Brian Fung of FP Passport uncovers some fascinating tidbits from U.S. interrogations of Saddam Hussein. I found the following extremely interesting.
Hussein continued the dialogue on the issues relating to the significant threat to Iraq from Iran. Even though Hussein claimed iraq did not have WMD, the threat from Iran was the major factor as to why he did not allow the return of the UN inspectors. Hussein stated he was more concerned about Iran discovering Iraq’s weaknesses and vulnerabilities than the repercussions o the United States for his refusal to allow UN inspectors back into Iraq. In his opinion, the UN inspectors would have directly identified to the Iranians where to inflict maximum damage to Iarq. [sic, and emphasis mine]
What’s most shocking is how completely U.S. policymakers seem to have missed this angle. So obsessed were they in Hussein’s “terrorist” threat — or, more accurately, in selling the fear of this threat to their political constituencies back home — that they entirely misunderstood motives that, with any serious study of the reason, would have been eminently clear.
Combined with something else I read recently (I think it was this) about the corresponding futility of trying to understand the Iranian nuclear program without reference, first and foremost, to the Iraq-Iran war, this information proves to me the preeminence of regional dynamics over the big “anti-American” confrontation that American politicians always seem to assume is the driving force of everything. This is hubris, certainly, but it is also just supremely short-sighted. And it’s the kind of thing that torture definitely won’t help you uncover.
(image from flickr user iDip under a Creative Commons license)
Robert McFarlane, a National Security Advisor under Reagan, explains the war in Iraq:
In 2003, it was arguably democracy promotion, rather than the threat of weapons of mass destruction, which triggered the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Nice. Since, in the year 2003, the invasion or Iraq was in fact predicated on the threat of weapons of mass destruction — there are no ifs, ands, or buts around this justification, I’m afraid — McFarlane just adds the word “arguably” to fit the long-reigning ex post facto casus belli of “democracy promotion” into a context into which it simply does not belong. Justifying the war on pro-democracy grounds was a rationale that gained in strength with each discovery of a hiding place in which WMD were not hidden. This is not something that’s controversial; it was prevailing conventional wisdom. Trying to change it through canny means is just an attempt to reclaim historical memory.
As just one example of the high-minded scorn with which the media has treated Stephen Colbert’s publicity stunt in visit to Iraq, take the analysis of this Baltimore Sun television critic:
With the golf club and all the jokes about being a coward in his opening monologue, Colbert’s offering a post-post-post modern take on Bob Hope. But most of the jokes do not have a real point of view, because this gung-ho makebelieve character Colbert plays lacks a moral or emotional center. Are we ironic-izing (through a post-modern humor that is 99 percent irnony) ourselves into a kind of emotional death in which we can no longer feel the horror of war?
The most relevant description of Colbert’s character is not that he “lacks a moral or emotional center;” it is that he is a caricature of a trueblood conservative. Viewed through this lens, his trip to Iraq is not about the lack of media attention that Iraq has received; that is just an easy peg on which to hang his satire. The basic plot line of the piece — that the war is only still going on because no one has yet declared victory, and that Colbert will therefore be the one with sufficient cojones to make that declaration — brilliantly evokes all of the foolishness of the dozens hundreds of Bush-era speeches repeating nothing more coherent than the word “victory.” That reality was a farce, and in mocking it, Colbert has produced something more revealing than Bush policy (and the conservative stance on the war writ large) ever was.
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This bit of yesterday’s Washington Post article about female circumcision in Kurdistan captures the sexist domestic attitudes that make ridding this horrific practice so difficult.
Zangana has been lobbying for a law in Kurdistan, a semiautonomous region with its own government, that would impose jail terms of up to 10 years on those who carry out or facilitate female circumcision. But the legislation has been stalled in parliament for nearly a year, because of what women’s advocates believe is reluctance by senior Kurdish leaders to draw international public attention to the little-noticed tradition.
The Kurdish region’s minister of human rights, Yousif Mohammad Aziz, said he didn’t think the issue required action by parliament. “Not every small problem in the community has to have a law dealing with it,” he said.
Describing the damage done to girls by this practice as a “small problem” is bad enough, but the truly heinous aspect of the minister’s comments is his firm situation of the issue within “the community.” By shoving the problem out of the political, and into the communal — read: the familial, a.k.a. the patriarchical — Aziz is both damning the prospects of achieving such legislation and striking a powerful and timeworn blow against feminism. Issues like female circumcision very much belong in parliament, and shunting them out, will naturally only prolong the abuses toward Kurdish women and girls.
A professor at a Canadian research university has published a new “report” that concludes, supposedly “overwhelmingly,” that, had Al Gore been elected President in 2000 the Supreme Court not selected George W. Bush as the winner of the 2000 presidential campaign, then he too would have invaded Iraq. Besides the (very salient) silliness of purporting to conduct a “study” on a clearly fictitious counterfactual, this conclusion is — like any “solution” of a counterfactual — based on a reading of the context that skews toward what the speculator is seeking to “prove.” This graf, for example:
Given the prevailing mood in the aftermath of 9/11, the institutional structures that surround the president, the political and social pressures of the time, the accepted wisdom regarding Saddam Hussein and the international factors at work, says Harvey, Gore “[would have been] compelled … to make many of the same interim (generally praised) decisions for many of the same reasons. Momentum would have done the rest.”
Sure, this was the context in which Bush et al. misled the country into war; but what Professor Frank Harvey is neglecting to account for is the extent to which the Bush administration’s own manipulations shaped this context. The contrived notion that Saddam Hussein was in in any way connected to the 9/11 hijackers only flourished as “accepted wisdom” because the administration unceasingly beat these drums of fabrication. Would a President Gore have manufactured evidence of uranium from Niger? Unlikely, but I’m not pretending to be scientific here.
(image from flickr user World Economic Forum under a Creative Commons license)
As far as I could suffer it, it basically amounts to this: Britain is cowardly for leaving Iraq; George Bush is a hero for sticking to “victory” in Iraq; Britain failed because it tied itself too obsequiously to America; Britain failed because it was not enough like America; Brits are cowardly, weak, and lack moral fibre; and if Britain couldn’t stick it out in Iraq, it doesn’t deserve nuclear weapons.
Real Brits not only would have kept fighting to the bitter end in Iraq; they would have used their nuclear weapons to make the bitter end in Iraq.
This is Brett Schaefer, a conservative at The Heritage Foundation, grinding his axe against UN peacekeeping, here with the example of missteps that the Security Council took in deploying a still-struggling peacekeeping mission to Darfur:
The council also entered a conflict situation against the lessons of its own experience. It compounded the error by failing to adopt clear objectives, metrics for success, or an exit strategy. [emphasis mine]
Let’s think…do these criticisms apply anywhere else?
What baffles me about many conservatives is how eagerly they will dissect the failings of, say, UN peacekeeping missions, but completely overlook the fact that these same diagnoses could be made quite legitimately of the U.S. misadventure in Iraq. The vehemence of insisting on victory, once again, seems to obscure the ability to discern, or even consider, not only things like “clear objectives, metrics for success, or an exit strategy” in Iraq, but also, alas, even the grimmest of ironies.