The Echo Chamber
Saturday, August 31, 2002
  2:53 PM

For the life of me I can't quite figure out why escalating tension in Palestine has effected our strategy this year in the war on terror. The logic of having to negotiate with Palestinian terrorists before we can refuse to negotiate with and kill other terrorists escapes me.

According to Iraq Watch, in Great Britain this hyper-sensitivity to Palestinian terror has extended even to the releasing of information.

[I]n March, British Prime Minister Tony Blair's government was reported to be ready to release a dossier proving that Iraq had developed nuclear armaments beyond the blueprint stage, that it already possessed other unconventional weapons, and that it actively supported terrorism – possibly including Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network. In light of the tense situation in Palestine, however, Blair scrapped the plan to release it.
No wonder Saddam funds Palestinian terror. Western cowardice ensures Saddam gets his money's worth. 

Friday, August 30, 2002
  3:04 PM

Today's big buzz is this Asia Times story. 

  1:41 PM

Kevin McGehee has written a "Declaration of War" modeled after the "Declaration of Independence." I think this is an appropriate exercise because, as in 1776, our country is at a crossroads. In 1776 a conservative bunch of middle-aged men of property were moved by necessitous circumstances to start a revolution.

Now we are considering starting a war. This is not something that thoughtful, peace-loving people should undertake lightly. So, using the serious tone and high language of the original Declaration, McGehee sets out the reasons for attacking Iraq (I contributed the last indictment).

What's remarkable is how well the comparison holds up.  

Thursday, August 29, 2002
  1:41 PM

News you shouldn't miss: 

  11:20 AM

Late yesterday Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan stated that he wants to re-enter negotiations on the issue of inspectors.
"There's still room for diplomatic solutions to avert a war with the United States," Ramadan said during a brief visit to the northern Syrian city of Homs. Iraq, he added, was ready for dialogue, not surrender.
This ploy is aimed right at the Europeans: You see how reasonable we are? We want to talk, not fight. War can be averted if only those war-mongering cowboys in Washington can be brought to the table.

Those who are tempted to accept this Iraqi "good will" should ask themselves what Saddam hopes to gain. Of course Saddam knows he will lose a war with the United States and will be killed or otherwise driven from power. This would be rather inconvenient for someone who cares for nothing except maintaining and expanding his power. So Saddam hopes to avert war in order to stay in power. And this is predictable and even understandable.

But Saddam also hopes to buy time. According to U.S. Vice President Cheney,

[W]e now know that [since the Persian Gulf War] Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. Among other sources, we've gotten this from the firsthand testimony of defectors -- including Saddam's own son-in-law, who was subsequently murdered at Saddam's direction. Many of us are convinced that Saddam will acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon.

Just how soon, we cannot really gauge. Intelligence is an uncertain business, even in the best of circumstances... Prior to the Gulf War, America's top intelligence analysts would come to my office in the Defense Department and tell me that Saddam Hussein was at least five or perhaps even 10 years away from having a nuclear weapon. After the war we learned that he had been much closer than that, perhaps within a year of acquiring such a weapon.

Saddam saw that conventional war with the United States got him nowhere. So what should we think he's done with his time and money since then? Can you imagine Saddam spending his limited resources upgrading his tanks and air force so he can defeat us conventionally? Not a chance. He's worked on little else but his nuclear program. All Saddam needs a just a little time to get that nuke, then he can be the tyrant he's always dreamed of.

Cheney again:

Armed with an arsenal of these weapons of terror, and seated atop ten percent of the world's oil reserves, Saddam Hussein could then be expected to seek domination of the entire Middle East, take control of a great portion of the world's energy supplies, directly threaten America's friends throughout the region, and subject the United States or any other nation to nuclear blackmail.
Delay at this point would be almost as bad as just shipping him a nuke ourselves.


Wednesday, August 28, 2002
  10:35 AM

Ken Adelman would like to know what the hold-up is:
In his book "Saddam's Bombmaker," Mr. Hamza describes how Saddam--after Israel obliterated his Osirak nuclear plant in June 1981--decided not to put all Iraq's nuclear assets in one basket. Iraqi uranium enrichment facilities were spread around--some behind farmhouse façades, some disguised to look like schools or warehouses. International inspections would need a veritable army to cover this expansive covert program.

Every day Mr. Bush holds off liberating Iraq is another day endangering America. Posing as a "patient man," he risks a catastrophic attack. Should that attack occur and be traced back to an Iraqi WMD facility, his presidency would be relegated to the ash heap of history.

Why risk that? Why risk us? The case is compelling--at least to anyone open to reason and logic.

So who is Ken Adelman?
Mr. Adelman was assistant to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld from 1975 to 1977, and U.N. ambassador and arms-control director under President Reagan. He is currently on the Defense Policy Board.
Bush knows the risk. So when are we going? After we assemble a coalition?
"It's less important to have unanimity than it is making the right decision and doing the right thing, even though at the outset it may seem lonesome," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Tuesday.
So we're going it alone, right?
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said on Wednesday that Washington was confident it could convince skeptical allies to back military action against Iraq, and would be "moving forward" at the right time.
But we have at least decided to do this, right?
After President Bush met at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, with Saudi Arabia's Prince Bandar bin Sultan, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Bush told the Saudi ambassador he had not yet decided whether to attack.

Theory: we learned from our enemy. Remember the Al-Qaeda chatter that was off-the-chart in the days preceding September 11? The C.I.A. knew something was up, but the volume of conflicting signals kept us from being able to forecast when, where, or how we would be hit.

Imagine being the head intelligence analyst for Saddam right now. I wonder what his life expectancy will be when its discovered he's made a bad forecast.


Tuesday, August 27, 2002
  9:52 AM

The big buzz yesterday was Vice President Cheney's speech to the VFW Convention. Cheney spends the first part of the speech reviewing successes in the War so far. In paragraph 23 which begins, "But the challenges to our country...," Cheney turns the corner and speaks about the dangers we face today and what we must do. At this point Cheney systematically defeats the arguments against regime-change in Iraq. So, with apologies to the Vice-President and his speech writers, I've reformatted selections of this speech as an interview.

We never had to go to war directly with the Soviets, why must we begin a shooting war with Saddam?

In the days of the Cold War, we were able to manage the threat with strategies of deterrence and containment. But it's a lot tougher to deter enemies who have no country to defend. And containment is not possible when dictators obtain weapons of mass destruction, and are prepared to share them with terrorists who intend to inflict catastrophic casualties on the United States.
Why not just send in inspectors (assuming Saddam would let them in)?
Saddam [has] devised an elaborate program to conceal his active efforts to build chemical and biological weapons...

I'll cite one instance. During the spring of 1995, the inspectors were actually on the verge of declaring that Saddam's programs to develop chemical weapons and longer-range ballistic missiles had been fully accounted for and shut down. Then Saddam's son-in-law suddenly defected and began sharing information. Within days the inspectors were led to an Iraqi chicken farm. Hidden there were boxes of documents and lots of evidence regarding Iraq's most secret weapons programs. That should serve as a reminder to all that we often learned more as the result of defections than we learned from the inspection regime itself.

To the dismay of the inspectors, they in time discovered that Saddam had kept them largely in the dark about the extent of his program to mass produce VX, one of the deadliest chemicals known to man. And far from having shut down Iraq's prohibited missile programs, the inspectors found that Saddam had continued to test such missiles, almost literally under the noses of the U.N. inspectors.

Against that background, a person would be right to question any suggestion that we should just get inspectors back into Iraq, and then our worries will be over. Saddam has perfected the game of cheat and retreat, and is very skilled in the art of denial and deception. A return of inspectors would provide no assurance whatsoever of his compliance with U.N. resolutions. On the contrary, there is a great danger that it would provide false comfort that Saddam was somehow "back in his box."

Oh, comeon, there are about a half-dozen declared nuclear powers in the world today including one that is Islamic, just how bad would it be for Saddam to have nukes?
[If Saddam obtained a nuclear weapon, then] the whole range of weapons of mass destruction would rest in the hands of a dictator who has already shown his willingness to use such weapons, and has done so, both in his war with Iran and against his own people. Armed with an arsenal of these weapons of terror, and seated atop ten percent of the world's oil reserves, Saddam Hussein could then be expected to seek domination of the entire Middle East, take control of a great portion of the world's energy supplies, directly threaten America's friends throughout the region, and subject the United States or any other nation to nuclear blackmail.
You know there are people, especially in Europe, who think of your administration as a bunch of gung-ho cowboys eager to take unilateral and thoughtless action without even consulting the U.S. Congress. What do you say?
In the face of such a threat [from Iraq], we must proceed with care, deliberation, and consultation with our allies. I know our president very well. I've worked beside him as he directed our response to the events of 9/11. I know that he will proceed cautiously and deliberately to consider all possible options to deal with the threat that an Iraq ruled by Saddam Hussein represents. And I am confident that he will, as he has said he would, consult widely with the Congress and with our friends and allies before deciding upon a course of action. He welcomes the debate that has now been joined here at home, and he has made it clear to his national security team that he wants us to participate fully in the hearings that will be held in Congress next month on this vitally important issue.

We will profit as well from a review of our own history... For the United States, [World War II] began on December 7, 1941, with the attack on Pearl Harbor and the near-total destruction of our Pacific Fleet. Only then did we recognize the magnitude of the danger to our country. Only then did the Axis powers fully declare their intentions against us. By that point, many countries [including countries in Europe] had fallen. Many millions had died. And our nation was plunged into a two-front war resulting in more than a million American casualties. To this day, historians continue to analyze that war, speculating on how we might have prevented Pearl Harbor, and asking what actions might have averted the tragedies that rate among the worst in human history.

But here we would be starting a war. Americans are a peaceful people. We shouldn't start wars should we?
[F]ormer Secretary of State Kissinger recently stated: "The imminence of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the huge dangers it involves, the rejection of a viable inspection system, and the demonstrated hostility of Saddam Hussein combine to produce an imperative for preemptive action." If the United States could have preempted 9/11, we would have, no question. Should we be able to prevent another, much more devastating attack, we will, no question. This nation will not live at the mercy of terrorists or terror regimes.
Look, I'll concede that Saddam is evil, power-hungry, and a menace -- but until he crosses the threshold of actually possessing nuclear weapons, we as a peace-loving nation should rule out any preemptive action.
That logic seems to me to be deeply flawed. [Your] argument comes down to this: yes, Saddam is as dangerous as we say he is, we just need to let him get stronger before we do anything about it.

Yet if we did wait until that moment, Saddam would simply be emboldened, and it would become even harder for us to gather friends and allies to oppose him. As one of those who worked to assemble the Gulf War coalition, I can tell you that our job then would have been infinitely more difficult in the face of a nuclear-armed Saddam Hussein. And many of those who now argue that we should act only if he gets a nuclear weapon, would then turn around and say that we cannot act because he has a nuclear weapon. At bottom, that argument counsels a course of inaction that itself could have devastating consequences for many countries, including our own.

Wouldn't this course of action add to the suffering of innocent people in that region and inflame hatred for the U.S. on the Arab "street"?
I believe the opposite is true. Regime change in Iraq would bring about a number of benefits to the region. When the gravest of threats are eliminated, the freedom-loving peoples of the region will have a chance to promote the values that can bring lasting peace. As for the reaction of the Arab "street," the Middle East expert Professor Fouad Ajami predicts that after liberation, the streets in Basra and Baghdad are "sure to erupt in joy in the same way the throngs in Kabul greeted the Americans." Extremists in the region would have to rethink their strategy of Jihad. Moderates throughout the region would take heart. And our ability to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process would be enhanced, just as it was following the liberation of Kuwait in 1991.
So we get rid of Saddam, what are we going to do to keep another equally bad dictator from coming to power?
In other times the world saw how the United States defeated fierce enemies, then helped rebuild their countries, forming strong bonds between our peoples and our governments. Today in Afghanistan, the world is seeing that America acts not to conquer but to liberate, and remains in friendship to help the people build a future of stability, self-determination, and peace.

We would act in that same spirit after a regime change in Iraq. With our help, a liberated Iraq can be a great nation once again. Iraq is rich in natural resources and human talent, and has unlimited potential for a peaceful, prosperous future. Our goal would be an Iraq that has territorial integrity, a government that is democratic and pluralistic, a nation where the human rights of every ethnic and religious group are recognized and protected. In that troubled land all who seek justice, and dignity, and the chance to live their own lives, can know they have a friend and ally in the United States of America.


Monday, August 26, 2002
  2:29 PM

I’ve been following links between Saddam’s regime and terrorism (here and here) as they are aired by the media. Yesterday, the Telegraph reported that Iraq killed the notorious terrorist Abu Nidal because he refused to reactivate his terrorist organization in cooperation with al-Qa'eda.
With the prospect increasing of the US launching a military campaign to overthrow Saddam, however, the Iraqi dictator was keen to combine Abu Nidal's expertise with the enthusiasm of al-Qa'eda's fanatical fighters to launch a fresh wave of terror attacks. In this way, Saddam hoped to disrupt Washington's plans to overthrow him.
Saddam has been using the Palestinian uprising as a disruption to keep Washington from acting, so its not surprising that the Telegraph thinks Saddam wants to use al-Qa’eda the same way.

But I think Saddam’s plans for al-Qa’eda are bigger than that. Al-Qa’eda can’t be used as a disruption the same way the Palestinian-Israeli conflict could. Saddam can’t be directly blamed for that conflict. But it is well known that al-Qa’eda is present in Iraq and is operating with the support and encouragement of Saddam’s regime. Saddam would be blamed for an al-Qa’eda attack and it would mean his instant death. So, attempting to use al-Qa’eda as a mere disruption would not work and Saddam knows it. So why would Saddam want anything to do with this organization?

Saddam has weapons of mass destruction (chemical, if not yet nuclear). What he doesn’t have is an ICBM to deliver such a weapon to our doorstep. That’s where al-Qa’eda steps in.

What al-Qa’eda gets from Saddam is a place of refuge and money, technology or other support. Saddam gets a world-wide weapons delivery service. Since Saddam knows he would get blamed for such an attack, I think he would set up a "doomsday" scenario to go into effect upon his death or ouster as revenge. Or, perhaps Saddam is deluded enough to think that a pre-emptive strike with a weapon of mass destruction could make us rethink taking him on.

Either way, the U.S. has to act fast to dismantle the Iraqi-Qa'eda alliance before it can attack or blackmail us. 

Sunday, August 25, 2002
  7:25 AM

Chris Weinkopf has a theory about the leaking of the Defense Policy Board briefing earlier this month. It was intentional warning.
What the Bush Administration may have been trying to express to Iraq last week by way of an “unfortunate” leak was that the House of Saud has much more to lose should it get on the wrong side of the millennium’s first great war. It was an unsubtle message to Crown Prince Abdullah: We are not blind to your depravity, your duplicity, your complicity in evil. America has the good sense to take on her enemies one at a time, but take on her enemies she will, and your regime would be wise not to remain one of them.


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