09 November 2006

Eleven Eleven 2006


In what then seemed the final stages of an overwhelmingly successful military invasion of Afghanistan, the Taliban government toppled, Al Quaeda's training camps destroyed, and thousands of their adherents either killed or fled, the Bush Administration prematurely turned it's attention to the prize many of it's top leaders and most influential and ardent consultants had wanted since the end of the Gulf War in 1991. The deposing of Saddam Hussein.

A good idea.

Though they were, especially in hindsight, too anxious, the new circumstances of geo-politics following the 9-11 attacks combined with intense, decade-long U.S. and British antagonism to Saddam's regime (no-fly zones, persistent flyovers, sanctions, random retribution attacks, etc.) as well as Saddam's defiance of U.N. mandates, corruption, human rights violations, and tacit support for Palestinian 'terrorists', it could then be quite possible that Saddam would use his oil wealth and technology to clandestinely supply the U.S.' newly empowered enemy, Al Quaeda, with more advanced means with which to attack U.S. interests in the Gulf region, perhaps worldwide.

A reasonable assumption.

To demonstrate a united front and the earnestness of their intentions, the Bush Administration sought Congressional approval and another U.N. mandate, as it simultaneously put together another coalition of nations to supply the military force necessary to carry out the threat.

A good idea.

The goodwill toward the U.S. following the 9-11 attacks made the task of assembling the coalition forces much easier, especially in light of the success in Afghanistan. And for Congress to deny the President the ability to use force would have demonstrated disunity and emboldened Saddam to be even more defiant, completely subverting the efficacy of the threat. Congress overwhelmingly approved.

So far so good.

The Bush Administration then gains, through diplomacy, a U.N. approved 'timetable' imposed on Saddam, forcing him to open up Iraq to international weapons inspectors.

Even better.

But Saddam continues to be less than fully cooperative with the weapons inspectors, further fueling suspicions, even as the military forces begin to deploy along Iraq's borders. Experience has taught him that U.N. proclamations, sanctions, and coalitions can be weathered, ignored, and stalled, until eventually an 'accomodation' is reached, or the unified opinion and will disintegrates.

And it does.

As international debate begins to fracture over the question of seeking yet another U.N. mandate for the use of force if Saddam does not comply, more troops arrive, and the previous mandate's 'deadline' draws nearer. Saddam reacts to the pressure by releasing tens of thousands of documents sought by the U.N., outlining the extent of his weapons programs, past and present.

Too little, too late.

The expensive troops are in place, the 'deadline' day comes, and subsequent records have shown that the decision to attack was made unilaterally many months before, but not without one last surprise twist.


Acting on what was presumed to be reliable intelligence, two U.S. stealth bombers attacked the building in which Saddam was supposed to be conducting a high-level military planning conference, only a few hours after the deadline's passing.

A good idea, if it works.

It didn't.

And thus the question of whether the Bush Administration knew before attacking, that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction, is solved.

To pack 100,000 troops within easy reach of an opponent with such weapons, to attempt to assassinate him and fail, and then launch a full-scale attack three days later, removing any rationale for hesitation by Saddam, and making it easier, more necessary, and effective to use WMD weaponry, is something no sane person, government, or especially a coalition of governments would ever do.

Unless they already knew Saddam had no such weapons.

That is how the 'greatest strategic disaster in the history of the United States' began. With a lie. With a mistake. And with many more mistakes to follow in the three and half years since. Each one compounding the previous ones, until the cost in lost freedoms, honor, goodwill, reputation, treasure, and lives, is incalculable.

Which brings us to this day, the 11th of November 2006, a day to remember the ending of a war, the horrific consequences of which momentarily, only momentarily, made widespread the idea that mankind must rise to a level of maturity that makes such waste and stupidity forever unrepeatable.

Still a good idea.

Only the lies, mistakes, greed, hubris, fears, expectations, and assumptions of the past few years, as it has always been throughout history, constrain those who seek an answer to the first question that must be asked in the quest to end war:

What do we do NOW?