July 10, 2005

Tracking the Rhetoric

When this war began, or in the march leading up to it, the case for war was completely predicated on securing Saddam's WMDs. Everything else was just icing on the cake. This little gem, from the 2003 State of the Union, was pretty typical.

"Before September the 11th, many in the world believed that Saddam Hussein could be contained. But chemical agents, lethal viruses and shadowy terrorist networks are not easily contained. Imagine those 19 hijackers with other weapons and other plans -- this time armed by Saddam Hussein. It would take one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known. "

Now, depending where you lie on the political spectrum, this statement was either deceitful BS, or a well-intentioned if irresponsible overstatement. But regardless, the statement is indefensible. Report after report has shown no solid Al-Qaeda connection (just some vague and weak circumstantial evidence at best), and certainly no WMDs. The terrible dictator? Well, we’re all glad he's gone. But let’s be honest here, that was never the point of this war. In fact, our track record in Iraq since 1979 shows we were never too concerned with that. Crimes against humanity came and went and we sold weapons and imposed sanctions on our own schedule independent of those events.

So they shifted gears. This became about spreading democracy and freedom, and liberation, a humanitarian campaign with greater ramifications for the entire Middle East. (Although this last bit is kind of the neo-con dogma that pushed the war in the first place, I think.) As the insurgency stepped up, one of the earlier points came back to life: we were fighting terrorists in Iraq, even if we caused them to enter the country or take up arms. In his 2004 State of the Union, the president feebly tried to defend the initial case, and then made this point:

"We also hear doubts that democracy is a realistic goal for the greater Middle East, where freedom is rare. Yet it is mistaken, and condescending, to assume that whole cultures and great religions are incompatible with liberty and self-government. I believe that God has planted in every human heart the desire to live in freedom. And even when that desire is crushed by tyranny for decades, it will rise again."

Well, that got kind of tough to back up too. Humanitarian conditions? The civilian casualties (obfuscating and micro-analyzing of the Lancet report aside) are astronomical, and the infrastructure is in complete shambles. In the Sunni triangle, things are hardly secure or safe. Democracy? Maybe. The government is just now cutting deals to include Sunni's in the government after their election boycott. We all know it won't happen any time soon, but hey, I've got hope for the future at least. What about the global war on terrorism? Reports that said the number of terrorist incidents around the world decreased turned out to be completely wrong. The insurgency is more violent than ever and more US (and Coalition) troops are dying than during the pre-Mission Accomplished era. So what became the new talking point?
We're fighting the terrorists over there so we don’t have to fight them over here.
(This comes paraphrased I guess, out of the June 28th Fort Bragg speech)

Maybe I'm making an obvious point here, but London (and Madrid) is as close to 'over here' as anything needs to get. I wonder where they'll go now. I guess we can only strengthen our resolve, since our strategy to fight terrorism was the military equivalent of kicking a beehive, and we’re getting stung pretty harshly. Hopefully though, with the new DoD report about restructuring the military, while the Bush administration keeps trying to save face, a coherent and effective campaign to defend ourselves can begin. I hope so. Because for me, and likely for the people of London who point to the War in Iraq as an instigator of these terrorist attacks, the War on Terrorism has been a miserable and costly failure in money and lives, and this recent statement from President Bush just doesn't cut it.

"The war on terror goes on.... Their resolve is as strong as my resolve. And that is we will not yield to these people, will not yield to the terrorists."


  1. Well-put, Niral. When I look back at the election, I get sick when I think of how Bush managed to convince the nation of Kerry's summer sandal behavior (and how the dems let it happen). Isn't anyone paying attention to what Bush is saying? How can the entire country not have noticed the logical inadequacy of the Bush justifications for war? Whenever I bring up WMDs to my republican dad (don't ask; I have no idea how I sprung from my parents' loins), for example, he says "okay, they weren't there, but did you really want Saddam to be in power?" Ack! You don't need a course in logic to see the problem. Everytime you point out the errors in one of the justifications, they simply jump to the next. Well, I guess that's what you were saying, but I just don't understand how people don't see it. I'm inclined to blame the media to some extent. What do you think, Niral?

  2. The media can be blamed to some extent, but I'm really leery of any of this liberal/conservative bias stuff, frankly, I think its bullshit in most cases.
    Being in the White House means guaranteed news coverage - you have the podium for primetime when you're ready to make your case. Its the ethic of our media and our nation to assume that the White House is telling us the truth, until proven otherwise. Its understandable - would we rather have a culture doubting the people we elect? We'd like to be able to trust our leaders. The problem is, not all of them deserve out trust, and our burden of proof for losing trust in the President is absurdly high.
    Beyond that, the media is really far more concerned with profit than anything else. So, the media follows the public rather than lead (which is good since it keeps them from misleading us with their own agenda, but its bad because they can mislead us with the prevailing agenda). And so until the media is convinced outright refutation of the president won't be controversial, they won't take a strong and coherent stand.