June 12, 2005

Limited Outrage

A left-leaning Cleveland blogger, whose stuff I have appreciated in the past (enough to blogroll him and stop in occasionally) threw down the so-called Downing Street Memo the other day, and wondered why the media and the country weren't more "outraged" by Bush's lies and more insistent on the impeachment of the President. As if the DSM represented some kind of "smoking gun" and that Bush's perfidy was evident, he concluded by asking "how can it be any more clear than this?"

I left him a comment which started getting so involved I decided to make a post out of it, as follows, (edited slightly since posting there):

Selective memory on the part of the Iraq war critics is perhaps one explanation for their puzzlement about the lack of "outrage" over the Downing Street memo. A part of this is the unwillingness to revisit the last few years of the Clinton administration, whose official policy was regime change in Iraq, and who was bombing Iraq in 1998 as punishment for WMD stonewalling, to the outrage of few. The "status quo" at the time was U.N. sanctions and U.S. "flyovers" designed to prevent Saddam from gassing more of his own citizens, and which cost U.S. taxpayers billions, with no end in sight. Remember?

More selective memory is required by those who now trumpet the lack of WMD discoveries as evidence of Bush "lies". In large part, anti-liberation folks have been getting away with pretending Saddam never had WMD's or had no programs in place to produce them. Again, reminders may be in order. From a TWS article, this is just a partial list of what the Iraqis admitted to by 1998:

* That in the years immediately prior to the first Gulf War, Iraq produced at least 3.9 tons of VX, a deadly nerve gas, and acquired 805 tons of precursor ingredients for the production of more VX.

* That Iraq had produced or imported some 4,000 tons of ingredients to produce other types of poison gas.

* That Iraq had produced 8,500 liters of anthrax.

* That Iraq had produced 500 bombs fitted with parachutes for the purpose of delivering poison gas or germ payloads.

* That Iraq had produced 550 artillery shells filled with mustard gas.

* That Iraq had produced or imported 107,500 casings for chemical weapons.

* That Iraq had produced at least 157 aerial bombs filled with germ agents.

* That Iraq had produced 25 missile warheads containing germ agents (anthrax, aflatoxin, and botulinum).

Bill Clinton, Madeline Albright and others in the administration had made the decision by the late '90's that Saddam was a menace that would eventually have to be removed. This was an uncontroversial topic back then, which probably led to quotes like this from leading Democrats:

- in June 2002 Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said, "There is broad support for a regime change in Iraq. The question is how do we do it and when do we do it."

Military action also had broad bipartisan support in Congress, and of course was backed by Security Council Resolution 1441, which had its "serious consequences" terms justified by Saddam's refusal to account for WMD's which he had previously admitted to possessing.

All of which is merely to set up the point that it is altogether unsurprising and certainly not worthy of "outrage" that by the middle of 2002, President Bush and his close advisors were fairly sure that a military operation would be required to oust Saddam, and that plans to do so were well underway. It would have been irresponsible not to be doing so. The unspoken but logical rejoinder to those who are outraged that it appears from the DSM that Bush had pretty much made up his mind to invade Iraq by mid-2002 is: "So f'n what?"

After all, by that time it was clear that "diplomacy" was not likely to be a successful way to get the Iraqi dictator to step down. By late 2001, the U.S. and Britain had already brought to the attention of the United Nations the fact that Saddam was taking kickbacks and paying bribes through the Oil-For-Food program, and it was clear that he had successfully bought the Security Council votes of France and Russia, along with numerous U.N. officials directly.

The primary reason Bush went back to the U.N. in late 2002 was to provide political cover for the resident of 10 Downing Street. He had to know he had little chance to compete at the U.N. with Saddam's millions in bribes to his business partners in Europe and the Arab world.

A reading of the DSM shows that both British and American officials were concerned about Saddam's potential use of WMD's in an invasion. If they were fabricating ("fixing" is supposedly the damning word here) the evidence about WMD's, why were their private strategy sessions exhibiting such concern about them?

More selective memory is put to use ignoring the countless times George Bush stated clearly, in major speeches, the additional justifications for regime change in Iraq, namely the manifest humanitarian reasons, as well as the demonstrable links to radical Islamic terrorism.

And as ever, the war critics do not like to talk about their proposed alternatives to the invasion of Iraq, because they had none, short of going back to the Security Council, where it was obvious that Saddam had feathered his nest with cash. We never hear Bush's Iraq policy critics discuss Oil-For-Food, or Salman Pak terrorist training center, or Saddam's terror "summits". We don't read anti-war critics' book reviews of books like Stephen Hayes' The Connection, and we sure don't hear anyone acknowledging that Bush merely followed through on Clinton's Iraq policy. We don't hear these things addressed because doing so would draw more attention to the critics' utter lack of a better idea.

In addition, it is embarrassing for these folks to admit that following their stated policy would today have assured an entrenched and belligerent Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq, with all of its attendant murder, torture, corruption, and repression. This would include an ongoing U.N. scam aid program, reconstituted WMD programs, and continuing financial and tactical support for Islamic terror.

Implicit in their "Bush lied" rhetoric is the notion that the U.S. and the world would be better off had we not deposed Saddam. I have not heard this thesis convincingly argued by any of Bush's critics. Wonder why.

Yes, there's a whole lot that must be conveniently forgotten or ignored to sit around today and demand outrage, investigation, and impeachment proceedings because George Bush demonstrated leadership in liberating 25 million Iraqis from a murderous scourge, and that he emphasized the dictator's documented use of WMD's as part of the justification for doing so. It is beside the point that, as James Robbins said in his excellent piece on the DSM:

the memo simply contains the impressions of an aide of the impressions of British-cabinet officials of the impressions of unnamed people they spoke to in the United States about what they thought the president was thinking.

The point is that Bush and Blair were sitting down in late 2002 devising their strategy on how to depose Saddam Hussein. That is, to do what needed to be done. That which the United Nations would eventually say would have to be done if Saddam violated S.C. Resolution 1441. The fact that their intelligence, and that of the entire Western world, proved to be in some measure faulty, changes none of that.

Of charges that WMD intelligence was "phonied up" or that intelligence analysts were pressured in any way to tailor their analysis to suit administration goals or policies, former Senator Charles Robb, co-chairman of the commission that investigated WMD intelligence practices, had this to say a few weeks ago:

We looked very closely at that question. We--every member of the commission was sensitive to the number of questions that had been raised with respect to what we'll call politicization or however you want to describe it, and we examined every single instance that had been referred to in print or otherwise to see if there was any occasion where a member of the administration or anyone else had asked an analyst or anybody else associated with the intelligence community to change a position that they were taking, or whether they felt there was any undue influence. And we found absolutely no instance, and we ran to ground everything that we had on the table. . . . We got a fair amount of information that didn't provide us anything more in this area.

So even though the Downing Street memo contains no evidence that Bush lied to anybody about anything, it is being flaunted by his critics as if it does. This "gotcha" tactic does serve the purpose of avoiding awkward issues like successful free Iraqi elections or the wave of democratization in the region that has resulted largely from Bush's leadership and action.

Impeachment advocates should be called upon to explain how they would have better handled Saddam then, and how they would be dealing with an emboldened Saddam now. Or how they would have somehow achieved the desired "regime change" without military action, given the reality of a compromised Security Council (or even with a squeaky clean U.N. for that matter). They should be asked how Clinton's military actions to remove an oppressive tyrant in the Balkans were justifiable, especially since they lacked U.N. sanction, if Bush's liberation of Iraq is not.

I don't for a moment minimize the loss of life and limb among U.S. and coalition troops. But I also think it's fair to say that if a Democrat had effected the liberation of 25 million Middle Easterners from dictatorship with similar casualty numbers, many of today's Bush critics would be doing self-congratulatory cartwheels down the avenue.

Which makes this DSM stuff mostly about Bush hatred then. Focusing on minutiae like what the word "fixing" meant in some British bureaucrat's memo instead of on the demonstrably positive results of the Bush-led Middle Eastern democratization process is what makes Bush haters feel better these days, I guess.

It also keeps the subject off of their lack of a coherent strategy to deal with the war that Islamic fundamentalists are waging on the West and all of modernity.

UPDATE 6/12: Jeff has responded thoughtfully, and a healthy dialogue ensues in his comments section.

UPDATE 6/13: Even Michael Kinsley says there's nothing in the Downing St. Memo for the opponents of George Bush to get worked up about.

Posted by dan at June 12, 2005 12:06 PM