Friday, January 09, 2004


The problem with the national dialogue is that it has been a bipolar, "Nothing at all was gained by U.S. military action in Iraq" vs. "Saddam is the most evil man since Hitler and had to be stopped." This simplistic debate is not an advantageous one for the antiwar side. Obviously, Saddam Hussein is not Santa Claus. In fact, I don't think that anyone would be going far out on a limb to say that he did some pretty despicable things during his long dictatorship. Unfortunately, thus far, the Bushies have been successful in turning the question into: "Is the fact that Saddam is gone a good thing?" It's difficult to take the "no" position on that question and look credible (although from an antiterrorism standpoint, I think the nos have it). Dean found that out when he got ripped into for saying during Sunday's debate that the U.S. is no better off with Saddam gone. While I agree with him, more hay can be made by fighting on the other side's weak points.

The proper questions should be:
1. Was there justification for the U.S. action, and, if so, what was it?
2. If the justification was that "Saddam was an imminent threat to the U.S.," how does that reconcile with the facts that it has become fairly clear that he did not have either WMDs or operational ties to Al Qaeda or similar anti-U.S. international terrorist organizations?
3. Were the misstatements made by the administration to obtain Congressional approval for its war and sway public opinion mistakes or a deliberate fraud? (The what did he/they know and when did he/they know it question) If dishonest, were any benefits which came out of the operation worth the fraud and duplicity?
4. If the justification is simply that "Saddam committed human rights violations against his people and we had a humanitarian duty to stop him," how is Iraq different from most of, say, Central and South America where we actively support dictators doing as bad or worse things? Do we now have a duty to "liberate" every non-democratic nation?
5. Even if the war was justified, was it worth it?--Are we safer now? Are there more are fewer terrorists in Iraq now? Was it worth the cost in lives? Monetarily?
If a concerted effort could be made to focus public attention on these issues rather than was Saddam bad, there is hope that Bush's dishonesty over WMDs could become an Achilles heel. Today, I don't see it.

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