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Ranting: 9 Months Later

May 28th, 2003

9 months ago, I was in my heavily politically-oriented blog mode, before I got Movable Type and all. One of the entries I wrote concerned the then-upcoming war with Iraq. Looking back, it is interesting to see which predictions came true, and which didn’t. Some excerpts, and post-mortem comments:

First is international support. There is none. A coalition is vital to carrying out an armed conflict in the Middle East, and not only is there no coalition, but it appears that at this point, a coalition would be impossible to form.

Well, I got that one right. The “coalition of the willing” was more a joke than anything else. Essentially, the coalition was the U.S. and U.K. Spain was an anomaly more than anything else. Ari Fleischer once tried to fictionalize the coalition’s size by lining up all the “member” nations, and adding up their populations. Of course, coalition “members” included anyone who simply voiced any approval, and almost no “members” gave any actual financing or support. And the population ploy, saying “X millions of people are behind us” was a joke. Spain was a coalition member, but 90% of its population opposed the war. Kuwait was a more active member, but then, duh. Most laughable member: Afghanistan. If the coalition is so weak that you have to include puppet dictators to indicate support, you know you’re in trouble.

The immediately obvious repercussion of the go-it-alone strategy is cost: This war could easily cost $80 billion, probably much more than that. Bush Jr. has already snatched a huge deficit from the jaws of a surplus, and the country can ill-afford to pay for a costly war all by itself. We’re already in big budget trouble, helping to push us into deeper into recession, but a war paid for by the U.S. alone could aggravate the national debt substantially; Bush Jr., in just the course of a few years, could erase more than a decade of red-ink recovery and send us into deficits that would dwarf those of the 80’s.

If anything, this was an understatement.

But the cost would not simply be financial: we would also pay in terms of lost reputation, international respect and influence in world affairs. … Future presidents would be saddled by the body blow to our prestige, likely needing decades to repair the damage and to rebuild worldwide confidence and trust. This kind of irresponsible action could remove us from our already precarious seat of world leadership.

This certainly seems to be coming true.

…there is also the specter of Armageddon rising in the Middle East as a direct result of a U.S. invasion. Already relations are tense, not helped by the confusion and neglect that the Bush administration has used to turn a region grasping for peace into a region torn by escalating conflict and little hope for even a cease-fire. But if the U.S. should invade with opposition from the Arab states, the hope for any peace of any kind will die a swift death. Contrary to the rosy the-Arabs-will-love-us-for-saving-them pipe dream that Cheney has been hawking, the Arab people do not and never have reacted kindly to U.S. intervention, even when their governments allow it; should we go in with everyone opposing us, tempers will flare further still. … Cheney argued that “extremists in the region would have to rethink their strategy of jihad.” Is he truly so utterly naive?

“Armageddon” may have been too much, but again, the jury is out on this one–the region is still unstable, more so then it was before. Certainly the Israeli-Palestine situation has not been helped, despite White House predictions. And I was right on the nose about the reaction of the Iraqis; aside from (a) Kurds, who were a sure thing, and (b) Shiites, who benefitted but still hate us with a passion, the celebrating you have seen was largely engineered by the military and the media. Cheney’s jihad-rethinking mentality has certainly proved wrong.

And let us not forget the Israeli part of the equation: an attack by the U.S. would, without question, be answered by Iraq with missile attacks on Israel, just as it was in the Gulf War. The difference will be that this time, Israel will not sit back and take it without acting–they will retaliate, and that retaliation will bring outrage and reprisals from the Arab world.

I’m glad to say I was dead wrong on that one. Why, I have no idea.

Cheney recently asserted that “many of us are convinced that Saddam Hussein will acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon. Just how soon, we cannot really gauge.” In other words, there is no evidence whatsoever that Iraq is even working on nuclear weapons. Furthermore, we have no data to substantiate the claim of a current nuclear program in Iraq. …we would be naive to presume that Cheney or anyone else spouting that rhetoric is not lying through their teeth. Remember the old admonition: “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”

Boy, was I right on that one. But I didn’t go far enough–like almost everyone else, I believed that Iraq had bio- and chemical WMD stockpiles. Got fooled on that one.

Isn’t this a blatantly obvious pattern? Bush Jr. uses whatever country is best at hand to frighten the American people, and hypes them as a soon-to-be-nuclear terrorist state on the verge of destroying America. This is not done to protect America, it is done to fool the American people into letting Bush Jr. get what he wants. With North Korea, it was to get SDI pushed through; with Iraq, it is to restore his wartime popularity. Now SDI is still being paid for with your taxes (forgot about that, didn’t you? It’s not gone, it just went secret so that you don’t hear about its failures any more). Will you allow yourself to be suckered again?

Now it’s Iran, harboring Al-Qaida and building nukes!. Gee, where did I hear those accusations before? And, hey, don’t pay any attention to the deficit, education, environment, recession, joblessness, corporate scandals and all those other issues hiding behind the curtain. Pay attention to Iran! Dubya’s got a brand new bag!

And then we come to the end game: what is the exit strategy? How long will it take? How many Iraqis (whom the Bush Jr. administration claims to be acting to benefit) will we end up killing? How long will our troops be there? How deeply will we become involved in rooting out everyone there who violently disagrees with our occupation? And how will the nation-building succeed? What guarantees do we have that the moment we extract ourselves, another Saddam Hussein won’t pop up again and bring us back to square one? As far as I can determine, not a single one of these questions has been answered.

And still they haven’t been answered. But Halliburton is doing great in the end game.

And do not forget to ask, “why now?” Why the immediate interest in invading Iraq at this specific time? Why not anytime since the 80’s, when we knew Iraq had developed and was using chemical weapons, and later when we found that Hussein was trying to build biological and nuclear weapons? Why not any time since the Gulf War? Why not when Bush Jr. first took office, and knew as much then about Iraq as now? Why not just after 9-11, when world support was stronger? What is the sudden emergency in the late summer of 2002? The truth of the matter is, there is no more reason to invade Iraq now than there has been in the past decade and more. The only likely reason for the timing is, as I have argued before, because Bush Jr.’s poll numbers are dropping and an election is coming soon.

Karl Rove would probably tell us that it’s not yet time to push for war with Iran or Syria. Wait until mid-year 2004; that’ll both shut up the Democrats and raise the president’s poll numbers just in time. In the meantime, lay the groundwork. Hey, it worked in 2002.

I made some errors in prediction, notably how the region would immediately explode, particularly involving Israel. But overall, I was pretty accurate.

Not that it’ll make any difference….

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