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How Could This Have Gone So Wrong?

If I remember correctly, the argument for going to war in Iraq went something like this:

  1. Iraq has weapons of mass destruction and so is a threat to its neighbors and to US interests.
  2. Iraq has encouraged and/or sponsored terrorism, including acts committed by Al Qaeda.
  3. Saddam Hussein has a long history of torturing and killing innocent people.
Now, let me see if I have this straight:
  1. We have found no stockpiles of WMDs.
  2. The war in Iraq has actually "spurred on" Al Qaeda.
  3. The US has conducted "widespread" abuse of prisoners, potentially including several deaths during interrogations.
In other words, the justifications for the war have either disappeared or we have undone them ourselves through our actions.

How could this have gone so wrong?

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Comments

Iraq has weapons of mass destruction and so is a threat to its neighbors and to US interests.

Actually, the reason was that Hussein, and by extension, Iraq, were a potential threat. I don't have the exact words of Bush's State of the Union speech on tap, but they were to the effect that it would be foolish to wait for the potential threat to become a real one. Granted, a "potential" threat is not, IMHO, a good reason to go to war, but it is disingenuous of you, and so many others on the left, to construct this particular straw man.

Iraq has encouraged and/or sponsored terrorism, including acts committed by Al Qaeda.

Well, yeah. That the war has, by some accounts, increased Al Qaeda's recruiting, does not change the truth value of this statement. And, while it's true that Al Qaeda has recruited thousands of "new" terrorists, two things must also be kept in mind: first, recruiting is, by most accounts I have seen, at or below replacement levels, i.e., more terrorists have been killed or captured than are being "created"; second, many, if not most, of these "recruits" are actually the result of a consolidation of existing terrorist organizations into the Al Qaeda network.

Saddam Hussein has a long history of torturing and killing innocent people.

Again, yeah. That some US personnel have also abused prisoners does not change the truth value of this statement. But let's put some perspective on the subject, shall we?

First, if the abuse of several hundred Iraqi prisoners by US personnel is "widespread", what pejorative would you use regarding Hussein's abuse and murder of several hundreds of thousands?

Second, it is disingenuous to say that "the US has conducted" this abuse. Unlike the Hussein regime, it is not now, and has never been the policy of the United States government to conduct torture or murder of prisoners.

Our "justifications", such as they were, have neither disappeared nor been undone. The public perception of those justifications has been damaged -- which might be a good thing, as I'm not sure of their validity in the first place. But let's at least be fully honest in our assessment. If you want to say, simply, that we weren't justified, I might agree with you -- but not because Bush et. al. "lied"; rather, because the truths they told were not sufficient.

I don't have the energy to go look up all the references at the moment. I may later. But...

  1. To claim that criticism of the Bush Administration's WMD-based justifications for going to war is a "straw man" -- after Colin Powell's dramatic presentation to the UN Security Council, none of which, apparently, was true -- strikes me as ludicrous. Okay, I found the energy to look up this page. Read it and repeat your "straw man" comment...
  2. There has never, ever been any proven link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. If you have such a link, please bring it forward (and also send it to the National Security Advisor, whom I'm sure could use it right about now).
  3. Contrary to your statement, the more evidence that comes out (including the BBC story I linked to), the more it seems that in fact it is the internal policy of the current US government to use torture against certain classes of detainees. Are we as brutal as Saddam Hussein's regime was? Of course not. But try drawing that distinction on the streets of any major city in the Middle East these days.

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