Jumping to Conclusions

And the spin begins...

Early reports were touting the fact that Iraq had fired four Scud missiles at Kuwait, thereby proving that he still retained banned weapons. But during the course of my commute into work, the radio reports started backtracking, saying whoops, turns out they weren’t Scuds after all, but the same al Samoud-2 missiles they had been in the process of destroying. Still prohibited weapons, sure, but nothing we didn’t already know about (and not nearly the degree of violation that Scuds would have been).

And then there’s the conspicuous lack of chemical or biological warheads on any of those missiles. Don’t get me wrong — I’m glad the missiles were strictly conventional — but suddenly there’s a lot of speculation. If he had chemical or biological weapons, mightn’t he have used them? At this point, it is strictly speculation; Saddam may simply be waiting until ground troops get nearer to Baghdad, or he may have the weapons but not the delivery systems. But I almost wonder if the powers-that-be would have preferred something more devastating (just a little bit, mind you); instead, they’re left without the so-called “smoking gun” once again.

In another radio interview this morning, Virginia redneck senator (and former redneck governor) George Allen was asked to comment on the recent reports of the “target of opportunity” strike against Saddam and his top leadership. Rather than simply avoiding comment (by saying he had no first-hand knowledge about the attack), he insisted on casting doubt as to the veracity of the story by virtue of the fact that it originated in The Washington Post. Even now, he’s determined to take every possible opportunity to show off his right-wing political stripes; never mind that the story was also reported by Reuters and the Associated Press and run in The New York Times (which was pointed out to Allen during the course of the interview). In fact, the story had a fairly pro-administration spin (as have the majority of Post op-ed pieces of late), but that apparently was less important than impugning the left-wing media. Probably trying to build up points so he can blame the media when they do report something unfavorable.

In all of this, I did find one bright spot. I hate to crib his material, but Saddam actually came up with a pretty good one, referring to Duh-bya as “little Bush,” which I found both funny and damned accurate (the son being a pale shadow of his father; believe me, I’m no George H. W. Bush supporter, but the guy was sharp as a tack). I think I prefer “little George” and “big George,” though — it reminds me of some of my own family dynamic (my father and brother having the same first name). So regrets on stealing Saddam’s zinger, but I don’t think he’s going to be around to complain much.

“Classic” reader comments:

Rich · Fri, Mar 21st 2003, at 6:56PM

CNN, MSNBC, and the Washington Post have confirmed that at least two of the missiles shot at Kuwait were Scuds. You know, the Scuds that the Iraqis, French, and anti-war demonstators said weren't there. The Scuds that 150 inspectors were supposed to find in a country the size of California while the regime continued to ignore 17 impotent UN resolutions.

I think there are so far three conclusions that can be drawn from this conflict.

First, US and allied human intelligence assets have improved greatly in the last few years from the woeful levels of the late 90s when the intelligence community fell in love with satellites and the Congress went slightly batty ordering the CIA not use sources who were "bad people." To know where a target like Hussein is going to be, and be able to react to it whether you kill him or not is impressive. It makes it pretty hard to order chemical attacks when you are worrying about a 2000 pound bomb coming through your window.

Second, the United Nations Security Council will be of very limited use in the future. There hasn't been a clearer example to the dictators of the world that resolutions mean nothing and appeasement is the result of ignoring them.

Lastly the so-called "progressive elements" of the world are fools. They live in protected western civilizations with a general respect for the rule and more importantly the norms of law. Western Europe has ignored its defense for decades preferring to fund their welfare states and allow the US to provide military protection. Europe is a safe neighborhood composed of like thinking modern democracies. Europeans confuse this for the world. These people have confused their societies with the state of nature. Multilateralist institutions are well and good but base dictators ignore them unless there is an or else. What you're seeing today is the "or else."

William R. Coughlan · Fri, Mar 21st 2003, at 7:49PM

Can’t say we’re in disagreement about any of the above points (well, not being the capitalist you are, I suppose I’d take issue with the “welfare states” line, but I’ll live with that). If any of the missiles used were Scuds (which, as of my original writing, was not so), then the case for U.S. action is certainly bolstered. The “or else” alternative is a crucial component of the concept of “rule” (as a parent, I can confirm this wholeheartedly). And as I’ve often said (well, maybe not here, but really, I have), the restrictions placed on our (international) intelligence-gathering community are the product of a society that has grown too comfortable in its security; it’s easy to outlaw the assassination of foreign leaders when said leaders are the (relatively) rational directors of substantive foreign powers, and it’s not something you can conceive of having to deal with. (That last sentiment does not apply to our domestic intelligence gathering community, which has an appalling lack of restriction.)

My only objections to this conflict are first, the false (or at least extremely tenuous) connections being made between Iraq and al Qaeda to “sell” this war to the masses (authoritarian disinformation being a particular peeve of mine) and second, the total failure of this administration to make more than a token effort at convincing the international community that action is warranted (before taking such action). For the record: Saddam Hussein deserves to be removed from power. He deserves nothing short of execution (I’ll reconcile that with my largely anti-death penalty stance later). The effort necessary to accomplish that goal is warranted. But the systematic destruction of decades of diplomacy — when it could so easily have been avoided — is inexcusable.

The loss of American credibility is not the only casualty of little George’s ego trip — the UN Security Council has certainly lost most, if not all, of its ability to speak as an enforcer of “rule.” But I contend that that loss is largely attributable to the overtly belligerent attitude expressed at the onset of this little enterprise: Bush’s “we’re going to do this whether you like it or not, and if you’re smart, you’ll join us” stance betrays a fundamental lack of understanding of diplomacy. Or of basic human relations, for that matter.

And George Allen is still a redneck.


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