12.17.2003

We're Pretty Damn Safe

Dr. Dean has this to say about Saddam's capture (via Washington Post):

"The capture of Saddam has not made America safer," Dean said in a speech here to the nonpartisan Pacific Council of International Policy. "The difficulties and tragedies we have faced in Iraq show the administration launched the war in the wrong way, at the wrong time, with inadequate planning, insufficient help and at extraordinary costs so far of $166 billion."


Eric Alterman elaborates:

"In any case, all I want to say this morning is that HOWARD DEAN IS ABSOLUTELY, UNARGUABLY CORRECT when he notes that the capture of Saddam makes America no safer. America was never threatened by Iraq. Every single one of the scare tactics employed by the administration in their game of bait and switch designed to exploit the trauma of 9/11 to deploy the neocons’ longtime plan to invade Iraq has proven an exaggeration, a chimera or a lie. There were no WMDs; no nukes, and no connections to Al Qaida. Saddam was being effectively contained at the moment George Bush chose to plunge the world into war."



I previously noted that the IGC claims to have found a memo that establishes a link between Saddam and Al Qaeda. While I am pessimistic, it is possible that Saddam may have recent contacts and/or connections with several terrorist organizations (outside of support to Palestinian groups). With or without these ties, I understand the Dean/Alterman position and generally agree with it. Islamic terrorism represents an ideological challenge, but I would hardly classify it as a true challenge to western civilization or democracy. We'll be fine, with only a statistical minority sustaining physical damage. The majority of us will ride out the next twenty years in relative luxury, enjoying a quality of life unmatched by any civilization in history.

However, I still don't like this public position from the Liberal establishment. I find myself drawn to liberalism because I do care about human rights issues. I didn't support Bush's invasion of Iraq, but mainly because I think that the administration chose the worst way to frame the issues. Even though most liberals don't like Bush (OK, they hate him), how could any self-respecting liberal be disappointed with the fall of the Hussein regime?

Human Rights watch previously reported in 2000 and 2001:

The Iraqi government continued to commit widespread and gross human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests of suspected political opponents, executions of prisoners, and forced expulsions of Kurds and Turkmen from Kirkuk and other districts. Known or suspected political opponents living abroad were reportedly frequently targeted and threatened by Iraqi government agents.

Iraqi intelligence agents targeted political opponents who had fled Iraq, threatening and intimidating them or arresting and torturing family members still in the country. On June 7, Staff Lieut. Gen. Najib al-Salihi, former chief of staff of the Iraqi army's Sixth Armoured Division who had fled to Jordan in 1995, received a videotape showing the rape of a female relative by intelligence personnel. The rape or threat of rape has long been used in Iraq as a punitive measure against opponents to extract confessions or information or to pressure them into desisting from anti-government activities. Shortly afterwards, Salihi received a telephone call from his brother in Baghdad, asking him to cease all opposition activity.

In November 2000, a former Iraqi intelligence officer who fled to Jordan in June 1999 disclosed the existence of a government "prison cleansing" campaign. Captain Khalid Sajed al-Janabi, an intelligence operative from 1979 to 1999, said a March 15, 1998 directive from the Office of the President had authorized the establishment of supervisory committees to "clean up Iraqi prisons" and that he had been appointed to the Abu Ghraib prison committee. The "cleansing" operations, he said, resulted in the execution of some 2,000 detainees and sentenced prisoners on one day, April 27, 1998. He reported too that prison authorities forced doctors to inject some detainees with poison and then issue death certificates attributing their deaths to natural causes.

A preliminary survey carried out in northern Iraq by the U.N. Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat) estimated the number of internally displaced persons at 805,000 by the end of October 2000, comprising 23 percent of the population. On December 4, the executive director of the U.N. Office of the Iraq Program (OIP) told the Security Council he was "greatly concerned with the increasing number of internally displaced persons," whose living conditions in some cases were "abominable." A major factor in the rising number of internally displaced persons was the government's continued expulsion of Kurds and Turkmen from their homes in Kirkuk, Tuz Khormatu, Khaniqin, and other districts as part of its "Arabization" program.



Saddam Hussein's record of abuse is extraordinary, and is more than enough for several thousand war crime trials. Bush (or the Democrats) could have argued that Saddam be held accountable for the crimes that we can undoubtedly prove in a recognized court of law. It appears that these are the type of crimes for which he'll be prosecuted, and there has been no argument that he isn't responsible. But that's not the point here (actually, I rarely make points here...)...

Saddam is a criminal, the type that any archetypical liberal must stand against. The type of criminal that a liberal should be fundamentally happy to see go down in a pathetic whimper in a worm's tunnel. I hope that the Liberal establishment can find some way to communicate the inherent joy and satisfaction of seeing the complete end of this regime, because there are more battles to be fought in the upcoming election. Bush is weak on several fronts, including national security and the war on terror. Fight these battles, but do not forget our base core beliefs. I may not agree with America's record of violence, but I can take pride in the fact that some of these countries are now much stronger and democratic, with our assistance.

The next dozen months in Iraq will be rough, but it will eventually be something unique that we both sides will appreciate. Without our intervention, Iraq may have eventually fallen under the power of the sons, Uday and Qusay, repeating a cycle of violence that seems unending in the region's history. A catalyst for progress has been introduced to the system, whether or not individual Americans supported it or not. What's important now is to establish a democracy while maintaining a balance between the majority and the religious and ethnic minorities. This is an ideal shared by both conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats.

Yeah, I'm pissed that we went to war, too, but I'm growing equally pissed with the rhetoric coming from the Democratic candidates (and the media spin on the candidate's rhetoric). Go ahead and celebrate the fall of this brutal regime. The brief euphoria of Saddam's capture will be gone by election time, and there is much more political hay to be reaped beyond Iraq's oil fields. But the Democrats have to begin laying down the context of the next election, and prepare to control the language of the debates and rhetoric. That is the key to beating an incumbent. Control the language, and force Bush to be accountable for 9/11 secrecy, WMD intelligence snafus, Valerie Plame affair, Turkeygate, resurgence of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, failure to secure domestic ports and power facilities, the many children left behind, etc., etc.

America may not be apparently safer without Saddam, but it sure isn't hurt by it. Hell, we may have saved ourselves from a biochemical fallout two decades from now. Or we may have invited one. Who knows. But I'd like to see Democrats and Liberals quit using Iraq as a political pawn, because it alienates some moderate voters, and it could really end up backfiring if WMD or Al Qaeda links are found. Let's take the upper hand and move the focus back towards areas that Bush has tried to cover. Massive unemployment, education, national security. There won't be any real good news on those topics, but the Democrats have to start maneuvering now in order to get them on the national radar.

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