Tuesday, September 19, 2006

the Iraq quagmire again

Richard Clarke - controversial figure

I've sobered up a bit now - need to be careful, I could find myself arrested as a potential tourist myself.

Still, I'll go on occupying dangerous ground for a while. Happen to be reading something most relevant, The battle for Iraq, a collection of BBC journalism on this deadly campaign. It takes the situation up to the end of May 2003, six months before the capture of Saddam, but a couple of weeks after Bush declared victory.

In Fergal Keane's chapter, 'The road to war', we're given important indications of Bush's intentions and attitudes to Iraq well before September 11. In late 1999, as a Presidential hopeful, Bush said this in response to a question about Saddam. 'No one had envisioned Saddam, at least that point in history, no one envisioned him still standing - it's time to finish the task.' Never mind the moronic syntax, it's only the last words that matter. A year later, during a debate with competitor Al Gore, he was at it again. After responding to the moderator's question with a sharp attack on Saddam and a promise to assist his opponents (a ragtag bunch to say the least) in every possible way, he went on to say this: 'If I found in any way, shape or form that he was developing weapons of mass destruction, I'd take him out - I'm surprised he's still there. I think a lot of other people are as well.'

So even before Bush became President, this war was on his mind, and the excuse for the war was already in place. The language clearly indicates, to me at least, that WMD was a secondary consideration. Taking out Saddam was the main game.

In the recent flood of docos and dramas about September 11, one individual stood out as the most credible critic of the current administration, and that was the former counter-terrorism heavyweight, Richard Clarke. On more than one occasion I heard him speak of a post-September 11 meeting at which Rumsfeld spoke eagerly about launching an attack on Iraq, even though it was abundantly clear that Iraq had no involvement. Clarke recalled Rumsfeld saying that attacking Afghanistan was all very well, but there weren't enough 'targets' there. If this is true, what does it say about Rumsfeld's indifference to human suffering and, indeed, to the basic values we should expect a person in his position to uphold?

The wily Rumsfeld responds to this criticism at the end of this interview, so you can make your own mind up. It's clear from it that he was interested in a strike upon Iraq, and his reason for this - to protect American surveillance aircraft - just seems woefully inadequate and hypocritical, especially when you consider operation desert fox and the long-term harassment of Iraq that had been going on. He also argues that Clarke's claim - that the invasion of Iraq greatly undermined the war on terror - is simply false, claiming that the hunt for Osama and the hunting down of terrorists in Iraq are both being carried out with the utmost vigour and without compromise. He of course fails to address the point (and he isn't probed on it) that the invasion of Iraq itself created what he would call terrorists and what others would call freedom fighters, not only in Iraq but in neighbouring countries, and in Moslem nations around the globe. The anti-Americanism in the region is all about American interference in these nations, but clearly concern about the creation of this hatred is secondary to the US securing and further exploiting its own interests in the region, as far as this regime is concerned. Later administrations can sort out the mess.



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