I just read an interesting article in Slate describing what the author calls "the four unspeakable truths" about the Iraq war. The four truths are:
In other words, the US is chasing its losses in Iraq. I'm tempted to give the article points for trying, but these conclusions were already obvious back in 2003, well before the war was even a year old.
The fact is that the Iraq war was not a "mistake" no matter how much its rueful former supporters would like.
Buying Enron stock in the first week of November, 2001 - that was a mistake. Lying to the American people and bullying Congress and the media to invade a country on the false pretext of a nonexistent threat - that was a crime.
Everyone who was actually following events related to Iraq knew that it was effectively disarmed of weapons banned by UN Security Council Resolution 687 by the end of 1998, as the UNSCOM Director, UNSCOM Chief Inspector, IAEA Director, two UN Humanitarian Coordinators in a row, and the UNMOVIC Director tried to argue, but were ignored and/or ridiculed by the Bush administration and the US newsmedia.
I was able to figure a lot of this out by mid-2002 just from reading publicly available documents in my living room. I'm not bragging about this: it didn't take a penetrating insight to read the facts and draw the blindingly obvious conclusions.
The problem in the US is that the policy recommendations that flow from the obvious conclusions are politically unthinkable. In the US "mainstream" of political discussion (i.e. the framework established by the two major parties and the mainstream media), there are exactly two possible positions on foreign policy: doves and hawks.
The difference between doves and hawks is the difference between containment (permanent sanctions) and rollback (regime change). Try to argue that both positions are wrong and you will be dismissed by both sides as a moonbat.
When partisan conservatives defend the war by saying the US had to do something about Iraq, they're quite right. Where they're wrong is in maintaining the false alternative between doing nothing and invading.
The "mistakes" of the prior administrations were not in failing to invade Iraq (George H. W. Bush recognized that this would lead to an insoluble quagmire) but in refusing to lift the UN sanctions at the end of 1998 when Iraq was demonstrably in compliance with UNSCR 687.
Instead, in keeping with the US government policy that the sanctions would never be lifted as long as Saddam was still in power (a direct violation of Resolution 687, by the way, but who's counting?), the US and UK governments staged a faux crisis involving a regional Ba'ath party office, ordered Richard Butler to withdraw the UN inspectors, and launched three days of illegal missile strikes against Iraq.
After that, recognizing that the inspections program had become a mockery, Saddam refused to allow the inspectors back in (this was widely and falsely reported as "Saddam kicked the inspectors out") and Iraq went into political limbo.
The right thing for the Bush administration to do would have been to seek a Security Council Resolution establishing permanent monitoring of Iraq to ensure ongoing compliance with UNSCR 687 and a lifting of the sanctions that had killed half a million Iraqi children.
Instead, because it was run by a group of neoconservative megalomaniacs who believed they had the power to remake the world like it was a Lego set, the Bush administration capitalized on the FUD that followed 9/11 and fabricated a patently phony "imminent threat" that they used to terrorize, bully, and shame the American public and Congress into supporting their pre-existing plans.
The real unspeakable truth about Iraq is the fact that one country does not have the right to meddle in another country's affairs in the manner that the US does as a matter of course.
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