Monday, June 13, 2005

15 Right-Wing Myths About Iraq

Much of the coverage of Iraq in the mainstream media has been shaped by a set of false assumptions about how and why the war got started. You can find similar lists of these across the Internet, so by no means is Bunkerbuster making any claim to original insight here:

Myths and Realities About the Invasion of Iraq

Myth: 1. People who oppose the U.S.-led Iraq war do so because they think Saddam Hussein and his regime weren't a security threat to the U.S. and other countries.

Reality: Opponents of the war know the Iraqi regime posed a threat to its neighbors and the well-being of its own citizens. That threat could have been dealt with diplomatically, just as the Bush administration is now attempting with Pakistan, North Korea, Iran and China. Each of these countries posed a far greater threat than Iraq and efforts to contain them will be difficult, costly and never 100 percent successful. But they have and will cost less, be more effective and be more consistent with long-held American values of freedom and human rights than the invasion of Iraq has been.

Myth # 2. All, or even most, of the U.S. intelligence on Iraq said the regime had WMDs that were a threat to U.S. security.
Reality: Scott Ritter and Hans Blix, two arms control experts directly involved in the search for Iraqi WMDs repeated numerous times that they lacked evidence proving Saddam had WMDs. On many specific WMD issues, such as the aluminum pipes that the Bush administration said were for making nuclear weapons, the administration's own intelligence sources said they had serious doubts about whether there were any WMDs.
While there certainly was evidence that Saddam may have had such weapons, the evidence was by no means overwhelming or conclusive and it was certainly not exclusive in any way. There was a lively debate among intelligence and arms control professionals, even as the Bush administration was claiming that it was "certain" Iraq had WMDs.

Myth # 3. The Iraqi regime was allied with Al Qaeda.
Reality: While there were some serious intelligence professionals that had concluded Iraq had WMDs, no intelligence whatsoever showed any significant links between Saddam and Al Qaeda.
Clearly, the Iraqi regime's goals and history were aligned against that of Al Qaeda, which itself was more of a threat than an accessory to Baath party rule.
Indeed, we now know that an Al-Qaeda affiliate had set up a training camp in the part of Iraq controlled by the U.S. and the U.K. If Saddam had supported Al Qaeda, the camp would have been in territory Iraq controlled.
Moreover, documents captured in the war show that bin Laden disapproved of Saddam's rule and that entreaties from Al Qaeda to Iraq were ultimately rejected.
Al Qaeda has supporters across the Middle East in every country, but the level of support and its significance was less in Iraq than in any other major country.

4. The Iraqi regime was involved in the Sept. 11 attacks.
Reality: While Bush himself has avoided claiming in plain English that Iraq was involved in Sept. 11, it continues to use rhetoric using the 9/11 attacks as a justification for invading Iraq. Cheney has insisted, even U.S. intelligence itself concluded there was no such connection, that Saddam "may have been involved.'' Yet no one, not Bush, not the vast right-wing blogosphere, not the U.S. or Israeli spy network: has been able to produce a shred of hard evidence linking Saddam to 9/11.

5. Opponents who speak against the war endanger the lives of U.S. troops.
Reality: The sooner the troops come home, the safer they will be. Moreover, in the long term, young Americans will be much safer if the aggressive militarism of the Bush administration is defeated politically. Opponents of the war are fighting for the future safety of Americans in addition to the well-being of troops already in harm's way. The right wing media talking heads claim that opponents of the war embolden Al Qaeda. This is dangerously naive. Al Qaeda are irrational fanatics who are immune to public opinion. To think that they would care whether Americans oppose the war in Iraq is to believe that they have a regard for public opinion that they clearly do not.

6. The Sept. 11 attacks changed the nature of the Iraqi regime and/or the threat it posed.
Reality: On Sept. 11, 2001, Iraq was run by a dictator who presided over a deeply divided country, 2/3 of which he did not even control. Opposed by the governments of virtually all of his neighbors, Saddam seldom, if ever, spent the night in the same place. Hemmed in by U.S. and U.K.-maintained no-fly zones and with no significant allies in the region and with only fractional access to his country's oil wealth, Iraq was a very minor threat to peace. The Sept. 11 attacks changed none of that. The only thing it changed was the emotional state of militarists in the U.S., who went on to use the attacks as a pretext to invade a country that was not involved in the attack.

7. The U.S.-led attack on Iraq has made Arab despots in the region less secure from U.S. attack.
Reality: The U.S. is borrowing the money for the war in Iraq because it simply cannot pay for it. Why would Syria's Bashir Assad or Iran's Khatami believe that Americans are willing to borrow ever more to pay for yet another military adventure? Even if the U.S. could pay for another war, where would the troops come from? Already, U.S. military personnel are being kept in Iraq far longer than they had been originally told. Moreover, the military has had to lower its recruitment and retention standards and still can't meet its manpower goals. Are the leaders in places like Iran, Syria and Pakistan going to pay more attention to the war cheerleading on Fox News Channel or to the fact that Americans refuse to pay for the war they're already in and, increasingly, refuse to fight in it.

8. The President of the United States should not be held responsible for his performance in analyzing competing intelligence claims.
Reality: Apologists for Bush's misstatements about WMDs in Iraq like to claim that the intelligence showed Saddam had the weapons, and the president was merely basing his views on what his intelligence sources were telling him. He wasn't lying, they argue, he was just misinformed. For the sake of argument, suppose the apologists are correct: the president was misinformed. That should not, however, be any comfort whatsoever to Americans. A president who willfully ignores counter-evidence or, worse, deliberately prevents himself from discovering it, is no less harmful to the country than a simple liar, who is aware of the evidence, but claims he isn't. If the Bush administration really believed it had failed the country by getting it wrong on WMDs, it would have punished the intelligence sources. Instead, it rewarded them. What does that tell you?

9. The Iraqi regime had no legitimate reason not to cooperate with UN inspections.
Reality: The U.S. has acknowledged that it was seeking ways to overthrow the Iraqi government. Scott Ritter and others have noted that the U.S. agreed to allow Israeli agents to infiltrate its portion of the inspection teams. Saddam did not maintain power by trusting the U.S. and the U.N. He was clearly, deeply paranoid, but that doesn't mean the U.S. wasn't out to assassinate him. U.S. attempts to organize or compel the assassination of Saddam gave him a legitimate reason to resist the inspections. We now know that inspections could have and should have shown that there were no WMDs. So why would Saddam resist? Saddam may have been cruel, but he wasn't stupid. He correctly surmised that the U.S. was intent on getting rid of him, one way or another, for one reason or another. By interferring with inspections, he could achieve three things: Limit U.S. intelligence gathering on his regime in general, create the impression he may have WMDs, deterring some threats, and bolstering his potemkin profile as a regional military strongman.

10. The UN inspectors failed to prevent the Iraqi regime from acquiring WMDs.
Reality: No one has suggested Saddam would not have obtained WMDs if he could have. The U.N. inspections prevented him from doing so, since, in addition to surviving U.S. assassination or overthrow, he also wanted the sanctions to end and a precondition to that was showing that he didn't have WMDs.

11. The U.S. and U.K. abided by the terms of UN resolutions that ended the first Gulf War.
Reality: The U.S. bombed Baghdad in retaliation for an alleged plot by the Iraqi regime to assassinate George H.W. Bush.

12. Saddam Hussein could have survived by cooperating with UN arms inspections and abiding by UN resolutions that ended the First Gulf War.
Reality: The G.H.W. Bush, Clinton and G.W. Bush administrations made it clear that the U.S. would pursue the ouster of Saddam, regardless of the outcome of inspections.

13. The Bush administration exhausted diplomatic options before initiating its attack on Iraq.
Reality: The U.S. failed to gain U.N. sanction for the invasion. Moreover, the Iraqi regime had made clear that it was prepared to remove all obstacles to U.N. arms inspections.--an obvious diplomatic option. G.W. Bush made no "diplomatic'' offer to the Iraqi regime, but rather said Saddam and his sons had to leave the country, or an invasion would take place. Clearly, then, Bush was prepared to call off the war, but not for any reason related to the stated rationale for the invasion, which was of course the removal of the WMD threat. On the eve of the invasion, the U.S. had yet to obtain the support of key allies such as Germany and France. Worse, Iraq's biggest neighbors all opposed the war, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan and Turkey. One diplomatic option would have been to seek the support of these countries, which had so much at stake on the outcome of the war.

14. The attack on Iraq hasn't limited the U.S. ability to help rebuild Afghanistan.
Reality: The war in Iraq has cost at least $100 billion, and probably twice that, so far, depending on how you count it. This is money the U.S. has borrowed. Every dollar spent on Iraq is one that isn't available to build schools, hospitals or roads in Afghanistan.

15. The U.S.-led attack on Iraq had broad international support.
Reality: The key countries of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan and Turkey all supported the first Gulf War. They opposed the second, because they knew it was not the best way to deal with the threat Saddam Hussein posed. Any effort to invade a country that does not include support from its neighbors cannot be said to have "broad" support. Moreover, allies that have steadfastly backed the U.S. in previous wars--France and Germany--were opposed to the invasion.

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