Rewriting history

RC has a blog which claims, about the Iraqi elections,

I was naïve, perhaps, in believing that all anti-war liberals could put aside their hatred for Bush and his policies for just one day and recognize the critical importance of the Iraqi experiment with democracy. … For war supporters, the election mirrored the Afghani elections in that all reasonable expectations were surpassed and Bush’s vision appeared to have been validated once again.

How quickly history has been rewritten. George Bush never claimed to be going to war to bring democracy to Iraq. It was no part of his vision to do so. During a debate with then-Vice President Al Gore on Oct. 11, 2000, in Winston-Salem, N.C., Mr Bush said:

I don’t think our troops ought to be used for what’s called nation-building. . . . I think what we need to do is convince people who live in the lands they live in to build the nations. Maybe I’m missing something here. I mean, we’re going to have a kind of nation-building corps from America? Absolutely not.

Before the war began, President Bush said this:

In Iraq, a dictator is building and hiding weapons that could enable him to dominate the Middle East and intimidate the civilized world — and we will not allow it. (Applause.) This same tyrant has close ties to terrorist organizations, and could supply them with the terrible means to strike this country — and America will not permit it. The danger posed by Saddam Hussein and his weapons cannot be ignored or wished away. The danger must be confronted. We hope that the Iraqi regime will meet the demands of the United Nations and disarm, fully and peacefully. If it does not, we are prepared to disarm Iraq by force. Either way, this danger will be removed.

No mention of introducing democracy there. The decision to go to war was linked clearly and unambiguously to disarmament (of weapons that Sadaam Hussein did not actually have.) Even as recently as October 2004, President Bush justified the war as follows:

Based on all the information we have today, I believe we were right to take action, and America is safer today with Saddam Hussein in prison. He retained the knowledge, the materials, the means, and the intent to produce weapons of mass destruction. And he could have passed that knowledge on to our terrorist enemies. Saddam Hussein was a unique threat, a sworn enemy of our country, a state sponsor of terror, operating in the world’s most volatile region. In a world after September the 11th, he was a threat we had to confront. And America and the world are safer for our actions.

Building a democracy in Iraq was never part of the plan. Perhaps this is because, as I pointed out in my last entry, invading Iraq to introduce democracy without the authorization of the Security Council would be contrary to international law as set out in the charter of the United Nations. (In case there is anyone out there who thinks that the UN Charter is not binding on the US Government, the UN Charter is a technically a treaty among it’s member nations. Article VI, Clause 2 of The United States Constitution reads:

All Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land.

If it had been an aim, or the main aim, to restore democracy in Iraq, then the US Government could and should have said so. There could then have been a proper discussion about the merits of going to war to achieve this objective. Apart from the difficulty of such a policy being illegal under the UN Charter, the following questions would have needed to be answered:

  • Is there a less costly way to do this, which would achieve the same objective without the loss of so many lives?
  • Why Iraq? Why not Saudi Arabia, or Pakistan, or Zimbabwe?
  • Why the hurry? Could we allow some more time to prepare for the challenges of preserving peace and delivering essential public services in Iraq?

I welcome the apparent success of the elections in Iraq. But it is rewriting history to claim that this in any way represents a vindication of the strategy of George Bush. And finally, I enjoyed the revealing naiivety of the following remark:

Rather, its time to let nations like France and Germany back into the fold to provide valuable assistance …

Could it really be that there are some Americans who really don’t understand that it is not France and Germany, but the US, which is out of the mainstream?

2 thoughts on “Rewriting history”

  1. Owen..good response. Let me address each of your points in turn.

    Your infamous Bush nation building quote is from 2000, long before 9/11. The terrorist attacks on our nation’s soil changed Bush’s foreign policy views and there is nothing wrong with that. The terrorist attacks changed the way I looked at foreign policy too so I don’t think Bush’s pre 9/11 thinking can be used to cast doubt on his intentions now.

    As far as the motivations for the war, I supported the invasion because I believed strongly that a democratic Iraq would be good for the region and good for the U.S. The WMD was not the major factor for me, and I agreed then and now that the threat was not imminent. The 2nd rationale for war, the link to Al-Qaeda,was overstated and could be found in many other countries in the region. The third justification, the humanitarian aspect, was compelling but not sufficient for me. After all, according to Amnesty International, over 1 million people were killed during Sadaam’s reign of terror. (even when we were supporting him). But that alone is not enough to justify a war.

    The only feasible response I saw to the attacks of 9/11 was to radically democratize the Middle East so that young Muslims could channel their passions in legitimate ways, instead of towards Islamic fundamentalism and terror. The illiberal regimes of the region, which are coddled by the U.N. when they condemn Israel for defending its national security, are the reason that the Arab world is stagnant. But for the past few decades, they have deflected blame from their own corrupt leadership by pointing the finger at the U.S. and Israel, and stoking fundamentalism and terror. So the frustration of the people is directed at us, and the regimes stay in power. With the emerging nexus between transnational terror and WMD, we needed to address this now.

    The Iraqi elections have the potential to change the dynamic in the region. When Arab leaders are finally accountable to their people, they will have to answer for their failed governments, and the people will work on building their own nations instead of trying to destroy others. The Iraqi elections will be closely watched by others in the region and a democratic Iraq will be a magnet for liberal reformers from across the Arab world.

    Why Iraq? Because of our close relationship with Saudi Arabia and our dependence on Pakistan’s security agency, we had to choose a point of entry opportunistically. Iraq had a leader that was universally condemned and the military strategy was simpler than it would have been in Iran. Other horrible regimes like Zimbabwe, Cuba, and North Korea represent different challenges for us and should be dealt with accordingly.Ironically, a free Iraq will allow to leverage our relationship with the Saudis and encourage reform there.
    Is this a cyncial view? yes, but I believe its a practical one.

    Finally, I never claimed the U.S. was in the “mainstream”. We have pursued a radical agenda, and the rest of the world is understandably skeptical. I would hope France and Germany would join us now because it is their best interest too, not because of any change of heart. I recognize the extreme risks of our policies and understand that I could turn out to be completely wrong. But after weighing the alternatives, I feel its the right path.

    Thanks for you comments.

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