January 29th, 2007

The Republicans are Due on Maple Street

There is a classic Twilight Zone episode called “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street.”

In it neighbors on Maple St. witness the crashing of an object from outer space, a meteor, or more ominously, a flying saucer. The power goes out, leading to a belief “monsters,” aliens from another world, were about to invade their neighborhood. As they try to figure out what is happening, power is restored to selective homes, directing suspicion at those neighbors and accusations that perhaps they were in cahoots with these monsters. Eventually paranoia runs so deep rioting and murder ensue, destroying the neighborhood and its inhabitants. At the end we see that aliens are simply manipulating the electricity to induce this paranoia, with the lessen being that it is easier to destroy a society from within, by getting neighbor to turn on neighbor, rather than through an attack from without.

I was reminded of this episode last week when the “story” on Barack Obama’s alleged Muslim training at a Madrassa in Indonesia broke. And the “revelation” that it was the Clinton campaign that had investigated and exposed this fact to the world. The story was posted on Insightmag.com, the online arm of the Washington Times, owned by the Unification Church of Sung Myung Moon, was picked up by Fox News, Drudge, and the other usual sources of right wing propaganda. None of this was surprising.

What did surprise me, and what got me thinking about the Twilight Zone episode, was the ease with which some in the liberal blogosphere picked up on this story and believed it on its face, immediately castigating the Clinton campaign for the leak. The fact that it had been published by a source known not only for its inaccurate and biased reporting, but for its hostility to progressives and the Democratic Party, did not seem to phase those pushing it…even after it had been thoroughly debunked.
And then again this week, Drudge published a story about the size of John Edwards new house in North Carolina, implying that Edwards was a hypocrite advocating for the elimination of poverty on one hand while building himself a palatial house on the other.

Again, this led to heated arguments among some on the left. And again, it didn’t seem to phase those pushing it that the source was Drudge, or that John Edwards had earned the money he used to build the home.

In both of these cases we have a right wing news source planting a bogus or misleading story about one or more contenders for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2008, which for a few days at least, got Democrats attacking each other.

I wonder if this is going to be the primary mode of Republican attack this year. Rather than the in your face confrontation that we have grown used too, will they use more subtle methods, plant stories which will set Democrat against Democrat, and try to get us to destroy ourselves, while they just sit back and chuckle…

January 12th, 2007

The Iraq War Resolution, A Look Back – The Democrats Part III

Note: In my first entry on this topic I talked a bit about the notion among liberal bloggers that George Bush’s lies in regards to WMD’s were obvious at the time the IWR vote was taken. I specifically looked at the positions taken by William Rivers Pitt, first in 2005 in an editorial at truthout.org where he condemned the twenty-eight Democrats in the Senate for their yes vote in favor of the IWR, followed by a look at his position one year earlier where he not only seemed to contradict his 2005 assertion that the book he authored stated unequivocally that there were no WMD’s in Iraq, but seemed to indicate support for the IWR. I was able to ask Mr. Pitt about this in this thread at Democratic Underground. Unfortunately his answer seemed to contain the same contradictions as his previous statements. In response to my query asking him about his 2004 position he replied as follows:

I think the IWR Vote would have been essentially benign…

had Bush not been in office. It is true that dealing with that regime required a big stick to weild, all the way back to Clinton. All those bombs Clinton dropped were done to force the continuation of the UNSCOM inspections. Look at this last war; Hussen all but surrendered beforehand, because the threat was enough. The IWR opened the door for inspections under threat. Had the inspections been allowed to be completed unmolested, the cause for war would have evaporated…and the inspections were only going to be allowed under threat, which was provided by the IWR.

My opinion on this is based, in no small part, on my conversations with Scott Ritter. Go back and read my book; he lays it all out, and has repeated same oftentimes.

And yes, the Senators should have known better.

So he seems to acknowledge that the IWR was working until short circuited by President Bush, but then in his last sentance says the Senators should have known better. I wasn’t able to follow up to see exactly what he meant by this…but there it is. If you would like to read his book for yourself…it can be purchased here.

On to the third installment on this topic…

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In 1952 Arthur Miller presented an excellent play called The Crucible, a fictional work based on the 1692 Salem Witch trials (personal note: My 15th Great Grandmother, Mary Bradbury, was convicted but escaped punishment). As most probably know, a number of men and women in and around Salem, Massachusetts were accused by a group of mostly teenage girls, of being witches…that they had been willingly possessed by the devil and were performing evil acts as a result. The transcripts of these trials are fascinating and can be read verbatim here.

In Miller’s version, denial that one was possessed constituted evidence of guilt. In other words, confess to the crime of witchcraft even if you believed yourself innocent, and you were spared the noose. Refuse to admit guilt…and you swung.

The play’s central character John Proctor, refused to sacrifice his honor and integrity by confessing to a crime he knew he did not commit…and he was eventually hanged for that stubborness.

Miller wrote the play as a commentary on the red-baiting of Joseph McCarthy in his role as chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommitte on Investigations. In McCarthy’s world, refusing to implicate others to the committee was considered evidence of communist affiliation.

So, what you may ask does this have to do with the Iraq War Resolution and the twenty-eight Democratic Senators that voted for it.

Well, since the IWR vote took place in October of 2002, and as a consequence of their support of that act, these twenty-eight Senators, particularly Hillary Clinton, have been labeled apostates to the progressive cause by many in the liberal blogosphere.It is now accepted wisdom that Senator Clinton and the other twenty-seven Democratic yes votes are warmongers, who have demonstrated a willingness to tolerate the death of thousands of American soldiers and many more thousands of Iraqi civilians, for the sole purpose of advancing themselves politically.

Given that some even believe that these are the acts of war criminals, one would think that they would be unforgivable.

And yet it seems one simple act is all it takes to escape the liberal political noose…all one has to do to regain the support of these liberal critics…is apologize. Say you were wrong, say that you made a mistake, that you didn’t mean it, imply you did not take your original vote seriously…and all is magically forgiven. You are no longer a warmonger, and are spared the political noose.

Take the John Proctor route on the other hand, refuse to sacrifice your integrity by admitting you did not take your original vote seriously, that you did believe your vote was the correct thing to do at the time….why then you are still a warmonger and deserve to be punished.

In the current political climate apologizing for prior support or the IWR is hardly as act of courage. Taking that step finds those Senators making it greeted with liberal laurels lauding their political “courage.” Admitting one’s mistake the thinking goes, shows extraordinary strength of character.

In reality of course, apologizing implies that one’s reasons for prior support for the IWR was exactly what these former critics said it was…a political ploy.

It doesn’t take strength to swim downriver.

Conversely, Senators taking the Hillary Clinton route by refusing to apologize for taking their job seriously the first time, by saying that they looked at the evidence and voted the way they thought best, are labeled cowards…lackeys for the Bush administration and their corporate allies in the Democratic Party…usually with some implicit or sometimes explicit assertion that the DLC is behind it all.

In fact, Hillary Clinton and the others who have refused to apologize for their prior vote are merely being consistent. As I have argued in my first two entries on this topic, Democratic supporters of the IWR had perfectly valid reasons at the time for voting the way they did. Saddam Hussein had shown a willingness to use weapons of mass destruction, had done everything in his power between 1991 and 1998 to thwart weapons inspectors, had ended all cooperation with inspectors and the U.N. in 1998, and not one inspector had set foot in Iraq in the four years running up to the IWR vote. In addition, Congress was receiving very explicit and detailed information from the CIA that Iraq had reconstituted its chemical and biologocal weapons programs, and was pursuing a nuclear one. Even IWR opponents acknowledged this.

At the time, folks such as John Kerry and John Edwards, who have apologized, made valid arguments for their vote that mirrored those of most other Democratic Senators, demonstrating they believed Saddam Hussein was dangerous and needed to be disarmed. They voted to authorize military action realizing the only thing that had elicited any cooperation from Saddam in the past was the threat of violence. They had nothing to apologize for…and I am somewhat disappointed they did.

In this political climate, refusing to acquiesce to the mob demanding an apology where none is required does take political courage.

It does take strength to swim upriver.

Now I know what the reaction on the left will be to this argument. They will simply say those that have not apologized are warmongers who continue their full-throated support for the war. With the exception of Joe Lieberman however, this is simply not the case.

Hillary Clinton, like most Democrats who voted for the IWR, has said very explicitly that had they known then what they know now, they never would have supported it. In other words had they known George Bush was lying about the reasons for the IWR, that the evidence for WMDs was being cooked up to support a predetermined policy, and that Bush had not intention of pursuing further inspections, they certainly would not have voted for it. In other words, they put the blame where it properly belongs…with George Bush.

Despite the logic and accuracy of this position however, it is seen by the mob clamoring for apologies as a copout.

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I had intended to go further in this entry, with a more detailed look at the question of preemptive war and whether these twenty-eight Senators were voting to endorse that concept. However, I believe I have laid out the reasons most of these Senators voted the way they did, as a way to get inspectors back into Iraq to avoid, not initiate military conflict. Given this it is clear that none were voting to endorse the concept of preemptive war. This is made explicit in their floor statements as well. Virtually every one noted specifically they were not voting for such a concept. Hillary Clinton’s statement is a good representative example:

My vote is not, however, a vote for any new doctrine of pre-emption, or for uni-lateralism, or for the arrogance of American power or purpose — all of which carry grave dangers for our nation, for the rule of international law and for the peace and security of people throughout the world.

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By making the IWR vote the first topic on this blog, I hope to recast the debate a tiny bit over who is to blame for the mess in Iraq. Liberals who believe, wrongly in my opinion, that the Democratic Party is nothing more than a lite version of the Republican Party, with both being subservient to corporate requirements, impels them to find as many wedge issues as they can to demonize those they view as not sufficiently progressive. The IWR vote is number one on that list.The problem of course, is that their logic breaks down when you ask them if they have the same opinion of liberal and IWR supporter Tom Harkin, as they do of Hillary Clinton. Or if they truly believe the IWR vote was a vote for unfettered aggressive war, how could they have voted for John Kerry in 2004. Or, how can they explain the yes vote on the part of war hero, and triple amputee Max Cleland, without casting him in the same class as those more hated members.

The only effect this wedge issue ultimately has however, is to divert attention from those truly responsible for the Iraq war…George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and the rubber stamp Republicans in Congress they had at their beck and call for six years.

 

 

 

January 7th, 2007

The Iraq War Resolution, A Look Back – The Democrats Part II…

Well yesterday I began my look back at the passage of the Iraq War Resolution (IWR) in October 2002. In particular the 28 Democrats in the United States Senate that supported it. I decided it was important to do this because the IWR vote has become the central focus if the left-wing attack on centrist Democrats. It is conventional wisdom in that sector of our party that the yes vote on the IWR was the seminal demonstration that the party had been hijacked by DINO’s, Republican-lite corporatists whose only ambition is to maintain the status quo relationship with corporations who actually ran the country using their monetary influence over subservient politicians. The Democratic Leadership Council(DLC) is considered the organizational manifestation of that hated sector of our party.

Besides the simplistic view of centrist and moderate Democrats that animates this view of the IWR, it simply ignores the actual history surrounding its passage, and requires us to believe that 28 Democratic members of the United States Senate were entirely willing, in fact eager to sacrifice the lives of thousands of American soldiers, and tens of thousands of Iraqis in pursuit of political gain, designed to maintain control of the political system on behalf of the corporate status quo.

Yesterday I described the motivation that animated those Democratic Senators who voted for the IWR. It was clearly the fear that Saddam Hussein had either retained, or was reconstituting his weapons of mass destruction program (WMD). Virtually every floor statement noted this as the animating motivation for their decision. For opponents too, the possibility that Saddam had a WMD capability was a great fear. Some of the great heroes of the left-wing anti war movement, including Paul Wellstone and Russ Feingold, were explicit in their view that Saddam Hussein was dangerous and had to be disarmed. They simply did not agree with the method the Senate was proposing to remedy that situation.

Despite modifications made to the bill at the insistence of Democrats that put some limitiations on President Bush’s actions, these opponents were correct in their fear that President Bush would view the passage of the IWR as a blank check authorization to invade Iraq. Of course it is highly unlikely, given subsequent events demonstrating President Bush’s clear disdain for the constitution and the seperation of powers, that he would have let the defeat of the IWR stop him in his plans. It is clear he believed his position as Commander in Chief gave him all the authority he needed.

SInce this is a new blog I have had very few comments thus far. However I have discussed this topic at length on other blogs, and it is clear left-wing critics will refuse to acknowledge that these Senators were acting for any reason other than self-interest. Despite their total inability to produce a single shred of evidence for their assertions, they continue to insist that the Bush administration’s lies were well known at the time of the IWR vote.

Many will trot out Colin Powell’s testimony, and the subsequent exposure of his lies as evidence. Of course this ignores the fact that Powell’s testimony occurred on February 5, 2003, four months after the IWR vote took place.

Some will trot out Richard Clarke and his revelations from within the administration, and I agree, this is pretty damning evidence against Bush. Problem is of course, that Richard Clarke was employed by the administration until his resignation in January 2003, and his book wasn’t published until 2004.

And some of course will bring up Joseph Wilson and his revelation that Geoorge Bush lied in his State of the Union address on January 2003 regarding Iraqi attemts to acquire nuclear material in Niger…the famous 16 words. Again however, my liberal friends have a problem with dates, as these revelations came out in July 2003 – 10 months after the passage of the IWR.

So while it is very clear that George Bush was lying through his teeth in order to get us into war with Iraq, it is also equally clear that this was not well known in October 2002, by either supporters or opponents of the IWR.

I have also been presented with some very creative conspiracy theories.

The most egregious of these is that the IWR was a conspiracy between the President, the Republicans in Congress, and these 28 willing Democratic participants, to cut short Hans Blix’s efforts to determine whether Saddam Hussein actually had WMD’s. The theory goes that these participants in the conspiracy wanted to go to war, and any evidence that Saddam did not have WMD’s would make that impossible. The IWR and subsequent lies to the U.N. were a plan to speed up the rush to war before Blix had an opportunity to find out the truth.

Of course, as usual, I am not presented with a shred of credible evidence to back this up.

So the next question is, what evidence did these Senators – both pro and anti – base their belief in Saddam’s WMD capability?

First of course, is the fact that Iraq had already used WMD’s many times. In fact there are at least 10 documented instances between 1983 and 1988 of Iraqi use of these weapons. They were used against Iranian soldiers during the Iran-Iraq war, and in perhaps his most despicable attack, Saddam gassed Kurds in Halabja 1988, killing at least 5000 people and injuring another 10,000. Click here for a description of that attack and the long term health affects related to it. Click here for a VERY GRAPHIC description of the attack including photographs

Then of course on August 2, 1990 Iraq invaded and occupied Kuwait. The results of that conflict are well known, and as a consequence, Iraq’s WMD program became a subject of the cease-fire resolution passed by the U.N. Security Council in April of 1991.

From 1991 through 1998, the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) was tasked to find and destroy Iraqi WMD’s. As part of the cease-fire arrangement, the U.N. adopted Security Council Resolution 687 which required that Iraq “unconditionally accept the destruction, removal, or rendering harmless, under international supervision,” of all chemical and biological weapons, all ballistic missiles with a range greater than 150 kilometers, and associate materials and facilities.” During this time UNSCOM had mixed success in this task. They succesfully destroyed 48 operational long range missiles, 14 conventional missile warheads, 6 operational mobile launchers, 28 operational fixed launch pads, 32 fixed launch pads under construiction, 30 missile chemical warheads, 38,500 filled and empty chemical munitions, 690 tons of chemical weapons agents, more than 3000 tons of precursor chemicals, 426 pieces of chemical weapons production equipment and 91 pieces of related analytical equipment, as well as biological weapons labs, equpment and material.[for a full accounting click here]

Despite this success however, Iraq continued to impair the work of inspectors, by denying access to facilities. A good accounting of these difficulties is chronicled by Barton Gellman for the Washington Post here. The article curiously enough focuses on the efforts of Scott Ritter, who later became an ardent opponent of military action in Iraq, claiming that despite its difficulties UNSCOM had largely incpaciated Iraq from a WMD perspective. However, he has never asserted Iraq was cooperative, and in 2002 there were reasons to take what Ritter was saying with a grain of salt. The key paragraph in this article reads, “UNSCOM soon discovered that Iraq ran shell games within shell games to hide the most deadly and sensitive weapons it was obliged to surrender. By 1994, the panel’s active leads dried up with enormous gaps still remaining in its investigation. If the commission was to complete the work of the war, ridding a regional hegemonist of a biological and chemical arsenal and a nuclear program on the brink of success, its leaders concluded they would have to pierce what Ritter dubbed “the concealment mechanism” of the Baghdad regime.”

FInally in 1998, in an effort to use continued inspections as a bargaining chip to get the U.N. to drop sanctions, Iraq suspended cooperation with UNSCOM and limited theiir monitoring activies. By October 1999 Iraq ended all cooperation with UNSCOM.

No inspector set foot in Iraq between October 1999 and September 2002. In 2002, under continued threat of military action from the U.S., Iraq agreed to a conditional resumption of inspections which was deemed inadequate by the U.N. Finally one month before passage of the IWR Iraq in a letter to the U.N. agreed to resume unfettered inspections (which in reality they had never allowed). A skeptical Congress passed t he IWR anyway in an effort to make manifest the threat of force, which Scott Ritter himself said was the only thing that allowed UNSCOM to have the success it did between 1991 and 1998.

So by 2002 when the Bush Administration decided it wanted to attack Iraq, given past Iraqi use of WMD’s, Iraqi reluctant cooperation with UNSCOM inspectors between 1991 and 1998, Iraqi withdrawl of all cooperation with inspections in 1999, and the fact that no inspector had set foot in Iraq for the four years between 1998 and 2002, the ground was fertile for the Bush administration through the CIA to convince the Congress and the American people that Iraq had retained and was expanding its WMD activities.

The CIA, as early as January 2002 had begun making the case for the existence of Iraqi WMD’s, as the perceived danger was described in progressivley more urgent detail with each intelligence estimate. Tenet, and other CIA representatives briefed Congress in a number of closed door sessions, making the not difficut case that Saddam retained and was expanding his WMD capability.

Finally in October 2002, the CIA released its final National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) related to Iraq. That document described in detail the CIA’s assertions as to Iraq’s WMD capabilities. The report summed these up as follows:

1. Baghdad hides large portions of Iraq’s WMD efforts.

2. Since inspections ended in 1998, Iraq has maintained its chemical weapons effort, energized its missile program, and invested more heavily in biological weapons; most analysts assess Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program

3. Baghdad has begun renewed production of chemical warfare agents, probably including mustard, sarin, cyclosarin, and VX.

4. All key aspects – R&D, production, and weaponization – of Iraq’s offensive BW (biological Weapons) program are active and most elements are larger and more advanced than they were before the Gulf War

5. Iraq maintains a small missile force and several development programs, including for a UAV that most analysts believe probably is intended to deliver biological warfare agents.

While some Senators, particularly Senator Graham of Florida were skeptical that they were receiving all the information the CIA had, and even though he voted against the IWR, Graham was convinced that Saddam did indeed have chemical and biological weapons. The focus of Graham’s skepticism was on the state of Iraq’s nuclear capability.

So, with the history of Iraqi WMD use on its Iranian enemies and on its Kurdish citizens, its reluctant cooperation with weapons inspectors following the 1991 Gulf War, its withdrawl of all cooperation from 1998 through 2002, and the reports of the U.S. Intelligence community asserting a robust WMD program, it is not at all surprising that both those in support and opposed to the IWR were convinced that Iraq did indeed have an active WMD program.

Tomorrow I will take a look at the question of preemptive war. Were Democratic Senators endorsing this concept by their vote? I will also look at whether these Democrats believed they were giving President Bush a free hand to invade Iraq at will, and whether that was their intention as some assert. And finally I will look at the aftermath of the vote. With the realization that Bush adminisration was lying about the existence of WMD’s and the growing assertion by liberals that a yes vote on the IWR was tantamount to unfettered support for the Iraqi War, how have these Senators dealt with the issue? Some, like John Edwards and John Kerry have apologized for their position. Others like Senator Clinton have stood by their vote at the time, but recognize had they known what the actual situation was in realtion to WMD’s they never would have supported the IWR.

Among those that opposed ther IWR but recognized the danger posed by Saddam we have seen some backtracking as well. On a recent appearance on The Daily Show, Lincoln Chaffee for example, claimed he knew there weren’t WMD’s in Iraq when he became the only Republican to vote against it…here

Yet in arguing for an amendment to the IWR that would have required President Bush to come to Congress for specific authority to invade Iraq, Chaffee said the following…

“The Levin substitute upholds the values I have heard in discussions with the people of Rhode Island; it recognizes the benefit of an international coalition in taking on the tremendous challenge of disarming the Iraqi regime.”

Why would Iraq need to be disarmed if they had no weapons…

More tomorrow!

January 5th, 2007

The Iraq War Resolution, A Look Back – The Democrats Part I…

What a great day it was yesterday. The Democrats are back in control! Hallelujah! I have every confidence we can look forward to excellent progress rolling back the disastrous policies implemented by our opponents over the last six years.

I have a second reason for being elated today. That is the possibilty that we Democrats, particularly those of us who converse online, will be able to reengage in constructive dialog on contemporary issues, rather than engage in the type of divisive rhetoric engaged in by many liberals, that my friend over at DonkeyDigest calls the “cult of perpetual outrage.” Specifically, it seems the news vacum created by the end of the 2006 election cycle has induced many in the liberal blogosphere to resume their favorite pasttime…trashing Democratic supporters of the Iraq War Resolution passed in October of 2002. Not surprisingly, most of this criticism is aimed at Sen. Hillary Clinton. In recent weeks she has been accused of supporting a flag burning amendment, of having no interest in public policy other than censoring video games, and of supporting the Iraq War Resolution (IWR), in a crass attempt to further her political career with no regard at all for the lives that would be lost.

It is this last charge, and the surrounding debate over whether Democratic Senators voting for the IWR were in any way justified in supporting its passage, that will be the focus of my first substantive blog entry. In fact, it will be the subject of my first three blog entries.

Over the next three days I will be looking back at the passage of the IWR, with a specific concentration on the Democrats in the Senate that voted for it. In today’s entry I will be looking at what these Democrats believed about Iraq’s WMD capacity, and the nature of the criticism leveled at them for it. Tomorrow’s entry will look specifically at the evidence they based these assumptions on and the notion on the left that these Democrats were voting to give George W. Bush a blank-check to start a war with Iraq. And finally, I will wrap it up day after tomorrow with a look at how liberals demand these members now behave vis a vis their IWR support. Specifically, is it politically courageous to now apologize for that vote, or does it simply indicate a politician wishing to swing with the prevailing wind. Does an apology imply that they did not take their original vote seriously?

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It has become left-wing dogma that Hillary Clinton never did a thing in public life that did not benefit her politically…the greatest manifestation of that tendency they declare, is her crass and politically motivated support for the IWR in 2002. Though many others have come under some criticism by liberals for their stand, no Democrat has come under the type of attacks Hillary Clinton has. When queried whether they feel such Democrats as Max Cleland, who lost three limbs in Vietnam, Tom Harkin who served in the Navy from 1962-1967, or even John Kerry, who as we know, and despite efforts to smear him, displayed unusual heroism in Vietnam, also voted simply to advance their careers, these critics become mealy-mouthed, hem and haw, and simply revert to their boilerplate attack, avoiding the question entirely.

It is also left-wing dogma that a vote for the IWR was made despite overwhelming and authoritative evidence that the claims made by the U.S. intelligence community were known to be false at the time, and that such evidence was compelling enough to induce Senators to discount the opinions of the CIA and State Department. The obvious conclusion being that there can be no explanation for a yes vote on the resolution other than for political expediency. In addition, the IWR vote is viewed on the left as a blank check authorization for immediate, unconditional, preemptive war against Iraq. Implicit in this view is the notion that had the IWR failed to pass, there would be no Iraq war.

Reading through the floor statements of the 28 Democrats that supported the IWR, one is struck by the remarkable similarity in their reasoning. First and foremost was a fear that Saddam Hussein had retained, or was expanding a WMD capability. Second was a desire to reinsert weapons inspectors into Iraq, with the recognition that it would only happen with a credible threat of force. Third was a misplaced trust in George Bush to do what he said he would in terms of exhausting all non-military options first. And finally, a flat rejection by nearly all of the members that they were endorsing the concepty of preemptive war, or were advocating immediate military intervention in Iraq

The fear that Saddam Hussein had retained a WMD capability, or that he was actively engaged in reconstituting one, was the primary motivator expressed by nearly all of the Democratic supporters of the IWR. A sampling of these opinions:

“…it is clear to me that the current situation in Iraq is an on-going tragedy for the Iraqi people and an unacceptable menace for us, our neighbors, and the world.” – Tom Harkin

“While the distance betwen the United States and Iraq is great, Saddam Hussein’s ability to use his chemical and biological weapons against us is not constrained by geography” – Diane Feinstein

Saddam Hussein has stockpiled, weaponized and used chemical and biological weapons, and has made no secret of his desire to acquire nuclear weapons.” -Tom Daschle

There is unmistakable evicence that Saddam Hussein is working to develop nuclear weapons and will likely have nuclear weapons within the next 5 years” -Jay Rockefeller

“…it is Hussein’s vigorous pursuity of biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons, and his present and potential future support for terrorist acts and organizations, that make him a terrible danger to the people of the United States.” -Chuck Schumer

“…in the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program.” -Hillary Clinton

“Adoption of the force resolution will satisfy our obligations to make it clear to the international community that America stands united in its determination to rid the world of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.” -Max Cleland

and perhaps most pointedly…

“With respect to Saddam Hussein and the threat he presents, we must ask ourselves a simple question: Why? Why is Saddam Hussein pursuing weapons that most nations have agreed to limit or give up? Why is Saddam Hussein guilty of breaking his own cease-fire agreement with the international community? Why is Saddam Hussein attempting to develop nuclear weapons when most nations don’t even try…Why did Saddam Hussein lie and deceive the inspection teams previously? Why did Saddam Hussein not account for all of the weapons of mass destruction which UNSCOM identified? Why is he seeking to develop unmanned airborne vehicles for delivery of biological agents?…Does he do all of these things because he wants to live by international standards of behavior? Because he respects international law? Because he is a nice guy underneath it all and the world should trust him?” – John Kerry

For many liberals, this reasoning was hogwash. It was obvious, they say, that the Bush administration was lying from the get go(which we now know it was of course). It was the responsibility of these Senators to somehow get past the lies they were obviously being told, and to find the truth that Colin Powell and George Tenet were witholding. The logic goes that if it was so obvious that even “lowly” bloggers could see past the lies, certainly these Senators should have been able to as well.

This view is expressed by William Rivers Pitt, currently editorial director for Progressive Democrats for America(PDA), in an article written for Truthout.org in 2005. After doing an excellent job exposing the lies perpetrated by the Bush administration in the run-up to the war, Pitt turns his attention to the 28 Democrats that voted for the IWR. “The Democrats who got behind this thing in the first place have not come close to absolving themselves of their responsibility for what has taken place, ” Pitt asserts. Mocking the accurate protestations of these Senators that they had been lied to, Pitt asks “if I knew this – me, wee little me – then how is it possible that all these Senators allowed themselves to be tricked?” The evidence he asserts led him to see the truth, was contained in the book he wrote in August 2002, two months before passage of the IWR, entitled “War on Iraq…,” which is largely an interview with former weapons inspector Scott Ritter. He claims the book “…stated unequivocally that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq…”

Interestingly, this article was in direct contradiction to the position he took just one year earlier. Pitt not only contradicted the later assertion regarding his books unequivocal statement that there were no WMD’s in Iraq, but in an attempt to defend John Kerry’s comments on his IWR vote during the 2004 campaign, appeared to indicate support for it.

“The ‘yes’ vote on the IWR essential to the establishment of effective weapons inspections,” Pitt says, “only the threat of force made the previous inspections effective. I asked Scott Ritter personally if his seven years in Iraq as an inspector would have been effective without the threat of force. He said the inspections would have been useless without the threat.” (emphasis mine)

And finally, he notes, “as Ritter said in my book, no one was absolutely sure they hadn’t retained any of their weapons capabilities.” (emphasis mine)

So much for not being “tricked!”

Concurrent to the liberal notion that it was obvious to anyone with half a brain that the intelligence supplied to Congress was a pack of lies, those Democrats(and one Republican) that voted against t he IWR became revered as heroes of the anti-war movement. They certainly saw through the lies, the thinking goes, they weren’t duped by tales of renewed nuclear capability, or of missiles tipped with anthrax or mustard gas. Right?

Well if one looks at the floor statements of these heroes during the debate over the IWR, it is obvious they disagreed with the tactic, not the goal. With very few exceptions these opponents acknowledged the danger Saddam Hussein allegedly posed. For example:

There is no question that Saddam Hussein is ignoring the will of the United Nations and that he has not honored the agreements he made following the Gulf War. Saddam Hussein is a dangerous force in the world.” -Kent Conrad

“Saddam Hussein’s regime has chemical and biological weapons and is trying to get nuclear capability.” -Bob Graham

“Saddam Hussein’s desire to obtain weapons of mass destruction is of grave concern.” -Jim Jeffords

“…I commend President Bush for taking his case against Iraq to the American people…and I agree with the President that Saddam is a despicable tyrant who must be disarmed.” -Ted Kennedy

Iraq has grim and ghoulish weapons to carry out its evil plans. As part of the Gulf War cease-fire agreement, Saddam Hussein committed to destroying its chemical and biological and nuclear weapons programs…instead, Saddam Hussein is trying to add nuclear weapons to an arsenal that already includes chemical and biological weapons and ballistic missiles.” -Barbara Mikulski

Saddam must give arms inspectors unfettered access. And, if he does not comply with this new U.N. resolution there will be consequences, including the use of appropriate military force.” -Paul Wellstone

Wellstone was advocating a unified approach with the U.N. which is why he opposed the IWR…

“With regard to Iraq, I agree, Iraq presents a genuine threat, especially in the form of weapons of mass destruction, chemical, biological, and potentially nuclear weapons. I agree that Saddam Hussein is exceptionally dangerous and brutal, if not uniquely so, as the President argues. And I support the concept of regime change.” -Russ Feingold

Interesting how all these opponents of the IWR were also duped by Bush’s lies…

Another of the liberal heroes is General Wesley Clark, a fine man, who I believe would make a fine PResident if elected. However he too apparently was taken in by the lies told to us by the Bush administration. In an appearance before the House Armed Services Committee on September 26, 2002, Clark made t he following statement:

“I think it’s not time yet to use force against Iraq but it is certainly time to put that card on the table, to turn it face up and to wave it and the president is doing that and I think that the United States Congress has to indicate after due consideration and consulting our people and building our resolve that yes, this is a significant security problem for the United States of America and all options are on the table including the use of force as necessary to solve this problem because I think that’s what’s required to leverage any hope of solving this problem short of war. “

As CalPundit points out here, Clark opposed the IWR, but recognized the validity of the arguments for it. He acknowledged that the IWR may have been responsible for renewed success at getting the inspectors back into Iraq, and that it was the Bush administration that short-circuited that process in its haste to attack.

That Clark does not share the view of many liberals that those who voted for the IWR were merely playing political games, or were dishonest in their support of the resolution, is evidenced by his service as one of John Kerry’s primary foreign policy advisors during the 2004 Presidential campaign, at a time when Kerry was still defending that vote. As CalPundit puts it, Clark was “willing to acknowledge that there are good arguments even for positions he opposes. Frankly, we could use more of that instead of the scorched earth tactics in which every possible argument from your opponents is deemed both absurd and fraudulent.”

I wish the sentiment expressed by CalPundit, and embodied by the attitude of General Clark were more prevelent in our party. It is clear to me that for most of the Democratic supporters of the IWR, their vote was not simply a case of political expediency. Having read every floor statement by Democrats in the Senate, both opposing and supporting the IWR it is clear the vast majority of both camps believed Saddam Hussein had either retained a WMD capacity or was rapidly rebuilding one. And the notion that the liberal blogosphere had somehow seen trhough this smokescreen is contradicted in at least one case by one of the most visible proponents of it.

Tomorrow – the lies told to Congress and the American people by the Bush administration and…were IWR supporters voting for preemptive war?

UPDATE: Well I have gotten at least one person to take a position on Max Cleland and his IWR vote…according to the poster at DemocraticUnderground, Max Cleland, and the other 27 Democrats that voted Yes are…..you guessed it….war criminals.

December 28th, 2006

Welcome to SaveElmer – Yes, ANOTHER Political Blog

I mean aren’t there enough of these? Why yet another blog devoted to politics and public policy? Well the answer is simple – I felt it would be easier for me to fully express myself on a forum under my control. It is that simple.

I am not posting here under another assumed identity, I use this same moniker on a number of forums that I visit frequently, and I will continue to contribute to those. Here however, I will be able to take my time and write about subjects that I think are important, and in a time frame that will allow me to devote my full attention to the subject rather than under the pressure of a chat room format.

So what kind of blog will this be? 

I am a Democrat, of a moderate to liberal bent. So I will be coming at issues from that perspective. Unlike other forums, where villifying other Democrats seems to be the first rather than last reaction, my tendency will be to try and understand the actions of our leadership in the context of the issues they are dealing with, the politics at play, the historical timeline of similar issues and how they were dealt with in the past.

I will not be timid about criticizing Democratic officeholders on certain issues where it is warranted, but the all to frequent tendency among the liberal blogosphere to immediately mount a campaign to oust these leaders will be rare on this site. Rather than assuming our leadership have nefarious or self serving motivations for entering public life, with every dissaproved of action being proof of that tendency, I assume they have entered public service for purpose of having a positive impact on society. If they then vote in a way I dissaprove of, or that seem contrary to the best interest of their constituents, I will look to understand the action before criticizing the motivation behind it.

I have an enormous amount of respect for folks on other political blogs, forums that I visit on a daily basis. DemocraticUnderground, Daily Kos, MyDD, TPM, Donkey Digest, Raising Kaine to name a few have had a real impact on our political process, one that I doubt that I will ever rise to. However, that respect will not keep me from being critical of them for the tendencies I have described above.

For now postings will be fairly infrequent while I get used to the software, and while I refine the design of the site. I am using all of the default settings so there won’t be any cool features or distinctive graphics right away. That will come in time. I will also want anyone and everyone to post their comments – I would like this to be a place of constructive dialog as well as a place where I can more effectively express myself. The ability to add comments will come soon as well.

The first substantive blog entry that I am currently working on and should have posted this weekend is a look back at the vote in October 2002 on the Iraq War Resolution and the motivation of the Democrats that voted in the affirmitive, particularly Hillary Clinton. Were  these Democrats simply voting to preserve their political viability as so many liberals believe, or did they genuinely believe they were acting in the best interests of the country?

Thanks very much for stopping by. Hopefully those that stumble on by here will find a site worthy of repeated vists!!

Regards,

SaveElmer

 

 

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