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Mon, 13 Oct 2003 Spinning the War

You know, some days I wake up and think that maybe everything I know is wrong. I mean, our leaders must have our best interests at heart, right? Their policies must make sense. They're going to leave our country in better shape than they found it, and make the world a safer and saner place. Maybe it's just that I'm confused, or flooded with too much propaganda from the left-wing media.

Then something makes me shake it off. Today it was Andrew Sullivan, and the realization that the Bush administration doesn't even need to make sense or show any consistency. They've got plenty of people who are trying to make sense out of their policies: literally, trying to spin them into something that seems rational and reasonable, even though they aren't. Andrew is one of them. He'll defend the war in Iraq, even to the point of coming up with justifications for it that were never made, and denying that the justifications the administration did give us for the war really happened. It's this kind of spinning that makes my head spin and makes me wonder if I'm losing my memory. But I'm not.

Did you hear the one about how the war was not about Iraq posing an imminent threat to the U.S. and to the world?

Andrew is still harping on that theme. But he's making a mistake. He's claiming that "imminent threat" is a meme, but then what he points out is the literal use of the term "imminent" by the critics of the war, and that administration officials didn't use that specific term. This leads to nonsense like:

"So we get the baldfaced untruth that the war was because Iraq posed an "imminent" threat. It wasn't..."

That's news to me. It doesn't seem to jibe with Bush's State of the Union address, either, in which he made the case for the war as follows:

Today, the gravest danger in the war on terror, the gravest danger facing America and the world, is outlaw regimes that seek and possess nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. These regimes could use such weapons for blackmail, terror, and mass murder. They could also give or sell those weapons to terrorist allies, who would use them without the least hesitation.

(And then he gave us the laundry list... 500 tons of sarin, mustard, and VX... 29,984 unaccounted-for munitions capable of delivering chemical agents... mobile biological weapons labs).

Evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications, and statements by people now in custody reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al Qaeda. Secretly, and without fingerprints, he could provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists, or help them develop their own.

The "money quote," to use Sullivan's term:

The world has waited 12 years for Iraq to disarm. America will not accept a serious and mounting threat to our country, and our friends and our allies. The United States will ask the U.N. Security Council to convene on February the 5th to consider the facts of Iraq's ongoing defiance of the world. Secretary of State Powell will present information and intelligence about Iraqi's legal -- Iraq's illegal weapons programs, its attempt to hide those weapons from inspectors, and its links to terrorist groups.

We will consult. But let there be no misunderstanding: If Saddam Hussein does not fully disarm, for the safety of our people and for the peace of the world, we will lead a coalition to disarm him. (Applause.)

There is just no denying that the war was sold to the American public exactly on the basis of "imminent threat." Just look at the words: "gravest danger," "gravest danger facing America and the world," "blackmail, terror, and mass murder," and "for the safety of our people and for the peace of the world."

Sulivan goes on:

The casus belli was not proof of Saddam's existing weapons, but proof of his refusal to cooperate fully with U.N. inspectors or account fully for his WMD research...

Bush didn't use the term "casus belli," but that doesn't mean there wasn't one; he didn't use it because his audience wouldn't have understood it and would have perceived, rightly, that Bush was putting on a pompous pose (casus belli, An act or event that provokes or is used to justify war.)

Does anyone but me remember Colin Powell holding up that vial, used to represent the threat of Iraqui anthrax, before the U.N.? They were trying to scare us. Remember Blair's sexed-up "45-minute" claim? Is 45 minutes "imminent" if you don't use the word "imminent?" Are 29,984 unaccounted-for munitions capable of delivering chemical agents "imminent?" What about if they don't exist? (Perhaps the debate should really be over the threat that was "immanent" - that is, existing in the material universe or human consciousness).

"Imminent" to me means "we don't have time to wait around debating this." And that is exactly the case Bush himself and his administration made, as Sullivan himself quotes:

Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option.

Of course, Saddam was not cooperative. One just has to read Scott Ritter's account in his book Endgame to be convinced of this. I'm not defending Saddam, and I'm not trying to convince anyone that he was cooperating with the U.N. Inspections regime as fully as he was required to. But we must ask ourselves: who do we trust more? I was very impressed with Hans Blix's work. I believe that the Iraqui regime was beginning to show cooperation. This was what truly scared the Bush administration: if Saddam was cooperating, there was no good case for invasion. There was also a lot of evidence of American involvement in Saddam's weapons programs to hide. We apparently had to censor Iraq's weapons declaration so that we could continue to declare Saddam an uncooperative madman and America blameless. See [Project Censored){http://www.projectcensored.org/publications/2004/3.html), The Baltimore Chronicle, and The Sunday Herald.

According to Project Censored:

Throughout the winter of 2002, the Bush administration publicly accused Iraqi weapons declarations of being incomplete. The almost unbelievable reality of this situation is that it was the United States itself that had removed over 8,000 pages of the 11,800 page original report.

And from The Sunday Herald:

The full extent of Washington's complete control over who sees what in the crucial Iraqi dossier calls into question the allegations made by US Secretary of State Colin Powell that 'omissions' in the document constituted a 'material breach' of the latest UN resolution on Iraq.

Well, yeah.

Sullivan also writes:

The anti-war left sees a real advantage in stripping down the claims in people's receding memories to ones that were not made but which can now be debunked... It's propaganda, to which the media in particular seems alarmingly prone to parroting. We have to resist it at every stop - because this war has not yet been won, and the really crucial battle, now as before, is at home.

And I couldn't agree more. We have to resist the use of propaganda and remember how the war was sold. And we have to be aware of the sea of propaganda we swim in daily, and keep in mind that retroactive justification for some good that may come from Saddam Hussein's removal from power cannot justify one sovereign nation invading and occupying another that did not pose a credible threat. Not "imminent," credible. And no amount of nitpicking can make that that justification true.

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Syria

So the third battle in the "War on Terrorism" has begun. (The first was Afghanistan, lest we forget).

A great piece from Gary Leupp in Counterpunch here:

Colin Powell (not a neocon, but their sometimes reluctant spokesman) told Syria's President Assad in May that Syria would be "on the wrong side of history" unless he took action against Palestinian militant groups in Syria, and prevented volunteers from crossing the 400 mile-long Syria-Iraq border to assist the Iraqi resistance to occupation. Being "on the right side of history," you see, means being on the side of those whose roadmap for peace simply requires Arab governments, like the one in Damascus, to ally with the U.S., recognize Israel, collaborate in the suppression of Palestinian militancy, close down Palestinian news media, accept a noncontiguous Palestinian Bantustan state, acknowledge the demographic inconvenience to Israel of the Palestinian right to return, absorb the Palestinian refugee population at their own expense, eliminate any weapons of mass destruction which might threaten nuclear Israel, actively suppress elements of Islam objectionable to Israel and the U.S., and accept the U.S. occupation of Iraq. It would be helpful, too, if they fully open their markets, place their banks, industries and utilities under foreign control, and host U.S. military bases. That's how to board the historical bandwagon and help implement inevitability.

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Life During Wartime

Lots of fun today.

Now that Israel's following the Bush doctrine of preemptive strikes, we've apparently got no good reason not to emulate Israel and engage in "collective punishment," bulldozing orchards of date palms and citrus trees.

The Carnegie Foundation has a good analysis of the Kay report. Its most important conclusions are that the "lead" -- the most important conclusion -- is buried in the middle of the report:

In the middle of a paragraph halfway through his testimony, Kay presents what should have been his lead finding: "Information found to date suggests that Iraq's large-scale capability to develop, produce, and fill new CW munitions was reduced - if not entirely destroyed - during Operations Desert Storm and Desert Fox, 13 years of UN sanctions and UN inspections." Similarly, three paragraphs into Kay's description of Saddam's intention to develop nuclear weapons, he says: "to date we have not uncovered evidence that Iraq undertook significant post-1998 steps to actually build nuclear weapons or produce fissile material.

Joseph Cirincione also points out that UNMOVIC had a budget of only $60 million and was funded by the U.N., while Kay is requesting $600 million to continue the search for WMD in Iraq. Personally, I have a lot more confidence in Hans Blix and UNMOVIC.

Does this look like a successfully concluded war to you?

Identical letters from Iraq are being sent to hometown newspaters in soldiers' names. They've been published by 11 newspapers. The Olympian received two identical letters over different signatures. The newspaper declined to publish them because it has a policy of not publishing form letters.

Sgt. Christopher Shelton, who signed a letter that ran in the Snohomish Herald, said Friday that his platoon sergeant had distributed the letter and asked soldiers for the names of their hometown newspapers. Soldiers were asked to sign the letter if they agreed with it, said Shelton, whose shoulder was wounded during an ambush earlier this year.

...

Sgt. Shawn Grueser of Poca, W.Va., said he spoke to a military public affairs officer whose name he couldn't remember about his accomplishments in Iraq for what he thought was a news release to be sent to his hometown paper in Charleston, W.Va. But the 2nd Battalion soldier said he did not sign any letter.

Although Grueser said he agrees with the letter's sentiments, he was uncomfortable that a letter with his signature did not contain his own words or spell out his own accomplishments.

I'm not exactly comfortable with this either.

Bill O'Reilly threw a tantrum on "Fresh Air." I didn't hear it but I'll have to download the program from Audible. Terry Gross is not a hard-hitting interviewer; she rarely challenges or pushes back at her guests, with a few exceptions. (Her best shows, in my opinion, are interviews of musicians, where her love of all different styles of music shows through). I've heard her interview with Al Franken and read his book. She was attempting to give him equal time, but he didn't seem to want it, even facing such a softball interview. He'd rather be able to claim that he attempted to present his views but the interview was far too mired in liberal bias to give him a chance to represent his views accurately. At least, it's a lot easier than actually explaining or recanting the various blatant untruths he's being called on.

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