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Saturday, June 25, 2005

The New York Times on Iraq 

This morning's New York Times brings us an unsigned editorial that claims it is vital to acknowledge "three facts" about the war in Iraq, the first two of which are asinine:
The war has nothing to do with Sept. 11. Saddam Hussein was a sworn enemy of Washington, but there was no Iraq-Qaeda axis, no connection between Saddam Hussein and the terrorist attacks on the United States. Yet the president and his supporters continue to duck behind 9/11 whenever they feel pressure about what is happening in Iraq. The most cynical recent example was Karl Rove's absurd and offensive declaration this week that conservatives and liberals had different reactions to 9/11. Let's be clear: Americans of every political stripe were united in their outrage and grief, united in their determination to punish those who plotted the mass murder, and united behind the war in Afghanistan, which was an assault on terrorists. Trying to pretend otherwise is the surest recipe for turning political dialogue into meaningless squabbling.

This is, of course, absurd. That there may have been no material connection between Saddam Hussein's government and September 11 hardly means that the war in Iraq has nothing to do with September 11. While there were definitely important reasons independant of September 11 to take Saddam down -- it was American policy to bring about the fall of his government even before George W. Bush came into office -- the invasion itself was directly related to our war on al Qaeda and its cognates. First, we needed to re-establish out credibility in the Arab world, which credibility was squandered by virtually every president since Jimmy Carter. This could only happen by brining the war into the heart of the Arab world and taking casualties killing jihadists. We are doing that every day. Second, we needed to put ourselves in a position to coerce the regimes most important to the war on Islamist jihad, including particularly Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia joined the fight only when it realized that we did not need its bases or its geography once we occupied Iraq. Third, we simply could not run the risk that an undeterrable and power crazy tyrant like Saddam Hussein might make common cause with al Qaeda.

One might well argue that these purposes for the war are inadequate, but there are many people outside the administration who have no particular partisan ax to gring -- me, for example -- who think they carry the day. For the Times to declare as a fact that the Iraq war has "nothing to do with September 11" is transportingly dishonest.
The war has not made the world, or this nation, safer from terrorism. The breeding grounds for terrorists used to be Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia; now Iraq has become one. Of all the justifications for invading Iraq that the administration juggled in the beginning, the only one that has held up over time is the desire to create a democratic nation that could help stabilize the Middle East. Any sensible discussion of what to do next has to begin by acknowledging that. The surest way to make sure that conversation does not happen is for the administration to continue pasting the "soft on terror" label on those who want to talk about the war.

It seems to me that the second sentence contradicts the first. By forcing the "breedinng grounds" for terrorists out of Afghanistan -- where we had no influence before we invaded -- and Saudi Arabia -- where there are both money and multiple connections to the West -- to the Sunni Triangle where we can freely attack and kill the jihadis, we have gained a strategic advantage over the terrorists. More importantly, we are forcing them to defend their position in Iraq. They know that if they lose Iraq to representantive democracy their credibility will be shattered, so they are pouring resources into that country. There is every possibility that Iraq will be their Stalingrad, and that the United States and the West will emerge substantially stronger than it went in. Indeed, the fact that Iraq is attracting jihadis from all over the Arab world makes it obvious, it seems to me, that they are less likely to strike the soft targets in the West.

The Times obviously cares more about preaching to the converted than rebuilding its credibility among people who consider the world with an open mind.

6 Comments:

By Blogger Fausta, at Sat Jun 25, 08:26:00 AM:

I was just going to write about this but you beat me to it! (And a much better post than what I would come up with, too)  

By Anonymous Ibn Abihi, at Sat Jun 25, 12:32:00 PM:

Here, here! Another trenchant post. Tigerhawk might have added that the Baathist-al-Qaeda alliance that we see in Iraq today deserves more analysis than the NYT wants to give it. When did it arise? What is it based on?

My memory suggests that it has a history that predates 9/11. For instance, it was in 1990 that Saddam Hussein first appealed to jihadis by stitching "Allahu Akbar" on the Iraqi flag. But then my memory has been refreshed by sources other than the op-ed page of the New York Times.

By contrast, readers who rely on the NYT as their sole source of Middle East info have been consistently misinformed -- pedantically taught that an alliance between Baathism and jihadism would be absolutely unthinkable. For instance, on July 20, 2003 the NYT ran an op-ed piece, claiming yet again that the Bush administration had fabricated the Iraq-al-Qaeda connection. According to that piece (entitled “The Next Debate: A Qaeda Link”) intelligence experts were unanimous in their conclusion that “the religious radicals of Al Qaeda and the secularists of Baathist Iraq simply did not trust one another or share sufficiently compelling interests to work together.”

If Baathism is to jihadism as oil is to water, what exactly are we witnessing in Iraq today? Wait, wait. It’s easy to anticipate how the NYT would answer that question: The Bush foreign policy, the Times would claim, has been so misguided that it has bridged the impossible gap between the Baathists and the jihadis.

Yea, yea. All evil originates with Karl Rove. It’s time for the NYT to take a step back and ask itself, "Hold on. Can we honestly say that we ever really understood just how things work in the Middle East?" Even if the Bush administration did get it wrong about an operational connection between al-Qaeda and Saddam, the NYT has never ever gotten it right.

Again, I can hear the Times' high and mighty self-defense: "We are a mere newspaper, not the government, which has at its disposal the world's greatest information gathering apparatus" That's a cop out, boys. You are a newspaper that is hard-wired to ex-Clinton officials, CIA officers, and State Department experts. In other words, you feel comfortable calling the Bush team a pack of liars precisely because you feel that you are privy to the best analysis that the government has to offer.

And yet your op-ed pages from 2002 and 2003 prove that the experts had their heads in the sand. On many issues the Bush political leadership saw Middle Eastern realities much more clearly than the professional policy establishment (and, by extension, you).

The Baathist-Jihadi nexus prevented Washington from responding effectively to the 9/11 attacks. As Tigerhawk points out, not everyone agreed that the threat of this nexus justified war. But, as Tigerhawk also suggests, to assert glibly that there was absolutely no connection between Iraq and 9/11 is a politically-motivated distortion of a much more complex situation. It's fun to imagine a reversal of roles. Suppose that the experts on whom the NYT relies had been sitting in the driver's seat after 9/11, lecturing to us about how the jihadis were the inveterate enemies of the Baathists, so we had no reason to fear that they might ever make common cause. When contrary evidence would emerge, do you think the NYT would point an accusatory finger and call all of those experts politically-motivated liars? That's a rhetorical question, of course.

The NYT would better serve its readers if it would dispense with its self-righteous indignation. Admit it, boys. The Middle East is a complex place. Nobody has all of the answers. And you guys, especially, have never understood what is really going on.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jun 26, 02:26:00 AM:

It seems to me that the second sentence contradicts the first. By forcing the "breedinng grounds" for terrorists out of Afghanistan -- where we had no influence before we invaded -- and Saudi Arabia -- where there are both money and multiple connections to the West -- to the Sunni Triangle where we can freely attack and kill the jihadis, we have gained a strategic advantage over the terrorists. More importantly, we are forcing them to defend their position in Iraq. They know that if they lose Iraq to representantive democracy their credibility will be shattered, so they are pouring resources into that country. There is every possibility that Iraq will be their Stalingrad, and that the United States and the West will emerge substantially stronger than it went in. Indeed, the fact that Iraq is attracting jihadis from all over the Arab world makes it obvious, it seems to me, that they are less likely to strike the soft targets in the West.

Forcing them out of Saudi Arabia, when did we do that? I realise MSM is quite inefficient, but I am sure I would of heard something of that invasion.

Pouring resources? A few thousand fighters from a population 100 millions strong, a population with a very high birth rate. Low tech, low budget weaponary - funded by boom time oil prices. At this rate of expenditure they will completely exhaust themselves about 2070.

To be their Stalingrad we would need to attack them in more places than just Iraq. Stalingrad was important, but only because the Soviets were able to take advantage of the Fuhrers distraction to match and beat back the other German attacks.

If America can go at it with the islamists for the next 60 years then yes America will be seen as much stronger than anybody thinks it is. But do you really believe that America will last the distance?  

By Blogger Papa Ray, at Tue Jul 05, 05:21:00 PM:

Can America last the distance?

Only if there are more attacks on the American Mainland or its two remote States.

Then the recruiting problems and many other problems will go away to be replaced by more American anger than the Left can try to surpress or sabotage.

If there are no attacks, then the question will be are we still fighting alone (with or without our English cousins), if so, then a left leaning administration might pull back and let [e]urope be eaten from the inside and the rest of the world to fight by [with] themselves.

If we do decide to pull back the world will be crying and clawing at our borders to be let in and screaming that we must save them.

Myself, I would just turn off the porch light and go watch old reruns of American Greatness.

Papa Ray
West Texas
USA  

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