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Liberia

July 24th, 2003

Everybody on both sides of the Iraq debate now seems to be agreed that the war wasn’t about weapons, and most people seem to be agreed that it wasn’t about terrorism. What’s left of the overt case put up before the war is the humanitarian argument that Saddam’s regime was so murderous that it needed to be ended, even if thousands of civilians and thousands more Iraqi soldiers died in the process. This was a minor element in the case put up by Bush and Howard, but a fairly major argument for Blair.

The latest tragic turn of events in Liberia gives us a good test of the extent to which Bush takes this argument seriously. The humanitarian payoff to intervention in Liberia would be far higher than in Iraq, and the cost far lower. Moreover, having been in effect the colonial power, the US could be expected to intervene even under the Cold War era rules where national sovereignty was supposed to preclude intervention except in cases, like the present one, of state failure.

When Bush went to Africa, he seemed set to announce a commitment, but now he looks to be going cold on the idea. A decision to do nothing would be a disaster for the US as well as for the Liberian people, especially if things turn really bad as they did when the French sat on their hands in Rwanda.

By comparison, Howard is looking relatively good. The decision to duck out of reconstruction in Iraq, about which I was pretty scathing at the time, can be justified in the light of the commitment to the Solomons.

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  1. Jim
    July 24th, 2003 at 08:04 | #1

    John,
    Would it be more accurate say that most people now accept that Saddam probably didn’t have weapons which posed an immediate threat?
    That doesn’t automatically lead to the conclusion that WMD’s and terrorism weren’t the prime reasons for the war being waged.
    The issue of links to terrorism doesn’t appear to have gained much attention in the media but it is fair to say that they exist. Amongst the proof;
    *Ramzi Yousef the 1993 WTC bombing mastermind had links to Iraq and carried an Iraqi passport
    *financial support for Palestinian suicide bombers
    * the discovery of a terrorist camp in the north that harboured members of Ansar al-Islam
    * a terrorist training facility south of Baghdad, complete with commercial aircraft mock-up to train hijackers.
    Finally,if West Africans are worthy of liberation by the US,weren’t the Iraqis just as deserving?

  2. July 24th, 2003 at 09:41 | #2

    What’s left of the overt case put up before the war is the humanitarian argument that Saddam’s regime was so murderous that it needed to be ended

    Again, Pr Q misses the point on this key issue.
    The strategic case for regime change in the Gulf has been repeatedly made by this commentator, and ignored by the correspondents, despite the fact that it has a better scientific record than the competing theories that PR Q mentions.
    The Davis/Strocchi “ditch Saudi/hitch Iraqi” model, and the corollary prediction that there would be no WMD’s found, was the only one put forward in the blogosphere that correctly predicted the facts. Pr Q’s model, by contrast, suffered a number of disconfirming instances.
    Unless anyone can point to a better model, or highlight empirical falsifications of my model,
    it follows that it is the closest approximation to the truth.

    The main security issue brought up by 911 was the Saudi nation’s malignant hostility to US presence in the Gulf. GW II was about ending that longstanding SA/US relationship in such a way as to maintain US military hegeomony in the region and improve US economic security.

    Saudi/Wahhabi fundamentalist oil-financed funding and propagating of terrorism is the main security risk emanating from the Gulf.

    This threat can only be contained by the slow self reform of the Saudis. Iraq is the only other major cheap sweet crude supplier and has to be cultivated as an alternative. Unfortunately it’s reform has to be promoted by US military violence, given the despotic and untrustworthy record of t’s regime.

    Unless and until the democratic Left/RoW multilateralists get their head around these strategic realities they will continue to fail to get to grips with the real Gulf security issue. OTOH it was graceful of Pr Q to give credit to Howard for his Solomons intervention. UNlike most of the democratic Left, Pr Q is not given to reflexive ideological partisanship.

    No strategic rationale is required to justify regime changing SH’s Iraq. Given the pyschopathicly murderous nature of the fascist aggressive Hussein dynasty, the moral case for regime change should be self-evident to democratic Leftists.

  3. Jim
    July 24th, 2003 at 09:46 | #3

    Jack,
    Absolutely agree that your prediction of no WMD’s was spot on.
    Ever thought about a career in intelligence?

  4. John
    July 24th, 2003 at 09:51 | #4

    Jack, I didn’t ignore this point – you’ll notice that I confined my remarks to the “overt” case. There were at least half a dozen covert agendas being pushed by various groups inside the Administration including your preferred candidate.

    “a terrorist training facility south of Baghdad, complete with commercial aircraft mock-up to train hijackers. ”

    The only source I could find for this on Google was an April 10 article by Ralph Peters “the thinking man’s Tom Clancy” which also claimed discovery of chemical weapons caches, cheering Iraqis in the streets etc. Have you got any more credible evidence of this, Jim?

  5. Jim
    July 24th, 2003 at 10:21 | #5

    John,
    I don’t know that you’d agree its credible but it was certainly reported on Fox News – complete with footage as I recall!
    I have searched that article by Peters – doesn’t he in fact say that “possible chemical weapons cache(s)” were found?

  6. John
    July 24th, 2003 at 10:42 | #6

    The Peters quote is “One possible chemical weapons cache after another has fallen to advancing allied troops. While some of the sites may test negative, there are so many reported seizures that there can be no doubt that firm proof of Saddam’s relentless WMD program is only a matter of time. ” which is slightly less clear-cut than I implied, but still evidently wrong.

    And no, I don’t count Fox News as a credible source.

  7. July 24th, 2003 at 12:07 | #7

    Pr Q,

    Clarification acknowedged. I withdraw my “inadequate recognition of pet theory” whinge.
    As for DS/HI being merely a preferred candidate for final truth of the Gulf War II rationale.
    I suggest the following empirical test for veracity. If Bush continues to persist in the reform of Iraq: nation-building and democracy-promotion, despite mounting cost in blood and treasure, and in the face of dwindling political support, and continues the withdrawal from Saudi and the occupation of Iraq, then DS/HI theory will be confirmed true.
    So far the available evidence supports this view over the “at least half a dozen covert agendas being pushed by various groups inside the Administration”.

  8. wbb
    July 24th, 2003 at 12:56 | #8

    Jack,
    I agree with your theory. What I don’t understand is how you claim ownership of it, when it is the basis of the orthodox “No blood for Oil” peace movement.

    As for PQ “praising” Howard for sending troops to the Solomons, that can be read two ways. It may also be mere recognition of the cunning of a PM desparate to find a reason why he can’t send the troops back to Iraq to finish off the job he shamefully and cowardly left half done.

  9. July 24th, 2003 at 14:14 | #9

    wbb

    The ditch Saudi/hitch Iraq theory has nothing to do with No Blood for Oil (NBFO).
    NBFO theory is a version of crude or vulgar Leninist theory which states that imperial states invade and colonise undeveloped countries with the motive of plundering their natural resources (eg oil) in order to bribe or payoff the domestic classes that support them.
    The US did not regime change Iraq to steal Iraq’s oil from the ground, just as it is not leaving Saudi to leave Saudi oil in the ground.
    An empire seeks to acquire assets for its allies.
    A hegemon seeks to deny assets to it’s enemies.
    The US is not an empire – the cost of occupying Iraq far exceeds any potential oil profits.
    And Iraq is not a colony, no US military or civil official wants to be posted there.
    The US is a hegemon, and it is now attempting to make Iraq into a client state.
    The Gulf security problem can be summarised thus:
    all major Gulf states are actual or potential enemies of the US. They are either:
    – fascistic rogues states
    – fundamentalistic terrorist states.
    No local Gulf states can be trusted to administer the oil in a responsible manner. They spend the oil revenue on terrorism or militarism.
    Previously Saudi was a client state, since 911 it has been revealed as untrustworthy.
    Over the years the US would tried to make SH into a client state, but he proved untrustworthy. Hence sanctions and inspections.
    The US’s national security managers (Carlyle Group and Kissinger & Associates) are responsible for allowing the Saudi alliance to go sour. They profited from the Saudi alliance
    – arms for oil
    – offshore funds havens for funds management
    These officials should be purged from the US state appartus. Unfortunately they include Kissinger and Bush pere. Unlikely.
    They are now in deep damage control attempting to cover up their complicity with the toxic Saudi relationship.
    There was a split in the US ruling class over what to do about the Gulf.
    The pro-Saudi guys, led by Powell, lost.
    The pro-Iraqi guys, led by Wolfowitz, won.
    So the US decided to leave Saudi, which meant it had to move into Iraq.
    SH had to go.
    Whether this plan was also done for domestic political reasons, owing to the Republicans poor standing on economic policy, remains to be proven.
    Past experience (GW I) suggests that a victorious war is no iron clad proof of democratic popularity.

  10. Mork
    July 25th, 2003 at 19:25 | #10

    I’m not sure that all of the “covert agendas” were that covert. I’m pretty sure that there were people at least at the Wolfowitz/Perle and maybe even Rice level putting the “remake the middle east” argument in one form or another. I mean, I must have got it from somewhere!

  11. John
    July 25th, 2003 at 21:38 | #11

    To clarify, by “overt” agendas I meant that they were stated as grounds for war by Bush & Blair or in official statements of the US and British position. “Covert” is the natural opposite of “overt” but I didn’t mean to imply that these other motives are closely guarded secrets.

  12. Mork
    July 27th, 2003 at 13:41 | #12

    Right, but there are many ways to communicate the views of the Administration other than what I suspect you’re counting as “official statements of the US and British position”.

    I think there were plenty of ways that “the Administration” made it known to those who cared to listen that there were plenty of reasons other than WMD for going into Iraq.

    I don’t point that out to exonerate them from lying about their intelligence on WMD and exaggerating the threat . . . I just think the argument’s a little different to how you’ve framed it.

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