Friday, August 22, 2003
Small aside on Iraq: everyone's noticed how supporters of the Iraq war have stopped talking about WMD and are spending all their time talking about the awfulness of Saddam's tyranny and the prospects for Arab democracy. Well, once upon a time the darling of the democratizers was Ahmad Chalabi, "President in waiting." We haven't heard much about him lately, of course; I expect we'll see him turn up one of these days on Hollywood Squares, but not before. He turned out to have about as much credibility in Iraq as I said he would: namely, none.
Now, one theory about the missing WMD that I basically buy is that Iraq fooled us. They wanted us to believe that they had these weapons because they thought they would deter us from attacking; Saddam believed they deterred us, in fact in 1991 from continuing the war beyond Kuwait. They were keeping their various programs on ice, waiting for sanctions to be lifted, and in the meantime they were bluffing, and their bluff backfired.
But here's my question: before the war, those most supportive of an aggressive threat-assessment of Iraq were the folks in the Pentagon and the Office of the Vice President. And these are the same folks who were championing Chalabi. So what I want to know is: were we bluffed two ways, both by Saddam and by Chalabi?
There were a lot of reasons to support war with Iraq, and I supported it myself, strongly. I was bluffed as well on the WMD question, but the threat from Iraq was never limited to that, and besides, Saddam was *fair game* having tried to assassinate the last President Bush, having violated the terms of the 1991 cease-fire in numerous ways, and so forth.
But we shouldn't be letting ourselves get talked into things. This is a region filled with people looking for someone to solve their problems for them. (As you may have noticed from my last two posts, I worry that Israel has absorbed this tendency over time.) It is filled as well with very good liars. We can't allow ourselves to be put in the position again - as I suspect we were in part in the run-up to the Iraq war - of having bought the merchandise being hawked in the souk, even if the merchant claims to be a friend of ours (which merchant doesn't?). If the more aggressive threat-assessments coming out of the Pentagon depended on intelligence from the likes of Chalabi, Rumsfeld and Cheney - and Bush - need to know that, and take appropriate action. This is our war, being waged in defense of our country. We can't let it get hijacked.