WMDs still MIA

Well, the great Iraqi WMD Hunt appears to be winding down.

Well, the great Iraqi WMD Hunt of 2003 appears to be winding down. The Associated Press reports:

Weapons-hunters are spending more time on base, intelligence experts have been reassigned to work on the counterinsurgency, and the man leading a search for chemical, biological and nuclear weapons is thinking of bowing out.

The conventional wisdom is that no one in the electorate cares anymore. Saddam’s been caught! “The war’s going great!”:http://gallup.com/poll/releases/pr031219.asp
But they should care, because — and this will come as no surprise, but I have to say it — this war was fought using the American people’s tax money and their sons and daughters. Since March 20, 548 troops from Coalition countries “have died”:http://lunaville.org/warcasualties/Summary.aspx, at the average rate of 1.6 a day.
Citizens should care because they were lied to. There’s really no polite way to say it, but the White House lied about the threat of Saddam’s WMDs to get the American people to support the war. And it worked. Now, $87 billion and almost 550 dead soldiers later, the hunt is almost played out.
“It’s probably time to call it quits,” said Hans Blix, the former chief U.N. weapons inspector, whose teams were given one-third the time the United States has spent looking for weapons.
“The U.S. and the U.K. are so wedded to the idea that the Iraqis were hiding things that they are not willing to explore the possibility that they’re wrong,” Blix said.
If there’s anything good that came out of the campaign of mass deception, I’d like to think that the American people won’t be fooled twice. Perhaps that realization hit Karl Rove, too, and may be another reason Washington and London chose to believe Col. Muammar al-Qadhafi when he said he would give up his WMDs and allow UN inspectors in. Because the White House couldn’t cry wolf twice, Qadhafi is now a man the West can do business with instead of a lyin’, theivin’, treacherous dictator, like Saddam Hussein.
But perhaps my faith in the common sense of the American people is misplaced. I mean, according to a recent Gallup poll, “53 percent of Americans think Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the 9/11 attacks”:http://gallup.com/poll/releases/pr031219.asp, _up_ 10 points from a similar poll take in September.
The American people were lied to — they should be angry. Instead, they’re still willingly believing lies.

Deal with a Devil

Since we’re dealing with devils in getting Libya to open up its weapons programs to inspectors, why wasn’t the same deal offered to Hussein?

Some thoughts on the Libyan developments of this weekend:

Libya has been working to shed its pariah image for years, but it still hasn’t gone far enough

There’s no doubt Libya has been a bad seed since the 1969 coup brought Col. Muammar Abu Minyar al-Qadhafi to power. His government exported terrorism, revolution and generally rocked the boat wherever possible. But because of the United Nations sanctions imposed in 1992 for the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988, Libya’s support for terrorism has been waning. In 1999, the sanctions were suspended and on Sept. 12, 2003, they were finally lifted. However, Libya is still a nasty place to live, with massive human rights violations on par with Saddam Hussein’s. Human Rights Watch says

Over the past three decades, Libya’s human rights record has been appalling. It has included the abduction, forced disappearance or assassination of political opponents; torture and mistreatment of detainees; and long-term detention without charge or trial or after grossly unfair trials. Today hundreds of people remain arbitrarily detained, some for over a decade, and there are serious concerns about treatment in detention and the fairness of procedures in several on-going high profile trials before the Peoples’ Courts. Libya has been a closed country for United Nations and non-governmental human rights investigators.

Sound familiar? By the way, today, Dec. 21, 2003 is the 15th anniversary of the Lockerbie attack that killed 270 people. Family members of the victims are not pleased with this deal. President Bush, in his remarks on Friday, made no mention of the bombing. So America gets to overlook a history of terrorism and human rights abuses and Qadhafi likely gets full diplomatic recognition and and end to the economic and diplomatic isolation that many Libyans resented. The unintended consequence will be that Col. Qadhafi just got a new lease on his political life, since this will allow him to crack down on dissent, much of which has been of the Islamist variety.

This leads me to another point:

Pointing to the Iraq war as the driving force in getting Libya to cooperate is just an attempt to claim a success from the debacle that Iraq has become.

British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon said, “We showed after Saddam Hussein failed to cooperate with the UN that we meant business and Libya, and I hope other countries, will draw that lesson.”

Hm. Have we? And will they? A good chunk of the U.S. military is tied down in Iraq, Afghanistan or otherwise engaged. It’s highly unlikely the U.S. could mount another military campaign to topple a government even if it had good reason to do so. The threat of a Iraq-sized invasion is an empty one and Iran, Sudan, North Korea and, yes, Libya know it.

Instead of fearing the Bush Doctrine of preemptive attacks, “bad guy” countries can see that possessing WMDs is a good way to wring concessions from a superpower they might not have received otherwise. Because the U.S. doesn’t have any other choice. It’s these rogue nations with WMDs that are arguing from a position of strength, not the U.S.

President Bush said on Friday,

We obtained an additional United Nations Security Council Resolution requiring Saddam Hussein to prove that he had disarmed, and when that resolution was defied, we led a coalition to enforce it. All of these actions by the United States and our allies have sent an unmistakable message to regimes that seek or possess weapons of mass destruction. Those weapons do not bring influence or prestige. They bring isolation and otherwise unwelcome consequences. (Emphasis added.)

Some problems with that. No Iraqi weapons of mass destruction have been found. Iraq said it didn’t have them, and damned if Saddam’s regime wasn’t telling the truth this time. The whole world thinks the WMD charge is a MacGuffin. By the way, the resolution Bush mentioned, UNSCR 1441, said:

The Security Council, …

Decides that, in order to begin to comply with its disarmament obligations, in addition to submitting the required biannual declarations, the Government of Iraq shall provide to UNMOVIC, the IAEA, and the Council, not later than 30 days from the date of this resolution, a currently accurate, full, and complete declaration of all aspects of its programmes to develop chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, and other delivery systems such as unmanned aerial vehicles and dispersal systems designed for use on aircraft, including any holdings and precise locations of such weapons, components, sub-components, stocks of agents, and related material and equipment, the locations and work of its research, development and production facilities, as well as all other chemical, biological, and nuclear programmes, including any which it claims are for purposes not related to weapon production or material; …

all of which it appears now Iraq actually did. The government of Iraq said they didn’t have any unconventional weapons and — whaddya know?! — they didn’t.

I was as surprised as anyone. I called the 7,000-page Iraqi declaration that the country was “devoid of weapons of mass destruction” a suicide note, and wondered what the Iraqis were up to. (Note to consistency watchers: Before the war, I believed Saddam possessed some kind of unconventional arsenal, just not one worth going to war over. Some chems, certainly, maybe some biologicals, no nukes — that was my guess. I was wrong.)

Placing the Libyan deal in the context of the Iraq war is what is so infuriating. Actually, it’s this administration’s shifting rationales, attempts to claim successes and cynical of-the-momentism that are really infuriating. I mean, the rationale for invading Iraq right this very minute was to disarm the country of WMDs and remove an imminent threat to the survival of the United States. When that threat (and the arsenal) were proven to be a lie — or a gross incompetence in reading intelligence data — the war became one of liberation. And now the United States makes a deal with an oppressive dictator who killed a lot of innocent civilians — and a fair number of Americans — in a string of terrorist attacks. And claims a failed policy and a quagmire were the reasons for this bit of good news.

Don’t get me wrong: It’s a good thing that Libya has agreed to give up its unconventional weapons programs; any successes in ridding the world of nasty weapons are welcome. But let’s not kid ourselves here. This is a deal with a devil, and the U.S. is making it because it has no other choice; forcible regime change is out of the question because the U.S. doesn’t have the resources. This is a big win for Qadhafi, a smaller win for American and Britain, and a wash for the people of Libya who now have a leader with a softened image, but still a fist of iron.

*UPDATE 12/22* Juan Cole has some “excellent thoughts”:http://www.juancole.com/2003_12_01_juancole_archive.html#107199393231717277 on this issue. George over at Warblogging.com also “weighs in”:http://www.warblogging.com/archives/000780.php, and includes a handy “dictator comparison chart.” And Josh Marshall, again, “finds a real nugget”:http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/week_2003_12_21.html#002338 in the Pakistan connection to Libya’s WMD programs.

Matching donations

Donations are up, and a generous offer is received.

Wow. I’m incredibly grateful that so many are willing to donate. One contributor, a gentleman I’ll call “currencia,” has offered to match, dollar for dollar, any donations that come in between now and 5 p.m. on Dec. 24. (Up to $1,000.) Since Currencia made his offer, $210 has come in.
Thank you all. We’re way further ahead at this point than last time, where it took *five months* to get to more than $2,000. This time, we’ve reached that point in less than three weeks. With the amount donated, plus my own savings, I’ll be able to get a bullet-proof vest (about $1,000), Arabic lessons and other logistic expenses, such as plane tickets, visas, deposits, etc.
Thank you so much, everyone. Your support, especially at this time of year, really means a lot. Happy holidays.

Boston TV stations nix “C-SPAN Baghdad”

Most local Boston television stations are refusing to use the Pentagon-sponsored footage out of Baghdad, nicknamed “C-SPAN Baghdad.”

Most local Boston television stations are refusing to use the Pentagon-sponsored footage out of Baghdad, dubbed “C-SPAN Baghdad,” which “I wrote”:http://www.back-to-iraq.com/archives/000489.php#000489 about earlier this month.

“I’m kind of appalled by it. I think it’s very troubling,” said Charles Kravetz, vice president of news at the regional cable news outlet NECN. “I think the government has no business being in the news business.”
“We have no interest in this,” said WBZ-TV (Channel 4) news director Peter Brown. “The Fourth Estate is independent and should remain so. As news providers, we should go there and see for ourselves.”

Government officials deny the footage is an effort on the part of the Pentagon to manage the news coming out of Iraq.

“Basically, this provides us with the ability to feed back briefing materials and the substance of what is happening in Baghdad to the Pentagon … on a real-time basis,” [said Dorrence Smith, a former ABC newsman now working for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq and the man in charge of C-SPAN Baghdad.] “It’s for one or for all as opposed to the very few media who are here in Baghdad.”

Smith, by the way, is the guy who managed President Bush’s media strategy in the Florida recount in 2000. And if that doesn’t make your blood pressure go up a bit, a Department of Defense spokesman Bryan Whitman stressed that while the project’s function is to provide live briefings back to the Pentagon, he “wouldn’t want to rule out anything in the future.”

Atrios over at Eschaton won’t give the stations any props for not running the feed, but I will — for now. Why don’t you readers send the guys at the stations feedback applauding them for living up to their Fourth Estate duties (in this case) and encourage them that their judgment in rejecting the feed is appreciated.

  • “WBZ-TV”:http://wbz4.com/feedback/
  • “WHDH”:http://www.whdh.com/contact/
  • “WCVB”:http://www.thebostonchannel.com/station/

Still, for all my bluster regarding C-SPAN Baghdad, I’m kind of inclined to agree with “Jack Shafer”:http://slate.msn.com/id/2092950/ over at “Slate”:http://www.slate.com, and not just because he links to me in the article. He’s of the mind that the Pentagon’s obvious efforts at propaganda will crash and burn because Americans are more likely to watch _Seinfeld_ than they are to watch empty military ceremonies and video of soldiers painting schools. He also makes the interesting observation that C-SPAN Baghdad will have the — surely unintentional — effect of putting the CPA and the administration on record regarding various goings-on in Iraq. “Such a record of their own making would make this administration much more accountable than they already are,” he writes. “If the propagandists insisted on putting a happy face on Iraq for U.S. news consumers while thousands of U.S. soldiers die and Iraqis riot, they would lose all credibility. But here they’re caught in a double-bind: If they tell the truth, they start converging upon the independent press’s mission and begin to negate their own raison d’etre.”
So while the Pentagon’s plan is execrable and an insulting waste of taxpayers’ money, if more local stations like those in Boston reject the feed and news consumers turn to a few of the upteen million media outlets that can counter the feed — like this one! “Send me back to Iraq!”:https://www.paypal.com/xclick/business=chris%40back-to-iraq.com&%0Aitem_name=Reports+from+the+%0AMiddle+East+by+an+independent+journalist — it’s likely the newest series from Bagdad will be cancelled before the next season.