Wednesday, March 22, 2006

A Republican Dilemma

I just finished watching the re-run of last night's Daily Show with Georges Sada, a former Iraqi Air Force General who served under Saddam Hussein. General Sada claimed that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction which were sent to Syria just before the U.S. invasion of 2003.

I'm sorry, not possible.

If that is true, then George W. Bush is even more incompetent than even the most unhinged liberal has yet charged.

Travel back in time with me, if you will, to January of 2003. President Bush is giving his State of the Union address, in which he asserts that Saddam Hussein possesses the following: 25,000 liters of anthrax, 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin, 500 tons of sarin, mustard gas and VX nerve agent, 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical weapons and several mobile biological weapons labs. Also, "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production." Those last two statements have been soundly debunked, but I enjoy bringing them up again.

Now, let's look at this in practical terms.

Chemical and biological agents are not the easiest things to manage. Biological agents are literally living things; they need special conditions to be preserved. Chemical agents can be highly volatile. Transporting these items would require very careful preparations with specialized equipment. Now consider the quantity. Even moving just a fraction of the above amounts would require a massive, coordinated operation.

Did we not have satellites watching Iraq 24/7 in the weeks and months before the war? Are there not also presumably Russian, Chinese, Indian, Israeli, German, French and British satellites up there? We are not the only country with an intelligence service. Presumably we'd be carefully watching the country (and its borders!) for troop deployment to help plan our battle strategy; presumably also, worried about the threat of WMD's, we'd be watching to make sure it didn't appear that Iraq was about to use any of them on pro-American Kurdish forces, Kuwait, Israel or U.S. bases in Saudi Arabia.

So for this scenario to be possible, we'd have to assume that Saddam Hussein managed to move mindboggling amounts of volatile chemical and biological agents to a country we also don't like or trust right under our noses and we had no idea. None whatsoever.

I know a lot of conservatives espouse this theory. Do you have any idea how bad that makes George Bush look?

But wait, there's more. It's not just that more than three years into our occupation of Iraq we have not found a single droplet of any of the banned items listed above, two separate investigations led by Bush's handpicked representatives (David Kay, succeeded by Charles Duelfer) concluded that there was no evidence Saddam Hussein possessed WMD's.

Now, by "no evidence," I don't just mean the chemicals and bio-agents themselves. These aren't things you can keep in mason jars in your basement. They require ingredients and components, storage and manufacturing labs and facilities, documentation. We found nothing. Nada. We are supposed to believe that a country that possessed all these terrible things in such quantities managed not only to FedEx the weapons themselves to Syria without our noticing (or anyone else's), they got rid of every last trace of anything that would have shown a weapons program capable of producing and maintaining the alleged arsenal.

All of this while we were watching their country like a hawk planning an invasion.


Take your pick, Republicans. Either there were no weapons, or your beloved President let them get away. Now, which is it?


little-cicero said...

Before I go off on my rant, do you accept the possibility that Saddam himself was fooled by his scientists into believing that he had WMDs at his disposal, since they were in fact complied, with pain of death, to have him believe that progress was being made?

It seems feasible if not plausible, though it is highly speculative. What you have to address though, is why our intelligence as well as that of multiple other countries, got the impression that WMDs existed in Iraq. At the very least, Saddam might have believed they were in his possession. He was after all highly delusional.

Anthony said...

Did intelligence (oh, sweet irony!) get this impression, or choose to give it? They're two very different things.

As for these delusions of Saddam's, well, I'll pass on the rather obvious connotations ...

Andy said...

Yes, I absolutely accept the possibility that Saddam was lied to by his own scientists who were terrified. That still doesn't excuse OUR being fooled by it, especially since Bush ordered the UN inspectors out of Iraq, ESPECIALLY since Rumsfeld said, "We know where they are," referring to the weapons that he didn't know weren't there.

Little Cicero, it matters not a whit that most other countries (and, how could you fail to point out, the Clinton administration!) concluded that most likely Saddam possessed WMD's. Wanna know something? I believed it at the time. Never doubted he had them.

The point is, despite everyone saying that was the reasonable conclusion, everyone BUT the U.S. said the proof was not definitive and NOT actionable. Everyone else said, "No...invasion and occupation is not the way to solve this." Now we see why.

Rant away, I've boxed you in.

Steve Chapman said...

Well you need to be fair, the UK felt that the evidence against Saddam was "actionable" and so did many other countries who have troops stationed there.

The situation in Iraq is a difficult one. I will paraphrase a question that was used in a presidential campaign a number of years ago.... Are we better off because of this war than we would have been?

I think the Republicans and the hawks would say YES. Most Democrats and doves would say NO.

The war has been mismanaged there is no doubt. I think that is the area of discussion that we need to focus on rather than the slippery slope of whether Bush lied and why were we all fooled.

I am hope that the motives in looking into the beginnings of why the war was fought are noble but I fear they are not. The hope would be that we would prevent a run up to war like we had with Iraq. My fear is though most critics are talking about this to continually discredit Bush. I am not sure that is the smartest or most helpful strategy.

Nathan said...


I can't speak for nuclear or biological weapons, but I have a binary chemical weapon stored under my sink at this very moment. Common household chlorine bleach combined with ammonia will produce Chlorine gas, just like that used in WW I. Binary weapons are robust (after all, many are launched through by artillery), and any local hack with a couple of buddies and a stakebed truck could probably move a lot. I still agree with your contention that it would be difficult to move large quantities unobserved from known depots, but it is by no means a delicate or impossible task.

In addition, while I expect the US governments capabilities are far beyond what we know, at the end of every satellite is a human, and that human can only analyze so much data from a satellite. While our satellites may be omnipresent, they are not omniscient. From space, a fruit truck with a tarp looks just like the aforementioned truck with a tarp.

Just my 2....(what the hell, where's the cents key!). Aw, hell.

little-cicero said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
little-cicero said...

Amen Brother Robert Bayne! Well said.

Andy said...

Steve, I see what you're saying but I would like to respectfully disagree. I think pounding Bush on this is entirely appropriate, as I believe he is guilty of, at a minimum, criminal negligence. One does not let a criminal plead "what's done is done" on the stand as a defense. The matter is not resolved.

Nathan, perhaps it is easier than I imagine. That still doesn't negate the fact that in order for this scenario to be true, Saddam would have had to convoy Reason #1 for invasion out of the country without our knowledge. I find that impossible to believe. Furthermore, it would have to have been done in such a hurry (the best knowledge we have is that Saddam believed we wouldn't invade until we were on his doorstep) that almost certainly something would have been overlooked, some evidence of this massive program somewhere that we would have found during the course of three years and counting of occupation.

Robert Bayn said...

Well, Bush is incompetent, i mean you only screw things up so often before it becomes obvious.

The other thing is this 'General' is not believable, first he never took this information to the U.S. government, instead he put it in a book, sent out a press release, for what reason? Time to make a quick buck, isn't it great when capitalism works out?


It really does not matter what Saddam thought, what matters is what Bush DID, i will point out a example:

Prior to the invasion in a CIA report it said "they had no way of knowing if Saddam still had WMD's, but they knew he had them before".

Bush than went before the American people and said "Iraq does HAVE WMD's", he stretch the truth, which to me is a lie, no way around it.

Saddam was a evil tyrant that killed his own people, but if that is what qualifies for war, we need to start invading many other nations too.

I do not agree with the Left view that we must remove our troops now, instead we need to establish the new government and be sure they can defend themselves against the growing insurgency, if they can not, and we leave, we create a terrorist state, which would be worse than anything that Saddam was.

Steve said...


The problem with continuing to pound Bush on this issue allows the Right to blame Clinton. Their oft-repeated refrain is if Clinton had stood up to Osma and Saddam we would not be in this mess.

It gets us nowhere. The question the left has to ask itself is:

Are we truly standing on principle by accusing Bush of criminal negligence or is this a vendetta from the Clinton impeachment fiasco?

Andy said...

Blame Clinton for what? The Duelfer/Kay reports both concluded that Clinton's 98 missile strikes ended what was left of Saddam's programs and that the U.N. sanctions prevented them from being re-started. There is ample evidence that the outgoing Clinton administration repeatedly tried to direct Bush's attention to the threat posed by Osama bin Laden. These efforts were ignored. Point of fact #1, on 9/10/01, A.G. Ashcroft slashed the the anti-terrorism budget.

I do see what you're getting at, that we can't just go impeaching a President every time the opposition party regains control of Congress. But that's the Republicans' fault for impeaching over a fib about a blowjob. We have a responsibility to ourselves and to the world to hold our leaders accountable when they launch wars based on unsubstantiated allegations (which is the politest way I can think of to say "lies").

Little Cicero, um, I am confused, what are you Amen-ing Robert about? I am slightly surprised that you are of a similar mind, but I remain hopeful some liberal common sense is rubbing off on you.

little-cicero said...

You should be confused, I meant to address that to Steve Chapman. I have no idea how I got the name confused. I apologize Adam, I mean Andy!

The way I look at this, it may very well have been wrong to start the War in Iraq, but that's irrelevant.

Our troops are risking their lives for a cause out there, and while you have every right to oppose the war on the grounds that we shouldn't have started it to begin with, I'd say it is reckless to do so. What you're talking about is "bringing them home" (as in withdrawal) when we are so close to victory. That is simply foolish, not treasonous, foolish.

We can agree that this war serves a noble purpose, correct? We can agree that there is justification in acting on our intelligence if you agree with the Clinton Administration's bombings of Iraq, which could not have been based on Bush's lies or negligence.

So let's be clear: If conservatives as a whole were to say, "Okay, we were wrong to start this war," would you be willing to drop it? Or would you continue to use it as a tool to force withdrawal? Once again, this is not a dilemma, it is simply irrelevant to anyone who is victory minded in this country.

Trickish Knave said...

I just don't know where you get the idea he had no capability to make them or never had them in the first place. He used them on his own people as evidenced by the mas graves in N. Iraq, unless mustard gas isn't considered a WMD. Components were found throughout the period after the occupation that had serin gas residue on them. So to believe that he did not have them is to believe in the insane. I will believe Bush over Saddam anyday.

I believe he hid his weapons, the same weapons he used against his own people. Everything he did prior to our invasion supported this including the games he played wiht the inspectors.

It was recently discovered how close Hitler was to obtaining a low grade nuclear weapon. Time was just against him. Data was found at the bottom of the Norweigan Sea that sent chills down the scientist's spines. Is it really so implausible that some of Saddam's WMD material was sunk or buried or shipped out?

Time is going to be the only judge, jury and executioner in the WMD debate although I will continue to entertain the issue on both sides. I can play the "what if" game indefinately. I don't need an Iraqi Air Force flunky to write a book about what he presumes happened to strengthen the case of weapons I am positive already exist.

kr pdx said...

From the Left Coast (we left coasters are more prone to conspiracy theoriesm as far as I can tell): any "evidence" found post-invasion is completely suspect anyhow, because it's WAY to easy that we planted it. If Buah et al had known how completely we wouldn't find WMD, I'm sure Someone would have arranged for quite a bit of that. The lack of evidence says to me that they really believed their interpretations of the intelligence.

The mass graves and history of known use do stand as evidence, though, that Iraq had WMD capability. Which is probably why any countries joined the US "coalition." (That and political preference.)

Wouldn't it be nice if there could be some culturally sound, historically educated choices made abouyt Iraq before Jan 20, 2009, though? Yuck ...

little-cicero said...

To add to Trickish Knave's point, the likelihood of the weapons having been hidden is evidenced by the relatively recent discovery of a Russian aircraft buried beneath the sand. Easily they could have hidden in that space enough nerve agent to kill/maime an entire city.

kr pdx said...

PS: LC: "Once again, this is not a dilemma, it is simply irrelevant to anyone who is victory minded in this country."

"Victory Minded"? "If you are not of our mind you have no mind worth listening to" is what you have just communicated--which makes me wonder why you are here. But, more, I wonder what do you think "victory" is? I think a lot of people on this blog are victory-minded, but I see many different ideas of what that entails.

What do you mean by "victory," and why do you think it is "so close"? Then perhaps someone can address your opinions instead of endlessly guessing at how to address your random assertions--or just ignoring them as hot air.

Anthony said...

The only victory lies in establishing a lasting peace, and much as I regret saying so, I don't see that happening for a while yet.

Andy said...

And TK, I don't know where you get the idea that I think Saddam never had WMD's. I have expressly conceded that. We know he used them, most infamously in the 1983 attack on the Kurds at Halabja, which took place only days before Donald Rumsfeld was photographed shaking his hand in Baghdad.

My position on WMD's comes from the Kay and Duelfer reports: that Clinton's 1998 missile strikes effectively ended what was left of his program and that the U.N. sanctions prevented them from being restarted.

I do not deny that Saddam wanted them. I do not deny that he would have continued to pursue any means available to him to get them.

I simply deny that the full-scale invasion was the best, let alone the only, option to deal with this threat.

Steve said...

I would concur with you Andy. You are right about the wisdom of the invasion.

The problem with Clinton, Sadaam and Osma is that the Bush Administration has been masterful in lumping them all together. The WAR on Terror should have been focused on Afghanistan.

Instead Bush made the fight a regional battle with regime change being the goal in Iraq. All of the run up to the war was "arranged" to show how bad Iraq was and what a threat it could be.

It is sad that we blindly followed the administration in the early days.

Bush has been answerable to the country once since the war began through election. The American people for SOME reason reelected him. Fortunately, he can NOT run again.

Unfortunately, we will have years to suffer the results of his administration.

Trickish Knave said...

I guess we could have "pretty-pleased" Saddam to death, as we did for the 13 years after the Kuwaiti invasion, and I believe Kerry would have been the best choice for that route, but there was something that had to be done beyond your full-scale invasion. By all means, let us hear those options.

The Democratic party, IMO, just cannot handle the safety and security of our nation post September 11. They are a great peace-time party but just don't have the mindset to keep us out of harm's way.

DJRainDog said...

Pointing out the obvious here: This nation has been more "in harm's way" since Bush's inauguration than it has been in a VERY long time. You make the argument that the Dems are only viable in peace-time; the argument could likewise be made (I wouldn't make it, because right now, I don't think the Dems are a viable party, as they have no focus, no spine, no focused platform other than reactionaryism) that the Dems maintain peace, and the current Republicans (I'm an Old-School Conservative; these Republicans are NOT conservatives) are only viable in their own created wartime under a cloud of fear...Just a thought.