My Pre-War Concerns

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Back in early 2003, right before we invaded Iraq, I was not a happy Democrat. It seemed like every liberal candidate who was vying for the presidency would not discuss some pretty obvious holes in the President’s logic behind going to war. It seemed fairly obvious to me that the weapon inspections were working and there would be no need for war, especially one that could bog us down in the street-to-street, house-to-house guerilla variety. And what about the history of tension between the three factions in Iraq? Could that lead to civil war? It seemed likely if we had a swift US occupation, but a botched attempt at securing the peace because we weren’t offered any plan of the sort pre-war. Yes, I was not happy because I felt nobody was giving a voice to these concerns.

Now, I wasn’t a blogger back then. I wasn’t even politically active. I also don’t have a diary, so there really is no concrete proof that I felt these things. But I can assure you that many fellow Dems felt this way. Why? Because Howard Dean felt this way.

Back in Feb of 2003, Howard Dean was a nobody. Literally. He was barely a blip on the political radar, but some of us Dems starting hearing Dean and it’s as if we were running for President. He had our words. He had our thoughts. He had our concerns.

Fast foward to a couple days ago. I posted about Bush possibly setting a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, and at the same time I vented about my pre-war concerns which have proven to be incredibly accurate. And yes, I was able to think my way through a scenario where Iraq wouldn’t go so good and end up pretty damn close to where it is today given what I had read, had researched, etc. Those were my actual fears. And now they’re reality. However, I find little comfort in that fact because it ultimately means that a country I love is not in a good position.

Soon after I posted, my fellow blogger Callimachus commented about wanting to see some proof that I had actually felt this way. The problem is, as you already know, I have none. I don’t have anything in writing, don’t have any videotape, no audio tape. Nothing. So, I left a comment which explains my logic pre-war logic and asked Callimachus to simply trust me. He didn’t, and went on to explain how frustrated he was with other anti-war bloggers who are now gloating when they don’t really have a right too. Fair enough. I thought the discussion was over.

What greeted me next was surprising. A full post from Callimachus openly questioning my credibility and calling me vent boastful. And it didn’t stop there. All of a sudden, I was lumped into the Atrios, Daily Kos crowd as well. You know, I’m a liberal…they’re liberals…After all, guilt is only determined by blogosphere association anyway. But still, beyond the obvious frustrations of the neo-cons and their supporters, what this all boils down to is simply proof that we saw something that they didn’t.

Okay, you’ve got it.

This is a speech Howard Dean gave in Feb 2003 at Drake University, entitled “Defending American Values – Protecting America’s Interests.” Needless to say, it doesn’t cover all the points I talked about in my comment or that Callimachus subsequently asked for, but the speech does talk about most of them. This is one of the big reasons I supported Dean…because he wasn’t afraid to talk about how this all might go wrong.

Ready? Here we go…

On Bush’s fire-aim-ready approach to going to war…

I believe that the President too often employs a reckless, go-it-alone approach that drives us away from some of our longest-standing and most important allies, when what we need is to pull the world community together in common action against the imminent threat of terrorism.

I believe that the President undercuts our long-term national security interests and the established international order when he seeks to replace decades of bipartisan consensus on the use of American force with a new doctrine justifying preemptive attacks against other nation states – not because of their current action or imminent threat, but to preempt a threat that could arise in the future.

On taking the focus off Al Qaeda…

And I firmly believe that the President is focusing our diplomats, our military, our intelligence agencies, and even our people on the wrong war, at the wrong time, when our energy and our resources should be marshaled for the greatest threats we face. Yes, Saddam Hussein is evil. But Osama bin Laden is also evil, and he has attacked the United States, and he is preparing now to attack us again.

What happened to the war against al Qaeda?

Why has this Administration taken us so far off track?

I believe it is my patriotic duty to urge a different path to protecting America’s security: To focus on al Qaeda, which is an imminent threat, and to use our resources to improve and strengthen the security and safety of our home front and our people while working with the other nations of the world to contain Saddam Hussein.

On the lack of a plan for peace in post-war Iraq…

The Administration has not explained how a lasting peace, and lasting security, will be achieved in Iraq once Saddam Hussein is toppled.

On snubbing the UN…

And the Administration has approached the United Nations more as an afterthought than as the international institution created to deal with precisely such a situation as we face in Iraq. From the outset, the Administration has seemed oblivious to the simple fact that it clearly would be in our interests for any war with Iraq to occur with UN authorization and cooperation and not without it.

On hurting our credibility…

The Administration’s reckless bluster with our allies over Iraq has caused what could be lasting friction in important relationships and has injured our standing in the world community. When rhetoric by subordinates in the Administration alienates our long-standing allies, it should be met with reprimand and not condoned by the President.

On disarming Saddam. And by the way, my thoughts back then were shifting as more information from the weapons inspectors came in and they weren’t finding anything. Eventually it seemed like Bush was going to go in there regardless of the inspectors findings. And to that point…

In the past, UN inspections destroyed more weapons of mass destruction capacity in Iraq than were destroyed in the Gulf War.

The inspectors are now back inside Iraq.

They are interviewing scientists. Confiscating papers. Conducting surprise visits. This past weekend, the lead inspectors reported that Iraqi cooperation, while still not satisfactory, is improving. Iraq has dropped its longstanding objections to U-2 surveillance flights. And serious proposals are being made for strengthening the inspection teams, making them bigger, and shielding them from intimidation.

The President dismisses all this, calling it a movie he has seen before.

He says we don’t need more inspections, because we already have enough information to justify going to war.

My question is, why not use our information to help the UN disarm Iraq without war?

On Colin Powell’s UN presentation and the need for more time to inspect…

Secretary Powell’s recent presentation at the UN showed the extent to which we have Iraq under an audio and visual microscope. Given that, I was impressed not by the vastness of evidence presented by the Secretary, but rather by its sketchiness. He said there would be no smoking gun, and there was none.

At the same time, it seems to me we are in possession of information that would be very helpful to UN inspectors. For example, if we know Iraqi scientists are being detained at an Iraqi guesthouse, why not surround the building and knock on the door?

If we think a facility is being used for biological weapons, why not send the inspectors to check it out?

And if we believe terrorists – especially if they are terrorists linked to al Qaeda – have set up a poison and explosives training center in Northern Iraq, outside Saddam Hussein’s control, why haven’t we verified that information and destroyed that camp?

We know that Saddam will get away with whatever he can.

But what can he get away with as long as Iraq is inspected, under constant surveillance, surrounded, grounded because of no fly zones, and barred from receiving weapons and other strategic materials?

The risk of invasion and failing…

If we go to war, I certainly hope the Administration’s assumptions are realized, and the conflict is swift, successful and clean.

I certainly hope our armed forces will be welcomed like heroes and liberators in the streets of Baghdad.

I certainly hope Iraq emerges from the war stable, united and democratic.

I certainly hope terrorists around the world conclude it is a mistake to defy America and cease, thereafter, to be terrorists.

It is possible, however, that events could go differently, and that the Iraqi Republican Guard will not sit out in the desert where they can be destroyed easily from the air.

It is possible that Iraq will try to force our troops to fight house to house in the middle of cities – on its turf, not ours – where precision-guided missiles are of little use.

It is possible that women and children will be used as shields and our efforts to minimize civilian casualties will be far less successful than we hope.

On the risk of civil war…

Iraq is a divided country, with Sunni, Shia and Kurdish factions that share both bitter rivalries and access to large quantities of arms.

On the perils of fighting a ground war in Iraq…

If the war lasts more than a few weeks, the danger of humanitarian disaster is high, because many Iraqis depend on their government for food, and during war it would be difficult for us to get all the necessary aid to the Iraqi people.

There is a risk of environmental disaster, caused by damage to Iraq’s oil fields.

And, perhaps most importantly, there is a very real danger that war in Iraq will fuel the fires of international terror.

Anti-American feelings will surely be inflamed among the misguided who choose to see an assault on Iraq as an attack on Islam, or as a means of controlling Iraqi oil.

And last week’s tape by Osama bin Laden tells us that our enemies will seek relentlessly to transform a war into a tool for inspiring and recruiting more terrorists.

We should remember how our military presence in Saudi Arabia has been exploited by radicals to stir resentment and hatred against the United States, leading to the murder of American citizens and soldiers.

We need to consider what the effect will be of a U.S. invasion and occupation of Baghdad, a city that served for centuries as a capital of the Islamic world.

Some people simply brush aside these concerns, saying there were also a lot of dire predictions before the first Gulf War, and that those didn’t come true.

We have learned through experience to have confidence in our armed forces – and that confidence is very well deserved.

But if you talk to military leaders, they will tell you there is a big difference between pushing back the Iraqi armed forces in Kuwait and trying to defeat them on their home ground.

So hey, does this prove I had the thoughts Callimachus dispustes I had? Nope. Given his argument, I’ll never be able to prove anything. And at this point it doesn’t really matter. Because now I think it’s more important to show how other people had these concerns and then trusting that those who did not submit their thoughts to written record did indeed have the same thoughts.

Or maybe I’m just making this all up.

I guess you’ll just have to trust me.

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