28 June 2004

Happy Iraqi Power Transfer Day!

One of the things the Iraqis will have to do is something that sooner or later every sovereign republic must do: pick a day to be their Independence Day. What will they pick? The day Saddam's government fell? Or today? It will be interesting to see.

In what is becoming a signature move of the Bush administration, the transfer took place ahead of schedule and way the hell over budget. But it caught most people off guard, including those who looked at the calendar with salivation, wanting nothing more than to disrupt the June 30 handover. I'm sure that there are radical clerics and car bombers who were caught up short, without their fiery denunciations and IEDs ready. I'm sure they're pissed.

I hope they're scared.

Ofc. Krupke at 9:23 AM
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27 June 2004

A week after a thundering editorial demanding an apology on behalf of the nation from President Bush regarding the connections (or lack thereof) between Hussein's Iraq and Bin Laden's Al Qaeda, the New York Times reports on an Iraqi document that details efforts by Hussein's regime to ally itself with Bin Laden. The Times hems and haws throughout, and former terrorism prosecutor Andrew McCarthy gets out his knife.

The article is interesting for reasons that neither the Times nor McCarthy touch on. The 9-11 Commission's prelim release told that Bin Laden had approached the Iraqis, and been rebuffed. Here, though, that dynamic is reversed, and that in itself is telling.

Prior to the war, there was a lot of scoffing from war opponents who claimed an Iraq/Bin Laden axis was impossible: Bin Laden hated Hussein because he was secular. The investigation is showing that to be simplistic.

Look at what we have here: side A makes an overture to side B, and is declined. Then side B makes an offer later, a couple of concessions are made. It's not a "collaborative relationship", but it's a negotiation towards a collaborative relationship, between two sworn and dangerous enemies of the United States. Add to that the fact that Bin Laden's top two grievances against the U.S. were: 1) The presence of American troops in Saudi Arabia, and 2) The sanctions against Iraq, both of which also weighed heavily on Saddam's mind, and an alliance or cooperation seems inevitable.

9-11 would only have sped things up. Bin Laden showed that he wasn't some penny-ante piker, and the subsequent removal of the Taliban meant he was on the lookout for a new terror daddy. Not too hard to imagine where he would look - a rogue Saudi-hating nation with money to build palaces and fund West Bank suicide bombers, with at the very least a dormant capacity for WMDs that could be spun up when the heat was off. Saddam had also been busy burnishing his Islamic credentials, adding Koranic verse to the flag, etc. Any American administration that ignored or shrugged its shoulders at that would be irresponsible. Remember, too, that Bush had already weathered fatuous accusations in 2002 that he had been "warned" about 9-11, and the early connection of dots would be a priority.

That burgeoning quartermaster relationship had to be stopped, and what were the options? The inspectors were perpetually stymied, Oil-For-Food was a sick joke, and international humanitarians were wringing their hands over starving children. Nary a day went by without someone suggesting that the sanctions needed to be "reformed", and that inevitably meant "relaxed". We had one option that was the least-worst, the window for action was closing, and it would have taken another 9-11 to open it again.

So if that means Saddam got deposed and his mass-grave-filling program halted after his 267th stern this-is-your-last-chance warning from the International Community instead of his 268th, well, cry me the Tigris.