Monday, April 09, 2012

He Lost Me Right Off the Bat

Is it too much for writers to remember recent history?

While relying on anything Seymour Hersh writes is a problem, as the author did, I have no reason to read this The Atlantic article after it starts out like this:

American foreign policy can get complicated. In the 1980s, the U.S. supported Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein because he was the greatest enemy of our enemy, the Islamic Republic of Iran. He's dead now because the U.S. invaded his country in 2003, a war heavily premised on claims that he was supporting terrorism, namely al-Qaeda. He wasn't supporting al-Qaeda.

Really? I can't even move on to the purported point of the article after that whopper. The war was "heavily premised" on Saddam's support for al Qaeda. And Saddam wasn't supporting al Qaeda, so obviously we had no reason to destroy Saddam's regime?

Huh. It seems like just yesterday that the anti-war side said the only issue was whether Saddam had nukes or his possession of them was "imminent" or not.

But I digress. Back to terrorism.

One, the declaration of war did not say that. Terrorism was just one of numerous reasons to defeat Saddam's government. On the al Qaeda issue, the declaration of war says:

Whereas members of al Qaida, an organization bearing responsibility for attacks on the United States, its citizens, and interests, including the attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, are known to be in Iraq;

Ah, you say, this is just a sly way of saying Saddam supported al Qaeda and maybe had a hand in 9/11!

But then why does the declaration of war then go on to describe non-al Qaeda involvement very differently?

Whereas Iraq continues to aid and harbor other international terrorist organizations, including organizations that threaten the lives and safety of United States citizens;

It's almost like a compare and contrast test. Saddam aided and harbored non-al Qaeda terrorists at the same time al Qaeda was "known to be in Iraq"--implying nothing more than tolerance rather than aid and shelter.

So the war was not heavily premised on Saddam's support for al Qaeda (or possession of WMD, for that matter). There were certainly ties between the two, but since the declaration of war doesn't argue that, what's the point of the article denying that support?

But perhaps it was all code words, winks, and secret hand signals from the Bush administration to support the invasion of Iraq by somehow making the rubes believe Saddam supported the actual 9/11 attacks. What did I--surely one of the pro-invasion rubes--say before the war on the terrorism issue?

I summarized my reasons for supporting the invasion here and here.

In the former, my terrorism assessment is very brief (aside from terrorizing Iranian civilians during the Iran-Iraq War and his own people--but especially the Kurds--the rest of the time):

He has harbored terrorists. He has trained terrorists in aircraft hijacking techniques. He has paid suicide bombers' families in Israel. And there are indications that he is aiding al Qaeda remnants to set up a base in Kurdish areas of Iraq.

Wow. I sure heard the Karl Rove dog whistle and internalized the plot to make me think that the war was heavily premised on Saddam-al Qaeda links. The fact is, like the declaration of war, I distinguished between al Qaeda and other terrorists, and between support and mere tolerance. By the time I wrote that, we'd had months since the declaration of war to see that the al Qaeda presence in Iraq extended to visit by members to Baghdad--something beyond mere tolerance in that police state.

And there is evidence of ties between Saddam's intelligence agencies and al Qaeda. But once again, as I had to do numerous times during the Iraq War when I'd say that, I am not saying that Saddam had a hand in the 9-11 attacks. Amazingly, every time a war supporter said the former, a war opponent heard the latter and got outraged.

But sadly, I can't comment on the article issue of support for the MEK. It is a good question and there are pros and cons. I'd rather not support them if they haven't had the terrorist leadership purged in the years since the war. But how can I trust anything in the article after the horrible start that seems rather deficient in facts? Our foreign policy is surely complicated. Why make it more so by getting basic facts wrong?