Thu. May 08, 2003
Search for the Reasons
Search for the Reasons – When a nation of hundreds of millions of free and opinionated people goes to war (even with a 70/30 split), it’s really hard to say there’s One Reason. Heck, it’s hard for this one person to give you one reason.
As I’ve argued in various ways since last August, to me, the primary reason was to clean up the mess that we’d made 12 years ago. We left a demonstrably dangerous megalomaniac in power, told the Iraqi people they’d have to do the dirty work and rise up against him, and then stood by and did nothing when he slaughtered them by the thousands.
But, of course, nations do not admit that their foreign policy is driven by cleaning up their past mistakes. The fact is that most of the other reasons given, from the harsh suppression of dissenters to retain power, to the continued obstinance over chemical weapons, were the result of that 12 year old mistake. The Root Reason from which all others flowed, at least, to my way of thinking.
But that’s not the way it was sold by the Bush administration. Some say it was some kind of “bait and switch,” where weapons of mass destruction were used as the pretext, but now it’s about the obvious freedom Iraqi’s now enjoy (right down to openly protesting our presence). Others might argue that the administration used the only “handle” they had to try and make this a more international effort, and that 12 year old “handle” was the UN inspections process. When Libya chairs the UN Human Rights Commission, do you think much headway would have been made in the UN simply on the behalf of the oppressed Iraqi people?
Whatever your position, we are all left with some odd questions. Even Hans Blix said there were tens of thousands of gallons of chemical precursors that they knew existed, but which Iraq would neither account for, or prove they’d destroyed. If those stocks are now “gone,” why wouldn’t Saddam have taken public credit for that? Why would he destroy things in secret when he knew the UN had certain knowledge of them?
Whatever they may be, the answers are out there, but it seems clear to me there’s a lot of unraveling to do. Austin Bay offers his estimate: “So how long could it take to shakedown Iraq for Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction? [...] Operations of this size aren’t wired in an afternoon; the number of field teams currently deployed hasn’t been publicized. In late April, Gen. Tommy Franks said that several thousand sites would be surveyed. Syria remains a question mark. However, four months still strikes me as a reasonable time frame. That means early September is a fair date for drawing conclusions about Saddam’s weapons.”
Well, if the UN inspectors had 12 years, and in the end demanded still more time, I guess four months to cover an area the size of California seems reasonable, doesn’t it? But that doesn’t stop the questions from being asked in Time Warp Land, the Kingdom of Impatience, the Island of Instant Gratification, er, America.
Rafe Colburn goes after the specifics in Colin Powell’s speech to the UN, and says he awaits a long article detailing whether Powell’s specific claims were true or false. He notes that an article in the Washington Post said “none of Powell’s claims had been substantiated” ... as of 17 days after Saddam’s statue was toppled (even though it wasn’t, people now denote that event as The End of The War).
I’m not singling Mr. Colburn out because he’s representative of impatience, I simply saw his piece linked at dangerousmeta, and he closes by bringing home the real point: “The other question that must also be asked is why I care in the first place. We went to war with Iraq, we won the war, and there’s little doubt that Iraqis are better off without Saddam than they were with him. The reason I’m still keeping track of this stuff is that I firmly believe we were led to war under false pretenses. I said it before the war, I said it during the war, and I’ve said it since. Next year we’re going to have a Presidential election in which the incumbent is a man who played upon the rightful fears of Americans to gain their assent to a war fought for reasons that he and his advisors would rather not openly acknowledge.”
I’d say the truth of that last sentence remains to be seen, but I am also very curious to have all the answers. Even though not much time has passed since it ended, it’s plain that a lot of people were wrong about this war, in various ways.
99.99% of them don’t face reelection. But it has been clear for a long time that this war would have a great impact on the 2004 campaign, on both sides of the political fence, and for those who tend to straddle it (and, trust me, that’s a shaky place these days). That election day is 18 months away.
It will no doubt be an important one. So, don’t we want to base our decisions on the most complete info we can get? Even if that takes time? And patience? If we don’t get full answers about Saddam’s Supposed Weapons until, oh, say, September, will 14 months before the election give us enough time to assess it?
We just witnessed a war in which, time and time again, the quick answer the media provided turned out to be wrong, once there was enough time to truly assess the facts. In addition to that lesson, I know I personally became highly sensitive to the bias apparent in every media source, across the spectrum. Thus, I want time to get all the facts, and then patiently filter them.
And that’s probably a glimpse of my personal hell over the coming 1.5 years. As heated discussions develop over politics and foreign policy, talk of “time and patience” will carry the weight of a long slow whisper at a convention of auctioneers.