My friend Kevin Drum takes on the war skeptics, who, as he says:
This meant that war skeptics had to go way out on a limb: if they opposed the war, and it subsequently turned out that Saddam had an advanced WMD program, their credibility would have been completely shot. Their only recourse would have been to argue that Saddam never would have used his WMD, an argument that, given Saddam’s temperament, would have sounded like special pleading even to most liberals. In the end, then, they chickened out, but it had more to do with fear of being wrong than with fear of being shunned by the foreign policy community.
Perhaps. His reasoning, and further commentary about the Very Serious Foreign Policy Community, with quotes from Atrios and Steve Clemons, is pretty good.
At any rate, it would be instructive to find out who these closet doves were and invite them to a Foreign Affairs roundtable to talk about why they knuckled under to the hawks prior to the war. To the extent they were willing to be honest, it would be a pretty interesting conversation. I won’t be holding my breath, though.
Dude. I was and still am a dove. Nothing closeted about me in that regard. I don’t have the large readership Kevin does, but there were and still are many writers on the national stage, as well as C-Level bloggers like me who were dead set against the war.
Below is some evidence, I think, that some indeed did think that the WMD talk was greatly overblown. But before we get to that, I have one word: containment. Here’s what 2 Very Serious Foreign Affairs guys said in Foreign Affairs magazine, Aug., 2004:
On the way to their misjudgments, it now appears, intelligence agencies and policymakers disregarded considerable evidence of the destruction and deterioration of Iraq’s weapons programs, the result of a successful strategy of containment in place for a dozen years. They consistently ignored volumes of data about the impact of sanctions and inspections on Iraq’s military strength.
Ya think? Saddam was smart enough to know that, after years of blockade, flyovers, and sanctions, that the US would bomb Baghdad instantly if any WMDs were used, anywhere in the Middle East, by his forces. It wouldn’t take a war-mongering GWBush to make that decision, it would have been made just as quickly by President Gore or President Kerry.
For those on the hawkish side of the Left who believed the hype (cough Peter Beinart cough), there was no real “trigger” in evidence, no “there” there. There was simply a belief that aggression was a better tool than containment and diplomacy. They were wrong. Sorry Kevin, we, the war skeptics, were right.
Here is more about the WMD sales pitch:
In 2002 David Kay, UNSCOM Chief said:
Iraq has not abandoned its efforts to acquire WMD. A recent defector has stated that an explicit order to reconstitute the nuclear teams was promulgated in August 1998; at the time Iraq ceased cooperation with UN-led inspections. There should be no doubt that Iraq, under Saddam, continues to seek nuclear weapons capability and that given the time it will devote the resources and technical manpower necessary to reach that goal.
Thing is, there was evidence before the war that Curveball, the above named defector, was feeding the US bullshit:
German officials said that they had warned American colleagues well before the Iraq war that Curveball’s information was not credible – but the warning was ignored.
It was the Iraqi defector’s testimony that led the Bush administration to claim that Saddam had built a fleet of trucks and railway wagons to produce anthrax and other deadly germs.
Here is a concise recount of the run up to the war from National Security Archive:
As a result of the U.S. and British campaign, and after prolonged negotiations between the United States, Britain, France, Russia and other U.N. Security Council members, the United Nations declared that Iraq would have to accept even more intrusive inspections than under the previous inspection regime – to be carried out by the U.N. Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – or face “serious consequences.” Iraq agreed to accept the U.N. decision and inspections resumed in late November 2002. On December 7, 2002, Iraq submitted its 12,000 page declaration, which claimed that it had no current WMD programs. Intelligence analysts from the United States and other nations immediately began to scrutinize the document, and senior U.S. officials quickly rejected the claims. (Note 2)
Over the next several months, inspections continued in Iraq, and the chief inspectors, Hans Blix (UNMOVIC) and Mohammed El Baradei (IAEA) provided periodic updates to the U.N. Security Council concerning the extent of Iraqi cooperation, what they had or had not discovered, and what they believed remained to be done. During that period the Bush administration, as well as the Tony Blair administration in the United Kingdom, charged that Iraq was not living up to the requirement that it fully disclose its WMD activities, and declared that if it continued along that path, “serious consequences” – that is, invasion – should follow.
The trigger for military action preferred by the British government, other allies, and at least some segments of the Bush administration, was a second U.N. resolution that would authorize an armed response. Other key U.N. Security Council members – including France, Germany, and Russia – argued that the inspections were working and that the inspectors should be allowed to continue. When it became apparent that the Council would not approve a second resolution, the United States and Britain terminated their attempts to obtain it. Instead, they, along with other allies, launched Operation Iraqi Freedom on March 19, 2003 – a military campaign that quickly brought about the end of Saddam Hussein’s regime and ultimately resulted in his capture. (Note 3)
FAIR has an overview of the media hype before the war:
By the time the war against Iraq began, much of the media had been conditioned to believe, almost as an article of faith, that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was bulging with chemical and biological weapons, despite years of United Nations inspections. Reporters dispensed with the formality of applying modifiers like “alleged” or “suspected” to Iraq’s supposed unconventional weapon stocks. Instead, they asked “what precise threat Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction pose to America” (NBC Nightly News, 1/27/03). They wrote matter-of-factly of Washington’s plans for a confrontation “over Iraq’s banned weapons programs” (Washington Post, 1/27/03). And they referred to debates over whether Saddam Hussein was “making a good-faith effort to disarm Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction” (Time, 2/3/03).
But here’s what Scott Ritter said in Sept., 2002:
I have never given Iraq a clean bill of health! Never! Never! I’ve said that no one has backed up any allegations that Iraq has reconstituted WMD capability with anything that remotely resembles substantive fact. To say that Saddam’s doing it is in total disregard to the fact that if he gets caught he’s a dead man and he knows it. Deterrence has been adequate in the absence of inspectors but this is not a situation that can succeed in the long term. In the long term you have to get inspectors back in.