Page Two

Understanding the Iraq invasion the Socratic way

Page Two
So Putin and the CIA told Bush there were weapons of mass destruction. Critics of the Bush administration are lying, because there is a clear connection between al Qaeda and Iraq. The fine-point debate is whipping up such a storm that the bigger picture is blurred.

Let's take a step back and try to focus. Trying to avoid too obviously setting up straw men, let's grant those in favor of the Iraq invasion most of what they claim.

Therefore, let's accept:

  • Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, both nuclear and biological. These were destroyed before the invasion, shipped outside of the country before or during the invasion, and/or are still hidden in Iraq.

  • There was an al Qaeda/Iraq connection, going back to the early Nineties. Al Qaeda representatives met with Iraqi intelligence agents. Iraq sent a bomb-making expert to teach at al Qaeda camps in the Sudan.

  • Iraq had connections to other terrorist organizations. Saddam Hussein sent money to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers, as well as supporting other terrorist groups.

  • Given those facts, and in the wake of 9/11, the U.S. had a legitimate right/national-security obligation to make a pre-emptive invasion of an independent country, not because of any imminent threat, but because of the distinct possibility there might prove to be one in the future.

    Next, let's accept most of the higher-purposed rationale for the Iraq invasion:

  • Saddam Hussein was a monster, a brutal leader who murdered and terrorized his people.

  • Hussein represented a destabilizing force in the Middle East; removing him helps stabilize the region.

  • The intention and end result of the invasion will be a moderate, democratically elected Iraqi government.

  • The stridently anti-American Hussein government had weapons of mass destruction and relationships with terrorist groups that attacked America. Therefore, there was a distinct possibility that Hussein would give these groups WMD to use on our home soil.

    Q&A:

  • Was Saddam Hussein a direct threat to the United States?

    Probably not. (It is doubtful he would have sent agents to use WMD against us on our soil.)

  • Would Hussein have given nuclear and/or biological WMD to terrorists?

    Likely. (Granting Hussein's anti-American passion, it is likely. Even more so if, after the first round of Bush saber-rattling and U.N. weapons inspections, we had not invaded. More problematic are what weapons he would have given. Nuclear weapons seem likely. But given the anti-secular-state feelings of al Qaeda, might he have been hesitant to provide them biological weapons, which could be used to destabilize Iraq on the way to the U.S.?)

  • Has toppling Hussein's government prevented terrorists from getting WMD?

    No. (There is intelligence suggesting that former Soviet bloc nations are a likely source for terrorists to acquire nuclear weapons or materials. Biological weapons are available elsewhere or may even be developed by the terrorists.)

  • Has invading Iraq prevented another 9/11-type attack on U.S. soil?

    Unlikely. (Iraq has not been connected to 9/11. Certain nation-states, such as Libya and North Korea, have been cautioned, and all states have been served notice not to house terrorists. But though governmental cooperation helps enable terrorists, the lack of same does not destroy them. The invasion could also prove to be a recruiting tool for fundamentalist Muslim, anti-American terrorists. Even if we accept the foolishly simplistic argument that "they all hate us anyway, so what difference does it make?" the invasion still might be a galvanizing event.

  • Would a victory in Iraq (whatever that might mean) definitely lead to a democratic, moderate government that unites Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis, contributing to overall stability in the Middle East?

    A lot of "ifs" here. (If the invasion ends with a democratic, moderate government, it will be an enormous testament to the Bush administration and a very hopeful sign for the Middle East. But it doesn't promise stability in the region. Obviously, the leaderships of all the other Muslim autocracies are not going to follow Iraq by converting to democratic governments, even if some actually do. Which means the example of Iraq could inspire insurrection and destabilization of other governments. Still, if the goal of a democratic, stable government is achieved, it's hard to argue against it.)

    Some given and a few often-stated beliefs:

  • The invasion of Iraq is part of the war on terror.

  • Those of us against the invasion don't have the stomach for real-world politics. We don't really comprehend the terrorist threat and are unwilling to offer a proper response to 9/11. We think Hussein wasn't that bad; by hugging and talking to terrorists, we can change their minds.

  • The United States, by invading Iraq, has engaged the enemy on its own turf. If we do not follow through on this to victory, they will engage us in L.A., New York, and Chicago. By demonstrating our might and power, we are stopping them there.

    Most of those in favor of the invasion will either immediately or – if they talk through their ideas long enough – eventually make it clear that the primary reason to invade Iraq is to deter future threats to this country. Overthrowing Hussein and bringing democracy to Iraq are happy side benefits to the core mission of waging the war on terror.

    Let's also accept that the invasion's primary architects in the administration deeply believe that the moral, ideological, and military superiority of the U.S. means we can overthrow a sitting government and successfully implement a new form of government in a country that has never been so governed. I don't think it's setting up straw men to claim that many of the invasion's supporters are conservative Republicans who are against big government, want taxes drastically cut, view the social safety net as dehumanizing and ineffective socialism, and don't want to be asked to help pay for the poorer members of their communities' education, health care, and job training.

    This leads to the conclusion that the United States invaded Iraq because there was a good chance that the Hussein government would in some way and to some extent aid terrorists in their actions – probably going as far as to offer them biological and/or nuclear weapons of mass destruction.

    (Keep in mind, however, that George H.W. Bush and Colin Powell did not invade Iraq during the Gulf War. Not because they were cowards, stupid, intimidated by liberals, pawns of international terrorism, or fools. They didn't invade because they understood just how dangerous, expensive, and potentially catastrophic it would be to uproot a sitting government with nothing in line to replace it.)

    Now, think about the equation if it had been presented as such:

  • Tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars

  • Hundreds of American soldiers' lives

  • Thousands of wounded Americans

  • Thousands of Iraqis killed

  • Thousands more wounded.

    All to eliminate one of a wide range of possible threats to the U.S.? A threat that almost no one would argue was imminent, primary, or all that internationally threatening?

    Last week's "Page Two" argued that the rhetoric from all sides that implies the U.S. is close to the brink of destruction is overly hysterical. In order not to muddy the waters in that discussion, I left out my multifold consternation over the current administration, which is the worst, most damaging one during my lifetime. Domestically, the social safety net is being destroyed. Religious freedom, the separation of church and state, as well as minority and women's rights, are being eroded. Environmental restrictions are being curtailed and the environment severely damaged. Unfortunately, the irresponsible tax cuts for the wealthy and staggering deficits mean that this country won't be able to adequately address the resulting problems when they inevitably become inescapable.

    Internationally, our arrogance toward allies, contempt for other countries, and economic and cultural dominance have been insanely multiplied by the invasion of Iraq. The United States, this democratic republic, will survive Bush, but we'll be addressing the consequences for generations to come. end story

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    KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

    Iraq war, Iraq, Middle East, Mideast, Saddam Hussein, WMD, weapons of mass destruction, George W. Bush, al Qaeda, terrorism, war on terrorism, 9 / 11, Vladimir Putin, CIA

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