June 22nd, 2006


Summer of Discontent I: First, the Goofy Stuff (Iraq 2006)

93, all!

I'd much rather post about yesterday's Summer Solstice ritual (Happy Solstice!), or senryu's and my twentieth anniversary last Tuesday (W00T!)...or even pitch a pre-emptive bitch about what the current Disney folks are doing to the "Pirates of the Caribbean" ride at Disneyland (i.e., changing it to reflect the films, in ways I find unfortunate); and of all the things I'm tired of posting about (and you're tired of reading about), Iraq has to top the list.

Still, the current congressional debate -- a mere four years too late, wtg, folks -- is so heartbreaking (on all sides), and, IMO, perpetuates so many obvious errors (on all sides), that I feel moved to make a few additional comments. Those comments will be in Part II, however; first, let's get the goofy stuff* out of the way.

I hoped to start with examples of sheer horsehockey from Republicans and Democrats alike, but Sen. Rick Santorum ((R) Pa.) has so clearly won the Pathetic Derby that I literally can't find a Democratic allegation which begins to compete. In a move so embarrassing that even FOX "News" is rebutting it, Santorum "announced" yesterday that Saddam's elusive weapons of mass destruction (WMD's) have been located. What he means, it developed, is that in the course of three and a half years of looking we have managed to find -- scattered all over the entire country of Iraq -- something in the neighborhood of 500 unspent artillery rounds, some of which have degraded poison gas in them.

Okay. Where to begin.

These are not, in fact, the promised hidden stockpiles; they're stray rounds, all from before the first Gulf War fifteen years ago. As the administration's own Iraq Survey Group (ISG) noted in its final report, some time ago:

While a small number of old, abandoned chemical munitions have been discovered, ISG judges that Iraq unilaterally destroyed its undeclared chemical weapons stockpile in 1991. There are no credible Indications that Baghdad resumed production of chemical munitions thereafter, a policy ISG attributes to Baghdad's desire to see sanctions lifted, or rendered ineffectual, or its fear of force against it should WMD be discovered.

President Bush's own conclusion at the time of the ISG report:

The chief weapons inspector, Charles Duelfer, has now issued a comprehensive report that confirms the earlier conclusion of David Kay that Iraq did not have the weapons that our intelligence believed were there.

And, from FOX (!), the administration's current comment on Santorum's "announcement":

Offering the official administration response to FOX News, a senior Defense Department official pointed out that the chemical weapons were not in useable [sic] conditions.

"This does not reflect a capacity that was built up after 1991," the official said, adding the munitions "are not the WMDs this country and the rest of the world believed Iraq had, and not the WMDs for which this country went to war."

Good for them for saying so. Shame on Santorum for this inept propaganda ploy.

Like I said, I'd hoped to have goofy stuff from both sides; please feel free to make your own nominations for Democratic goofy stuff in comments.

Next: the serious issues, and why both sides are so strapped for an answer.

93 93/93 -- AJ

* By "goofy," I mean stuff so ludicrous that either the speaker himself cannot possibly believe it, or which, if he does believe it, calls his basic competence into question. This is different from policy flaws, which, as we'll be seeing in our next post, are (IMO) nearly universal at present on all sides.
** Further details, including the FOX link, are conveniently located at:

Summer of Discontent II: No Direction Home (Iraq 2006)


Now to the hard part.

1. Governments nearly always have to lie to their people in order to get them to go to war; always have to propagandize, nearly always have to deceive outright. I have never criticized this administration for lying per se in the run-up to the Iraq War: only for the policy, the profoundly destabilizing decision to topple Saddam Hussein in the first place. That said, there is no serious question that the administration -- most especially through its actual centers of power, VP Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld -- engaged in an extensive pattern of deliberate deception in order to justify the war. The deception here was not, IMO, on the issue of whether Hussein had WMD's; other than U.S. weapons inspector Scott Ritter (who gets the Only Guy Who Was Right award for 2002-3), nearly everybody believed that he had at least something beyond the few abandoned leftovers we've actually found. The deception was about whether Saddam Hussein posed any threat whatsoever to the United States. He didn't; nobody who knew anything actually believed he did; and while the VP's and Defense Secretary's offices set about knowingly deceiving the gullible masses on the subject, nobody serious in either party ever really believed it.

(2) Which leads us to the real collapse of American leadership -- both parties in the government, and nearly all media outlets -- on this subject. In part, I think, as a direct result of practically nobody in government or media having any military study, let alone actual service,* nearly everyone at all levels of American power went completely hallucinatory about how easy this was going to be.

So as the 2002 midterm elections approached, you had the GOP dizzily getting everything it wanted, and the Dems running scared that they'd look weak...and other than Sen. Robert Byrd, nobody wanted to even debate whether to go to war: the Senate just handed the power to the administration and washed its hands of the whole affair.

I won't labor the point; we all know how it went. As blogger "digby"** memorably put it (echoing a song of my own youth): "someone left the cakewalk in the rain." :/

(3) A crucial intermediate step: in the past, governments have nearly always prepared their people for sacrifice before going to war. Neither White House, Congress nor press did that in this case. Instead, the public was promised that the U.S.'s invasion, occupation, and complete remaking of Iraq could be done not only without a military draft, but without a tax hike -- indeed, with tax cuts. I still find this mind-boggling...and it accounts for the nightmare "debate" we're having in Congress now.

(4) In brief: three and a half years on, we cannot stay and we dare not leave. We do not have sufficient troop strength -- even were it possible -- to win this thing; but if we leave, we're handing Iraq over to Iran (and to a lesser extent to the Saudis and Turks)...or simply transforming it into a charnel house at best, and Al-Qaidastan at worst.

So you have Republicans dusting off all the cliches from Vietnam: "Stay the course!" "Don't cut and run!" -- not to mention pushing a new one, "Better to fight them in Iraq than here at home" (wouldn't it be nice if it were an either/or...particularly if we were prepared to win). Democrats, meanwhile, try belatedly to tap fears about the war with vague calls for an eventual withdrawal, somehow, sometime. In short, my friends, either way we are screwed.

What do you suppose will happen?

(5) I suppose what should happen is a joint statement from the congressional leadership of both parties, and the White House, that they are very sorry but we're going to need to raise taxes and institute a draft. Now that you're done laughing, barring some completely undeserved good luck (for which we should all be praying like mad, IMO), what will happen is one of two things: either an unpredictable nightmare scenario in Iraq as we're eventually forced to leave, or -- sometime after the 2006, or even 2008, elections -- raising of taxes and institution of a draft.

And in the meantime the largely phony debate goes on: all eyes on the midterms. Leaving the real decisions for another day.

93 93/93 -- AJ

* As most of you know, I didn't serve, either; I became draft age just as the Vietnam War ended.
** http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/