- Asserting it was plausible that Saddam had been involved in 9/11.
- Asserting that terrorists attacked America on 9/11 because they "hate our freedoms".
- Claiming that "fighting them there makes it less likely we will have to fight them here".
- Claiming knowledge that Saddam had an active nuclear weapons program.
- Believing that Iraq's Shiites and Sunnis would react to liberation as well as Iraq's Kurds had done twelve years earlier.
The "War On Terror"Being a Palestinian sympathizer since Sabra and Shatila, I never bought the Bush "War On Terror" -- the idea that our enemies are psychopaths who love terrorism and hate freedom. I wrote on 2002-03-29:
[Israel] could easily require the West Bank to be demilitarized, and their nuclear arsenal insures that they will never be driven into the sea. Their main worry should be that if the occupation continues, one of these suicide bombers will eventually take out Tel Aviv with a nuke. I just hope they target Tel Aviv instead of D.C. or Manhattan, but guys like Osama are smarter than that. I still am amazed at how little post-9/11 discussion there has been about what would happen if Palestinian sympathizers had a nuke.
More children died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki [than in 9/11]. Technically, the Sep 11 attack on the Pentagon (like that on the Cole) wasn't terrorism, it was war. The WTC attack was terrorism, since its effects were so overwhelmingly intended to be psychological rather than industrial.
With the exception of (mainly the South's experience of) the Civil War, Americans have little real experience of how bad war can be. We lose as many people in one day as we lose in one month on our own highways, and we think that's a "war". That 9/11 was shocking to us only shows how secure and insulated we (still) are from the travails that most societies have suffered throughout history. [Infringement of civil liberties here in the United States] has to do with the "war on terror", not liberating Iraq. The two things aren't as connected as Bush would have you believe.
WMDMy long-standing concern over nuclear-armed terrorism by Palestinian sympathizers was the core of my only worry about Iraqi WMD. From the beginning my WMD focus was on nuclear weapons (instead of chemical or biological), and on Saddam's admitted past nuclear ambitions, rather than his current alleged programs. I never claimed to know Iraq had a WMD arsenal, and I wrote on 2003-04-11:
2004-04-17:Roy: "most of its weapons have been destroyed" If that were true, then why did Saddam resist weapons inspections? [...] I don't much care about Saddam's chemical or biological weapons. What I care about is his track record of trying to conquer territory from two neighboring countries, firing ballistic missiles at two others, and his UN-documented efforts to build nuclear weapons. [...] The danger of Saddam's WMD was not that his military might use them, but that he might install them in Manhattan and D.C. and then dictate terms.History will record that ending Saddam's tyranny and his prospects for wielding WMD was an act of moral courage.
Iraqi Civil War
My biggest mistake on Iraq was to believe that Iraq's Shiites and Sunnis would react to liberation as well as Iraq's Kurds had done twelve years earlier. On 2003-04-11, as Baghdad was liberated, I wrote a response to the Apr 2 Guardian article by Arundhati Roy:
It turned out that I was mistaken to believe the Iraqi people would use their liberation to strengthen civil society in Iraq. The Iraqi people themselves were mistaken about it too. In an April 2004 CNN/Gallup nationwide poll of Iraqis, 42% "said Iraq was better off because of the war", and 61% "said Saddam Hussein's ouster made it worth any hardships." In a nationwide poll of Iraqis completed in Mar 2004 for BBC by Oxford Research International, "56% said that things were better now than they were before the war". While agreeing with this Iraqi sentiment at the time, I had already started to caveat my hope that the Shiites would handle liberation as well as the Kurds:Roy: "Perhaps Bush means that even if Iraqi people's bodies are killed, their souls will be liberated." If Roy was too obtuse on Apr 3 to understand what "liberated" means, perhaps the Apr 9 jubilation in the streets of Baghdad has educated her.
Roy: "Operation Iraqi Freedom? I don't think so." The crowds in Iraq disagree.Roy: "Other than strengthening the hand of civil society (instead of weakening it as has been done in the case of Iraq), there is no easy, pristine way of dealing with [dictators]." That's the problem with people like Roy: they don't recognize a strengthening of civil society even when they see it on live TV.History will show that the US-led war is the best thing that's happened to Iraq since the discovery of oil there.
Within six more months, I had recognized that Shiites were blowing it. I wrote on 2004-10-09:
A year later I described the criteria by which we should declare victory and leave Iraq:
* elimination of any known WMD or international terrorist infrastructure;
* inauguration (but not maintenance) of a federal democratic constitutional framework that protects minorities and fundamental human rights; and
* successful transition of security responsibilities to Iraqi forces.
We are about a year from either satisfying these criteria or learning they are too costly to satisfy. America's leaders should not publicly disclose our pain thresholds, but it can be assumed that America's political system will not tolerate a total cost over 3000 U.S. fatalities or $500B. That the cost of satisfying them will end up higher than expected by a factor of two or three won't mean we will "know it was a mistake". The only serious prospect now for it to have been a mistake is if the Sunnis irrationally choose civil war over the path of constitutional engagement that the Shiites and Kurds have chosen.
A year later, I indeed admitted that Iraq's thirst for civil war was making it too costly to wait for Iraq to be able to police itself:
2006-10-09: Deposing Saddam was justified and our war aims are achieved, but we don't owe Iraq indefinite suppression of its urge for civil war.