Haggai's Place

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Your humble narrator is...
...a research analyst at a think tank in the Washington DC area. Born in Israel, raised in Kentucky, movie fanatic and sports nut.
My first-hand account of the Palestinian divestment conference at the U. of Michigan

:: Saturday, November 22, 2003 ::

Saddam was a Zionist stooge!
TBO Notebooks mentions a letter to the Arab News that sees the long arm of the Jews behind Saddam's every move:
The Baath Party in Iraq was created by the Zionists in France. It is dead against Muslims and Islam. Saddam is a leader of the Baath Party and was used by Zionists to attack Iran. The Iraq-Iran war was facilitated to sell US weapons to both warring parties and make a lot of money from both sides. Hundreds of thousands of innocent people perished in the war.

Later, the Zionists used Saddam to attack Kuwait, and again it was Zionist arms manufacturers in the United States that made billions of dollars from the war.
It reminded me of a footnote to the introductory chapter of Bernard Lewis' Semites and Anti-Semites. He wrote the book in the mid-'80s, so the term "Gulf War" here refers to the Iran-Iraq war:
[I]n some quarters..."Zionist" has become a term of abuse without any specific meaning whatsoever. Thus, in the Gulf War the governments of Iraq and Iran, both implacable enemies of Israel, denounce one another as Zionists. An even more bizarre example occurred in the Far East, where the radio service of the Soviet dominated Mongolian Republic accused the Chinese in Sin Kiang of "Zionist activities."

7:04 PM
:: Friday, November 21, 2003 ::
Short and sweet
Josh Marshall, in his latest column about the continuing debate about Iraq/al Qaeda connections, makes a reference to the latest comments on the subject by Peter Bergen, who was one of the first (or maybe the first) Western journalists to interview Osama bin Laden. Bergen's comments are at this link. Here's an excerpt, which is actually most of the post:
[S]ome of the stuff that the Standard reports on fails the common sense test and indicates that the material comes from faulty intelligence. Take for instance the claim that bin Laden visited Baghdad in January 1998. That is obviously implausible. Bin Laden was the subject of intense US surveillance starting in '96 when the CIA started a special bin Laden task force. In March '97 bin Laden gave his CNN interview which was broadcast around the world on several occasions thereafter, and subsequently he was secretly indicted by the US govt. It's just not plausible that bin Laden would have slipped into Iraq unnoticed in Jan '98. He was already a very wanted man and a widely recognized person.

I could go on making a number of points about this material, but rather than boring you with those I'd like to make an important overall point.

Even if you accept the dubious proposition that every claim in the Standard report is true there is NO evidence of Iraqi involvement in attacks against American targets such as 9/11, the Cole or the embassy bombings.(Even Bush himself has now conceded that there was no link beween Saddam and 9/11). In short al Qaeda officials may have met with Iraqi officials, (particularly when al Qaeda was based in the Sudan in the mid-90s) but there was no OUTCOMES from those meetings. As we know ourselves from our own working lives we have many meetings with many different people and it is only sometimes that actions result from those meetings. Al Qaeda officials met with a wide variety of Pakistani, Afghan, Iranian, Iraqi, Sudanese officials at one time or another. The only governmental relationships that were important to al Qaeda were with the Sudanese from 91-96 and the Taliban from 96-2001.
My own emphasis added there. It's a good point, albeit a very simple one. Even if there were some meetings in the past between Iraqi and al Qaeda officials, that doesn't automatically mean that there was a threat of them working together in the future that justified invasion all by itself. It's not necessarily like a movie, where one shot of two bad guys standing next to each other means that they've been co-operating all along.

To extend this to the ridiculous WWII analogies that some people insist on making: if a few inconclusive meetings between Saddam's people and bin Laden's people are sufficient to prove that they're going to unite in attacking America sometime in the future, and if this is good enough to justify pre-emptive action against Iraq, then why didn't we attack Spain in WWII? They had a fascist dictator, who had been actively backed by the Germans just a few years earlier in coming to power. Then Hitler met with Franco after WWII started and tried very hard to bring Spain on board with the Axis powers, and (I think I have this right) kept trying to do so for just about the entire rest of the war. Yet none of this was taken by anyone as a good enough reason to pre-emptively strike Spain to prevent that alliance from possibly, theoretically, threatening the US at some indeterminate time in the future.
10:57 AM
:: Thursday, November 20, 2003 ::
A pretty obvious reference that I had missed
I've never read the Lord Of The Rings books, but I have the extended edition DVDs for both of the first two movies now, with Two Towers having been released just a couple of days ago. There's some stuff on this new DVD set about part of Tolkien's inspiration for the Ents' (walking tree-like creatures) decision to join the battle against the bad guys. Although I should have noticed this before, it's partly a Shakespeare reference, specifically to Macbeth. After hearing a prophecy that he won't be defeated until the forests come to his castle, Macbeth assumes that he's safe from his enemies, but then the returning armies march onto his fortress carrying trees in front of them to disguise themselves (Kurosawa's Throne of Blood, his version of Macbeth, captures that scene very nicely). As a couple of people said on the new DVD, Tolkien was disappointed as a kid that the forests didn't actually move in Macbeth, so he eventually decided to incorporate that into one of his stories. I thought that was a nice touch about pushing the fantasy angle even further vis-a-vis Shakespeare.
3:17 PM
:: Tuesday, November 18, 2003 ::
Why not Iran?
My memory was jogged about something with the news of a new "smoking gun" memo about Saddam/al Qaeda links--which, inconveniently, was described as drawing no conclusions about that subject by those wimps at the Pentagon. I'm thinking about a Washington Post report from last month about one of bin Laden's sons taking an important role in al Qaeda and operating from within Iran. Now, almost nobody has come out in favor of invading Iran, but if this son of bin Laden had ended up in Iraq instead of Iran, wouldn't a lot of people be trumpeting it as the most significant piece of evidence yet that Saddam was in bed with al Qaeda? And that it would have constituted the clearest justification to date for assuming that Saddam was eventually going to attack the US via al Qaeda?

If Iran attacked the US via al Qaeda, even if that attack didn't involve nukes--which it might, since Iran has a much more advanced program than Iraq did, which everyone knew even before the Iraq war--we would quite obviously have to invade the country and topple its regime. So, if it was theoretically possible that Iraq might do that to us, and that alone was sufficient to constitute a pre-emptive war, then why aren't we invading Iran? Of course, there are many reasons not to, not the least of which is that it would probably be far bloodier than the Iraq war. But this points out the flaw in the logic that we had to invade Iraq to prevent Saddam from attacking us directly. If not invading was the same thing as irresponsibly hoping for Saddam not to attack us, or even (and I really think this is ludicrous) the modern equivalent of the appeasement of Hitler, then not invading Iran is pretty clearly worse by that same logic.
1:11 PM
:: Monday, November 17, 2003 ::
Or those of a certain fanatical level of movie fandom
I'm not of "a certain age" to get this reference, but I do know that it's from this movie with Cary Grant and Myrna Loy, although I haven't actually seen it.

On Diana's greater question of metrics for Iraq, and the more basic question of what the main problem is now, the main problem is the vacuum that would result if we left. As I've posted before, I think we need lots of international help to get it right, which means spreading the responsibility around. I agree that "a stable country that steers a moderate path in the Middle East and is self-sufficient after five or so years" would constitute a decent success.

UPDATE: Actually, I think I did get the reference, since I knew that the movie was basically about a dream house project gone totally awry, with the analogy being that things in Iraq are going much less swimmingly than the powers that be had assumed going in. I should have been more specific than just indicating that I recognized it as the title of an old movie.
1:07 PM

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