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post #1 of (permalink) Old 11-23-2005, 01:53 PM Thread Starter
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10 reasons supporting the war in Iraq is a bunch of bullsh!t


The typical framing is: "Democrats got the same intelligence and reached the same conclusion, so blaming Bush for misleading America is purely political." The argument is also presented in 'gotcha' form by people like Sean Hannity, who use a lengthy blind quote about the threat posed by Saddam that turns out to be from Bill Clinton, John Kerry or some other Democrat. The conclusion is that if Bush was lying, they must have been lying too.

There is a false assumption underlying this argument, namely that Dems received the same intel as Bush (they didn't), but setting that aside, here are two reasons why this is a straw man:

a) The issue is not whether people believed Saddam had WMD (many did), or whether there was any evidence that he had WMD (there was), it's the fact that Bush and his administration made an absolute, unconditional case with the evidence at hand, brooking no dissent and dismissing doubters inside and outside the government as cowardly or treasonous. That's what "manipulating the intelligence" and "misleading the public" refers to, the knowing exaggeration of the case for war (whether by cherry-picking intel or using defunct intel or by speaking about ambiguous intel in alarming absolutes). There we were, more than a decade after the first gulf war, two years after 9/11, and Saddam hadn’t attacked us, he hadn’t threatened to attack us. And then suddenly, he was the biggest threat to America. A threat that required a massive invasion. A bigger threat than Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Iran, Bin Laden. A HUGE, IMMEDIATE threat. It simply defied belief.

b) In addition to the fear-mongering described above, the contention that Bush 'misled' the public is not simply about Saddam's WMD, but about the way the administration stormed ahead with their plans and invaded Iraq in the way they did, at the time they did, with the Pollyannaish visions they fed the world, all the while demonizing dissent and smearing their critics.

In both (a) and (b), the crux of the issue is proportionality. Whether or not Bill Clinton or France or the U.N. believed Saddam was a threat, the administration's apocalyptic words and drastic actions (preemptively invading a sovereign nation) were decidedly out of proportion to the level and immediacy of the threat. THAT is the issue.


This is often used as a counterpoint to the notion that Bush overhyped the rationale for war. It's a vacuous argument whose logic implies we should invade a half-dozen African countries as well as North Korea, China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. Every day that goes by that Bush allows these threats to "materialize," he is failing in his duties to protect the American public and should be impeached. And if the pushback is that North Korea and others are being dealt with diplomatically, isn't that exactly the approach this argument purports to refute?

Furthermore, the war's opponents never claimed they'd prefer to "wait" for threats to materialize. This is another straw man. Nobody wants to wait for threats to materialize; they just want to deal with them differently.


The Iraq War Resolution (IWR) debate has been flogged to death, so there's no need to fully resurrect it here. Suffice it to say that:

a) Many elected Democrats did NOT vote in favor of the resolution. Not to mention the millions of rank and filers who marched down the streets of our cities and were largely ignored by the press and brushed off by Bush. So to say, generically, that Democrats "supported the war" or to imply that there was tepid resistance to it, is false.

b) No matter how many people contest this point, a vote to give Bush authority WAS NOT a vote "for war." Bush also had the authority NOT to invade. Since Republicans are so fond of quoting John Kerry in support of the case for WMD, here are his words on the floor of the Senate the day of the Iraq War Resolution vote.

"In giving the President this authority, I expect him to fulfill the commitments he has made to the American people in recent days--to work with the United Nations Security Council to adopt a new resolution setting out tough and immediate inspection requirements, and to act with our allies at our side if we have to disarm Saddam Hussein by force. If he fails to do so, I will be among the first to speak out.

"If we do wind up going to war with Iraq, it is imperative that we do so with others in the international community, unless there is a showing of a grave, imminent--and I emphasize "imminent''--threat to this country which requires the President to respond in a way that protects our immediate national security needs.

"Prime Minister Tony Blair has recognized a similar need to distinguish how we approach this. He has said that he believes we should move in concert with allies, and he has promised his own party that he will not do so otherwise. The administration may not be in the habit of building coalitions, but that is what they need to do. And it is what can be done. If we go it alone without reason, we risk inflaming an entire region, breeding a new generation of terrorists, a new cadre of anti-American zealots, and we will be less secure, not more secure, at the end of the day, even with Saddam Hussein disarmed.

"Let there be no doubt or confusion about where we stand on this. I will support a multilateral effort to disarm him by force, if we ever exhaust those other options, as the President has promised, but I will not support a unilateral U.S. war against Iraq unless that threat is imminent and the multilateral effort has not proven possible under any circumstances."

Not exactly an endorsement of Bush's approach or a vote "for war." And a good retort to those who argue that Democrats are "rewriting history."


To borrow Samuel Johnson's immortal words, this argument, like (false) patriotism, is the "last refuge of scoundrels." Implying that opposing views are treasonous is the surest way to stifle dissent.

And it's a cheap way to avoid confronting hard questions. Such as: Does anyone seriously believe that Bush's course of action in Iraq has intimidated or deterred the enemy? Doesn't the fact that the insurgency is as strong as ever "embolden" the enemy?

The sobering truth is that there are dozens of recent events and actions that 'embolden the enemy' far more than advocating a disciplined, phased redeployment. Torture of detainees, the use of white phosphorus as an offensive weapon, the curtailing of civil liberties at home, the shameful abandonment of American citizens in the aftermath of Katrina, the cynical outing of CIA agents, the smearing of war critics as traitors, these are far more encouraging to America's enemies. If we are truly engaged in a clash of civilizations, an epic battle against "Islamofascism," then our enemies are far more interested in the destruction of those things that are quintessentially American and that give us the moral high ground (freedom of speech, adherence to international law, upholding ethical norms and standards, respect for human rights, etc.) than strategic redeployment in Iraq.


If I learned anything from the past, it's that predicting the outcome of sectarian divisions in the Middle East is a fool's game. The shifting alliances, the internal pressures, the regional influences, make it next to impossible to say whether or not the removal of American forces would further destabilize Iraq.

It's also grimly amusing that we're expected to believe the prognostications of the very people who told us we'd be greeted as liberators.

For every foreign policy expert who says that Iraq will be worse off without U.S. troops, there's another who will tell you the exact opposite is true. In the absence of any sound predictive capabilities, the endgame should be based on the opening: i.e. the sooner you end something that started out wrong and has had terrible consequences, the better.

For those who counter with the Pottery Barn rule (we broke it we should fix it), the question is: What's the statute of limitations on that rule? What if we can't fix what's broken in Iraq? Is there a point at which we acknowledge we can't fix it and stop trying? Is our attempt to 'fix' Iraq breaking it even further? Also, are there other things we've broken that we're obliged to fix before we try to fix Iraq? Is there a reason our limited resources should go to fixing Iraq and not saving poor, sick, and hungry children in America?


Any talk of withdrawal, redeployment or a change in course is characterized as "cutting and running." This word-play is so disingenuous that it hardly merits a rebuttal, but the best response to the notion that a war hero like John Kerry or John Murtha wants to "cut and run" is Murtha's response to Cheney: "I like guys who've never been there that criticize us who've been there. I like that. I like guys who got five deferments and never been there and send people to war, and then don't like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done."

A phased withdrawal is just that, a phased withdrawal. And a timetable is just that, a timetable. Using politically-charged buzzwords won't change the fact that the present course of action is untenable. It is the height of folly to continue on a tragic and deadly path just to save face. And as I pointed out in #3, enough has been done to "embolden the enemy" that leaving Iraq will have little effect in that regard.

For those who think continuing with the current policy in Iraq is a mark of courage and changing direction the mark of cowardice, they should bear in mind that courage tempered by wisdom is noble, courage in defiance of wisdom is foolhardy.


No matter how many times reality intrudes on this fantasy, it's still one of the favored arguments by the war's supporters. And it was repeated more than once in the House debate.

This is yet another straw man: we all agree that it's better to fight our enemies somewhere other than on the streets of America. The problem with the "fight them there" approach is that:

a) Iraq wasn't "there" until AFTER the invasion. (In spite of the mental contortions of Bush apologists who insist there was a substantive Saddam-Qaeda connection.)

b) Our policy in Iraq is creating more of "them."

c) "There" is where "them" (Bin Laden and his cohorts) are. And it ain't Iraq.

A corollary to this argument is that Iraq is the "central front in the war on terror" and we can't defeat the terrorists if we don't fight them there. That's like walking into someone's house, breaking an expensive vase, and claiming you have to move in because your job is to clean up broken vases and as long as vases are being broken, you have to be there to clean up the mess. Arguments don't get more circular than this...

And if remaining in Iraq is really about Bush's resolve to defend America against our enemies by keeping them away from the mainland, let's not forget what Katrina's aftermath tells us about how well this administration is preparing for domestic threats. Imagine the holes in domestic security that could be plugged with the toil and treasure being spent in Iraq.


Democrats deserve legitimate criticism for their approach to Iraq, but when the Republican Party controls all branches of government, attacking Dems for conflicting positions and a confused message shouldn't be a catch-all excuse for Republican mistakes and lies.

Saying Democrats are muddled on Iraq is a favorite media distraction. But the response is simple: if Bush's policy is to "stay the course," the Democratic policy - whether we accept Murtha's approach or Feingold's or Kerry's - is to "change the course." Simple enough. Changing positions in light of new evidence and new circumstances is the sign of a mature and rational mind. Stubbornly clinging to a failed course of action is not.

It's fascinating how Democrats are always the ones held to account for their Iraq vote, but not Republicans. The question constantly put to Dems, "you voted for it, now you're against it," has a straightforward answer, as phrased by a Democratic senator: "we authorized Bush to put the bullet in the gun, not to shoot us in the foot." We've been shot in the foot by the administration's Iraq policy. Democrats are rightfully reacting to that. The real question - to Republicans - is this: "You voted for this war based on Saddam's threat to America. The threat never materialized. Was your decision wrong? And does your lockstep allegiance to Bush's failed policy make you personally responsible for further deaths beyond the 2000+ American troops who have already given their lives?"


The infinite time horizon is an easy cop out for supporters of the Iraq war. The problem with the Bush apologists' reasoning is that using an infinite time horizon - which they are so fond of - virtually any action, no matter how egregious, can be shown to lead to some positive results. It’s the bastardization of utilitarianism; asserting a causal relationship between a pre-emptive invasion of a sovereign nation and all future good developments in Iraq and the Middle East may swell the hawks' breasts with pride, but it's a dubious and dangerous way to conduct foreign policy. Which is precisely why we need to adhere so strictly to the rule of law, to basic moral precepts, and to established principles of international relations, something that this administration has failed to do, and that the administration's supporters can dance around but can't justify.


This is the ultimate fall-back for supporters of this disastrous war. Somber references to mass graves, Saddam gassing his people, liberating the Iraqis from a dictator, spreading freedom, etc., are second only to flag-waving and bumper-sticker "support" for the troops when it comes to feel-good justifications for the fiasco in Iraq.

To human rights activists, this faux-bleeding heart conservatism rings hollow. Considering the unremitting suffering and killing and violence and abuse of innocents that takes place on this planet, it is intellectually dishonest to resort to a retroactive humanitarian rationalization for a war that was ostensibly defensive in nature. Especially when we callously ignore the plight of so many others who suffer in silence.

If the trump card question is "don’t you think it's good that Saddam is gone?" then one rhetorical question can be met with another:

Isn't it terrible that we've done nothing to stop the slaughter in Darfur?
Isn't it terrible that Iraq is still a killing field and now a terrorist breeding ground?
Isn't it terrible that a nuclear armed Kim Jong Il is still in power?
Isn't it terrible that the hundreds of billions of dollars spent in Iraq could have saved millions of starving children instead of killing tens of thousands of Americans and Iraqis?

And so on...

So why can't the war supporters see those points. Guess it will be another discussion, right?
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