Skip to comments.Bill Buckley, you and I know the war was a mistake
Posted on 06/29/2004 7:00:20 PM PDT by churchillbuff
With the benefit of minute hindsight, Saddam Hussein wasnt the kind of extra-territorial menace that was assumed by the administration one year ago. If I knew then what I know now about what kind of situation we would be in, I would have opposed the war.
Those words are William F. Buckleys, from an article in yesterdays New York Times marking Buckleys decision to relinquish control of the National Review, the flagship journal of the conservative movement he founded 50 years ago.
Also out on the newsstands now, in The Atlantic Monthly, is an essay Buckley wrote describing his decision to give up sailing after a lifetime covering the worlds oceans and writing about it.
Mortality is the backdrop of both decisions, as the 78-year-old Buckley explains. In the Atlantic essay he describes his decision to abandon the sea as one of assessing whether the ratio of pleasure to effort [is] holding its own [in sailing]? Or is effort creeping up, pleasure down? deciding that the time has come to [give up sailing] and forfeit all that is not lightly done brings to mind the step yet ahead, which is giving up life itself.
There is certainly no shortage today of people saying the Iraq venture was wrongheaded. But Bill Buckley is Bill Buckley. And perhaps it is uniquely possible for a man at the summit or the sunset of life choose your metaphor to state so crisply and precisely what a clear majority of the American public has already decided (54 percent according to the latest Gallup poll): that the presidents Iraq venture was a mistake.
So with the formal end of the occupation now behind us, lets take stock of the arguments for war and see whether any of them any longer hold up.
The threat of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
To the best of our knowledge, the Hussein regime had no stockpiles of WMD on the eve of the war nor any ongoing programs to create them. An article this week in the Financial Times claims that Iraq really was trying to buy uranium from Niger despite all the evidence to the contrary. But new evidence appears merely to be unsubstantiated raw intelligence that was wisely discounted by our intelligence agencies at the time.
Advocates of the war still claim that Saddam had WMD programs. But they can do so only by using a comically elastic definition of program that never would have passed the laugh test if attempted prior to the war.
The Iraq-al Qaeda link.
To the best of our knowledge, the Hussein regime had no meaningful or as the recent Sept. 11 Commission staff report put it, collaborative relationship with al Qaeda. In this case too, theres still a debate. Every couple of months we hear of a new finding that someone who may have had a tie to Saddam may have met with someone connected to al Qaeda.
But as in the case of WMD, its really mock debate, more of a word game than a serious, open question, and a rather baroque one at that. Mostly, its not an evidentiary search but an exercise in finding out whether a few random meetings can be rhetorically leveraged into a relationship. If it can, supposedly, a rationale for war is thus salvaged.
The humanitarian argument for the war remains potent in as much as Saddams regime was ruthlessly repressive. But in itself this never would have been an adequate argument to drive the American people to war and, not surprisingly, the administration never made much of it before its other rationales fell apart.
The broader aim of stimulating a liberalizing and democratizing trend in the Middle East remains an open question but largely because it rests on unknowables about the future rather than facts that can be proved or disproved about the past. From the vantage point of today, there seems little doubt that the war was destabilizing in the short run or that it has strengthened the hands of radicals in countries like Iran and, arguably though less clearly, Saudi Arabia. The best one can say about the prospects for democracy in Iraq itself is that there are some hopeful signs, but the overall outlook seems extremely iffy.
Surveying the whole political landscape, it is clear that a large factor in keeping support for the war as high as it is is the deep partisan political divide in the country, which makes opposing the war tantamount to opposing its author, President Bush, a step most Republicans simply arent willing to take.
At a certain point, for many, conflicts become self-justifying. We fight our enemies because our enemies are fighting us, quite apart from whether we should have gotten ourselves into the quarrel in the first place.
But picking apart the reasons why we got into Iraq in the first place and comparing what the administration said in 2002 with what we know in 2004, it is increasingly difficult not to conclude, as a majority of the American public and that founding father of modern conservatism have now concluded, that the whole enterprise was a mistake.
Well, Winston, as a fellow freeper I got to warn you - I wouldn't hang your hat with these guys. Why, the best proof is Kerry's dropping of the WMD issue in the past two months. He should know, one of his closest advisor's wife is a CIA WMD analyst.
Buckley is an interesting mix of self conscious upper class tolerance of personal eccentricity (thus there the libertarian instinct), with perhaps a waning pre Vatican II traditional Catholicism. One cannot tar Buckley with the antisemitism brush. He had Churchill's sensibilities on that one. It offended him to his core, and he would have none of it. Indeed, one of the main reasons he founded the National Review, is that the conservative rags of the 50's, were mired in antisemitism.
This article is filled with a multitude of distortions and lies.
Saddam had been trying to gather WMD's for years prior to the invasion. This is simply a fact and there is no disputing it. Iraqi defectors told the story. We found a sarin-filled artillery shell and, I believe, evidence of mustard gas as well. No one produces one sarin-filled shell. You produce thousands.
Saddam tried to assassinate the former President Bush.
Saddam had multiple links with Islamist terrorist groups, allowed them sanctuary and funded them.
Saddam was a direct threat to our security - and I just don't see the case that "we should have left him alone" - as legitimate.
You're an insufferable cynic, AC. You and Moore ought to get a room.
Right you are! And this is no time to go wobbly.
Hold it. I'm 1) a Republican 2) who disapproves of the Iraq invasion 3) but don't "hate Bush" and will definitely vote for his reelection. Taxes, judges, pro-life are the issues for me. It's hand's down for Bush on those issues. My worry is that his bonehead Iraq policy will get him voted out - - - and we'll all lose with a liberal Democrat in the White House.
Only back to 2001.
"We fight our enemies because our enemies are fighting us, quite apart from whether we should have gotten ourselves into the quarrel in the first place."
He must have some senior moments about that war of attrition (one-sided) we were having with Saddam since 1991.
Will used to be one of the very few conservatives on the Sunday shows (in the 80's). He ain't the only game in town any more, and now that more have shown up on the scene, it really shows Will for what he is.....
"So he is holding a head, the head of a Serb that he cut off. So those are the 20.000 Mujahedin that were brought to the European theatre of war through Clinton's policy, and most of them remained there and some went to America and to other countries, and they went all around Europe."
"And then when they start beheading your own people in wars to come, then you will know what this is all about."
20-20 hindsight is grand, isn't it?
That's absurd. Nobody can make any kind of pronouncement like that. You can't even assure anyone that Great Britain would never be a threat to the U.S. vis-a-vis WMDs -- and I certainly don't expect you (on that basis alone) to suggest that we invade London tomorrow.
You've missed the whole point with regard to the war planning effort. Nothing I heard back in 2003 indicated that anyone underestimated the ability of the U.S. to topple the Hussein government in three weeks (which is a whole other issue, because it points to a clear consensus about Iraq's military ineptitude at the time). The real question people raised at the time was that the Bush administration had no idea what the hell it was getting into once Iraq had to be occupied. They were dead right about that one.
So what if no 9/11 bombers were Iraqis? Are we only supposed to go after Al-Qaeda and leave the tens of thousands of other terrorists alone? This is a War on Terror - everywhere.
Crap. we had an enemy in the cold war that could have destroyed us in an hour just as we could them. We have an enemy now that the old MAD strategy is not operable. Iraq was a looming problem in the WOT. It was and is just one battle. You tell me, what would be going on in Iraq right now had we just ignored it and what would we be doing any differently in the overall war?
What was the body count after your marriage fell apart?
If you're basing your opinion that the invasion was "wrong" entirely upon "what they said were the real reasons still haven't been proven......they appear to be empty threats........and it has all cost the lives of our soldiers and other innocents"......well friend, you picked the WRONG bases for your opinion.
Furthermosre, if I have to explain it to you........I'd literally be wasting my breath.
Bush did lose 3000. He made a decision that American policy would be to hunt down terrorists who would do it again and he also made the deicsion to equate those that harbor terrorists with terrorists.
Saddam Hussein was giving sanctuary to terrorists who had killed Americans. Noboys accusing you of being pro Saddam so put a match to that strawman.
I am accusing you of being willing to put your head under the covers while the murderers of Americans enjoy sanctuary in Baghdad, post 9/11, and I must say I find it reprehensible.
And there you have it.
It is very unpatriotic and almost treasonous to question the fact established by the polls of public opinion.
Who was right? Bush stated from the beginning that we would be in Iraq for years.
Do the research yourself. You'll find that the phrase "weapons of mass destruction" probably came up more frequently (by X-42 and his lackeys in the media) in the aftermath of Monica Lewinsky's grand jury testimony than it had ever been used in ten years before that.
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