advise that we don't. First, because it is possible that with only a little work, we will gain international support for the re-admission of inspectors into Iraq, and for possible military action should Iraq prevent or obstruct their work. Second, because the costs of unilateral action may be high.
"War by its nature creates chaos (or opportunity/possibility). It opens doors for change. Alter the status quo and all the actors make new calculations about what is in their interest and what threatens them, and it is hard to predict the outcomes. The Gulf War went to our script because we made a prolonged, careful effort to know where all the relevant actors were and to assure them of what we were doing.
They understood the cause of our action and they were able to anticipate its end, and so they could get comfortable with its effect on them -- and we could get comfortable with their reactions and limit unintended consequences.
We have nothing like this kind of consensus for a new war on Iraq, and unless we get it the door is open for unhappy surprises with significant negative costs to us and to people in the Middle East."
Negative consequences are possible even within the framework of coalition -- but their effects are likely to be dampened. Each state that joins a coalition necessarily limits its own unilateral action, while the creation of a strong coalition also serves to limit potential actions by non-coalition members.
If Iraq's Kurds revolt after Hussein is deposed, for example, this could draw Kurds in Iran and Turkey into rebellion -- both groups have been at odds with their governments in the recent past. In such a case, having Iran on our bandwagon beforehand could be invaluable. And even if Iran never joins the coalition, the existence of a multi-national force that includes Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan, and other Middle Eastern countries would make it far easier to deal with any rogue actions or unforeseen events.
Allies are indeed quite important in taking action, in many ways beyond those that William mentioned.
13) If we invade, Hussein will attack Israel, just like he did last time. This time, however, we should expect more than just Scuds. He'll pull out the chemical weapons, whatever air force he has left, everything but the kitchen sink. The intent will be to get the Arab world to rally around him, and it just might work. Any Arab nation standing with us may face open revolt in its streets.
An attack on Israel by Hussein -- if we invade -- is, I agree, extremely likely. The likelihood of domestic revolt against our Arab allies in such a case depends on how much work was done before an invasion to give Iraq the opportunity to avoid a war by disarming. If Saddam is given a reasonable chance to submit to international verification of his disarmament, and if such verification is not used as a cover for espionage aimed at regime-change, then Arab opposition, even at the "street" level, may be minimized.
They key is that our motives be pure, as it were, and that we act accordingly.
The U.S. has every opportunity to use the inspections as a club to make Iraq "provoke" us into war. Hussein is justifiably worried that the inspection teams will act beyond their mandate of verifying disarmament, and use their privileged access to track his own movements and assist the U.S. and others in attempts to assassinate or remove him. Attempts to do so during the previous inspection regime have been documented by the New York Times and others (see link above).
If we truly want to railroad Saddam into a war, it will be easy to do. We demand inspections without backing down from our avowed goal of regime change. In other words, give him no incentive to accept. If he refuses, then we have reason to attack. If he does accept, we use the inspectors as spies, and he either objects -- which we then characterize as an obstruction to disarmament and use as justification to attack -- or he does nothing, and we use the intelligence to remove or kill him as soon as we can.
Perhaps Saddam is evil enough that we ought to do this, but the reaction of the Arabs will depend on whether we pursue this course or the more limited goal of disarmament without regime change. If our avowed goal is regime change regardless of any Iraqi disarmament, it will be seen as (it may be) imperialistic. This does not mean we shouldn't do it.
But, in such a context, an Iraqi attack against Israel could be viewed much more favorably by the Arabs as self-defense against a perceived US-Israeli cabal seeking hegemony over the Middle East.
14) The "Best Case Scenario" almost never comes to pass. While the Gulf War itself almost fits that bill (I'm not sure killing 100,000 Iraqi draftees would have been the "Best Case"), its aftermath certainly doesn't. No one wanted to see Hussein stay in power and gradually rebuild his military capability, yet there he is.
True, true. Though Bush Sr. and many others were explicit about their decision to end the Gulf War when they did. The choice not to go after Hussein was a conscious one. The coalition built by that administration had been built for a certain purpose -- getting Iraq out of Kuwait -- and that purpose had been achieved. Limiting the actions of coalition-members to the agreed-upon objectives is one of the great strengths (or weaknesses) of multilateral action.
Further, the extent to which Saddam has rebuilt his military capability is unclear. Many hawks argue that he is weaker today than he was in 1990, and that Gulf War II will be a walk in the park. Most agree that his conventional weapons capability is limited.
That said, William's main point is so right it's almost a truism. Again, it is true of war and of alternatives like containment and deterrence. The question is, what type of risks does each course of action open us up to? What are the likely 'worst case' scenarios for war, for deterrence? Of the likely negative scenarios, which is worse?
15) This will not be a repeat of the Gulf War. We cannot waltz into battle expecting our opponents to surrender en masse (see USSR v. Finland, 1939-1940). Hussein will not have his troops in the open desert as easy bait for airstrikes. They will be deep in the mountains (where we can cut them off and leave them to starve) and in the cities (where we must root them out house-to-house). This will be an ugly, vicious war (see Stalingrad, Beirut, Grozny, et al) with high casualties on both sides and lots of dead civilians. Hussein's troops won't fight fair. They'll stay in populated areas where they have civilans as human shields and they'll use every weapon at their disposal (including chemical and biological weapons). That's not to say that this might not be worth it, just that we need to take it into account.
Could be right. I don't know enough to say, but all of the above sounds plausible. The last sentence is the key sentence.
16) After the invasion is over, we won't all sit around a campfire holding hands, singing Kumbaya, and giving each other backrubs. The Iraqis have no tradition of liberal democracy and pluralism to fall back on, as Western Europe did after WWII and as Central Europe did after fall of the Iron Curtain. No Vaclav Havel will emerge to lead them into the light of a new day. There will be a bitter power struggle, with the Shiite majority, the Kurdish minority, and the Sunni dominated military and economic structure in opposite corners. There will be on "Rule of Law" (there never has been), there will be no respect for each other's human rights (ditto) and there will be no peace unless it is imposed from outside.
I've expressed almost exactly the same view in that comments discussion with Blow Hard that I mentioned before. Post-war Iraq will be a powderkeg.
17) Unfortunately, we won't be able to just declare victory and go home. As stated in #9 above, we need the oil. Not only does Iraq have about 10% of the world's oil reserves, it sits right next to Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, representing about half the oil in the world. Please don't mention crap like ANWR. It wouldn't pump enough oil in a decade to replace the Gulf's output for a week. Walking away from Iraq as it dissolves into chaos just isn't an option, not with our oil-driven economy (pun intended).
Grim, but right.
18) Yes, this means nation-building. We would need to keep troops in Iraq for the foreseeable future to ensure a successful transition to a stable nation. Anything less would be to invite disaster.
In other words, if we invade, nation-building is a necessity. If we don't invade, we will face other necessities -- but they may be simpler ones.
19) Note: I didn't say a stable democracy. Despite the ravings of some ideologues to the contrary, democracy is not in Iraq's immediate future under any realistic scenario, nor should we want it to be. The immediate result of a truly democratic election would most likely be the immediate impostion of a Shiite theocracy followed by years of civil war. The best we can hope for is a relatively benign monarchy like that in Jordan or Morocco, the worst (other than civil war) would be some variation of the brutal theocrats currently running Iran and Saudi Arabia.
I don't think democracy is in the cards for Iraq. If the Kurds had self-determination, they'd probably secede. We've already promised the Turks we won't allow an independent Kurdish sate to be formed out of Iraq, and believe me, the Iraqi Kurds do not want to become part of Iran or Turkey and trade Hussein's repression for a different brand. If I am wrong and a true democracy emerges as the first government after Hussein is toppled, I will kiss an extremely beautiful woman. Yes, I'm that serious.
20) We shouldn't really care who ends up on top as long as they foreswear offensive military actions and nuclear weapons and seem capable of governing the country into the foreseeable future. This is why we want a benevolent monarchy, they tend to last a lot longer. We will, of course, end up taking sides, if for no other reason than that the House of Saud wants us to. Unfortunately, they control the oil wells and we've been too short-sighted to cut consumption when we had a chance.
This is true under realism in the short term, maybe not in the long term if we believe that truly representative government for others is in our interests -- and I think it is. Normatively, if we care about the Iraqis for the sheer joy of being moral beings ourselves, then we should also favor liberty and freedom for them (values which are not a priori associated with democracy alone, or even at all).
So we are approaching the 20,000 hit mark, on my stingiest webcounter.
Jefe: We have stuffed many pinatas for your birthday celebration!
El Guapo: How many pinatas?
Jefe: Many pinatas, many!
El Guapo: Jefe, would you say I have a plethora of pinatas?
Jefe: A what?
El Guapo: A plethora.
Jefe: Yes, El Guapo, you have a plethora.
El Guapo: Tell me Jefe, what is a plethora?
Two weeks ago I saw James Longley's documentary, Gaza Strip over at Cinema Village. It's run in New York has ended, but you can catch it in Washington DC until the 20th. Or you can buy the video. I did.
I am Mohammed Hejazi, from Sejjaia.
I went to school when I was small, but I didn't like it. I left school and worked at a bakery, but I didn't like that either, so I went to sell newspapers. Because I don't like to be confined.
I quit school five years ago, in the second grade. I am thirteen years old.
James, who doesn't speak Arabic, spent four months in Gaza in early 2001 -- starting before Sharon was elected and ending with the first Israeli re-incursion into Area A. Area A is territory ostensibly controlled by the Palestinian Authority but subject, as are all of Gaza and the West Bank, to Israel's military rule. On the web site created for the film, Longley describes what his intentions for the structure of the documentary were:
My plan was to find a main character to follow -- probably a stone-throwing kid or an ambulance driver -- who would be able to give a narration and framework to the events taking place. I knew from the start that I didn't want to write a narration for the film; I wanted the characters I filmed to speak for themselves and tell their own stories.
I found the film's principal voice in the person of Mohammed Hejazi, a 13-year-old paper boy in Gaza City. He was the first person I filmed inside the Gaza Strip. One afternoon early in my stay I walked out to Karni Crossing, a place in east Gaza where many children have been killed and wounded by Israeli soldiers while throwing stones at tanks, and the kids there pushed him in front of the camera as their spokesperson. It was no accident: Mohammed could talk the ears off a donkey, and he has a great deal to say.
He does have a great deal to say. I'm going to try to distill a piece of it.
The words can easily be emptied of their impact when separated from the footage. You need to see people sitting in the tents that they live in since their houses were demolished, kids convalescing in hospital beds from the gunshot wounds they received for throwing stones, old men lamenting their impotence in the face of tanks, soldiers, guns.
There is a scene in the movie where a boy no more than ten (not Mohammed) talks about the death of his friend. He speaks in Arabic -- the entire film is in Arabic -- so you have to keep your eyes open to read the subtitles. You can't understand him without them. But if you close your eyes, it is suddenly so clear how young he is, how high and tremulous is his voice. And when you open them again there he is, his head small, delicate, his features soft and rounded like children's are.
I can't reproduce these things. All I have are subtitles. You'll just have to imagine.
During the first intifada, when we were small, they came and took my father away. Because he threw stones ... Just like me, when he was a kid.
My father was in prison. Before prison he used to give us money. Now we barely have enough to survive. He doesn't have steady work now. He is forbidden from going to Israel. So now I'm supporting the family, together with my father when he works.
We support my brothers and sisters.
The film opens with Mohammed talking about going to Karni Crossing. He comes home with oranges sometimes, and his mother asks him where they came from. He tells her, but he says he didn't go there to throw stones. You get the impression that she knows better, but what can she do, forbid him from leaving the house? He supports the family.
Mohammed knows how dangerous Karni is. This is him, talking about his best friend, who died there before his eyes.
We used to cut school, and hide our schoolbooks in the weeds. We had a treehouse ... Every day we were together. We were each other's shadow. We were like a knot that can't be undone.
Every Eid I go to sprinkle water on his grave. Every Friday. And over the graves of my other friends.
At thirteen Mohammed can say "the graves of my other friends" as if it were normal. I am twice his age. Not one of my friends is dead.
But there's that feeling inside you. Like you have to do something. Something. Or else what are you? What does it all mean, if they walk all over you and you let them?
So you go to Karni Crossing, where you know the tanks can be found. You throw stones. You watch your friends get killed.
In the end I am nothing. All of life is nothing.
I would rather die. It would be easier. Easier than all these things in life.
Death is torture.
What is death?
I imagine myself in a place where nobody can see me. I'm in a place where I can't see anyone, and no one can see me.
More than 1,200,000 people live in the Gaza Strip. It is four miles wide and less than thirty miles long, making it the sixth-most densely populated place on Earth. The kind of place that leads to visions of an afterlife without any other people in it.
All my friends are dead. I have nobody left. Just the newspaper kid, and then that'll be it.
I think being dead would be easier for me. Honestly.
What is death? It's like life.
We awake. God is on one side, and I am on the other. Mohammed would be beside me.
God: Do you pray?
God: Grind him to dust!
God: Why did you throw stones?
Me: I was defending my homeland.
God: Do you know how to read?
God: Do you know a verse of the Koran?
Me: Yes! Thanks be to the Almighty! Ruler of the universe!
God: Sweet! But only one verse? Out of thousands? Flog him!
God: Why do you steal?
Me: For money.
God: Why did you hang out with martyrs?
Me: Because they were my friends.
God: Why do you throw stones at the tanks? They are your cousins!
Me: Because they cut the trees and killed my friends.
God: Fine. But you know what? Throw him on the fire!
Lots of fun.
In the film, Mohammed is sitting alone in a room, reciting this imaginary dialog to himself. He jokes, telling the story. At the end he almost, but not quite, laughs.
His God chastises him for stealing, for being illiterate, even for opposing the soldiers that oppress him. "They are your cousins" Mohammed has his self-imagined deity say to him. But Mohammed doesn't apologize. Watching him you get a sense of fatalism. He lived the only way he could. He knows that there is a divine standard that he hasn't measured up to, but he can't change. Life demanded the response that he gave.
Perhaps God will put me in Paradise, perhaps in Hell.
No, better yet, on the mountain, the mountain between Paradise and Hell.
It would be so wonderful.
On the mountain, one comes to you at night. He speaks with you, and brings you food. He is neither from Paradise nor from Hell. He is from nowhere.
It sounds like he's longing for death, but that isn't how I interpret it. He wants the in-between place, the place between Hell and Paradise. Nowhere.
Anyone else would call it Earth, life. But the Earth that Mohammed lives in isn't a place anyone would want to be. The mountain is the world, it's a normal life, but Mohammed lives in Gaza, and the only way he can imagine getting to a normal life is to die.
In February 2001, the Israeli military used a yet-unidentified gas on Palestinian civilians in the Khan Younis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip. Click below to download a PDF (2.2MB) file of transcripts from interviews with patients, doctors, ambulance drivers and others describing this incident in detail. These interviews were recorded by James Longley during production of his documentary film, Gaza Strip, and are provided here for the curious reader.
The most striking aspect of Gaza Strip was the documentation of an Israeli gas attack on Khan Yunis. Longley was in the camp shortly after the attack, and was able to film some of the victims in the hospital as they suffered, and to interview many of them and their caretakers. These are excerpts from his interviews:
We were sitting in our house.
There was shooting.
We fled our homes.
The house where we were was hit.
We saw a fire, and we tried to put it out.
First we saw white smoke,
then yellow smoke and other colors.
There was the smell of mint.
When you breathe it in you don’t feel pain.
It feels good.
After 45 minutes you start feeling like you can’t breathe
The house was hit.
We thought it was a fire – we tried to put it out.
But it wasn’t a fire.
At first there was white smoke – then many other colors,
like a rainbow.
And the smell was good.
You want to breathe more.
You feel good when you inhale it.
Then, after 45 minutes you have difficulty breathing,
and you feel a burning sensation in your stomach,
and you want to scratch your body.
You feel hot, a constricting sensation.
They give us injections to calm us,
but then after one hour the symptoms return.
I stayed a few days in intensive care.
I was unconscious for three days.
I had a pain in my head,
and then these blotches started appearing, and my legs felt limp.
I felt dizzy and I couldn’t walk, I fell down.
Somebody always has to be with me.
I’ve been here for 12 days.
A canister landed in our courtyard --
and smoke was coming out of it –
I closed the door to the room where we were
and smoke came in from underneath the door
I was shouting “help me! help me!”
After that I couldn’t shout at all – I couldn’t make a sound ...
We were suffocating – we couldn’t make any sounds.
First of all the smoke was white, then yellow, then black.
Its taste was like sugar – the smell was sweet.
It was not unpleasant to smell.
Black smoke came out
and the guys said “what is this – it has no smell.”
“It doesn’t smell at all.”
Then after a while it had the smell of mint.
Mint, mint, mint.
And the guys said “it’s harmless – this gas is nothing!”
This gas – you can’t extinguish the canisters with water or a blanket.
It’s hard to breathe, chest constricted,
and you lose control of what you’re doing.
You space out (enter a different world),
you forget yourself.
You feel all kinds of things in your chest.
Burning, hard to breathe, stomach pains.
Your head gets heavy
Doctors interview – Nasser hospital – Doctor Yasser Sheikh Ali, March 24th On the evening of the 12th, within the space of an hour,
about 50 gas inhalation cases arrived at Nasser Hospital.
Their symptoms were as follows:
Severe excretions of fluids,
extreme difficulty in breathing,
The patients didn’t respond to treatments which
were used in the past with tear gas.
The numbers in which the patients came
to the hospital were frightening.
The were from all ages;
it affected the old and young.
The impression was that this was
a gas attack on civilians – most
of the gas canisters
fell on peoples’ homes.
In what followed, the cases of convulsions continued
with many of the patients – and
cases of hysteria.
And psychological complications as well – the patients
were afraid of the next onset of their attacks,
and so even as they were suffering from their symptoms
they also feared the next onset.
Even now we still have patients suffering from
recurrences of their original symptoms:
headaches, chest pains, aches in the knees, fatigue,
blotches on the skin
that had not been their before.
They vary in age from 60 to 15 years old.
It eats me like ants
and I try to scratch it out – and
they gave me all those injections
for nothing – I scratch and scratch and
the pain never goes away.
It crawls in my body like ants.
Even now I cough and vomit and
you can say my chest – it’s like
a stone in my chest
filled with air.
I was walking to my relatives’ Abu Akka’s store.
We have stores up there also.
I went there to bring some things.
They shot a gas canister – but I didn’t
pay too much attention.
I smelled a perfume smell.
I didn’t pay attention. I went back.
I went back and started having a headache.
I left everything and went home.
It was an unbearable headache. I told my mother,
and she took me down to the street,
and then I knew no more.
I only woke up on the third day. In the hospital.
Only after the third day.
I found him holding the mattress and
hitting his head against the wall, trying to tear
Me and our cousins carried him to the hospital –
he spent 4 days in ICU and then
they brought him here –
he’s been here for about 8 days.
Every five minutes he gets the condition –
and he’s been like this without any change,
without any improvement.
He can’t eat. Yesterday we gave him milk,
and we gave him juice. We give him light things –
milk, juice, and water.
Every five minutes he gets a condition (convulsions) –
they give him injections
but the sedatives stop working in 10 minutes.
He’s very strong –
it takes 5 or 6 people to hold him down...
He feels the pain from inside his body.
When he relaxes for 3 minutes,
he can talk normally.
He says he wants to drink something.
He says “it’s crawling in my skin like ants.”
It starts in his arm
and then to his stomach, chest, head.
He can’t comprehend anything.
If only one person is holding him down he’ll throw him off
and smash the place up.
And they tell you: “give him a sedative.”
So they give him a sedative and he sleeps –
10 minutes later he’s awake again and
it’s the same story.
Whenever I screamed they would give me sedatives.
They kept giving him injection after injection –
but the drugs wore off in a couple
hours and the symptoms continued.
After he left ICU they kept giving him injections but they would wear off.
Doctors said that there is no cure for his case.
He can become addicted to the injections.
There’s no help solving this problem.
Aseval – all of these antibiotics.
We’ll become addicted to Aseval.
If we get cured from the gas, we’ll get addicted to the Aseval.
In the transcripts on his web site, Longley includes a few newswire clippings mentioning the attacks. Although a few of the wires picked up the story, no major news organization covered it, and no articles were written in the national papers here. I sent Longley an e-mail after seeing the film, and he pointed me to an article about the event in the Chicago Reader. In addition to describing the attack, the article recounts attempts to suppress the story by a fanatic pro-Israel group named (audaciously) Honest Reporting.
It may turn out that only Longley's careful documentation prevents the story of this gas attack from being denied and forgotten.
All night the flares go up; the Dragon sings
And beats upon the dark with furious wings;
And, stung to rage by his own darting fires,
Reaches with grappling coils from town to town;
He lusts to break the loveliness of spires,
And hurls their martyred music toppling down.
Yet, though the slain are homeless as the breeze,
Vocal are they, like storm-bewilder'd seas.
Their faces are the fair, unshrouded night,
And planets are their eyes, their ageless dreams.
Tenderly stooping earthward from their height,
They wander in the dusk with chanting streams,
And they are dawn-lit trees, with arms up-flung,
To hail the burning heavens they left unsung.
I saw his round mouth's crimson deepen as it fell,
Like a Sun, in his last deep hour;
Watched the magnificent recession of farewell,
Clouding, half-gleam, half glower,
And a last splendour burn the heavens of his cheek.
And in his eyes
The cold stars lighting, very old and bleak,
In different skies.
If I should die and leave you here a while,
be not like others sore undone,
who keep long vigil by the silent dust.
For my sake turn again to life and smile,
nerving thy heart and trembling hand
to do something to comfort other hearts than thine.
Complete these dear unfinished tasks of mine
and I perchance may therein comfort you.
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.
I came home one Friday
Had to tell the readers I done got a job
They said that don't confront us
Long as we get our new posts next Friday
Now next Friday come I didn't have the posts
And off the blogroll I went
So I goes to my readers
I said You let me slide?
I'll have some posts for you tomorrow, the next day, I don't know
So they let me slide it on you know people
I notice when I come home in the evenin'
My hitmeter ain't got nothin' nice to say to me
But when I was Blog of Note it was so nice
Lord it was lovey-dovey
I come home one particular evenin'
My readers said You got the new posts yet?
I said No, can't stop workin'
Therefore I ain't got no time to make new posts
My readers said We don't believe you're trying to make no posts
They said We seen you today you was standin' on a corner
Leaning against a post
I said But I'm tired, I've been workin' all day
My readers said That don't confront us
Long as we get some new posts by next Friday
Now next Friday come I didn't have the posts
And off the blogroll I went
So I surf the net
Down to my good friend's blog
I say look man I'm outta hits you know
Can you link to me for a couple days?
He said Uh let me think about how it'll affect my traffic
He came back from his hitmeter
I could see it in his face
I know'd it was no
He said I don't know man, it's uh kinda funny, you know
I said I know, everything's funny, now you funny too
So I go back to my blog
I tell my readers I done lost my job, I'm gonna post
They said Yeah? I said Oh yeah
And then they were so nice
Lord they was lovey-dovey
So I go to Blogger, sign out of my account and I go
I shut down the computer and down the streets I go
They're a-hollerin about the new posts they'll be lucky to get any draft posts
They ain't gonna get none of it
So I stop in to the local bar you know people
I go to the bar, I check my coat, I call the bartender
I said Look man, come down here, he got down there
Said What you want?
I said what date is it?
He said the calendar on the wall says September 20th
Last gasp of the Blogger Bash Said what you want?
One blogroll, one comment, and one link
Well I ain't seen my readers since I don't know when
I been trollin' blogdex and daypop, hopin' for zen
Gonna get famous man, listen to me
One permalink ain't enough jack, you better make it three
Gonna whore my blog out, don't have time to think
I want one blogroll, one comment, and one link
One blogroll, one comment, and one link
It is 11:41pm and I will probably go to bed soon, but for now I am at the computer, smiling a bit if I stop to think about it. There it goes again.
I think things are good. I watched TV today. It sounds prosaic but I just have a very good feeling.
Like when you are a kid maybe. You know? You have all these kid problems, but at the end of the day, your life is basically this extended fit of ecstasy, punctuated with things like Christmas presents and Saturday morning cartoons and bike races.
I am not *really* living an extended fit of ecstasy. But I feel nice today.
Then again, maybe I will look back on it 15 years from now and think I *was* in that ecstasy after all.
[Jim, to LAP. Monday, April 17, 2000, 11:41:57 PM]
Homer: Moe, I need your advice.
Moe: [bored] Yeah.
Homer: See, I got this friend named...Joey Jo-Jo...Junior...Shabadoo --
Moe: That's the worst name I ever heard.
[A man rushes out of the bar, weeping]
Barney: Hey, Joey Jo-Jo!
"As soon as Cyrus was born, Astyages sent for Harpagus, a man of his own house to whom he entrusted all his affairs, and said, "Take the child of Mandané my daughter to your home and slay him, then bury him as you will." Herodotus, The History
Because he was my relative
I could not kill the king's grandson
myself -- the shepherd let him live
and raised the baby as his own.
I didn't know. I didn't learn
until the king did, when the boy
was ten years old. At his return
the king claimed to feel only joy,
and let the shepherd live, and me,
and called a feast to celebrate.
When I had eaten my fill, he
had servants bring a covered plate
and show me, underneath the lid,
my own son's head and hands and feet.
Astyages laughed and said,
"Harpagus, did you like your meat?"
I said what pleased the king pleased me.
Revenge would take a decade more.
The feast continued, quietly.
I gathered gristle from the floor,
and spent the twilight shoveling,
poured in the scraps, his winter coat,
and knelt beside the opening
and stuck my fingers down my throat.
Frank Rich has a scathing critique of the Bush administration's prosecution of the war against al Qaeda in Saturday's New York Times. Rich suggests that the administration's emphasis on secrecy, often without regard to the Constitution, is a result of attempts to disguise how poorly the war on terror is going.
"Each week brings new evidence that our original task has largely been left unfulfilled in the wake of our early and successful routing of the Taliban. The Los Angeles Times has reported that the nearly 600 prisoners from 43 countries being held in U.S. military custody at Guantánamo Bay have yielded no senior Qaeda leaders whatsoever. On Wednesday The Washington Post found that two of the most important of those missing leaders are operating at full tilt out of Iran, where they are "directly involved in planning Al Qaeda terrorist operations," despite the Pentagon's announcement that one of them had been killed in Afghanistan in January.
The fact that this unhappy news arrives late and muted can be attributed in part to one other post-9/11 change. The Bush administration, never open to begin with, has now turned secrecy into a crusade so extreme that it is even fighting in court to protect the confidentiality of Bill Clinton's sleazy dealings with Marc Rich. (Why? Perhaps the executive privilege at stake would help hide its Energy Task Force's sleazy dealings with Enron.) There's a legitimate debate whether the defeat of terrorism justifies constitutional shortcuts — and that argument is playing out in court, where there have now been four judgments against the government this year, including a unanimous appellate decision this week. But more and more the argument is academic. The administration's blanket secrecy has less to do with the legitimate good of protecting our security than with the political goal of burying its own failures.
By keeping the names and court proceedings of his detainees under wraps, John Ashcroft could for months cover up his law enforcement minions' inability to apprehend a single terrorist connected to 9/11. The same stunt has been pulled by designating prisoners "enemy combatants" at Guantánamo. Jose Padilla, the "dirty bomber," whose arrest was trumpeted by the attorney general as the breakup of a major terrorist plot, turns out to be a nonentity who may not be charged with anything. But as long as Mr. Padilla is locked away in a legal deep freeze, that embarrassment can be kept on the q.t. In the same spirit, the F.B.I. is now investigating 17 members of the Senate Intelligence Committee for leaks to the press; revealingly, the leaks that angered Dick Cheney and prompted this investigation were not leaks about intelligence per se but leaks about how our government bungled intelligence on this administration's watch just before 9/11." (more)
The very real situation appears to be that those people who attacked us on September 11th are getting away with impunity, and meanwhile, we are gearing up for war against a country that had no involvement in the terrorism against us.
Based on communications we have had with Israel, it now appears that the U.S. will attack Iraq before the end of the year, perhaps as early as November. This in the face of decreasing public support. "Support for war with Iraq is falling," writes Rich in the Times, "from 70 percent last fall to 51 percent now, according to the new Time/CNN poll. A Washington Post/ABC News poll shows that only 40 percent would approve if there are ground troops and significant American casualties."
Frank Rich suggests, backhandedly, that the push for war against Saddam Hussein is unjustified. "Let's posit that the Iraq drumbeating is not a cynical effort to distract the country from the stalled war against al Qaeda or the stalled economy," he writes. Why should we posit any such thing? If the administration's priorities were in order, the public would be receiving continual updates on the progress of the war against bin Laden and his organization. Instead, the silence is deafening. All we get is noise about Iraq.
Hawks should be decrying this upside-down situation loudly. It is in all our interests that the U.S. succeed in its retribution against al Qaeda. The government looks to be on track to fail. Public pressure should hold the administration accountable for success or failure in this war, and insist that the genuine threats to our security be dealt with before the government pursues its adventure against Saddam Hussein.