The speech that starts the war

March 18th, 2003 – 8:04 pm
Tagged as: Uncategorized

Before reading through all of the other reaction to President Bush’s Monday evening speech, I thought I’d offer my own commentary on what he had to say last night. I’m only quoting the highlights, but the full text of his remarks can be found here.

Fair warning, this is rather long.

For more than a decade, the United States and other nations have pursued patient and honourable efforts to disarm the Iraqi regime without war.

This is, of course, patently untrue, at least in the case of the U.S. We have, in fact, chosen more than once to interfere with the mission of the inspectors, and we were behind them being withdrawn from Baghdad in 1998. That’s right, withdrawn, not expelled.

Over the years, UN weapons inspectors have been threatened by Iraqi officials, electronically bugged and systematically deceived.

We, on the other hand, have misused the inspectors as a means of gathering intelligence on the Iraqi regime, planting electronic bugs of our own, and supporting a failed coup attempt.

Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.

Of course, we have continually failed to actually share any of this intelligence information with either the U.N. inspectors or our allies, either because we wanted the inspectors to fail or because there is nothing to find.

This regime has already used weapons of mass destruction against Iraq’s neighbours and against Iraq’s people.

This is almost certainly true, as Saddam used chemical weapons against both the Iranians and the Iraqi Kurds. Remember though that this all happened while Saddam was still our nominal ally, and we did nothing much about his use of chemical weapons either then (when we actually continued our support for him) or at the end of the 1991 Gulf War (when we left him in power).

It has a deep hatred of America and our friends and it has aided, trained and harboured terrorists, including operatives of al-Qaeda.

This is one of the administration’s biggest lies, and the one which far too many [scroll about three-quarters of the way down the page] American’s seem to have fallen for. The President has presented two main pieces of evidence. First, the supposed meeting between al Qaeda terrorist Mohamed Atta and an Iraqi intelligence officer named Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani in Prague in 2001, something which was later shown to be untrue. The second piece of evidence is the existence of a group called Ansar al Islam, which apparently has some ties to Al Qaeda. The problem with this one is that the group’s base of operations is in the region of Iraq controlled by the Kurds, not by Saddam. As some lawmakers have asked, why haven’t we just gone in and wiped them out already? The often suggested reason is that doing so would also wipe out what Bush likes to present as the one visible (if exceedingly tenuous) link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda.

The danger is clear: using chemical, biological or, one day, nuclear weapons obtained with the help of Iraq, the terrorists could fulfill their stated ambitions and kill thousands or hundreds of thousands of innocent people in our country or any other.

In addition to this being based on the tenuous assertions of links between Iraq and Al Qaeda, it has been said by more than one analyst that there is no way Saddam would ever share his WMDs (if he even has any) with Al Qaeda, in part because his is one of the governments in the Middle East that they would like to destroy.

Recognising the threat to our country, the United States Congress voted overwhelmingly last year to support the use of force against Iraq.

Note that they did not authorize a declaration of war against Iraq, which is a step required by the Constitution before the United States enters into a war.

On 8 November, the Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1441, finding Iraq in material breach of its obligations and vowing serious consequences if Iraq did not fully and immediately disarm.

The phrase “serious consequences” has never been U.N. diplomatic language for military force. For that they use the phrase “by any means necessary,” which was purposely not used in this resolution. The U.N. Secretary General has even stated that unilateral military action would violate the U.N. Charter, and, since there was no new resolution passed, what is about the happen is essentially unilateral military action.

Yet some permanent members of the Security Council have publicly announced that they will veto any resolution that compels the disarmament of Iraq.

Actually, they announced that they would veto any resolution that automatically authorized war, as they believed that the inspections were already working, and that the inspectors needed more time to do their jobs. The U.S., on the other hand, withdrew their new resolution when they realized they could not even muster up the nine votes needed to pass it, and, in fact, may well not have gotten more than four.

Many nations, however, do have the resolve and fortitude to act against this threat to peace, and a broad coalition is now gathering to enforce the just demands of the world.

The “broad coalition” currently consists of a total of thirty countries, many of them very minor players on the world stage. Very few of them will be providing either troops or financial aid for this effort. This includes Spain, whose President has been taking every opportunity of late to pose with Bush and Blair.

The United Nations Security Council has not lived up to its responsibilities, so we will rise to ours.

In other words, we realized, to our surprise, that we couldn’t push the UN around and make them do whatever we wanted them to do, so no we’re just going to ignore them (and flout international law at the same time)

Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours.

Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict commenced at a time of our choosing.

Of course, today we find out that the invasion is actually going to happen whether Saddam leaves or not, so I guess this was more or less another lie.

Many Iraqis can hear me tonight in a translated radio broadcast, and I have a message for them: if we must begin a military campaign, it will be directed against the lawless men who rule your country and not against you.

Though many of you will, unfortunately, be killed by our bombs.

In free Iraq there will be no more wars of aggression against your neighbours, no more poison factories, no more executions of dissidents, no more torture chambers and rape rooms.

All of which we seemed to have little desire to do away with when Saddam was our ally back in the 1980s, or when we did nothing to help when (in response to our encouragement) you rose up against him at the end of the 1991 Gulf War.

Do not destroy oil wells, a source of wealth that belongs to the Iraqi people.

Do not obey any command to use weapons of mass destruction against anyone, including the Iraqi people.

Does anyone else find it interesting that he chose to talk about the oil wells before the weapons of mass destruction?

Should Saddam Hussein choose confrontation, the American people can know that every measure has been taken to avoid war and every measure will be taken to win it.

No matter how many Iraqi civilians get caught in the middle.

In desperation, he and terrorist groups might try to conduct terrorist operations against the American people and our friends.

Although Saddam never resorted to this during or after the last Gulf War, and most likely won’t have anything to do with the strikes by Muslim extremists that do take place.

The terrorist threat to America and the world will be diminished the moment that Saddam Hussein is disarmed.

Another one of those fine lies of his, since, in fact, the attack on Iraq will do little except demonstrate to young Muslim men that the US is their enemy, and that they should therefore join up with the terror groups.

In one year, or five years, the power of Iraq to inflict harm on all free nations would be multiplied many times over.

With these capabilities, Saddam Hussein and his terrorist allies could choose the moment of deadly conflict when they are strongest.

So rather than a clear and present danger, we have a hypothetical future problem based on a lie (that Saddam is allied to terrorists).

Unlike Saddam Hussein, we believe the Iraqi people are deserving and capable of human liberty, and when the dictator has departed, they can set an example to all the Middle East of a vital and peaceful and self-governing nation.

The United States with other countries will work to advance liberty and peace in that region.

Our goal will not be achieved overnight, but it can come over time.

The power and appeal of human liberty is felt in every life and every land, and the greatest power of freedom is to overcome hatred and violence, and turn the creative gifts of men and women to the pursuits of peace.

There is more than one thing to dispute in this portion of the speech. First of all, there is little chance that we are going to encourage a true democracy in Iraq and risk having a Shia (who are the majority in Iraq) government voted into power. Second, there is little chance of us establishing any sort of sustainable democracy in Iraq, given the many factions that make up that made-up country. This isn’t post-war Japan or Germany. Finally, the whole idea of this domino theory of democracy, where a democratic Iraq somehow leads to the whole region become democratic, is a total crock. Who says so?
Why, the U.S. State Department, that’s who.

All in all, this was yet another pathetic performance by President Bush, who simply spouted the same lies and half-truths that have brought us to the start of this war. Obviously he was just preaching to the converted, because what he said was hardly going to convince any of the rest of us.

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