Jewish World Review April 29, 2003 / 27 Nissan 5763
Everything the Left Said About the War Is Wrong (Including the Claim that It Was Right)
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | In the aftermath of a successful war it opposed as a certain disaster, the left is attempting to rewrite the script, counting on others to forget what it said and did. No one has attempted this with more brazen aplomb than Arianna Huffington, a recent convert to the cause. In a column titled, "Why the Anti-War Movement Was Right," she has joined the self-satisfied ranks of smart people who seem determined to demonstrate that they don't know what they're talking about.
In the lead up to the military campaign known as "Operation Iraqi Freedom," antiwar activists signed petitions, mounted lecterns, and marched in the streets in a desperate attempt to head off a conflict they claimed would mean hundreds of thousands of casualties, a bloody quagmire of urban combats, chemical and environmental disasters, terrorist retributions at home and abroad, and a region-wide eruption of the Arab street. Instead what we witnessed was the swiftest and most bloodless conquest of an armed nation in the history of warfare. The immediate result of the victory has been exactly what the Administration promised: a swift liberation of a largely grateful Iraqi people, no terrorist outbreak, and no explosion of Arab rage.
But there is apparently nothing America can do that will satisfy Arianna Huffington. In her column, she turns all these welcome achievements into a postwar bill of indictment -- not of those who opposed the liberation, but of those who carried it out: "The speedy fall of Baghdad proves the anti-war movement was dead right. The whole pretext for our unilateral charge into Iraq was that the American people were in imminent danger from Saddam and his mighty war machine….Well, it turns out that, far from being on the verge of destroying Western civilization, Saddam and his 21st Century Gestapo couldn't even muster a half-hearted defense of their own capital. The hawks' 'cakewalk' disproves their own dire warnings."
For the sake of argument, let's assume that the three-week war was actually a "cakewalk," as Huffington asserts. Did leftists argue that this would be the case? That the war would be a trivial matter? Did hundreds of thousands of anti-war activists march to prevent a "cakewalk" that would liberate 18 million Iraqis from the clutches of "Saddam and his 21st Century Gestapo?" Shame on them if they did.
In fact, Huffington and her friends argued the exact opposite. They argued that the death toll would be prodigious; that Iraq might even be another Vietnam; that costs were so high not even the freedom of 18 million Iraqis was worth it. The military operation would be so difficult and consuming, they warned, that pursuing it would cripple the "other war" on terrorism. This, of course, was disingenuous since they had not notably supported the war on terrorism (with some exceptions). There had been 150 "peace" demonstrations in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. These demonstrations were organized to protest in advance any armed American response to the attacks. But in the prologue to the Iraq war, the same "anti-war" forces pretended that they had not opposed the retributive (and preventive) war on al-Qaeda and the Taliban and argued instead that a war on Iraq would hinder the efforts to complete that task.
They said America could not fight international terrorism and Saddam at the same time -- as though the two could be separated. In fact, the Bush Administration showed it could do both very well at the same time. It arrested al-Qaeda leaders and broke al-Qaeda cells in Afghanistan and Pakistan even as it pursued the war in Iraq. Furthermore, the destruction of at least two major terrorist training camps in Iraq and the capture of the terrorist leader Abu Abbas in Baghdad have already proven the left was wrong about the Iraq-terror connection (even in advance of what captured Iraqi files and intelligence officials may eventually tell us).
But who in the Bush Administration ever suggested, as Huffington claims, that Saddam's war machine was a match for American military power? The answer is no one. This was never the threat. Huffington's claim is so far-fetched, in fact, that other leftists have preferred the opposite tack, claiming the war was not a cakewalk and that that proves its supporters were wrong. For leftists, apparently any argument is appropriate if it makes their case. For the record, before the fighting started, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Myers accurately predicted the length of the war would be about three weeks.
What Huffington's comments show is that she has not the foggiest idea of what Saddam's threat was and why we went to war. (This actually makes sense, when you think about it, since if she understood the reasons for the war she wouldn't be against it.) Saddam's challenge to the West was never the capability of his armed forces in a contest with the West. It was his status and capabilities as an international outlaw that made him an imminent threat.
The nature of this threat was threefold: 1) his proven determination to build weapons of mass destruction; 2) his proven readiness to use terror against civilian populations (and therefore the possibility that he would use terror against us and others); and 3) his willingness to commit aggression against his Arab neighbors (as already demonstrated in Iran and Kuwait).
It was these factors that made the Bush Administration believe that he posed an imminent danger, which could only be deterred if Saddam was removed from power, and only if his removal preceded the completion of his WMD programs. Should he have nuclear weapons at his disposal, the removal of Saddam would pose monstrous risks. Saddam's willingness to use weapons of mass destruction or deliver them to terrorist agents put him in a position to dominate his neighbors and disrupt the flow of Middle Eastern oil - a flow on which the world economy depends. Without the presence of massive U.S. forces - which could be sustained throughout a Middle Eastern summer, this was an imminent threat. In addition, Saddam had taken spiritual and organizational steps to become part of an international fraternity of terrorists (al-Qaeda in particular) who were determined to attack American civilians at home and abroad. Osama bin Laden's call for jihad in defense of Iraq, during the war, shows just how tight the fraternity had become. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 had already taken $600 billion out of the U.S. economy, nearly destroyed whole industries, and prevented a market recovery. To sit around and wait for another terror attack, with greater economic consequences and a potential for worldwide political destabilization was unacceptable.
It was these considerations that White House planners decided they could not afford to ignore. Nothing the war has so far revealed would indicate that these threats were less than had been feared; much has served to confirm them. For one, the al-Qaeda training camp in northern Iraq and the active collusion between the terrorist regime in Baghdad and its fascist partner in Damascus - a sponsor of Hizbollah and Hamas -- are evidence that the Axis of Evil is real and Saddam was one of its poles.
Like other leftwing critics, Huffington is not only unable to understand the general threat posed by terrorist states like Iraq, but also the specific trigger of the conflict. Describing the war (somewhat hysterically) as the product of "the Bush Administration's pathological and frantic obsession with an immediate damn-the-consequences invasion," Huffington still clings to the illusion that the UN was an honest broker and controlled by the French and Russian allies of Saddam: "The threat was [allegedly] so clear and present that we couldn't even give inspectors searching for weapons of mass destruction - hey, remember those? - another 30 days, as France had wanted."
This touching confidence in inspections misreads both the role of the French and the nature of resolution 1441, which provided the legal basis for the war. This was not a resolution to allow inspections, which in any case Saddam had thwarted for 12 years. It was an ultimatum to Saddam to disarm and to do so by November 7. The operative term is disarm because Saddam had already shown that he was perfectly capable of first allowing inspections and then waiting for the opportunity to throw the inspectors out, to have sanctions imposed and then to get them lifted (with the help of Russia and France), and in general to play cat and mouse until his weapons program was completed.
But the impotence of the UN to disarm Saddam even under threat of war was made clear, in the week before the conflict when France declared that under no circumstances would it sanction the use of force. Nor would Russia, whom we now know was spying on the British for Saddam. Without a credible threat of force, Saddam was never going to comply with demands made by the UN or anyone else. But there was no such credible threat of force. The war was necessary to restore the credibility that 12 years and 17 resolutions had undermined.
These are the factors - plus the imminence of the desert summer - that precipitated the decision to launch the war on March 19. Four months - the period between the ultimatum deadline and the actual war -- seems a reasonable and adequate time to decide whether the Iraqi regime was going to comply voluntarily, particularly since the four months were piled on top of twelve years of dissembling, evasion and resistance. Four months was a reasonable time for the White House to conclude in a disciplined non-frantic way that only force would achieve the desired result.
Breathtaking geopolitical ignorance abounds in all of the left's critiques of the war, but especially in Huffington's. "Unilateralism" (ill-defined) is invariably bad, for example, no matter what circumstances recommend it. Huffington deplores it not only in so far as the Russians and French are concerned, but the Arabs as well. "Back in 1991, more than half-a-dozen Arab nations were part of our Desert Storm coalition. Operation Iraqi Freedom's 'coalition of the willing' had zero." Well, not quite zero. Huffington seems not to have noticed that the command headquarters for the war (CENTCOM) was based in Qatar, an Arab state, and the ground war was launched from Kuwait. Worse, she ignores the enormous benefit resulting from the fact that Arab states like Saudia Arabia were not part of the American coalition.
In 1991, it was the wishes of Saudia Arabia, as a coalition partner, that kept us from toppling Saddam, thus making the Second Gulf War inevitable. It was Saudi Arabia and (another coalition partner) Turkey who kept us from aiding the Shiites and the Kurds at the end of the of the war when they rose against Saddam. Denied our help, they were slaughtered in the tens of thousands by Saddam's henchmen. In some circumstances, less multilateralism, can be a positive good.
But among critics of the war, the need for approbation from foreign elites is apparently unlimited. It is the flip side of their post-9/11 assumption that if America is attacked, it must be America's fault. In describing the alleged impact of the war, Huffington doesn't actually employ the term "root cause" but she manages a near equivalent: "In fact, almost everything about the invasion - from the go-it-alone build-up to the mayhem the fall of Saddam has unleashed - has played right into the hands of those intent on demonizing our country. Islamic extremists must be having a field day signing up recruits for the holy war they're preparing to wage against us."
In fact, radical Muslims hardly need facts to stoke their hatreds, let alone distorted perceptions of American policy like this. Muslim hatred of America is as rational as Muslim hatred of Jews. In the last twenty-five years, no one has killed more Muslims than Saddam Hussein. Yet, only two of 57 Muslim states lined up against him. In the same interval, no nation in the world has saved more Muslim lives than the United States (Afghanistan, Somalia, Kosovo and Kurdish Iraq); yet only 2 of 57 Muslim states recognized the debt enough to support America's war effort. The Arab world in particular is a collection of medieval theocracies and fascist regimes, who supported first Hitler and then the Communist empire. Its culture is xenophobic and its media is effectively controlled by the state. How could America conduct itself in liberating any Arab country or neutralizing any Arab threat without provoking a negative reaction?
America's domestic critics have not even begun to confront the problems this reality creates. On the contrary, they have compounded them. The following comment by Huffington could have been written for Al Quds: ""[The war] in no way proves that running roughshod over international law and pouring Iraqi oil - now brought to you by the good folks at Halliburton - onto the flames of anti-American hatred was a good idea… The idea that our slam dunk of Saddam actually proves the White House was right is particularly dangerous because it encourages the Wolfowitzes and the Perles and the Cheneys to argue that we should be invading Syria or Iran or North Korea or Cuba as soon as we catch our breath. They've tasted blood."
In other words, the culprits are two bloodthirsty Jews and an oilman. Huffington may not have fully intended this conclusion, but as written here this is sick stuff. It is also common parlance on the left. In fact, given the result of the war, Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle - to single out the Jews - are more properly seen as moral heroes than as military predators. They have spent twenty-years toiling in the Defense and Foreign Policy communities to effect the liberation of millions of Shi'ites, who were systematically murdered and oppressed by Saddam's regime, knowing full well that these very Shi'ites hate them as Jews and would persecute and oppress them if they could. Yet Wolfowitz and Perle persisted in their efforts because they thought it was the right thing to do for America, and the right thing to do for the Iraqis as well.
In this context, to demonize Wolfowitz, Perle and Cheney as blood-thirsty imperialists ready to shed blood for oil is beneath contempt, and an exercise in poisonous myth-making. Huffington's construction is a paranoid fantasy that will feed the hatreds not only of Islamic extremists abroad, but anti-American extremists at home. Encouraging these extremists will, in turn, greatly compound the difficulties America faces in conducting its war against international terror.
The left's assaults on White House efforts to use the victory in Iraq to induce a new attitude in the regimes that support international terrorism - Syria, North Korea, Iran and Cuba - reveals how unserious and ultimately disloyal are their "critiques" of America's war on terror. Huffington, for example, has mounted a formidable media attack against Americans who merely purchase SUVs, calling them aiders and abetters of international terror. She is also a vocal proponent of diplomatic as opposed to military measures in dealing with terrorist regimes. Yet she is on the frontline of those attempting to obstruct the Bush Administration's diplomatic efforts to back down terrorist regimes like Syria before a war is necessary, and in situation where the stakes are not extra barrels of oil to fuel SUVs, but providing protection and support for the world most formidable terrorist armies, Hizbollah and Hamas, hiding weapons of mass destruction, and providing refuge for Iraqi leaders. Of course, to accuse Huffington and the left of aiding and abetting the terrorist enemy would immediately invite cries of "witchhunt" and "McCarthyism."
One visible impact of the Iraq episode (which Huffington naturally ignores) in fact is its positive effect on the attitudes of Syria and North Korea. In the wake of Saddam's gotterdamerun, Damascus has become newly cooperative in surrendering the Iraqi criminals whom it had previously harbored. Meanwhile, the nuclear dictator in Pyongyang has shown a new readiness to negotiate. If the lightning bolt in Iraq had not occurred to impress these rogue states with their own vulnerability, can anyone think they would have had such a quick change of heart?
The Iraq war is history. It is no longer the real target of the American opposition. The target now is the postwar future, not only in Iraq but throughout the empire of Third World terror. Just as the opposition to the Bush foreign policy encouraged Saddam to believe he could defy the ultimatums and ignore the resolutions, and cosntinue his terrorist ways, so it will now encourage the anti-American, anti-democratic and terrorist forces throughout the Muslim world, most immediately in Iraq. Here is Huffington's up to the minute critique of the reconstruction effort: "It doesn't help to have the American media referring to Jay Garner, the retired general Don Rumsfeld picked to oversee the rebuilding of Iraq, as 'viceroy.' It reeks of colonial imperialism. Why not just call him 'Head Bwana?' Or 'Garner of Arabia?' I didn't realize the Supreme Court had handed Bush a scepter to go along with the Florida recount."
If the domestic political opposition is going to talk like this over the next few months, the likelihood of high terror alerts will increase along with the difficulty of the tasks ahead. One reason the United States was unable to step into the vacuum created by the repulsion of the Soviet invaders in Afghanistan, thus allowing al-Qaeda and the Taliban to grow, was the political climate in America known as the "post-Vietnam syndrome." This was the name given to the atmosphere created by the corrosive critiques of the left, which had fostered a cynicism about American power that tainted every American overseas effort as a crass imperialism. It was this set of attitudes that paralyzed America's ability to respond to terrorist attacks from Lebanon to the USS Cole, and that made it impossible, until the Iraq War, for the United States to put an army in the field in excess of four days. This has now changed, and that it is an immense plus for the prospects of peace.
But the left has now launched a new "antiwar" crusade against America's reconstruction regime, raising the question of whether we are headed forward or back. One of the first manifestations of the freedom America brought to Iraq was the gathering of a million Shi'ites on a religious pilgrimage to Karbala previously banned by the Saddam regime. Among the non-religious chants of the Shi'ite crowds was "Death to America" (and of course "Death to Israel"). The Shi'ites - whose mecca is Iran -- want the Americans out of their country because the only freedom they want is for themselves. They want to impose a Shi'ite theocracy on everyone else. The war for the Muslim future has just begun. These Shi'ite extremists are only one of the opponent groups that America must face in its effort to bring the values of tolerance, inclusion, moderation and democracy to the Middle East. In this struggle between good and evil, which side are American leftists like Arianna Huffington going to be on?
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JWR contributor David Horowitz is editor of Front Page Magazine and the author of several books, including, The Art of Political War and Other Radical Pursuits, Hating Whitey, Art of Political War, Radical Son : A Generational Odyssey . To comment, please click here.
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