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  xSaturday, September 07, 2002

oops i did it again

Sorry to hit y'all with the Britney Spears reference, but it seems another comment post I made on Cut on the Bias has the warbloggers in a state of high dudgeon. Susanna cited an Indepundit posting titled "Saddama Bin Laden" that attempts to link Saddam with bin Laden. She evidently regards it as an answer to "people with questions about the reasonableness of attacking Iraq," and that certainly includes me, so let's take a look.

I certainly agree that evidence that Saddam supported the 9/11 attacks would be ample causus belli and that such evidence, if presented and proved to be credible, would go far in uniting many who have expressed skepticism. Unfortunately, the evidence cited linking Saddam to bin Laden doesn't seem to hold water.

Here's my response from the comments thread (be sure to read the original article!):
"Possible" connections, indeed. I think "nails" Saddam [note: Susanna's term, not Indepundit's] is stretching it a bit...I'm sure a prosecutor would have a difficult time meeting a reasonable doubt standard on such flimsy evidence:

"None of the defectors were able to identify the “Islamic militants” specifically as members of Usama bin Laden’s al Qaeda organization"

"Atta also visited Syria several times between 1994 and 1999. It would not have been difficult for him to make contact with Iraqi agents during that period." (No evidence, of course, that anything of the kind actually occurred...)

"...a senior Bush administration official said that available evidence of the long-disputed meeting "holds up." The official added, "We're going to talk more about this case." "

I've noted in my own blog [Note: here, for example] that the administration always seems eager to talk about evidence...some time in the future. Why not now? If there's evidence, why not produce it? Now? After Pearl Harbor, even the most isolationist Americans were insistent on war--the evidence was unmistakable.

Of course, the fact that Bush I played a little fast and loose with the facts (as in the staged testmony by a Kuawiti ambassador's daughter that Iraqi soldiers had pulled babies from incubators), coupled with this administration's obvious obsession with getting rid of Saddam, is good reason to look at any "evidence" with a *very* skeptical eye. If there are such gaping holes in an article you claim "nails" Saddam, I shudder to think what flimsy pretext the administration is contemplating going to war on.

Oh, and this doesn't even *begin* to cover my questions on the "reasonableness" on going to war with Iraq, but it'll do for now.

Indepundit's response:

What Gregory has done is to pull out all the "circumstantial" portions of my argument, while completely ignoring the substantial body of direct eyewitness accounts of terrorist training in Iraq.

What I have done is point out that the article has not one scintilla of proof that Iraq has ties with al Qaeda, a point the Independent seems to concede in the next paragraph:

I hardly think it matters whether Saddam is in league with Bin Laden, to be brutally honest. Gregory didn't even bother to contest the well corroborated fact that Saddam is training Islamic terrorists to hijack aircraft, and that training involving chemical exposure suits and gas masks is occuring at these terror camps as well.

Unfortunately, it matters a great deal. The resultion Congress passes authorizes the President to undertake military action against the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks and their supporters. Supporting Islamic terrorists is not the same thing as supporting al Qaeda. If there's no link between al Q and Iraq, it seems to me the resolution would not authorize the use of force. Moreover, as I've said, I join with most of the American people in welcoming--even insisting upon--retaliation against Iraq. But I also join with a number of Americans in expressing skepticism at what seems to be Bush the Lesser and a number of neocon holdovers from the previous administration using the attacks as a cynical pretext to settle an old score.

I'll also note that the purpose of the training facility Indepundit is making such a bige deal about is described as "to train operatives to “[carry] out attacks against neighboring countries and possibly Europe and the United States." There we go with that word possibly again. Which of course that these alleged "well corroborated reports" couldn't say that their purpose was definitely anti-American. To paraphea

Indepundit then goes on to make a totally irrelvant analogy:

Imagine policeman on a stakeout outside a bank, hoping to catch a particular gang of bank robbers. They see a robbery in progress, and swoop in to arrest the robbers -- only to discover that they weren't from the same gang. By Gregory's logic, the police should just let them go, because they weren't the bank robbers they were looking for.

Except that this case isn't similar to that at all. The notion that Iraq is sponsoring terrorists is hardly new. As the Indepundit points out, it's a perennial member of the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism. (other members: Iran, Syria, Libya, Cuba, North Korea, and Sudan). I realize that Bush has personally declared war not just on the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks but "terrorism," but it's a perfectly reasonable queston to ask, why Iraq, and why now? Ominous assertions of a "threat" simply don't make it.

Kevin McGeehee serves up what he must have thought was a withering blast at my impertinent request for proof:

If Saddam were ever to be tried in an American court of law, the standards of proof required therein might be relevant. American standards and procedures were developed to protect the innocent against the overwhelming power and resources of the state; Saddam, being a head of state himself, has no need of such protection -- and is guilty in any event.

Except that I assert that under our Constitutional system, is isn't Saddam who deserves the proof: it's we, the people:

...the people have a right to know that the President is going to war with good reasons. Settling a personal score, diverting attention from the War on Terrorism's dismal progress and diverting attention from brewing corporate scandals do not apply, but since those motivations loom large, we the people deserve a higher standard of prooof than flimsy circumstantial evidence. And frankly, no one but the current administration takes seriously the notion that just claiming that a country is "a threat" is reason enough to go to war--even Hitler staged a fake attack from Poland as an excuse to invade; he didn't just say the Poles were "a threat" because they had cavalry or something.

However, Kevin's point is well taken that this is not a court of law, and all these analogies to bank robbers--while emotionally appealing--hardly apply here. No one has caught Saddam red-handed at anything--or at least if they have, they've failed to be forthcoming with the proof. (The Administration likes to say it'll discuss that sort of thing in the future.)

Let's also not forget that the administration of Bush the Elder played a little fast and lose with its evidence against Iraq before.

The discussion also goes off on a tangent on whether the Contra rebels, which the United States government funded and trained (illegally, by the way), are terrorists, which I don't propose to rehash here.

There's this, from Dean Esmay, who also has more to say on his blog:

The problem with the opposition to invading Iraq is that they have no alternative plan they seem willing to come forward and propose. The preference seems to be to concentrate on why Bush Sucks. If I've missed somewhere where the critics have a cogent and easily explained alternative plan they would prefer to see us follow, I'd love to read it.

That's actually an interesting argument, but the burden of proof is on the people who want to make war, no one else. My response:

The hawkish arguments are just a parroting of the Rumsfeld/Cheney line that Iraq poses some sort of threat, but that doesn't constitute evidence. The problem is the false dualism that the options are war or doing nothing. For starters, I do not accept at all the notion that any alternative *needs* to be presented. In the status quo, Iraq has been weakened, contained and deterred--so effectively that this sudden realization that Iraq is a threat rings false. But there are many things we could do short of war. Retooled and more effective sanctions. Insisting on a robust inspection regime (and if the inspections weren't effective, why did Saddam boot them out instead of letting them finish and declare that Iraq was WMD-free?). Diplomatic isolation--unfortunately, it seems the administration has little chance of pulling that one off.

Although I'm also usually happy to talk about why Bush sucks, too.

There's more, but this post is getting too long as it is, and I've only been able to work on it in increments between going to the pool, taking care of the kids, and leeching some more anime/video game music, so I'll wrap things up with a few more thoughts:

I noticed something interesting going on in the comments appended to the Indepundit article: The article attempts to refute arguments citing the differences between OBL and Saddam (that one is militantly Islamic while the other is secular, for example) by listing motiviations they have in common, not the least of which is enmity with the United States. The comment thread takes this idea further by making much of the temporary (temporary, mind you) wartime alliance between ideologically opposed Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. All this is fine as far as it goes, but bear in mind that none of that contitutes the barest shred of evidence that an OBL-Saddam alliance actually exists.

Frankly, I'm skeptical. If Saddam did have an alliance with the US, one of the worst things he could do (as far as Bush war plans are concerned) would be to offer to turn over any al Qaeda members that he may be harboring, along with evidence of their activity, financial resources, and so on. (al Qaeda members taking refuge in Iraq's northern and southern regions where Saddam has little authority don't count, of course.) With the example of Afghanistan, there can be no doubt that temporizing on that score or labeling these hypothetical terorrists "guests" would cut any ice with US resolve. And Pakistan, which was one of the Taliban's few supporters, (and a supporter of terrorism in Kashmir to boot) has definitely established the precent of getting the US to look the other way cut it some slack.

One final thought. I am sick to death of being characterized as "anti-war." I am not anti-war. I supported the action in Afghanistan (though I do wish it seemed that the Bush administration were interested in finishing the job there, especially in light of the recent bombing and assassination attempt double-header). Let me make it perfectly plain: I support the War on Terroism to the extent that it's effective and not overly intrusive on the civil liberties of law-abiding Americans, but I have yet to be convinced that the Administration has a case that taking on Iraq is a legitimate part of the war--and indeed, it may do more harm by diverting attention from actual al Qaeda activities--and I don't find broad assertions by Cheney, Rumsfeld and Company exactly credible.

Link roundup:
Original post at CotB
Indepundit article
Comment thread at CotB
Comments by Dean Esmey