Defending the virtues of liberty, free markets, and civilization... plus some commentary on the passing scene.

Freedom's Fidelity

Monday, March 01, 2004

I read James Lileks' Bleat on a regular basis and I regularly find the first part of the column somewhat bland. Don't misunderstand me, I think he is a fantastic writer, he sometimes writes on topics I have no interest in - like how his dog reacts to new toys for his daughter.

Last month Lileks decided to read some old newspaper to see if they provided any insight to current events. Here's what he found in 1992:
But the editorial pages' predictions of ruin and despair failed to materialize, as they usually do. The failure to nationalize medicine did not lead to millions dead in the emergency rooms. The Mall of America had just opened, and there were weepy op-eds about the rapacious maw of American consumerism eating the planet alive. Gorbachev was warning us about something or other; Somalia had suddenly emerged as a troubled nation we must all now regard with worried furrowed brows. And in the back of the A section, day after day: Iraq. Iraq. Iraq. Iraq blocks inspectors, Iraq admits inspectors, Iraq blasts food-for-oil program, Iraq fires on US planes, Iraq protests to Security Council, Iraq, Iraq. If anyone seriously thinks Iraq never had WMD, you need to go back to 1992 and read the stories about UN press releases concerning the newly constructed "mustard gas incincerators," OKAY? There was even a story about Iraq promising to institute democratic reforms. It quoted Qusay. He was quite hopeful about giving the citizens a voice. (Of course, that voice said ARRRRGGHIIIIEEEE Turn it off I confess! ) There was a story about Kuwaiti citizens hoping Bush won, because they were, you know grateful. There were stories about Iraqgate, too. You remember that. US loan guarantees to Iraq might have been diverted to the Iraqi nuclear weapons program. The Democrats wanted a Congressional investigation.

You want to know why we invaded Iraq in 2003? Go back and read the papers in 1992. And you'll find this quote:

"If they're such whizzes at foreign policy, why is Saddam Hussein thumbing his nose at the rest of the world?"

Albert. Gore. Junior.

In the same paper: "Fundamentalist rebels attacked Kabul with rockets in an assault that killed at least 100 people and wounded hundreds more. As the shelling intensified, a United Nations agency said it was removing its staff from Kabul."

Nice to know some things never change.

What did he find in 1998?
Okay, well, outtakes: went back to the microfilm today to February 1998, when the Clinton adminstration was making the case for attacking Iraq. How things change. Clinton was arguing that Saddam not only had WMD, but that one day he might want to make more WMD, and this wasn't acceptable. Interesting to read between the lines - the Clinton administration seemed to be arguing that the potential for future production was itself a valid reason to strike. Military force is never "the first answer," Clinton said, "but sometimes it's the only answer." "If Saddam isn't stopped now," the AP story said, quoting Clinton, "He will conclude that the international community has lost its will. He will then conclude that he can go right on and do more to rebuild an arsenal of devastating destruction. And someday, someway, I guarantee you, he'll use that arsenal." Thus spake Clinton in 1998. He went on to note that the strikes planned could not possibly destroy Saddam's arsenal, because A) they didn't know where everything was, and B) they didn't want to kill Iraqis by unleashing clouds of toxins. And it gets better: a sidebar noted that this war plan - Desert Thunder - had been prepared weeks before, in case Saddam stiffed in the inspectors.

Bill Clinton had a plan to go to war before the crisis flared! What does that tell you? Obviously, he was looking for any excuse! Halliburton! We all know about the ties between Clinton and Halliburton - he gave them a sweet no bid contract after his Balkans war, you know.

Anyway: it's deja vut all over again. You want to talk imminence? WMD? Democratic concern and conviction? Go back to the papers of 1998; it’s all there, right down to the terrorist links: Hezbollah, for example, swears it will strike Israel if the US attacks Iraq. (A poll of Palestinians showed that 94% supported Iraq, and 77% wanted Iraq to kill Jews if the US attacked Iraq.) Bob Dole was quoted as supporing the strikes but urging Clinton to seek Congressional Authorization. A story on Bush 41's reaction said that the former president would completely support Clinton if he decided to attack, but noted that Bush 41 urged Clinton to get more international support - which was lacking at the time.

And indeed, Kofi struck a deal. Which fell apart by summertime. Which lead to cruise missile strikes. Which lead to boredom and disengagement. Which lead to half a decade of Saddam on the throne and the dissidents in the shredders and the tots in the gulag and dead people heaped in ditches and oil-for-palaces deals and Uday and Qusay pleasuring themselves in Rapeland Incorporated and Abu Nidal putting his feet up in a Baghdad apartment, pouring a nice cool glass of tea, and thinking: ah. This is the life.

I'm so old I actually remember when the Democrats cared about Iraq.

Me too.


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