Victor Davis Hanson has a piece out with the headline “Revisionist History Prevails on Iraq Invasion“.
Yes. It does. But it’s who is doing it that is the problem.
“Do we remember that Bill Clinton signed into law the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 that supported regime change in Iraq? He gave an eloquent speech on the dangers of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. “
Thing is, Bill Clinton and the Dems didn’t act on it. It’s one thing to authorize something in Congress, which was meant as a threat. But everyone knew it was an empty threat. It’s one thing to support regime change, as we also do in regard to the Cuban government, and quite another to actively do so with out military. We were NOT going to go back into Iraq as things stood in 1998. And the intelligence was not that detailed, not nearly as specific as the evidence Bush laid out in as the rational to invade.
“In 2002, both houses of Congress voted overwhelmingly to pass a resolution authorizing the removal of Saddam Hussein by force. Senators such as Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Harry Reid offered moving arguments on the Senate floor why we should depose Saddam in a post-9/11 climate.
Democratic stalwarts such as Sen. Jay Rockefeller and Rep. Nancy Pelosi lectured us about the dangers of Saddam’s stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. They drew on the same classified domestic and foreign intelligence reports that had led Bush to call for Saddam’s forcible removal.”
They voted yes due, in part, on the faulty and manipulated intel presented by the Bush administration. See more below.
“Legally, the U.S. went to war against Saddam because he had done things such as commit genocide against the Kurds, Shiites and the Marsh Arabs, and attacked four of his neighbors. He had tried to arrange the assassination of a former U.S. president, George H.W. Bush. He had paid bounties for suicide bombers on the West Bank and was harboring the worst of global terrorists. Saddam also offered refuge to at least one of the architects of the first World Trade Center Bombing in 1993, and violated U.N.-authorized no-fly zones.”
Legally… Yes. But the argument that Saddam was building a stockpile of WMD’s was the linchpin to getting approval to go to war. Minus the WMD factor, we never went to war in any of the African countries doing the exact same things… Or worse.
Genocide… Attacking neighbors. Those were all things done in the 80’s and 90’s by all sorts of countries around the world. That’s never been justification in our modern history for us putting an invading army on the ground to overthrow a government. Paying suicide bombers? That was more recent. But we were not going to war over that either. Saddam certainly was not the only one doing that. Members of the Saudi Royal family were providing funds. Iran was much more active than those two in that regard.
None of this was ever enough to committing our ground troops to war. Fear of chemical and nuclear weapons was, and we know that most of that intel was wrong at best, manufactured and not vetted at worst.
Hanson goes on:
“The Bush administration, like members of Congress, underestimated the costs of the war and erred in focusing almost exclusively on Saddam’s supposed stockpiles of weapons.”
Yeah they did. And concerning Congress…. Where did they get the monetary and time-line estimates from???? Last time I checked, those are provided by the Executive branch. Congress, based on information provided by that branch, either provides the funding, or tightens the purse strings.
“But otherwise, the war was legally authorized on 23 writs. Most of them had nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction and were unaffected by the later mysterious absence of such weapons…”
Mysterious absence… Really?????
The absence of such weapons is not a mystery… They didn’t exist in the first place. In all the TONS of both official AND private documents recovered from the ouster of Saddam and his government, there is NO EVIDENCE that Saddam had any newer WMD’s from his supposed “reconstituted programs”. The only thing that was ever found in country were useless and degraded scraps of WMD’s left over from the 80’s and 90’s.
“…which is all the more mysterious given that troves of WMD have turned up in nearby Syria and more recently in Iraqi bunkers overrun by Islamic militants.“
Has anyone seen any, you know, actual evidence that Syria’s chemical weapons came from Iraq? Juan Cole lays out a pretty compelling case that most of the Syrian stockpiles came from Russia and some Western European companies, complete with links that back his assertion.
“A Special National Intelligence Estimate dated Sept. 15, 1983, lists Syria as a “major recipient of Soviet CW [Chemical Weapons] assistance.” Both “Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union provided the chemical agents, delivery systems, and training that flowed to Syria.”…
Last week, German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that intelligence sources in the country are convinced blueprints for four of the five Syrian poison gas plants came from Moscow….
…Syria received precursor chemicals from the West until well into the last decade. Last week, the German government acknowledged that between 2002 and 2006, it had approved the export to Syria of more than 100 tons of so-called dual-use chemicals. Among the substances were hydrogen fluoride, which can be used to make Teflon, and also sarin. The exports were allowed under the condition that Syria would only use them for civilian purposes. The British government also recently acknowledged exports of dual-use chemicals to Syria.”
What evidence does Hanson bring to the table to support his claim that Syria’s WMD’s came from Iraq???? About the same amount of evidence that currently supports the claim that Saddam was rebuilding his WMD stockpiles… None.
“What changed public opinion and caused radical about-faces among the war’s most ardent supporters were the subsequent postwar violence and insurgency between 2004 and 2007, and the concurrent domestic elections and rising antiwar movement. Thousands of American troops were killed or wounded in mostly failed efforts to stem the Sunni-Shiite savagery.”
Interesting that Hanson leaves out a vital factor that weighed on the American public at the same time and help fuel the rise in anti-war sentiment… The realization that the administration was DEAD WRONG on the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Had we found them, or even any proof that Saddam was reconstituting his programs, as the administration had asserted with steely-eyed certainty, we would have almost certainly sent more troops in at the beginning of the invasion, and kept more there to find and destroy those weapons. From the beginning of the campaign to include Iraq as a front in the Global War On Terror, the Bush administration made that the centerpiece on which to justify the action. The failure to mention the growing concern about the total absence of proof for a WMD program at all is a lie by omission on Hanson’s part. Talk about revisionist history!!!!
He mentions the freedom the Kurds now enjoy. Yes, they are better off than they were under Saddam’s rule. But that was not the compelling reason we went to war there. And, it’s not as if they were liberated by our invasion. Their fate was already improving as a result of the no-fly zones we set up in the 90’s to protect them. From our own Stars and Stripes:
“The Other Iraq,” as residents like to call it, has enjoyed peace, stability and an improving economy for more than 20 years, since the U.S. instituted a no-fly zone over the region following the first Gulf War in 1991. Protected from Saddam Hussein by the no-fly zone, Iraqi Kurds developed a modern infrastructure and a rare secular, pro-Western, democratic regime.
“It led to huge progress for our economy,” said Dara Jalil-Khayat, president of the Irbil Chamber of Commerce.”
Continuing with Hanson:
“A Saddam-led Iraq over the last decade would not have been a peaceable place.”
No kidding! But was it a peaceable place in 2009, not even four months after Bush signed the agreement with Maliki that solidified the withdrawal time line? Yes, less Americans were getting killed at the time. But Iraq was hardly a Nirvana of peace and prosperity where everyone was singing kumbaya.
- “June 20, 2009 – A suicide bomber detonates a truck filled with explosives as crowds of worshipers leave the Shi’ite al-Rasul mosque in Taza, near Kirkuk. At least 73 people are killed and more than 250 wounded.
- June 24 – A bomb kills 72 people at a busy market in eastern Baghdad’s Sadr City. At least 127 people are wounded.
- August 19 – At least six blasts strike near government ministries and other targets in Baghdad, killing 95 people and wounding 536.
- October 25 – Twin car bombs target the Justice Ministry and the Baghdad provincial government building, killing at least 155 people and wounding more than 500 in central Baghdad.
- December 8 – At least four car bombs explode in Iraq’s capital, near a courthouse, a judges’ training center, a Finance Ministry building and a police checkpoint in a district of southern Baghdad. At least 112 people are killed and hundreds wounded”
Even todays stories still reference the sectarian violence that occurred even as the surge was under way between 2006 and 2008:
“Sectarian violence in Iraq continues to worsen as clashes erupt between Sunni and Shia groups. According to the United Nations, more than eight thousand people were killed in 2013—the highest number of fatalities since the upsurge in civil violence between 2006 and 2008.”
Our troops, sent in under the surge, were not just fighting against al-Qaeda in Iraq, but against the sectarian Mehdi Army and missioned to clamp down on sectarian violence. In fact, google “Iraq al-Qaeda 2006” and the thing the are most noted for is bombing a Shiite mosque, which brought the sectarian violence to a head. Note that al-Queda’s favorite method of attacks is not on the battle field, but the classic terrorist M.O…. Blowing things up in civilian centers. Here is a list of pre-2010 activity:
- June 20, 2009: Truck bombing of a Shi’i mosque near Kirkuk blamed on Al Qaeda in Iraq: at least 75 killed, 163 wounded.
- August 14, 2007: Multiple truck bombings of two Yazidi villages near Sinjar in northern Iraq: at least 500 killed, approximately 1,500 wounded.
- March 6, 2007: Two car bombings at a Shi’i shrine in Hilla: 106 killed.
- November 23, 2006: Series of car bombings and mortar attacks in the Shi’i Sadr City: at least 202 killed, approximately 250 injured.
- February 22, 2006: Bombing of the Shi’i Al Askari Mosque in Samarra, which sparked a “civil war” between Sunnis and Shi’as in Iraq.
- July 16, 2005: Suicide car bomb struck a fuel tanker truck in Musayyib: at least 98 killed, 82 wounded.
- February 28, 2005: Suicide car bombing in Hilla: at least 125 killed, 170 wounded.
- October 24, 2004: Coordinated vehicle bombings outside Baghdad’s Sheraton and Palestine hotels, which were frequented by members of the Western press: at least 20 killed.
- May 17, 2004: Suicide car bombing killed Governing Council President Izzedin Salim.
- October 27, 2003: Multiple car bombings at police stations and Red Cross Headquarters in Baghdad: 35 killed, 220 wounded.
- August 19, 2003: Truck bombing at U.N. headquarters in Baghdad: 23 killed, including Sergio Vieira de Mello, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The same article notes:
“The threat of AQI has weakened in recent years due to a backlash from local Sunnis and the surge of American troops in Iraq in 2007. Local Sunni populations increasingly separated themselves from AQI and its affiliate groups because they used intimidation tactics to enforce allegiance and impose strict Islamic codes. AQI has subsequently focused its efforts against the U.S. in Afghanistan, and, according to congressional reports, some AQI leaders have joined Al Qaeda in the remote tribal areas near Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan.“
We may have flushed some of al Qaeda out of Iraq, but they weren’t “defeated”, as Hanson and others love to portray. The bombings in Iraq from 2009 to 2011 show otherwise. We didn’t “decimate” them into non-existence, but suppressed them at best. They just moved to another, more favorable, battlefield. They adjusted their tactics, and we falsely and foolishly painted it as some sort of defeat.
Back to the weapons of mass destruction issue one more time. Bush, in this and many other interviews, said this and things similar to this:
“I also saw a threat in Iraq. I was hoping to solve this problem diplomatically. That’s why I went to the [United Nations] Security Council; that’s why it was important to pass [Resolution] 1441, which was unanimously passed. And the world said, disarm, disclose, or face serious consequences — and therefore, we worked with the world, we worked to make sure that Saddam Hussein heard the message of the world. And when he chose to deny inspectors, when he chose not to disclose [emphasis added], then I had the difficult decision to make to remove him. And we did, and the world is safer for it.”
And then there is this from Bush, again justifying the invasion and overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Form an article coincidentally titled “Look who’s rewriting history now” discussing the false claim made by Bush that Saddam did not let inspectors in to look for WMD’s:
The fundamental question is, did Saddam Hussein have a weapons program? And the answer is, absolutely. And we gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn’t let them in. And therefore, after a reasonable request, we decided to remove him from power, along with other nations, so as to make sure he was not a threat to the United States and our friends and allies in the region.”
Hanson noted the 23 legal writs that were used to support going to war with Iraq. In how many interviews and speeches did Bush say to the world “If Saddam doesn’t stop killing the Kurds, then he will face the consequences and be removed from power!”. Or substitute killing the Kurds with any of the other 23 legal writs. Sorry. It ain’t there. Without the addition and continued assertions that Saddam had rebuilt his stockpiles of WMD’s, we would not be looking at the situation in Iraq as it stands. It would still almost certainly be crappy, but our hands would not be dirty, at least, not as dirty as they are now.
When the topic is ancient history, Victor Davis Hanson is a fine historian. But when it comes to modern politics, he’s as blind as they come.
Early in the piece, Hanson writes:
“One can blame almost anyone, but one must not invent facts to support an argument. “
No. All one has to do is ignore them, which is why we’re in this mess in the first place.
SIDE NOTE: In mid 2006, one pol from Harris showed that 50% of the country still believed that Saddam DID have WMD’s. But that number was almost certainly the result of a report put out by Senator Rick Santorum and Representative Peter Hoekstra that showed that we had found lots of WMD’s in Iraq.
Here is the Headline from FOX News:
Here is how Santorum framed his report in a write-up in the Washington Times:
“We have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq,” Mr. Santorum said in a press conference yesterday afternoon. “This is an incredibly … significant finding. The idea that, as my colleagues have repeatedly said in this debate on the other side of the aisle, that there are no weapons of mass destruction, is in fact false.”
Here is what Santorum and the Conservative outlets didn’t care to reveal. From a Washington Post article:
But the Pentagon and outside experts stressed that these abandoned shells, many found in ones and twos, were 15 years old or more, their chemical contents were degraded, and they were unusable as artillery ordnance. Since the 1990s, such “orphan” munitions, from among 160,000 made by Iraq and destroyed, have turned up on old battlefields and elsewhere in Iraq, ex-inspectors say. In other words, this was no surprise.
“These are not stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction,” said Scott Ritter, the ex-Marine who was a U.N. inspector in the 1990s. “They weren’t deliberately withheld from inspectors by the Iraqis.”
Once again, another lie by omission from Conservative media and their pundits. I was still a registered Republican at this time. And I still believed that we surly MUST find something. And when the news broke that this Samtorum / Hoekstra report blew the lid off the “liberal media lies” or what not, I was thrilled. At least we have this.
But when this was revealed to have been another in a long list of distorted truths, I stopped trusting them. That doesn’t mean that Conservative media is always wrong. No. But I don’t buy what they sell unless it’s confirmed by independent sources. Same rule goes for “liberal” media too.