Hope You Had a Happy Krauthammer Day!

by Henry on April 23, 2009

I forgot to note a very special anniversary yesterday. April 22nd is the date on which Charles Krauthammer opined:

Hans Blix had five months to find weapons. He found nothing. We’ve had five weeks. Come back to me in five months. If we haven’t found any, we will have a credibility problem.

You’ve now had six years. How’s that credibility looking?

{ 90 comments }

1

Barry 04.23.09 at 3:41 pm

Somebody (Brad DeLong, perhaps?) coined the term ‘fractal error’, meaning that not only is a paragraph wrong, but every sentence is also wrong in and of itself, and ever clause….

I don’t know if CabbagePounder has achieved true fractal error, but he’s still got multi-level error in that original statement. At the ‘five weeks’, remember that

1) The US (and other countries) had allegedly been tracking Saddam’s government’s actions for several years, probably using far more money and resources on that one project than the entire UN budget.

2) The US, UK and other countries would have provided much of the infrastructure for any WMD activities, from back when Saddam was ‘our SOB’. That’s an excellent starting point for intelligence work.

3) The US, UK and other countries had been debriefing a very large number of defectors, ever since the first Gulf War.

4) After the invasion and fall of Baghdad, the US was allegedly[1] in possession of the suspected WMD sites. This would have provided sufficient evidence to back the administration’s claims, even if most of the WMD activity had somehow escaped notice.
[1] I say allegedly, because it was later clear that the US didn’t even bother to secure such sites, which only makes sense if the administration didn’t believe that there was any WMD activity.

5) After the invasion and fall of Baghdad, the US was in a position to reveal many former secrets and sources about Saddam’s activities, since those sources would no longer be needed (some,methods of course, would still be secret, but not all). They could have had video’s ready to roll, and would have know which sites were the juiciest.

6) After the invasion and fall of Baghdad, a lot of people involved in such activities would have had motivation to come forward and pony up the information, in exchange for protection from the post-Saddam government, and of course, money.

So after five weeks honest people were already wondering. Then again, that group does not include CabbagePounder, never did and never will.

2

Ginger Yellow 04.23.09 at 5:13 pm

But there were weapons! To the east, west, south and north somewhat of Tikrit and Baghdad. Rummy wouldn’t lie to us.

3

P O'Neill 04.23.09 at 6:00 pm

This is fun. Tomorrow is Another Random Bush Victory Speech day –

We are now working to locate and destroy Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. (Applause.) Iraqis with firsthand knowledge of these programs, including several top officials who have come forward recently — some voluntarily — (laughter) — others not — (laughter) — are beginning to cooperate, are beginning to let us know what the facts were on the ground. And that’s important because the regime of Saddam Hussein spent years hiding and disguising his weapons. He tried to fool the United Nations, and did for 12 years, by hiding these weapons. (Applause.) And so, it’s going to take time to find them. But we know he had them. And whether he destroyed them, moved them, or hid them, we’re going to find out the truth. And one thing is for certain: Saddam Hussein no longer threatens America with weapons of mass destruction. (Applause.)

We’re not only in Iraq to protect our security, we’re also showing that we value the lives and the liberty of the Iraqi people. (Applause.) We’re pressing forward with the critical work of relief and reconstruction in that country. And the work will be difficult. You see, Iraq is recovering not just from weeks of conflict, but from decades of totalitarian rule. The dictator built palaces in a country that needed hospitals. He spent money on illegal weapons, not on the education of the Iraqi children, or food for the Iraqi people. Statues of the man have been pulled down. (Applause.) But the fear and suspicion he instilled in the people will take longer to pass away.

http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2003/04/20030424-6.html

4

Katherine 04.23.09 at 6:49 pm

Let us not forget also that Hans Blix’s team looked at sites based on information given to them by the various intelligence services – i.e. they had already looked in a sample of the best possibilities and found nothing.

It is also worth noting that, according to Hans Blix himself at a talk of his I attended at my (our) old college, the Americans were not making derisory comments about his team’s search in private – it was only in public, in the media, that they were distrusting the data.

So it’s not really true that the statement is in error. It’s just lies, all the way down.

5

Henry 04.23.09 at 7:42 pm

6

Dr. Strangelove 04.23.09 at 9:42 pm

Which bit of Krauthammer’ s statement is supposed to be false?

“Hans Blix had five months to find weapons. He found nothing.” True
” We’ve had five weeks. ” True at the time I assume
“Come back to me in five months.” Imperative
” If we haven’t found any, we will have a credibility problem.”Prediction Which turned out to be correct as it happens.

I guess the overall implication was supposed to be that five weeks was a little to early to be talking about a credibility problem, but six months would be enough. That sounds pretty reasonable. Some of you seem to be assuming that Krauthammer, who is just a pundit, was privy to all that was going on behind closed doors in the Bush administration.

Or is the idea supposed to be that it was just obvious to everyone that the US military should have been finding stuff on day one, so to even suggest otherwise was dishonest? The problem is that US intelligence had been telling Blix the best places to look, but he turned up nothing. One plausible explanation for this was that Saddam was moving and hiding the evidence. In which case it might be a little hard to figure out where everything was hidden.

Is that so far outside the realm of what a pundit might actually believe that we have to conclude he was just lying?

7

Matt Weiner 04.23.09 at 10:19 pm

Dr. Strangelove, have you read “What is the name of this book?”* by Raymond Smullyan? Remember this argument?
A: “Santa Claus exists, if I am not mistaken. True?”
B: “Of course.”
A: “Very well, you have just admitted that what I have said was true. Namely, that I am not mistaken. And you have also admitted that if I am not mistaken then Santa Clause exists. So you have admitted that Santa Claus exists.”**

Of course the main problem with this is that “if I am not mistaken” doesn’t create a self-referential utterance; instead, to say “P, if I am not mistaken” is to assert P, not very confidently. Similarly, to say “If P, then we have a credibility problem” is to assert not P, very confidently. So Krauthammer very confidently asserted something false.

This has been today’s lesson in “How people actually talk.”

Also, Barry pointed out that the US government had been working on the problem for much more than five weeks.

*Actually I’m not sure whether the title has a question mark.
**There’s also a case in which A argues that the only way for his statement to be false is if he is not mistaken and Santa Claus doesn’t exist, but that depends on treating “if” as material implication, and if I do that my advisor will beat me.

8

Dr. Strangelove 04.23.09 at 11:52 pm

Matt Weiner: That seems like a huge stretch to me. The “if I’m not mistaken” construction is common, and is almost always intended to mean something like “I don’t think I’m mistaken, but I guess it’s possible”. Krauthammer’s “If P, then we have a credibility problem” is not a common way of saying “not P”, and in the context it sure looks a way of saying “Talk to me later about whether we have a credibility problem or not. The evidence isn’t in yet.” It doesn’t require a great act of charity to interpret what Krauthammer said so that it turns out to be true.

Still, let’s suppose that Krauthammer meant “I’m confidant that chemical and biological weapons will be found if we just wait a little longer.” In this case he was certainly mistaken (excluding the 5000+ old munitions that were found). But even that that just gets you Krauthammer believing something false. It doesn’t get you Krauthammer lying. Where is the evidence that Krauthammer didn’t really expect any weapons to be found ever?

I can kind of get how people are sure that Bush and Cheney must have known that there was nothing to find. But why would you be so sure that a pundit like Krauthammer knew all along?

9

Keith 04.24.09 at 12:27 am

Some of you seem to be assuming that Krauthammer, who is just a pundit, was privy to all that was going on behind closed doors in the Bush administration.

No, we just assume he was privy to all that was going on in front of his face at the time, which pretty handily proved that Krauthammer was and is to this day, full of shit.

Unless we are to assume that pundits are forbidden from referencing common observable facts demonstrable by empirical observation, such as that the sky is blue, or George W. Bush was lieing his red, white and blue ass off, flagrantly and without shame.

10

Mg 04.24.09 at 12:39 am

Krauthammer was not making some weak claim like “I’m not sure, the evidence isn’t quite in yet.”

Quoting Strangelove: “Still, let’s suppose that Krauthammer meant “I’m confidant that chemical and biological weapons will be found if we just wait a little longer.””

Why merely suppose anything? Here’s Krauthammer’s very next sentence: “I don’t have any doubt that we will locate them. I think it takes time. They’ve obviously been deeply hidden, and it will require that we get the information from people who know where they are.”

If Krauthammer had done his job as a citizen, let alone a columnist, to any degree then he would have found good reason to at least doubt the claims about WMDs, if not reject them as outright false. Yet he followed the administration’s line and made extremely confident statements in favour of unsubstantiated claims, and six years on he shows little sign of acknowledging this, still preaching in an air of confidence as if his credibility and the credibility of his associates were still intact.

I suppose the idea that he knew as well as Bush did that there were no WMD’s and thus lied is perhaps an overstatement, but it is not too far off the truth. Like plenty of other columnists on the right on issues far from limited to the war, he knowingly distorted available evidence to allow him to make reckless claims and cast off doubters as European-Leftist cynics and anti-americans, and does so in the passage Henry quotes from. Looking at what he said as some kind of neutral request for a little more time to weigh evidence is hopelessly naive, and there seems to be great effort being exercised here to extract innocence from moral baseness, truth from the clearest possible error, for reasons it perhaps not appropriate to consider in public.

11

e julius drivingstorm 04.24.09 at 12:45 am

I can kind of get how people are sure that Bush and Cheney must have known that there was nothing to find. But why would you be so sure that a pundit like Krauthammer knew all along?

Surely they can’t all be on the same team, can they?

12

MarkUp 04.24.09 at 1:11 am

Mg ~ “and six years on he shows little sign of acknowledging this, still preaching in an air of confidence as if his credibility and the credibility of his associates were still intact.”

Mr Cheney has requested that all WMD’s in Iraq be released. If none turn up it will be due to the current administrations partisan divisiveness. Fearing that just such an even will in fact occur, the good folks of the Ohio Militia are planning to stage a million armed man march on or to DC on the 4th. Rumor also has it that they intend to fit Joe the P with a suicide by tea bagging vest and set him off in the reflecting pool.

13

Dr. Strangelove 04.24.09 at 1:23 am

…and there seems to be great effort being exercised here to extract innocence from moral baseness, truth from the clearest possible error, for reasons it perhaps not appropriate to consider in public.

Oh, but please do. It would really help to make my point.

Krauthammer was mistaken. But it isn’t enough for you guys to say he got something wrong, or he that he’s biased, or credulous, or even a fool, and certainly not to be relied on for advice in the future. No, he has to be a liar, morally corrupt, perhaps even evil.

The reasoning seems to be something like: I was certain that not-P. So it must have been obvious to any reasonable person that not-P. Krauthammer asserted that P. But Krauthammer isn’t mentally deficient. So he must have really believed not-P. Which means he’s a liar! Rational debate doesn’t get very far when you conclude that anyone who disagrees with you is lying.

I take it the point of the original post was just to remind everyone that Krauthammer lacks credibility because he was massively wrong about something in the past. That’s fine with me. If you’re assessing the credibility of an opinion writer then it is perfectly reasonable to point out all the stuff they got wrong in the past. Why not just leave it at that?

14

Walt 04.24.09 at 1:26 am

Charles, is that you? Love the moniker.

15

MarkUp 04.24.09 at 1:41 am

Mr Krauthammer sure does P a lot, and whether asserted or not would be helped in righting such speculations with a Depends. What we do know is what he said and what since then he hasn’t. Granted there is a possibility that in the future after Jeb or Jenna’s turn playing President that WMD’s could indeed be found in the land that was or is called Iraq, thus proving the fact….

16

Mg 04.24.09 at 2:10 am

@13
“If Krauthammer had done his job as a citizen, let alone a columnist, to any degree then he would have found good reason to at least doubt the claims about WMDs, if not reject them as outright false. Yet he followed the administration’s line and made extremely confident statements in favour of unsubstantiated claims, and six years on he shows little sign of acknowledging this, still preaching in an air of confidence as if his credibility and the credibility of his associates were still intact.

I suppose the idea that he knew as well as Bush did that there were no WMD’s and thus lied is perhaps an overstatement, but it is not too far off the truth. Like plenty of other columnists on the right on issues far from limited to the war, he knowingly distorted available evidence to allow him to make reckless claims and cast off doubters as European-Leftist cynics and anti-americans, and does so in the passage Henry quotes from. “

See above, and 5 for that matter. Krauthammer was not simply wrong. He was deceptive, misleading and misrepresentative about a issue of extreme importance to people he had a duty to inform correctly to the best of his ability, and still acts as if the whole thing never happened, with barely a hint of acknowledgement six years on. Maybe that’s just short of lying, but it’s the next worst thing. And it is certainly immoral.

17

Fortuna 04.24.09 at 2:18 am

One plausible explanation for this was that Saddam was moving and hiding the evidence.

From his headquarters in a spiderhole?

18

John Quiggin 04.24.09 at 2:43 am

OK, I’ll play straight man to Dr S. The point here is that, five months after the column, K should have written a piece saying “the failure to find weapons casts grave doubt on the credibility of the Bush Administration, and on the case it made for the war in Iraq”. He didn’t do it then, and six years later he still hasn’t. Hence, nothing he says should be taken seriously.

19

arc 04.24.09 at 2:50 am

Strangelove @ 6 :

What made you think anyone was saying Krauthammer was lying? Since that point, people have stepped up to the plate to actually accuse Krauthammer of dishonesty and disingenuity, and I don’t know what Henry’s motivations actually were when he made the post. But I don’t think Henry’s point needs to be that Krauthammer lied.

Instead, how I took the matter was, this.

Henry is, for the sake of argument, generously allowing Krauthammer of the past to dictate the criteria of success and failure. Krauthammer announces that 5 weeks isn’t enough time, but if they haven’t found anything in 5 months, he accepts that whomever he’s referring to by ‘we’ has a credibility problem. So by Krauthammer’s own pronouncement, ‘they’ indeed do have a credibility problem. All Henry is doing is holding Krauthammer to the standards he chose himself.

So the question is not whether Krauthammer lied, but what he’s going to do in the face of he and his team having failed to meet his own standards of credibility.

What does Krauthammer of the present have to say about the matter? Does he admit this failure?

20

Righteous Bubba 04.24.09 at 2:52 am

No, he has to be a liar, morally corrupt, perhaps even evil.

Is that not a normal description for those who cheerlead for aggressive war on obviously false pretences? It’s not as if he was Mr. Sensible before that either. Jeepers.

21

Michael Bérubé 04.24.09 at 3:18 am

I think Strangelove has a point. Krauthammer said that if we didn’t find weapons in five months from the time he wrote that column, we would have a credibility problem, and so we do. That is why no American newspaper, television network, or journal of opinion will touch Krauthammer today. The man has been utterly discredited. What more do you jackals want?

22

Dr. Strangelove 04.24.09 at 4:15 am

arc: I could have sworn a whole bunch of people said that Krauthammer lied (see 4 above for example). But maybe it was just a misunderstanding on my part. I don’t have a problem with the original post (as I said above at 13).

John Quiggin: So is the problem just that Krauthammer has never directly addressed the impact of the failure to find WMDs on his own credibility or the Bush administration’s credibility? He did publicly adopt an explanation for the failure to find WMDs, which left the justification for the war largely in tact. He read the Kay report as showing that, while Saddam didn’t have stockpiles of new weapons at his disposal, he did have weapons programs that were ready to go once the heat was off. So, according to Krauthammer, Saddam was still a danger and the war was still justified.

Maybe that’s not the accounting you were hoping for, but it looks like an accounting. It’s more than most public prognosticators give when they get something hopelessly wrong.

23

nick s 04.24.09 at 5:25 am

This is why Wrong Tomorrow exists. The “check back with us in X months” from the newspaper columnist is a way of saying “let me bullshit with zero accountability, since no-one will remember”. It worked before the internets and their long archival memory of pundit pronouncements.

In the meantime, “Strangelove” remains very poor, Reeves.

24

Sean Murphy 04.24.09 at 2:54 pm

For Charles Krauthammer, it’s never the right time for retribution or reflection–certainly not in terms of being accountable for his own words. That’s just how he rolls.

25

Robert Cannon 04.24.09 at 3:11 pm

His failure to come back to his readers to say “We have a credibility problem” is proff enough. He distorts then as his friend Peggy Noonan does, he walks on. Yes, he does have a credibility problem. Actually, it is THE problem of the Republican part. And why many of us have “walked away”

26

Brownie 04.24.09 at 4:26 pm

Does anyone remember the Iraq Survey Group interim reprot in Oct 2003 (and final Deulfer report a year later)? It’s certainly true there were no stockpiles of WMD, but there most certainly was evidence of (illegal) reasearch not uncovered by Blix and his team. There were also discoveries of weapons proscribed by UN resolutions and proof that Iraq had flight-tested missiles with ranges that easily exceeded the limits laid down by the UN. In others words, whatever Blix had uncovered, it wasn’t the ‘truth’ of Saddams violations and capabilities.

A less generous commenter would suggest this creates something of a credibility problem for Blix and all those who claim we were entitled to come to a judgment on the justification for war based on discoveries Blix and his team did/did not make prior to March 2003.

For me and many like me, this was never about WMD; it was about getting to the truth, and so long as Saddam continued to obstruct and obfuscate (as the UN unanimously concluded he had and as the discovries by the ISG prove), this was never going to be possible whilst he reamined in power. Once we’d committed to his removal, it didn’t matter whether we found a desert full of ICBMs or 1000 tons of camel shit. Not knowing for certain was simply unacceptable. Or it ought to have been.

Bottom line: those who put their trust in Blix were as wrong as those who put their trust in Krauthammer. I’m happy to say that I did neither.

27

Barry 04.24.09 at 4:50 pm

“Bottom line: those who put their trust in Blix were as wrong as those who put their trust in Krauthammer. I’m happy to say that I did neither.”

Summary of Krauthammer: Saddam has vast stockpiles of WMD’s.
Summary of Blix – I found jack sh*t after searching through sites picked by US intelligence.

No, those who put their trust in Blix were not as wrong as those who put their trust in Krauthammer.

28

watson aname 04.24.09 at 4:56 pm

Once we’d committed to his removal.

For the Bushies, this was the starting point. Truth doesn’t appear to have had much of anything to do with it.

29

MarkinDC 04.24.09 at 5:01 pm

Good post, and this is only the tip of the iceberg of Dr. K’s intellectual dishonesty. On more than one occasion early in the war, he wrote things like, if its still raging after one year, we’ll know it was failed operation. And then around the time of the 2004 election, he had doozies like, if it continues much longer, America will simply cancel the contract. All these were conveniently forgotten.

But his dishonest-to-the-marrow nature was most evident in his feud with Francis Fukayama. Remember Dr. K is a guy who literally screamed on a roundtable TV show — “We all Know He (Saddam) Has Them!” Then when FF rightly took him to task, Dr. K responded with this in his Wash Post column: “I always said Iraq might be a bridge too far.” That type of playing both sides of the fence hypocrisy is worthy of a Soviet toadie.

30

Salient 04.24.09 at 5:16 pm

“For me and many like me, this was never about WMD; it was about getting to the truth”

… That’s a new one on me. We declared war because they might be lying. Really?

31

Righteous Bubba 04.24.09 at 5:17 pm

For me and many like me, this was never about WMD; it was about getting to the truth

‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.’

32

Brownie 04.24.09 at 5:20 pm

For the Bushies, this was the starting point. Truth doesn’t appear to have had much of anything to do with it.

So far as “Bushies” are concerned, you may well be right. I’d be interested to know, however, if you accept that not everyone who supported the war was a “Bushie”? Like Vaclav Havel, for instance? Or Jose Ramos Horta?

Summary of Blix – I found jack sh*t after searching through sites picked by US intelligence.

I’d quarrel with this, somewhat. Blix did as much as he was allowed to. Even he referred to “progress on process, but not on substance” (I didn’t google it, but it’s a fairly accurate parahprase if I remember rightly).

In any event, I’m not alleging bad faith on the part of those who believed Blix had found everything there was to find. I’m just saying such people were wrong, which – unless you are claiming thhe ISG was a fraud – they most certainly were.

33

Brownie 04.24.09 at 5:27 pm

… That’s a new one on me. We declared war because they might be lying. Really?

Not quite. Because Saddam ws compelled to do things he didn’t do. Again, there was no disagreement at the UN that this was the case. Whether his obstruction and obfuscation was deisgned to hide a few thousand tons of nerve gas or because he was a megalomaniacal fruitloop in denial, isn’t really the issue. He was compelled to provide unfettered access to installations, documents and scientists and he never did.

The disagreement at the UN was about what to do in the face of continued non-compliance, not whether Saddam was in fact complying.

34

Rich Puchalsky 04.24.09 at 5:32 pm

Gah, people like Brownie are still trying to excuse aggressive war.

I fully endorse RB’s “Is that not a normal description for those who cheerlead for aggressive war on obviously false pretences?” Evil people were among us, are among us, and still have no shame about what they’ve done and what they would still like to do.

35

MarkUp 04.24.09 at 6:13 pm

”Not quite. Because Saddam ws compelled to do things he didn’t do. ”

Making chemical and bio weapons is not copasetic yet we do it all the time under the guise of defending against them. Maybe SH though he should be allowed to do the same knowning that members of the UN Sec council did indeed supply such stuff to petty 3rd world folks like himself. Or perhaps Hans was unable to find anything at the preselected sighgts because he wasn’t supposed to; meanwhile the known quantities were secreted away so no one was able to trace their origin. Just a thought.

Heck of a job.

36

jim emerson 04.24.09 at 6:39 pm

Krauthammer gave the keynote address at the Conference on World Affairs in April 2005. His subject was the history of American foreign policy, culminating in “The Bush Doctrine.” Even at that late date he managed to speak at length about the goals of the Bush Doctrine in Iraq… without ever — even once — mentioning Weapons of Mass Destruction. He’d already conveniently forgotten how the specter of these weapons (that were never found) had been used as the primary justification for the war. When questioned, he made the straw man argument that nobody knew there were no WMD. True. And yet Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al., repeatedly stated on the record that they DID know Saddam possessed WMD. The point is clear: The evidence for WMD was in some cases manufactured, in other cases exaggerated — but none of it proved anything.

37

political strudel 04.24.09 at 7:22 pm

29: He was compelled to provide unfettered access to installations, documents and scientists and he never did.

Only because Fathers Merrin and Damien were indisposed.

38

greensmile 04.24.09 at 8:34 pm

so this post is making me giggle. The tone is sarcastic but that will do for the humor-deprived.

Then I think of all the dead Iraqis, of all the angry young Muslims who have been handed a cause, of the dead American military and contracted [money grubbing] civilians and those still living but with missing bits of body and mind, of the billions poured into the Euphrates for oil we will never own…I don’t need or want to complete this list of the hell we have harvested. Mr. Krauthamer spread his tattered gossamer of credibility over all who did read his regurgitated lies and preferences-turned-to-speculations but who yet timidly or with a dumb hard-on voted with Bush/Cheney and their New American Censure. To the extent we have a real democracy in the US, we forfeit the luxury of simply saying “we were misled”.

“Credibility”, an alleged coin of power in a democracy! How cheaply it is forged for a fatuous populace that can leap to the political right at the first sound of gunfire!

You do us a favor, Henry, to heighten memory about this festering weakness…it is not cured if it is not observed.

39

JM 04.24.09 at 8:37 pm

Some of you seem to be assuming that Krauthammer, who is just a pundit, was privy to all that was going on behind closed doors in the Bush administration.

Some of us can remember back as far as six years ago, when administration proxies like Krauthammer were attacking Hans Blix as incompetent in order to prop up the flimsy case for the existence of vast stores of WMD in Iraq. Pretending to put the issue up for a later, definitive assessment (and then acting as if nothing of the kind had ever been offered) was just another part of the propaganda. That’s the context of the statement that you’ve parsed, above, if only for grammar. O’Reilly, famously, issued a similar challenge at the time, putting not his but the administration’s credibility on the line, only to forget the whole thing and … move on. Strangely, where O’Reilly talked about the administration’s credibility, Krauthammer says “us.”

Krauthammer is just another one of the holes that the talking points leak out of. Why dignify his statements with good-faith analysis?

40

Brownie 04.24.09 at 10:11 pm

“Is that not a normal description for those who cheerlead for aggressive war on obviously false pretences?”

Can I just say that there were very few people who in Feb/Mar 03 were prepared to give Saddam’s Iraq a clean bill of health, even as Blix’s men were on the ground. The argument against war then ran “give Blix more time” not “Saddam’s obviously telling the truth”.

Even those in the Whitehouse who were knowingly accentuating the negative were doing so partly from a position of ignorance. It’s not entirely clear whether even Saddam knew the true nature of Iraq’s WMD capabilities pre-war. “Obviously false pretences” is a transparently desperate attempt to rewrite history. That Iraq was subsequently shown to be free of WMD stockpiles provides no cover whatsoever.

Maybe SH though he should be allowed to do the same knowning that members of the UN Sec council did indeed supply such stuff to petty 3rd world folks like himself.

Maybe, but it’s entirely irrelevant what Saddam thought he was entitled to do.

Then I think of all the dead Iraqis, of all the angry young Muslims who have been handed a cause

Do you ever think of the millions of Muslims who have been handed a vote?

41

Righteous Bubba 04.24.09 at 10:12 pm

Can I just say that there were very few people who in Feb/Mar 03 were prepared to give Saddam’s Iraq a clean bill of health

So what?

42

Brownie 04.24.09 at 10:20 pm

So what?

So “obviously false pretences” makes no sense.

43

Righteous Bubba 04.24.09 at 10:27 pm

So “obviously false pretences” makes no sense.

Of course it does. There was a lot more to the justification of the war than that one sentence. You may wish to follow the link in the post above to learn more.

44

Uncle Kvetch 04.24.09 at 10:52 pm

Do you ever think of the millions of Muslims who have been handed a vote?

Maybe you should dig up the dead ones and ask them if they think it was worth it.

45

kid bitzer 04.24.09 at 10:52 pm

heckuva job picking your on-line handle, brownie.

an incompetent, lying, bushist dead-ender.

it suits you to a t.

46

Lee A. Arnold 04.24.09 at 11:15 pm

Absolute nonsense. Even if Saddam had WMD’s, he wouldn’t have used them against the West, because he would guess correctly that his days were numbered. (Exactly the same thing is true of Iran, now.) He was a coward who communicated to the U.S. his intent to invade Kuwait. And even if Saddam had WMD’s, that has never been a pretext for war. Indeed the U.S. knew he did NOT have WMD’s, or else it would not have sent troops in there. There are a couple of different foreign policy reasons why the U.S. might want to invade Iraq. WMD’s were not really on that list.

47

MarkUp 04.25.09 at 12:01 am

”There are a couple of different foreign policy reasons why the U.S. might want to invade Iraq. WMD’s were not really on that list.”

Weather balloon domination. Simple.

”Maybe, but it’s entirely irrelevant what Saddam thought he was entitled to do.”

No, not really, and esp not when looking at it in hindsight. Two stepping is usually saved for Saturday night. It seems that drug distribution through our water system isn’t quite fair. All we get here is the stuff that adds tails. I’d much prefer the stuff that makes you forget.

48

Brownie 04.25.09 at 1:23 am

Righteous,

You may want to try following the thread more closely, to wit, my comment to which you replied “so what” was itself a direct response to ““Is that not a normal description for those who cheerlead for aggressive war on obviously false pretences?” In this context, your last comment is a non sequitur of gargantuan proportions.

Maybe you should dig up the dead ones and ask them if they think it was worth it.

Maybe you can keep ignoring the live ones who say it was.

an incompetent, lying, bushist dead-ender.

Surely you mean “Bushitlerist”?

And even if Saddam had WMD’s, that has never been a pretext for war.

As before, it’s not about the weapons per se, rather Saddam’s non-compliance with UN resolutions that codified the terms of the Gulf I ceasefire.

49

snuh 04.25.09 at 3:03 am

As before, it’s not about the weapons per se, rather Saddam’s non-compliance with UN resolutions that codified the terms of the Gulf I ceasefire.

so your position is that war is always the appropriate method for dealing with non-compliance with resolutions of the UN Security Council?

50

Lee A. Arnold 04.25.09 at 3:05 am

There are countries in noncompliance with UN resolutions all over the map. Not an accepted excuse for starting a war, and not operational in this case either.

51

Righteous Bubba 04.25.09 at 3:13 am

You may want to try following the thread more closely, to wit, my comment to which you replied “so what” was itself a direct response to ““Is that not a normal description for those who cheerlead for aggressive war on obviously false pretences?” In this context, your last comment is a non sequitur of gargantuan proportions.

You may want to note that Krauthammer’s status as a shitbag is not entirely dependent on the damning squib Henry excerpts except in Brownie land where Brownie thinks Brownie has limited the scope of argument around Brownie’s favourite war to one small Brownie-beloved yea or nay proposition, the nut of which he thinks is contained in Honest Charles Krauthammer’s truly sincere rationale for invasion.

52

Henri Vieuxtemps 04.25.09 at 6:16 am

Do you ever think of the millions of Muslims who have been handed a vote?

Actually, they voted regularly in Saddam’s Iraq as well. And, without foreign tanks on the streets back then, it probably felt at least as meaningful as it is now.

53

Lee A. Arnold 04.25.09 at 5:15 pm

Well I think the majority in Iraq would disagree with that.

But supporters of the war have yet to understand why the U.S. foreign policy establishment and the Pentagon presently regard the invasion as an enormous mistake: precisely BECAUSE a real democracy in Iraq means the majority can express its will! That majority is Shi’ite, they are tending towards a theocracy, and they are the best friends of Iran. Put Iraq together with Iran, and now you have a religious alliance that is unfriendly to the U.S., unfriendly to the rest of the Muslims, and sitting on top of most of the world’s oil.

And here is reality: two different stories on front webpage of the New York times, TODAY: (1) Sec. State Clinton calling the new bombing violence “rejectionists,” but not “jihadists;” (2) Al-Maliki refusing U.S. pleas to reconcile with Ba’athists.

In other words, the U.S. has put itself in the unbelievably weak position of having to quell sectarian strife there for generations, unless something even more unpleasant is to happen, such as the Sunnis being cleaned out.

It is sometimes hard to tell what actually occurred, because there is so much propaganda and self-delusion, but it appears that the Bush Administration hoped to set up another strongman, yet was out-maneuvered by al-Sistani into holding elections.

54

Z 04.25.09 at 7:04 pm

Even those in the Whitehouse who were knowingly accentuating the negative were doing so partly from a position of ignorance

Sure, and from this position of partial ignorance, they put tremendous pressure on intelligence agencies to sex up, rewrite or completely falsify their reports and briefings on the subject of WMD and Iraq’s military capabilities, because that’s just what people in a position of ignorance do. This was already clear at the time to a moderately competent observer, so “obviously false pretense” is a perfectly viable charge. Indeed, many countries (including members of the Security council) and several US intelligence agencies, for instance the USAF intelligence, vigorously dissented at the time (the USAF had to, as they had been monitoring Iraqi forces for a decade, not to mention the ridiculous disgrace that was Colin’s Powell famous image analyzing).

But sure as hell, for Brownie the most important thing was to know the truth. Now you know, hundred thousands of civilians have died, millions have been injured or displaced. But you know for sure what was almost certain beforehand. Was it really worth it?

55

Henri Vieuxtemps 04.25.09 at 7:37 pm

53: Well I think the majority in Iraq would disagree with that. … the [Shiite] majority can express its will…

But that’s not obvious at all. I don’t particularly like the sectarian angle, but even playing along with your analysis, there’s still a relatively large Shiite group – the Sadrist movement – that, as I understand, doesn’t accept the legitimacy of the current ‘democracy under occupation’. Add the Sunnis and the Kurds (who don’t want to be a part of Iraq at all), and what’s left is probably less than a majority.

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Lee A. Arnold 04.25.09 at 10:41 pm

Well it may end with the Kurds separating from the country, and happy to have long-term military basing arrangements with the United States. Here again, it’s rather difficult to argue that, for the the Kurds, there’s no difference from being under Saddam. They are much happier.

As far as I can follow the news of Shi’ite politics, all roads lead to the Ayatollah, who is currently al-Sistani. I’m not convinced that their internecine arguments are of long-term importance — and certainly do not make them feel there’s no difference from life under Saddam, when they were crushed unmercifully by the minority Sunnis.

Some Sadrists decided not to play along with the new Baghdad government and Maliki made a self-enhancing show of dispensing with them (and, it was trumpeted, without U.S. ground support.) Meanwhile al-Sadr has wisely gone off (to Iran) to study to become an Ayatollah to get in the proper line for leadership in Iraq.

It has been reported that several of the Ayatollahs already in line after al-Sistani are not as understanding as Sistani is of the West, and hope to introduce sharia law, etc.

Of approx. 2 million displaced inside Iraq + 2 million gone into exile, most are Sunni. According to a guess by Nir Rosen, Iraq has gone from 60% Shia before the war, to 80% now.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 04.26.09 at 6:35 am

Well, anyway, I’m not saying there’s no difference from life under Saddam. I’m sure there is: from mostly secular life under Saddam to mostly fundamentalist now is probably quite a big difference. What I’m saying (responding to #40) is that elections are meaningless. If, as you seem to believe, everything is decided by the Ayatollah – that works too.

58

Alex 04.26.09 at 12:42 pm

Iraq had flight-tested missiles with greater range…

Yes, Al-Samoud IIs. And UNMOVIC was literally cutting them up with circular saws in the factory yard in March 2003.

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Brownie 04.27.09 at 9:03 am

so your position is that war is always the appropriate method for dealing with non-compliance with resolutions of the UN Security Council?

There are countries in noncompliance with UN resolutions all over the map. Not an accepted excuse for starting a war, and not operational in this case either.

You misunderstand me. I’m not – not here and now, at least – trying to craft a defence of the decision to go to war based on Iraq’s continued non-compliance (and whatever you say, the situation vis-a-vis Iraq and chapter 7 resolutions DID make it unique), rather I’m simply pointing out that WMD per se are not the issue. It didn’t matter what, if anything, Saddam was hiding. What mattered is that he was non-complying. As a supporter of the war, I have no problem accepting that the intelligence was talked up somewhat and this shouldn’t have happened, but equally the non-discovery of WMD doesn’t detract from the legitimacy of the decision to discover what were entitled to know for sure, not after 12 years of of continued obstruction, 17 flouted resolutions and Saddam’s decision to pass up his “final opportunity” to avoid “serious consequences”.

I’ve always wanted to know: what sort of opportunity is it that comes after the “final” variety?

Actually, they voted regularly in Saddam’s Iraq as well. And, without foreign tanks on the streets back then, it probably felt at least as meaningful as it is now.

It’s difficult to think of something more contemptuous of the millions of Iraqis who risked being slaughtered on the streets as they queued to vote in what the UN described as free and fair elections. The turnout in the Dec 05 elections was just under 80%.

In Saddam’s Iraq, you were either excluded from the election process or suffered the consequences if you voted the wrong way (which of course 99.6% shares of the vote suggest didn’t happen all that often). Today, you risk the wrath of nihilists and jihadists for simply participating in the democratic process. Apparently, you see no difference between the two.

This was already clear at the time to a moderately competent observer, so “obviously false pretense” is a perfectly viable charge.

That’s not how I remember it. Of course there were dissenters and different opinions even amongst the ‘experts’ about the validity and quality of parts of the intelligence. I’m not claiming it was impossible to have looked at the information available at the time and have concluded that there should be no invasion. Intelligence has an inherent interpretative quality that makes consensus extremely unlikely, even when it’s not being talked up. I would also hope that you would accept that there were those who made little or no assessment of the available intelligence and who opposed (and supported) the war on purely political/ideological grounds.

I don’t need convincing that the decision to go to war in Iraq is something intelligent people can disagree about, but I have to say that I meet a significant number of war opponents online who don’t appear to share this view. When it is claimed that the war was fought on “obviously false pretences” it necessarily implies that supporters of the war were fools or knaves. When you consider some of the people who, reluctantly, supproted an invaion in March 2003 (a very large proportion of whom were not “Bushists” no matter what is claimed in the comments thread at CT), this seems to me a spectacularly ungenerous reading.

Yes, Al-Samoud IIs. And UNMOVIC was literally cutting them up with circular saws in the factory yard in March 2003.

Not just the Al-Samoud’s. From the interim ISG report in Oct 03:

ISG uncovered Iraqi plans or designs for three long-range ballistic missiles with ranges from 400 to 1,000km and for a 1,000-km-range cruise missile, although none of these systems progressed to production and only one reportedly passed the design phase. ISG assesses that these plans demonstrate Saddam’s continuing desire—up to the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF)—for a long-range delivery capability.

and

According to contract information exploited by ISG, Iraq imported at least 380 SA-2/Volga liquid-propellant engines from Poland and possibly Russia or Belarus. While Iraq claims these engines were for the Al Samud II program, the numbers involved appear in excess of immediate requirements, suggesting they could have supported the longer range missiles using clusters of SA-2 engines.

Such research and design work was in clear contravention of UN resolutions and these discoveries were missed by Blix and his team. Read the rest of the interim report and the final Deulfer report to see everything else missed by Blix.

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qwe 04.27.09 at 11:03 am

I wonder if “Brownie” was literally frothing at the mouth as he wrote that, or just figuratively.

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MarkUp 04.27.09 at 1:21 pm

”to see everything else missed by Blix.”

Still doing a heck of a job Brownie, answer this though; how many sorties were flown over Iraq between the end of GW-I and 1998 (please include pounds of ordinance dropped) and between 1998 and 2000, and between Y2K and the official start of GW-II, again showing ordinance usage. Was Saddam that good, or were we that bad? Was the ISG allowed free rein to point out all players in the game?

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Henri Vieuxtemps 04.27.09 at 3:17 pm

…what the UN described as free and fair elections…

Really, the UN described it as free and fair? What election was that? Could you provide a link please.

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Lee A. Arnold 04.27.09 at 3:45 pm

Brownie, supporters of the war WERE fools or knaves. As I remember it, the U.S. population swung from about 60% AGAINST the war to about 70% in FAVOR of the war in about two months (early fall 2002,) and only after the Administration started the drumbeat about WMD’s.

But what you’re saying, instead, is that Saddam was a villain, and so the U.S. might invade upon some valid pretext. Okay. But the U.S. has selected to act this way only in one case out of many, and therefore violated the “universal application of principles” which is a necessary precondition of law — and which might have better justified a war of choice. Indeed Bush decided to invade after shit-canning a bunch of other treaties. To anyone outside the process, it looks like random contingency and incoherence. So the final justification appears to come down to the notion that “the U.S. knows what is right, and others do not” or else the notion that “the U.S. can do what it wants, because it is the most powerful.” Either way, disaster awaits.

At the present time, the reason why supporters of the war ARE fools or knaves is not because getting rid of Saddam is a bad idea — in that case it would have to be a good idea, unless his successor were Satan — but because they have yet to FORMULATE, much less to demonstrate, how they will translate this incoherent reliance upon contingency to a multi-polar world in which nations had better accept the rule of the FAIR APPLICATION of international law. (And another reason why supporters of the war are fools or knaves is that they are not thinking clearly about what to do next in the Middle East. Nor are the war’s opponents.)

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Brownie 04.27.09 at 3:52 pm

I wonder if “Brownie” was literally frothing at the mouth as he wrote that, or just figuratively.

I’m genuinely curious as to why you should think I’d be “frothing” from any orifice? Have I been rude to anyone? Have I been hysterical? Looking back on my contributions I’d claim they were delivered in a perfectly clamn and respectful manner, whatever you might think of the content.

Or maybe you believe all supporters of the war are genetically predisposed to “frothing”?

Still doing a heck of a job Brownie, answer this though; how many sorties were flown over Iraq between the end of GW-I and 1998 (please include pounds of ordinance dropped) and between 1998 and 2000, and between Y2K and the official start of GW-II, again showing ordinance usage. Was Saddam that good, or were we that bad? Was the ISG allowed free rein to point out all players in the game?

I’m not sure what you’re getting at. If you’re trying to make the point that Saddam’s capabilities had already been severely degraded by the time inspections stopped in 1998, then absolutely I’d agree. There’s no doubt about that, although you just have to read ex-UNSCOM inspector Scott Ritter’s resignation letter of Aug 08 to be persuaded that the job was not yet done. After a 4 year inspections hiatus come the winter of 02, I think an assumption that Saddam’s capabilities had increased was not entirely unreasonable.

To clarify, when I refer to stuff Blix and his team “missed”, this is not intended as a criticism of Blix. However, the ISG work belies the notion that we were finding everything there was to find in the early spring of 03. Clearly, we were not.

Really, the UN described it as free and fair? What election was that? Could you provide a link please.

Here’s a page of quotes from a guy called Craig Jenness. Guess what job he had during the Iraqi elections of Dec 2005, and guess what election he is referring to in those quotes?

65

Henri Vieuxtemps 04.27.09 at 4:25 pm

Sorry, I have no idea who Craig Jenness is and why he’s saying these things. Could you point me to an UN official statement, please. Thanks.

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Righteous Bubba 04.27.09 at 4:39 pm

I’m genuinely curious as to why you should think I’d be “frothing” from any orifice?

Often people assume there must be some mental problem involved when an individual does their damndest to justify war crimes. Don’t take it personally.

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Z 04.27.09 at 7:46 pm

When it is claimed that the war was fought on “obviously false pretences” it necessarily implies that supporters of the war were fools or knaves.

Though I am not shy about unpleasant implications, what you say is not true: I don’t pretend to know the mental state of any supporter of the war (some might have supported it because they thought it would stabilize oil production and damn be civilian casualties, some, including apparently President Bush, because it would haste the realizations of biblical prophecies…). However, I do stand by my characterization: a moderately competent observer (say a careful reader of Wikipedia) had all the necessary means to discern that the pretenses given to go to war were obviously false.

rather I’m simply pointing out that WMD per se are not the issue

Maybe to you, but at the Azores summit the week between the war started, Tony Blair gave a passionate speak saying to Saddam that if he disarmed, no war should broke out. So the official actors of the war were apparently very serious about this (and the fact that they were obviously lying implies that the pretenses were, well, obviously false).

the legitimacy of the decision to discover what were entitled to know for sure

First of all, I have a problem with “we” in that sentence. It cannot refer to the UN, else the Security council or the GA would have passed a resolution to that effect. Who is it then? Supporters of the war? Who, in your opinion, is entitled to launch military actions that will killed thousands of civilians just to know for sure something? Some governments? Which one? Would you be so kind as to tell me?

Second of all, again, before the war, the fact that under the current regime of inspections and military monitoring, the military capabilities of Iraq paused no threat to its neighbours (and of course to european countries or the US) was 99% sure. How many people are you willing to see slaughtered for the remaining 1%? I would really really like to know what is the name of Obama’s new dog. Apparently, it’s Bo, but am I entitled to raid Washington, killing a few thousands people in the process, to find out for sure? Why not?

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ptarmigan 04.27.09 at 8:03 pm

Henry,

The formal claims of the US government, as passed by its Congress, were that Iraq had functional chemical weapons, and precursors for nuclear and biological weapons in 2002.

The chemical weapon claim was demonstrated true: the Jordanian police seized chemical weapon shell, as did the Polish army. One shell was used as an IED against the US army.

The nuclear claim was demonstrated true: moderately enriched uranium was found in cargo ships in Netherlands and Denmark, and 7,000 kilograms of lightly enriched uranium was seized in Iraq by the US army and shipped to the US.

There is no credible evidence of biological weapons, although UK newspapers claimed ricin poisonings were due to Iraq.

Do you not agree the formal US claims were true?

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Righteous Bubba 04.27.09 at 8:51 pm

The formal claims of the US government, as passed by its Congress, were that Iraq had functional chemical weapons, and precursors for nuclear and biological weapons in 2002.

I can’t say I’m much interested in digging the formal claims up, but there existed accounted-for stocks. Another so what. The MacGuffin was the magical super secret death ray acid nuclear anthrax. Which was not found.

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Brownie 04.27.09 at 11:15 pm

Often people assume there must be some mental problem involved when an individual does their damndest to justify war crimes. Don’t take it personally.

Risible.

Sorry, I have no idea who Craig Jenness is and why he’s saying these things.

Do you want to take a wild stab in the dark? Okay, Craig Jenness was the UN adviser to Iraq’s election commission in the Dec 2005 eelctions.

Though I am not shy about unpleasant implications, what you say is not true: I don’t pretend to know the mental state of any supporter of the war (some might have supported it because they thought it would stabilize oil production and damn be civilian casualties, some, including apparently President Bush, because it would haste the realizations of biblical prophecies…). However, I do stand by my characterization: a moderately competent observer (say a careful reader of Wikipedia) had all the necessary means to discern that the pretenses given to go to war were obviously false.

I think there is a rather obvious contradiction there. If all it took to come down on the side of opposing war was competency as an observer and an ability to digest Wikipedia, you are in as many words claiming mendacity and/or idiocy as character traits of those supporting war. Incidentally, by March 2003, this means approximately half the population of the UK and peoplel like Vaclav Havel and Jose Ramos Horta….those well-known fools/knaves [delete as applicable].

As beofre, my recollection is that there was barely a sprinkling of people whose opinions were worth hearing who were prepared to give Iraq a clean bill of health pre-war; most who opposed the war took the view that inspections should continue – presumably because they were unconvinced we could be sure everything that could be discovered had been discovered. And to think, all these – by definition incompetent – observers needed to do was consult Wikipedia…

Maybe to you, but at the Azores summit the week between the war started, Tony Blair gave a passionate speak saying to Saddam that if he disarmed, no war should broke out. So the official actors of the war were apparently very serious about this (and the fact that they were obviously lying implies that the pretenses were, well, obviously false).

I don’t see your point here. Saddam needed to provide unfettered access to everything inspectors wanted to see and everyone they wanted to speak to. Whether this cooperation proved Iraq was armed to the teeth or in possession of nothing more than a few pop-guns, it would have destroyed the pretext for war. War may still have happened anyway, but I and I’m sure plenty of others wouldn’t have supported it. As it is, I supported the war that did happen; the one preceded by inspections that – in Blix’s own words – continued to be obstructed, albeit not to same the degree that they might have been previously…which may have had something to do with half the US naval fleet sitting in the gulf.

Iraqi compliance was not difficult, you know? Iraq had to hand over documents when they were requested, provide scientists for interview (without minders) when they were sought, and permit access to every building inspectors wanted to inspect. After 12 years, Saddam was inent on continuing to play silly buggers. Something else Blair said was that there was no question of a time limit for inspections; he clearly said that inspections could and should take another year if it could be shown that Iraq was complying with all requests, but equally, all the time in world made no difference if Iraq was hellbent on non-compliance.

First of all, I have a problem with “we” in that sentence. It cannot refer to the UN, else the Security council or the GA would have passed a resolution to that effect. Who is it then? Supporters of the war? Who, in your opinion, is entitled to launch military actions that will killed thousands of civilians just to know for sure something? Some governments? Which one? Would you be so kind as to tell me?

I’m sure you know how it goes: 1441 granted Iraq a “final opportunity” to comply or face “serious consequences”? Can you tell me what sort of opportunity follows the “final” variety, and what were the supposed “serious consequences” she risked facing? A pie in the face for Saddam? More sanctions on top of the ones most opponents of war wanted to drop?

UNSCR 687 gave Iraq 15 days (off the top of my head) to make full disclosure of its proscribed weapons locations and programs. That was April 1991. Just under 12 years later and Iraq was still in non-compliance. UNSCR 687 codified the terms of the Gulf I ceasefire. The last time I checked, a breach of ceasefire terms can revive a conflict situation. There is no mention in 1441 of a need for a second resolution to legitimise the use of force. It simply mentions that member states would reconvene to consider matters in the evnet of continued non-compliance by Iraq. Reconvene they did, and then member states promptly fell-out about the appropriate course of action in the light of Iraq’s failure to seize her “final opportunity”. The truth is that member states walked away from 1441 in the full knowledge that some interpreted the message contained therein one way and others another. The hope was that such differences of interpretation would be rendered moot by Iraq’s compliance. The rest you know.

Second of all, again, before the war, the fact that under the current regime of inspections and military monitoring, the military capabilities of Iraq paused no threat to its neighbours (and of course to european countries or the US) was 99% sure. How many people are you willing to see slaughtered for the remaining 1%? I would really really like to know what is the name of Obama’s new dog. Apparently, it’s Bo, but am I entitled to raid Washington, killing a few thousands people in the process, to find out for sure? Why not?

“99% sure”? Is this more Wikipedia? As before, Saddam could have complied if he had so wished. He didn’t so wish. I think people were entitled to think Saddam’s continued non-compliance was designed to conceal something rather than nothing.

It is ‘Bo’, by the way.

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Righteous Bubba 04.27.09 at 11:23 pm

Risible.

You’re alive to laugh.

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Righteous Bubba 04.27.09 at 11:41 pm

I’m sure you know how it goes: 1441 granted Iraq a “final opportunity” to comply or face “serious consequences”? Can you tell me what sort of opportunity follows the “final” variety, and what were the supposed “serious consequences” she risked facing?

I dunno, what did the UN decide?

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David 04.28.09 at 12:22 am

Gee! Brownie invokes Scott Ridder in his defense. Only one of the harshest critics of the war and the WMD lie. Maybe he thinks no one remembers that.

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Walt 04.28.09 at 12:41 am

The true lesson of the Iraq war is that a sufficiently determined nitpicker can prevent himself from ever learning he was wrong.

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Brownie 04.28.09 at 1:23 am

You’re alive to laugh.

Is this it? Your barometer of what’s acceptable? Do you only support wars in which no-one dies? Are you a pacifist, perhaps?

I dunno, what did the UN decide?

Category error, I’m afraid, given the clear implication that you believe the UN had not already decided what steps were necessary to restore peace to the region. See UNSCR 687.

If you read around 1441 some more, you’ll discover that jsut as the US and UK attempted to insert a trigger for conflict in the text, and the French tried to insert their own paragraph that made it clear that further reoslutions would be required before force could be used. All were unsuccessful, and the pro-war and anti-war blocs walked away from the table in the full knowledge that each would arrive at a different conclusion about what was and wasn’t justified in the event of Iraqi non-compliance.

Gee! Brownie invokes Scott Ridder in his defense. Only one of the harshest critics of the war and the WMD lie. Maybe he thinks no one remembers that.

Or maybe he thinks that using the words of a one-time inspector and self-avowed critic of the war to make his point about Iraq’s state of disarmament is more powerful than invoking Rumsfeld or Bush? When discussing the isuse with anti-war types such as yourself, that is.

And it’s “Ritter”.

The true lesson of the Iraq war is that a sufficiently determined nitpicker can prevent himself from ever learning he was wrong.

Eeek, after a couple of days and thousands of words, I’m finally run through with Walt’s sword of truth.

My entry to this thread was prompted by suggestions that Blix was doing just fine in the spring of 03 and we were finding everything we needed to find. I just wanted to remind people that the work of the ISG shows such thinking was mistaken, and no amount of carping about an absence of stockpiles of WMD changes that.

So the gap between what Blix was finding and what Saddam was hiding was not as wide as some had feared (or pretended to fear). So what? It could have been and you’d never have known if the best we could do was Blix and his obstructed inspections program. You’d be living in ignorance and condemned to a future of being forced to give Saddam the benefit of the doubt. This might have been good enough for some of you, but it certainly wasn’t for me.

Thanks for the discussion.

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Walt 04.28.09 at 1:34 am

That’s because you are an amoral monster untroubled by the deaths of the innocent, Brownie.

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Righteous Bubba 04.28.09 at 1:38 am

Category error, I’m afraid, given the clear implication that you believe the UN had not already decided what steps were necessary to restore peace to the region. See UNSCR 687.

Oh please. Doesn’t hold water.

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Z 04.28.09 at 1:39 am

If all it took to come down on the side of opposing war was competency as an observer and an ability to digest Wikipedia, you are in as many words claiming mendacity and/or idiocy as character traits of those supporting war.

This is a minor issue, but you have been misreading me for the second time: it seems to me quite clear that what I, and other people, have written is that it was transparent that the given pretenses were false. Still, you could be in favor of the war for many other reasons, say uprooting Saddam, which do not necessarily make you a fool or a knave. I am not claiming that all supporters of the war were necessary evil or idiots, only those who thought Iraq was a military danger because of its WMD and who supported war on that basis.

I don’t see your point here

My point is quite simple: people in charge of the war said they care about the fact Iraq was a military menace because it owned WMD and that that menace justified war. They said it, they wrote it, they gave talked at the UN general assembly with photos about it. That they were lying was visible to anyone able to read Wikipedia.

Regarding the fact that 1441 authorized the war or that there was a breach of cease-fire, come on: the US and UK made tremendous (and almost successful) diplomatic efforts to get a new resolution stating in crystal clear terms that the war was permitted. When they saw their efforts would eventually fail, they changed course. Can you really say with a straight face that when the war broke, the UN (represented by either the GA or the security council) had reached an agreement upon it?

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David 04.28.09 at 1:50 am

My bad, I’ll cop to the spelling error and not to anything else you said in regard to Ritter, given that Ritter denounced the WMD bullshit, as I said.

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Emily Littella 04.28.09 at 2:13 am

What’s all this nonsense ’bout all this wmd stuff anyway. I say, since Iraq hit us on 9-11 we had no choice but to go to war. I don’t care if they don’t have anything more dangerous than slingshots over there, in my opinion we…(huh? they didn’t attack us? are you sure? well, that’s different).

Never mind.

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David 04.28.09 at 2:52 am

I’ll explain what Brownie has done here. At first I thought he had successfully side tracked a thread about Krauthammer’s dishonesty by focusing the conversation on his own. But in his own way he brings it back around. Brownie thinks that we should conflate the Scott Ritter war critic with the Scott Ritter inspector who resigned several years before the current war. That earlier Ritter did believe in the existence of WMDs. By the time this war rolled around, Ritter had had (an informed, by his expertise) change of heart and mind. For Brownie to imply that the Ritter resignation from the inspection team represents his thinking on the subject even as he opposed the war is purely dishonest and puts him in the same camp as Krauthammer.

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Guano 04.28.09 at 9:05 am

We should indeed continue to celebrate Krauthammer Day, as well as continue to remind ourselves of David Aaronovitch’s famous prediction that WMD would be found in Iraq and Tony Blair’s insistence at that time that WMD would be found in Iraq. In the run-up to the invasion and in the three or four months afterwards, people in favour of the invasion were very vociferous that WMD would be found because it was a key part of their argument as to why it was OK to invade even though there had been no explicit UN resolution, and as to why Iraq was continuing to flout UN resolutions.

Iraq could be said to be flouting UN resolutions after 1998 when it refused to let the weapons’ inspectors back in (after the UK and US had them withdrawn to allow some bombing). But in August 2002 Iraq agreed to allow the return of inspectors. The US and the UK then said that there would have to be a tougher UN resolution. Resolution 1441 was therefore passed and Iraq agreed to inspections under this new, tougher resolution. The inspectors went in and were able to travel around and visit suspect sites and found nothing, so it looked as if there was cooperation from the Iraqis. However those in favour of the invasion said “Oh no, Iraq isn’t cooperating because it isn’t handing over the WMD that we know it has”. We now know that there were no WMD, and no WMD programmes, so that justification collapsed. Yet it seems that the idea that Iraq was still flouting UN resolutions lives on despite the lack of WMD that were a key part of that argument.

I have spent quite a lot of time trying to find out whether there is something else behind this argument that Iraq was flouting x UN resolutions, without success. It is another one of those assertions for which there is little evidence. Let’s remember Krauthammer Day bit let’s also remember that the lack of WMD in Iraq meant the collapse of the assertions about flouting UN resolutions.

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ptarmigan 04.28.09 at 2:17 pm

Good morning

This discussion of the credibility of Charles Krauthammer is almost surreal.

The United States listed 24 causes in its declaration of war on Iraq. Three of these causes related to WMD: existence of functional chemical weapons, existence of the building blocks for nuclear weapons, and existence of the building blocks for biological weapons.

Two of the three claims about Iraqi WMD have been proved true. Chemical weapons were found by the US army and third parties –Poles and Jordanians. Enriched uranium –a building block for nuclear WMDs- was found in Iraq.

This discussion does raise issues of credibility, but not against Krauthammer. The US claims have been validated. In my view, continuing to claim that Iraq did not have WMDs after a chemical weapon was used against US troops is an act of bad faith.

Refuting silly claims that were not made -such as “The MacGuffin was the magical super secret death ray acid nuclear anthrax. Which was not found.” – is fun but not useful.

Stop living in denial.

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Rich Puchalsky 04.28.09 at 2:24 pm

“[…] you are in as many words claiming mendacity and/or idiocy as character traits of those supporting war.”

Yes.

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Righteous Bubba 04.28.09 at 2:25 pm

Two of the three claims about Iraqi WMD have been proved true.

Bullshit.

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Daniel 04.28.09 at 2:35 pm

Chemical weapons were found by the US army and third parties –Poles and Jordanians

Chemical FAIL. The cache discovered by Polish troops in 2004 was later tested and found not to contain any sarin. Jordan did not actually have any troops in Iraq, so I suspect that the reason I cannot find any reference to them finding chemical weapons in Iraq is that they did not, either. The Coalition gave up searching for chemical weapons in 2005, and put out a press release announcing the fact. FAIL.

Nuclear FAIL. The “enriched” uranium was “low-enriched” uranium, which would need to be further enriched to become “high-enriched” before it could form a building block for nuclear bombs. FAIL.

In my view, continuing to claim that Iraq did not have WMDs after a chemical weapon was used against US troops is an act of bad faith

Sheer invention FAIL.

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Henry 04.28.09 at 2:43 pm

We need a better class of trolls here, don’t we.

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ptarmigan 04.29.09 at 12:04 am

Henry

I ask your indulgence for 1 last comment.

I found Crooked Timber while researching John Rawls several years ago. I came today because of the discussion of Cohen. It was not my intention to disrupt this team building, group solidarity, exercise of calling people names.

I apologize for the tone of my second post. I was provoked by the claim that an assessment of the credibility of US claims about WMDs in Iraq should ignore the US claims about WMDs in Iraq.

Thank-you Daniel for engaging my statements.

Surely if we both agree that if the Polish army found nonfunctioning chemical weapons, it necessarily found chemical weapons.

Second, I acknowledge your point that the Jordanian army did not find any chemical weapons. Please note, however, the Jordanian police found them.

I draw your attention to the MSNBC Friday, June 24, 2005:

History’s Largest WMD Trial Begins
The largest terrorist WMD trial in history is opening in Jordan. 13 Al-Qaida and Al-Zarqawi loyalists are being tried for an attempted and nearly succcessful catastrophic chemical weapons attack on Jordan. The article notes the chemical weapons seized came from Syria, but were of a type made in Iraq

Third, I acknowledge your point that Iraq possessed lightly enriched uranium. That is what I said in my first post. However, I note that the agreed fact that Iraq possessed lightly enriched uranium is a complete defence against the claim that Iraq did not have precursors to nuclear weapons.

Fourth, (and the reason I am responding) you claim my statement that an Iraqi chemical weapon was used against US troops is sheer invention. I draw your intention to the msnbc.com staff and news service report dated 3:56 p.m. MT, Mon., May 17, 2004, which is headlined
Bomb said to hold deadly sarin gas
explodes in Iraq

Here is an extract:

BAGHDAD, Iraq – A roadside bomb thought to contain deadly sarin nerve agent exploded near a U.S. military convoy, the U.S. military said Monday. It was believed to be the first confirmed discovery of any of the banned weapons that the United States cited in making its case for the Iraq war.
Two members of a military bomb squad were treated for “minor exposure,” but no serious injuries were reported.
The chemicals were inside an artillery shell dating to the Saddam Hussein era that had been rigged as a bomb in Baghdad, said Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt.

Two former weapons inspectors — Hans Blix and David Kay — said the shell was likely a stray weapon that had been scavenged by militants and did not signify that Iraq had large stockpiles of such weapons.

“The Iraqi Survey Group confirmed today that a 155-millimeter artillery round containing sarin nerve agent had been found,” said Kimmitt, the chief military spokesman in Iraq.

I agree it is possible that the media, the UN inspector, and the US military got together for this sheer fabrication. I do not think it likely.

I will not post at crooked timber again

I am a ptarmigan, not a ptroll.

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Righteous Bubba 04.29.09 at 12:10 am

So: what the inspectors knew about and had already found was the justification for war rather than all that crap about anthrax and tubes and stuff.

Well done.

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qwe 04.29.09 at 7:04 am

Before the invasion of Iraq, I honestly did not understand there were humans as mind-numbingly moronic and/or dishonest as Ptarmigan. It’s been a real lesson in the bizarre nature of the human psyche.

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