Thursday, January 11, 2007

A Letter to Sully

[posted by Callimachus]

I sent this to Andrew Sullivan:

Your "condescending" correspondent plays an interesting game. Personally, I think some pundit who says "America is going to screw up whatever it tries to do" is going to be right often enough to look like a prophet, but that doesn't make him one.

But the "against the war all along" types who want to convince you their opposition was based on their superior knowledge do exactly what they accuse the Bush administration of doing with regard to Iraq: They fudge their initial positions to conform with what has been learned since then.

Specifically, where are the WMDs? Where is any mention of that in the condescending writer's argument? Many, if not most, of the most public voices who opposed the invasion in 2003 did not do so because they said, "Saddam has no WMD." If anything, their belief that Saddam did have such weapons was put forth as an argument against attacking him.

Here's Juan Cole, for instance, on April 1, 2003:

The failure of the British or US troops to turn up any stockpiles of chemical or biological weapons is striking. Perhaps it is the case that they are well hidden or that they are hidden in Baghdad or to the north. It is dangerous to get out on a limb here and say they just don't exist. But the possibility that they just don't exist now has to be taken increasingly seriously.

...and ...

"As someone who was myself alarmed last fall by reports of Saddam getting nukes, I have to say that I increasingly feel I have been duped."

I single him out because he's the example the condescender gives. You can find such writing in everyone's archives (examples here).

Some people say, Bush's legitimate reason for attacking Saddam vanished once we realized he never was a WMD threat. But what such people ought to be asked now is, if that would have been a legitimate reason, why were you against overthrowing Saddam when you, too, thought he had WMD?

Cole, it should be noted, was not in that camp. Some other surprises from Cole's archives that the condescender might not want to remember:

"My own knowledge of the horrors Saddam has perpetrated makes it impossible for me to stand against the coming war, however worried I am about its aftermath. World order is not served by unilateral military action, to which I do object. But world order, human rights and international law are likewise not served by allowing a genocidal monster to remain in power." [Feb. 5, 2003]

"I hold on to the belief that the Baath regime in Iraq has been virtually genocidal (no one talks about the fate of the Marsh Arabs) and that having it removed cannot in the end be a bad thing. That's what I tell anxious parents of our troops over there; it is a noble enterprise to remove the Baath, even if so many other justifications for the war are crumbling." [April 1, 2003]

As for his always being right about us, or Iraq:

"In other words, the Bush administration is not actually going into Iraq to establish democracy. Rather, the Iraqi people will just be forced at gunpoint to trade a belligerant dictatorship for a pliant one. This is to be Chile 1973, not Japan 1945. I have been very afraid myself all along that the Cheneys, Rumsfelds and Wolfowitzes would pull this switch on us at the last minute." [Feb. 17, 2003]

"I think the Arabic word for quagmire is probably al-mustanqa`. Washington will probably have to learn to pronounce it." Also, "... the Baath and the Republican Guards are standing firm ...." [March 27, 2003]

"... I have for a long time tried to warn that the Sunni Arabs, including the Republican Guard, would make a strong stand against the invaders." [March 31, 2003]