Thursday | July 17, 2003
The politics of war
By Steve Gilliard
The Bush Administration is hoping that finding Saddam and WMD will solve their problems.
Their problems will not be solved.
There are no WMD to find, at least any in usable form. In months of searching, we have come up with two hydrogen producing trailers and a rusty centrifuge. No 122mm shells, no rockets, no drums of chemicals, nothing to indicate any sort of chemical weapons, much less the infrastructure to support it. The structure to support biological weapons is even more fanciful.
There are still pipe dreams that they were buried or shipped to a neighboring country, but in reality, there is no evidence to contradict the IAEA and UNMOVIC's basic contention that Iraq's WMD program was, at best, dormant and fragmentary, with no active development continuing.
What is not usually said in the wider press is that a WMD program requires a complex series of facilities and caretakers to be effective.
The Republicans spent yesterday trying to wish any questions away, with Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) calling one bill an "attempt to smear the President".
The political insiders think that the capture of Saddam and some rockets will justify the war and protect Bush, but they're missing the point. Three things are evident in the European and Asian media, but will only strike Congress after their summer recess:
1) There will be no large intervention by other powers, Iraq remains unpopular in France, Germany and India. No one is going to have anything to do with a guerrilla war with Iraq, regardless of the propaganda on Fox News. They simply have no stake in our success there. Until and unless the entire basis of the occupation changes, there will be no international support.
2)Saddam is increasingly irrelevant to Iraq. While some Baathists want the return of the great man, most Iraqis want to kill him, roasting over an open pit. If he were caught by the Kurds or Shia, the odds of them handing him over to the Americans are not great. But the longer the US occupation goes, the deeping of the resistance grows. Ordinary Iraqis are moving from distrust of the US to active hatred. Even if they never pick up a weapon, they are more than willing to turn their backs on whoever decides to kill Americans.
His capture is not going to end the resistance by any means. It may even increase it. Once Saddam is out of the way, opposing the Americans becomes cloaked in even more nationalism. Iraqis are a fiercely nationalistic people. The idea of a Western occupying force sits poorly, even with those who have lived abroad.
3) What has escaped many of the war's supporters is the enormous cost that the US has to bear to run Iraq. We aren't just providing soldiers and supervision, what order and security there is in Iraq is provided by Americans. If Americans don't do it, it isn't getting done. Even the use of international troops is hampered by the need to pay for it. With the US Army stretched to the limits now, they cannot expect costs to go down.
The Democratic candidates for President are betting that things will get worse, while the GOP is praying that this is a glich. The problem for the GOP is that while the Yelllowcake from Niger is an obvious fraud, it is likely that the majority of the evidence used by the Admnistration against Iraq was just as hoked up and fradulent.
The President created reasons to go to war which will not bear up over the long term. Support for the war is already falling, with a relatively low, if tragic, rate of loss. What happens when the pace of combat increases and more soldiers start to die daily. A loss rate of two-three soldiers a day will be more than enough to erode much of the trusting support the president now has. Because the war in Iraq was posed as a way to eliminate a direct threat against the US. When that is revealed to have largely been based on fiction, support for both the war and the Bush Admninstration will collapse.Posted July 17, 2003 05:40 AM