Two Questions

I heard the President’s speech. So did most of everyone else, I imagine. I remain frustrated. I am willing to support unilateral action on our part; I’m willing to go along with this. But I’m still waiting for the answer to two simple questions, and I haven’t gotten the answer to either one yet. The questions are:

  1. Why Iraq?

  2. Why now?

If we have evidence that Iraq’s government sponsored the terrorists who took out the WTC, okay. If we have evidence that Saddam is getting ready to sell (or give) nuclear technology or biological weapons or chemical weapons to terrorist organizations — or that it has already done so — all right. Those would be clear reasons. But I keep thinking that if the administration had those clear connections, the Presidend would have been taking them public long before now, knowing that either of those points would convince a lot of fence-sitters. I’m assuming the government would like to convince a lot of fence-sitters, opinion-polls being as popular as they have ever been, and elected officials being as vulnerable to being voted out of office as they have ever been.

So. Why Iraq? We have clear evidence of the involvement of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan in the attacks — their people were on the planes. Libya? We know they sponsor terrorism. Why Iraq? I just want as much of a chain of evidence as I can get without sacrificing the lives of the people who obtained it.

And why now? Is there some pressing deadline that we will cross at our own peril? Does Iraq have plans in the works that we (meaning our government) knows about that are aimed at the US or at our allies? I’m not asking for classified documents. I would like more than what I’ve gotten, which is that Saddam is a vile creature who should not be entrusted with the lives of his own people, much less those of the rest of the world. That was clear a long time ago. But what has changed to require his removal now?

I’m not a pacifist. I have frequently come out in favor of intelligently applied violence as an excellent solution to problems resistant to other approaches. I am entirely willing to be convinced that attacking Iraq now is a defensive, not offensive, move. I personally think that we should have taken Saddam out when we were over there the last time; I don’t doubt for a minute that he has no business being a national leader, or even still breathing.

I simply need evidence-supported answers to those two questions and I’m good to go.

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16 responses to “Two Questions”

  1. Tom Bird Avatar

    Now this is my perspective and no one else’s:

    First, Bush is a crook. The whole Bush clan are less than honest. I am old enough to remember the savings and loan debacle back in the late fifties. All the Bush brothers were tied up in that one. My grandmother lost twenty-thousand dollars in that one. (I didn’t lose anything because my bar bills kept me pretty insolvent in those days.)

    On the other side of the aisle, I have only seen one Democrat president that I respected at all, John F. Kennedy. At the other end of the spectrum was a drooling whiner named Jimmy Carter. In my estimation, Reagan was a puppet on a string. Clinton and his husband Hillary were and are Marxists of the first water. Hillary is the True Believer. Willy just wants to get laid.

    So that brings us up to this war. We should fight it because of 911. I would much rather see the people who hate us bleed than out own boys and girls over there.

    If we don’t kick butt now and not stop until there is no more butt to kick, we will not be here as a country much longer. We have more enemies than just the Arabs.

    Think about it.

    Tom Bird

  2. Jim Woosley Avatar
    Jim Woosley

    I don’t know.

    What is the expected backlash against America if we do nothing?

    This time, we’re on the lookout, and while I sometimes chafe at the reduction in civil liberties, I think that the effects of any additional terrorism against American targets will be limited.

    Yes, we are at increased risk at least temporarily, but I believe that the President believes that the long-term benefits will offset the temporary increase in risk.

    I’m also confident that the Administration is aware of the fog of war. After all, the United States has been at war for a year and a half now.

    (For the record, I wrote my congresscritters back when it first seemed likely that war with Iraq would be undertaken. I made three points: (a) Pull as many sources as possible out of Iraq and make full disclosure of both the connections to Al Queda and the status of WMD. (b) Recognize that the war might not be popular overseas; if you commit to starting this, stick to it. And, (c) don’t sell us any rose-colored glasses. Hope for the best, plan for the worst. I’m not horribly pleased with their response to (a) but reasonably pleased with how they’ve implemented (b) and (c) based on what I know a the moment.

  3. Katherine Avatar


    100,000 x 5% x 20% = 1,000<< If 9/11 proved anything, it proved that you don’t need nuclear weapons to kill a thousand people. What is the expected number of fatalities due to anti-American backlash-inspired terrorism? There’s an old military adage that no plan survives contact with the enemy. The thing that worries me most about this administration is their apparent blindness to all inputs that challenge their world view.

  4. Jim Woosley Avatar
    Jim Woosley

    Is this sufficient?

    (a) Absent interevention, what is the probability that Saddam will have nuclear weapons within the next two years? Let’s say 20%.

    (b) Given Saddam has nuclear weapons, what is the probability that such weapons might be used against US citizens anywhere in the world within a year of development (whether on US soil or, e.g. against US tourists in Isreal)? What number would you choose? I’d say the risk is as great as 5%.

    (c) The number of fatalities from such a weapon used by terrorists in the middle of a modern metropolis (whether New York, London, or Jerusalem): 100,000


    100,000 x 5% x 20% = 1,000

    ACCEPTABLE NUMBER (Post -9/11): 0.

    What would YOU do?

  5. Jim Woosley Avatar
    Jim Woosley

    I’m working on it…

    Meanwhile, the Libertarian Party home page has a well-thought out piece which argues against war from the Libertarian perspective and picks apart both most of the "conservative" and the "liberal" arguments, and answers Holly’s questions in the negative.

    (I’m reminded that even the "Bible" of libertarian SF, L. Neil Smith’s "The Probability Broach," admitted that dealing with with WMD in the hands of terrorist presented the greatest challenges for a libertarian society, and that the solution against the threat of nuclear terrorism in that novel involved the de-facto murder of the persons intending to import nuclear weapons into Smith’s libertarian Wonderland.)

    And there is an interesting (but very simplistic) piece circulating the Internet which compares the present world situation to Germany in 1934, with the US (and Bush) compared to Germany and Hitler. More than a bit over the top, and it ignores the comparison between Germany in 1941 and Iraq today.

    Why Iraq? Why now? I admit that I have a lot of faith that there IS intelligence out that that can’t be revealed which answers those questions. (One may safely assume that, if a CIA analyst says that the information doesn’t exist, it’s at least 50-50 that it does but they can’t reveal the information without putting the source’s life at risk. The world is not quite as simple as a Tom Clancy novel, but there is much truth there amid the fiction — as there is in any good fiction). And I have no doubts whatsoever that the world would be a better place without Saddam. Anyone who rants against America’s promise to go to war without also demanding Saddam comply fully with the UN resolutions does not have my sympathy.

    The bottom line may well be the "we don’t want a crazy man playing with WMD." Which is a true statement, even is very simplified for most people’s vision of realpolitik. And the bottom line may well be that Bush would rather be crucified (metaphorically) for acting preemptively than for having to preside over the aftermath of 100,000 American citizens (or citizens of any of our allies, for that matter) killed by a terrorist-placed, Iraqi-built nuclear or biological weapon. Or it may even be that he is acting on bad advice; it’s been known to happen — decisions based on what Iraq COULD do (of which I have little doubt), not on which it might do. For example, I have little doubt that if Saddam had nuclear weapons and had a cash offer from Al Queda to buy one, we would be under a nuclear terror threat right now.

    But I, at least, don’t believe that the President’s acting in bad faith.

  6. Jean Avatar

    Regarding the damning intelligence, presuming it exists, I can only offer one reason it isn’t being presented–the source or sources are so sensitive, revelation would directly pinpoint the source to that person or persons, resulting in their immediate death–possibly after extreme torture. We can live with an electronic loss of intelligence–it just costs another several (many several) million dollars to build a another special machine. That’s only money, so we could reveal some of those sources as Secretary Powell did earlier. Human sources are another matter entirely–we really don’t like to betray the people who trust us.

    I saw a brief news article this week that the man responsible for burying the most recent crop of chemical/biological weapons in November, 2002, before the inspectors arrived (they killed all the other workers who performed the labor so they wouldn’t talk) was also killed as he tried to escape from Iraq. I guess since he was in charge, he must have thought he might have a chance. No such luck.

    I hope after everything is over, the evidence will be able to be presented in a manner to answer our questions satisfactorily.

  7. Elizabeth Avatar

    Your two questions outline exactly why I am so deeply mistrusting of this war. I do not have a problem with military solutions to problems (see WWII as a prime example), but I also believe that our military resources are limited and dear–they are our brothers and sons, and our economy is teetering. I want American soldiers’ lives risked only for necessary things–American safety, American freedom, preventing collossal disasters.

    If clear evidence was put forth that there was a direct link between Al Quaida and Iraq, I would support this war. If there was evidence that they had and intended to use mass destruction against us, I would be for it. But when I read that the CIA, or the insiders in the UN, or other people who ought to have the security clearances to know this safely, aren’t convinced, I worry. It’s their job to know.
    I supported, and still support, the military action against Afganistan, because the military is so clearly the best solution to this obvious threat to America. But I am not swayed that terrible dictators per se require military action on the US’s part–there are many terrible dictators out there with regimes as awful as Saddam’s (Africa is full of them). I wish we finished his regime when we had the chance, but we didn’t. I have a hard time rationalizing this kind of risk to our people without more evidence. The middle east is fragile, and I am afraid of the consequences of a domino effect. I also fear North Korea, another dictator who seems to have more evidence of nukes. What about them? Our military is the best in the world, but can we fight on three fronts?

    I have no solutions.

    But this is my goal. I will continue to pray every day for the American soldiers at risk and any civilians in the way of this oncoming onslaught. I will support our troops. But because I support our soldiers, I will also continue to question our government. I consider it my duty. Like you, I do not expect to personally see classified documents that would risk the lives of informants, but I do want those (members of the UN, the US security people, high ranking senators of all political persuasions) who can safely see those documents to agree. And I do not see that agreement. And it scares me.


  8. April Avatar

    Those two questions sum up my feelings. I don’t believe that we, the american people, or the rest of the world have been given concrete reasons for this war.
    Yes, I can see he is a threat. But is he a big enough threat to warrant the fall out. There will be a fallout and it will be felt hard by the american people. Our state and local governments are already hurting for money. The Federal government isn’t doing much better. What will be cut next year while we are paying for the war, not to mention the costs of rebuilding Iraq?
    My other concern is the world opinion of the US. Our government seems to feel that the opinions of the rest of the world don’t matter. Continental Europe has been trying to solidify, to counter balance the power of the US. That’s partially way they switched to the euro.
    If the UN was behind us, or even deadlocked over the issue, I would be willing to believe this is necessary. But a vote was never held because it would have been NO. The government seems to have a case of tunnel vision right now. I hope too many don’t suffer because of it.

  9. Jo Avatar

    Holly, this is the curse and blessing of current times.
    Before, when sensational media did not exist, we supported our government in their decisions because we’d elected them and we trusted them to do what was right. Now, the ‘typical’ citizen is constantly bombarded with alternative views, veiled insinuations fed from "unknown, but qualified sources", and the politically correct way of thinking. Most people are constantly double-guessing their elected officials, sometimes verbally abusing those who don’t agree with them and have become cynical about the whole electoral process.
    Everyone who has turned on a TV in the last 15 years is aware that Saddam must be dealt with as you would deal with a rabid dog. Sadly, because of special interest groups and hidden agendas, only the United States is willing to do anything about him.
    I do not agree with my P.M.’s stance and I feel it reflects badly on Canada that he will not support the U.S., but I will support him. Why? Because I do not have all the information he does and therefore, I cannot walk in his shoes and gain the right to question his decisions.
    I pray for a peaceful solution every night, in the hope that this war will not beget another, and another, ad infinitum.
    Live in peace and hope.

  10. teddyrux Avatar

    Why Iraq?
    Read the article from the BBC on Irag’s tortured children.
    If you can’t find a reason why in the articles linked to on this page, you don’t want to find a reason.

    Why Now?

    Unfortunately, France promised to veto another resolution against Iraq? Why did France do this? Where would Hussein be right now if France went along with a resolution forcing him to disarm? If the world community was united against him, Hussein would be gone and war wouldn’t be necessary. Another question:

    Why did France, Germany and Russia not want another resolution?

    Hint: oil

  11. Marianne Avatar

    Yes! Well said, Holly.

    Without firm evidence to support this war, I find myself increasingly troubled by the rhetoric and the news-mongering. I’m usually quite trusting of the governments of the world, but neither the UK nor the US have convinced me that this is any more than smoke and mirrors. So what is the real reason for this? I certainly don’t know.

    What actually worries me more is the general effect this is going to have on the world’s political scene. To a lot of the outside world, it looks very much like the US is on the verge of an invasion of a foreign power without the support of half of the international community. What does this mean for relations within Europe, with Russia, with the Middle East?

    Isn’t there a curse that goes along the lines of ‘may you live in interesting times’? Seems like we are going to whether we like it or not!

  12. Tina Avatar

    Frankly, I’m about 95% certain there is no reasonable answer to either of those questions. Which is precisely why I’m so firmly against this. And I’m scared of my own government at this point. It’s not a happy feeling.

  13. michael aka highnside Avatar

    Holly, I have never had any misgivings about the kind of individual Saddam is. It has always been a source of great consternation on my part that our country played a major role in bringing him into power in the first place. Our interests in this region have not always been so pure.

    As I listened to the President one more time last night, I considered the recent revelations that some of the evidence that he and Secretary Of State Powell have alluded to… documents the U.S. and Britain submitted to U.N. inspectors as proof that Iraq had purchased tons of uranium—presumably for nuclear weapons—from Niger have been demonstrated to be forgeries and fabracations. They contain names and time frames which are grossly inaccurate.

    This coupled with the the arm twisting and promises of loans, grants and debt forgiveness to nations on the UN Security Council and other nations in the region leaves me with a lot more questions than answers.

  14. Katherine Avatar

    Those are my questions, too. Unlike you, I’m not prepared to support this war without answers. Without answers, I’m being asked to trust the moral certainties of a man I did not vote for, do not trust, and with whom I disagree on just about every issue that matters to me.

    Just wars exist. This administration has completely failed to convince me that this is one of them.

  15. June Avatar

    I’m at the same place, Holly. I, too, am not a pacifict (though I am generally a liberal). I supported the Persian Gulf War from the beginning, because it was clear why we needed to do that. I supported the efforts in Afganistan too, immediately.

    I too would really like to hear the solid answers to these 2 questions (and like you, I don’t want details that would injure national security or risk lives). I didn’t vote for Mr. Bush, but I’m prepared to support him if I’m convinced this is what we need to do now. What troubles me is I feel I’m being asked for ‘blind support’, and that I cannot give.

    Thanks for listening, and for posting your thoughts as well.


  16. Mike Avatar

    Holly, its precisely those two questions that have those of us living outside the USA wondering what the subtext to this Iraq ‘crisis’ is.

    Apart from a flagging economy which easy access to oil would improve, and maybe a grudge carried over from daddy, I cannot see what the real motives for the impending war with Iraq are.

    I have recently heard that France buys most of its oil directly from Iraq (anyone who wants to correct me is welcome), and that their refusal to back a war is based on their fears that afterwards, a US-imposed Iraqi administration would favour US interests over France’s. It leaves one wondering what the real motives are.

    I can’t shake the feeling that there’s a lot of smoke and mirrors diverting our attention away from something, and the movie "Wag the Dog" keeps playing in my mind…

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