Why I didn't support the war...

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or, as I put it at the time, "I support a war with Iraq, but I don't support this war with Iraq.

At the time (i.e. before the war), everyone was convinced that Saddam had WMD. This made Iraq a threat, but not an immanent threat as there was no evidence of a massing of troops or a plan being implemented to attack the US or any other nation. Nor was there evidence showing that Saddam was planning on getting those WMD into the hands of terrorists or rogue nations. Without an immanent threat, war under the rationale of "preemptive war" just didn't fly for me. (I know that others disagree with me here, but war in response to non-immanent threats is more properly classified as "preventative war", a category of war which I am not comfortable supporting.)

Yes, there were violations of the UN Security Council decrees. Such violations gave the UN the right to declare war, though not the obligation to do so (just as being attacked gives the right but not the obligation to retaliate [c.f. Israel's noble non-retaliation against Iraq during the first Gulf War]). The decision about whether to go to war over UN security council decree violations properly belongs to the UN security council (regardless of the corruption of the members of the council). The security council, for whatever reasons, did not look like it was going to authorize war.

However, I did think that there was a perfectly good reason to go to war besides preventative war or UN security council decree violations: humanitarian intervention. Saddam was widely recognized to have one of the worst (though not the worst, that honor is held by Kim Jong-Il) human rights records on the planet. For this reason, I was willing to support a war waged with the purpose of halting these human rights abuses.

But then there was a press conference held by Rumsfeld. He was asked point blank if the Administration was proposing a war for humanitarian reasons. Rumsfeld was crystal clear in his response: "No. Iraq has a long record of human rights abuse, but that is not and must not be the reason was go to war with them. The reason we must go to war is WMD--that and nothing else." At that moment, the administration completely lost my support for the war. Rumsfeld essentially said that human rights violations were neither necessary nor sufficient reason to go to war--basically, that factor was completely irrelevant. Though Jeremy asserts that this administration has always had humanitarian reasons for going to war, this statement demonstrates the contrary.

"So what?" you might ask. "Who cares why they want war. If you both want the same result, then who cares if you disagree on why." I might agree with that sentiment if we were talking about something simple like turning on a light switch (a simple one, not a dimmer switch) where there is only one way to do it. But there are lots of ways to wage war, and why you are waging war determines to no small degree how you wage war. A war of self-defense is fought differently from a war of invasion is fought differently from a war of liberation.

The administration's stated goal was "regime change" and they fought the war accordingly--they used the minimum force needed necessary to topple Saddam quickly. "Mission Accomplished" was accurate inasmuch as the mission was regime change.

But contrast that with what I wanted: a war for humanitarian intervention. There the goals are the safety of the Iraqi people and the installation of a stable and humane government; not merely the toppling of Saddam. This kind of war is fought more slowly using more troops. You have to make sure that you have enough troops to protect and safeguard infrastructure (like electrical grids) and culture (like libraries and museums), not just strategic targets (like the Ministry of Oil and weapons depots).

When every soldier is aware that the goal is the ending of human rights abuses, then the likelihood of Abu Ghraib goes way down.

A war for humanitarian relief would likely have (with the benefit of hindsight, or a little bit of foresight) been more successful in most respects. Which is why I supported that war and not this one.


Rumsfeld is Rumsfeld. Insiders have many times insisted that the WMD thing was just the only justification everyone involved could agree on, and this included the differences of opinion within the Bush Administration, the intelligence bureaus, and anyone else who might have been in on the disucssion, including probably a number of Congressional leaders. Bush himself made it quite clear as early as September 2002 that it was one of his justifications. Here's a direct quote:

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will immediately and unconditionally forswear, disclose, and remove or destroy all weapons of mass destruction, long-range missiles, and all related material.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will immediately end all support for terrorism and act to suppress it, as all states are required to do by U.N. Security Council resolutions.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will cease persecution of its civilian population, including Shi'a, Sunnis, Kurds, Turkomans, and others, again as required by Security Council resolutions.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will release or account for all Gulf War personnel whose fate is still unknown. It will return the remains of any who are deceased, return stolen property, accept liability for losses resulting from the invasion of Kuwait, and fully cooperate with international efforts to resolve these issues, as required by Security Council resolutions.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will immediately end all illicit trade outside the oil-for-food program. It will accept U.N. administration of funds from that program, to ensure that the money is used fairly and promptly for the benefit of the Iraqi people.

That's a much more comprehensive case than a lot of people have been making it sound as if Bush had made, and it definitely includes the justification you considered a legitimate one. The reason WMD were the focus on the UN speech is that they had already set a precedent for not recognizing such a justification with Kosovo. That doesn't mean Bush himself prioritized it any lower, and he did mention it. Rumsfeld is Rumsfeld, and he isn't the one who made the decision in the end. His reasons shouldn't be taken to be the Administration's reasons. He's just one official, and we know they disagreed on this within the cabinet.

Rumsfeld is Rumsfeld

Ummm...hard to argue with that. What do you mean to tell me by saying that besides stataing a tautology?

The reason I focus on Rumsfeld is that he is the SecDef. He's the one who runs the war. And how he ran the war certainly seems to be consistent with what HE believed the rationale of the war was (regime change, NOT humanitarian intervention), even if Bush had other reasons.

If Bush had more and better reasons, then he needed to make that clear to Rumsfeld. His lack of setting vision and getting his closest subordinates to follow that vision says troubling things about his leadership. Alternately, if Bush did make his vision clear to Rumsfeld and Rumsfeld chose to act not in accordance with Bush's wishes, then Rumsfeld needs to get sacked.

I'm not sure why one stage of the chain of command gets arbitrarily selected as the one who runs the war. On one level he does. On another level he doesn't. The president is clearly his boss. He was clearly the boss of Tommy Franks, but Franks if anyone was the one who ran the war, just as Schwarzkopf ran the first Gulf War and got most of the attention for doing so. Dick Cheney served more as a back-home guy to update people on how the war was going.

Now the issue you were focusing on in this post wasn't how the war was run but whether there was a good reason for going to war in the first place, and the one to make that call is the president, not the secretary of defense. It seems pretty obvious to me that Rumsfeld was pushing for the WMD justification and no other, but it seems just as clear to me that other top people in the administration, including Colin Powell, were arguing that Bush include the other justifications. Bush made the call to include them, even though not everyone involved thought they should be used. When Bush finally announced his decision, it became clear that the reason you would have endorsed was the one he was able to express the most strongly and movingly, which suggests that it was the one that motivated him the most.

That's why I don't think it matters that much what Donald Rumsfeld thought about which motivations count as a just cause in invading Iraq.

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