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Defending the Indefensible: Another Pathetic Argument to Justify Iraq War II

This follows up my attempt before the war to tell war supporters how to improve Bush's credibility (Bush's Credibility Problem on Iraq), and my ripping apart of one of the arguments used to defend the war in the wake of the original reasons proving bogus, namely that Clinton supported Bush on the war. That was the most bizarre defense I've seen, but not the saddest, or maybe I should use the word "maddening," because it actually could have made sense.

The use of Saddam's human rights abuses to justify the war after the fact
Yes, Saddam really was that bad. No question he ran one of the world's most despicable regimes, and a case can be made that brutes like him should be removed from power by force if necessary. The problem, however, is that it wasn't the reason given for war.

It was mentioned during the selling of the war to be sure, but "mentioned" describes the importance it was given next to the stated reasons for the war. Though Bush and his cabal may be hoping time and Saddam's capture will cause everyone to forget, before the war they decided human rights would not be sufficient cause to gain support for the war. Perhaps they assumed Americans would be uninterested in problems in another country that didn't directly threaten us. They didn't think the argument would sell overseas either, perhaps indulging in the unilateralist fantasy that only America cares about liberty. Therefore, using their best political marketing strategy (one of the neocons who made the sale, I believe it was Paul Wolfowitz, even bragged in the throes of what looked like complete victory that they decided what reasons to use to sell the war based what would sell best, not on what really were the reasons), they decided to convince us there was a grave and immediate terrorist threat from Iraq. Anybody remember the weapons of mass destruction Iraq definitely had, in locations Bush could pinpoint? Combine that with Saddam's connection to Al Qaida, and surely America was only minutes away from being nuked. None of it was true, all supporting evidence was debunked as fast as it became public, but it was repeated enough that it was as if we could operate from the assumption it was true, as indeed many of us eventually did. In short, Bush dragged us to war because we were about to be attacked, and oh by the way there were some human rights violations going on.

The attitude that the human rights violations were relatively unimportant would indeed be consistent with how U.S. presidents, included the elected ones, had always dealt with Saddam. The sad thing is that some unknowable number of us who opposed the war would have backed it if the purpose was to dispose of an evil dictator (which ought to be an oxymoron, despite frequent backing of "friendly" dictators). We would still have asked tough questions: is war the most effective way to get rid of him, why this one instead of the other nasties out there, how big could this war get, etc.; but many of us who opposed the war on the grounds we were being lied to, that the rest of the world opposed it, or that we disapproved of the suspected real reasons, might have been more open to it or even daresay persuaded. A war to remove dictators has a definite appeal. I could provide answers to the tough questions that would have been asked, but what's the point? Those questions were relevant only if human rights were the reason for the war, but they weren't. Admittedly, some war supporters would not have supported it without belief in an immediate threat to their own country, but does that justify lying to win their support?

Would foreign help in the war have been tough to win in a crusade to win a brutalized people's freedom? Sure. What dictatorship would jump at the chance to join in? Perhaps they could have stopped approval getting through the UN. Then again, UN approval was stopped as it was. Having approval stopped by dictators looking to save their own hides would actually be a strong argument for clearing out one of the worst of them. Having approval stopped by democracies who think the current U.S. administration is lying about the evidence and acting like a bully has quite the opposite effect.

What's really hypocritical about using human rights as ex post facto reason for war is that human rights groups have been trying to raise the alarm about Saddam since he took power. What did the Reagan administration do when Saddam was gassing Kurds, torturing dissidents, all that fun stuff? Sending Donald Rumsfeld, yes, the current Secretary of Defense, to make nice with Saddam in hopes in getting contracts for American businesses to build an oil pipeline. They gave Saddam intelligence information to help in the war with Iran. They sold him the stuff to start his weapons programs. What matter that human rights groups were already trying to say this was a very bad man? Saddam was our friend.

President Bush did no better, telling Saddam we didn't care how he resolved things with Kuwait and thereby bringing on, well, everything that has followed, from the invasion of Kuwait to the ongoing fighting in Mission Unaccomplished. Then, having Saddam beaten in Iraq War I, having the chance to remove him, and having told the Kurds and Shiites to rise in rebellion, he stood by while Saddam slaughtered them. And guess what? A bunch of the foreign policy geniuses who thought that seemed like a good idea are in Junior's administration, and we're supposed to believe this group cared enough about human rights to go to war over it? If you believe that, I have some uranium from Niger you might be interested in.

As a long time member of Amnesty International, I have written numerous letters to American officials to try to get them to take some action in opposition to human rights abuses overseas. Most of the time these entreaties are ignored, particularly by Junior's administration. It is utterly galling to see these hypocrites use a cause they've always disdained to justify a war fought for other reasons, let alone after the stated reasons were exposed as a fraud.

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