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I won't allow Bush's crimes to disappear down the memory-hole ...

Posted by Joshua Holland at 9:42 PM on October 15, 2006.

Do what you want, but I refuse to play along.

As I reviewed some of the reports that the UN weapons inspectors submitted to the Security Council in early 2003, my thoughts turned to the Johns Hopkins-MIT study estimating that as many as 950,000 Iraqis have died since the invasion for nothing at all.

Yes, I am "re-hashing" old events and "re-litigating" the debate over the war. I have to because there are, today, liberal hawks (and hawks-hawks, of course) running around defending their support for this insanity because of their deluded notion that everything would have gone swimmingly if not for the bunglers in the White House.

That facile evasion -- the "incompetence dodge" -- must not stand. So humor me for a moment while I recall the most crucial junction, in my view, in the lead-up to the war.

It was March 7, 2003, when Hans Blix, the UN's chief weapons inspector, briefed the Security Council on the progress of the inspections regime:

In matters relating to process, notably prompt access to sites, we have faced relatively few difficulties and certainly much less than those that were faced by UNSCOM in the period 1991 to 1998. This may well be due to the strong outside pressure.

Some practical matters … have been resolved at meetings, which we have had in Baghdad. Initial difficulties raised by the Iraqi side about helicopters and aerial surveillance planes operating in the no-fly zones were overcome. This is not to say that the operation of inspections is free from frictions, but at this juncture we are able to perform professional no-notice inspections all over Iraq and to increase aerial surveillance. […]
It was a disappointment that Iraq's Declaration of 7 December did not bring new documentary evidence... When proscribed items are deemed unaccounted for it is above all credible accounts that is needed - or the proscribed items, if they exist.
Where authentic documents do not become available, interviews with persons, who may have relevant knowledge and experience, may be another way of obtaining evidence. UNMOVIC has names of such persons in its records and they are among the people whom we seek to interview. In the last month, Iraq has provided us with the names of many persons, who may be relevant sources of information, in particular, persons who took part in various phases of the unilateral destruction of biological and chemical weapons, and proscribed missiles in 1991. […]
… with relevant witnesses available it becomes even more important to be able to conduct interviews in modes and locations, which allow us to be confident that the testimony is given without outside influence. While the Iraqi side seems to have encouraged interviewees not to request the presence of Iraqi officials (so-called minders) or the taping of the interviews, conditions ensuring the absence of undue influences are difficult to attain inside Iraq. Interviews outside the country might provide such assurance. It is our intention to request such interviews shortly. Nevertheless, despite remaining shortcomings, interviews are useful.
… intelligence authorities have claimed that weapons of mass destruction are moved around Iraq by trucks and, in particular, that there are mobile production units for biological weapons. The Iraqi side states that such activities do not exist. Several inspections have taken place at declared and undeclared sites in relation to mobile production facilities. Food testing mobile laboratories and mobile workshops have been seen, as well as large containers with seed processing equipment. No evidence of proscribed activities have so far been found…
On 14 February, I reported to the Council that the Iraqi side had become more active in taking and proposing steps, which potentially might shed new light on unresolved disarmament issues. Even a week ago, when the current quarterly report was finalized, there was still relatively little tangible progress to note. Hence, the cautious formulations in the report before you.
As of today, there is more…

He then listed a bunch of specifics about Al Samoud missiles having been destroyed and the Iraqis proposing methods of verifying whether Anthrax stocks had been neutralized as they claimed.

What are we to make of these activities? One can hardly avoid the impression that, after a period of somewhat reluctant cooperation, there has been an acceleration of initiatives from the Iraqi side since the end of January.
This is welcome, but the value of these measures must be soberly judged by how many question marks they actually succeed in straightening out. This is not yet clear. [...]
The Iraqi side has tried on occasion to attach conditions, as it did regarding helicopters and U-2 planes. Iraq has not, however, so far persisted in these or other conditions for the exercise of any of our inspection rights. If it did, we would report it.
It is obvious that, while the numerous initiatives, which are now taken by the Iraqi side with a view to resolving some long-standing open disarmament issues, can be seen as "active", or even "proactive", these initiatives 3-4 months into the new resolution cannot be said to constitute "immediate" cooperation. Nor do they necessarily cover all areas of relevance. They are nevertheless welcome and UNMOVIC is responding to them in the hope of solving presently unresolved disarmament issues. […]
How much time would it take to resolve the key remaining disarmament tasks? While cooperation can and is to be immediate, disarmament and at any rate the verification of it cannot be instant. Even with a proactive Iraqi attitude, induced by continued outside pressure, it would still take some time to verify sites and items, analyse documents, interview relevant persons, and draw conclusions. It would not take years, nor weeks, but months.

It would not take years, nor weeks, but months.

Blix' counterpart at the IAEA, Mohammed ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, also briefed that same day. He was more blunt than Blix. After thoroughly discounting Colin Powell's assertion that some aluminum tubes detected by surveillance were part of a nuclear centrifuge, he went on to destroy the charge that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear program:

After three months of intrusive inspections, we have to date found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons programme in Iraq… I should note that, in the past three weeks, possibly as a result of ever-increasing pressure by the international community, Iraq has been forthcoming in its co-operation, particularly with regard to the conduct of private interviews and in making available evidence that could contribute to the resolution of matters of IAEA concern.

The process of confirming the rest was well underway. The Iraqis, having dragged their feet at first, were staring at a couple of hundred thousand U.S. troops just over the border in Kuwait and were coming into full compliance -- the regime could, on March 7, "be seen as 'active', or even 'proactive,'" Blix said. Cooperation was, at that point, "immediate."

Those who lusted for blood and war and dead Arabs following 9/11 said at the time that we couldn't keep our troops in the desert -- in air-conditioned tents in Kuwait without IEDs going off around them every day -- for months longer waiting for the inspections to finish.

Ask the troops if they were right. Ask the mothers and fathers of the dead ones who can't answer for themselves.

Colin Powell offered the administration's response:

SECRETARY POWELL: We know what full compliance should look like and we know what it does not look like, and it does not look like full compliance now …

QUESTION: When you say you know --


QUESTION: We've just heard a different interpretation this morning about --

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, there are different interpretations. There are some people who simply, in my judgment, don't want to see the facts clearly.

Let that last sentence sink in. "There are some people who simply, in my judgment, don't want to see the facts clearly." Swirl it around in your head. Because he was right; Powell himself was taking the word of some brain-dead ideologues in Cheney's office over these professional inspectors returning from Iraq with first-hand knowledge of the progress being made.

I never accepted the premise that some old chemical or biological weapons left over from the 1980s and secreted away in some spider-hole were a legitimate cause for war (and certainly the idea that violating UN resolutions was itself a casus beli was silly on its face), but those who accepted those terms are guilty, too, for not opposing the invasion when it was clear that the threat of war alone was sufficient to confirm that Iraq had no proscribed weapons. Yes, it was strong-arm diplomacy at the barrel of a gun that made Iraq comply, but there was no reason to pull that trigger when they did.

Nine days later, the U.S. ordered all American personnel from the region. The day after that, the administration ordered the inspectors to stop working and leave Iraq. Two days after that, Shock and Awe began.

In these documents resides the world's greatest crime against humanity: waging a war of aggression. We can't forget that and, I'm sorry, I for one can't forgive those who went along for the ride. Far, far too many have died and too many more have had their lives ruined for that.

**Note: this post was inspired in part by watching video, here, of Jonathan Chait, L.A. Times columnist and an editor at an obscure political mag, defend his support of the war to Matt Yglesias.

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Too many dead
Posted by: Melvin on Oct 15, 2006 10:33 PM
950,000 died since the invasion? Just how many died due to the embargo? The true death toll must be horrific.
Your present,USA, administration are no better than histories worst murderers.

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» The ignored and discounted dead Posted by: Michael Robin
» Worse than the worst Posted by: Michael Robin
» RE: Worse than the worst Posted by: beltane
How dare these men?
Posted by: HeroesAll on Oct 16, 2006 2:08 AM
How dare these men sit about and casually, blithely, chat about 'regime change'? Don't they understand they're talking about the invasion of a country and the overthrow of its government? Do they have any idea of what the situation is really like? Do they care?

This is one of the things I most detest about some Americans: the idea that they are uniquely entitled to do as they please about the world. The idea that their ways are always, unfailingly, the right ways. That no matter what they do, it's always the right thing, or for the right reasons, or somehow inarguable. Oh, of course, it didn't go well because who knew those damn furr'ners would be so recalcitrant? But we meant well.

This makes me simultaneously furious and miserable. How can they believe themselves so special? What right do they have to decide which regimes must go? What right do they have to 'impose democracy', or even to decide who needs it? What right to even consider meddling in such a drastic way, as a matter of course, of right, of necessity? How dare they? How dare they?

Honestly, I'd really like to know if there's anything, anything, out there that's cause for hope. Something. Anything. The world is passing out of sight around the S-bend, apparently, and I'd like to be able to believe that things might someday, somehow, improve. Pretty please? I'd like to think that venal stupidity, selfishness, greed, and ignorant hatred won't always rule the world. I'd like to think that there's a reason to keep getting up in the morning.

Is there?

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» RE: How dare these men? Posted by: HeroesAll
» RE: How dare these men? Posted by: Jesse
» Understandable. Posted by: Knowmad
» RE: How dare these men? Posted by: sethmo
Thank you, Jon Stewart and Bill Moyers
Posted by: LeslieGem on Oct 16, 2006 5:37 AM
Anyone who watched The Daily Show and Now with Bill Moyers before the war started knew that the claims of "WMD" were not true. That's why I also don't buy the whining of politicians on both sides that say, "We were duped -- they told us there were WMD so that's why I supported the war"

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going along for the ride
Posted by: weGotCactus on Oct 16, 2006 8:26 AM
The precise and detailed description of events in your article makes me want to touch on another point. Democrats have been pilloried for voting for a resolution which, if I recall correctly, authorized the use of force if Iraq did not comply with the inspection process. Reading your article, it seems clear that this threat of force was actually effective in achieving Iraq's cooperation. And therefore one could say that the resolution was a necessary step, and if carried out as written, an appropriate mix of force and forbearance. It was the duplicitous action of Powell, Cheney, Bush and company, in going to war even though the threat was having its intended effect, that should be singled out for approbation as you have done. You can call the Democrats stupid for voting for a resolution that allowed BushCo to be the arbiter of Iraq's cooperativeness and therefore the 'deciders' about going to war, but it's important to remember who was duped and lied to, and who was plain evil.

What I can't recall is whether anybody protested very loudly about the duplicitous interpretation of events you cite. Did anybody in Congress stand up and say, "that's not what I voted for!" or "we didn't authorize force when Iraq is cooperating?"

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And let's not forget...
Posted by: Sundaymonkey on Oct 16, 2006 8:55 AM
...that other classic example of fact-free BS from the same period, namely the claim that the US had no choice but to run away from even trying to get a 2nd Resolution from the Security Council because the evil and perfidious French had said they'd veto any use of force at all.

Ooooh, those nasty Frenchies, how could they?

Simple, they didn't, did they?

All they did was point out in very clear English what the rest of the world already knew. Namely, that the US regime had got the rest of the Security Council (including Syria, ferfecksakes) to sign on to the 1st Resolution demanding Iraq allow inspectors back into the country by agreeing there would have to be another SC resolution before force could be used, and that this 2nd Resolution would only come after the inspectors had completed their job.

That hadn't happened yet. Indeed, the reports from the inspectors were making it more and more obvious that Iraq didn't have any WMD to give up, and that all the 'cast-iron evidence' the US claimed to have was so much spankpaper. So the French did everyone a favour by saying that, if the US tried to bully the Security Council into authorising an invasion based solely upon a non-existant 'trigger' within the 1st Resolution, they'd use their veto.

In other words, calm down, stop embarassing yourself with tantrums, and let the grown-ups get on with the job at hand.

But how did the US and British Media report on it? Surprise, surprise, they just regurgitated the barefaced, easily disprovable, right there pressed up against your nose with its winkle hanging out lie that the French had closed off the United Nations route by promising to veto the use of force. They didn't even have to speak French to get the story right, because he said it in bloody English, to the Media.

Imagine if they'd reported honestly on the issue back in 2003, just for a second (if you can possibly suspend your disbelief to that extent). If the Media had done its job and asked the White House and Downing Street why they were lying about the actions and intentions of one of their historic allies in order to flee from their responsibility to make a case for invading Iraq.

No, I can't imagine it either.

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If the Democrats gain control...
Posted by: custersbud on Oct 16, 2006 8:59 AM
of Congress on November 7th, they should move immediately to impeach Bush and Cheney for high crimes against humanity. Any Democrat who does not support this effort should be recalled, as they're no better than the war criminals currently in office.

This would leave Dennis Hastert, or more importantly the newly elected Democratic Speaker of the House, as President, supported by a Democratic Legislature.

The only redeeming aspect of this whole Bush-Cheney mess is that Bush is still young enough that he should be around to see historians judge his presidency. Hopefully from a jail cell!

Finally, one would hope that the American people will NEVER elect another president from Texas. Johnson's Viet Nam adventure and Bush's Iraq tragedy....hmmmm, sounds like there might be a theme here. Frankly, there's nothing in the collective backgrounds of any Texan that even remotely qualifies them to lead the country.

Over this past weekend, there was a debate between two candidates for Congress in Texas. During the course of the debate the subject turned to raising the minimum wage. The Democratic candidate, Chet Edwards, supports a raise. The Repugnican candidate, who no one ever heard of, stated the government should not determine how "rich" a person gets. Rich? On $5.15 per hour? You've got to be shitting me! This pretty much sums up the thought processes here. Enough said.....

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don't wait for '08
Posted by: channing on Oct 16, 2006 10:32 AM
there should be no doubt that the ONLY action sufficient to bring the American dream, as well as our international dignity back is to HOLD THIS ADMINISTRATION ACCOUNTABLE, IN COURT, FOR WAR CRIMES.

We, being the "bully on the block", above all else, owe integrety and humility, humane-stewardship to a world dependent on such for any global civilization to advance.

It MUST become clear to the people of this country, once and for all, that we are NOT above corruption and other related evils, and that we have handed control of our most devastating technologies to an unregulated capitalist concentration of violent, wasteful, and fraudulent leaders.

we control the greatest store of WMD's within the power of our laws, but we have allowed those same violent eccentric relics of the "war-generation" hide under the subtrafuge of corporatism and its il-named accomplice, "free-market", write the very laws that would otherwise protect the world and us from its unchecked abuse...

i will not wait 'til '08 to hold these monsters accountable.

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