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Thursday, February 19, 2004

Humanitarian intervention?

As I've often noted, the 2000 Bush campaign went to great lengths to emphasize that the US should only use force when a US "vital interest" is at stake. Bush openly repudiated the so-called Clinton Doctrine, which was essentially the "promise" (Secretary of State Madeleine Albright hedged on its universality) of US action to stop genocidal acts:
"we can say to the people of the world, whether you live in Africa, or Central Europe, or any other place, if somebody comes after innocent civilians and tries to kill them en masse because of their race, their ethnic background or their religion, and it's within our power to stop it, we will stop it."
Now, of course, with the failure to find WMD in Iraq and the lack of "smoking gun" evidence linking Iraq to al Qaeda, many Republicans are stressing the humanitarian side of the "Operation Iraqi Freedom."

This is just bunk.

Here's Vice President Cheney on "Meet the Press" just a few days before the war started:
MR. RUSSERT: The Los Angeles Times wrote an editorial about the administration and its rationale for war. And let me read it to you and give you a chance to respond: “The Bush administration’s months of attempts to justify quick military action against Iraq have been confusing and unfocused. It kept giving different reasons for invasion. First, it was to disarm Hussein and get him out. Then, as allies got nervous about outside nations deciding ‘regime change,’ the administration for a while rightly stressed disarmament only. Next, the administration was talking about ‘nation-building’ and using Iraq as the cornerstone of creating democracy in the Arab/Muslim world. And that would probably mean U.S. occupation of Iraq for some unspecified time, at open-ended cost. Then, another tactic: The administration tried mightily, and failed, to show a connection between Hussein and the 9/11 perpetrators, Al Qaeda. Had there been real evidence that Hussein was behind the 9/11 attacks, Americans would have lined up in support of retaliation.”

What do you think is the most important rationale for going to war with Iraq?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I think I’ve just given it, Tim, in terms of the combination of his development and use of chemical weapons, his development of biological weapons, his pursuit of nuclear weapons.
End of answer.

Russert, as Josh Marshall noted yesterday, went on to ask Cheney about the IAEA's then-fresh declaration that Iraq had no nuclear program. None.

Cheney said the CIA disagreed. Ha! This fails the laugh test. Look at CIA Director Tenet's recent speech about the evidence CIA provided pre-war:
We said Saddam did not have a nuclear weapon and, probably would have been unable to make one until 2007 to 2009.
Then, Cheney said that the IAEA didn't know what they were talking about:
I disagree, yes. And you’ll find the CIA, for example, and other key parts of our intelligence community disagree....We know that based on intelligence that he has been very, very good at hiding these kinds of efforts. He’s had years to get good at it and we know he has been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons. And we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons. I think Mr. ElBaradei frankly is wrong. And I think if you look at the track record of the International Atomic Energy Agency and this kind of issue, especially where Iraq's concerned, they have consistently underestimated or missed what it was Saddam Hussein was doing. I don't have any reason to believe they're any more valid this time than they've been in the past.
Of course, as Kenneth Pollack points out in the January/February Atlantic, it's actually very hard to hide a significant nuclear program and US intelligence agencies became incredibly dependent upon UN and IAEA inspectors through the 1990s.

The inspectors were the source of the key US intelligence!

This is all important because the President is now saying that everyone -- the Congress, the Clinton administration, the UN Security Council -- believed Iraq had WMD.

That would leave the administration blameless for starting an unprovoked war without a "vital national interest."

But the problem, as anyone can see, is that events changed dramatically from October/November, when the Congress and Security Council acted, to March, when Bush went to war, precisely because of the return of the UN and IAEA inspectors.

By March, the "mushroom cloud" fear was gone. Only the Bush people, who distrusted the inspectors, believed otherwise. Or ignored the evidence.

I'd like to hear some prominent Democrats say this pronto.

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