Jus ad bellum

2007 07 13
“Saddam has capability to wipe out a third of invading force”

I don’t seem to recall any such headline in 2003. But according to Sgt. John Bruhns, who served in Baghdad and Abu Ghraib with the Third Brigade, First Armor Division, First Battalion:

I invaded Iraq on day one, March 19th of 2003…And at that point in time I had a lot of reservations, because I was looking around, and I saw 150,000 troops making their way to Baghdad in the open desert, and here’s President Bush, and he’s accusing Saddam Hussein of having a massive stockpile of weapons of mass destruction, possibly a nuclear weapon, saying that he’s a homicidal dictator addicted to these weapons and we have to stop him now. And I was thinking to myself, I said, you know, what would be a better time for Saddam Hussein to use these weapons? He has 150,000 troops in the southern Iraqi desert, and he could launch these weapons on us directly and kill nobody but us.

So it was very frightening, especially because our military commanders were telling us that he has these weapons, this is his last stand, we’re coming to kill him, to take over his government, and he will use these weapons. And we were anticipating at least 50,000 casualties that day. That’s what we were being told. So it was very frightening.

Anyone else recall hearing such things reported in the press? Anyone think the public would have permitted invasion if it had been?

Howls of outrage (4)

2006 10 30
Worth, I imagine, at least 100,000 lives just by itself

Among the successes of the Iraq War, “the introduction of a convertible currency.”

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2006 03 03
Fair enough, but . . .

Here’s a recent FAIR “activism update”:

Two recent reports on ABC raised the possibility that 10-year-old tapes of Saddam Hussein might show that he “did hide weapons of mass destruction”–giving the White House’s rationale for the March 2003 invasion a boost.

But as a February 17 FAIR action alert pointed out, ABC’s reporting omitted evidence that undermined this argument. The tapes seem to show Hussein Kamel, Iraq’s weapons chief at the time, talking about information about weapons programs that Iraq had concealed from U.N. inspectors. But when Kamel defected–soon after these tapes were recorded–he not only told CIA and U.N. investigators about this concealment, he at the same time insisted that Iraq had destroyed all its unconventional weapons stockpiles. FAIR’s alert questioned why ABC failed to inform its viewers about this key information.

Responding to a query from FAIR about whether ABC was aware of the Kamel story, ABC reporter Brian Ross wrote:

“Completely aware of it of course. We felt the tapes stand for themselves.”

This admission is puzzling, to say the least. How could a news outlet raise the possibility that Kamel’s comments on the tapes could bolster the argument that Iraq had hidden weapons of mass destruction, and not mention that he had repeatedly told the U.S. and U.N. that Iraq had destroyed all of those weapons?

And far from letting the tapes stand for themselves, ABC provided comments from sources to help viewers interpret Kamel’s recorded remarks–even though, in light of Kamel’s later statements, some of those comments seem to be inaccurate. For example, ABC viewers heard from Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), who said, based on the tapes, “You would think that it’s pretty likely that there were WMD that were hidden or that were moved out of the country.” If ABC knew about Kamel’s later insistence that Iraq destroyed its WMDs, that means the network had compelling information to suggest that Hoekstra’s interpretation was wrong.

Instead of reporting that, ABC’s Nightline segment concluded that the tapes might “help both sides bolster their arguments.” It’s difficult to have any kind of rational argument when crucial information is kept out of the discussion.

Yeah, yeah. But the funny thing is how reversed the positions on this are from what they ought to be. As far as I can tell, nothing would be more damning to the post-war Bush case for the war than the discovery that Iraq had any sort of WMDs at the time of the invasion. That’s because the discovery would have provided the strongest possible evidence that Saddam Hussein was deterrable. You just can’t get any more deterrable with respect to a class of weapons than refusing to use them when it’s game over, the enemy is invading, and your entire regime is falling apart. If not then, when?

Because so much seems to hinge on the question of whether Saddam Hussein actually had these WMDs, we have this curious reversal of natural debating positions. The pro-war camp seems to think that the subsequent discovery of WMDs would provide some sort of complete vindication for its position, whereas the anti-war camp has invested so much in the fact that the Bush administration was wrong about WMDs that it lost sight a long time ago of just how much stronger it’s position would be if the Bush administration had managed to actually find WMDs.

As soon as Saddam Hussein failed to use WMDs, the Bush administration lost this argument either way.

UPDATE: Though, of course, if they had found an almost-complete-super-secret nuclear weapons that Saddam Hussein was planning to use and had stopped it in the knick of time, that would be another thing. But of course nobody seriously thought that would happen.

Howls of outrage (6)

2005 11 12
What did that vote mean?


“When I made the decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power, Congress approved it with strong bipartisan support,” Bush said in a Veterans Day speech at Tobyhanna Army Depot.

“While it’s perfectly legitimate to criticize my decision or the conduct of the war, it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began.”

Ok, I had to read that a few times and I’m still not sure what he’s referring to. The only thing I can think of is the Oct. 11th, 2002, vote in congress that gave Bush the authority to use force against Iraq under certain conditions: Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq.

Now it’s true that the resolution was seriously negligent in spelling out the conditions under which force would be permissible. Still, it’s worth remembering how the vote and the resolution were presented at the time. Bush brought the country to the brink of war with a massive build-up of troops on the border of Iraq. Then he went to congress to complain that the U.S. would lose face unless he were permitted to bargain from a position of strength. And pundits and administration officials talked themselves blue in the face about how this wasn’t a vote for war so much as the only hope that Bush had of resolving the conflict peacefully, since without the vote, Bush wouldn’t be able to pressure Saddam Hussein into backing down. This is the main reason the vote was so difficult politically for sceptics of the war: opposing it meant strengthening Saddam Hussein’s hand, never mind that it was Bush who set up the conflict so that opposing the vote would mean strengthening Saddam Hussein’s hand.

Now, once he was granted the resolution, Bush rushed straight to war without seriously considering alternatives. And I think it was obvious at the time that Bush administration officials were lying, that the war had been settled on as the only course of action, and that the congressional vote was really only helping to make war a certainty. Still, Bush’s remarks seem to me to make his earlier lies about the meaning of the resolution even more obvious than it was at the time.

Howls of outrage (4)

2005 09 09
Hey, Ya Gotta Hand it To Him…

…Not even Bush is man enough to blame the peons:

“Of course it will. It’s a blot. I’m the one who presented it on behalf of the United States to the world, and [it] will always be a part of my record. It was painful. It’s painful now.”

“George Tenet did not sit there for five days with me misleading me. He believed what he was giving to me was accurate. � The intelligence system did not work well,” he said.

Nonetheless, Powell said, some lower-level personnel in the intelligence community failed him and the country. “There were some people in the intelligence community who knew at that time that some of these sources were not good, and shouldn’t be relied upon, and they didn’t speak up. That devastated me,” he said.

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2005 07 07
Why Does She get a Seat at the Table?

Remember Anne-Marie Slaughter? In 2003, as the war on Iraq was getting geared up, she was dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton (maybe she still is). In a New York Times op-ed (scroll to the bottom) published March 18, 2003, Slaughter argued that since NATO’s bombing of Kosovo was justified even though it wasn’t authorized by the UN Security Council, maybe just maybe Bush’s invasion of Iraq could be justified too.:

So, how can United Nations approval come about? Soldiers would go into Iraq. They would find irrefutable evidence that Saddam Hussein’s regime possesses weapons of mass destruction. Even without such evidence, the United States and its allies can justify their intervention if the Iraqi people welcome their coming and if they turn immediately back to the United Nations to help rebuild the country.

The United Nations…cannot be a straitjacket, preventing nations from defending themselves or pursuing what they perceive to be their vital national security interests.

That is the lesson that the United Nations and all of us should draw from this crisis. Overall, everyone involved is still playing by the rules [because they all saw some reason (moral? prudential? whatever..) to involve the UN]. But depending on what we find in Iraq, the rules may have to evolve, so that what is legitimate is also legal.

So the rightness of bombing Kosovo is assumed without argument; Iraq’s posing a threat to the US’s “vital national security interests” is a reasonable possibility; and even if there was no reason before the war to fear Iraq, our finding something after the invasion can serve as a post hoc argument justifying the invasion itself. Remember, she was a dean at Princeton. Amazing.

But now I learn that Slaughter has acquired a seat at the table over at TPM CAFE. And when I saw that she had a post up about today’s London bombings, my curiosity got the better of me. Sadly, not much has changed:

After all the predictions of apocalyptic terrorism, the assurances that we are in a new era in which al Qaeda�s chief goal must be to top its last attack in drama and number of deaths (hence the overriding likelihood that it will try to acquire and use a weapon of mass destruction), we seem to be back to fairly ordinary � albeit horrible � bombings of transport systems.

For many Europeans, however, the lesson of London will be to prove what they have been saying ever since 9/11: that all Americans overreacted to the 9/11 attacks and have forced fighting terrorism to the top of the global agenda as a result, when in fact, 9/11 was just another version of the kinds of attacks Europeans have been living with for decades � bad, but not worth �a war on terror� however prosecuted. For this group, the G-8 agenda of fighting poverty, disease, and climate change is the real global security agenda. I don�t think Americans of either party are prepared to go quite that far.

In fact, however, the experience of being physically together during a terrorist attack in a major global capital is likely to remind the world�s leaders…of their common responsibilities to protect their people and of the values they share.

OK, admitted: this bombing was a “fairly ordinary” bombing. What does that say about how this war on terror is going? Slaughter seems to think it reflects success, however modest. I’m not so sure. And how many Europeans are you aware of who really think that the events of September 11 were “bad, but not worth ‘a war on terror’ however prosecuted“? The fact is that there are wars on terror and wars on terror. One way to fight a war on terror is to remove those features of the world that are both morally abhorrent and causes of terrorism. Unfortunately for Slaughter, such features include things like dropping bombs on Kosovo when dropping bombs will only make matters worse, and bombing, invading and brutally occupying an Arab country that posed no threat to any nation’s security.

Many of the demonstrators at the G8 certainly are demonstrating against real causes of terrorism. Is it really controversial that the United States’ foreign policy is part of a larger project to retain the US’s global dominance in every respect, militarily, politically, and economically? The reason why so many Europeans (and others) are not aboard on the US’s “war on terrorism” and so many Americans are is that Americans are the only ones who believe US political elites when they claim that “war is always our last resort.” Bullshit. War is the last resort for the US when all others prove too inefficient to secure continued US domination of natural resources, economic markets, and general global political compliance. If you want to know what I’m talking about and don’t already, spend some time reading around Znet and Counterpunch. And if the mention of those websites sends chills down your spine, then nothing I’ve got to say is going to sway you. I’m just too tired these days to start from the beginning.

So why does Anne-Marie Slaughter have a seat at the table over at TPM Cafe? I know Josh Marshall is a genuinely good guy and journalist, and that many other contributors to his new venture are too. But c’mon, Slaughter is a hack and an an apologist who ignores or deems irrelevant the most pertinent (and commonsensical) reasons to question US foreign policy. Perhaps, however, that’s just what we can come to expect from an eminently able, connected, and powerful journalist who has decided to expend considerable energy and attention on the dubious dealings of some second-rate congressman. Then again, I fear we’re all going to come to regret how little attention we paid to the real causes of the hopelessness that feeds the desperate resort to terrorism.[1]

[1]Yes, yes, I know: even if the US’s policies were as virtuous as I would like them to be, there might well still be people ready and willing to fly planes into buildings. But if you think that is a reason to refuse to make any changes that would significantly lower the chances that terrorism will be resorted to, then I wish you luck in your studies at the Donald Rumsfeld School of Tank Armament:

If you think about it, you can have all the armor in the world on a tank, and a tank can be blown up.

Howls of outrage (14)

2005 06 30
Is Tony Blair really Walter Sobchak?

I report, you decide.

Blair’s recent justification for the war – WaPo:

After Sept. 11, it was necessary to “draw a line in the sand here, and the country to do it with was Iraq because they were in breach of U.N. resolutions going back over many years,” Blair said in an interview with the Associated Press. “People say the decision was already taken. The decision was not already taken.”

Walter Sobchak:

What the fuck are you talking about? The chinaman is not the issue here, dude. I’m talking about drawing a line in the sand, dude. Across this line, you DO NOT–

Look at the current situation with that camel fucker in Iraq. Pacifism is not something to hide behind.


Howls of outrage (6)

2005 05 22
Some things never change

Page A 26:

As Bush speeches were being drafted in the prewar period, serious questions were also being raised within the intelligence community about purported threats from biologically armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

In an Oct. 7, 2002, speech, Bush mentioned a potential threat to the U.S. mainland being explored by Iraq through unmanned aircraft “that could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons.” The basis for that analysis was a single report that an Iraqi general in late 2000 or early 2001 indicated interest in buying autopilots and gyroscopes for Hussein’s UAV program. The manufacturer automatically included topographic mapping software of the United States in the package.

When the list was submitted in early 2002, the manufacturer’s distributor determined that the U.S. mapping software would not be included in the autopilot package, and told the procurement agent in March 2002. By then, however, U.S. intelligence, which closely followed Iraqi procurement of such material, had already concluded as early as the summer of 2001 that this was the “first indication that the UAVs might be used to target the U.S.”

When a foreign intelligence service questioned the procurement agent, he originally said he had never intended to purchase the U.S. mapping software, but he refused to submit to a thorough examination, according to the president’s commission. “By fall 2002, the CIA was still uncertain whether the procurement agent was lying,” the commission said. Nonetheless, a National Intelligence Estimate in October 2002 said the attempted procurement “strongly suggested” Iraq was interested in targeting UAVs on the United States. Senior members of Congress were told in September 2002 that this was the “smoking gun” in a special briefing by Vice President Cheney and then-CIA Director George J. Tenet.

By January 2003, however, it became publicly known that the director of Air Force intelligence dissented from the view that UAVs were to be used for biological or chemical delivery, saying instead they were for reconnaissance. In addition, according to the president’s commission, the CIA “increasingly believed that the attempted purchase of the mapping software . . . may have been inadvertent.”

In an intelligence estimate on threats to the U.S. homeland published in January 2003, Air Force, Defense Intelligence Agency and Army analysts agreed that the proposed purchase was “not necessarily indicative of an intent to target the U.S. homeland.”

And, of course, there were always those pesky aluminum tubes.

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2005 05 04
Justifications, ad hoc and otherwise

If you can believe it, people are still arguing about how prominent the humanitarian justification for the Iraq War was prior to the war. There’s a lot to be said here, but I’m not going to say it. Rather, let my modest contribution to this debate be simply to point out that there is a big difference between offering a humanitarian justification for a war and actually fighting a humanitarian war. The former has been an important part of selling wars for an awfully long time, including, e.g., the Spanish conquest of the New World (souls were apparently saved on that occasion, you know). The latter – a rare, rare beast indeed – has a very special character. That’s because if it’s genuine, the goals shape the conduct of the war in all kinds of ways.

My modest suggestion, then, is that even if Bush and Blair had sold their respective publics on the war entirely on humanitarian grounds, the war itself would still not have received a proper public defence. Because whatever the justifications offered for this war publicly, the war itself had goals that were not primarily humanitarian, and those goals have shaped the character of the war and the occupation. They have meant that whatever was argued for, what was delivered was far from a humanitarian war. Rather, we got a war with some decent humanitarian results, mixed in with an awful lot of suffering. Please see my take on the occupation to see what difference I think this makes.

So although trying to nail down precisely how much pre-war weight Bush publicly gave to the humanitarian justification for war is a worthwhile project for some purposes, and I wish the people doing this the best of luck, even the best case for Bush on this count still has him offering a dishonest argument for the war he waged.

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2005 02 03
Breaking news!!! Must credit CNN!!!

From CNN, breathlessly:

Documents obtained by CNN reveal the United States knew about, and even condoned, embargo-breaking oil sales by Saddam Hussein’s regime, and did so to shore up alliances with Iraq’s neighbors.

The oil trade with countries such as Turkey and Jordan appears to have been an open secret inside the U.S. government and the United Nations for years.

The unclassified State Department documents sent to congressional committees with oversight of U.S. foreign policy divulge that the United States deemed such sales to be in the “national interest,” even though they generated billions of dollars in unmonitored revenue for Saddam’s regime.

The trade also generated a needed source of oil and commerce for Iraq’s major trading partners, Turkey and Jordan.

“It was in the national security interest, because we depended on the stability in Turkey and the stability in Jordan in order to encircle Saddam Hussein,” Edward Walker, a former assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs, told CNN when asked about the memo documents.

Look, everybody knew this was happening. And it wasn’t a bad compromise at the time, given the overall policy of containment, since the U.S. depended heavily on the cooperation of Iraq’s neighbours. I believe there was even a limited amount of winking and nodding at Syria too.

The current fuss and storm about the UN’s role in the sanctions regime is a mostly dishonest joke. The UN is not a perfect institution, by any stretch. But the right’s current obsession with the UN’s activities during the sanctions regime is not intended to address any real problems with the institution. It’s intended to distract, discredit and dumb-down public debate about Iraq and containment prior to the war. CNN’s shocking new revelations are only shocking if you’ve bought into the storyline peddled by the right for the last year or so – that the whole damn mess was the fault of the rascally UN.

Howls of outrage (2)

2005 01 13
Matt Yglesias puts the record straight…

and I reproduce it here, for the record:

Let me just reiterate for about the millionth time that, contrary to the ex post rationalizations from the right, it’s simply not the case that “everyone” — or even almost everyone — thought Saddam Hussein had WMD at the time the war started. That was a period when this really was the consensus judgment of the international intelligence community, and that’s one of the reasons it was possible to gain UN support for a resolution demanding the re-introduction of inspectors.

Then the inspectors came back to Iraq and went searching around. They didn’t find any WMD stockpiles or evidence of advanced WMD programs. They did find some banned missiles with ranges beyond what was permitted by the Gulf War cease-fire. Those missiles were duly destroyed. At that point, rational people began to think that the intelligence consensus was, perhaps, mistaken. It already became clear that several of the specific charges the Bush administration had raised were false, and that despite repeated statements from administration officials that they were sure Saddam had WMD, they couldn’t provide the inspectors with any useful clues to their whereabouts. But the United States wasn’t being governered by rational people, so they, along with their cheerleaders in the press, proclaimed that if inspections weren’t finding the weapons, that wasn’t because the weapons weren’t there but because the inspectors were corrupt, incompetent, or something like that. Therefore, an invasion was necessary.

This judgment — the judgment that took us to war, the judgment that’s led to all the many American casualties and the many more Iraqi casualties, didn’t reflect any sort of international consensus whatsoever. If people aren’t aware of that fact (which they largely aren’t) it’s because the “liberal media” was so busy gearing up to “embed” reporters and put on a show of patriotic pomp when the shooting started that they couldn’t be bothered to tell anyone what was going on. Needless to say, unlike with the Killian memo story, no one has been held accountable for this and no one ever will be.

You may recall that CNN’s chief International correspondent Chritiane Amanpour said after the war that the press was intimidated. Tina Brown asked

Amanpour if “we in the media, as much as in the administration, drank the Kool-Aid when it came to the war.”

Said Amanpour: “I think the press was muzzled, and I think the press self-muzzled. I’m sorry to say, but certainly television and, perhaps, to a certain extent, my station was intimidated by the administration and its foot soldiers at Fox News. And it did, in fact, put a climate of fear and self-censorship, in my view, in terms of the kind of broadcast work we did.”

To which Fox News spokeswoman Irena Briganti replied:

“Given the choice, it’s better to be viewed as a foot soldier for Bush than a spokeswoman for al-Qaeda.”

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2005 01 11
Oil for Food Question

I don’t know much about the oil for food issue. I have to plead guilty to letting most news reports of it go unread. I know that much of the issue has to do with certain “over-payments” to certain entities, many of them private companies. This article in the Washington Post today talks of a $2 million loss here, a $1.4 million loss there for the “$64 billion program”.

While the article mentions that Saddam was stealing “billions” from the program, the largest compensatory overpayment mentioned in the article is this:

A separate audit alleged that the commission might have saved as much as $2.2 billion by setting currency exchange rates on the date an award was paid instead of the date a claimant suffered a loss.

Now, I’m not sure what sort of “losses” the article is referring to here. However, if they are indeed losses that generate a claim to compensation by the oil for food program, then there is reason to maintain some perspective on the scope of the “scandal”. If the major source of complaint–in monetary concerns–is this $2.2 billion, then it needs to be asked whether the suggestion by the audit–i.e., that currency exchange rates should be set at the time of compensation rather than at the time of the loss–is a reasonable one. As far as I can tell, no scandal should be generated by coming down on one side rather than the other on this question. Of course, this is just one question among many, and maybe I am wholly misguided as to the role of this compensatory issue within the imbroglio at large.

Enlightening comments are welcome.

Howls of outrage (4)

2004 10 29
Bush and Iraq

Don’t know how credible this is, but I expect we’re going to hear a bit about it in the next few days–then again, maybe not. Excerpts below the fold.
Continue Reading »

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2004 08 17

Tears of joy stream down my face as I watch Matthew Yglesias distinguish between different types of WMDs:

On chem/bio stockpiles, yes, by 2002 and early 2003 most observers thought Saddam had them. That was what the inspectors were sent in to find and destroy. And, as you may recall, they didn’t find any. This provoked two sorts of reactions — many people thought maybe they weren’t finding any because there weren’t any there, and they should be given more time to check the situation out. Others reacted by viciously denouncing Hans Blix for his obvious ineptitude in failing to find the weapons, denounced the whole UN as a useless farce (it can’t even find the weapons!), and said the whole inspections process was clearly worthless so we’d better invade and go find those weapons. And so we did. But they weren’t there.

The whole point of focusing on Iraq policy in late 2002, however, had to do with Iraq’s nuclear program, nuclear weapons being far more dangerous than chemical weapons or the sorts of biological weapons Saddam was thought to possess. Here there was never consensus that the administration’s factual claims were correct. Indeed, quite the reverse, though the U.S. media didn’t give much prominence at the time to debunkings and disputes over all sorts of administration contentions. Just because the administration said some things that were widely believed at the time doesn’t mean they didn’t actually say many things that were widely doubted and that they either knew — or should have known — were untrue.

The confusion generated by calling very different kinds of weapons all “weapons of mass destruction” was extremely useful to the Bush administration during the lead up to the war. I saw the meaningfulness of the category itself challenged once or twice in print, but I suffice it to say that I really don’t think the issue was dealt with clearly by most of the media.

Howls of outrage (8)

2004 07 19
Mass graves

The latest fuss is about Tony Blair’s claim that 400,000 mass graves have already been uncovered in Iraq, when in fact “only” about 5000 have been so far uncovered. Kevin Drum has this to say:

I suppose the politically correct stance is that murder is murder, and quibbling over numbers doesn’t change the fact that Saddam was a monster. Which is true enough.

But the fact is that, yes, it does matter, in at least two ways. First, it matters because part of the humanitarian case against Saddam was that he was not merely a garden variety nasty dictator, he was arguably the #1 nastiest dictator on the planet. If he wasn’t, it does weaken the emotional case for intervention, just as very high numbers strengthen the case for intervention in the proto-genocide currently taking place in Darfur.

Second, and perhaps more important, is the question of whether Tony Blair (and apparently the U.S. government as well) flatly lied about this. This was not a case of intelligence estimates, after all, it was a categorical statement that 400,000 bodies had actually been found by actual troops digging up actual graves. How could he have been off by a factor of 80x?

Needless to say, this wouldn’t matter if it were the only exaggeration surrounding the war. But it’s not. There was no WMD, no collaboration with al-Qaeda, no 45-minute missiles, no mobile bioweapons labs, no regional military threat, and now it turns out that even the humanitarian case wasn’t as clear cut as they suggested.

Is there anything left that these guys told the truth about?

It’s important to be fussy in demanding that politicians stick to the truth when they make claims of this sort and of this importance. Failure to complain makes it that much easier to stray from the truth the next time around. But I really wish that Drum had meditated a bit more on this post before he hit “publish”. Indeed, it’s almost surreal to watch Drum go from this point to raising the possibility that “even the humanitarian case wasn’t as clear cut as they suggested.”

There is abundant evidence that tens of thousands, and perhaps even hundreds of thousands died during (or as a result of) the uprisings in the South at the end of the Gulf War. U.S. fighter pilots watched overhead as Iraqi helicopters poured napalm over large groups of people. The carnage was documented well enough that we don’t need the confirmation of bodies dug up from mass graves to know that many people died. See, for example, the documents on human rights watch’s website, the testimony of survivors, or simply observe the condition of the South by the time the U.S. military invaded. The South had been brutalized, and Saddam Hussein had almost achieved his goal of draining the Southern marshes in order to forever deny his enemies in the South a sanctuary if the fighting resumed.

All this has been established, and moreover established by human rights groups which are extremely critical of the Bush and Blair administrations, and so don’t have the ideological axe to grind which might lead them to inflate their estimates.

Also, there’s an easy explanation for how Blair might have been so wrong. It’s entirely possible that 400,000 people were killed by the regime since the Gulf War. The mass graves that have been so far discovered provide some further evidence for those killings. Blair might simply have mixed these up. I don’t have a high opinion of Blair’s personal integrity, but that doesn’t mean that everything that comes out of his mouth is a nasty lie.

The humanitarian argument for the Iraq War fails – or so I have argued repeatedly. But it doesn’t fail because Saddam Hussein has turned out to be a sadly misunderstood guy. That judgment isn’t up for revision simply because Blair misdescribed one piece of evidence, or even if he lied.


Howls of outrage (2)