Friday, July 29, 2005

Why we went to war

Over at TPMCafe today, former CIA analyst Larry Johnson goes point-by-point through the lies and deceptions being propogated by the GOP to cover up their complicity in the Valerie Plame scandal.

FACT 1--Valerie (Plame) Wilson was undercover and occupied a sensitive position.

FACT 2--Valerie (Plame) Wilson's relationship with the CIA was not known until revealed by Robert Novak's column.

FACT 3--Valerie Plame Wilson did not send her husband on the trip to Niger.

These are things that should be obvious to anyone living in the “reality-based community” as opposed to the fantasy world inhabited by most Bush apologists these days.

But the thing I found most interesting was a discussion by one of the commenters trying to understand the real motivation behind the Bush administration’s rush to war in the first place.

I've been thinking bsout this for a while trying to come up with a plausible reason.  My first assumption is that nothing we have been told so far is it: Building Democracy in Iraq?  Please, Cheney barely tolerates democracy here, he could give a rats ass about it in Iraq.  There has to be a real politik reason; Cheney, Rumsfeld - these guys cut their teeth under Kissinger.  WMD?  If anything the Bush admin knew better than anyone that they didn't exist.  Oil?  Sure it is about oil, everything in the Middle East is, but still why invade?

Here is the scenario that I think makes sense, assuming that Bush, Cheney et al aren't total fools this is my guess as to what happened:

1) The stuff we did in the 90s (bombings and so on) was more effective at destroying Sadaam's WMD capabilities than we realized.

2) It was very much in Sadaam's interested to make sure that no-one realized this. His power rested on both Iraqis and his neighbors thinking he was still strong.

3) After 9/11 the CIA, State Department and UN started looking at Sadaam more closely and began to see how much of a paper tiger he was. (Both Kay and Blix have said they knew he had no WMD)

4) Everyone in the Bush admin who looked into this realized it too, the CIA and State department working independently came to the same conclusions.

5) Sadaam called Bush's bluff and said the inspectors could come in. The last thing Bush wanted was for the inspectors to prove once and for all that Sadaam was toothless.

6) Hence the rush to war.

7) The real motivation for the war wasn't that Sadaam was strong and a threat; it was just the opposite, he was becoming too weak! We need a balance of powers in the Middle East - Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Saudia Arabia.

8) The plan was to quickly topple Sadaam, put Chalabi in power and have a new, more reliable ally as our counterweight to Iran (remember we backed Sadaam in the war with Iran).

9) That blew up in their faces, both because they didn't prepare for the aftermath and didn't understand just how much of a mess Iraq's infrastructure had become.

10) What also didn't help is that Chalabi was playing them for fools while secretly working for Iran.

Ultimately I can see a valid motive here, allowing Iraq to disinigrate into chaos as Sadaam crumbled from within would leave it ripe for take over by Iran. But here is the thing, by doing it the way they did they totally lost any chance of success. The likely end result is now Iraq aligned with Iran, with at best an independent Kurdistan in the north aligned with Turkey (how ironic is that? The thing Turkey most feared may now very well be in their best interest! Losing a little territory along the border and their Kurdish citizens may be worth having another staunchly secular regime with decent Oil revenue opposed to Iran as a neighbor).
If we had waited for Sadaam to crumble under the weight of his own corruption and Iran tried to move in to the void we could have put together a coalition of Arab states to join us in protecting Iraq from the Persian aggressors.

A very interesting analysis. I don’t agree with it entirely, but it makes a lot of very valid points.
I think there is no question that the timing had mostly to do with the Republican’s desire to have the public perception that they were taking a strong and aggressive stand against terrorism in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. This was especially important on the eve of the 2002 mid-term elections when Republicans were trying to regain control of the Senate. And once they committed to that aggressive course of action they set the ball rolling on a track where they could not turn back without undermining that desired public perception. Backing down in any way and allowing U.N. inspectors to prove that there were no WMDs would have been seen as a political victory for Democrats who were challenging Bush’s post-9/11 leadership in the run-up to the 2004 presidential election.
Supporting the war became a political imperative and at that point the truth became expendable. Intelligence that supported the war scenario was thrust front and center regardless of how shaky its credibility (i.e. the centrifuge tubes, the mobile bioweapons lab, etc.) while intelligence that ran contrary was ignored and/or refuted vigorously - which of course is what led to the outing of Valerie Plame’s identity.

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