Home > World Events > Sceptics and suckers: A look back at Iraq

Sceptics and suckers: A look back at Iraq

March 21st, 2013

Ten years after the invasion of Iraq, the disastrous failure of Bush’s war is evident to just about everyone. Here’s the news from the day before the anniversary.

Debates over the case for war in Iraq coincided with the emergence of the political blogosphere and created divisions that have been pretty much set in stone ever since. Those who, for one reason or another, swallowed and repeated the lies used to push the war dug themselves further and further in over subsequent years. Those of us who were sceptical[1] of the claims made by Bush and Blair, and proven right by events, came to realise that the other side inhabited a parallel universe, in which the possibility that prior beliefs might be changed by factual evidence was largely absent.

I want to restate a point that seems to be forgotten a lot, especially by those who went along with the Bush-Blair claims about WMDs. Until December 2002, there was plenty of behavioral evidence to suggest that Saddam had WMDs, namely the fact that he had expelled (or, more precisely, refused to co-operate with) the UN weapons inspection program. Given the benefits from being declared WMD-free, this made little sense unless he had weapons. Equally, Bush and Blair were making statements that they knew what WMDs Saddam had and fairly accurate knowledge of their location. Again, this seemed (to me, at any rate) to make no sense if they were relying on a bluff that Saddam could easily call.

All of that changed, in December 2002, when Saddam readmitted the inspectors and declared that he had no WMDs. At that point, it suddenly became obvious (again, to me, at any rate) that Bush and Blair had been making it up. I naively supposed that it would be equally obvious to everyone else, and that, as a result it would be impossible to mobilise support for war. That was wrong, of course. I was particularly struck by the unanimity with which the pro-war bloggers reproduced the ever-changing propaganda lines of the Administration. No one would be surprised now, but back then, the assumption was that disputes with rightwingers were a matter of honest disagreement.

fn1. It’s striking, in view of the extreme gullibility shown by such people that the overlap with those who call themselves climate “sceptics” is very high.

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  1. hc
    March 21st, 2013 at 09:49 | #1

    The Guardian this week claims that both MI6 and the CIA knew that Iraq had no such weapons before the invasion:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/mar/18/panorama-iraq-fresh-wmd-claims

  2. March 21st, 2013 at 09:53 | #2

    I remember well the crazy arguments, the trolls, the sock-puppets etc..

    The pro-war crew never took a backward step.

    I looked back at your archives but unfortunately the comments have all gone.

    I found it sad that you threw in the towel on discussing the war on 27th March 2003. Absent an honest media we need all the discussion we can get on vital issues like that.

    Also wonder if you’ve re-thought the “better off without Saddam” position in retrospect?

    I’ve decided not to post anything more about the war for the moment. I can see nothing but disaster ahead – huge Iraqi casualties, both military and civilian, then a long and bitter occupation, with the likelihood of substantial Coalition losses over time in subsequent ‘counter-terrorist’ actions.

    Unfortunately, I also can’t see any way of averting this outcome. A withdrawal, leading to victory for Saddam, would be an even greater disaster than what can only be a Pyrrhic victory for the Coalition. If there is some sort of possible compromise, I have no idea what it is.

    Life, and especially war, is unpredictable. Perhaps things will take a sudden turn for the better. I hope for a quick end to war and bloodshed, even though I see no reason to expect it.

    On this anniversary I see people are still pushing the “even greater disaster” (if we didn’t do it) argument.

  3. March 21st, 2013 at 09:56 | #3

    Oops! Blockquote fail.

    The quoted pars are from: “I’ve decided…” down to “Life, and especially war…”

    And my observation is: “On this anniversary…”

  4. Jim Birch
    March 21st, 2013 at 10:04 | #4

    The statements of the inspectors made it completely clear to me that Bush and Blair were wilfully disregarding the evidence. In a world that took justice seriously those guys would be doing life.

  5. Ikonoclast
    March 21st, 2013 at 10:05 | #5

    John, it was equally obvious to me and a small group of thinking colleagues at my work (at the time) that the WMD case was false, fabricated and a pretext for war. We had no more than high school certificates or Bachelor degrees. We did not work in the intelligence community, nor in the military, nor in diplomacy nor in academia. We were pretty average joes and it was very plainly obvious to us. We were incredulous that it was not as obvious to others. One thing though, we were sceptical about the offical propaganda of our society and we did respect empirical evidence.

    Everything you say about the supporters of that war and the right wing denialist universe in general is true. They have faith and ideology positions on matters such that they are always impervious to real, empirical evidence. This is highly maladaptive. Once you can’t perceive reality, you can’t react and adapt to it. This is the precise reason the deluded elites of the USA are leading 350 million ordinary good people of the USA, who don’t deserve it, into total collapse and total disaster. The US elites are also killing and maiming millions around the globe to maintain their delusions as long as possible. These are clinically psycho-pathological behaviours.

  6. Ikonoclast
    March 21st, 2013 at 10:15 | #6

    I think it is also worth noting that Bush and Blair are (and certainly were at the time) fundamentalist Christians. This says a lot about the modus operandi of fundamentalist Christians and all religious fundamentalists. Fundamentalist religionists;

    (1) Believe things without empirical evidence. They call it “faith” but it is blind belief.
    (2) Disbelieve anything, even solid empirical evidence, that undermines their blind belief.
    (3) Lie through their teeth, cheat and steal to impose their ways and views.
    (4) Prate on about the sanctity of human life and then order the killings of 100,000s of humans.

    Fundemental religionists are the most vicious, dangerous, decpetive and destructive people on the planet.

  7. Ed Bradford
    March 21st, 2013 at 10:24 | #7

    A lesson we should have learned in Vietnam and Korea was that
    nation building (like in the “Marshall Plan”) doesn’t work with any culture
    that does not respect (I did not say “embrace” is said
    “respect”) the Euro-America (white!) culture. South Korea and Japan
    both contributed to America and Europe and learned from us.

    Ever since Korea, nation building has not worked anywhere.
    It especially does not work in a country that includes factions
    who cannot ever respect each other. That would be any nation that
    has Islam in it. Turkey is the closest to being and exception, yet
    it is not (Kurds? Christians? Jews? To y’all it’s only a matter of time. Turkey
    is the only nation that holds out hope for respect for all human beings.
    I pray to God that all Turks can do that.)

    Had the USA exited AF and IQ after 6 months, irrespective of the state of the “war”,
    America, AF and IQ would all be so much better off.

    On the other hand, in AF, the Taliban might have just re-grouped
    and started another training ground. BUT (!!) the USA would have left
    significant intelligence assets in AF to learn of their doings. The taliban
    and al qaeda would have gotten only so far before more cruze missiles kill
    a new recruiting class. (Rinse and repeat — is SO VERY MUCH CHEAPER
    AND EFFECTIVE THAN NATION BUILDING).

    Intelligence assets are 1000’s of times cheaper that nation building.
    Does anyone doubt?

  8. Alphonse
    March 21st, 2013 at 11:11 | #8

    fn1. It’s striking, in view of the extreme gullibility shown by such people that the overlap with those who call themselves climate “sceptics” is very high.

    Oil money is nothing if not consistent, ubiquitous, enormous and sociopathic. And as for the soi-disant libertarians who think that the oil industry is all sainted private enterprise and renewables are all a function of the devil that calls itself government… when the oil industry was clearly commandeering the US government and ordering unfunded wars to gain control of foreign oil deposits …

    But there is another category of villains who are no less functionally culpable; the careerists, centrists and craven triangulating “moderate” leaders of non-conservative parties (Blair, the Clintons, Kerry, Beazley …) They all put personal or political considerations above the lives of more than 100,000 people and the health and safety of many times more.

  9. David Allen
    March 21st, 2013 at 11:28 | #9

    namely the fact that he had expelled (or, more precisely, refused to co-operate with) the UN weapons inspection program.

    I can’t understand why you don’t think Saddam had reason to kicked out the inspectors. They were finding nothing and were heavily compromised and infiltrated by the CIA. The foolishness that the inspectors were reduced to included the searching of a food freezer in a palace kitchen picking out the ice-cream as though it might explode. I would have kicked them out too.

  10. Jarrah
    March 21st, 2013 at 11:41 | #10

    “the ever-changing propaganda lines of the Administration”

    The intellectual cowardice of the warmongerers among the blogosphere when it came to swallowing every new justification as it arose was especially infuriating.

  11. may
    March 21st, 2013 at 12:08 | #11

    Jim Birch :The statements of the inspectors made it completely clear to me that Bush and Blair were wilfully disregarding the evidence. In a world that took justice seriously those guys would be doing life.

    and the john howard government “coalition of the willing” , “babies overboard”, “AWB free market free for all” media roar ?

  12. Fred Struth
    March 21st, 2013 at 13:07 | #12

    “Ten years after the invasion of Iraq, the disastrous failure of Bush’s war is evident to just about everyone.”

    Its not evident to me. In fact it has been a tremendous success. Stick with me on this, the sooner you face reality the better off you’ll be.

    The destruction of Iraqi regional military power and economy and the creation of regional instability was the explicit prior publicly stated intention of the Bush administration promoters of the Iraq war. Those neoliberal Likkudists openly stated that their goal was to remove regional adversaries to Israel. Apart from that all the reasons given for the war were fraudulent. Even if there were WMD’s in Iraq, Israel has over 200 nuclear weapons and other WMDs whilst the United States have thousands, the hypocrisy is breathtaking. Particularly egregious was the whole bringing freedom democracy and human rights to Iraqis claim. This from the same people who supported a crippling decade long blockade combined with bombing on the people of Iraq. A blockade that led to the deaths of over a million people. A blockade that Denis Halliday, the former UN humanitarian coordinator in Baghdad who resigned in 1998 to protest against stated at the time were “genocidal”. To this day the genocidal war criminals are still wandering around unconstrained by law and what are we doing about it?

    Its easy to point at the other side

    inhabited a parallel universe, in which the possibility that prior beliefs might be changed by factual evidence was largely absent

    but many self-described progressives and leftists share with rightwingers a gullibility to the agendas and frames of reference promoted by systems of power and that common response is to instinctively accept the good intentions of the powerful. Personally when I hear a politician promoting a particular policy and the reasons for it I immediately assume that they are parroting ideology, lying about their intentions and lying about the reasons. People who are attracted to having power over others are psychopathic bastards and should never be trusted.
    Propaganda operates at many levels but ultimately what matters is ensuring that people are kept from raising themselves up by engaging in collective action that would undermine the powerful and the wealthy, most everything else is simply a diversion.

    It must be psychologically attractive to some people to deny reality and claim that a particular policy has been a failure rather than to concede that it has been a success despite your objections and that you have failed to have an effect and that you have been had, once again, engaging in a fraudulent debate deliberately designed to limit the scope of acceptable argument and to channel peoples energies into ineffectual activities. This whilst continuously, repeatedly accepting the implicit claims of good intentions and honesty of those in power.

    Here’s a tip for you to use in the future. Rather than claiming that a policy is a failure, consider that it may be a success and may in fact be what was intended all along and that you have overestimated the character and misunderstood the nature of those promoting that policy whether they are consciously aware of it or simply ideological puppets.

  13. Tim Keegan
    March 21st, 2013 at 13:14 | #13

    But Saddam had people shredders!

  14. Ken_L
    March 21st, 2013 at 13:16 | #14

    It is remarkable to read the endless arguments on American blogs. Even staunch opponents of the war do it on the grounds that it was not in American interests, however defined. Hardly anyone in the USA seems to understand either the collapse of global US moral authority that followed its decision to wage aggressive war, or the staggering human suffering that its actions caused and continue to cause for millions of ordinary people in the Middle East. Even the most fervent ‘liberals’ seem either too timid to make a straightforward case that their own nation behaved in atrociously immoral fashion, or incapable even of understanding the moral dimension.

    hc you and I had some ill-tempered exchanges on another blog years ago about my contempt for John Howard and his government. I believed then and believe now that his fellow-travelling with the Cheney/Rumsfeld mob was the worst kind of unprincipled political opportunism and that he was to be despised for it. Likewise I despise the Rudd and Gillard Governments for never having commissioned an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Australia’s participation in the invasion (and for mindlessly boosting the virtues of the aimless Afghanistan operation). Politicians can do all kinds of things that people disagree with and still deserve respect, but waging aggressive war – for the first time ever in Australian history – is in a uniquely unforgivable category of political expediency.

  15. March 21st, 2013 at 13:19 | #15

    @Fred Struth

    Fred, Media Lens had a similar argument the other day:

    The Iraq War Was Not A Media Failure

  16. Jarrah
    March 21st, 2013 at 13:45 | #16

    “Those neoliberal Likkudists openly stated that their goal was to remove regional adversaries to Israel. ”

    Well done on in fact removing a regional adversary to Iran instead. That should make Israel safe, right?

  17. hc
    March 21st, 2013 at 13:54 | #17

    Ken,

    Some of us made wrong judgements. I spoke to a former leading person in Dept of Foreign Affairs in Australia at the time the war started and asked him about whether Iraq had WMD. He said words to the effect “Of course they do, the Americans sold them the weapons”.

    I don’t agree with the implication in John’s remarks that those making judgements at the time supporting the war were acting out of dishonesty or gullibility and that John Q, by way of contrast, saw things accurately, dispassionately and unambiguously. Nor was it true that all of those supporting the war were climate sceptics.

    Some of the self-righteous ranting in the comments preceding yours are nauseating triumphalism. Saddam was a monster and well worth getting rid of. Moreover, the claim that there were WMD was not at all fantastic then. It might be now and the cost of getting rid of this evil man is now plausibly seen as excessive.

  18. March 21st, 2013 at 13:55 | #18

    Well this is extremely unusual. I find myself disagreeing with you. I can list some people who “swallowed and repeated the lies used to push the war” and indeed supported the decision to invade yet haven’t “dug themselves further and further in over subsequent years. ”
    Matthew Yglesias, Ezra Klein, Josh Marshall, Jon Chait, Andrew Northrup (aka the poor man), Mark Kleiman, and Kevin Drum (until the last few days before the invasion). These aren’t right wingers who refuse to modify prior beliefs given new evidence. The setting in stone came later.

    Another thing. I have never understood why the presence of WMD in Iraq was considered a reason to invade rather than the opposite. It seemed obvious to me then, and seems obvious to me now, that WMD would not be secured following an invasion and that, while Saddam Hussein could be deterred some WMD would fall into the hands of tiny un deterrable irregular groups (I didn’t have al Qaeda in Iraq in mind, since it didn’t exist back then). My conviction that the invasion was a terrible idea was (briefly) shaken when I found out there were no WMD in Iraq. Note there are certainly WMD in N Korea. No one considers this a reason to invade. Quite the opposite.

    I do very much agree that the evidence about whether there were WMD in Iraq changed dramatically December 2002 through March 2003 just as you describe. As usual I feel you have hit a nail on the head. As you note, it is amazing how little effect on beliefs the total change in Saddam Hussein’s behavior and the results of inspections had. I have found no references to this evidence and how it was ignored in the mie colpe by people on the list above which I have read.

    But again I stress these are not right wingers. They are people who are left of center and usually reality based. Somehow the presence of WMD in Iraq was accepted as an agreed fact which was resistant to evidence. I, for example, was confident that there was weaponized anthrax and VX nerve gas in Iraq. This is a much broader problem than right wing lunacy. Even now, there are presumably things that “everyone knows” which are just not true.

    I understand that my error wasn’t universal, but it extended far into the normally reality based community. I also think the relatively few people who understood that there were probably no WMD in Iraq would have been much fewer if there were no blogs (uh you know how hard it is for people to stick to a belief if they don’t here it expressed by anyone else uh being as you are something of an important figure in behavioral economics).

  19. Michael
    March 21st, 2013 at 14:52 | #19

    @hc
    Harry, I’m no expert on any of this, but there were detailed and easily available explanations of what Saddam was likely to have and not to have written by people qualified to make these judgements well before the war was started. What needs to be proven is that there was even room for informed and reasonable doubt that Saddam apart from being a monster was holding WMD. Please share some sources to show how people could have honestly entered the war with this position otherwise this is just more of the same nonsense.

    They didn’t just wilfully ignore the lack of WMD evidence they also ignored their own military and intelligence recommendations and then entered into a ideologically driven program of “rebuilding” that remains an ongoing disaster. There isn’t any point being triumphal unless you are Iran, but it’s time those who lead this disaster pay for their part in it.

  20. J-D
    March 21st, 2013 at 14:52 | #20

    @Fred Struth
    You suggest that the real and indeed openly stated goal of the invasion of Iraq ‘was to remove regional adversaries to Israel’.

    That can’t be right, because Saddam was not (in any meaningful verifiable factual sense) an adversary to Israel.

    Possibly the people who made the decision to invade thought of Saddam as an adversary to Israel, but if so it only tends to support the suggestion that they inhabit a parallel universe where the relationship between factual evidence and beliefs is different.

  21. Jim Rose
    March 21st, 2013 at 15:30 | #21

    I thought the reason for not going to war with Iraq was Saddam had a nuclear capability and had chemical and biological weapons and he might use them. He fooled people into thinking he was hiding something.

    Who would be foolish enough to attack a nuclear armed country? They might nuke back. There are real fears of the use of chemical weapons in Syria as the civil war worsens.

    If Saddam actually had nuclear weapons, would you have supported the invasion?

  22. frankis
    March 21st, 2013 at 15:47 | #22

    @J-D
    Interestingly enough J-D, Donald Rumsfeld tweeting today tacitly supports Fred’s “real goal” suggestion.

    @RumsfeldOffice
    Bibi’s 2001 advice: “The mission must determine the coalition. The coalition ought not determine the mission.”

    That I believe is the sound of Netanyahu urging Rumsfeld to cobble together his CoWs Blair and Howard and to get into Iraq despite the UN’s “No!”

    Do we believe that Rumsfeld today guilelessly talking about the advice on Iraq he received from Netanyahu in 2001 is a Rumsfeld who was not otherwise in general agreement with Israel over neocon plans for Saddam more than a year before the invasion?

    Saddam was a threat to Israel, he’d already fired Scud missiles blindly into the occupied territories and had been making well-publicized payments to Palestinian suicide bombers.

    I’ve always believed that urging from Likudists and ultra-Zionists comprised a significant part of Rummy and friends’ specious reasoning leading to their attack on Saddam.

  23. frankis
    March 21st, 2013 at 15:53 | #23

    On the 10th anniversary of America’s folly I couldn’t recommend highly enough this week’s “A Message to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney From a Dying Veteran”
    truthdig.com/dig/item/the_last_letter_20130318/

    Tragic, eloquent.

  24. Jarrah
    March 21st, 2013 at 16:46 | #24

    @Jim Rose
    The fact that the CoW massed their troops immediately outside Iraq’s borders prior to invading proves that they didn’t foresee a threat from WMDs, and therefore certainly didn’t believe the threat justification they peddled to the world.

  25. Ikonoclast
    March 21st, 2013 at 16:58 | #25

    @Jim Rose

    Yes, the basic rule of thumb is that the USA does NOT attack countries with nuclear weapons. The fact they attacked Iraq twice shows that both times they were very confident IRAQ did NOT have nuclear weapons.

    It is any wonder that North Korea scrambled (and Iran is scrambling) to get nuclear weapons? Both also hide behind the skirts of an alliance with a nuclear power (China and Russia respectively).

    From the point of view of a nation that feels threatened by the US it is rational, in a number of ways, to seek a nuclear ally and seek your own nuclear weapons.

    Britain and the US, those doyens of freedom and capitalism have interesting history.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/9653497/British-have-invaded-nine-out-of-ten-countries-so-look-out-Luxembourg.html

    I’ll let you look up the US’s invasions and interventions post WW2. If I post another link I will be moderated. Even the single link above may be too much.

  26. TerjeP
    March 21st, 2013 at 17:29 | #26

    Bush was a liar and the case for war a crock. The US should never have invaded. It was not in the US national interest nor morally defensible. I said so loudly at the time and feel vindicated by events.

    The Australian situation is a bit different. I don’t think supporting the US was morally defensible but the way it was done arguable was in the national interest in narrow terms. We helped a big and powerful friend beat up a miserable sod. It arguably made our big friend feel glowingly towards us. That doesn’t make it morally defensible but it does make it different.

  27. mrbythismuch
    March 21st, 2013 at 18:06 | #27

    the news from the day before the anniversary

    Is this the news I forgot to read that said invest or buy shares in Halliburton?

  28. rog
    March 21st, 2013 at 18:34 | #28

    @TerjeP The ends do not justify the means.

  29. Robert in UK
    March 21st, 2013 at 18:38 | #29

    I’m particularly interested in your last comment that back then the assumption was that disputes with rightwingers involved honest disagreement. A number of debates from that time which still continue (climate change and the stolen generations come to mind) really show how difficult it is to chalk things up to “honest disagreement”. It is very hard to have a principled disagreement with someone who is unwilling to acknowledge any facts that make their position uncomfortable. I think that many of us are actually too reluctant just to call people out on these things. Browbeating is undesirable, but it might be more effective than limp-wristed efforts at persuasion.

  30. Happy Heyoka
    March 21st, 2013 at 19:16 | #30

    I think Fred’s on the money – the measure of success or failure of really depends on those concerned were hoping to get out of it… but I’m not a conspiracy theorist so I think that maybe it was just a “happy coincidence” that there were several parties lobbying for the same general outcome – maybe Israel, the NeoCons, angry USA politicians wanting to “get some back” for 9/11 etc.

    The fact that Iraq did have some chemical weapons is pretty much undisputed. But so did everyone involved (the USA, the British. Australia?)

    The fact that Iraq did have something of a nuclear program is also well documented. Did they have working nukes? Probably not, but many of the others concerned did.

    The first thing that upsets me was that circumvention of the UN inspection process and any future sanctions it might have produced.

    Sure, the UN takes forever to get around to things – but I suspect the end result would have been a whole lot less unpleasant for the Iraqis – not to mention the several thousand coalition personnel who died.

    We also lost an opportunity for the UN to establish the required skills (credibility?) to rein in future miscreants who insist on developing nuclear/biological/chemical weapons and perhaps to get a little bit more serious about treaties for decommissioning the existing weapons.

  31. Fran Barlow
    March 21st, 2013 at 19:26 | #31

    PrQ:

    Given the benefits from being declared WMD-free, this made little sense unless he had weapons.

    I assumed at the time it was double-bluff. He wanted the west to beleive he had weapons, precisely so they wouldn’t invade. After all, nobody was invading North Korea, were they?

    He overlooked an obvious point — whereas the west knew that he had no weapons, they were certain the North Koreans did. The west invaded because they knew they were afe from WMD deployment and because wag the dog applied and didn’t invade North Korea, because wag the dog would be forgotten if those crazy North Koreans did something stupid which caused a mess on China’s or South Korea’s border.

  32. Ken Miles
    March 21st, 2013 at 19:35 | #32

    hc :
    Some of us made wrong judgements. I spoke to a former leading person in Dept of Foreign Affairs in Australia at the time the war started and asked him about whether Iraq had WMD. He said words to the effect “Of course they do, the Americans sold them the weapons”.

    As a young PhD chemistry student at the time, I had a chance to speak to a ex-weapon inspector who said that there was pretty good indirect evidence that the WMD program had been shut down. Most of Iraqi science labs are pretty old and get by on very limited budgets, whereas the WMD programs were well funded. The inspectors found very new multiple use equipment (such as weighing balances) scattered throughout University labs – and it seemed obvious that they had been scavenged/stolen from the WMD programs.

  33. Fred Struth
    March 21st, 2013 at 19:41 | #33

    @frankis

    You might also want to read Chris Hedges take on this.

    http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_crucifixion_of_tomas_young_20130310/

  34. Ken Miles
    March 21st, 2013 at 19:42 | #34

    The defection of Saddam’s son in law Hussein Kamel in 1995 provided very strong evidence for the existence and subsequent destruction of the Iraqi WMD program.

  35. Alphonse
    March 21st, 2013 at 20:52 | #35

    As RW notes, this was not all Likudnik, PNAC, Exxon and Halliburton. Many influential people knew that opposition to the invasion would be career suicide, even if their well-founded suspicions were correct. And there was always the outside chance that White House, State, Defense, CIA and Downing Street were not bullshitting in unison. Last century we still had some residual faith in the sanity, prudence, even probity, of these institutions. For many, that faith rendered the obvious truth incredible.

  36. March 21st, 2013 at 21:07 | #36

    The same mass murderers, who illegally imposed sanctions and launched two wars against Iraq in 1991 and 2003 causing a horrific death toll possibly as high as 3.2 million, are now, through terrorist proxies, waging a war against the people of Syria and its government. Amongst the latest victims of this war are 35 Syrians killed in a chemical weapons attack.

    SYRIA: US-NATO Backed Al Qaeda Terrorists Armed with WMDs. Chemical Weapons against the Syrian People

    From Global Research, 19 March 2013

    After a 10 year war/occupation in Iraq, the death of over a million people including thousands of US soldiers, all based on patently false claims of the nation possessing “weapons of mass destruction,” (WMDs), it is outrageous hypocrisy to see the West arming, funding, and politically backing terrorists in Syria who in fact both possess, and are now using such weapons against the Syrian people.

    At least 25 are reported dead after a chemical weapons attack targeting Syrian soldiers was carried out by NATO-backed terrorists in the northern city of Aleppo.

    Aleppo is located near the Syrian-Turkish border. Had Libya’s looted stockpiles of chemical weapons been shipped to Syria, they would have passed through Turkey along with weapons sent from Libya by the US and thousands of Libyan terrorists who are admittedly operating inside Syria, and would most likely be used to target cities like Aleppo.

    Worse yet, any chemical weapons imported into the country would implicate NATO either directly or through gross negligence, as the weapons would have passed through NATO-member Turkey, past US CIA agents admittedly operating along the border and along side Western-backed terrorists inside Syria.

  37. derrida derider
    March 21st, 2013 at 21:46 | #37

    @frankis
    “Saddam was a threat to Israel, he’d already fired Scud missiles blindly into the occupied territories and had been making well-publicized payments to Palestinian suicide bombers.”

    Now this is pretty precisely the sort of stuff JQ was talking about when he said the war’s supporters blindly followed every twist and turn of the Bushies’ talking points. As each justification for he war was discredited they effortlessly brought forth new ones, and instead of even noticing the change most just adopted “the fallacy of giving known liars the benefit of the doubt” (in Daniel Davies’ well known words).

    The Scud firing took place during the 1991 US invasion and would not be repeated absent a similar invasion. Saddam never gave money to suicide bombers – he gave money for new houses to the FAMILIES of suicide bombers who had had their houses demolished by the IDF as a form of collective punishment. In both cases they were Saddam’s way of trying to get desperately needed Palestinian and Syrian support – in reality he couldn’t care less about Israel.

  38. Mel
    March 21st, 2013 at 21:58 | #38

    @Robert in UK

    “I’m particularly interested in your [John Quiggin’s] last comment that back then the assumption was that disputes with rightwingers involved honest disagreement. A number of debates from that time which still continue (climate change and the stolen generations come to mind) really show how difficult it is to chalk things up to “honest disagreement”.”

    Yet as I’ve discovered over the last few months, the most avid left wing fans of this site subscribe to range of crackpot theories on:

    – the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda
    – the Bosniak genocide in the former Yugoslavia,
    – fluoride in drinking water,
    – GMO agriculture,
    – the Evil Empire (America),
    – Capitalism (Almost as evil as the Evil Empire),
    – the Zionists, and
    – the joys of Communism for a New Century

    It seems clear to me that both the left and right tribes consist of roughly 70% irrational delusionists and 30% persons of reason when averaged out over the long term. These numbers see-saw with the right currently having a higher percentage of delusionists, but the extent of delusionism on the left (my tribe) is still enough to aggravate my natural melancholy.

  39. Robert in UK
    March 21st, 2013 at 22:09 | #39

    @Mel

    Mel. My sympathies. Those left-lurking delusions seem difficult to confront, but the difference is that none of them are currently prominent within majority-prone political parties in the US or here. You don’t have to look hard to find the delusions I mentioned in the modern Liberal party.

  40. Chris Warren
    March 21st, 2013 at 22:15 | #40

    @Mel

    Mel

    The voices you are hearing are in your head.

    Most of these have not been recently discussed or introduced – except by you.

  41. Michael
    March 21st, 2013 at 22:24 | #41

    TerjeP,

    Even on those very narrow ‘national interest’ terms, I’d argue we erred.

    Other nations put a price on their co-operation and bargained hard.

    We played the faithful friend, ever willing to help out for nothing in return except gratitude, which earned us little more than the satisfaction of being taken for granted.

  42. Chris Warren
    March 21st, 2013 at 22:38 | #42
  43. March 21st, 2013 at 22:38 | #43

    Mel and I have tangled before – with the result that I have no respect whatsoever for him.

    I’ll take the reference to “flouride” in the list of “crackpot theories” to be a reference (at least partly) to one of our exchanges. He deliberately misrepresented me – my argument was with the fact that the miraculous joys of flouridation were so beyond the abilities of comprehension of Qld citizens that the Bligh government needed to impose it without any shred of a mandate or even a pretend ‘public consultation’.

    ‘GMO’ is also a perfect example of something which is so miraculously wonderful that its proponents refuse to have such products labelled – because, people won’t buy them if they are. Crazy! UFO stuff!

    I missed Mel’s particularly nasty swipe (back then) because JQ deleted it before I saw it.

    Reality denial is a strange illness and not a good thing for our society.

  44. Mel
    March 21st, 2013 at 22:46 | #44

    Those with a genuine interest in the etiology of the war against Saddam’s Iraq would do well to read this article by Fukuyama in the NYT: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/19/magazine/neo.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    You can’t understand the war without becoming acquainted with neocon’s leading lights and their influence on the Bush Administration.

    @Robert in UK

    “Those left-lurking delusions seem difficult to confront, but the difference is that none of them are currently prominent within majority-prone political parties in the US or here.”

    Untrue. Labor State Governments have placed a moratorium on most GMO crops and the Greens want a complete moratorium.

  45. Mel
    March 21st, 2013 at 22:47 | #45

    Those with a genuine interest in the etiology of the war against Saddam’s Iraq would do well to read this article by Fukuyama in the NYT:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/19/magazine/neo.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    You can’t understand the war without becoming acquainted with neocon’s leading lights and their influence on the Bush Administration.

  46. Mel
    March 21st, 2013 at 22:49 | #46

    @Robert in UK

    “Those left-lurking delusions seem difficult to confront, but the difference is that none of them are currently prominent within majority-prone political parties in the US or here.”

    Untrue. Labor State Governments have placed a moratorium on most GMO crops and the Greens want a complete moratorium.

    Golden Rice appears to be just around the corner but Greenpeace et al will resort to anything to thwart it.

  47. frankis
    March 21st, 2013 at 22:56 | #47

    @derrida derider
    “… in reality he couldn’t care less about Israel”

    OK, let’s suppose that was so … but did he pose a threat to Israel, was he perceived by Netanyahu as such, and did Likudists (let’s call them) encourage America to attack Saddam?

    Sorry if I’m missing the point here somewhere, but also I’m unaware of the US having ever used the Scuds or the Palestinian payments as any kind of rationale (“Bushies’ talking points”) for their attack.

  48. Patrickb
    March 21st, 2013 at 22:57 | #48

    @Fred Struth
    Good point Fred. I thought along similar lines a couple of years after the invasion. Creating the instability made it very difficult for Iraq to negotiate a fair deal over it’s oil. The war wasn’t so much about getting the oil as it was about creating chaos so that a deal favourable to the oil conglomerates could be made with which ever poor bastard had managed to stay alive long enough to be elected. You see in the west we don’t steal things we. We just make you an offer you can’t refuse.

  49. March 21st, 2013 at 22:59 | #49

    Here’s our host on the miraculous “Golden Rice” exactly 9 years ago:

    http://johnquiggin.com/2004/03/21/a-regular-repost/

    Just around the corner, even back then.

    If only those stupid Greens would get out of the way….

  50. Mel
    March 21st, 2013 at 23:09 | #50

    I assume PrQ doesn’t want this thread clogged up with the antiscience Left’s anti-fluoride and anti-GM oddballery, so I’ll take up Megan’s points in the sandpit.

  51. John Quiggin
    March 22nd, 2013 at 00:13 | #51

    Thanks Mel – the sandpit is the place for this kind of thing. Even in the sandpit, please avoid personal attacks.

  52. jrkrideau
    March 22nd, 2013 at 02:34 | #52

    @Jim Birch
    All one had to do was listen to Scott Ritter , often interviewed on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to realize that the WMD stories were complete fabrications. Actually, IIRC Ritter at one point said there might be 2-3 missiles unaccounted for.

    Add that the Yellowcake forgeries , the smuggled pipes etc all turned out to be lies or false interpretations of real facts and it was something like the War of Jenkin’s Ear.

    And this was topped off by poor Colin Powell’s pitiful performance at the UN–It’s rare to see a couple of senior international diplomats call the US Secretary of State a liar.

    I still cannot see how anyone (well other than Fox News watchers) could have thought that Iraq had WMDS.

  53. jrkrideau
    March 22nd, 2013 at 02:36 | #53

    @Jarrah
    Actually I think they were withdrawn on the US’s insistence. Saddam did not kick them out.

  54. Brian
    March 22nd, 2013 at 03:29 | #54

    Well, John your argument doesn’t actually stand up John. But weirdly, the Bush administration never picked up a single one of the real arguments for WMD. It is quite obvious that the Bush admin was on a propaganda crusade with an ignorant bunch of clowns – a parallel universe indeed. (And even if Saddam had WMD, I don’t think justified the war either. He had them for decades. containment was working)

    1. According to UNSCOM report, a rock bottom minimum of 4 tons of VX was produced in Iraq. No records were ever found that any was destroyed. (And stored under poor conditions without stabilizers, roughly 50% of that would be viable by 2001. I have the calculations I did prior to the war somewhere.) Of course, the breathless “That’s enough to kill every human in the world X times over,” is rubbish. VX distributes over an area, degrades rapidly under desert conditions (UV/heat/oxygen) and is a largely ineffective weapon except as aerosol. I’ve just been reviewing old chem warfare materials, and to dose a test squad at roughly 300 meters required about 50 lbs of an agent that had effect at less than a milligram.)

    2. Saddam had weapons inspectors in Iraq before and successfully dodged inspectors for some time. Only Ekeus found them. Blix didn’t. To avoid an attack, of course Saddam would invite them in, if he had them or not. He would hide them and hope it worked. A basic tactic in war is to delay.

    3. Ekeus asked to be allowed into Iraq and said that if he was, he would find WMD – period. He had the contacts and knew the system. That was drowned out by Blix declaring that there weren’t any – the same guy who couldn’t find them before. Clearly, Blix had an anti-finding-WMD agenda.

    4. If you actually read the Kay report to congress, you will see that declarations attributed to him are not in the report. He never said no WMD were there. What he said was that he couldn’t find them given the lack of resources and lack of cooperation he had. That evidence indicates that the Bush admin themselves believed there were no WMD – despite significant evidence that WMD were there.

    5. If you read the Kay report, you will see that a succession of Iraqis came forward to help him, saying they knew where WMD were hidden. Every single one was assassinated within 24 hours. This was the major problem that Kay could not overcome. He couldn’t protect sources that came forward and their families. The Bush occupation force would barely give him the time of day. That’s why Kay quit. Anybody would.

    6. Yes, the inspectors were removed prior to the invasion. That’s SOP.

    The real story of Iraq is so completely bizarre it’s hard to imagine it could be possible. You couldn’t make it up. The utter incompetence of the Bush administration was so phenomenal, so outrageous, it boggles the mind and stuns the soul. The idiocy at every turn is still something that alarms me.

  55. rog
    March 22nd, 2013 at 04:10 | #55

    I see Rupert Murdoch echoing neo-lib line of ‘Iraq War was a good idea poorly executed.’ Murdoch had quite a role to play in that News Ltd were consistently uncritical in the lead up to the war.

    If there are to be any positives to this mess one would be that the idea that democracy could be exported has been laid to rest. For too long the US has been exporting their version of democracy and for the most part it has been an epic fail.

    People want justice, not democracy. The US has demonstrated that democracy gives no guarantee that justice will be done – the Iraq War was an unjust war waged by a democracy.

  56. rog
    March 22nd, 2013 at 04:47 | #56

    There are other aspects to this ‘exporting of democracy’ thing, one being that it is a market based democracy, not a political democracy as argued here.

  57. TerjeP
    March 22nd, 2013 at 05:10 | #57

    rog :
    @TerjeP The ends do not justify the means.

    Indeed.

  58. frankis
    March 22nd, 2013 at 06:40 | #58

    @rog
    Come on rog – Murdoch doesn’t now and never has deserved this kind of soft washing:

    On the war Mr Murdoch was equally unequivocal.”We can’t back down now. I think Bush is acting very morally, very correctly, and I think he is going to go on with it,” he said.

    “The fact is, a lot of the world can’t accept the idea that America is the one superpower in the world,” he added.

    Mr Murdoch said the price of oil would be the war’s main benefit on the world economy.

    “The greatest thing to come out of this for the world economy, if you could put it that way, would be $20 a barrel for oil. That’s bigger than any tax cut in the any country.”
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2003/feb/11/iraqandthemedia.news

    It’s easy to make a case that without one man’s backing for it the Cheney gang would not have been able to sell their attack to the American public and it would not have gone ahead. (I’m not going btw to argue that case – just saying)

  59. March 22nd, 2013 at 07:39 | #59

    Blatant plug but you made it.

  60. March 22nd, 2013 at 07:54 | #60

    I remember reading a book by one of the Australians who were inspectors . Two of them went to see Howard and told him Hussein had no chemical weapons.

    Next day Howard said the opposite!

    Iraq never had the capability to threaten many countries so why was there an invasion.

    perhaps we will never know

  61. March 22nd, 2013 at 09:29 | #61

    nottrampis wrote:

    I remember reading a book by one of the Australians who were inspectors . Two of them went to see Howard and told him Hussein had no chemical weapons.

    However, chemical weapons are now being used against the Syrian people by NATO’s terrorist proxies.

    Next day Howard said the opposite!

    Howard knowingly lied to wage an illegal war against Iraq which cost the lives of many hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. He should be prosecuted by the International Court of Justice and jailed.

    nottrampis wrote:

    Iraq never had the capability to threaten many countries so why was there an invasion?

    Perhaps we will never know.

    Many of the answers are to be found in Part 6 (chapters 16, 17 and 18) of The Shock Doctrine – the Rise of Disaster Capitalism (2007) by Naomi Klein. In part it was to enrich US corporations like Halliburton and mercenary outfits like Blackwater (now known as Xe). In part, it was to increase the United States’ global hegemony.

  62. J-D
    March 22nd, 2013 at 09:39 | #62

    @frankis
    Again, what you say cannot be right. It cannot have been the purpose of the invasion to halt Saddam’s firing of Scud missiles at Israel, since no such firing began until after the invasion.

    On the other hand, if the purpose of the invasion was to forestall the firing of Scud missiles at Israel, it actually had precisely the opposite effect and if judged by that standard can only be considered a total failure.

  63. J-D
    March 22nd, 2013 at 09:44 | #63

    @TerjeP
    ‘It arguably made our big friend feel glowingly towards us.’

    In less abstract terms, this means the goal for Australia’s participation was to feed John Howard’s self-importance by giving him opportunities to appear shoulder-to-shoulder (literally or metaphorically) with the US President. If that was the goal it was, obviously, achieved.

  64. frankis
    March 22nd, 2013 at 09:51 | #64

    [Saving this comment from a moderation queue. So … is it really clear why single links to websites such as the Grauniad should in a sane world get auto moderation?]

    @rog
    Murdoch doesn’t now and never has deserved that kind of soft washing:

    On the war Mr Murdoch was equally unequivocal.”We can’t back down now. I think Bush is acting very morally, very correctly, and I think he is going to go on with it,” he said.

    “The fact is, a lot of the world can’t accept the idea that America is the one superpower in the world,” he added.

    Mr Murdoch said the price of oil would be the war’s main benefit on the world economy.

    “The greatest thing to come out of this for the world economy, if you could put it that way, would be $20 a barrel for oil. That’s bigger than any tax cut in the any country.”
    guardian.co.uk/media/2003/feb/11/iraqandthemedia.news

    It’s easy to make a case that without one man’s backing for it the Cheney gang would not have been able to sell their attack to the American public and it would not have gone ahead. (I’m not going btw to argue that case – just saying)

  65. frankis
    March 22nd, 2013 at 09:55 | #65

    @J-D
    I was thinking (as per derrida derider’s comment) of the Scuds of the first Gulf War a decade earlier. And – no argument from me about the abject failure of most of the war’s proponents to achieve their long-term (at least) objectives.

  66. J-D
    March 22nd, 2013 at 10:11 | #66

    @Happy Heyoka
    It is obviously true that any assessment of whether any action succeeded or failed in achieving its goals depends on what those goals were.

    So Fred Struth is right to question what the goals were of the people who decided to invade Iraq. But Fred Struth’s answer to that question is wrong.

  67. J-D
    March 22nd, 2013 at 10:17 | #67

    @Patrickb
    You appear to be responding to a version of Fred Struth’s comment from a parallel universe. In the universe I inhabit, Fred Struth’s comment contains no references to oil.

  68. frankis
    March 22nd, 2013 at 10:22 | #68

    Having said above that I’d avoid arguing the case against Murdoch, now it occurs to me that if the two factors of Rupert Murdoch’s war promotion and secondly of the Likudniks owning such a slab of the neocons’ worldview were to be treated as uncorrelated independently distributed variables, and if one were to guess say only a 60% likelihood that there’d have been a CoW invasion of Iraq without Bibi on board, and say 40% chance of invasion without the comprehensive support of Murdoch’s evil empire (ie supposing Fox and friends had been neutral on the attack and simply done a competent, honest job of journalism) … what does that come out to? Apparently I hypothesise a less than 25% chance there’d have been an attack on Saddam without both those two factors. Reasonable odds that hundreds of thousands of US casualties (dead, injured, disabled and life-shortened), and millions of suffering Iraqis, would have been spared had not the Cheney axis of evil in Washington been backed by both Netanyahu and Murdoch.

    I personally feel that both those prior probabilities are conservative, high-side figures btw. Good times.

  69. Alphonse
    March 22nd, 2013 at 13:07 | #69

    @hc

    Some of the self-righteous ranting in the comments preceding yours are nauseating triumphalism

    To have been right, and to have behaved in alignment with belief, ten years ago was, sadly, no triumph. It was a rout. You got your way. Enjoy your triumph.

  70. may
    March 22nd, 2013 at 15:19 | #70

    broadcasting standards same same now as then.
    a small illustration being todays (you guessed it) nufin.

    pages and pages of blather and faff

    and then

    page 13

    “two bills that were part of the package have already passed the parliament:
    halving licence fees for commercial networks, increasing Australian contents on digital channels and reworking the ABC and SBS charters”.

    the first two are pretty straightforward.
    the third,one would think, would have a bit of explication,opinionating,surmise as to what it all means?
    well i looked and looked and looked
    but whaddya know?
    nothing.

    lotsa hategrind faff though.

    the Guardian wonders what the hell is going on.
    just corpspeak as usual.

    still the perps didn’t manage to “unlock the value “of soulbricks—that story has been as good as Charter Hall VS the hedgies.

    the nufin can do reporting but it gets in the way of the wrongpolliehategrind.

  71. Jarrah
    March 22nd, 2013 at 16:54 | #71

    @jrkrideau
    You meant to reply to someone else.

  72. sunshine
    March 22nd, 2013 at 20:53 | #72

    @Tim Keegan
    into which Howard said he threw children – i seem to remember

  73. sunshine
    March 22nd, 2013 at 21:26 | #73

    What a disaster it has all been . Hundreds of thousands dead (millions counting gulf war 1 and sanctions ) ,millions with major life long injuries , millions of refugees , millions internally displaced – all this in a population about the size of Aust – utter devistation . Triggering a big lurch to the right in many countries around the world (1000s of law changes in the name of terror) . Allowing a fantastic recruting drive for terrorists (they need an enemy too) . And all for the bargain price of who knows how many trillions of $ .Trashing so much goowill toward the West . No cause is worth this cost .
    A total of over 1 million marched against the idea of invasion in aust – still easily the biggest total in our history .Bush made the announcement to the aust public (and world ) that we were going , after no debate in parliament here . Melb Herald Sun banners seen shortly after were “CRUSADE” (word not used thereafter ) and “WE’RE IN” (like some pub brawl) .
    This episode is a big foonote in the book of how the West was lost . Why doesnt this monumental blunder hang like a mill-stone around Howards neck ? I remember being surprised at the time how quickly all (abc and sbs too) the mainstream media pulled into line once we were committed – there was much opposition before that .
    P.S. Blair made a wonderful slip of the tounge at the time when he said “weapons of mass distraction”

  74. March 22nd, 2013 at 21:26 | #74

    The Last Letter: A Message to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney From a Dying Veteran

    Global Research, March 21, 2013

    To: George W. Bush and Dick Cheney
    From: Tomas Young

    I write this letter on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War on behalf of my fellow Iraq War veterans. I write this letter on behalf of the 4,488 soldiers and Marines who died in Iraq. I write this letter on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of veterans who have been wounded and on behalf of those whose wounds, physical and psychological, have destroyed their lives. I am one of those gravely wounded. I was paralyzed in an insurgent ambush in 2004 in Sadr City. My life is coming to an end. I am living under hospice care.

    I write this letter on behalf of husbands and wives who have lost spouses, on behalf of children who have lost a parent, on behalf of the fathers and mothers who have lost sons and daughters and on behalf of those who care for the many thousands of my fellow veterans who have brain injuries.

    I write this letter on behalf of those veterans whose trauma and self-revulsion for what they have witnessed, endured and done in Iraq have led to suicide and on behalf of the active-duty soldiers and Marines who commit, on average, a suicide a day.

    I write this letter on behalf of the some 1 million Iraqi dead and on behalf of the countless Iraqi wounded.

  75. quokka
    March 22nd, 2013 at 22:19 | #75

    I was living and working in London is the period before the start of the war in Iraq. I can say that I knew nobody in favour of it, though I suppose that’s London and London is not the UK. The war mongering hysteria from Blair and the compliant Murdoch press was transparent to anybody with a couple of the brain cells to rub together. From the Sun screaming about WMDs about to be launched with less than 15 mins warning on “helpless” British troops in Cypress to the infamous “dossier” purporting to lay out the WMD threat from Saddam. You could download the PDF and I did. After a few pages of waffle about the area of Presidential Palaces in Iraq (where WMDs *might* be hidden) I gave up. This document was not the work of MI6. Oh no! – it was mostly plagiarized content from some paper written by a PHD student carefully massaged by the Blair spin machine.

    Then there was the “tanks at Heathrow” incident. British troops rolling up at Heathrow in light tanks to combat some purported terrorist incident of which there appeared subsequently to be no evidence. Really? What were they going to do – lob a few rounds into Terminal 4? The excuse – an armored regiment and that was their only transport. Once again really? The British Army couldn’t rustle up a few trucks?

    The war in Iraq was a con from start to brutal finish. It was the ultimate expression of the neo-cons “creative destruction” in the Middle East.

    On a personal note, I attended a couple of the anti-war demonstrations including the huge one with up to 2 million. Quite amazing. With a couple of friends I arrived at Waterloo on the South Bank where there were tens of thousands milling around trying to cross over to the Embankment. It took us two hours and still the demonstration extended as far as the eye could see, though the front ranks were long gone. It probably shook Blair and co a bit, but not enough. In my more cynical or possibly pragmatic moments, I wonder whether if 10% of that demonstration had gone on the rampage, would the impact have been ten times more. When the chips are down, it’s really the only language that the Blairs understand. It is, in the end about political power. Why does the left not learn from history? Just look at Vietnam.

  76. Socrates
    March 23rd, 2013 at 08:44 | #76

    Personally i thought there were good reasons to be skeptical about the claimed reasons for the Iraq war even apart frothe false WMD claims. Bush and Powell also postulated pre-war links between Hussein and Al Quaida. See
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saddam_Hussein_and_al-Qaeda_link_allegations

    This was plainly absurd to anyone with a passing understanding of the Islamic world. Hussein was a secular Shiite. Bin Laden was a Sunni fundamentalist. To the ignorant, who I think just lump middle eastern peoples together as “brown people”, the thought two western enemies might join forces seemed a real danger. But it would be like Martin McGuiness and Rev Paisley joining forces to attack the British government – unthinkable within their world.

    So why would anyone make up such an obvious lie? To justify a pre-determined course of action decided for other reasons. It was all obviously invented.

  77. Ed Bradford
    March 23rd, 2013 at 09:00 | #77

    But wouldn’t a 6 month mistake have been completely forgotten by now
    versus a 10 year nation building mistake?
    I think so.

  78. Patrickb
    March 23rd, 2013 at 12:08 | #78

    @J-D
    Hmm…not a very clever comment from someone who obviously thinks they are very clever. More point was more to Fred’s wider point around claiming something had failed without understanding the motives of the actors. Clown.

  79. Chris Warren
    March 23rd, 2013 at 12:47 | #79

    Iraq’s contacts with Bin Laden and etc. n.b. in context.

    A useful point of view, from someone in the know.

    http://www.globalresearch.ca/fake-intelligence-us-manipulated-public-opinion-before-iraq-war-former-intel-officer/5328069

  80. Chris Warren
    March 23rd, 2013 at 13:11 | #80

    Colin Powell’s underling ….

    Question: The then director of the CIA, George Tenent, Vice President Cheney’s deputy Libby, told you that the intelligence that was the basis of going to war was rock solid. Given what you now know, how does that make you feel?

    It makes me feel terrible. I’ve said in other places that it was– constitutes the lowest point in my professional life. My participation in that presentation at the UN constitutes the lowest point in my professional life.
    I participated in a hoax on the American people, the international community and the United Nations Security Council. How do you think that makes me feel? Thirty-one years in the United States Army and I more or less end my career with that kind of a blot on my record? That’s not a very comforting thing.

    But even that turned out to be, in its substantive parts– that is stockpiles of chemicals, biologicals and production capability that was hot and so forth, and an active nuclear program. The three most essential parts of that presentation turned out to be absolutely false.

    From: http://www.globalresearch.ca/powell-s-landmark-february-2003-speech-to-the-un-laying-out-the-case-for-the-iraq-war-was-based-on-fake-intelligence/1899

  81. John Brookes
    March 23rd, 2013 at 15:48 | #81

    One day I woke up to read Bush Junior’s “axis of evil”, and wondered why he said it. Then all the wmd talk started, and soon we were heading for war.

    I marched in Perth against it. It was the biggest march against anything in Perth since the 1970’s. Similar large rallies were held around the country. Of course the government ignored us. Cheney and Rumsfeld wanted a war, and hence Bush wanted a war, and therefore Howard and Blair wanted a war.

    Andrew Wilkie gave the lie to WMD, and of course was ignored. I wasn’t convinced that there were no wmds, but I was convinced that in the rush to war the allies were only interested in having some slightly credible justification for the war.

  82. John Brookes
    March 23rd, 2013 at 16:06 | #82

    Ken_L :

    hc you and I had some ill-tempered exchanges on another blog years ago about my contempt for John Howard and his government. I believed then and believe now that his fellow-travelling with the Cheney/Rumsfeld mob was the worst kind of unprincipled political opportunism and that he was to be despised for it. Likewise I despise the Rudd and Gillard Governments for never having commissioned an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Australia’s participation in the invasion (and for mindlessly boosting the virtues of the aimless Afghanistan operation). Politicians can do all kinds of things that people disagree with and still deserve respect, but waging aggressive war – for the first time ever in Australian history – is in a uniquely unforgivable category of political expediency.

    I’m not in favour of formally attributing blame. Everyone knows that Howard just went in because the US did, and repeated any necessary lies to justify it.

    We remain free of dictators because we don’t lock up former leaders. So they don’t feel compelled to cling to power at all costs. Lets keep it like that.

  83. Socrates
    March 23rd, 2013 at 16:47 | #83

    Many Australian politicians deserve criticism for going along with this war, especially but not only Howard. Beasley raised almost no concerns, despite supposed honour and expertise on foreign affairs and defence issues. He was at best weak, at worst politically compromised, trying not to deter the right wing vote. Even that was folly, since Labor does not get such votes anyway, and Howard finished up with control of the Senate.

    Chris W

    Thanks for the links, though I find Powell’s “admission” that he was duped a bit convenient. Any strategist familiar with the arabic world could have known it was false. He was a very well educated man. I think the real reason for his regret was shame at his own cowardice. Deep down he knew it was rubbish, but lacked the courage to say so against his friends wishes.

  84. Fran Barlow
    March 23rd, 2013 at 17:54 | #84

    @John Brookes

    I’m not in favour of formally attributing blame. Everyone knows that Howard just went in because the US did, and repeated any necessary lies to justify it.

    Sounds like an excellent basis for attributing primary responsibility to me.

    We remain free of dictators because we don’t lock up former leaders. So they don’t feel compelled to cling to power at all costs. Lets keep it like that.

    I’m not in favour of locking him up. This is politics and he was a player. Yes, Howard was a shifty dissembling sleazebag but enough of the voters bought his nonsense to implicate them in the decision. You can’t say he is literally criminal without implicating large swathes of the voters.

    OTOH, truth telling is always a very good thing. Having it told when he is in a position to answer for his serious malfeasance would be a very good thing.

    * I’d like to see Beazley shamed in public too, not only on Afghanistan and Iraq, but on Tampa.

  85. Alphonse
    March 23rd, 2013 at 22:16 | #85

    You didn’t need political awareness, you didn’t have to know any history. All you had to do was think how the grunts were going to fare replacing the local police on the streets Iraq.

    It helped to know about PNAC, to hear Dubya call the invasion a crusade, to know about Cheney’s sojourn in private enterprise, to notice that Condi had an oil tanker named after her, to count the Iran-contra crooks and Likudniks within the administration, to boggle at the Patriot Act, to translate Blix’s Diplomatic-ese into English, etc, but that help was just fruit for the side board.

    It was a no-brainer.

  86. March 23rd, 2013 at 23:44 | #86

    I watched a great doco last night from “Panorama” called “The Spies Who Fooled the World”

    I’m probably a weird conspiracy theorist, but this is the third time I’ve tried to post about it to this thread. This time I won’t include the link to the place you can watch it.

    Hint: information + clearing + house

  87. March 24th, 2013 at 05:56 | #87

    Megan :
    I’m probably a weird conspiracy theorist, …

    “Conspiracy Theory”: Foundations of a Weaponized Term
    Subtle and Deceptive Tactics to Discredit Truth in Media and Research
    by James F. Tracy on Global Research, 22 January 2013

    “Conspiracy theory” is a term that at once strikes fear and anxiety in the hearts of most every public figure, particularly journalists and academics. Since the 1960s the label has become a disciplinary device that has been overwhelmingly effective in defining certain events off limits to inquiry or debate. Especially in the United States raising legitimate questions about dubious official narratives destined to inform public opinion (and thereby public policy) is a major thought crime that must be cauterized from the public psyche at all costs.

    … In the groundswell of public skepticism toward the Warren Commission’s findings on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the CIA sent a detailed directive to all of its bureaus. Titled “Countering Criticism of the Warren Commission Report,” the dispatch played a definitive role in making the “conspiracy theory” term a weapon to be wielded against almost any individual or group calling the government’s increasingly clandestine programs and activities into question.

  88. Chris Warren
    March 24th, 2013 at 07:49 | #88

    @Megan

    Maybe this will work?

    http://tinyurl.com/fooled-by-spies

  89. J-D
    March 24th, 2013 at 17:27 | #89

    @Patrickb
    Then you could have made your response a lot clearer by stating explicitly that you disagreed with Fred Struth about what the purpose of the invasion was, and it’s not my fault that you didn’t.

    I agree that if the purpose of the invasion was to create chaos, it succeeded.

  90. March 25th, 2013 at 01:28 | #90

    So, can anyone explain to me how NATO’s Syrian “regime-change” in Libya in 2011 and its ongoing “regime-change” proxy war against Syria, which some estimate has cost 70,000 lives, differ from its illegal wars against Iraq in 2003 and 1991?

    Can anyone explain why we should be less concerned about a war, which is raging now in 2013 and which we stand some chance of stopping, than a war which we failed to stop ten years ago?

  91. J-D
    March 25th, 2013 at 07:17 | #91

    @malthusista
    I am confused by your questions and wonder whether you could clarify.

  92. Ken_L
    March 25th, 2013 at 13:59 | #92

    @malthusista I would also appreciate clarification of exactly how you believe ‘we’ could stop the Syrian civil war? A little elaboration of who ‘we’ are would also be helpful.

    @John Brookes I have never advocated locking Howard up. I don’t follow your argument I’m afraid; the point about locking people up seems a total non sequitur to the point about allocating blame, although I would prefer to talk about accountability rather than blame. However you are obviously on the side of the majority who want to forget the circumstances in which Australia waged aggressive war as quickly as possible, because ‘everyone knows’ we just don’t do that sort of thing. Democracy!

  93. March 25th, 2013 at 16:44 | #93

    (Professor Quiggin, I accidentally incuded more than one URL in the prvious post, so it is now ‘awaiting moderation’. Could you please delete it?)

    Ken_L (@ #42), John Brookes (@ #42),

    (The following response has also been posted here. Other material and links to other material about the Syrian conflict can also be found on candobetter -dot- net . Please feel welcome to post comments there as well as to here.)

    As previously advised, I don’t propose to entertain this kind of thing on my blog. All comments should be directed to the candobetter site – JQ

  94. Sheila Newman
    March 25th, 2013 at 21:26 | #94

    @rog

    Gee, what useful terms. “There are other aspects to this ‘exporting of democracy’ thing, one being that it is a market based democracy, not a political democracy as argued here.”

    Yes, the US markets ‘market based democracy’, i.e. free for all for those with money, and often destroys ‘political democracy’ – actually having a voice even if you don’t have money.

    I suppose those terms have been around for ages? Hadn’t come across them before.

  95. Jim Rose
    March 29th, 2013 at 11:33 | #95

    see Chris Coyne’s After War: The Political Economy of Exporting Democracy, California: Stanford University Press, 2008 for a good read, 1st chapter is online.

    talks about how efforts to export democracy and liberty through military intervention have often been ineffective and have resulted in unintended and undesirable consequences. it is about the continued effort to apply ineffective means in the attempt to obtain worthy ends.

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