Krugman: First Baghdad, then Tehran?

Paul Krugman, " Things to Come" (New York Times, 3/18/03):

It's a matter of public record that this war with Iraq is largely the brainchild of a group of neoconservative intellectuals, who view it as a pilot project. In August a British official close to the Bush team told Newsweek: "Everyone wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran." In February 2003, according to Ha'aretz, an Israeli newspaper, Under Secretary of State John Bolton told Israeli officials that after defeating Iraq the United States would "deal with" Iran, Syria and North Korea.

Will Iraq really be the first of many? It seems all too likely -- and not only because the "Bush doctrine" seems to call for a series of wars. Regimes that have been targeted, or think they may have been targeted, aren't likely to sit quietly and wait their turn: they're going to arm themselves to the teeth, and perhaps strike first. People who really know what they are talking about have the heebie-jeebies over North Korea's nuclear program, and view war on the Korean peninsula as something that could happen at any moment. And at the rate things are going, it seems we will fight that war, or the war with Iran, or both at once, all by ourselves.

What scares me most, however, is the home front. Look at how this war happened. There is a case for getting tough with Iraq; bear in mind that an exasperated Clinton administration considered a bombing campaign in 1998. But it's not a case that the Bush administration ever made. Instead we got assertions about a nuclear program that turned out to be based on flawed or faked evidence; we got assertions about a link to Al Qaeda that people inside the intelligence services regard as nonsense. Yet those serial embarrassments went almost unreported by our domestic news media. So most Americans have no idea why the rest of the world doesn't trust the Bush administration's motives. And once the shooting starts, the already loud chorus that denounces any criticism as unpatriotic will become deafening.

So now the administration knows that it can make unsubstantiated claims, without paying a price when those claims prove false, and that saber rattling gains it votes and silences opposition. Maybe it will honorably refuse to act on this dangerous knowledge. But I can't help worrying that in domestic politics, as in foreign policy, this war will turn out to have been the shape of things to come.

Media Failure in Buildup to War

" In Iraq Crisis, Networks Are Megaphones for Official Views" (FAIR, 3/18/03):

Network newscasts, dominated by current and former U.S. officials, largely exclude Americans who are skeptical of or opposed to an invasion of Iraq, a new study by FAIR has found. of all

Among the major findings in a two-week study (1/30/03=2/12/03) of on-camera network news sources quoted on Iraq:

  • Seventy-six percent of all sources were current or former officials, leaving little room for independent and grassroots views. Similarly, 75 percent of U.S. sources (199/267) were current or former officials.
  • At a time when 61 percent of U.S. respondents were telling pollsters that more time was needed for diplomacy and inspections (2/6/03), only 6 percent of U.S. sources on the four networks were skeptics regarding the need for war.
  • Sources affiliated with anti-war activism were nearly non-existent. On the four networks combined, just three of 393 sources were identified as being affiliated with anti-war activism-- less than 1 percent. Just one of 267 U.S. sources was affiliated with anti-war activism-- less than half a percent.

Invasion Certain, Regardless of Iraq’s Response

Michael Gordon, "Allies Will Move In, Even if Saddam Hussein Moves Out" (New York Times, 3/18/03):

It appeared extremely unlikely that Mr. Hussein and his family would accede to Mr. Bush's ultimatum, given the preparations that the Iraqi leader is making to turn Baghdad into a stronghold and defend it against air and land attack. Even if they did, officials said, allied forces would enter Iraq to search for hidden caches of weapons of mass destruction and help stabilize the nation so that a new and more democratic regime could take over.

NY Times on War Crisis

Lead editorial, "War in the Ruins of Diplomacy" (New York Times, 3/18/03):

Under George W. Bush . . . . allies have been devalued and military force overvalued. . . . Now that logic is playing out in a war waged without the compulsion of necessity, the endorsement of the United Nations or the company of traditional allies. Map of Iraq This page has never wavered in the belief that Mr. Hussein must be disarmed. Our problem is with the wrongheaded way this administration has gone about it. . . .

This war crowns a period of terrible diplomatic failure, Washington's worst in at least a generation. The Bush administration now presides over unprecedented American military might. What it risks squandering is not America's power, but an essential part of its glory.

When this administration took office just over two years ago, expectations were different. President Bush was a novice in international affairs, while his father had been a master practitioner. But the new president looked to have assembled an experienced national security team. . . . But this did not turn out to be a team of steady veterans. The hubris and mistakes that contributed to America's current isolation began long before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Map of Iraq From the administration's first days, it turned away from internationalism and the concerns of its European allies by abandoning the Kyoto Protocol on global warming and withdrawing America's signature from the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court. Russia was bluntly told to accept America's withdrawal from the Antiballistic Missile Treaty and the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization into the territory of the former Soviet Union. In the Middle East, Washington shortsightedly stepped backed from the worsening spiral of violence between Israel and the Palestinians, ignoring the pleas of Arab, Muslim and European countries. If other nations resist American leadership today, part of the reason lies in this unhappy history.

The Atlantic alliance is now more deeply riven than at any time since its creation more than a half-century ago. A promising new era of cooperation with a democratizing Russia has been put at risk. China, whose constructive incorporation into global affairs is crucial to the peace of this century, has been needlessly estranged. Governments across the Muslim world, whose cooperation is so vital to the war against terrorism, are now warily navigating between popular anger and American power.

The American-sponsored Security Council resolution that was withdrawn yesterday had firm support from only four of the council's 15 members and was opposed by major European powers like France, Germany and Russia. Even the few leaders who have stuck with the Bush administration, like Tony Blair of Britain and José María Aznar of Spain, have done so in the face of broad domestic opposition, which has left them and their parties politically damaged. . . .

The result is a war for a legitimate international goal against an execrable tyranny, but one fought almost alone. At a time when America most needs the world to see its actions in the best possible light, they will probably be seen in the worst. This result was neither foreordained nor inevitable.

Fareed Zakaria on War Crisis

"The Arrogant Empire" -- Fareed Zakaria in Newsweek, 3/24/03 (as available 3/18/03):

Watching the tumult around the world, it's evident that what is happening goes well beyond this particular crisis. Many people, both abroad and in America, fear that we are at some kind of turning point, where well-established mainstays of the global order -- the Western Alliance, European unity, the United Nations -- seem to be cracking under stress. These strains go well beyond the matter of Iraq, which is not vital enough to wreak such damage. In fact, the debate is not about Saddam anymore. It is about America and its role in the new world. To understand the present crisis, we must first grasp how the rest of the world now perceives American power. . . .

The administration claims that many countries support the United States but do so quietly. That signals an even deeper problem. Countries are furtive in their support for the administration not because they fear Saddam Hussein but because they fear their own people. To support America today in much of the world is politically dangerous. Over the past year the United States became a campaign issue in elections in Germany, South Korea and Pakistan. Being anti-American was a vote-getter in all three places. . . .

Center-right parties [in Europe] might still support Washington, but many do so almost out of inertia and without much popular support for their stand. During the recent German election, Gerhard Schroder campaigned openly against America's Iraq policy. Less noted was that his conservative opponent, Edmund Stoiber, did so as well, at one point (briefly) outflanking Schroder by saying he would not even allow American bases in Germany to participate in the war. . . .

A war with Iraq, even if successful, might solve the Iraq problem. It doesn't solve the America problem. What worries people around the world above all else is living in a world shaped and dominated by one country -- the United States. And they have come to be deeply suspicious and fearful of us.

Robin Cook Resignation

Robin Cook in The Guardian, 3/18/03, explaining why he resigned from Tony Blair's cabinet:

The harsh reality is that Britain is being asked to embark on a war without agreement in any of the international bodies of which we are a leading member. Not Nato. Not the EU. And now not the security council. To end up in such diplomatic isolation is a serious reverse. Only a year ago we and the US were part of a coalition against terrorism which was wider and more diverse than I would previously have thought possible. History will be astonished at the diplomatic miscalculations that led so quickly to the disintegration of that powerful coalition. . . .

Why is it now so urgent that we should take military action to disarm a military capacity that has been there for 20 years and which we helped to create? And why is it necessary to resort to war this week while Saddam's ambition to complete his weapons programme is frustrated by the presence of UN inspectors?

I have heard it said that Iraq has had not months but 12 years in which to disarm, and our patience is exhausted. Yet it is over 30 years since resolution 242 called on Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories.

We do not express the same impatience with the persistent refusal of Israel to comply. What has come to trouble me most over past weeks is the suspicion that if the hanging chads in Florida had gone the other way and Al Gore had been elected, we would not now be about to commit British troops to action in Iraq.

Army Sergeant on Halabja Gas Attack

Retired US Army Special Forces Master Sergeant Stan Goff on the use of chemical weapons in Halabja in 1988, at the end of the Iran-Iraq war (From the Wilderness Publications, 3/17/03):

Stephen Pelletiere was the Central Intelligence Agency's senior political analyst on Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war. He was also a professor at the Army War College from 1988 to 2000. In both roles, he had access to classified material from Washington related to the Persian Gulf. In 1991, he headed an Army investigation into Iraqi military capability. That classified report went into great detail on Halabja.

Halabja is the Kurdish town where hundreds of people were apparently poisoned in a chemical weapons attack in March 1988. Few Americans even knew that much. They only have the article of religious faith, "Saddam gassed his own people."

In fact, according to Pelletiere -- an ex-CIA analyst, and hardly a raging leftist like yours truly -- the gassing occurred in the midst of a battle between Iraqi and Iranian armed forces.

Pelletiere further notes that a "need to know" document that circulated around the US Defense Intelligence Agency indicated that US intelligence doesn't believe it was Iraqi chemical munitions that killed and aimed the Kurdish residents of Halabja. It was Iranian. The condition of the bodies indicated cyanide-based poisoning. The Iraqis were using mustard gas in that battle. The Iranians used cyanide.