The Neocons, masters of disinformation, keep trying to put it about (and it is in the current Wikipedia article on me) that I somehow was initially supportive of the idea of going to war with Iraq. I was not. I thought it was a horrible idea and would end badly. Basically my position was the same as the French government then, and I said so. I was going through my private email archives for January, 2003, and pulled out some excellent contemporary evidence for my opposition to the idea, below. Early in the history of Informed Comment I had set up an email announcement board, firstname.lastname@example.org, to which I sent extra material that did not necessarily appear at the blog. Most of the messages below are from that board and so were quite public. The politics of reputation is not without an impact on one’s life. This smear (via Wikipedia) last winter caused a conference organizer to be attacked for inviting such a warmonger as myself. Since I took so many lumps for opposing the war in its early years when it was mysteriously popular in the United States, it is ironic that Karl Rove tactics could succeed in turning all this on its head.
It strikes me that with all the unknowns of January, 2003, I also was pretty good at calling the dangers.
I have addressed these issues before, to little avail. It is one reason I think wikipedia is sucky.
Maybe this file will help set the record straight (though what was already on the blog was clear enough).
Sat Jan 18 02:34:32 2003
From: Juan Cole
Subject: Chirac warns on Iraq
French President Jacques Chirac issued a blunt and forceful warning today to the Bush administration that for it to launch a unilateral attack on Iraq without a second, explicit UN Security Council resolution would constitute a breach
of international law. Too right! It is absolutely unacceptable that the Bush administration should act in such a high-handed manner, and can only have bad repercussions on the US throughout the world. It is a horrible idea. Launching a war with a security council resolution is risky enough! But at least then it would have some legitimacy.
From ???@??? Wed Jan 15 02:14:21 2003
X-Mailer: QUALCOMM Windows Eudora Version 4.3
From: Juan Cole
Date: Wed, 15 Jan 2003 01:49:03 -0500
Subject: Re: Iraq
I don’t think there is much doubt that the US will go to war against Iraq this spring. I’d say the chances are 90%. And, I think this was decided on very early in the Bush administration as a plan, but only became feasible given the public mood after 9/11 and given that Afghanistan went so well.
There were two chances to stop it. One was the congressional vote last fall. The other was the Security Council vote in November. Probably only the Congressional vote could have effectively derailed it.
There is nothing in the world to stop Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld from going through with this now. Powell would probably like a second UN resolution, but the administration does not really need that.
Wed Jan 29 02:58:49 2003
From: Juan Cole
Subject: Wednesday, January 29, 2003
Wednesday, January 29, 2003
* Iraqi Vice President Tariq Aziz has warned Kuwait that Iraq would not rule out hitting it if it allows US troops to launch an invasion of Iraq from its soil. Such complicity, he said, would make this action legitimate. (It is not clear exactly what Aziz is threatening to do. However, if it involved the deliberate targetting of civilian populations, it would not be legitimate; it would be a war crime. Aziz should be careful; he may find himself in the docket.)
*Jabir al-Mubarak al-Sabah, Kuwait’s Minister of Defense, said he was not surprised by this threat, and that it revealed the sort of intentions Iraq had toward its neighbors. He pledged that the Kuwait armed forces stood ready to repel any threat. (Kuwait is a nice little country, but I’m afraid its armed forces aren’t exactly up to this, and that it is the American umbrella that emboldens the minister).
*Saddam Hussein asked his generals to be vigilant against traitors in their midst who might sell out to the Americans. He saw the same reports the rest of us did, that the Saudis and other neighbors have been trying to convince someone to make a coup and depose Saddam so as to avert the looming war. (I wouldn’t hold my breath. Saddam is not the resigning kind; he is a genocidal megalomaniac. And all the generals who even thought about a coup are pushing up daisies. Of course, if he and his circle of Tikritis actually cared about the country and the people they have looted and brutalized, they would go into exile. But they aren’t that sort of person to begin with, which is one of the reasons we stand on the brink of war).
*Newsday reports that US Vice President Dick Cheney and special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad have been working to expand the expatriate committee of Iraqi politicians primed to succeed Saddam Hussein from 65 to 100, so as to dilute the influence of the pro-Iran bloc of 15 members from the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. Khalilzad is said to envisage a situation where policy makers will be drawn from the committee, but technocats from inside Iraq will also be given power if they are untainted by association with Saddam Hussein. Khalilzad is said to recognize that since some 60 percent of Iraqis are Shi`ite, a similar proportion of high government officials will be. But apparently he has come to realize that SCIRI’s support inside Iraq may actually be shallow. Many Iraqi Shi`ites are secularists. Apparently he will be looking for such secular Shi`ite technocrats as a counter-ballast to the clerical SCIRI.
One problem: If SCIRI’s troops, the 15,000-man al-Badr Brigade, plays a “northern-alliance” type role in this new Iraq war, it may well be positioned to garner enormous political power in the aftermath despite the planning on paper going on now. A SCIRI dominated Iraq would be a huge gift to the clerical hardliners in Tehran, and it has long puzzled me why the Bush administration was putting so many eggs in that basket. Now they are backing off, causing a furore. . .
*Bush’s State of the Union address gave specifics about what weapons of mass destruction the US thinks Saddam has and what he would have to prove he has destroyed to satisfy the Bush administration: 25,000 liters of anthrax; 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin; 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent; 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical agents; mobile biological weapons labs designed to produce germ warfare agents. But the wording was a little unclear, since the president kept saying Iraq had had materials sufficient to produce these quantities of these weapons, but seemed to sidestep the question as to whether it actually had done so. Apparently the anthrax and some of the chemicals were provided to Iraq in the 1980s by the Reagan administration to ensure that Iran did not win the Iran-Iraq war. I suppose that is how this administration is so sure Iraq has this stuff; it has people serving in it who provided the material to Saddam. Anyway, it seems clear to me that Bush is set on war. They are saying now it might not be until mid-March. . .
Wed Jan 29 11:43:49 2003
From: Juan Cole
Subject: Re: Fwd: Iraqi defectors?
Bush specifically mentioned information from Iraqi defectors as the basis for some of his WMD charges.
Since some of the defectors were scientists working for Saddam, they should know what they are talking about. On the other hand, they have a vested interest in overthrowing Saddam, and so may be tempted to exaggerate. As an example, Khidir Hamza insists that Saddam is very close to having a nuclear capability, but al-Baradei says the inspectors cannot find evidence that this is so. Since a nuclear program would require hundreds of scientists and lots of equipment and facilities, and would be awfully hard to hide from al-Baradei.
It seems to me that it would be easy enough to pass the defectors’ specific allegations over to the inspectors for verification, and that way we would know for sure.
Of course, one problem is that there hasn’t to my knowledge been much defection since 1998, and many of the defectors came before then, so that their information is old. There would have been time to move stockpiles and some may genuinely have been destroyed (or not created in the first place, since Bush kept talking about the *potential* for producing them).
This is what I said today:
Bush’s State of the Union address gave specifics about what weapons of mass destruction the US thinks Saddam has and what he would have to prove he has destroyed to satisfy the Bush administration: 25,000 liters of anthrax; 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin; 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent; 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical agents; mobile biological weapons labs designed to produce germ warfare agents. But the wording was a little unclear, since the president kept saying Iraq had had materials sufficient to produce these quantities of these weapons, but seemed to sidestep the question as to whether it actually had done so.
Thu Jan 30 12:21:18 2003
From: Juan Cole
Subject: Re: Iraq WMD – Potential or Actual?
Yes, I saw that. I am fairly cynical about all this. Cheney, Perle, Wolfowitz and Condi have wanted a war on Iraq for a long time, and the WMD stuff makes a nice pretext. I have concluded it is mainly about power politics; these “American Nationalists” just won’t put up with sass.
Thu Jan 30 13:44:34 2003
From: Juan Cole
Subject: 30 Jan. 2003
*The question was raised on a list of what would happen if the US invaded Iraq and found there were not weapons of mass destruction there. I fear I replied somewhat cynically, but also called it as I see it. If Iraq turns out not to have much WMD, the administration will fall back on its other main argument, that Saddam is a monster who has killed and brutalized his own people and repeatedly invaded his neighbors. We already have had Halabja survivors among the Kurds protest the doubts some Westerners have expressed about Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction and willingness to use them. They say, basically, *we* know all about WMD. And, given the thousands of Shi`ites the Baath killed in the south, there are almost certainly mass graves that will provide a macabre justification ex post facto for the removal of that regime. Footage of the Iranian vets injured by mustard gas could also be put on television. How wars are justified before they are launched and how they are justified afterwards is frequently different. If there is a relatively quick victory, no one will inquire into the justifications too closely. If it becomes a quagmire, it won’t matter what the justification was: the public will turn against the war anyway if it goes badly…