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Prejudging Bush in Iraq

By Rachel Alexander
web posted December 8, 2003

Ongoing criticism of the Bush administration's actions in Iraq generally consists of the same two accusations; one, that the administration exaggerated the possibility that Iraq had WMDs, and two, that the continued presence of U.S. troops in Iraq is turning into another Vietnam. The left-leaning American press knows that if it continues to repeat these two themes, the American public will eventually start to believe them. Studies have shown that the more something is repeated in official looking articles or reports, the more people are inclined to believe that it must be true. Both issues are much too complex for the average American to digest in a few news sound bites or by scanning newspaper headlines. But it is easy to understand a few clichés; "another Vietnam quagmire," "more American troops being brought back in bodybags," and "the Bush administration lied."

Hans Blix

Critics of Bush contend that Hans Blix's inconclusive search for WMDs was persuasive evidence that Iraq did not pose a threat to the U.S. However, this places an undue emphasis on the fact that Hans Blix did not find any WMDs at that particular time. In actuality, how significant were Hans Blix's findings? Hans Blix is not the objective inspector that he has been portrayed as. As a student, he was president of the World Federation of Liberal and Radical Youth. He served as a member of Sweden's delegation to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva in the 1960s and 1970s. He is considered a leading scholar on Sweden's neutrality policy (translation: avoid war at all costs). Former Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden, Per Ahlmark, has noted that Blix is considered, "a little too accommodating to dictators," and describes him as, "politically weak and easily fooled." Blix was appointed to head the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 1981, the agency charged with inspecting Iraq for weapons under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Right under Blix's nose, Iraq built its nuclear weapons program. David Kay, an official of the IAEA at that time, stated that Iraq perfected techniques for hiding its program from Blix's inspectors. According to David Albright, president of the U.S. Institute for Science and International Security, "Blix was fooled for years…He ran a toothless agency, and despite many reports that Iraq had a nuclear program, they [the IAEA] didn't do anything."

Because of Blix's pacifist stance and history of incompetence in inspecting Iraq, he wasn't UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's first choice to lead UNMOVIC, the U.N. agency set up in the late 1990s to continue weapons and disarmament inspections. Annan settled on Blix as a compromise, because Russia, France, and China vetoed his first choice as too hawkish. Russia, France, and China were concerned with keeping on friendly terms with Iraq in order to continue their secret arms sales to Iraq. After Blix's appointment, one newspaper editorialized, "To choose Blix, 72, to ferret out Iraq's nuclear secrets is like hiring Inspector Clousseau to do the job." Blix conducted inspections in Iraq under UNMOVIC for three years, between 2000 and 2003, and admitted that the Iraqis were not cooperating but hoped that given even more time, they might begin to cooperate. Given this admission, as well as Blix's inability to discover Iraq's nuclear weapons program in the early 1990s, how could anyone think that Blix's inability to find WMDs this time around conclusively meant anything? Furthermore, the Iraqis have now had many more years to further perfect their hiding techniques, and their refusal to cooperate should raise suspicion. Some of the Iraqi scientists who have cooperated have been killed.

Instead of relying upon Blix's dubious findings, the Bush administration looked instead to the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), a report put together by veteran CIA analyst Stuart Cohen, the vice chairman of the National Intelligence Council, composed of senior intelligence analysts responsible for advising the CIA. The report concluded that there was a high probability Iraq had chemical and biological weapons, and missiles with ranges exceeding the 150-kilometer limit set by the U.N. Security Council. In a recent article in the Washington Post, Cohen pointed out that the U.N. as well as several friendly and unfriendly intelligence services had reached the same conclusions. The NIE conclusions were based upon information accumulated over 15 years, and Cohen noted that participants in the NIE swore under oath to Congress that the Bush administration did not put any pressure on them to come to any particular conclusions.

The Bush administration also relied upon information linking Saddam Hussein to Osama bin Laden. Although the Left repeatedly insists there is no link, evidence has been emerging showing that there was a connection. The Weekly Standard obtained a copy of a memo from Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, Douglas J. Feith, dated October 27, 2003, addressed to two Senators on the Senate Intelligence Committee. It contained information compiled from a variety of domestic and foreign agencies, including the FBI, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Agency. The report included substantiated and corroborated evidence that Iraq established contacts with al-Qaida in 1990, and continued that relationship until this year. Iraq provided al-Qaida with explosives and weapons training, and in return al-Qaida used its connections with Afghanistan to facilitate the shipment of weapons and equipment to Iraq.

What this information reveals, is that the argument that Bush tricked the American people into supporting a war on Iraq is a straw man; in actuality, the real disagreement is over philosophy. Fundamentally, the Left will criticize whatever Bush does in order to hurt his chances of re-election. Defeating conservative politicians and supporting liberals is their first and foremost goal. Secondary to that in importance is actual adherence to their philosophy. As we saw with President Clinton in Kosovo, many on the Left will support military action if it is initiated by one of theirs. Leftists generally dislike assertive defense, but compromised in Kosovo because it was more important to them to support Clinton.

The second criticism of Bush currently repeated ad nauseum is that the U.S. needs to withdraw its troops and completely relinquish control of Iraq's government to the U.N. and the Iraqis, otherwise the U.S. may find itself enmeshed in another Vietnam. Superficially, this statement makes a persuasive sound bite. But it is not accurate. Unlike Vietnam, thousands of American soldiers are not being killed, the numbers are far less. Less than 450 U.S. troops have been killed since major combat was declared over on May 1, 2003. There is no draft of soldiers as there was in Vietnam; all of the men and women serving in Iraq volunteered prior to the war to serve in the military. And handing over complete control this quickly to the Iraqis will likely allow the hard-line majority Shi'ites to set up a theocratic government that is oppressive to the Kurds and the Sunnis, resulting in needless more deaths. Allowing the U.N. to take full control immediately could also result in a Shi'ite controlled government, since countries like France and Germany, which have consistently questioned outside intervention in Iraq, would push for a very limited U.N. role. Criticism of the U.S.'s continued presence in Iraq is another straw man argument, because the Bush administration is gradually ceding control to the U.N. and the Iraqis. The Left is simply quibbling about a few months here and there along the timeline.

The citizens of Iraq do not want the U.S. to leave; according to a recent Gallup poll, 71 per cent of Baghdad residents want the U.S. to remain in Iraq over the next few months. There is some valid criticism of the expense it will cost U.S. taxpayers to rebuild Iraq. It is hoped that the Bush administration will find some way to deflect most of this cost; either by convincing other countries to contribute to the expense, or by skimming off a temporary small profit from the sale of Iraqi oil. Bush has just appointed a "debt envoy," former Secretary of State James Baker, to assist Iraq with paying its foreign debt.

Unfortunately, instead of criticizing the expense to U.S. taxpayers, or the loss of lives of American troops, most critics revert back to quibbling with the timeline of disengagement in Iraq, and repeating the increasingly discredited argument that Bush misled the American people about WMDs in Iraq. There is room for valid disagreement over the policy in Iraq, but not disagreement that comes at the expense of facts. If reports by the National Intelligence Council and the Undersecretary of Defense can just be dismissed and replaced with dumbed down sound bites like "no WMDs have been found," why bother having Intelligence?

Rachel Alexander is the editor of IntellectualConservative.com and a former Assistant Attorney General for the State of Arizona. She is currently an attorney for GoDaddy.com in Scottsdale, Arizona. Go Daddy is the No. 1 registrar of net new domains and a provider of complementary products and services. The viewpoints expressed in this column are not the viewpoints of GoDaddy.com nor its affiliated companies.

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