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Daily Dish:THE CHASTENING,THE CASE STANDS - JUST,THE INEXCUSABLE,WINNING THE WAR
The Daily News ^ | 5/10/04 | Andrew Sullivan

Posted on 05/10/2004 8:28:06 AM PDT by M 91 u2 K

Monday, May 10, 2004

THE CHASTENING: The question I have asked myself in the wake of Abu Ghraib is simply the following: if I knew before the war what I know now, would I still have supported it? I cannot deny that the terrible mismanagement of the post-war - something that no reasonable person can now ignore - has, perhaps fatally, wrecked the mission. But does it make the case for war in retrospect invalid? My tentative answer - and this is a blog, written day by day and hour by hour, not a carefully collected summary of my views - is yes, I still would have supported the war. But only just. And whether the "just" turns into a "no" depends on how we deal with the huge challenge now in front of us.

THE CASE STANDS - JUST: There were two fundamental reasons for war against Iraq. The first was the threat of weapons of mass destruction possessed by Saddam Hussein, weapons that in the wake of 9/11, posed an intolerable threat to world security. That reason has not been destroyed by subsequent events, but it has been deeply shaken. The United States made its case before the entire world on the basis of actual stockpiles of dangerous weaponry. No such stockpiles existed. Yes, the infrastructure was there, the intent was there, the potential was there - all good cause for concern. Yes, the alternative of maintaining porous sanctions - a regime that both impoverished and punished the Iraqi people while empowering and enriching Saddam and his U.N. allies - was awful. But the case the U.S. actually made has been disproved. There is no getting around that. The second case, and one I stressed more at the time, was the moral one. The removal of Saddam was an unalloyed good. His was a repugnant, evil regime and turning the country into a more open and democratic place was both worthy in itself and a vital strategic goal in turning the region around. It was going to be a demonstration of an alternative to the autocracies of the Arab world, a way to break the dangerous cycle that had led to Islamism and al Qaeda and 9/11 and a future too grim to contemplate. The narrative of liberation was critical to the success of the mission - politically and militarily. This was never going to be easy, but it was worth trying. It was vital to reverse the Islamist narrative that pitted American values against Muslim dignity. The reason Abu Ghraib is such a catastrophe is that it has destroyed this narrative. It has turned the image of this war into the war that the America-hating left always said it was: a brutal, imperialist, racist occupation, designed to humiliate another culture. Abu Ghraib is Noam Chomsky's narrative turned into images more stunning, more damaging, more powerful than a million polemics from Ted Rall or Susan Sontag. It is Osama's dream propaganda coup. It is Chirac's fantasy of vindication. It is Tony Blair's nightmare. And, whether they are directly responsible or not, the people who ran this war are answerable to America, to America's allies, to Iraq, for the astonishing setback we have now encountered on their watch.

THE INEXCUSABLE: The one anti-war argument that, in retrospect, I did not take seriously enough was a simple one. It was that this war was noble and defensible but that this administration was simply too incompetent and arrogant to carry it out effectively. I dismissed this as facile Bush-bashing at the time. I was wrong. I sensed the hubris of this administration after the fall of Baghdad, but I didn't sense how they would grotesquely under-man the post-war occupation, bungle the maintenance of security, short-change an absolutely vital mission, dismiss constructive criticism, ignore even their allies (like the Brits), and fail to shift swiftly enough when events span out of control. This was never going to be an easy venture; and we shouldn't expect perfection. There were bound to be revolts and terrorist infractions. The job is immense; and many of us have rallied to the administration's defense in difficult times, aware of the immense difficulties involved. But to have allowed the situation to slide into where we now are, to have a military so poorly managed and under-staffed that what we have seen out of Abu Ghraib was either the result of a) chaos, b) policy or c) some awful combination of the two, is inexcusable. It is a betrayal of all those soldiers who have done amazing work, who are genuine heroes, of all those Iraqis who have risked their lives for our and their future, of ordinary Americans who trusted their president and defense secretary to get this right. To have humiliated the United States by presenting false and misleading intelligence and then to have allowed something like Abu Ghraib to happen - after a year of other, compounded errors - is unforgivable. By refusing to hold anyone accountable, the president has also shown he is not really in control. We are at war; and our war leaders have given the enemy their biggest propaganda coup imaginable, while refusing to acknowledge their own palpable errors and misjudgments. They have, alas, scant credibility left and must be called to account. Shock has now led - and should lead - to anger. And those of us who support the war should, in many ways, be angrier than those who opposed it.

WINNING THE WAR: But we must still win. This isn't about scoring points. It should not be about circling partisan wagons. And it must not mean withdrawal or despair. Much has also gone right in Iraq. Saddam is gone; the Kurds are free and moving toward democratic rule; in many areas, self-government is emerging. The alternatives to regime change, we should remember, were no alternatives at all. Civil war is neither inevitable nor imminent. Before the Abu Ghraib disaster, there were encouraging signs that Shiites were themselves marginalizing al Sadr's gangs; and that some responsible Sunnis could be integrated into a new Iraq. We have time yet to win over the middle of Iraqi opinion to the side of peaceful democratic change. How to do it? We need to accelerate elections; we need to show the Arab and Muslim world that we will purge our military and intelligence services of those who perpetrated these obscenities and those responsible for them; we must spend the money to secure the borders, police the power-lines, and bring measurable prosperity to a potentially wealthy country; and we have to eat even more crow to get the U.N. to help legitimize a liberation that most Iraqis now view as an intolerable occupation. To my mind, these awful recent revelations - and they may get far worse - make it even more essential that we bring democratic government to Iraq, and don't cut and run. Noam Chomsky is wrong. Abu Ghraib is not the real meaning of America. And we now have to show it - in abundance. That is the opportunity this calamity has opened up. And then, when November comes around, we have to decide whether this president is now a liability in the war on terror or the asset he once was. How he reacts to this crisis - whether he is even in touch enough to recognize it as a crisis - should determine how the country votes this fall. He and his team have failed us profoundly. He has a few months to show he can yet succeed. - 12:06:57 AM


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Foreign Affairs; Government; Miscellaneous; News/Current Events; Philosophy; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: andrewsullivan; rumsfeld; terrorism; war
Something tells me Rummy will resign by the June 31st handover. Bush saying he wants Rummy to stay is so he can say Rummy departure is not The White House bowing to political pressure. Rummy will follow his rules and resign, and hopefully Paul Wolfowitz can become Secertary of Defense. It is obvious mistakes were made, but CIA Director Tenet should also resign he is even more responsible for the messes we have today.
1 posted on 05/10/2004 8:28:08 AM PDT by M 91 u2 K
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To: M 91 u2 K
Secertary=Secretary
2 posted on 05/10/2004 8:29:16 AM PDT by M 91 u2 K
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To: M 91 u2 K
Fair analysis. I don't think Rumsfeld survives this onslaught, which is totally political. To hear jokers like Ted Kennedy; who drowned a woman in his car talk as if he had moral superiority is laughable.

However, I don't agree with Sullivan's call for the UN to be involved, after it's scandal in the oil for food kickbacks.

That's a FAR bigger scandal than the prisoner abuse, imo.
3 posted on 05/10/2004 8:47:00 AM PDT by FBD (...Please press 2 for English...for Espanol, please stay on the line...)
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To: M 91 u2 K
Andrew Sullivan is another fat headed hand-wringing member of the chattering classes.

In two weeks, most of this prison crap will be recognized as the partisan BS it is, as well as all the "we have lost the war" defeatism.

Does AS or anyone else think that the America hating left or the animals on the Arab street hated us less before this story broke?

Our biggest problem in Iraq is making clear to the Iraqis that we are not cutting and running in the face of the full-press defaet assault launched by the partisam media and scumsuckers in the press.

Tell Andrew to return to his gerbils and vaseline.

4 posted on 05/10/2004 8:47:46 AM PDT by pierrem15
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To: M 91 u2 K
Sullivan needs to stop reading watching the network news. We have actually turned the corner in Iraq. The moderate Shiites have finally found their voice and have spoken out against Sadr. They have actively helped us to isolate Sadr and his goons. As a result, the goons are being killed and/or rounded up as we speak.

What this all means is that the one group of people in Iraq who could prevent Iraq from becoming a stable democracy (i.e. the Shiites) have openly come out in favor of the rule of law and against a majority despotism founded upon religion. This is the most significant development that has taken place during the entire war and is probably the most signficiant development that has taken place in the Middle East since the revolution in Iran in 1979. But don't look for it to be mentioned too much amongst liberals posing as journalists.

5 posted on 05/10/2004 8:52:22 AM PDT by vbmoneyspender
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To: vbmoneyspender
I agree. The important event was the appointment of a Baathist general to command the Falluhja brigade. The site of a fat war criminal strutting around in his RG uniform scared the willies out of the Shiites. They seem to have realized that they need to get their collective act together and take a stand against thuggery.
6 posted on 05/10/2004 9:04:50 AM PDT by moni kerr (Lead, follow or get the hell out of the way)
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To: M 91 u2 K
If Rumsfeld resigns Bush needs to appoint someone whose mere presence in the job will seize public attention away from the mistakes.

I'm not sure who that is, but Wolfowitz will be seen as more of the same, it will not buy Bush the break he needs. If Wolfowitz is going to take the job, you may as well leave Rumsfeld in it and take the heat.

Now, Wolfowitz at State, and Powell at Defense, or maybe Rice at State and Powell at Defense. That would shake things up on the PR front and in real terms as well. As much as he annoys some of us, Powell is still an asset to the administration. His presence in the job would defuse a lot of the heat. Rumsfeld has done a good job; mistakes were bound to be made in any undertaking of this size and magnitude. It may be time for someone to fall on his sword and take the heat for it.

The conditions at the prison have done us a lot of damage. Prisons are tough to manage in any case; even US prisons have occasional problems of inmate abuse as guards entertain themselves or exact retribution from troublesome inmates. They are usually smart enough not to photograph themselves doing what they do.

This has been a disaster. Heads must roll and must be seen publicly to roll up to and including the General running the place. Generals Sanchez and Abizaid could not reasonably have known about the abuses, so they should be left in their jobs, which means that people above them (Rumsfeld) should also be held "responsible" but not fired.

The problem with Rumsfeld is as the writer acknowledges. Faith in his handling of the occupation is slipping. His handling of the war itself was masterful. His idea of a stripped-down small-footprint occupation seems flawed now. There may be other issues we are unaware of, he may have been holding a considerable force in reserve in case things went ballistic in North Korea, or in case Pakistan started to implode forcing us to intervene to take control of her nukes. This would justify and explain why he has resisted putting more men into Iraq and Afghanistan.

If that is the case, it needs to be explained. If not, it may be time for him to go. The catch is that this may not be the last war on our list of things to do. Syria may still need to be dealt with, or Iran may force us to pay attention to her. We will need someone at Defense who is capable of mustering a fighting force. I still trust Rumsfeld to do that job better than someone else. So I suppose it comes down to this: if there is another war in the offing, leave him in place and take the heat. If we are done for now, remove him and put someone in who can better manage the occupation.
7 posted on 05/10/2004 9:15:06 AM PDT by marron
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To: M 91 u2 K
NO!! If the President was going to get rid of the Secretary, he would have already done it.

Why does everyone judge what the President will do on how the Clintons manipulated everybody and everything. Sheeeesh!
8 posted on 05/10/2004 1:29:58 PM PDT by The Final Harvest (The 2004 Election is for the SOUL of AMERICA)
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