A short refresher on how our system of government works. The country belongs to its citizens. The citizens elect representatives (Congress) to perform chores necessary to the common good. One of the powers given to Congress by our Constitution is the ability to declare war. The President can only implement, not usurp, this power.
So what is this we're reading today about plans for a full-scale invasion of Iraq, devised by the executive branch? Looks like Bush Jr. and his henchmen have it all mapped out: first they leak that the CIA has a license to kill Saddam, anytime, anywhere. The most likely point of entry for these trained killers would be with the inspection team going in to Iraq to look for nukes and germs. So of course Saddam refuses to allow the team into the country. Jr. says "Aha! He must be hiding weapons of mass destruction!" Polls show most Americans think this is bad--even though 10 years of sanctions and bombing have reduced the country to a fraction of its former power. Then Jr. goes before Congress and requests the necessary authorization and funds to start a war. Meanwhile, those of us who never once get called by a pollster and receive back only form letters from our elected representatives watch 200,000 citizens go off to die or be gassed. And why? (1) So Jr. won't be embarrassed anymore that his Dad didn't "finish the job" 11 years ago in Iraq and (2) so Jr.'s buds in the oil business will benefit from the extraction of Iraqi oil, once it becomes available from the new client government.
Are we really such big suckers? Or is it that we want the oil, too, so we can keep playing with all our toys? If it's the latter, maybe we shouldn't get our BVDs in a twist when a skyscraper or two gets toppled by the enemies such activities inevitably create. What's the loss of a few thousand people when millions continue to enjoy videos, nice cars, and gourmet meals? If this logic sounds repugnant, then perhaps the best thing to do is: start looking for other sources of energy (cultivating Russian and other non-Middle East/non-Caspian sources in the short term), and demand that Congress pull the plug on these ill-considered invasion plans. Oh yeah, and quit funding the military occupation of Palestine.
The brave New York Times says on its editorial page today: "At this early stage in planning — long before actual operational details are set — there ought to be some discussion in Congress and around the nation about the manner of American intervention in Iraq." Not the necessity for intervention, mind you--the manner. Media hos, do your thing.
i would suggest my own three-pronged attack. first, try to lure him out of his bunker with the incredible magic of david copperfield and david blaine. i hear saddams a sucker for sleight of hand tricks or chopping them off, im not sure which. if those two patriots should fail, i would send in the righteous brigade of disgraced priests and ceos. they could quickly immobilize him by bankrupting the country and his virtue. then when its time to get really nasty, i would shroud the skies over baghdad in a white sheet and project the adam sandler oeuvre on a continuous loop until either hussein goes insane and surrenders or the iraqi people rise up an oust him to put an end to their suffering. although if in his insane state he should do something awful like use chemical weapons to blind himself against the thirtieth viewing of happy gilmore, by all means we should nuke him back to the stone ages. and as long as we are seeking retribution might as well take a few iranian mullahs out for good measure. i would also suggest that the commander in chief lead the airstrike. he has a few hours he owes in military service from his days of youthful indiscretion but now that hes a man im sure he will own up to his responsibilities. but if were lucky, hell go awol, dick cheney will have a heart attack and colin powell wiil become president. thats probably the best case scenario at this point.
what are the real odds of saddam acquiring a nuclear weapon...and if he acquires one, what are the odds of his using it on israel...and if he uses it on israel, what are the odds of israel retaliating? i put the last one at 100%, the second at around 50%; if the first one is only 10% then there's a 1 in 20 chance of a (pretty scary) regional nuclear conflict in the next 10-15 years...yes?
Based on your numbers it sounds like the best way to lessen tensions in the region would be to invade Israel and strip it of its nuclear capability.
I honestly think Saddam's "aggressive" designs are overstated. He strikes me as a pragmatist (a creep, but still a pragmatist), with every reason to be paranoid. In 1990, Iraq was broke after an eight-year war with Iran, which we encouraged. Saddie took over the Kuwaiti oilfields, where slant-drilling into Iraqi territory was occurring, because he thought he had a wink from the U.S. that it was OK. He never planned to invade Saudi Arabia--if anything was a loser for him, that was--and in fact was in retreat when our forces rolled in. The Gulf War was about saving face--after all the countries we bribed into joining our "coalition," and after all the media buildup, we couldn't just go home and not have a war. I don't really understand all the wheels-within-wheels reasons why we've demonized this former ally for so many years. Like Turkey, Iraq's a secular power: it makes more sense that we'd be paying reparations and making nice right now as a check on militant Islam. And there appears to be no Marshall Plan on the table for after the invasion--it may not be so easy to keep the Shiites and Kurds in check. So again, it comes back to saving face--Bush Jr. taking out Saddam for his Dad--and a misplaced desire to control the world by controlling its oil. I can't get behind either motivation for aggression on our part. This new "pre-emptive strike" posture by the Administration makes us look really brutal in the eyes of the world.
hmmm... dunno about the slant-drilling (certainly interested to hear about it); dunno about "in retreat" when our forces rolled in (does this mean _after_ our forces rolled in?)(i don't remember "iraq's leaving anyway!" chants in any of the anti-gulf war protests I was in); dunno whether the gulf war was really more about "saving face" than about maintaining friendly control of the kuwait oil and buffering saudi arabia (how does Bush Sr. not "save face" if iraq pulls out of kuwait without a war? seems like he would have saved plenty of face)...any opinion about the likelihood of saddam's acquiring nuclear capability and using it? any speculation on where his nuclear program might be if israel hadn't taken out the reactor? please note that i'm not advocating a war, just suggesting that there may be a teeny bit of strategic rationale behind an aggressive posture...also, I'm sure every time Bush talks to Sharon he gets an earful of "you do it or we're going to do it!" which, Sharon being Sharon and Israel being Israel, you probably kind of have to take seriously. oh, and one other thing: I guess I may as well point out (now being far beyond the point at which I threw caution to the wind) that I disagree that invading israel would lessen tensions in the region, although I'm sure you meant this ironically.
hmmm... dunno about the slant-drilling (certainly interested to hear about it)
there's been a lot written on that: "Iraq Kuwait slant drilling" pulled up 344 google refs.
dunno about "in retreat" when our forces rolled in (does this mean _after_ our forces rolled in?) (i don't remember "iraq's leaving anyway!" chants in any of the anti-gulf war protests I was in); dunno whether the gulf war was really more about "saving face" than about maintaining friendly control of the kuwait oil and buffering saudi arabia (how does Bush Sr. not "save face" if iraq pulls out of kuwait without a war? seems like he would have saved plenty of face)...
This is all clearer in hindsight than it was then. According to British journalist Geoff Simons, in his book "Iraq: From Sumer to Saddam" (London: St Martin’s Press, 1996), Baghdad repeatedly offered to negotiate its departure from Kuwait prior to Desert Storm. On August 3, the day after the Iraqi army rolled into Kuwait City, Saddam announced that he would be prepared to leave Kuwait as soon as it was determined the security of Iraq or Kuwait was not threatened. (Obviously he had to save face himself.) This was two days before President Bush announced Iraqi aggression "will not stand."
By our saving face, I mean, there's no way Bush Sr. was going to let thousands of soldiers sweat in the desert and the media keep a daily countdown while he negotiated the Iraqis' withdrawal from territories his own State Dept. suggested it was OK for them to grab. Back when you were demonstrating (and I was annoying my friends with antiwar talk), no one knew about the infamous April Glaspie "green light." As for his intentions in Saudi Arabia, as Jude Wanniski has suggested, "If he could not defeat Iran in an eight-year war, how could he expect to engage the allied powers in a grab for Middle East oil?" 148 Americans died--if Saddam had been in a forward-moving rather than retreating posture, that number would surely have been much higher. (Much of this info comes from Wanniski's letters to then-Foreign Policy-honcho Jesse Helms, which I wish more people would read.--I've cited them here a few times.)
any opinion about the likelihood of saddam's acquiring nuclear capability and using it?
Acquiring it: Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter, no dove, has been quite vocal that Bush & Co are overstating Saddam's nuke capacity, and are using an "inspection crisis" to start a war.
Using it: Assuming he had it, even rogue states want to survive. What would be the likelihood of that if he lobbed a nuke at Israel?
any speculation on where his nuclear program might be if israel hadn't taken out the reactor?
The reactor was built with U.S. encouragement (and no doubt great cost) to generate electrical power. At the time he was still a U.S. ally. Taking it out was an early sign of betrayal/bad faith; if anything it spurred his non-peaceful nuke program.
oh, and one other thing: I guess I may as well point out (now being far beyond the point at which I threw caution to the wind) that I disagree that invading israel would lessen tensions in the region, although I'm sure you meant this ironically.
Very ironically, since it's obvious Sharon controls us and not the other way around. Thanks for discussing this with me. I wish more people would engage these issues. By the way, how is it that you were protesting a supposedly defensive action in '90-91 and now see a strategic rationale (however teeny) for aggression on our part? Saddam is weaker now, not stronger.
Dave, the main problem I have with the Ramsey Clark and other accounts you posted is the usual left tendency to assign superhuman powers of conspiracy to its enemies. It's more likely that all the mixed signals the Administration was throwing off before the Kuwait invasion were traceable to the simple incompetence of big government--too many egos, too many voices. Saying that this was an orchestrated attempt to provoke the invasion ascribes to Bush Sr. & Co. a much higher degree of intelligence than they have. Which is not to say that they didn't take advantage of it once it occurred, for personal and political gain.
Where left/progressives and libertarian/conservatives agree is that Saddam was--and is--a pumped-up menace. (Only the neocon/neoliberal middle thinks he's really dangerous.) Bush is doing exactly what his father did: using this paper tiger to distract the public from a miserable domestic performance. And the NY Times, by giving the leaked invasion plans front page coverage, does its part to help.
good discussion...I agree that the left (the right too of course, but the soft left more than the soft right) has a tendency to over-rate the conspiratorial capabilities of the ruling world elite. i still don't think bush sr. would have pulled the trigger if he really thought he could have negotiated saddam out of kuwait. i just don't believe it. he would have looked like a gigantic hero if he'd "stared down" hussein and "forced" an iraqi withdrawal "without firing a shot". re: the various snips about iraq's being a former ally, the us has had lots of horrible allies at various times (stalin, for one)...the fact that, say, we used to think bin laden was ok in a particular context (rich guy paying to kill russians) doesn't make him ok in another (blowing our shit up)...as to saddam's expansionism, it well may be overstated, but OTOH, as you point out, he comes from the postwar "socialist" pan-arab movement(my maps used to have syria, egypt, and iraq in the same color, as i remember)...a greater arab state with saddam at the head would be pretty cool, huh? call it a new caliphate based in baghdad if you like, i don't think he's such a die-hard "secularist" he'd stop you. now, the fact that maybe he sits around and dreams about this kind of thing does not ipso facto mean anyone should invade iraq...but powerful dictators with nuclear arms do scare me. our old friend stalin with nukes, for instance?...pretty scary. invasion-worthy? i don't know, but i'm not ready to say absolutely not. i guess i've grown more cynical about human nature since my last antiwar march.
On Saddam's supposed expansionism, here's an article suggesting that his "threat to Saudi Arabia" in 1991 was not only strategically nonsensical but wholly made up: Soviet satellite photos from that time show no Iraqi troop buildup near the Saudi border. Yet we all believed it at the time. Our government never lies, right?
I just want to state for the record that I oppose the invasion and will view future stories of babies being pulled from incubators, sorry, I mean 9/11 connections and "proof" of weapons of mass destruction as War Party dissembling. This whole "invade Iraq" scenario is being cooked up by Likudnik fellow travelers in the Defense Department who are playing on some weird Oedipal feelings in George Jr, that would best be worked out with therapy instead of American lives.