Saturday, November 12, 2005

The President's Veteran's Day Speech

I'm not going to type much in this post. Mostly I'm going to provide links. Feel free to surf at your leisure.

Here's my one-over-the-world summary of where we're going with these links:

1. Why we got into this war
2. No, the President didn't lie to get us into this war
3. The Duelfer Report, which says there were intelligence failures but not lies or manipulations
4. Our good friends on the left, telling the Big Lie often enough and loud enough that 2 1/2 years later, we're still addressing it so that it doesn't become conventional wisdom
5. Dissent and limited war

1. This war started on October 31, 1998, when President Clinton signed The Iraq Liberation Act, making Iraqi regime change the stated policy of the United States. His press release is here. On December 16th, 1998, President Clinton held a press conference explaining why he'd just ordered the bombing of Iraq:

Earlier today, I ordered America's armed forces to strike military and security targets in Iraq. They are joined by British forces. Their mission is to attack Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs and its military capacity to threaten its neighbors....
The international community had little doubt then, and I have no doubt today, that left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will use these terrible weapons again.

2. There is no evidence at all that the President lied to take us into war. Even if you include those few words in the State of the Union Address, and assume they refer to Joe Wilson and not, as the British repeatedly said, to other attempts (the President said "Africa", not "Niger", and Wilson's report actually concluded there had been attempts by Saddam), this "Bush lied" story has no evidence.

3. And the Duelfer Report? What's that? It's the report, submitted to Congress in September 2004, the aim of which was to determine if anyone lied and where Saddam's weapons program went. You can read the entire lengthy report here but I recommend scrolling down to "Key Findings", among which you'll find these tidbits:

Saddam’s primary goal from 1991 to 2003 was to have UN sanctions lifted, while maintaining the security of the Regime. He sought to balance the need to cooperate with UN inspections—to gain support for lifting sanctions—with his intention to preserve Iraq’s intellectual capital for WMD with a minimum of foreign intrusiveness and loss of face. Indeed, this remained the goal to the end of the Regime, as the starting of any WMD program, conspicuous or otherwise, risked undoing the progress achieved in eroding sanctions and jeopardizing a political end to the embargo and international monitoring.

The introduction of the Oil-For-Food program (OFF) in late 1996 was a key turning point for the Regime. OFF rescued Baghdad’s economy from a terminal decline created by sanctions. The Regime quickly came to see that OFF could be corrupted to acquire foreign exchange both to further undermine sanctions and to provide the means to enhance dual-use infrastructure and potential WMD-related development.

Saddam wanted to recreate Iraq’s WMD capability—which was essentially destroyed in 1991—after sanctions were removed and Iraq’s economy stabilized, but probably with a different mix of capabilities to that which previously existed. Saddam aspired to develop a nuclear capability—in an incremental fashion, irrespective of international pressure and the resulting economic risks—but he intended to focus on ballistic missile and tactical chemical warfare (CW) capabilities.

The former Regime had no formal written strategy or plan for the revival of WMD after sanctions. Neither was there an identifiable group of WMD policy makers or planners separate from Saddam. Instead, his lieutenants understood WMD revival was his goal from their long association with Saddam and his infrequent, but firm, verbal comments and directions to them.

It's apparent that Saddam intended to restart his program as soon as he could. Yes, our intelligence said that he still had the weapons. Yes, many weapons-related items
that had not been reported to the UN were found after the invasion. Yes, there's material that had been "secured" by the UN that was missing after the war. That should be enough to show that everyone involved acted in good faith.

4. So why are so many Senators and Congressmen now saying they were "misled" on the war, when they had the same briefings and much the same intelligence as the President? How can Pelosi, Boxer, Kerry, Gore, et. al., now claim the President lied when, shortly before he became President, they believed the very same intelligence that President Bush used to take us to war? How many times must we watch the clips from the Sunday morning talk shows, read the quotes archived online, before our friends on the left admit that their icons in the Congress are lying now for political gain? Why do they do it? Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit (see blogroll at left) has as good an explanation as anybody:
I think it's jealousy. Bush-hatred has become all-consuming among a large section of the Democratic Party, and they can't stand the thought of anything that reflects well on him, even if it's good for the country, and if it's something that was their idea originally.

Again, here's the Washington Post, hardly a mouthpiece for the Administration:
The administration's overarching point is true: Intelligence agencies overwhelmingly believed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and very few members of Congress from either party were skeptical about this belief before the war began in 2003. Indeed, top lawmakers in both parties were emphatic and certain in their public statements.
Perhaps our friends on the left, those who believe President Bush is so dumb, are willing to have us believe that he fooled them. Would that make them dumber than the President? That would be an interesting plank to campaign on.

5. So where does that leave us? Often, it leaves us with the left lying through its teeth, and squealing like stuck pigs when they're called on it. How dare you question our patriotism, they ask? Well, it's easy to question it when you ignore what you said and believed a few years ago and now say the exact opposite, just because you think you can score a few political points against the President. What follows here is a good post from Glenn Reynolds about that, and a lengthy essay from TigerHawk on dissent during limited war. TigerHawks's essay is among the best I've read on the subject, and it jibes nicely with what I wrote in comments to this post.

Here is a representative sample from Glenn's post:

This bit of hatemail, though, seems to carry the flavor best:

Did you ever really think you'd be the kind of person who would be calling dissenters from a right-wing, gay-bashing, anti-evolution, incompetent war-making administration "unpatriotic"?

I'm not sure where evolution or gay rights come into this (I've "dissented" on those points myself, after all), but I think this illustrates that the "Bush lied" issue has more to do with anti-Bush sentiment than with anything having to do with the merits of the war.

But it's not "dissent" that's unpatriotic, something I've been at pains to note in the past. It's putting one's own political positions first, even if doing so encourages our enemies, as this sort of talk is sure to do. And that's what I think is going on with the sudden surge of "Bush Lied" stuff from Congressional democrats.

Of course, outrage over questioning of patriotism is kind of one-sided. You can say that Bush and Cheney started the war with a bunch of lies to enrich their buddies at Halliburton, and that their supporters are all a bunch of chickenhawks on the White House payroll. But that's different because -- because Bush is anti-evolution, and doesn't support gay marriage! Or something.

And TigerHawk hit the ball out of the park with this essay, sampled below:

Meanwhile, supporters of the war sometimes charge -- as the president did today -- that dissent hurts the morale of our soldiers and gives aid and comfort to the enemy.

Even if this is true, or only sometimes true, the charge in and of itself does not dispose of the morality of dissent because it leaves no room for principled public discussion of the propriety of the war or the effectiveness of its prosecution. Our democracy requires room for anti-war dissent, even if the price is aid and comfort to the enemy.

Assuming, arguendo, that anti-war dissent does give aid and comfort to the enemy (I discuss why this must be so later in the post), are there types of dissent that more efficiently balance the benefit (robust public debate about a topic as momentous as the war) with the costs (the sending of signals that embolden the enemy and demoralize our own soldiers) than other types? If so, are these more efficient methods or arguments of dissent more moral or legitimate than methods or arguments that do little to advance the debate but do relatively more damage to the American war effort? These are the questions that interest me....

Dissenters often (but not always) claim that they “support the troops.” Fairly or not, one often gets the impression that many of them do not really like soldiers and claim that they support them only as a political tactic, to avoid the backlash that followed the anti-war protests during Vietnam. Be that as it may, since our soldiers are fighting for the expressed purpose of preventing the enemy from achieving its victory conditions, it seems to me obvious that one cannot both advocate withdrawal and “support the troops,” at least in this superficial sense. “Supporting the troops” means nothing if it does not mean supporting their principal and motivating endeavor, which is to kill the enemy or otherwise deprive it of its capacity to fight. Advocates of early withdrawal do not “support the troops,” at least as long as most of the troops in question believe in their mission, which seems to be the case even today. Moreover, certain forms of dissent quite explicitly undermine the troops. For example, activists who seek to obstruct military recruitment raise the chances that any given soldier will have a longer tour in the Iraq theater. Preventing the replacement of a soldier is precisely the opposite of "supporting the troops".

The new meme should be, "Lefties lied, Truth cried." Or something more poetic than that.

Update: From this blog we get commentary I agree with, so I'll sample a few choice quotes here:

Left unexplained - how the Democrats' unrelenting focus on the use of pre-war intelligence is going to substitute for a plan to resolve the situation in Iraq. Was it really only two weeks ago that Harry Reid forced the Senate into a closed session to discuss that?

Perhaps Sen. Reid was simply intending to commemorate the second anniversary of the leak of the strategy memo explaining how the Democrats could politicize the Senate Intelligence Committee hearings for maximum benefit.

This political posturing by the Dems is understandable - their party is pretty well united around the desire to have a mulligan on the decision to go to war against Iraq....

And my point is what? Bush did what he believed in, Democrats chose to vote expediently rather than lead, and here we are. Three years later Bush is still doing what he believes in, and Democrats are still looking to evade the Iraq issue.

Update #2: This, from the San Antonio Express-News. It's yet another list of quotes from prominent Democrats about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. In this day of the internet and LexisNexis, you cannot hide.


Anonymous said...

Or how about
"Ahmed Chalabi lied, Bush-Backers believed, soldiers died, lefties cried foul."

Play nice Darren. Remember, you need me. You'll need someone to blame in the years to come after U.S. forces are defeated and Bush supporters are wiped off the face of the earth forever.

You'll need me in the end.

Anonymous said...

Dude, no need to get nasty.

We'll still have some Repugs around after we've tossed out Bush and company.

We do not need defeat in war to toss out Repugs. Look at the first gulf war vs. the 1992 election!

Our best strategy is to let the Repugs do what they do best, cut their own heads off.

Darren said...

Leeroy, now *you* be nice. No need to call names.

Honestly, what does the left offer America? Socialized medicine a la Canada, crushing deficits a la Europe, and appeasement a la Chamberlain, that's what I see.

With the current Administration you still get the crushing deficits, but that apparently isn't enough for you. Amazing.

Darren said...

As for you, Anonymous, I won't need you at all. I don't think we're going to lose this war--not as long as we have a committed guy in the White House, like we do now.

And remember, it wasn't just Bush-backers who believed. Kerry, Gore, Pelosi, Clinton(s), et. al. all believed, and they believed when Clinton was President, too.

You have strange views, Anonymous.

Ralph Thayer said...

Good summary, Daren. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

There is no evidence at all that the President lied to take us into war.

Is omitting relevant information that undermines the impression one is trying to convey a form of lying, even if all the statements made are technically true as far as they go?

If you don't think so you don't have teenage children.

Darren said...

When you have proof that he omitted relevant information with the specific intent of lying by omission, present it. You'd be scooping the world with this news, because no one else has been able to credibly present any.

Anonymous said...


Nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize or otherwise speak to the use of United States Armed Forces (except as provided in section 4(a)(2)) in carrying out this Act .

Just saying, it kinda sounds like you're construing exactly what they told you not to construe with your #1 there.

Anonymous said...

So let's review class. A recently inaugurated president, carrying all the international experience of your typical state governor, has been told by his own CIA, his own National Security Council, MI5 British Security, the Germans, the French, the Russians, the highest ranking members of the previous administration, and all of these other national and world figures, that Saddam currently has and continues to develop weapons of mass destruction.

What do you with this information class?

Why of course, you muster all the confidence of that experience in Austin and you ignore it.

Makes sense to me.

Darren said...

Anonymous, you're ignoring the fact that Saddam was in violation of the cease fire of 1991, which does, under (here comes that term) international law, invite reinstatement of "hostilities".

So if you'd like, we could date the beginning of this war to August 2, 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait. Or to February 1991, when Desert Shield became Desert Storm. Either way, the President was on firm legal ground and doesn't appear to be hiding anything.

Wulf said...

Darren, I was in France on the USS Enterprise when Clinton made that speech in 1998, and I remember it really well, because a few days later I was in the Persian Gulf, watching F-18s taking off very heavily laden and then returning free of ordinance. On Bill Clinton's watch.

I am always glad when somebody reminds the world of this. It is disingenuous to put this whole situation on Bush's head. I don't like some of the things Bush has ordered done, and I didn't vote for the guy, but I will be fair with him. The Democrats would gain some credibility with me if they could do so, too.

Keep reminding them!

Darren said...

Wulf, thank you for your service. :-)

I *did* vote for the guy. Twice. I thought going into Iraq was the right decision in 1998, I thought so in 2003, and I think so today. If we disagree, that's ok.

But you're right. The credibility gap here lies with the liberals and their Democrats in Congress.

Darren said...

Oh, and Save Ferris.

Darren said...

Were they?

Which Republicans voted to allow Clinton to bomb Iraq, and then later said they shouldn't have?

Which Republicans saw the intelligence and honestly believed that Saddam posed a threat, and then claimed that Clinton manipulated the intelligence--and did this for partisan gain?

Which Republicans said that Clinton bombed Iraq to benefit his Arkansas buddies, or politically-connected companies, or the military-industrial complex in general?

Had Republicans done this, they would have been wrong. But they didn't.

And lastly, Mark, did 4 days of bombing make Clinton a "wartime President"? Yes, I can in hindsight relate the current hostilities to a genesis in Clinton's presidency, but do you really want to hang the "wartime President" mantle on Clinton? It's not a term that was ever used during his tenure.

Anonymous said...

All you are doing is blaming others for mistakes of our president or at best, you are saying (with lot of help from other biased sources) others are at fault too. Keep in mind, the decision to go to war and the way it was handled was totally of a deranged individual and a country gone fearful/nuts.

You also fail to mention what Clinton's bombings did. Here it is, from David Kay etc:


Iraq's weapons and facilities, he says, had been destroyed in three phases: by allied bombardment in the 1991 Gulf War; by U.N. inspectors in the half-decade after that war; and by President Clinton's 1998 bombing campaign. (Clinton's airstrikes, by now widely forgotten, were even at the time widely dismissed as a political diversion; they took place during the weekend when the House of Representatives voted for impeachment. But according to Kay, they destroyed Iraq's remaining infrastructure for building chemical weapons.)


I am no democrat but people like(and there are plenty) you do a disservice to the party you belong to. You want to defend your party, even if its clear to everyone else(including your own genre) that you are wrong.

Were you this thoughtful and critical when Bush&Co were parading WMDs to scare its (mostly ignorant) citizens. You should learn to respect the country and not any particular party. Being patriotic does not mean married to any party.

Have you ever thought what you and ohter hacks would be doing if these actions(war, lying etc) were done by say, Clinton. You and others like you would be jumping up and down. I would be with you , but for completely different reasons.

Darren said...

Name-calling weakens your argument.

I don't accept that the President lied. I've established why I believe he doesn't. You can disagree and draw different conclusions from the evidence, but when you get emotional and start calling names you deviate from logical and civil discourse.

Additionally, David Kay's report came out when?

I'm not defending my political party. I'm defending a man I believe in, whose integrity I trust, against the obvious political smearings and lies by people who would seek to discredit him for political purposes.

And I know full well what being patriotic means. Your friends on the left should learn some about it.