A friend pointed me to the Wall Street Journal op-ed today by Douglas J. Feith, former Undersecretary of Defense, and asked whether I found its arguments “interesting.” Here’s my reply.
Feith should give up the ex-post-facto rationalizations for the invasion. He’s continuing to be disingenuous and deceitful, and it’s not like he’s going to change any minds at this point. (Google “stupidest fucking guy on the planet” to see what the CENTCOM CiC thought of him.)
Expanding on what Eric said, any recap of US/Iraq relations 1990-2002 that omits a) Israel, b) oil, and c) war profiteering is, to put it nicely, incomplete. To Feith’s five points:
1) “Saddam was a threat to US interests before 9/11.” Sure. So were a bunch of other folks. North Korea, Iran, and the rest of the Arab world if you consider Israel a US interest. We haven’t invaded them. Yet.
2) “The threat was more troubling and urgent after 9/11.” The truth is that 9/11 was the catalyzing event that allowed the PNAC contingent to get the upper hand in policy making, and start the war they’d been overtly demanding for five years. There is no evidence that Iraq had an operational relationship with Al Qaeda, despite the Barnacle Branch’s repeated insinuations to that effect.
3) “All reasonable means had been tried.” The decision to go to war was made far in advance, and the statements till the eleventh hour that war was avoidable were plainly false. It’s clear from the Senate Intelligence committees’ Phase 2 report that the Downing Street memo was correct: the “facts were fixed around the policy.” It’s impossible to say whether containment would have succeeded. It’s conjecture to say what failure of containment would have produced. But it’s plain that the war has so far failed to deliver its promise of a stable, US-friendly democratic republic in the heart of the Islamic world.
4) “Risks of leaving Saddam in were greater than the risks of war.” Well, if you look at the story told to the American people, the risks of leaving Saddam in were grossly exaggerated, and the risks of war were grossly downplayed. Contrast “The smoking gun may be a mushroom cloud” vs. “I believe that demolishing Hussein’s military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk.” Feith’s own Office of Special Plans was responsible for this reversal; burying accurate CIA reports and substituting fantasies from unreliable defectors.
In retrospect, when the UN Arms Inspector received the final compliance report from Saddam, and the Bush administration immediately rejected it (without even evaluating it) on the basis that Saddam was a liar and couldn’t be trusted, it turns out that the post-invasion facts on the ground proved that Saddam’s report to the UN was truthful and Colin Powell’s speech to the UN was packed with inaccuracies, conjectures, and fabrications.
5) “America after 9/11 had a lower tolerance for such dangers.” That’s a euphemism. America after 9/11 had an unslaked blood lust for revenge. It’s beyond shameful that a cabal of political ideologues, with the complicity of a bunch of war profiteers, could take the pain, anger, and rage in American and turn it away from its true object—Osama bin Laden, his Saudi-dominated Al Qaeda organization, and his Afghani and Pakistani state sponsors—and misdirect it into an unrelated enterprise using deceit and fearmongering. What America wanted, and what America was willing to take risks and make sacrifices for, was to capture or kill Osama bin Laden and destroy the Al Qaeda threat. That has not happened, and Al Qaeda subsequently attacked England and Spain. Our commanders in Afghanistan are reporting that the Taliban is resurgent, and they don’t have the forces to repel them because we’re tied down in Iraq keeping a centuries-old religious civil war from boiling over. Our lower tolerance for such dangers was not only exploited, but actively betrayed, to false ends.
To sum up, the only thing “interesting” about the article is that the architects of this misbegotten, mismanaged war are still trying to spin their original motivations, denying the facts about it that have been revealed in the last five years.