VDH's Private Papers::When Cynicism Meets Fanaticism
Opponents of the war in Iraq, both original critics and the mea culpa recent converts, have made eight assumptions. The first six are wrong, the last two still unsettled.
1. Saddam was never connected to al Qaeda, the perpetrators of 9/11.
2. There was no real threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.
3. The United Nations and our allies were justifiably opposed on principle to the invasion.
4. A small cabal of neoconservative (and mostly Jewish) intellectuals bullied the administration into a war that served Israel’s interest more than our own.
5. Saddam could not be easily deposed, or at least he could not be successfully replaced with a democratic government.
6. The architects of this war and the subsequent occupation are mostly inept (“dangerously incompetent”) — and are exposed daily as clueless by a professional cadre of disinterested journalists.
7. In realist terms, the benefits to be gained from the war will never justify the costs incurred.
8. We cannot win.
First, notice how the old criticism that Saddam was not connected to al Qaeda has now morphed into a fallback position that “Saddam was not connected to September 11” — even though the latter argument was never officially advanced as a casus belli.
Opponents have retreated to this position because we know that al Qaeda cadres were in Kurdistan, and that al Zarqawi fled to Baghdad, as did a mastermind of the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, Abdul Rahman Yasin.
The Clinton administration in 1998 officially cited Iraqi agents as involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. That is part of the reason why the U.S. Senate, not the Bush administration, authorized a war against Saddam in October 2002: “ Whereas members of al-Qaeda, an organization bearing responsibility for attacks on the United States, its citizens, and interests, including the attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, are known to be in Iraq."
From the slowly emerging Baathist archives, we are learning that for more than a decade Saddam’s agents had some contacts with, and offered help to, al Qaeda operatives from the Sudan to the Philippines.
The issue is closed: Saddam Hussein’s regime had a mutually beneficial association with al Qaeda. All that remains in doubt is the degree to which Iraq’s generic support enabled al Qaeda to pull off operations like September 11. It may be that Saddam and Osama, in their views of Islam and jihad, were as antithetical to one another as Japanese and Germans were in attitudes about racial superiority. But in both cases, rogues find common ground in their opposition to hated Western liberalism
Second, we know now that worries over Iraqi weapons of mass destruction were both justified and understandable. Postwar interviews with top Iraqi generals reveal that Saddam’s own military assumed that his stockpiles of WMDs were still current — confirming the intelligence estimates from Europe and most of the Arab world.
In addition, Iraqi arsenals of WMDs, in the judgment of both the Clinton administration and the United Nations, were still unaccounted for in March 2003. And even if the stocks were moved or destroyed, the prerequisites for the rapid mass-production of biological and chemical agents — petrodollar wealth, scientific expertise, alternate-use facilities, and a will to produce and use them — were met in Saddam’s Iraq.
Third, the opposition of the United Nations to the invasion lacks any moral significance, given the postwar revelations that the $50 billion Oil-for-Food scandal not only led to thousands of starved Iraqi civilians, but also enriched both Saddam’s family and U.N. insiders themselves. Europe’s opposition may have seemed ethical, but when one learns of French and Russian oil deals with Saddam, and German construction projects that fortified Saddam’s own Führerbunker, European principle too evaporates into nothing.