Thursday, September 30, 2004

Carter Interview

I was reading an interview Katie Couric had recently with former President Jimmy Carter. He starts out answering a question addressing Bush's assesment that Iraq posed a "gathering threat"

“That was a false statement. It was false to state that Saddam Hussein had a vast store of weapons of mass destruction or that Iraq was a direct threat to the security of the United States. "

But at the end of the interview, when asked what advice he'd give Kerry on his being painted as a "flip-flopper", he said,

"I know from experience that circumstances change and the knowledge that you have about an event changes. And when the times change and the circumstances change or when you learn more information, it's natural for a strong leader to say, ‘okay, my previous commitments, my previous statements were erroneous."
Wait a minute....

So you're saying it's ok to act on the information you have based on your understanding of a situation at the time you took action.

Which is what Bush says he did. The only thing that the President hasn't done is to apologize for the decision he made -- and Jimmy just established the fact that we should allow for it. It's pretty hard to apologize for removing Saddam Hussein from power. Everybody points to the WMD argument as if it were the sole reason for going into Iraq in the first place, and it clearly was not. So he didn't have stockpiles. That part was (apparently) wrong. But we thought it was right. So did the rest of the world.

But the facts remain: He did have them. He did use them. He was not complicit with the terms of the 1991 war's cease-fire agreement, he was not complicit with the UN in disarming and proving he was disarming. He kicked the UN out. He frequently shot at our planes for the 11 years we had forces over there to try to keep him from slaughtering more Kurds. He was paying for terrorism in Israel. And he would, given the opportunity, facilitate terrorist attacks inside the United States.

Anything else is political spin.

At one point in the Carter interview he is asked about security. Carter says that the insurgency and violence is there because we are there, and suggests that our pulling out will put an end to it.

That is partially true. But the bigger truth is that even if we had gone in, toppled Saddam, and pulled out, it would be there. Even if Bush had managed to get the whole world behind the effort in the first place (which obviously wasn't going to happen) -- this violence would be there. The violence is there to cause the state to fail, not to get us out. Getting us out would certainly help cause the state to fail very quickly, so certainly that is one of their goals. Certainly our presence is an aid in recruitment, but any suggestion that our pulling out anytime soon will help matters is at best naive.

There was a range of possible outcomes before we went in ranging from best case (more like Afghanistan) and worst case (Civil War) -- and Bush knew it. And he made the decision anyway. Not because he was stupid. Not because he's a war-monger. But because because the risk of not going in outweighed the risk of going in.

One of the major points of contention between Arabs and the US was a sizable US presence in the Middle East. The main reason the US was there in such numbers was Hussein's defiance of the agreements he made and the UN Resolutions passed after the 1991 war. The only responsible way to get out of there was to finish that war.

Which is what we're doing over there.

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