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Subject: Why the Critics are Wrong
Harold C. Hutchison    9/29/2004 11:21:51 PM

Before Operation Iraqi Freedom, there have been critics. Some of these critics are now saying, “I told you so.” The critics are wrong. Iraq was becoming a serious problem. The sanctions were collapsing. It is now known that the Oil-for-Food program was, at best compromised, if not thoroughly corrupted. Saddam was also attempting terrorist attacks – including an operation whose target was former President George Bush. Saddam Hussein was not rehabilitating by any stretch of the imagination. If anything, he was determined to strike back, and he was seeking help to do so. As Stephen F. Hayes documented in The Connection, there were contacts (at a minimum) between Saddam’s regime and some al-Qaeda operatives.

First, let’s state for the record that 9/11 changed how threats have to be viewed. We saw what terrorists were able to do with boxcutters and knives – they were able to turn four wide-body airliners (767s and 757s) into makeshift cruise missiles that killed 3,000 people. What fiendish result could occur from a weapon of mass destruction (WMD)? Imagine what the reaction from the American people would be had WMD been used. American policy should the United States be attacked by WMD is to respond in kind. For the record, America’s only WMD are nuclear. I’m no dove, but I have an aversion to killing innocent people who just happen to live in the wrong city because a dictator (be it a theocratic dictator or the garden-variety dictator) decided that providing terrorists WMD was an acceptable course of action.

So, how should the United States avoid being placed in the position of having to kill millions because a state sponsor of terrorism provided al-Qaeda or some other group (say, Hezbollah or Hamas) with WMD? Well, one option is to trust to the good graces of these dictators – the good news being that if nothing happens, things go great. The problem is, history has shown that dictators tend to not have good graces –to say nothing of having morals or judgement. The second option is to try to hunt down the terrorist cells. The problem is, these groups are tough to find, and they may have active cells in cities across the globe. Also, for each terrorist cell rounded up, others go to ground – and the groups usually keep training and producing new terrorists. Option three is to roll back the state sponsors of terror. While this can cause greater terrorist activity early on, these state sponsors provide places where terrorists can train – and acquire weapons. Of course, these options can be combined.

But which to take? We need to decide where we wish to fight al-Qaeda and these other groups: Do we fight them in their back yard (Afghanistan and Iraq), or do we fight it out in our shopping malls, bus stations, pizza parlors, and schoolyards? It’s better, particularly given the risks of allowing terrorists to get WMD, to roll up the state sponsors, and fight them there while using other resources to round up the cells as quickly as possible.

Which leads us to Iraq. First, it was necessary to deal with Saddam one way or the other. Allegations of links between Iraq and al-Qaeda (particularly the Prague meetings between Mohammed Atta and Ahmed al-Ani, and the case of Ahmed Hikmat Shakir) have not been disproven. There really are only two explanations for these two cases: Either Saddam and al-Qaeda were cooperating to some extent, or al-Qaeda had the Mukhabarat penetrated. Either way, Iraq was becoming a threat – the cooperation would be a way for Saddam Hussein to break containment, the penetration meant that Iraq was being subverted by al-Qaeda. Either way, the nascent WMD programs (which the Iraq Survey Group has documented), could have fallen into the hands of Osama bin Laden.

The second reason the critics are wrong about the decision to enact regime change in Iraq is simple: By liberating Iraq, the United States and her allies have seized the strategic initiative. A functioning democracy in Iraq is fatal to al-Qaeda. While liberating Afghanistan was a start, it was merely a counter-attack, a response to 9/11. Liberating Iraq was seizing the strategic initiative – opening a new front in the war on terrorism – and removing one of the most likely states to hand over WMD to terrorists (Saddam used WMD against his own citizens, does anybody really think that he would have had any objection to handing over WMD for use against “infidels”?).

The initiative is important. A war cannot be won on defense – it is won on offense. On offense, you only need to get lucky once – on defense, you must be lucky every time. Critics of liberating Iraq should explain to the American people why they want to rely on luck to protect this country as opposed to action.

 
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Ashley-the-man    RE:Why the Critics are Wrong   9/30/2004 1:14:31 PM
Well Done.
 
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billb    RE:Why the Critics are Wrong   9/30/2004 2:33:59 PM
Pretty good, nicely succinct. The one major thing I think you left out is whether or not putting ourselves in Iraq is stimulating Muslims to become anti-American, or more sympathetic to Al Quaeda, or even join up and become terrorist. Probably all three responses are arising from the world Muslim community as a result of our being there. I think it is ridiculous, however, to think that putting ourselves there is some kind of strategy that prevents terrorists from coming to America. Certainly it does allow our excellent troops the opportunity to shoot the idiots who decide to go up against them. It is a great strategy for killing some of them. But does it logically follow that being there is some kind of "wall" that stops them from coming here? Or that by killing several thousand of them there that we are really draining the swamp? I wish it were so, but being there seems to be attracting more mosquitoes to the swamp (Iraq), and unfortunately also attracting more mosquitoes to the cause of fighting America. We are deluding ourselves if we think killing numbers is the same as winning the war. Many of your readers probably were not alive in Vietnam, but remember that from about 1965 to about 1971 we continued to be proud of the numbers game...we really believed that because we were killing so many of them that they were going to quit. And don't you believe that now we realize we were wrong in that belief? So let's reexamine our belief in Iraq being a front to reduce the number of terrorists. I am not saying that invading Iraq may not pay off. But certainly at this moment we shouldn't be deluding ourself that a war should be the keystone of our strategy. The ultimate strategy is what works, and a purely military solution is not going to be enough. I only wish that the Iraqi people did not remind me so much of either corrupt South Vietnamese or wimpy pushovers who do not feel loyalty enough to their country to fight for it. Because in addition to a military strategy, the solution must be political...i.e., it must be Iraqi political, it must be they who create their country and not us. So in the end, this does not depend on us. We will see, we will see.
 
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Ashley-the-man    RE:Why the Critics are Wrong   10/1/2004 3:27:50 AM
"I think it is ridiculous, however, to think that putting ourselves there is some kind of strategy that prevents terrorists from coming to America. " This is the kind of linear reasoning that prevents you and similar critics from thinking outside the box. Al qaeda at its roots has a goal to overthrow what they perceive as (and with justification) corrupt Arab governments. The campaign that bin Laden started against the United States is a bastard child of the movement. The Egyptians who opposed their corrupt government had no use for bin laden and his war against the Americans and Europeans. It becomes obvious in hindsight that bin Laden chose to pick on the US out of his own vain glorious motives. Attacking the US directly and our symbols, financial at the WTC, military at the Pentagon, political at the Capitol or White House would heat up our reaction to bin Laden and give him enormous visibility and sympathy in the Arab world. Nevermind that he gave up on attacking the Saudi princes, he now had a bigger stage. Then there is the issue of attracting followers to his regressive religion that would never be accepted by the various peoples he claimed to represent. Of all the corrupt regimes in the Middle East, Iraq and Saddam were the most corrupt. Corruption does not wither away. It saped and weakened the Soviet Union for over 70 years. The United States and the West waged a cold war with communism for 45 years. Now in Iraq we have an opportunity to give an Arab state the opportunity to develop a culture that is not ruled by corruption and tyrany. Doing so means that the US will continue to be despised as a presense in the Middle East, but also pull the rug out from the original intent of al qaeda. The strategy in Iraq is risky - but so also was building thousands of nuclear weapons and pointing them at the Soviet Union and various other communist governments. The one strategy paid off in the long run. The other has a promise to be successful - if allowed to continue.
 
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billb    RE:Why the Critics are Wrong   10/4/2004 3:58:21 PM
You're unclear-- you quote me: "I think it is ridiculous, however, to think that putting ourselves there is some kind of strategy that prevents terrorists from coming to America." but then you lay out three points that really don't have much in common with my point. You say: 1) that attacking the U.S. is a wise strategy for bin Laden, 2)that establishing a stable democracy in Iraq will pull the rug out of al Qaeda, 3)admit that the strategy is risky but that it will be worth it. In terms of your arguments, yes of course you are right, it is great public relations for Al Qaeda to attack America, both here and in Iraq. Not sure what your point was there. As regards #2, again yes of course if democracy is established in Iraq that would be a good thing. Your point #3, that invading Iraq was worth the cost, is what is debateable. Finally, my point that putting our troops in Iraq will somehow cause al Qaeda to focus only on fighting in Iraq and therefore leave the continental U.S. alone, you really did not address. ON THE OTHER HAND (I'm not shouting, just trying to change the subject) if neither you nor Hutchison are making that claim -- that troops in Iraq keeps the U.S. homeland safe from attack -- I'll shut up about that. The real debate is whether getting into Iraq was smart. As I have said, I hope to hell it was, i.e., I hope Iraq can now become a democracy with a little help from us. I am just cynical that democracy can be installed in a tribal, theocratic culture. Democracy worked here in the U.S. because the people who moved here from England had been democrats (small d) for about a thousand years. Study your Sociology of the Saxons. OK, got to go, nice talking with you.
 
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Jeff_F_F       12/29/2006 11:44:07 AM
I'm not sure if Iraq was smart or not. But I'm not sure we had a choice, either. Once al Qaeda sent terroists to attack the WTC and Pentagon claiming as part of its justification 1,000,000 Iraqi children starved by American-led UN sanctions, I think there wasn't really another option. Unless you consider giving Saddam Hussein free reign an option. Now maybe there weren't really 1,000,000 iraqi children starved. However, the UNICEF estimate was half a million by 94, and that only included children under the age of 5. The Oil For Food program was such a disaster that two heads of the program resigned in protest. We'll never know the exact number, but it was an atrocity by any standard and it had to end.
 
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macawman       8/4/2007 4:45:53 PM

I'm not sure if Iraq was smart or not. But I'm not sure we had a choice, either. Once al Qaeda sent terroists to attack the WTC and Pentagon claiming as part of its justification 1,000,000 Iraqi children starved by American-led UN sanctions, I think there wasn't really another option. Unless you consider giving Saddam Hussein free reign an option. Now maybe there weren't really 1,000,000 iraqi children starved. However, the UNICEF estimate was half a million by 94, and that only included children under the age of 5. The Oil For Food program was such a disaster that two heads of the program resigned in protest. We'll never know the exact number, but it was an atrocity by any standard and it had to end.



 
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macawman       8/4/2007 5:09:45 PM
We should have completed the mission in Afganistan and provided a decent infrastructure before taking on Iraq.  Based upon what has happened, I feel that the Bush Adm. and his "legacy peacetime generals" would have messed that up as they have in Iraq, another feudal state.
 
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