The Greater Evil

The Greater Evil

Sirian
Sirian

May 25th, 2003, 3:18 pm #1

Details about the brutality of the Iraqi regime are all over the media. Uday Hussein's torture of the soccer athletes under his control through the Olympic program seem to have gotten the most play, but there are accounts all over the place. Dateline, 60 Minutes, every investigative journalism program has done at least one piece on the matter. Smatterings are sprinkled through the news reports, as some tidbit or other emerges to stand out. The History Channel has done a whole series or two already, and no doubt there are more to come. HBO, Biography Channel, you name it.

Although I've had a particular interest in these kinds of pieces, wanting to know the "behind the scenes" details, to get the view from the inside, not just the views of dissidents and exiles and American intelligence from the outside, I've about had all I can absorb at this point. I've been tuning out more lately. I've also been digesting what I did take in.

In the reality check department, we still don't have actual WMD in our hands, nor has documentation emerged to detail what happened to it and when. We do have one thing, though: the trucks. We have several of them. Those were one of the key items in the portion of Secretary Powell's case to the UN that Saddam's regime was lying about its weapons programs. Iraq denied they had these trucks, specifically. Yet there they are, and exactly as Powell described them -- exactly as defectors from the regime had described them to our intelligence services. To me, the trucks are all the proof we need. They firmly establish, on a factual basis, that Saddam's regime did not comply with UN Resolution 1441. They did not meet the "complete and immediate" aspect of disclosure. The US administration was right: the Iraqis were employing "cheat and retreat" tactics, not operating in good faith.

Now some might consider the trucks insufficient proof that Saddam's regime posed a "clear and present danger", but to me, that's measuring by the wrong standard. The real issue here was not the weapons. If the weapons alone were an issue, then we'd have to treat ALL nations who posses WMD or pursue it as the same: including India, Pakistan, France, China, the UK and Russia, just to name the biggest fish. No, the issue was the combination of a rogue state run by an aggressive despot who coveted domination over not only his own people, but as wide an empire as he could manage to gather. The irresponsibility of this regime was the real issue. What it might do with the weapons was the issue.

Pakistan we know: they felt compelled to develop the bomb because India had developed it first. (Why India decided to go nuclear, I'm still not sure. That may have been an unwise move, but too late now). Pakistan wanted the deterrent, and now that they have it, they won't commit to a "no first use" policy because, with India having forced their hand, they now might as well reap the increased deterrent value against India's overwhelming conventional force. What a powder keg. We can only pray cooler heads prevail on all sides. At least we know, however, why these nations have the bomb and can see that they are only interested in standing up to each other over their various disputes and disagreements.

Saddam dreamed of WMD to support his ambition of being a great Arab leader, a man for the history books. The US support for Saddam in his war with Iran turned out to be a clear case of crawling in bed with the devil for expediency's sake, and perhaps it was a mistake. Iraq started that war. They were the aggressor, and there were no noble causes, no ideologies, no justifications for it. We were fresh off the Iran Hostage Crisis and considered the Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini to be such an evil force, that he was worth opposing. Perhaps he was. Certainly Iran became the chief exporter of terror.

Is it ever right to take sides when evil battles with evil? Do we not have a duty to fight the greater evil, even if that means allying ourselves with evil, with any evil, in the process? I really don't know any more. As my point of view changes with the taking in of more data to examine, the questions become more and more complex. Absolutes give way to intermingled entangled messes in which the answers are only relative, can only be judged within a wider context. That also means the "right" answer changes depending on the context within which it is viewed, which at least explains why human beings so seldomly agree on vital matters. We all have different context.

War is itself a brutal venture. It fails the test of ends justifying the means. Or does it? If a man shoots another man, is he justified in doing so? Doesn't the answer to that rely on the context? His beliefs, his understandings, his perceptions, his interpretations, his motives. Don't all of these count? What if the belief of the shooter is that the one shot posed a direct threat to the safety of the shooter or someone he cares about? What if the shooter had his own weapon? Or some other means of causing harm? What if the one shot was plotting terror? Or what if the shooter only believed these things, but they turned out to be erroneous? I could sit here and make up a thousand different scenarios, and in each one, every last fact would count for something. The morality of a situation, of an act, depends wholly on the context within which it is taken. Even a divine "all knowing" context could not provide an absolute answer to an act undertaken from the point of view of limited information.

All we can really do is to do our best: to make the best choices we can in the moment, and then afterward to hold ourselves to account for the results. That must include examining a wider context than we had available at the time. Then we get to ask the question of whether we would choose the same response given the additional perspective. We also get to examine whether or not we had enough information at the time to make a good choice, or whether we should have waited, looked further, learned more before acting. Sometimes we don't get the luxury of that, though. Some choices include an urgent component, where a decision must be made on the spot. Then we get to ask whether we made the right choice, the best choice. Those can be quite haunting. The ones that haunt us most, though, are the choices we made that we knew at the time were wrong. For those, we have no excuse, only the admission of weakness.


That Saddam posed a danger is inarguable. The question is how much danger and to whom and to what degree of immediacy -- along with how and when and to what degree we should have responded. Should we have acted sooner? Perhaps much sooner? A case could be made. Did we act too soon? Could the resolution have come in a more orderly fashion, through diplomacy alone? A case could be made. To me, neither case is compelling. That is because I am looking from the point of view of using force "as the last resort".

To have gone all the way to Baghdad in the Gulf War would have exceeded the mission parameters. Our goal was to liberate Kuwait, and indeed, the vast majority of the coalition at that time did not WANT us to overthrow Hussein. The pressure on the USA to stop and let the Iraqi regime survive was enormous. From a humanitarian perspective, that was a tragic failure. The people of Iraq, and especially the Shiites who rose up and nearly overthrew him but were then brutally suppressed, these people suffered greatly. Their suffering could have been prevented if the coalition had pressed on to remove the despot. All the people brutalized, tortured, suppressed, dominated, bullied, and murdered, within Iraq, between 1991 and 2003, could have been spared their suffering if Saddam had been removed in 1991. That responsibility lies chiefly with Saddam and his people, but there is also a responsibility on the part of the coalition in having allowed him to remain in power. The blood isn't directly on our hands, but we are guilty of standing by and doing nothing to stop it.

There were many governments, leaders, and individuals within that first coalition that acted directly to protect Hussein. They were each looking out after what they saw as their own interests. Among the other Arab leaders, that comes chiefly from an Islamic cultural edict about believers vs nonbelievers. Apparently, all you have to do in that culture to be a believer is to be born into their people and pay lip service. You don't actually have to follow the teachings. And that's a problem. It leads the Arab nations to decide the "right and wrong" of an issue not on matters of facts, not on actual behavior, but in regard to superficial qualities such as nationality, professed religion, ethnicity and so forth. This is a noble cultural ideal that is being woefully abused by all manner of wolves hiding in the sheep's clothing, and it's a tragedy for all their people.

Yet we in the west must deal with this. When the Arabs close ranks to "protect their own" even when the ones they are protecting are patently evil, there really isn't much we can do about it, so long as the only ones to suffer are Arabs and Muslims. If we press the issue, we are "questioning their faith" or "going against the holy teaching" and that makes us, by definition, evil in their minds. To some extent, just us not professing to submit to their religion is enough for some to define us as evil. Christianity isn't much better on that score, though, so we're not exactly ones to talk. Memory of the Crusades has faded from western culture, but it's burnt into the cultural memory of the Arabs and they still have not forgiven nor forgotten. That, and European imperialism across the world, not ending until mere decades ago, leaves us in the west with having to cope with the sins of our fathers, who have left us a fat mess in a lot of places. We'll just have to deal with it.

I think it's a shame, though, in some sense, that we sit idly by and accept (with an almost apathetic sense) the Arabic nationalism so long as it doesn't spill out onto our shores. I don't know that I have any alternative, but the futility of it, the suffering it has caused amongst the Arabs, is now blamed on us by some, and that is what is fueling this terror war against the west by Al Qaeda and its like. The boiling pot has spilled over. It's time to get engaged, challenge the hypocrisy on the part of some within the Islamic world, and at the same time come clean on some of our own corrupt elements, and try to move toward sorting people out on the basis of their character and behavior, to realign not nation against nation or people against people, but all good people of all colors and faiths and nations lining up together in intolerance of the corruption within all our societies. I don't see how anything short of that can end the war on terror, and that may be some time in coming.

The point of view that we should have gone into Iraq in 1991 fails to come to grips with the reality on the ground at the time. We had believed that an uprising by his own people could succeed, and that it would be best not in being cheaper to us but also in letting the Iraqi people handle their own affairs. Any course to resolve the issue without us provoking that Arabic "protect our own even if they are wrong" cultural aspect, was worth pursuing. Saddam had been a bad enough boy that we believed he couldn't survive. We were wrong, but we made the best choice we could at the time.

The point of view that we should have continued to play pattycake with Saddam through the UN fails to come to grips with the reality that his word was worth nothing. His word was worth NOTHING. You can't make deals with those you cannot trust at least to the point of looking out after their nation's interests. We can trust Russia to look out after Russia, we can trust China to look out after China. We may not approve their governments and laws, but we can rely on them to keep their word in most regards, therefore we can make deals with them. You can't deal with leaders who place no value on keeping their word or on doing what's right for their governments, if not their folks. Saddam could not be trusted. That much is clear. If one fact has emerged to support the USA's claims that Saddam's government was an outlaw regime, it is all the countless ways in which his word has been demonstrated to have been no good: across twelve years of the UN's attempts to enforce the cease fire agreement, with the cheating on the sanctions, the inspections. The mobile lab trucks are the final icing on the cake. We didn't even need that, really, other than to establish that the USA was not just "making it all up" to get our way here.

Yet all of the possibilities for responding to Saddam include tragedy and suffering.

If we had gone after him in 1991, some people then who did not die would have died: soldiers and innocents. On the other hand, all the suffering and death Saddam's regime caused in later years would have been averted. Still, we'd have upset all our allies and have used force as an early resort. Instead we tried to make a deal with Saddam's regime in the force of a cease fire to which he never even tried to adhere.

If we had gone along with the wishes of the French, the Syrians, the Germans and others, Saddam would still be in power. Those who died in Operation Iraqi Freedom would still be alive, on all sides. Those who have lost their homes, the looting, the chaos, the ongoing uncertainty and messiness, none of that would be taking place. None of it would have happened. On the other hand, the regime would still be suppressing its people, protecting its rule with brutality, murder, terror and torture. Saddam's pursuit of WMD may or may not have suffered setbacks from the inspections process, but at best it would have seen a few items emerge here or there, like the Al Samoud II's, to be destroyed to much fanfare while the rest of the secret program either marches on or sits in mothballs waiting for the scrutiny to die down. Whether or not Saddam would have ever again employed WMD, including handing them off to terrorists, we cannot say. We can look at his track record and speculate, but there's no concrete way to assess the suffering that won't take place now that he's gone. We do know that Saddam would never have surrendered his reigns of power and even his WMD aspirations. The best possible hope would have been for another uprising, one that would have actually succeeded, and how was that ever going to take place? And even if it DID somehow miraculously come about, with Iraqis somehow organizing a successful overthrow, that would not have come without great suffering of those involved. Sure, a hundred or so Americans and a few dozen Brits and western journalists wouldn't have died, but in their place how many countless Iraqi patriots, poorly eqipped and poorly led, would have had to die to achieve the same result? Looking now at the way that Iraqis on the whole were so cowed by Saddam's terror machine that they didn't dare show any mass support or enthusiasm until the fall of Baghdad, how anyone can believe (as House Democratic Minority Leader Pelosi has espoused) that the regime would magically crack and crumble on its own given a little more time, is beyond me. Saddam was nothing if not expert in survival through brutality, in killing his opposition and keeping any who would oppose him divided and impotent. Like his idle Joseph Stalin, Saddam would have died in his bed if not taken out by military force from the outside. He was too paranoid and too skilled. Incredibly enough, he was actually NOT arrogant enough to allow himself to be taken down from within. His arrogance in regard to external powers taking him out eventually proved another story, but it would never have if the French had gotten their way.

If we had gone in sooner, we'd have averted much suffering, but who knows what other suffering may have taken place. If we had never gone in, we'd have averted much suffering, but who knows what other suffering may have taken place. Going sooner would have meant using force as an early resort, leaving other options like treaties, sanctions, inspections, and diplomatic isolation untried. Waiting any longer would have meant refusing to use force at all, ever, since there was already abundant examples of the unreliability of the word of that regime. They were rotten top to bottom, willing to lie, willing to do anything to stay in power, and their known thirst for WMD and history even of using the WMD they had was more than enough justification for taking them down. We DID try everything else: we boxed his ears and kicked him out of Kuwait, demonstrated that his army was not comparable to western forces, shut him in with the No Fly zones and secured his agreement to give up his WMD. Of course, he cheated on these deals, so we tried all other available means: sanctions, inspections, ultimatums. In my view, force was the right option at the right time.

No matter what your belief about that, though, you need to assess the costs objectively. That's where war doesn't always fail the test of the ends justifying the means.

You see, "the ends justifying the means" is not an invitation for abuse. It's not meant to be a constraint to prevent us from doing the right thing. It is meant to be a constraint to prevent us from acting hastily, perhaps doing a wrong thing when there was a better option.

Al Qaeda has legitimate complaints. The west has supported dictators in the Islamic world. Like our support for Saddam vs Iran, sometimes we climb into bed with true evil in an alliance against what we see as a greater evil. Whether that is worth it or not is a subject we should debate and debate vigorously, at least at the time the choice is being made, because the debate itself may open other possibilities. We have also supported Israel, and those who consider Israel to be corrupt and evil see us as supporting evil. The west, and America in particular, also have our own commercial interests. Some of our people are greedy, sloppy, uncaring, arrogant, etc. Some of our companies commit crimes. We do have things to account for to the Arab world.

BUT... Al Qaeda operates on the principle of the ends justifying the means. They see their complaints as cause for waging war, and they wage war in a way that makes no distinction between civilians and soldiers. We are all the enemy, and they fight in ways that seek to inflict enough pain on us to force us to withdraw from their part of the world. They hope to bring us down like a house of cards, but they perhaps fail to understand our true nature. Some of their beliefs may be dreadfully wrong, erroneous, false. There may also be some in the organization who simply long for the action, who became twisted in Afghanistan while fighting the Soviets and simply don't know how to do anything other than live the way they do, needing a great satan they can oppose, needing a war to go on and on against some enemy somewhere, so they can fight and live in their idea of glory.

Is force their last resort, though? Have they tried other means of working out their differences? No. They use threats as a first resort, followed closely by murder and terror. They turn to force FIRST and rely on the "noble ends" they seek to justify that. What keeps them moving forward? A belief in, or at least an espoused ideology of, their manifest destiny, that they stand on the side of right against a great evil.

I believe it worth recognizing that the means they choose to pursue their ends, and not so much the ends themselves, are what defines this group. They are a network of terror who embraces murder as the tool of choice.

Some of those now campaigning against the administration's policy decisions in regard to attacking Saddam's regime have professed that Saddam was not a "real threat" or at least was not as a big of a threat to America as Al Qaeda. The jury remains out on the last question. The facts still aren't in in regard to the WMD, the actual state of Saddam's WMD programs. Nevertheless, Saddam's direct threat to the USA was that of potentially passing WMD to terrorists or perhaps covertly deploying it with his own people. The indirect threat, much larger, was the potential of nuclear-armed Saddam dominating the region, seizing control of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and sitting on the oil to fuel yet more plans for domination. The threats to his neighbors were never insignificant, and they posed a significant threat to the USA and to stability in the region. Nevertheless, I will concede that even with all of that, Al Qaeda poses a greater direct threat to the USA.

My question today is, is "direct threat to the USA" the proper context in which to judge the decision to invade Iraq? I don't believe it is. Just like the issue was not the WMD alone, the issue is not also the direct threat alone.

All the arguments that compare Saddam's regime to other world situations ultimately fail due to breakdown in the analogy. The USA bears some of the responsibility of having propped up this dictator instead of letting him fall prey to his own ambitions against Iran. The oil is a huge factor -- not because we covet it for ourselves (we don't) but because it was a resource other despots have not enjoyed, giving Saddam the wealth with which to buy enough power to hold on to his dictatorship. He could buy the weapons, the mercenaries, pay the thugs, buy the technology to hold an edge over potential rivals, arm his regime, and live it up in grand style. The oil was also a major factor in the potential costs of letting him run unchecked, should he be able to gain control over the Arabian peninsula to his south. His ability to impact the world economy raised the costs beyond those of human suffering under his reign. He had the potential to impact the whole world. The man's sheer survival factor, his longevity, was part of the equation. So, too, was his utter disregard for human life. He fought for no cause, held no ideology. His ideology was himself, just himself. He was one of the world's most successful thugs in human history, but still just a thug, a hitman risen to power over a wealthy nation. He was Al Capone times ten, a Stalin wannabe. That lack of any substance to the man beyond raw personal ambition is what ultimately made him the greater evil.

What has Al Qaeda actually accomplished? The mujahadin of Afghanistan fought off the Soviets, but only a small fraction of them followed Bin Laden. Al Qaeda has been fueled by Bin Laden's oil money inheritance, and that is just about gone now. They've blown up some embassies, bombed a ship out of commission, bombed a few other small targets, bombed the WTC in '93, assassinated a few people. That's about it. If not for taking down the WTC and hitting the Pentagon and taking out the four planes on Sept 11, they would still be in the bit player camp, with Hezbolloh and Hamas. The blood on their hands measures into the thousands, and their worldwide network of cells and funding and so forth is not insignificant, but their threat factor lies in the terror. The impact lies in the terror and how many it touches. The actual damage they've done physically (as opposed to emotionally and by extension economically) is relatively small. At least compared to Saddam.

Saddam started a war with Iran that killed a MILLION people on both sides. He suppressed the Shia uprising, killing approximately a hundred thousand. He killed somewhere in the area of a hundred thousand Kurds as well. Now the evidence is emerging of those who were brutalized, tortured, executed, as part of the regime's grip on power, removing all opposition, suppressing all dissent. Does the fact that this suffering has been borne chiefly by Iraqis, Iranians, and Kuwaitis diminish the scope of the suffering?

I'm still keeping my eye on the WMD situation. The trucks qualify for me, personally, as "enough" to hold up the legitimacy of the administration's case. They met the standard of 1441. They proved that the regime was lying about its weapon programs. Does it really matter how much? Does it matter how bad the lies were?

There will always be some for whom no amount would ever be enough, just like no amount of provocation by Saddam was ever enough. That Saddam had started the war with Iran was not enough for Arab leaders to want to see him put down. They were more concerned about their cultural imperative to defend "believers" against "infidels" at all costs, without regard to the context. That Saddam raped Kuwait, purposely spilled oil into the gulf and set ablaze all of Kuwait's oil fields was not enough for the international community. Hold him to account for that? Sorry, that's not as important as reigning in the USA, for fear that turning us loose would give rise to... who knows what. No amount of Saddam's cheat and retreat antics with the inspectors were enough for those who had economic ties to the regime. Those ties, those monies, were more important. On and on it goes, the list of those for whom their own personal or cultural interests and priorities took precedence over doing the right thing.

Does it matter how much Saddam actually lied? Well, yes, to me it does, just not in regard to justifying the administration policy. A few trucks have that covered in the way the administration forwarded its case, and in the "we have no WMD program" blanket denials by Saddam's people. I'm interested in further evidence because I want to know the full extent of the truth. More context, in the form of facts, can be only a good thing. The truth is important.

The truth about the brutality of this regime is also important. I don't know what that says about what we should do in other circumstances. Certainly there are folks all over the world who fear that the USA will turn aggressive, that war and victory are intoxicants that can warp and corrupt any group.

Yet those who see the USA as the greater evil seem deeply warped to me. We did NOT rely on the ends justifying the means here. We exhausted the diplomatic possibilities first. We consulted allies in letting Saddam off the hook the first time. We worked through the UN to try to coerce him to keep his word on his various agreements. Those who have climbed in bed with Saddam in defending him against us are as guilty as we were for climbing into bed with him when he was attacking Iran. All of these things were done from the notion of opposing a greater evil. The question should at least be asked, however, as to whether the greater evil in these cases was correctly identified.

There are costs to action, but there are also costs to inaction. A responsible assessment after the fact must account for all the costs, including probable and possible costs of choices not taken. Those who disagreed with removing Saddam in 1991 must answer to their consciences for all the suffering that was allowed to take place through that inaction. Perhaps given what was known at the time, the right choice was made, although given what we now know, that no longer seems clear. Those who wanted the appeasement to go on and on, who wanted the issue to disappear and the status quo to persist, must answer to the suffering that has been taking place while they allowed Saddam to play his games of brinkmanship, as well as the certain suffering that would have continued to go on. Those who supported the action taken must answer for the suffering imposed by the war itself.

Surely, to those who suffered, the issue is more than theoretical. How are we to sort out the right course of action? Surely, if body count alone were measured, it would have been best to remove Saddam as early as possible, the sooner the better. If there had been justice in his nation, he would have been punished for murders committed very early in his career and never again seen the light of day. (Who knows how many Saddams the USA and other civilized nations have averted by way of holding criminals to account for their crimes?) And yet, how can we look into the future? How can we hold people to account for what they MIGHT do? We can't. We can only them responsible for what they've already done, and for what we fear they will probably do based on what they have done before.

Is justice more about retribution for past wrongs? Or about preemption against future wrongs? Is the chief aim of justice to prevent crimes? Or to seek to "balance the scales" by meting out punishment to those who have been caught?

Is it really "preemption" if there are past crimes and a long history of criminal behavior? Or is it instead restraining those who have proven they cannot be trusted to behave responsibly and lawfully?


If you count the Taliban as part and parcel of Al Qaeda, then perhaps Al Qaeda does begin to rise to the level of evil commited by Saddam and those who served him. If you count the Taliban separately, then neither it nor Al Qaeda are even in the same league as Saddam Hussein's regime. Al Qaeda and the Taliban at least had their aims, their purposes, their mission. Saddam's mission was brutality for its own sake, power and domination for their own sake. For his sake.

Which of these was the greater evil: Saddam's regime or Al Qaeda? Is there any doubt left?

Which of these was the greater evil: Saddam's regime or the American determination to bring an end to it?

Those of you who came down on the side of inaction, of letting Saddam's regime continue on, have you stayed tuned in to the issue? Have you considered the costs? Has your context changed at all? Or do you still believe it was wrong to take out this regime?


- Sirian
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Jester
Jester

May 25th, 2003, 6:40 pm #2

1441 is the standard only for the Security Council. The US' burden of proof to justify action without their blessing is much higher. It might have been lower had the US won the vote, and France had vetoed it; that would have at least given a shade of legitimacy. Instead, the US backed out of a vote they likely would have lost, and acted as a vigilante power. To justify that is much harder.

The WMD justification was the only one which, to me, mattered. The rest was all either moralizing or exaggeration. The administration has admitted they exaggerated the threat in order to push the war through, and demonstrate what enormous muscles (to be polite about it) they have. This is their own admission. They have failed to come up with a sufficient retroactive case, which doubly reinforces that their case was insufficient from the start. What seems especially damning to me is that they obviously knew this, and pushed ahead anyways, slandering poor Dr. Blix, and trumping up a trivial threat as though it constituted the greatest threat since Hitler.

Jester
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Joined: July 12th, 2000, 8:18 pm

May 25th, 2003, 7:04 pm #3

Details about the brutality of the Iraqi regime are all over the media. Uday Hussein's torture of the soccer athletes under his control through the Olympic program seem to have gotten the most play, but there are accounts all over the place. Dateline, 60 Minutes, every investigative journalism program has done at least one piece on the matter. Smatterings are sprinkled through the news reports, as some tidbit or other emerges to stand out. The History Channel has done a whole series or two already, and no doubt there are more to come. HBO, Biography Channel, you name it.

Although I've had a particular interest in these kinds of pieces, wanting to know the "behind the scenes" details, to get the view from the inside, not just the views of dissidents and exiles and American intelligence from the outside, I've about had all I can absorb at this point. I've been tuning out more lately. I've also been digesting what I did take in.

In the reality check department, we still don't have actual WMD in our hands, nor has documentation emerged to detail what happened to it and when. We do have one thing, though: the trucks. We have several of them. Those were one of the key items in the portion of Secretary Powell's case to the UN that Saddam's regime was lying about its weapons programs. Iraq denied they had these trucks, specifically. Yet there they are, and exactly as Powell described them -- exactly as defectors from the regime had described them to our intelligence services. To me, the trucks are all the proof we need. They firmly establish, on a factual basis, that Saddam's regime did not comply with UN Resolution 1441. They did not meet the "complete and immediate" aspect of disclosure. The US administration was right: the Iraqis were employing "cheat and retreat" tactics, not operating in good faith.

Now some might consider the trucks insufficient proof that Saddam's regime posed a "clear and present danger", but to me, that's measuring by the wrong standard. The real issue here was not the weapons. If the weapons alone were an issue, then we'd have to treat ALL nations who posses WMD or pursue it as the same: including India, Pakistan, France, China, the UK and Russia, just to name the biggest fish. No, the issue was the combination of a rogue state run by an aggressive despot who coveted domination over not only his own people, but as wide an empire as he could manage to gather. The irresponsibility of this regime was the real issue. What it might do with the weapons was the issue.

Pakistan we know: they felt compelled to develop the bomb because India had developed it first. (Why India decided to go nuclear, I'm still not sure. That may have been an unwise move, but too late now). Pakistan wanted the deterrent, and now that they have it, they won't commit to a "no first use" policy because, with India having forced their hand, they now might as well reap the increased deterrent value against India's overwhelming conventional force. What a powder keg. We can only pray cooler heads prevail on all sides. At least we know, however, why these nations have the bomb and can see that they are only interested in standing up to each other over their various disputes and disagreements.

Saddam dreamed of WMD to support his ambition of being a great Arab leader, a man for the history books. The US support for Saddam in his war with Iran turned out to be a clear case of crawling in bed with the devil for expediency's sake, and perhaps it was a mistake. Iraq started that war. They were the aggressor, and there were no noble causes, no ideologies, no justifications for it. We were fresh off the Iran Hostage Crisis and considered the Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini to be such an evil force, that he was worth opposing. Perhaps he was. Certainly Iran became the chief exporter of terror.

Is it ever right to take sides when evil battles with evil? Do we not have a duty to fight the greater evil, even if that means allying ourselves with evil, with any evil, in the process? I really don't know any more. As my point of view changes with the taking in of more data to examine, the questions become more and more complex. Absolutes give way to intermingled entangled messes in which the answers are only relative, can only be judged within a wider context. That also means the "right" answer changes depending on the context within which it is viewed, which at least explains why human beings so seldomly agree on vital matters. We all have different context.

War is itself a brutal venture. It fails the test of ends justifying the means. Or does it? If a man shoots another man, is he justified in doing so? Doesn't the answer to that rely on the context? His beliefs, his understandings, his perceptions, his interpretations, his motives. Don't all of these count? What if the belief of the shooter is that the one shot posed a direct threat to the safety of the shooter or someone he cares about? What if the shooter had his own weapon? Or some other means of causing harm? What if the one shot was plotting terror? Or what if the shooter only believed these things, but they turned out to be erroneous? I could sit here and make up a thousand different scenarios, and in each one, every last fact would count for something. The morality of a situation, of an act, depends wholly on the context within which it is taken. Even a divine "all knowing" context could not provide an absolute answer to an act undertaken from the point of view of limited information.

All we can really do is to do our best: to make the best choices we can in the moment, and then afterward to hold ourselves to account for the results. That must include examining a wider context than we had available at the time. Then we get to ask the question of whether we would choose the same response given the additional perspective. We also get to examine whether or not we had enough information at the time to make a good choice, or whether we should have waited, looked further, learned more before acting. Sometimes we don't get the luxury of that, though. Some choices include an urgent component, where a decision must be made on the spot. Then we get to ask whether we made the right choice, the best choice. Those can be quite haunting. The ones that haunt us most, though, are the choices we made that we knew at the time were wrong. For those, we have no excuse, only the admission of weakness.


That Saddam posed a danger is inarguable. The question is how much danger and to whom and to what degree of immediacy -- along with how and when and to what degree we should have responded. Should we have acted sooner? Perhaps much sooner? A case could be made. Did we act too soon? Could the resolution have come in a more orderly fashion, through diplomacy alone? A case could be made. To me, neither case is compelling. That is because I am looking from the point of view of using force "as the last resort".

To have gone all the way to Baghdad in the Gulf War would have exceeded the mission parameters. Our goal was to liberate Kuwait, and indeed, the vast majority of the coalition at that time did not WANT us to overthrow Hussein. The pressure on the USA to stop and let the Iraqi regime survive was enormous. From a humanitarian perspective, that was a tragic failure. The people of Iraq, and especially the Shiites who rose up and nearly overthrew him but were then brutally suppressed, these people suffered greatly. Their suffering could have been prevented if the coalition had pressed on to remove the despot. All the people brutalized, tortured, suppressed, dominated, bullied, and murdered, within Iraq, between 1991 and 2003, could have been spared their suffering if Saddam had been removed in 1991. That responsibility lies chiefly with Saddam and his people, but there is also a responsibility on the part of the coalition in having allowed him to remain in power. The blood isn't directly on our hands, but we are guilty of standing by and doing nothing to stop it.

There were many governments, leaders, and individuals within that first coalition that acted directly to protect Hussein. They were each looking out after what they saw as their own interests. Among the other Arab leaders, that comes chiefly from an Islamic cultural edict about believers vs nonbelievers. Apparently, all you have to do in that culture to be a believer is to be born into their people and pay lip service. You don't actually have to follow the teachings. And that's a problem. It leads the Arab nations to decide the "right and wrong" of an issue not on matters of facts, not on actual behavior, but in regard to superficial qualities such as nationality, professed religion, ethnicity and so forth. This is a noble cultural ideal that is being woefully abused by all manner of wolves hiding in the sheep's clothing, and it's a tragedy for all their people.

Yet we in the west must deal with this. When the Arabs close ranks to "protect their own" even when the ones they are protecting are patently evil, there really isn't much we can do about it, so long as the only ones to suffer are Arabs and Muslims. If we press the issue, we are "questioning their faith" or "going against the holy teaching" and that makes us, by definition, evil in their minds. To some extent, just us not professing to submit to their religion is enough for some to define us as evil. Christianity isn't much better on that score, though, so we're not exactly ones to talk. Memory of the Crusades has faded from western culture, but it's burnt into the cultural memory of the Arabs and they still have not forgiven nor forgotten. That, and European imperialism across the world, not ending until mere decades ago, leaves us in the west with having to cope with the sins of our fathers, who have left us a fat mess in a lot of places. We'll just have to deal with it.

I think it's a shame, though, in some sense, that we sit idly by and accept (with an almost apathetic sense) the Arabic nationalism so long as it doesn't spill out onto our shores. I don't know that I have any alternative, but the futility of it, the suffering it has caused amongst the Arabs, is now blamed on us by some, and that is what is fueling this terror war against the west by Al Qaeda and its like. The boiling pot has spilled over. It's time to get engaged, challenge the hypocrisy on the part of some within the Islamic world, and at the same time come clean on some of our own corrupt elements, and try to move toward sorting people out on the basis of their character and behavior, to realign not nation against nation or people against people, but all good people of all colors and faiths and nations lining up together in intolerance of the corruption within all our societies. I don't see how anything short of that can end the war on terror, and that may be some time in coming.

The point of view that we should have gone into Iraq in 1991 fails to come to grips with the reality on the ground at the time. We had believed that an uprising by his own people could succeed, and that it would be best not in being cheaper to us but also in letting the Iraqi people handle their own affairs. Any course to resolve the issue without us provoking that Arabic "protect our own even if they are wrong" cultural aspect, was worth pursuing. Saddam had been a bad enough boy that we believed he couldn't survive. We were wrong, but we made the best choice we could at the time.

The point of view that we should have continued to play pattycake with Saddam through the UN fails to come to grips with the reality that his word was worth nothing. His word was worth NOTHING. You can't make deals with those you cannot trust at least to the point of looking out after their nation's interests. We can trust Russia to look out after Russia, we can trust China to look out after China. We may not approve their governments and laws, but we can rely on them to keep their word in most regards, therefore we can make deals with them. You can't deal with leaders who place no value on keeping their word or on doing what's right for their governments, if not their folks. Saddam could not be trusted. That much is clear. If one fact has emerged to support the USA's claims that Saddam's government was an outlaw regime, it is all the countless ways in which his word has been demonstrated to have been no good: across twelve years of the UN's attempts to enforce the cease fire agreement, with the cheating on the sanctions, the inspections. The mobile lab trucks are the final icing on the cake. We didn't even need that, really, other than to establish that the USA was not just "making it all up" to get our way here.

Yet all of the possibilities for responding to Saddam include tragedy and suffering.

If we had gone after him in 1991, some people then who did not die would have died: soldiers and innocents. On the other hand, all the suffering and death Saddam's regime caused in later years would have been averted. Still, we'd have upset all our allies and have used force as an early resort. Instead we tried to make a deal with Saddam's regime in the force of a cease fire to which he never even tried to adhere.

If we had gone along with the wishes of the French, the Syrians, the Germans and others, Saddam would still be in power. Those who died in Operation Iraqi Freedom would still be alive, on all sides. Those who have lost their homes, the looting, the chaos, the ongoing uncertainty and messiness, none of that would be taking place. None of it would have happened. On the other hand, the regime would still be suppressing its people, protecting its rule with brutality, murder, terror and torture. Saddam's pursuit of WMD may or may not have suffered setbacks from the inspections process, but at best it would have seen a few items emerge here or there, like the Al Samoud II's, to be destroyed to much fanfare while the rest of the secret program either marches on or sits in mothballs waiting for the scrutiny to die down. Whether or not Saddam would have ever again employed WMD, including handing them off to terrorists, we cannot say. We can look at his track record and speculate, but there's no concrete way to assess the suffering that won't take place now that he's gone. We do know that Saddam would never have surrendered his reigns of power and even his WMD aspirations. The best possible hope would have been for another uprising, one that would have actually succeeded, and how was that ever going to take place? And even if it DID somehow miraculously come about, with Iraqis somehow organizing a successful overthrow, that would not have come without great suffering of those involved. Sure, a hundred or so Americans and a few dozen Brits and western journalists wouldn't have died, but in their place how many countless Iraqi patriots, poorly eqipped and poorly led, would have had to die to achieve the same result? Looking now at the way that Iraqis on the whole were so cowed by Saddam's terror machine that they didn't dare show any mass support or enthusiasm until the fall of Baghdad, how anyone can believe (as House Democratic Minority Leader Pelosi has espoused) that the regime would magically crack and crumble on its own given a little more time, is beyond me. Saddam was nothing if not expert in survival through brutality, in killing his opposition and keeping any who would oppose him divided and impotent. Like his idle Joseph Stalin, Saddam would have died in his bed if not taken out by military force from the outside. He was too paranoid and too skilled. Incredibly enough, he was actually NOT arrogant enough to allow himself to be taken down from within. His arrogance in regard to external powers taking him out eventually proved another story, but it would never have if the French had gotten their way.

If we had gone in sooner, we'd have averted much suffering, but who knows what other suffering may have taken place. If we had never gone in, we'd have averted much suffering, but who knows what other suffering may have taken place. Going sooner would have meant using force as an early resort, leaving other options like treaties, sanctions, inspections, and diplomatic isolation untried. Waiting any longer would have meant refusing to use force at all, ever, since there was already abundant examples of the unreliability of the word of that regime. They were rotten top to bottom, willing to lie, willing to do anything to stay in power, and their known thirst for WMD and history even of using the WMD they had was more than enough justification for taking them down. We DID try everything else: we boxed his ears and kicked him out of Kuwait, demonstrated that his army was not comparable to western forces, shut him in with the No Fly zones and secured his agreement to give up his WMD. Of course, he cheated on these deals, so we tried all other available means: sanctions, inspections, ultimatums. In my view, force was the right option at the right time.

No matter what your belief about that, though, you need to assess the costs objectively. That's where war doesn't always fail the test of the ends justifying the means.

You see, "the ends justifying the means" is not an invitation for abuse. It's not meant to be a constraint to prevent us from doing the right thing. It is meant to be a constraint to prevent us from acting hastily, perhaps doing a wrong thing when there was a better option.

Al Qaeda has legitimate complaints. The west has supported dictators in the Islamic world. Like our support for Saddam vs Iran, sometimes we climb into bed with true evil in an alliance against what we see as a greater evil. Whether that is worth it or not is a subject we should debate and debate vigorously, at least at the time the choice is being made, because the debate itself may open other possibilities. We have also supported Israel, and those who consider Israel to be corrupt and evil see us as supporting evil. The west, and America in particular, also have our own commercial interests. Some of our people are greedy, sloppy, uncaring, arrogant, etc. Some of our companies commit crimes. We do have things to account for to the Arab world.

BUT... Al Qaeda operates on the principle of the ends justifying the means. They see their complaints as cause for waging war, and they wage war in a way that makes no distinction between civilians and soldiers. We are all the enemy, and they fight in ways that seek to inflict enough pain on us to force us to withdraw from their part of the world. They hope to bring us down like a house of cards, but they perhaps fail to understand our true nature. Some of their beliefs may be dreadfully wrong, erroneous, false. There may also be some in the organization who simply long for the action, who became twisted in Afghanistan while fighting the Soviets and simply don't know how to do anything other than live the way they do, needing a great satan they can oppose, needing a war to go on and on against some enemy somewhere, so they can fight and live in their idea of glory.

Is force their last resort, though? Have they tried other means of working out their differences? No. They use threats as a first resort, followed closely by murder and terror. They turn to force FIRST and rely on the "noble ends" they seek to justify that. What keeps them moving forward? A belief in, or at least an espoused ideology of, their manifest destiny, that they stand on the side of right against a great evil.

I believe it worth recognizing that the means they choose to pursue their ends, and not so much the ends themselves, are what defines this group. They are a network of terror who embraces murder as the tool of choice.

Some of those now campaigning against the administration's policy decisions in regard to attacking Saddam's regime have professed that Saddam was not a "real threat" or at least was not as a big of a threat to America as Al Qaeda. The jury remains out on the last question. The facts still aren't in in regard to the WMD, the actual state of Saddam's WMD programs. Nevertheless, Saddam's direct threat to the USA was that of potentially passing WMD to terrorists or perhaps covertly deploying it with his own people. The indirect threat, much larger, was the potential of nuclear-armed Saddam dominating the region, seizing control of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and sitting on the oil to fuel yet more plans for domination. The threats to his neighbors were never insignificant, and they posed a significant threat to the USA and to stability in the region. Nevertheless, I will concede that even with all of that, Al Qaeda poses a greater direct threat to the USA.

My question today is, is "direct threat to the USA" the proper context in which to judge the decision to invade Iraq? I don't believe it is. Just like the issue was not the WMD alone, the issue is not also the direct threat alone.

All the arguments that compare Saddam's regime to other world situations ultimately fail due to breakdown in the analogy. The USA bears some of the responsibility of having propped up this dictator instead of letting him fall prey to his own ambitions against Iran. The oil is a huge factor -- not because we covet it for ourselves (we don't) but because it was a resource other despots have not enjoyed, giving Saddam the wealth with which to buy enough power to hold on to his dictatorship. He could buy the weapons, the mercenaries, pay the thugs, buy the technology to hold an edge over potential rivals, arm his regime, and live it up in grand style. The oil was also a major factor in the potential costs of letting him run unchecked, should he be able to gain control over the Arabian peninsula to his south. His ability to impact the world economy raised the costs beyond those of human suffering under his reign. He had the potential to impact the whole world. The man's sheer survival factor, his longevity, was part of the equation. So, too, was his utter disregard for human life. He fought for no cause, held no ideology. His ideology was himself, just himself. He was one of the world's most successful thugs in human history, but still just a thug, a hitman risen to power over a wealthy nation. He was Al Capone times ten, a Stalin wannabe. That lack of any substance to the man beyond raw personal ambition is what ultimately made him the greater evil.

What has Al Qaeda actually accomplished? The mujahadin of Afghanistan fought off the Soviets, but only a small fraction of them followed Bin Laden. Al Qaeda has been fueled by Bin Laden's oil money inheritance, and that is just about gone now. They've blown up some embassies, bombed a ship out of commission, bombed a few other small targets, bombed the WTC in '93, assassinated a few people. That's about it. If not for taking down the WTC and hitting the Pentagon and taking out the four planes on Sept 11, they would still be in the bit player camp, with Hezbolloh and Hamas. The blood on their hands measures into the thousands, and their worldwide network of cells and funding and so forth is not insignificant, but their threat factor lies in the terror. The impact lies in the terror and how many it touches. The actual damage they've done physically (as opposed to emotionally and by extension economically) is relatively small. At least compared to Saddam.

Saddam started a war with Iran that killed a MILLION people on both sides. He suppressed the Shia uprising, killing approximately a hundred thousand. He killed somewhere in the area of a hundred thousand Kurds as well. Now the evidence is emerging of those who were brutalized, tortured, executed, as part of the regime's grip on power, removing all opposition, suppressing all dissent. Does the fact that this suffering has been borne chiefly by Iraqis, Iranians, and Kuwaitis diminish the scope of the suffering?

I'm still keeping my eye on the WMD situation. The trucks qualify for me, personally, as "enough" to hold up the legitimacy of the administration's case. They met the standard of 1441. They proved that the regime was lying about its weapon programs. Does it really matter how much? Does it matter how bad the lies were?

There will always be some for whom no amount would ever be enough, just like no amount of provocation by Saddam was ever enough. That Saddam had started the war with Iran was not enough for Arab leaders to want to see him put down. They were more concerned about their cultural imperative to defend "believers" against "infidels" at all costs, without regard to the context. That Saddam raped Kuwait, purposely spilled oil into the gulf and set ablaze all of Kuwait's oil fields was not enough for the international community. Hold him to account for that? Sorry, that's not as important as reigning in the USA, for fear that turning us loose would give rise to... who knows what. No amount of Saddam's cheat and retreat antics with the inspectors were enough for those who had economic ties to the regime. Those ties, those monies, were more important. On and on it goes, the list of those for whom their own personal or cultural interests and priorities took precedence over doing the right thing.

Does it matter how much Saddam actually lied? Well, yes, to me it does, just not in regard to justifying the administration policy. A few trucks have that covered in the way the administration forwarded its case, and in the "we have no WMD program" blanket denials by Saddam's people. I'm interested in further evidence because I want to know the full extent of the truth. More context, in the form of facts, can be only a good thing. The truth is important.

The truth about the brutality of this regime is also important. I don't know what that says about what we should do in other circumstances. Certainly there are folks all over the world who fear that the USA will turn aggressive, that war and victory are intoxicants that can warp and corrupt any group.

Yet those who see the USA as the greater evil seem deeply warped to me. We did NOT rely on the ends justifying the means here. We exhausted the diplomatic possibilities first. We consulted allies in letting Saddam off the hook the first time. We worked through the UN to try to coerce him to keep his word on his various agreements. Those who have climbed in bed with Saddam in defending him against us are as guilty as we were for climbing into bed with him when he was attacking Iran. All of these things were done from the notion of opposing a greater evil. The question should at least be asked, however, as to whether the greater evil in these cases was correctly identified.

There are costs to action, but there are also costs to inaction. A responsible assessment after the fact must account for all the costs, including probable and possible costs of choices not taken. Those who disagreed with removing Saddam in 1991 must answer to their consciences for all the suffering that was allowed to take place through that inaction. Perhaps given what was known at the time, the right choice was made, although given what we now know, that no longer seems clear. Those who wanted the appeasement to go on and on, who wanted the issue to disappear and the status quo to persist, must answer to the suffering that has been taking place while they allowed Saddam to play his games of brinkmanship, as well as the certain suffering that would have continued to go on. Those who supported the action taken must answer for the suffering imposed by the war itself.

Surely, to those who suffered, the issue is more than theoretical. How are we to sort out the right course of action? Surely, if body count alone were measured, it would have been best to remove Saddam as early as possible, the sooner the better. If there had been justice in his nation, he would have been punished for murders committed very early in his career and never again seen the light of day. (Who knows how many Saddams the USA and other civilized nations have averted by way of holding criminals to account for their crimes?) And yet, how can we look into the future? How can we hold people to account for what they MIGHT do? We can't. We can only them responsible for what they've already done, and for what we fear they will probably do based on what they have done before.

Is justice more about retribution for past wrongs? Or about preemption against future wrongs? Is the chief aim of justice to prevent crimes? Or to seek to "balance the scales" by meting out punishment to those who have been caught?

Is it really "preemption" if there are past crimes and a long history of criminal behavior? Or is it instead restraining those who have proven they cannot be trusted to behave responsibly and lawfully?


If you count the Taliban as part and parcel of Al Qaeda, then perhaps Al Qaeda does begin to rise to the level of evil commited by Saddam and those who served him. If you count the Taliban separately, then neither it nor Al Qaeda are even in the same league as Saddam Hussein's regime. Al Qaeda and the Taliban at least had their aims, their purposes, their mission. Saddam's mission was brutality for its own sake, power and domination for their own sake. For his sake.

Which of these was the greater evil: Saddam's regime or Al Qaeda? Is there any doubt left?

Which of these was the greater evil: Saddam's regime or the American determination to bring an end to it?

Those of you who came down on the side of inaction, of letting Saddam's regime continue on, have you stayed tuned in to the issue? Have you considered the costs? Has your context changed at all? Or do you still believe it was wrong to take out this regime?


- Sirian
Oops! I mistranslated. Allow me to rephrase.

Reporting live from a GRAIN silo, it is I -- Iraqi Information Minister! Your own Toady Roosevelt was known as the Monopoly Buster. I would be, how you say, the Lie Buster. Better than a polygraph, and far more accurate. You can trust me. Don't I have a <STRIKE>con man's</STRIKE> honest face? I do. Take my word for it.

Details about the brutality of the Iraqi regime are all over the media. ... Dateline, 60 Minutes, every investigative journalism program has done at least one piece on the matter. Smatterings are sprinkled through the news reports, as some tidbit or other emerges to stand out. The History Channel has done a whole series or two already, and no doubt there are more to come. HBO, Biography Channel, you name it.

All lies created and disseminated by the Israeli government, which overthrew the American government during the 2000 <STRIKE>selection</STRIKE> election. The Al Gore robot broke down. Israel had to resort to "Plan B." G.W. Bush was kidnapped and squirreled away. He was replaced with an Israeli clone who takes orders only from the Israeli government. The presidential race was decided by subtly manipulating the... Oh, who cares. The Israeli spies in government simply said Bush won.

I've about had all I can absorb at this point. I've been tuning out more lately. I've also been digesting what I did take in.

Might I suggest tuning in to Al-Jazeera?

We do have one thing, though: the trucks. We have several of them. ... Iraq denied they had these trucks, specifically. ... They firmly establish, on a factual basis, that Saddam's regime did not comply with UN Resolution 1441.

You found them!? Err... THOSE are not WMD trucks! They are Uday's UNICEF food <STRIKE>smuggling</STRIKE> transporting trucks made to *look* like WMD trucks. UNICEF was his favorite resturant. He ordered from them so often he had to devote an entire house to storing it all.

They did not meet the "complete and immediate" aspect of disclosure. The US administration was right: the Iraqis were employing "cheat and retreat" tactics, not operating in good faith.

That's nonsense. The Iraqi <STRIKE>regime</STRIKE> government was completely honest. And I should know, because they told me everything. And I told you everything. Did you ever find anything wrong with what I said?

No, the issue was the combination of a rogue state run by an aggressive despot who coveted domination over not only his own people, but as wide an empire as he could manage to gather. The irresponsibility of this regime was the real issue. What it might do with the weapons was the issue.

Aggressive? Despotic? Irresponsible?! I think not! No, I know not! Though I never venture out of the palace, I know the Iraqi people are 100% satisfied with Saddam. Did you ever see any dissenters? No. All you saw were people hugging Saddam and fawning over him like a god on Earth! One day, even YOU will fawn over him like a god on Earth! (maniacal laughter)

I'm sorry. I got a bit carried away.

Saddam dreamed of WMD to support his ambition of being a great Arab leader, a man for the history books.

He already is a man for the history books! Oh, such an admirable man, right up there with Adolf and Joseph. When we write the history books Most Saddamest Saddam shall be discussed in the same breath as Muhammad, Jesus, and Allah!

Iraq started that war. They were the aggressor, and there were no noble causes, no ideologies, no justifications for it. We were fresh off the Iran Hostage Crisis and considered the Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini to be such an evil force, that he was worth opposing.

Traitorous Americans! They help us agaisnt Iran and then turn on us when we move on to Kuwait! You cannot trust them! Nobody can! They sleep with the circumsized johnson-come-latelys of the Middle East! Oh, the evil we face. If only Adolf and Joseph were here.

Is it ever right to take sides when evil battles with evil?

(Uses his power of Ministration to remove a comment from its context.)
Evil battles evil? But America is not fighting Israel...

War is itself a brutal venture.

Yes. It would be so much easier if the world would simply submit to the rule of Saddam-Allah. So give up already! Our Stone Age weaponry will surely defeat your silly Enlightened Computer Age technology! After all, Allah is on our side. Saddam told us so.

If a man shoots another man, is he justified in doing so? Doesn't the answer to that rely on the context? His beliefs, his understandings, his perceptions, his interpretations, his motives. Don't all of these count?

Yes, they do count very much. If the "shooted" was an Infidel, many of our clerics would say his death was most justified.

(Snips through Westernist Israeli propaganda...)

Christianity isn't much better on that score, though, so we're not exactly ones to talk. Memory of the Crusades has faded from western culture, but it's burnt into the cultural memory of the Arabs and they still have not forgiven nor forgotten.

To borrow a saying from the American South, "The Middle East will rise again!"

It's time to get engaged, challenge the hypocrisy on the part of some within the Islamic world, and at the same time come clean on some of our own corrupt elements, and try to move toward sorting people out on the basis of their character and behavior, to realign not nation against nation or people against people, but all good people of all colors and faiths and nations lining up together in intolerance of the corruption within all our societies.

NO! You ruin all of our plans!

uh... I mean to say, you have nothing to fear from us. Terrorism, as you call it, is only a hobby fully supported by a large segment of our society. For you to tell us it is wrong is evil, even by your standards. Therefore, you must leave us alone and sell us whatever we want <STRIKE>or something else might blow up</STRIKE>. Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.

The point of view that we should have continued to play pattycake with Saddam through the UN fails to come to grips with the reality that his word was worth nothing. His word was worth NOTHING.

How dare you say such a thing about a man so much greater than any man who has walked the earth! As is a saying in your culture, "Saddam works in mysterious ways." He told you what you needed to know. Saddam knew you wouldn't understand otherwise. His plans are unfathomable to any mind other than his.

Yet all of the possibilities for responding to Saddam include tragedy and suffering.

Such is the price of going against the will of a god!

You see, "the ends justifying the means" is not an invitation for abuse.

Westernist propaganda. Pay this no mind.

Which of these was the greater evil: Saddam's regime or Al Qaeda? Is there any doubt left?

Trick question! There is not one ounce of evil between them.

Which of these was the greater evil: Saddam's regime or the American determination to bring an end to it?

The Israeli puppet America, of course.

Remember, folks: There are no American troops in Iraq, so&nbsp;this moralizing is pointless.&nbsp;After Geraldo gave away&nbsp;your position, our calvary charged in and chopped them to bits. The remaining forces&nbsp;committed suicide at the gates of Baghdad. If you don't believe me, send over Sean Penn to confirm it.

Lovingly,
Iraqi Information Minister Extrordinarie
"I will pray Allah smites you all and you burn for a thousand millenia."
Last edited by LemmingofGlory on May 25th, 2003, 7:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Ashock
Ashock

May 25th, 2003, 8:43 pm #4

1441 is the standard only for the Security Council. The US' burden of proof to justify action without their blessing is much higher. It might have been lower had the US won the vote, and France had vetoed it; that would have at least given a shade of legitimacy. Instead, the US backed out of a vote they likely would have lost, and acted as a vigilante power. To justify that is much harder.

The WMD justification was the only one which, to me, mattered. The rest was all either moralizing or exaggeration. The administration has admitted they exaggerated the threat in order to push the war through, and demonstrate what enormous muscles (to be polite about it) they have. This is their own admission. They have failed to come up with a sufficient retroactive case, which doubly reinforces that their case was insufficient from the start. What seems especially damning to me is that they obviously knew this, and pushed ahead anyways, slandering poor Dr. Blix, and trumping up a trivial threat as though it constituted the greatest threat since Hitler.

Jester
The WMD justification was the only one which, to me, mattered. The rest was all either moralizing or exaggeration. The administration has admitted they exaggerated the threat in order to push the war through, and demonstrate what enormous muscles (to be polite about it) they have. This is their own admission.


Where and when? Source please.




-A
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Lissa
Lissa

May 26th, 2003, 3:23 am #5

Details about the brutality of the Iraqi regime are all over the media. Uday Hussein's torture of the soccer athletes under his control through the Olympic program seem to have gotten the most play, but there are accounts all over the place. Dateline, 60 Minutes, every investigative journalism program has done at least one piece on the matter. Smatterings are sprinkled through the news reports, as some tidbit or other emerges to stand out. The History Channel has done a whole series or two already, and no doubt there are more to come. HBO, Biography Channel, you name it.

Although I've had a particular interest in these kinds of pieces, wanting to know the "behind the scenes" details, to get the view from the inside, not just the views of dissidents and exiles and American intelligence from the outside, I've about had all I can absorb at this point. I've been tuning out more lately. I've also been digesting what I did take in.

In the reality check department, we still don't have actual WMD in our hands, nor has documentation emerged to detail what happened to it and when. We do have one thing, though: the trucks. We have several of them. Those were one of the key items in the portion of Secretary Powell's case to the UN that Saddam's regime was lying about its weapons programs. Iraq denied they had these trucks, specifically. Yet there they are, and exactly as Powell described them -- exactly as defectors from the regime had described them to our intelligence services. To me, the trucks are all the proof we need. They firmly establish, on a factual basis, that Saddam's regime did not comply with UN Resolution 1441. They did not meet the "complete and immediate" aspect of disclosure. The US administration was right: the Iraqis were employing "cheat and retreat" tactics, not operating in good faith.

Now some might consider the trucks insufficient proof that Saddam's regime posed a "clear and present danger", but to me, that's measuring by the wrong standard. The real issue here was not the weapons. If the weapons alone were an issue, then we'd have to treat ALL nations who posses WMD or pursue it as the same: including India, Pakistan, France, China, the UK and Russia, just to name the biggest fish. No, the issue was the combination of a rogue state run by an aggressive despot who coveted domination over not only his own people, but as wide an empire as he could manage to gather. The irresponsibility of this regime was the real issue. What it might do with the weapons was the issue.

Pakistan we know: they felt compelled to develop the bomb because India had developed it first. (Why India decided to go nuclear, I'm still not sure. That may have been an unwise move, but too late now). Pakistan wanted the deterrent, and now that they have it, they won't commit to a "no first use" policy because, with India having forced their hand, they now might as well reap the increased deterrent value against India's overwhelming conventional force. What a powder keg. We can only pray cooler heads prevail on all sides. At least we know, however, why these nations have the bomb and can see that they are only interested in standing up to each other over their various disputes and disagreements.

Saddam dreamed of WMD to support his ambition of being a great Arab leader, a man for the history books. The US support for Saddam in his war with Iran turned out to be a clear case of crawling in bed with the devil for expediency's sake, and perhaps it was a mistake. Iraq started that war. They were the aggressor, and there were no noble causes, no ideologies, no justifications for it. We were fresh off the Iran Hostage Crisis and considered the Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini to be such an evil force, that he was worth opposing. Perhaps he was. Certainly Iran became the chief exporter of terror.

Is it ever right to take sides when evil battles with evil? Do we not have a duty to fight the greater evil, even if that means allying ourselves with evil, with any evil, in the process? I really don't know any more. As my point of view changes with the taking in of more data to examine, the questions become more and more complex. Absolutes give way to intermingled entangled messes in which the answers are only relative, can only be judged within a wider context. That also means the "right" answer changes depending on the context within which it is viewed, which at least explains why human beings so seldomly agree on vital matters. We all have different context.

War is itself a brutal venture. It fails the test of ends justifying the means. Or does it? If a man shoots another man, is he justified in doing so? Doesn't the answer to that rely on the context? His beliefs, his understandings, his perceptions, his interpretations, his motives. Don't all of these count? What if the belief of the shooter is that the one shot posed a direct threat to the safety of the shooter or someone he cares about? What if the shooter had his own weapon? Or some other means of causing harm? What if the one shot was plotting terror? Or what if the shooter only believed these things, but they turned out to be erroneous? I could sit here and make up a thousand different scenarios, and in each one, every last fact would count for something. The morality of a situation, of an act, depends wholly on the context within which it is taken. Even a divine "all knowing" context could not provide an absolute answer to an act undertaken from the point of view of limited information.

All we can really do is to do our best: to make the best choices we can in the moment, and then afterward to hold ourselves to account for the results. That must include examining a wider context than we had available at the time. Then we get to ask the question of whether we would choose the same response given the additional perspective. We also get to examine whether or not we had enough information at the time to make a good choice, or whether we should have waited, looked further, learned more before acting. Sometimes we don't get the luxury of that, though. Some choices include an urgent component, where a decision must be made on the spot. Then we get to ask whether we made the right choice, the best choice. Those can be quite haunting. The ones that haunt us most, though, are the choices we made that we knew at the time were wrong. For those, we have no excuse, only the admission of weakness.


That Saddam posed a danger is inarguable. The question is how much danger and to whom and to what degree of immediacy -- along with how and when and to what degree we should have responded. Should we have acted sooner? Perhaps much sooner? A case could be made. Did we act too soon? Could the resolution have come in a more orderly fashion, through diplomacy alone? A case could be made. To me, neither case is compelling. That is because I am looking from the point of view of using force "as the last resort".

To have gone all the way to Baghdad in the Gulf War would have exceeded the mission parameters. Our goal was to liberate Kuwait, and indeed, the vast majority of the coalition at that time did not WANT us to overthrow Hussein. The pressure on the USA to stop and let the Iraqi regime survive was enormous. From a humanitarian perspective, that was a tragic failure. The people of Iraq, and especially the Shiites who rose up and nearly overthrew him but were then brutally suppressed, these people suffered greatly. Their suffering could have been prevented if the coalition had pressed on to remove the despot. All the people brutalized, tortured, suppressed, dominated, bullied, and murdered, within Iraq, between 1991 and 2003, could have been spared their suffering if Saddam had been removed in 1991. That responsibility lies chiefly with Saddam and his people, but there is also a responsibility on the part of the coalition in having allowed him to remain in power. The blood isn't directly on our hands, but we are guilty of standing by and doing nothing to stop it.

There were many governments, leaders, and individuals within that first coalition that acted directly to protect Hussein. They were each looking out after what they saw as their own interests. Among the other Arab leaders, that comes chiefly from an Islamic cultural edict about believers vs nonbelievers. Apparently, all you have to do in that culture to be a believer is to be born into their people and pay lip service. You don't actually have to follow the teachings. And that's a problem. It leads the Arab nations to decide the "right and wrong" of an issue not on matters of facts, not on actual behavior, but in regard to superficial qualities such as nationality, professed religion, ethnicity and so forth. This is a noble cultural ideal that is being woefully abused by all manner of wolves hiding in the sheep's clothing, and it's a tragedy for all their people.

Yet we in the west must deal with this. When the Arabs close ranks to "protect their own" even when the ones they are protecting are patently evil, there really isn't much we can do about it, so long as the only ones to suffer are Arabs and Muslims. If we press the issue, we are "questioning their faith" or "going against the holy teaching" and that makes us, by definition, evil in their minds. To some extent, just us not professing to submit to their religion is enough for some to define us as evil. Christianity isn't much better on that score, though, so we're not exactly ones to talk. Memory of the Crusades has faded from western culture, but it's burnt into the cultural memory of the Arabs and they still have not forgiven nor forgotten. That, and European imperialism across the world, not ending until mere decades ago, leaves us in the west with having to cope with the sins of our fathers, who have left us a fat mess in a lot of places. We'll just have to deal with it.

I think it's a shame, though, in some sense, that we sit idly by and accept (with an almost apathetic sense) the Arabic nationalism so long as it doesn't spill out onto our shores. I don't know that I have any alternative, but the futility of it, the suffering it has caused amongst the Arabs, is now blamed on us by some, and that is what is fueling this terror war against the west by Al Qaeda and its like. The boiling pot has spilled over. It's time to get engaged, challenge the hypocrisy on the part of some within the Islamic world, and at the same time come clean on some of our own corrupt elements, and try to move toward sorting people out on the basis of their character and behavior, to realign not nation against nation or people against people, but all good people of all colors and faiths and nations lining up together in intolerance of the corruption within all our societies. I don't see how anything short of that can end the war on terror, and that may be some time in coming.

The point of view that we should have gone into Iraq in 1991 fails to come to grips with the reality on the ground at the time. We had believed that an uprising by his own people could succeed, and that it would be best not in being cheaper to us but also in letting the Iraqi people handle their own affairs. Any course to resolve the issue without us provoking that Arabic "protect our own even if they are wrong" cultural aspect, was worth pursuing. Saddam had been a bad enough boy that we believed he couldn't survive. We were wrong, but we made the best choice we could at the time.

The point of view that we should have continued to play pattycake with Saddam through the UN fails to come to grips with the reality that his word was worth nothing. His word was worth NOTHING. You can't make deals with those you cannot trust at least to the point of looking out after their nation's interests. We can trust Russia to look out after Russia, we can trust China to look out after China. We may not approve their governments and laws, but we can rely on them to keep their word in most regards, therefore we can make deals with them. You can't deal with leaders who place no value on keeping their word or on doing what's right for their governments, if not their folks. Saddam could not be trusted. That much is clear. If one fact has emerged to support the USA's claims that Saddam's government was an outlaw regime, it is all the countless ways in which his word has been demonstrated to have been no good: across twelve years of the UN's attempts to enforce the cease fire agreement, with the cheating on the sanctions, the inspections. The mobile lab trucks are the final icing on the cake. We didn't even need that, really, other than to establish that the USA was not just "making it all up" to get our way here.

Yet all of the possibilities for responding to Saddam include tragedy and suffering.

If we had gone after him in 1991, some people then who did not die would have died: soldiers and innocents. On the other hand, all the suffering and death Saddam's regime caused in later years would have been averted. Still, we'd have upset all our allies and have used force as an early resort. Instead we tried to make a deal with Saddam's regime in the force of a cease fire to which he never even tried to adhere.

If we had gone along with the wishes of the French, the Syrians, the Germans and others, Saddam would still be in power. Those who died in Operation Iraqi Freedom would still be alive, on all sides. Those who have lost their homes, the looting, the chaos, the ongoing uncertainty and messiness, none of that would be taking place. None of it would have happened. On the other hand, the regime would still be suppressing its people, protecting its rule with brutality, murder, terror and torture. Saddam's pursuit of WMD may or may not have suffered setbacks from the inspections process, but at best it would have seen a few items emerge here or there, like the Al Samoud II's, to be destroyed to much fanfare while the rest of the secret program either marches on or sits in mothballs waiting for the scrutiny to die down. Whether or not Saddam would have ever again employed WMD, including handing them off to terrorists, we cannot say. We can look at his track record and speculate, but there's no concrete way to assess the suffering that won't take place now that he's gone. We do know that Saddam would never have surrendered his reigns of power and even his WMD aspirations. The best possible hope would have been for another uprising, one that would have actually succeeded, and how was that ever going to take place? And even if it DID somehow miraculously come about, with Iraqis somehow organizing a successful overthrow, that would not have come without great suffering of those involved. Sure, a hundred or so Americans and a few dozen Brits and western journalists wouldn't have died, but in their place how many countless Iraqi patriots, poorly eqipped and poorly led, would have had to die to achieve the same result? Looking now at the way that Iraqis on the whole were so cowed by Saddam's terror machine that they didn't dare show any mass support or enthusiasm until the fall of Baghdad, how anyone can believe (as House Democratic Minority Leader Pelosi has espoused) that the regime would magically crack and crumble on its own given a little more time, is beyond me. Saddam was nothing if not expert in survival through brutality, in killing his opposition and keeping any who would oppose him divided and impotent. Like his idle Joseph Stalin, Saddam would have died in his bed if not taken out by military force from the outside. He was too paranoid and too skilled. Incredibly enough, he was actually NOT arrogant enough to allow himself to be taken down from within. His arrogance in regard to external powers taking him out eventually proved another story, but it would never have if the French had gotten their way.

If we had gone in sooner, we'd have averted much suffering, but who knows what other suffering may have taken place. If we had never gone in, we'd have averted much suffering, but who knows what other suffering may have taken place. Going sooner would have meant using force as an early resort, leaving other options like treaties, sanctions, inspections, and diplomatic isolation untried. Waiting any longer would have meant refusing to use force at all, ever, since there was already abundant examples of the unreliability of the word of that regime. They were rotten top to bottom, willing to lie, willing to do anything to stay in power, and their known thirst for WMD and history even of using the WMD they had was more than enough justification for taking them down. We DID try everything else: we boxed his ears and kicked him out of Kuwait, demonstrated that his army was not comparable to western forces, shut him in with the No Fly zones and secured his agreement to give up his WMD. Of course, he cheated on these deals, so we tried all other available means: sanctions, inspections, ultimatums. In my view, force was the right option at the right time.

No matter what your belief about that, though, you need to assess the costs objectively. That's where war doesn't always fail the test of the ends justifying the means.

You see, "the ends justifying the means" is not an invitation for abuse. It's not meant to be a constraint to prevent us from doing the right thing. It is meant to be a constraint to prevent us from acting hastily, perhaps doing a wrong thing when there was a better option.

Al Qaeda has legitimate complaints. The west has supported dictators in the Islamic world. Like our support for Saddam vs Iran, sometimes we climb into bed with true evil in an alliance against what we see as a greater evil. Whether that is worth it or not is a subject we should debate and debate vigorously, at least at the time the choice is being made, because the debate itself may open other possibilities. We have also supported Israel, and those who consider Israel to be corrupt and evil see us as supporting evil. The west, and America in particular, also have our own commercial interests. Some of our people are greedy, sloppy, uncaring, arrogant, etc. Some of our companies commit crimes. We do have things to account for to the Arab world.

BUT... Al Qaeda operates on the principle of the ends justifying the means. They see their complaints as cause for waging war, and they wage war in a way that makes no distinction between civilians and soldiers. We are all the enemy, and they fight in ways that seek to inflict enough pain on us to force us to withdraw from their part of the world. They hope to bring us down like a house of cards, but they perhaps fail to understand our true nature. Some of their beliefs may be dreadfully wrong, erroneous, false. There may also be some in the organization who simply long for the action, who became twisted in Afghanistan while fighting the Soviets and simply don't know how to do anything other than live the way they do, needing a great satan they can oppose, needing a war to go on and on against some enemy somewhere, so they can fight and live in their idea of glory.

Is force their last resort, though? Have they tried other means of working out their differences? No. They use threats as a first resort, followed closely by murder and terror. They turn to force FIRST and rely on the "noble ends" they seek to justify that. What keeps them moving forward? A belief in, or at least an espoused ideology of, their manifest destiny, that they stand on the side of right against a great evil.

I believe it worth recognizing that the means they choose to pursue their ends, and not so much the ends themselves, are what defines this group. They are a network of terror who embraces murder as the tool of choice.

Some of those now campaigning against the administration's policy decisions in regard to attacking Saddam's regime have professed that Saddam was not a "real threat" or at least was not as a big of a threat to America as Al Qaeda. The jury remains out on the last question. The facts still aren't in in regard to the WMD, the actual state of Saddam's WMD programs. Nevertheless, Saddam's direct threat to the USA was that of potentially passing WMD to terrorists or perhaps covertly deploying it with his own people. The indirect threat, much larger, was the potential of nuclear-armed Saddam dominating the region, seizing control of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and sitting on the oil to fuel yet more plans for domination. The threats to his neighbors were never insignificant, and they posed a significant threat to the USA and to stability in the region. Nevertheless, I will concede that even with all of that, Al Qaeda poses a greater direct threat to the USA.

My question today is, is "direct threat to the USA" the proper context in which to judge the decision to invade Iraq? I don't believe it is. Just like the issue was not the WMD alone, the issue is not also the direct threat alone.

All the arguments that compare Saddam's regime to other world situations ultimately fail due to breakdown in the analogy. The USA bears some of the responsibility of having propped up this dictator instead of letting him fall prey to his own ambitions against Iran. The oil is a huge factor -- not because we covet it for ourselves (we don't) but because it was a resource other despots have not enjoyed, giving Saddam the wealth with which to buy enough power to hold on to his dictatorship. He could buy the weapons, the mercenaries, pay the thugs, buy the technology to hold an edge over potential rivals, arm his regime, and live it up in grand style. The oil was also a major factor in the potential costs of letting him run unchecked, should he be able to gain control over the Arabian peninsula to his south. His ability to impact the world economy raised the costs beyond those of human suffering under his reign. He had the potential to impact the whole world. The man's sheer survival factor, his longevity, was part of the equation. So, too, was his utter disregard for human life. He fought for no cause, held no ideology. His ideology was himself, just himself. He was one of the world's most successful thugs in human history, but still just a thug, a hitman risen to power over a wealthy nation. He was Al Capone times ten, a Stalin wannabe. That lack of any substance to the man beyond raw personal ambition is what ultimately made him the greater evil.

What has Al Qaeda actually accomplished? The mujahadin of Afghanistan fought off the Soviets, but only a small fraction of them followed Bin Laden. Al Qaeda has been fueled by Bin Laden's oil money inheritance, and that is just about gone now. They've blown up some embassies, bombed a ship out of commission, bombed a few other small targets, bombed the WTC in '93, assassinated a few people. That's about it. If not for taking down the WTC and hitting the Pentagon and taking out the four planes on Sept 11, they would still be in the bit player camp, with Hezbolloh and Hamas. The blood on their hands measures into the thousands, and their worldwide network of cells and funding and so forth is not insignificant, but their threat factor lies in the terror. The impact lies in the terror and how many it touches. The actual damage they've done physically (as opposed to emotionally and by extension economically) is relatively small. At least compared to Saddam.

Saddam started a war with Iran that killed a MILLION people on both sides. He suppressed the Shia uprising, killing approximately a hundred thousand. He killed somewhere in the area of a hundred thousand Kurds as well. Now the evidence is emerging of those who were brutalized, tortured, executed, as part of the regime's grip on power, removing all opposition, suppressing all dissent. Does the fact that this suffering has been borne chiefly by Iraqis, Iranians, and Kuwaitis diminish the scope of the suffering?

I'm still keeping my eye on the WMD situation. The trucks qualify for me, personally, as "enough" to hold up the legitimacy of the administration's case. They met the standard of 1441. They proved that the regime was lying about its weapon programs. Does it really matter how much? Does it matter how bad the lies were?

There will always be some for whom no amount would ever be enough, just like no amount of provocation by Saddam was ever enough. That Saddam had started the war with Iran was not enough for Arab leaders to want to see him put down. They were more concerned about their cultural imperative to defend "believers" against "infidels" at all costs, without regard to the context. That Saddam raped Kuwait, purposely spilled oil into the gulf and set ablaze all of Kuwait's oil fields was not enough for the international community. Hold him to account for that? Sorry, that's not as important as reigning in the USA, for fear that turning us loose would give rise to... who knows what. No amount of Saddam's cheat and retreat antics with the inspectors were enough for those who had economic ties to the regime. Those ties, those monies, were more important. On and on it goes, the list of those for whom their own personal or cultural interests and priorities took precedence over doing the right thing.

Does it matter how much Saddam actually lied? Well, yes, to me it does, just not in regard to justifying the administration policy. A few trucks have that covered in the way the administration forwarded its case, and in the "we have no WMD program" blanket denials by Saddam's people. I'm interested in further evidence because I want to know the full extent of the truth. More context, in the form of facts, can be only a good thing. The truth is important.

The truth about the brutality of this regime is also important. I don't know what that says about what we should do in other circumstances. Certainly there are folks all over the world who fear that the USA will turn aggressive, that war and victory are intoxicants that can warp and corrupt any group.

Yet those who see the USA as the greater evil seem deeply warped to me. We did NOT rely on the ends justifying the means here. We exhausted the diplomatic possibilities first. We consulted allies in letting Saddam off the hook the first time. We worked through the UN to try to coerce him to keep his word on his various agreements. Those who have climbed in bed with Saddam in defending him against us are as guilty as we were for climbing into bed with him when he was attacking Iran. All of these things were done from the notion of opposing a greater evil. The question should at least be asked, however, as to whether the greater evil in these cases was correctly identified.

There are costs to action, but there are also costs to inaction. A responsible assessment after the fact must account for all the costs, including probable and possible costs of choices not taken. Those who disagreed with removing Saddam in 1991 must answer to their consciences for all the suffering that was allowed to take place through that inaction. Perhaps given what was known at the time, the right choice was made, although given what we now know, that no longer seems clear. Those who wanted the appeasement to go on and on, who wanted the issue to disappear and the status quo to persist, must answer to the suffering that has been taking place while they allowed Saddam to play his games of brinkmanship, as well as the certain suffering that would have continued to go on. Those who supported the action taken must answer for the suffering imposed by the war itself.

Surely, to those who suffered, the issue is more than theoretical. How are we to sort out the right course of action? Surely, if body count alone were measured, it would have been best to remove Saddam as early as possible, the sooner the better. If there had been justice in his nation, he would have been punished for murders committed very early in his career and never again seen the light of day. (Who knows how many Saddams the USA and other civilized nations have averted by way of holding criminals to account for their crimes?) And yet, how can we look into the future? How can we hold people to account for what they MIGHT do? We can't. We can only them responsible for what they've already done, and for what we fear they will probably do based on what they have done before.

Is justice more about retribution for past wrongs? Or about preemption against future wrongs? Is the chief aim of justice to prevent crimes? Or to seek to "balance the scales" by meting out punishment to those who have been caught?

Is it really "preemption" if there are past crimes and a long history of criminal behavior? Or is it instead restraining those who have proven they cannot be trusted to behave responsibly and lawfully?


If you count the Taliban as part and parcel of Al Qaeda, then perhaps Al Qaeda does begin to rise to the level of evil commited by Saddam and those who served him. If you count the Taliban separately, then neither it nor Al Qaeda are even in the same league as Saddam Hussein's regime. Al Qaeda and the Taliban at least had their aims, their purposes, their mission. Saddam's mission was brutality for its own sake, power and domination for their own sake. For his sake.

Which of these was the greater evil: Saddam's regime or Al Qaeda? Is there any doubt left?

Which of these was the greater evil: Saddam's regime or the American determination to bring an end to it?

Those of you who came down on the side of inaction, of letting Saddam's regime continue on, have you stayed tuned in to the issue? Have you considered the costs? Has your context changed at all? Or do you still believe it was wrong to take out this regime?


- Sirian
Who is the greater threat to Western Civilization. You've watched all the coverage as many of us have, but, with the coverage comes revelations in other areas. Yes Saddam, sons, and company are evil and they've commited horrible atrocities, but, have you taken a look at some of the information coming out in other areas recently (and not so recently)?

You mention Pakistan and their quest for nuclear weapons, but have you heard some of the following tidbits about America's "ally" in south central Asia? The vast majority of Pakistanis believe in the cause of Al Queda and the Taliban, so much so that a large number of this majority would willingly harbor Al Queda and Taliban fugitives. One of the main scientists involved in the creation of the Pakistani bombs believes in Al Queda and also believes that the only religon that should exist is Islam, and he also believes that any means should be used to bring about this end, going so far as to willingly setup a meeting to discuss the production of nuclear weapons for Al Queda's use and was foiled by intelligence operatives from both the US and Pakistan to keep him from meeting with bin Laden. Scary thought that one of the head scientists of an "ally"'s bomb project is actively seeking to work with a terrorist organization who's sole purpose is to make Islam the only religon in the world and a vast majority of said "ally"'s populus is willing to help terrorist bring about their ends.

Let's move on to the Kim il Jong, the man that makes Saddam and sons look tame in comparison. Newsweek recently had an article about atrocities commited in North Korea by this mad man. The list of deeds performed were sick and twisted. The gulogs that have been created make Siberia during Josef Stalin look like paradise in comparison with use of the prisoners as testing platforms for varios chemical and biological agents. Kim il Jong is also moving forward with the production of more nuclear weapons and has not ruled out selling said weapons to the highest bidder, including terrorist organizations such as Al Queda. North Korea also has missiles that can reach the western US with such cities as Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia, Portland, Salem, San Fransico, Oakland, San Jose, Sacremento, Montery Bay, Los Angles, San Diego, La Jolla, and possibly cities further inland such as Spokane, Boise, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Reno, Phoenix, and Tucson being potential targets. Likewise, Kim il Jong has no qualms about using these weapons or selling as stated above. This sounds like a major threat to the US and those in the area around the Pacific as well as other places if weapons are sold to terrorist organizations.

Now, let's look at Saddam and company. Saddam supported terror operations using conventional means (suicide bombings, uses of automatic weapons, and general explosives). Saddam on the other hand had used WMDs in the past; against Iran and his own people. Saddam kept these weapons close to him, and as many intelligence personal and psychologists have stated, would not allow anyone outside his control to have access to these weapons, including the terrorist organizations Iraq worked with. Saddam was hated just as much by the radical Islamists as the West is, given this, Saddam would not give a weapon that could be used against him to these people knowing full well that said organizations could turn around and use the weapons against him instead of the West, or worse, have the weapons traced back to him by the terrorist organizations' use of said weapons. So, while Saddam and company were evil, the threats that the Bush government has put forth that they represented a clear and present danger to the West is a smoke and mirrors game. Yes, Saddam has WMDs or atleast had them up to the start of Gulf War 2, but he wasn't going to be stupid and hand them out people he had no control over.

So, looking at the facts as they stand above, do you still think that Saddam and company presented a clear and present danager to the West or does it sound like Pakistani fundimentalists or North Korea is a worse danger? Personally, I find the later 2 more a threat than the former.
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Joined: August 29th, 2001, 4:26 am

May 26th, 2003, 4:11 am #6

Oops! I mistranslated. Allow me to rephrase.

Reporting live from a GRAIN silo, it is I -- Iraqi Information Minister! Your own Toady Roosevelt was known as the Monopoly Buster. I would be, how you say, the Lie Buster. Better than a polygraph, and far more accurate. You can trust me. Don't I have a <STRIKE>con man's</STRIKE> honest face? I do. Take my word for it.

Details about the brutality of the Iraqi regime are all over the media. ... Dateline, 60 Minutes, every investigative journalism program has done at least one piece on the matter. Smatterings are sprinkled through the news reports, as some tidbit or other emerges to stand out. The History Channel has done a whole series or two already, and no doubt there are more to come. HBO, Biography Channel, you name it.

All lies created and disseminated by the Israeli government, which overthrew the American government during the 2000 <STRIKE>selection</STRIKE> election. The Al Gore robot broke down. Israel had to resort to "Plan B." G.W. Bush was kidnapped and squirreled away. He was replaced with an Israeli clone who takes orders only from the Israeli government. The presidential race was decided by subtly manipulating the... Oh, who cares. The Israeli spies in government simply said Bush won.

I've about had all I can absorb at this point. I've been tuning out more lately. I've also been digesting what I did take in.

Might I suggest tuning in to Al-Jazeera?

We do have one thing, though: the trucks. We have several of them. ... Iraq denied they had these trucks, specifically. ... They firmly establish, on a factual basis, that Saddam's regime did not comply with UN Resolution 1441.

You found them!? Err... THOSE are not WMD trucks! They are Uday's UNICEF food <STRIKE>smuggling</STRIKE> transporting trucks made to *look* like WMD trucks. UNICEF was his favorite resturant. He ordered from them so often he had to devote an entire house to storing it all.

They did not meet the "complete and immediate" aspect of disclosure. The US administration was right: the Iraqis were employing "cheat and retreat" tactics, not operating in good faith.

That's nonsense. The Iraqi <STRIKE>regime</STRIKE> government was completely honest. And I should know, because they told me everything. And I told you everything. Did you ever find anything wrong with what I said?

No, the issue was the combination of a rogue state run by an aggressive despot who coveted domination over not only his own people, but as wide an empire as he could manage to gather. The irresponsibility of this regime was the real issue. What it might do with the weapons was the issue.

Aggressive? Despotic? Irresponsible?! I think not! No, I know not! Though I never venture out of the palace, I know the Iraqi people are 100% satisfied with Saddam. Did you ever see any dissenters? No. All you saw were people hugging Saddam and fawning over him like a god on Earth! One day, even YOU will fawn over him like a god on Earth! (maniacal laughter)

I'm sorry. I got a bit carried away.

Saddam dreamed of WMD to support his ambition of being a great Arab leader, a man for the history books.

He already is a man for the history books! Oh, such an admirable man, right up there with Adolf and Joseph. When we write the history books Most Saddamest Saddam shall be discussed in the same breath as Muhammad, Jesus, and Allah!

Iraq started that war. They were the aggressor, and there were no noble causes, no ideologies, no justifications for it. We were fresh off the Iran Hostage Crisis and considered the Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini to be such an evil force, that he was worth opposing.

Traitorous Americans! They help us agaisnt Iran and then turn on us when we move on to Kuwait! You cannot trust them! Nobody can! They sleep with the circumsized johnson-come-latelys of the Middle East! Oh, the evil we face. If only Adolf and Joseph were here.

Is it ever right to take sides when evil battles with evil?

(Uses his power of Ministration to remove a comment from its context.)
Evil battles evil? But America is not fighting Israel...

War is itself a brutal venture.

Yes. It would be so much easier if the world would simply submit to the rule of Saddam-Allah. So give up already! Our Stone Age weaponry will surely defeat your silly Enlightened Computer Age technology! After all, Allah is on our side. Saddam told us so.

If a man shoots another man, is he justified in doing so? Doesn't the answer to that rely on the context? His beliefs, his understandings, his perceptions, his interpretations, his motives. Don't all of these count?

Yes, they do count very much. If the "shooted" was an Infidel, many of our clerics would say his death was most justified.

(Snips through Westernist Israeli propaganda...)

Christianity isn't much better on that score, though, so we're not exactly ones to talk. Memory of the Crusades has faded from western culture, but it's burnt into the cultural memory of the Arabs and they still have not forgiven nor forgotten.

To borrow a saying from the American South, "The Middle East will rise again!"

It's time to get engaged, challenge the hypocrisy on the part of some within the Islamic world, and at the same time come clean on some of our own corrupt elements, and try to move toward sorting people out on the basis of their character and behavior, to realign not nation against nation or people against people, but all good people of all colors and faiths and nations lining up together in intolerance of the corruption within all our societies.

NO! You ruin all of our plans!

uh... I mean to say, you have nothing to fear from us. Terrorism, as you call it, is only a hobby fully supported by a large segment of our society. For you to tell us it is wrong is evil, even by your standards. Therefore, you must leave us alone and sell us whatever we want <STRIKE>or something else might blow up</STRIKE>. Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.

The point of view that we should have continued to play pattycake with Saddam through the UN fails to come to grips with the reality that his word was worth nothing. His word was worth NOTHING.

How dare you say such a thing about a man so much greater than any man who has walked the earth! As is a saying in your culture, "Saddam works in mysterious ways." He told you what you needed to know. Saddam knew you wouldn't understand otherwise. His plans are unfathomable to any mind other than his.

Yet all of the possibilities for responding to Saddam include tragedy and suffering.

Such is the price of going against the will of a god!

You see, "the ends justifying the means" is not an invitation for abuse.

Westernist propaganda. Pay this no mind.

Which of these was the greater evil: Saddam's regime or Al Qaeda? Is there any doubt left?

Trick question! There is not one ounce of evil between them.

Which of these was the greater evil: Saddam's regime or the American determination to bring an end to it?

The Israeli puppet America, of course.

Remember, folks: There are no American troops in Iraq, so&nbsp;this moralizing is pointless.&nbsp;After Geraldo gave away&nbsp;your position, our calvary charged in and chopped them to bits. The remaining forces&nbsp;committed suicide at the gates of Baghdad. If you don't believe me, send over Sean Penn to confirm it.

Lovingly,
Iraqi Information Minister Extrordinarie
"I will pray Allah smites you all and you burn for a thousand millenia."
Iraqui Information Minister Releases Statement to Press

"Iraqui tanks surround Washington. The US capital will be under Iraqui control within days."
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Ashock
Ashock

May 26th, 2003, 5:54 am #7

Who is the greater threat to Western Civilization. You've watched all the coverage as many of us have, but, with the coverage comes revelations in other areas. Yes Saddam, sons, and company are evil and they've commited horrible atrocities, but, have you taken a look at some of the information coming out in other areas recently (and not so recently)?

You mention Pakistan and their quest for nuclear weapons, but have you heard some of the following tidbits about America's "ally" in south central Asia? The vast majority of Pakistanis believe in the cause of Al Queda and the Taliban, so much so that a large number of this majority would willingly harbor Al Queda and Taliban fugitives. One of the main scientists involved in the creation of the Pakistani bombs believes in Al Queda and also believes that the only religon that should exist is Islam, and he also believes that any means should be used to bring about this end, going so far as to willingly setup a meeting to discuss the production of nuclear weapons for Al Queda's use and was foiled by intelligence operatives from both the US and Pakistan to keep him from meeting with bin Laden. Scary thought that one of the head scientists of an "ally"'s bomb project is actively seeking to work with a terrorist organization who's sole purpose is to make Islam the only religon in the world and a vast majority of said "ally"'s populus is willing to help terrorist bring about their ends.

Let's move on to the Kim il Jong, the man that makes Saddam and sons look tame in comparison. Newsweek recently had an article about atrocities commited in North Korea by this mad man. The list of deeds performed were sick and twisted. The gulogs that have been created make Siberia during Josef Stalin look like paradise in comparison with use of the prisoners as testing platforms for varios chemical and biological agents. Kim il Jong is also moving forward with the production of more nuclear weapons and has not ruled out selling said weapons to the highest bidder, including terrorist organizations such as Al Queda. North Korea also has missiles that can reach the western US with such cities as Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia, Portland, Salem, San Fransico, Oakland, San Jose, Sacremento, Montery Bay, Los Angles, San Diego, La Jolla, and possibly cities further inland such as Spokane, Boise, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Reno, Phoenix, and Tucson being potential targets. Likewise, Kim il Jong has no qualms about using these weapons or selling as stated above. This sounds like a major threat to the US and those in the area around the Pacific as well as other places if weapons are sold to terrorist organizations.

Now, let's look at Saddam and company. Saddam supported terror operations using conventional means (suicide bombings, uses of automatic weapons, and general explosives). Saddam on the other hand had used WMDs in the past; against Iran and his own people. Saddam kept these weapons close to him, and as many intelligence personal and psychologists have stated, would not allow anyone outside his control to have access to these weapons, including the terrorist organizations Iraq worked with. Saddam was hated just as much by the radical Islamists as the West is, given this, Saddam would not give a weapon that could be used against him to these people knowing full well that said organizations could turn around and use the weapons against him instead of the West, or worse, have the weapons traced back to him by the terrorist organizations' use of said weapons. So, while Saddam and company were evil, the threats that the Bush government has put forth that they represented a clear and present danger to the West is a smoke and mirrors game. Yes, Saddam has WMDs or atleast had them up to the start of Gulf War 2, but he wasn't going to be stupid and hand them out people he had no control over.

So, looking at the facts as they stand above, do you still think that Saddam and company presented a clear and present danager to the West or does it sound like Pakistani fundimentalists or North Korea is a worse danger? Personally, I find the later 2 more a threat than the former.
>>>The list of deeds performed were sick and twisted. The gulogs that have been created make Siberia during Josef Stalin look like paradise in comparison with use of the prisoners as testing platforms for varios chemical and biological agents.<<<


While I agree with some of your thoughts, this one is obviously erroneous.



-A
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Lissa
Lissa

May 26th, 2003, 6:12 am #8

If it's erroneous, then there are a lot of dissident North Koreans lying Ash.

One dissident noted that she was lead into a gymnasium where a number of people were sitting on a raised platform. A server walked in and gave each person a bowl of boiled cabbage. Being that these people are kept starved, they ate the cabbage. Within 20 minutes, there were dead and their last minutes were rather horrible, coughing up blood that was black as night. Still say it's erroneous?

How about that there are toxic ponds on the sites of these camps. Another dissident watched as a guard kicked to children into one of these ponds and the children died rapidly from the toxic chemicals contained there in.

When Stalin sent someone to Siberia, he sent the person, when Kim il Jong hears about someone saying bad things about the government, or what he perceives as bad, he sends the family, in one case, the grandfather said that the Japanese economic system was good and the grandfather, grandmother, sons, daughters, wives, husbands, and grandchildren were all sent to the camps.

Still think Stalin's gulogs were equal or tougher?
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Jester
Jester

May 26th, 2003, 7:09 am #9

The WMD justification was the only one which, to me, mattered. The rest was all either moralizing or exaggeration. The administration has admitted they exaggerated the threat in order to push the war through, and demonstrate what enormous muscles (to be polite about it) they have. This is their own admission.


Where and when? Source please.




-A
http://abcnews.go.com/sections/nightlin ... 30425.html

Satisfied?

Jester
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Sirian
Sirian

May 26th, 2003, 3:46 pm #10

1441 is the standard only for the Security Council. The US' burden of proof to justify action without their blessing is much higher. It might have been lower had the US won the vote, and France had vetoed it; that would have at least given a shade of legitimacy. Instead, the US backed out of a vote they likely would have lost, and acted as a vigilante power. To justify that is much harder.

The WMD justification was the only one which, to me, mattered. The rest was all either moralizing or exaggeration. The administration has admitted they exaggerated the threat in order to push the war through, and demonstrate what enormous muscles (to be polite about it) they have. This is their own admission. They have failed to come up with a sufficient retroactive case, which doubly reinforces that their case was insufficient from the start. What seems especially damning to me is that they obviously knew this, and pushed ahead anyways, slandering poor Dr. Blix, and trumping up a trivial threat as though it constituted the greatest threat since Hitler.

Jester
1441 is the standard only for the Security Council.

You can't have this both ways, kid.


The US' burden of proof to justify action without their blessing is much higher.

The UN Security Council laid the burden of proof not on the USA, but on Iraq, on Saddam's regime. Dr. Blix's own reports concluded that Saddam cooperated only on process, not on substance, with a report HUNDREDS of pages long detailing all the substantive issues on which they were uncooperative.

That the UN Security Council lacked the will, the character, and the backbone to enforce its resolution when Saddam defied them for the 17th time is another issue.


It might have been lower had the US won the vote, and France had vetoed it; that would have at least given a shade of legitimacy.

The USA did have the votes to win. We had all six of the "on the fence" countries ready to vote for us. Why do you think France came out with their blustery, desperate threat to "veto no matter what", which so shocked the council?

That promise, which they never backed down from, tore away all six of the "on the fence" nations. The problem was, why should those nations suffer the political consequences of doing the RIGHT thing, when the vote would only be stopped by the French anyway? If the vote wasn't actually going to PASS, they weren't going to vote for it. Your argument fails to view this process correctly, in its entire scope.

France single-handedly killed that second vote. To claim that the US "didn't have the votes" is literally true, but contextually bankrupt. Therefore it is wrong.


Instead, the US backed out of a vote they likely would have lost, and acted as a vigilante power. To justify that is much harder.

If you sit with your eyes closed, fingers in your ears, stamp your feet over and over, and hum to yourself, you can see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil.


The WMD justification was the only one which, to me, mattered. The rest was all either moralizing or exaggeration.

Moralizing and exageration? Well, if you dismiss moralizing as worthless, then no war ever in history could be justified. What context IS THERE by which to justify any hostile action other than on moral grounds? The right of self-defense is a moral issue. The security of netions and protecting the rights of people to live freely are moral issues.

As for exagerations... LOOK at the mountains of evidence about the brutality and monstrosity of this regime coming out of Iraq and then come back and repeat the "exageration" claim with a straight face.


The administration has admitted they exaggerated the threat in order to push the war through, and demonstrate what enormous muscles (to be polite about it) they have. This is their own admission.

Your reading comprehension leaves much to be desired. Go ahead. Go back to the ABCNews article by Cochran that you cited. Quote me ANY admission from that piece where "exageration" was "admitted". I'll save you the time. You can't, because it's not there.

I'll quote for you.

the Bush administration argued that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, but some officials now privately acknowledge the White House had another reason for war

You seem to have stumbled upon the word "another". Does that mean the WMD was not a reason? No. Does it mean the WMD was not the main reason? No. It means what it says. There were also other reasons for taking this action. One of them NOT mentioned here, but which was another reason, was the liberation of the Iraqi people for its own sake. That was another reason for the war, and it was mentioned up front. And in fact, this article spins the case as "the White House now admits", but that's stretching the truth to the utmost literal limits without actually crossing the factual line.

The "muscle flex" was openly admitted as a reason all along, too. This from the VERY start, because it is part of the premise of the notion of the UN Security Council enforcing the resolutions it passes. The President went before the UN General Assembly and made the full case, then looked them all in the eye and challenged them for letting Saddam violate these pronouncements with complete impunity. The very notion of UN credibility being on the line, of the UN risking becoming irrelevent, is all about "muscle flex". The proper term for that is "deterrent". Authority is not granted. It must be earned, gathered, maintained.


If weapons of mass destruction were not the primary reason for war, what was? Here's the answer officials and advisers gave ABCNEWS.

Aha! There's the only quote in the piece that supports your view. But guess what? It's NOT a quote! This is the phrasing of the reporter. Look more closely. This is spin. Read the actual quotes and see if this is the only possible way to interpret them. "Primary" reason? The action in Iraq was ALWAYS billed by the Bush administration as part and parcel to the war on terror. Of COURSE 9-11 had an impact. DUH! That's what turned Saddam's WMD from a threat contained to his immediate neighbors into one potentially deployable by terrorists slipping into the USA.

This kind of reporting sets its own context. You can see the political leaning of the piece if you pay ANY attention. Then again, maybe you can't see it. If it agrees wholly with your own position going in, perhaps you see the spin factor here as "objective". The American people on the whole aren't buying it any more, though. There is a major backlash underway in this country against biased reporting.

Heck, even watching Tom Brokaw's hourlong interview with the President -- and I LIKE Tom Brokaw -- I could not help but notice the difference between the actual give and take between Tom and W, vs the contextual commentary inserted between the quotes by Brokaw alone, which colored some of the questions and answers in a way that ALTERED the perception of what the President was actually saying.

That gave me real pause. That's the kind of context I used to absorb without questioning it, as simply part of the reporting. Well, no longer. Now I listen to the speeches whole, whenever I can, and form my own context, try to listen to what various speakers are actually saying, not the spin reporters want to put on it. You might be advised to view reports with a more critical eye. This piece from ABCNews poses itself as a bit of an expose, but in truth, nothing in there is new. No revelation of distortion or exageration, only the (obvious) fact that some parts of the total case for the war and total package of reasons for committing to this war got more of the attention.

Well, duh! Of course some parts got more emphasis: the WMD WAS the primary reason. Even the reporter in your quoted article had to admit this, obliquely. The quote that proves this:

Officials said that even if Saddam had backed down and avoided war by admitting to having weapons of mass destruction, the world would have received the same message; Don't mess with the United States.

Well there you have it. If Saddam had cooperated on the weapons, there would have been no war. The WMD was IN FACT the primary reason for this war, reporter spin notwithstanding, because if not for Saddam's continued defiance on this one point, the regime would not have been attacked. The oil would have remained in his hands. The brutal torture regime would have gone on suppressing the Iraqi people. Yes, sadly, we did NOT in fact go into this war primarily to liberate the Iraqis -- we did it to close down the WMD as ANY kind of threat of any degree. And this quote proves it. But the liberation was also a key objective, "another" reason for the war, as we fought the war in a way to try to minimize collateral damage, to take out the regime but leave the nation intact as much as possible.

That the notion of a credible deterrent should bother you baffles me. I'm not getting what part of that you consider to be wrong.


They have failed to come up with a sufficient retroactive case, which doubly reinforces that their case was insufficient from the start.

The WMD? That's the only part of the American case that has not been proven with damning mountains of emerging evidence. And the questions are still on the table. That long report from Dr. Blix (the one he tried to hide, by not mentioning it in his final report to the council before the war -- although the US forced the revelation of its existence right after the council meeting, when it was officially "too late" for consideration at the time)... All of those questions remain on the table. What did happen to the unaccounted for anthrax? The mustard, the VX, the botchulinum? What will all the scientists report? And at what point will they be confident enough to start talking? That we still don't have Saddam is a problem on that front; some folks aren't eager to talk until they are certain he's 100% finished.


What seems especially damning to me is that they obviously knew this, and pushed ahead anyways, slandering poor Dr. Blix, and trumping up a trivial threat as though it constituted the greatest threat since Hitler.

Slandering poor Dr. Blix? Cite me one example, ANY example of slander, please.

As for "trivial" threat, if the threat was really trivial, wouldn't Saddam have been willing to cooperate? To FULLY cooperate? All he would have had to do to avert war and cling to power was to come fully clean on the WMD issue. Even you must admit, he never came close to that. Nobody at the UN is arguing that point. They all concede it. The disagreement was over what to do about it, and the French -- ONLY the French -- stood in the way. The French single-handedly held this issue hostage with their veto power, after privately assuring Colin Powell that they would not vote for 1441 if they weren't willing to back it up later -- which of course those treacherous bastards backed out on anyway. Backstabbers. Doublecrossers. Liars. Where's your challenge of THEIR motives, positions, and justifications?

It's no accident the American people in large numbers are PISSED at the French. And our government can't do anything about it. French ad campaigns to smoothe it over won't work either. We're going to stay pissed at the French unless and until their government backs off this power grab they're on, trying to form a new position for themselves on the world stage as a diplomatic opponent of US interests. Legitimate disagreement on issues is one thing -- that's where Germany and Russia sat on this one. Fine. But opposing the US with the equivalent of "diplomatic total war" because of a belief that that the US itself is seen as the greater evil, that's something else. We're not going to forget that one.

If you're willing to hide behind the French veto threat that killed the eighteenth resolution and spin it so you can go on believing that the USA was a "vigilante" here, you go right ahead. Unless you clarify otherwise, I'm going to read your post as your answer to my question of whether Saddam's regime or the USA determination to hold them to account was the greater evil.

Thanks for posting.


- Sirian
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