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January 12, 2004

Red fish, blue fish. Andrew Northrup reads Slate so we don’t have to.
3. Shorter Thomas Friedman: There were four reasons for going into Iraq—stated reason, the moral reason, the right reason, the real reason, the borrowed reason, the blue reason, and the One True Reason — exactly as fortold in the ancient prophecy. We had to attack Iraq in order to show the Arabs who’s baddest. We just had to, alright? I don’t have to make sense — I work for the Times.
[11:17 PM]
Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on Red fish, blue fish.:

Jaquandor ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 07:40 AM:

Check out one of Steven Den Beste's most recent posts, and you'll see pretty much the same reasoning: WMDs didn't matter at all, and hey, taking out an evil regime was just icing on the cake. We just needed to blow something up.

J.Scott Barnard ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 09:19 AM:

It's true, whether you like it or not, that this was needed after 9/11, a reshaping of the middle east.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 10:13 AM:

Of course, by that logic, the correct response to IRA terrorism would be for Britain to invade Spain.

What was needed after 9/11 was a concerted drive against the people who committed 9/11. Not a colossal waste of blood and treasure in pursuit of some other agenda. Given that, unlike most armchair Middle East-reshapers, Teresa and I actually watched the atomized remains of our neighbors rain down on our block on 9/11, I think perhaps we can be forgiven for thinking that perhaps our country's efforts might be focussed on dealing with the people who actually, you know, did it.

Oddly enough, it appears that significant parts of our military establishment actually agree. What I want to know is, why does J. Scott Barnard hate America?

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 10:23 AM:

Thor with a hangover.

'Reshaping the Middle East' is the sort of alleged objective that gets into history books under the heading of 'how much more fortunate it would have been had these people had their femurs gnawed out by clue weasels instead'.

"Reshape the Middle East" is not, after all, an objective.

Let me say that again.

Reshaping the Middle East is not an objective.

It's an invitation to chaos; it's an opportunity for dozens of factions and interest groups to attempt to decide what shape they want the Middle East to take. (Which turns into a competition between pirates, nihilists and theocrats.)

To be an objective, you have to be able to say when you're done, when you're getting nearer or less near to success, what it would mean to succeed in measurable, tangible ways, and so on.

What y'all got, what we all got, was the most stunning display of strategic incompetence in the previous two centuries, the precise kind of strategic incompetence that drove the decline of the divine right of kings as a political theory.

Before you kick about that judgement, provide another example in the time frame where the stated cause of action was known to be false, the means chosen to enact the supposed goal were inadequate to either the stated goal or any of the postulated actual goals, the cost of acting was unbearably high, and withdrawal of forces certain to produce a situation worse for all concerned than the initial situation the action might be supposed to correct, ammend, or ammeliorate.

This is really epic incompetence, the kind one just cannot put in fiction.

Also the kind that makes everyone's life worse for generations.

Mike ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 10:34 AM:

Thanks for bringing some clarity to the sloppy reasoning of a formerly reasonable reporter. What happened to Friedman anyway, and what happened to the Times?

Derek James ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 12:58 PM:

What was needed after 9/11 was a concerted drive against the people who committed 9/11.

Since 9/11 we've:

--Either killed or captured 2/3 of the senior Al Qaeda leadership, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Mohammed Atef, , Ali Qaed Senyan al-Harthi, Hambali, Abu Zubaydah, Ramzi Binalshibh, Mohammed Haydar Zammar, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, and Anas al-Liby.

--Ousted the Taliban from power and made it a much less hospitable training ground and base of operations for terrorists.

--Frozen or seized millions of dollars in terrorist funds.

I would have liked to have caught bin Laden by now as well...but to say we haven't made a "concerted drive"...?

BSD ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 01:24 PM:

1: Al Qaeda was deeply entangled with the governing family of Saudi Arabia, whose assets remain unfrozen and members remain uninvestigated.
2: The Taliban was deeply entangled with, and largely a creation of, Pakistani intelligence. They remain "strong allies".
3: Al Qaeda remains, according to the "administration's" assessments, a credible and substantial threat, no less capable of upping the alert level than a year ago.
4: Middle management is not truly of much import to what is, ultimately, a celliorganized, decentralized organization, with a still-living and pronouncing propaganda-head.

Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 01:31 PM:

5. And how many billions of dollars (and hundreds of our soldiers' lives, and "enemy" civilian lives) have we spent attacking a country with less connection to Al Qaeda than our own administration has?

How is that "concerted", when only a tiny percentage of our effort is directed at the people responsible?

Imagine the inroads we could have made by spending a few tens of billions of dollars going after Al Qaeda!

Barry ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 02:37 PM:

Just think of the imaginary Al Quaida New Year's Eve party, in 2001 and 2003.

2001:
positive - killed 3K Great Satans, on
TV!!!!!
- N. Korea still a looming problem for
the US.
- Pakistan still has potential, with
little that the US can do about it.

negative - lost Afghanistan as a solid
base, after laughably easy US
campaign (should have paid
attention to Kosovo).
- many members killed/driven into
hiding.
- massive international
cooperation, including countries
not known for getting along with
the US (Syria, Iran).

2003:

negative - still lost many members; many in
hiding.

positives - Brand-new playground called 'Iraq',
with far better location, and massive
'fixer-downer' potential.
- Saddam in US custody - fun pictures!!
- international cooperation
with US decreased.
- massive US ground force commitment,
on terms reasonably favorable to
Al Qaida. US forces stressed out and
over extended, very likely to no
useful purpose.
- Afghanistan being retaken by Taliban
and Al Quaida, by classic 'we own the
night' guerrilla warfare.
- N. Korea still a looming problem for
the US, with less ability for US to
deal with it.
- Pakistan has more potential, with
little that the US can do about it.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 05:34 PM:

It strikes me as not inconceivable that this might be of some interest.

The guy's a real grownup now. Makes me feel old, but hey.

Chuck Nolan ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2004, 07:40 PM:

So according to Friedman, this was all about waving the national penis? Is that about what it was?

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2004, 03:09 AM:

Chuck: Well, it was really about showing everyone Shrub's penis is bigger than his daddy's.

MKK

J.Scott Barnard ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2004, 11:40 AM:

Patrick: "The views expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government."

An author being published in a journal does not represent "significant parts of our military establishment."

It may surprise you that the journal editors welcome divergent opinions in order to stimulate debate and discussion. Kind of like your site, I think. --scott

John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2004, 02:16 PM:

Hmm. When's Hitch supposed to respond in Slate?

I find Safire more persausive than Friedman....


Thersites ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2004, 03:04 AM:

It has been considered imperative policy to "reshape" the Middle East by the "west" ever since the, um, Crusades. It hasn't really worked out very well yet.

Iraq itself has been "reshaped" throughout the 20th century, not least by the US.

What we're doing in Iraq has squat to do with 9/11. History in fact began earlier.

(And I'm getting rather testy about 9/11 being used like this, BTW, having a bit of a prejudice against seeing mass human suffering used to further preexisting political agendas. I'm funny that way.)

J.Scott Barnard ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2004, 06:54 AM:

"...mass human suffering used to further preexisting political agendas.."

Thersites, you must be referring to the Baath Party, right?

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2004, 11:58 AM:

Gosh, J.Scott, I thought he meant 9/11 being used by the Republican Party. But of course, the Baath party used mass human suffering to further their political agenda.

And you made me realize that the Republican Party is now applying mass human suffering in a more pernicious way than even Thersites was claiming. I refer of course to the whole Iraq war, which has caused (and continues to cause) mass human suffering of American troops, their families back home, and, of course, Iraqis (not that anyone really cares about them), for the political goal of raising Dubya's approval rating, a base and reprehensible goal in itself.

And now I'm going to get the usual "so you think Saddam Hussein should have stayed in power" and blah blah blah. Well, crap. By now we could have de-Saddamized (I just love the way that sounds) Iraq by peaceful means, or failing that with much more worldwide cooperation, and generating much less hatred of Americans, and with much less bloodshed on both sides.

A lot of Americans have died because Bush was hasty and arrogant. Not so mention a liar.

He lied, and keeps on lying.
They died, and keep on dying.

J.Scott Barnard ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2004, 02:00 PM:

"By now we could have de-Saddamized (I just love the way that sounds) Iraq by peaceful means.."

We tried the peaceful route for years.

I'm not sure how the logic of mass human suffering=raising Dubya's approval rating. If what you say is true, then Dubya should be defeated in a landslide. I suspect he'll win because your view will be in the minority...WMD or no. If he lied, then so did the Democrats when they claimed Sadaam had WMD. He didn't lie, neither did Clinton. The intelligence was faulty. Remember, regime change was the policy of the previous administration as well.

Interesting debate. I'm still not sure why Patrick thinks I hate America. I emailed him kindly asking for an explanation but he's probably too busy to answer and that's fine.

Peace. --scott

Varia ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2004, 02:19 PM:

Graydon:

'how much more fortunate it would have been had these people had their femurs gnawed out by clue weasels instead'.

Every time I scroll down this thread, checking out the later comments, somehow this line manages to catch my eye. And every time, it makes my world a better place. It could be the felicitous similarity between "femur" and "lemur". It could be the happiness of the phrase "clue weasel". It could just be my joy in imagining our fearless leaders attacked by maddened mustelids. But I suspect that the why's and wherefore's of this are not, ultimately, all that important, and instead I sit back and enjoy the world just that little bit more.

:)

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2004, 03:16 PM:

J.Scott, irony was intended. Instead of merely capitalizing on externally-generated human suffering (e.g. 9/11) to promote a pre-existing agenda (e.g. taking out Saddam), the Bush Administration (I claim) was resorting to the direct application of new, fresh human suffering (the suffering of the US troops, their families, and the Iraqi people) to further a political goal (everyone gets behind the President in wartime).

If you honestly didn't understand that, then I cannot imagine what you meant by your comment to Thersites.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2004, 03:40 PM:

J. Scott, the "why does X hate America" thing is an old weblog joke, dating back to the immediate post-9/11 period when a lot of Americans were (at least in the opinion of some of us) getting accused of "hating America" at the drop of a hat, for instance for doubting that Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda were bridge partners.

So the sarcastic redeployment of the phrase in any argument with any war supporter has become a reflexive joke with some of us. Which is probably, at this point, a bad habit because it's (1) rude, (2) unclear, (3) dumb, and (4) did I mention, rude.

So my apologies.

nina ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2004, 09:51 PM:

J. Scott 97

If he lied, then so did the Democrats when they claimed Sadaam had WMD. He didn't lie, neither did Clinton. The intelligence was faulty. Remember, regime change was the policy of the previous administration as well.

* The "Democrats" never claimed Saddam had WMD, and to state that they (or we) did is careless phrasing, so lazy and sloppy it's nearly meaningless.

* Clinton's "regime change" policy specifically excluded the kind of large-scale military adventurism we're now pursuing.

* Even if Clinton's policy had aligned perfectly with Bush's, you'll notice that only one of those men invaded another country. How did Bush look at substantially the same intelligence available to Clinton, and come to such radically different conclusions? (Points off for waving the bloody 9/11 flag. There is no evidence Iraq was involved; Bush has said so, Powell has said so. Too bad they couldn't have figured that out before the invasion.)

* "The intelligence was faulty" 97 you're really going out on a limb here, J. Aren't you the least bit curious about why it was so faulty? Are our intelligence agencies that incompetent and clueless? Then heads should roll, don't you think? If they didn't screw up, who did?

* If getting rid of the heinous butcher Saddam Hussein was the real reason for invading, then why did Bush, Powell, Cheney, Perle, et al., keep intoning all those dire warnings about WMDs ?

* If remaking the Middle East was the real reason for invading, then why did we go in with absolutely no plan for occupying and administering Iraq? "Theyll love us! You'll see!" 97 that's not a plan.

Have these questions never occurred to you? Or do you just not care about the answers?

Thersites ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2004, 12:04 AM:

Yeah, J. Scott, I'm against the Bush administration using the tactics of the Baath party. (Which Baath party were you referring to, anyway?)

But whatever. You seized on my parenthetical. Not my main point. What I said was that it is patently ridiculous to state that NOW "we have to reshape the Middle East." The shape of the Middle East was quite literally drawn by the West. The shape of Iraq was, certainly.

9/11 was the pretext for the Iraqi adventure. Not the trigger. This "reshaping" idea is ancient, and has never worked yet.

J.Scott Barnard ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2004, 11:15 AM:

"The "Democrats" never claimed Saddam had WMD, and to state that they (or we) did is careless phrasing, so lazy and sloppy it's nearly meaningless."

Nina: Clinton said they had them. (see Operation Desert Fox) Clark testified in '02 before Congress that he thought they had them.

The intelligence apparatus under both the Clinton and the Bush administration has failed us when it comes to their descriptions of what Sadaam did or did not have.

This isn't a Republican war anymore than Kosovo was a Democrat war. See the bi-partisan votes in Congress that gave Bush a blank check.

I supported the war for lots of reasons beyond WMD, but I recognize that there has been a huge failure, one that needs to be accounted for, in our government's handling of intelligence. Hold Bush accountable if you choose too. But the whole Bush Lied meme is tiresome.

J.Scott Barnard ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2004, 11:19 AM:

Also Nina,

"Have these questions never occurred to you? Or do you just not care about the answers?"

Yes, the questions arise in my mind. And I do care about the answers.

But should the answers be not politically convenient for you...I wonder if suddenly YOU won't care.

Peace.
--scott

Chuck Nolan ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2004, 12:43 PM:

"But the whole Bush Lied meme is tiresome."

Tiresome it may be, but, unfortunately for this country, it's the truth. Undeniably, well-documented, incontrovertably, the truth.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2004, 02:45 PM:

J.Scott, how quickly did you tire of the "Clinton lied" meme when that was going around? And that one was about a blowjob, and was rightly the business of three people in the world. Maybe four, if you count Chelsea.

That lie didn't get anyone killed, unlike Bush's lies.

nina ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2004, 05:43 PM:

J. Scott 97

If you mean "the Clinton administration," don't say "the Democrats." The two terms aren't synonymous.

For someone who says he's thought about the questions I raised, and cares about the answers, you show a curious reluctance to face them.

Clinton said they had them. (see Operation Desert Fox) Clark testified in '02 before Congress that he thought they had them.

Which demonstrates my point. Clinton looked at the intel and ordered Desert Fox. Bush looked at much the same intel, minus the capacity destroyed in DF, and invaded a country. Why? (Remember, there's no evidence linking Iraq to 9/11.)

...I recognize that there has been a huge failure, one that needs to be accounted for, in our government's handling of intelligence. Hold Bush accountable if you choose too.

Do you see any indication of any investigation of the failures in intelligence, strategic planning, or anything else? If so, please clue me in. And it's not a matter of me, or anyone else, "choosing to" hold Bush accountable. He's the guy in charge, right? Commander Codpiece, prancing around in the flight suit. He was hellbent on starting this war and, like it or not, it's his.

But should the answers be not politically convenient for you...I wonder if suddenly YOU won't care.

I would find it "politically convenient" if I felt able to trust the president of my country without having to limit my reading material to Highlights for Children. Getting clear and cogent answers to my questions would be a good start toward that.

CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2004, 12:41 AM:

J Scott: Nina has pointed most of your instances of clumsiness/confusion; I add that in '02 Clark was not a Democrat.

And to present uncertainties as certainties is to lie, even if you insist that it's only the removed lie "We know this to be true." And there are cases where he reported as true things that were already known to be false, such as the 10-year-old blatantly-forged ]African[ letter. If you insist, Shrub might be regarded as a simpleminded puppet reciting other peoples lies.

J.Scott Barnard ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2004, 12:33 PM:

"clumsiness/confusion"??

There's no confusion here. I may disagree with you all, but I'm not confused about anything.

"I add that in '02 Clark was not a Democrat."

Oy.

Nice talking to you all. Come over to BurtonTerrace.blogspot.com some time. Peace. --s

J.Scott Barnard ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2004, 01:48 PM:

Oh, and Chip...Britain stands by the african yellowcake thing that everyone makes a big deal over. And recently, that yellowcake was found. But I guess you'll just keep moving the bar...
Here's the story from that bastion of conservatism, the San Fran Chronicle.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/news/archive/2004/01/16/international1146EST0568.DTL

Bob Webber ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2004, 04:56 PM:

J.Scott, I was trying to avoid getting entangled in this, but you are misrepresenting the article you link to quite badly.

The article's only comment on the origin of the Uranium yellowcake found in a shipment of scrap metal in Rotterdam is that it's considered to be, and being tested to confirm that it is, from a Uranium mine in Iraq.

If what the article posits as likely is confirmed by the IAEA as fact, this yellowcake has nothing to do with "the african yellowcake thing that everyone makes a big deal over."

The article you cite certainly does nothing to support the notion that Iraq imported or tried to import yellowcake from Africa in support of a program of development of weapons of mass destruction.

Way to boost your credibility!

Barry ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2004, 09:53 AM:

J.Scott Barnard:

(re: whether he has questions about all of
these alleged 'intelligence failures')

"Yes, the questions arise in my mind. And I do care about the answers.

But should the answers be not politically convenient for you...I wonder if suddenly YOU won't care."

We don't know for whom the answers might be politically inconvenient. We do know that the Bush administration acts like they believe that the answers will be politically inconvenient for them.

And they're in an excellent position to know that.

J.Scott Barnard ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2004, 10:04 AM:

I don't care to "boost" my "credibility". Rather, I care to learn something from people such as yourself through this kind of discussion.

Comments like "clumsiness/confusion" "you show a curious reluctance to face them." (so I'm reading other people's blogs who have different views..but I'm still accused of showing reluctance?)"careless phrasing, so lazy and sloppy it's nearly meaningless." don't exacty help to get across your point of view.

Have a great week. --scott

nina ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2004, 11:26 AM:

J. Scott

If I've hurt your feelings, please accept my apology. I'd be happy to address the substance rather than the form of your posts (though the two are intertwined), if I could find any substance other than unsupported opinions and assertions. If you want an informed discussion, you have to bring something to the table.

J.Scott Barnard ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2004, 12:25 PM:

"If you want an informed discussion, you have to bring something to the table."

True.