Meanwhile, in a galaxy far, far away

by John Quiggin on February 18, 2004

Australian foreign minister, Alexander Downer, in today’s Australian

But, of course, if the international community knew early last year what it knows now about Saddam’s WMD programs, there would have been less debate in the Security Council about the appropriate action. Kay’s report shows that removing Saddam was the only way the international community could be assured that he would no longer threaten anyone with WMDs. Far from unstuck, the WMD case is proven.

{ 19 comments }

1

Sebastian Holsclaw 02.18.04 at 9:11 pm

Kay’s report showed that Saddam still sought WMD, but it suggests that sanctions were keeping him from getting them.

Sanctions weren’t going to last. France, Germany and Russia wanted them dropped in January of 2002. (Before the big Bush/UN fight I note). Saddam had turned starving his own people ‘because of the sanctions’ as a great way to gain sympathy.

Since sanctions were unsustainable, it seems likely to me that getting rid of Saddam was the only way to assure ourselves that Saddam wouldn’t get banned weapons.

I look forward to those who have talked about the awful effect of sanctions on Iraq’s poor people now suggesting that sanctions were going to continue indefinitely. Shall I preemtively mention the interestingly administered and poorly named ‘UN Food for Oil’ program?

2

BP 02.18.04 at 9:33 pm

Why are all-inclusive sanctions neccessary to prevent Saddam from developing nukes, Mr. Holsclaw?

3

Barry 02.18.04 at 9:36 pm

These sanctions seemed to be so effective that they denied him the ability to make even limited amounts of half-century old military tech.

Remember, Kay’s report was also filled with lots of weasel phrases, to please his masters. What was one of them? ‘Small, unorganized research efforts to establish a scientific base for future programs'(quote from memory), which could describe reading a physics textbook.

Kay also used the phrase (I think separately from his report), ‘we are still pursuing evidence of WMD program-related activities.

In the end, it wasn’t there. All else is BS to explain away that absence.

4

Mike 02.18.04 at 9:38 pm

Sebastian, as usual, completely misses the facts: Since Hans Blix and his people were proving there were no WMD in Iraq, once his final report was tendered, there would have been no reason to continue sanctions. The Bush regime, caring not a whit about the suffering of the poor anywhere in the world, let alone Iraq or America, would have voted to continue sanctions, but civilized nations like France, Germany, and Russia would have ended them. There is no real evidence that Saddam was seriously looking for WMD.

5

CT reader 02.18.04 at 9:53 pm

I think it’s right that many people, governments and intelligence services thought before the war that Iraq has no large stockpiles of WMDs.

But I think no Western government thought that Iraq had no WMD at all.

So here’s a task:

Please find a statement by the German or French government published before the war started which contains a sentence like “Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction”.

I’ve searched the websites of the German Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, and his Foreign Secretary, Joschka Fischer. No sign here.

6

BP 02.18.04 at 9:58 pm

Mr CT Reader

What exactly do you mean by Weapons of Mass Destruction?

7

Andrew Boucher 02.18.04 at 10:02 pm

ct reader, If such a statement could not be found, wouldn’t that only prove that the French and Germans are more careful than their American counterparts about making unwarranted categorical assertions?

8

Sebastian Holsclaw 02.18.04 at 10:16 pm

“There is no real evidence that Saddam was seriously looking for WMD.” You haven’t read the Kay report then. There is plenty of evidence that he was looking to obtain WMD. What is lacking is evidence that he was successful in obtaining WMD. The inference is that sanctions did little to control his desire, but apparently much to control his ability to act on that desire. Since sanctions were ending, I stand by what I wrote above.

9

BP 02.18.04 at 10:20 pm

Would that be WMD as in nuclear weapons, Mr. Holsclaw?

10

Ted 02.18.04 at 10:32 pm

i refer you to the article in The Weekly Standard by Kagan and Kristol. They quote Bill Clinton and Sandy Berger as to exactly what they believed Saddam would do after sanctions were lifted. And that is why the Clinton administration advocated regime change in Iraq as our national policy. Saddam, himself, was the ultimate WMD

11

Sebastian Holsclaw 02.18.04 at 11:21 pm

That would be the Atomic, Biological and Chemical weapons which he was banned from having and seeking.

12

Glenn 02.19.04 at 12:21 am

all these people who care about the iraqi people so much and wanted the sanctions to end couldn’t give a damn that the iraqis are most grateful for saddam’s removal from power. hippercrites. here’s a nice tribute from an iraqi artist to the american soldiers:

http://www.snopes.com/photos/arts/kalat.asp

13

Justin Hart 02.19.04 at 1:29 am

Here are few quotes from Blix in 2003:

“As we know, the twin operation ‘declare and verify’, which was prescribed in resolution 687 (1991), too often turned into a game of ‘hide and seek’.”

“Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance-not even today-of the disarmament which was demanded of it and which it needs to carry out to win the confidence of the world and to live in peace.”

(is there an implication of war in that last statement)

14

bad Jim 02.19.04 at 3:50 am

The point, of course, is that Kay’s findings were exactly those of Blix a year ago, that there were no weapons of mass destruction or means for delivering them. What we know now is no different than what we knew then.

In a way it’s reassuring to learn that it isn’t only American leaders who assert “I was right!” and reason backwards from there.

15

Carlos 02.19.04 at 4:09 am

So, Sebastian, if I understand well; If Saddam had WMDs then war was justified and if Saddam had not WMDs then war was justified too because he would have gotten them once sanctions were dropped. ¿Could someone tell me then what role had WMDs in the war (seem pretty irrelevant to me) and ¿Why bother with sanctions and inspections if all that mattered were Saddam’s future intentions? It makes some kind of sense (in a perverted, Stalinistic way).

16

ahem 02.19.04 at 6:01 am

¿Could someone tell me then what role had WMDs in the war (seem pretty irrelevant to me) and ¿Why bother with sanctions and inspections if all that mattered were Saddam’s future intentions?

A scared populace (and legislature) is easier to push into war. Simple as that.

17

ginger 02.19.04 at 8:38 am

But I think no Western government thought that Iraq had no WMD at all.

If I didn’t get it all wrong (because it is getting confusing…), I thought it had been established that, according to all the previous UN resolutions, the failure on the part the Iraqi regime to prove they had destroyed all WMD’s (and the failure to prove they were not entertaining new WMD programs) was enough for them to be in violation of those previous UN resolutions. Hence, enough for intervention. So, even if what the Australian Prime Minister is saying sounds like a joke at this stage, it’s actually correct…

The problem is that governments, as usual thinking they had to present their arguments in front of a mass of idiots, made a mess of explaining that case, and so the requirement for intervention turned from “failure to prove destruction of those weapons” to “need to prove the existence of weapons”.

The case for the UN itself to decide for intervention was very clear. In fact, the UNSC did decide there was ground for intervention, only they decided not to decide which kind of intervention to choose. Because countries in the SC, Russia and Germany and France, had all the financial and strategical interests not to remove Saddam’s regime even if the case for intervention was there and they’d agreed to it.

But even if there was a case for military intervention (and not just in terms of WMD but security strategies as well), it could have been handled a lot better and more coherently by those who carried it out. When you got your own intelligence services contradicting you and making you look like an idiot, that’s your own problem to solve. When you, instead of keeping to a coherent presentation of your case, move from one argument to the other and then end up with yielding to the reversal of the original case, and come up with a farcical enquiry commission into something that had already been enquired at and decided in the UN… well you’ve screwed it up really bad.

18

Barry 02.19.04 at 1:39 pm

Ginger:

“…. thought it had been established that, according to all the previous UN resolutions, the failure on the part the Iraqi regime to prove they had destroyed all WMD’s (and the failure to prove they were not entertaining new WMD programs) was enough for them to be in violation of those previous UN resolutions. Hence, enough for intervention.”

Wow. Time to get out the list of those who violate UN resolutions, and get to work. Who are we invading this year?

Barry

19

ginger 02.19.04 at 2:30 pm

Barry: hmm, how about my neighbours, in violations of resolutions about playing techno on Sunday mornings…

Seriously, what I meant is that the resolutions had stated the requirements was to prove destruction of wmd, not existence.

Of course whether intervention is decided or not in the UNSC, and of which type – diplomatic or military – is not taken for granted. Each case is different. And it’s always about interpretation. So you have a good point there, eh…

But, whatever one thinks of the whole thing, the fact is that everyone had agreed to resolutions up to 1441, so they can’t really reverse the terms is was based on. And that “they” includes the governments who supported the military action. It’s rather disappointing that they’re now getting caught up in their own muddled arguments.

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