When I went to the New York Times front page this morning, I swear to god I thought I saw this under the op-ed heading: "Satire: Rumsfeld Should Stay." Only when I followed the link did I realize that of course this was William Safire, not an amusing Satire. But, oddly, the effect is much the same.Today's Safire column, "Sarin? What Sarin?", is awful.
I blogged about the Sarin Monday, so I'll try to make some new points as I dissect Safire's latest:
You never saw such a rush to dismiss this as not news. U.N. weapons inspectors whose reputations rest on denial of Saddam's W.M.D. pooh-poohed the report. "It doesn't strike me as a big deal," said David Kay.David Kay, of course, was not merely a "UN weapons inspector." He headed the Iraq Survey Group for the Bush administration.
"Sarin Bomb Is Likely a Leftover From the 80's" was USA Today's Page 10 brushoff; maybe the terrorists didn't know their shell was loaded with sarin. Besides, say our lionized apostles of defeat, a poison-gas bomb does not a "stockpile" make. Even the Defense Department, on the defensive, strained not to appear alarmist, saying confirmation was needed for the field tests.Safire's point: "Confirmation? Ha! Why should we need facts?"
Many field tests in Iraq have identified the presence of chemical weapons and to-date, none have found any upon further examination.
In this rush to misjudgment, we can see an example of the "Four Noes" that have become the defeatists' platform.The tide on WMD didn't turn until Kay said "we were all wrong." No stockpiles have been found and the US didn't even bother guarding many of the mostly highly suspect sites.
The first "no" is no stockpiles of W.M.D., used to justify the war, were found. With the qualifier "so far" left out, the absence of evidence is taken to be evidence of absence. In weeks or years to come — when the pendulum has swung, and it becomes newsworthy to show how cut-and-runners in 2004 were mistaken — logic suggests we will see a rash of articles and blockbuster books to that end.
These may well reveal the successful concealment of W.M.D., as well as prewar shipments thereof to Syria and plans for production and missile delivery, by Saddam's Special Republican Guard and fedayeen, as part of his planned guerrilla war — the grandmother of all battles. The present story line of "Saddam was stupid, fooled by his generals" would then be replaced by "Saddam was shrewder than we thought."Is Safire wish-casting? What is very clear is that there was no vast infrastructure of WMD programs and no readily deployable arsenal. The nuclear program was dead. No one denies Iraq had chemical weapons in the 1980s and that scientists could again make them. What is the appropriate level of threat justifying preventive war?
This will be especially true for bacteriological weapons, which are small and easier to hide. In a sovereign and free Iraq, when germ-warfare scientists are fearful of being tried as prewar criminals, their impetus will be to sing — and point to caches of anthrax and other mass killers.A vial is easy to hide. A lab with equipment, not so easy.
Defeatism's second "no" is no connection was made between Saddam and Al Qaeda or any of its terrorist affiliates. This is asserted as revealed truth with great fervor, despite an extensive listing of communications and meetings between Iraqi officials and terrorists submitted to Congress months ago.The DoD disavowed the list. As did the CIA. This is the biggest red herring among all the red herrings.
Most damning is the rise to terror's top rank of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who escaped Afghanistan to receive medical treatment in Baghdad. He joined Ansar al-Islam, a Qaeda offshoot whose presence in Iraq to murder Kurds at Saddam's behest was noted in this space in the weeks after 9/11. His activity in Iraq was cited by President Bush six months before our invasion. Osama's disciple Zarqawi is now thought to be the televised beheader of a captive American.News reports suggest that the administration had several opportunities to kill Zarqawi before making the case to attack Iraq -- but didn't, apparently because it would have weakened their case for war. The terrorist was apparently hiding in Kurdish territory before the war and was certainly no tool of Saddam Hussein.
Moreover, Zarqawi is Jordanian and apparently has a prosthetic leg. The CNN linquist says the speaker on the video was not Jordanian and many viewers say the killer did not have a prosthetic leg.
The third "no" is no human-rights high ground can be claimed by us regarding Saddam's torture chambers because we mistreated Iraqi prisoners. This equates sleep deprivation with life deprivation, illegal individual humiliation with official mass murder. We flagellate ourselves for mistreatment by a few of our guards, who will be punished; he delightedly oversaw the shoveling of 300,000 innocent Iraqis into unmarked graves. Iraqis know the difference.Outrageous. The DoD is investigating 5, 10 or 12 homicides (depending upon which source can be believed), along with rape and other abuses. This is not sleep deprivation. Did Safire hear Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC)?
The fourth "no" is no Arab nation is culturally ready for political freedom and our attempt to impose democracy in Iraq is arrogant Wilsonian idealism.Imposing democracy is very, very difficult anywhere. Start ticking off successes and then compare the precursor conditions to Iraq. Still optimistic?
What evidence suggests that the best way to democratize a nation is via preventive war? What route was employed for South Africa? Nicaragua? Eastern Europe?
I have a blog read by maybe 75 people on an average day. Safire gets the NYT op-ed page.
Update: Matt Yglesias says this is Safire's "time warp."
Demagogue was on it today too.