Daily Kos
Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Thursday | April 24, 2003

Operation Desert Snipe

[From RonK: The following is a highly condensed dKos edition ... discussants are encouraged to see the Cogent Provocateur for full text of "Operation Desert Snipe".]

The Snipe Hunt is an American folk tradition, a rite of passage which ends with the initiate crouching alone in the woods, in the dark, literally "holding the bag", waiting for the nonexistent Snipe.

It's a big desert, but ... the original standard WMD thesis is strictly defunct. If WMD turn up later, neatly consolidated and concealed (the "vault thesis"), the Coalition is almost as fully discredited. Paraphrasing NYT's Tom Friedman, we have gone to war on the wings of a snipe.

The standard thesis? Saddam Hussein had extensive WMD programs. UN inspectors couldn't find them. US intelligence pinpointed hundreds of target sites. WMD were field-deployed. Special Forces were dropping in to take them out.

In public, Bush and Blair -- as they must -- still insist WMDs will turn up. Behind closed doors, staff are huffing into trial balloons, testing branches of the contingency that never earned a spot of Rumsfeld's contingency sheet. What if there are no WMDs?

No WMD, no War Powers Resolution. No WMD, no UN Res. 1441. Everything hinged on Iraq's possession of WMD, and her intransigent refusal to give them up.

"If she floats, she's a witch ... burn her at the stake! If she drowns, the poor thing's innocent." Did we go to war because Iraq failed a test she could only pass by surrendering artifacts she did not possess and could not reacquire?

Why were we in such a hurry to dis-arm little Ali? Did we face an unacceptable risk that Saddam would pass nukes to terrorists? Or an unacceptable risk that the moment would pass without incident?

Downside impact includes intelligence community turnover, backbiting, distrust and disarray ... staff turnover and embedded turncoats ... falls from high places ... tremors in the neocon ecosystem ... show trials and real trials ... tarnished talking heads ... regime change around the Coalition ... economic and legal repercussions.

France will laugh their collective derriere off, deriding us as ketchup-eating attack monkeys!

US no longer ranks as leading citizen in the community of nations. We're now the muscular, loudmouthed, gun-toting paranoid sot at the end of the block ... the new "serial miscalculator". Nobody wants us at their garden parties, nobody wants our opinion on neighborhood disputes, and nobody wants their kids to grow up to be like us.

We really should have had a clue, shouldn't we? Yes, and we did.

The very first week of renewed UN inspections produced unambiguous, direct categorical refutations of specific unhedged high-profile intelligence claims made by both US and UK ... but we were deep in the grip of war fever, and flashing neon warning signs of cooked intelligence went by the boards.

Categorical refutation of a single highest-confidence intelligence estimate should have premised a discreet inquiry. Umpteen such events in rapid succession should premise an Inquisition.

Suppose -- per the standard thesis -- Saddam had major WMD research, production, inventory and deployment programs. That implies thousands of incriminating points of presence. And suppose we had immense stocks of specific leads ... thousands of points of interest.

What were the odds that these two lists would not overlap at a single point? Probe enough points of interest, and we'd have to hit some points of presence.

A universe of stubborn, contrary facts was screaming for attention, and we turned a deaf ear. At some point the question morphs from "Where are the WMDs?" to "How did we let ourselves swallow that WMD line without de-baiting it?".

For such worthies as Slate's Tim Noah and Fred Kaplan, "take the phrase 'nerve agents' out of the wireless instructions" was a smoking gun. [Your humble Provocateur found it no more dispositive than "take the phrase 'floppy disks' out of the database instructions".]

Two or three days before the shooting started, the winds of punditry shifted perceptibly. Talking heads openly hedged their bets.

In prewar press backgrounders, Special Forces were time-phased to secure key WMD sites. A full moon later, we never expected quick results. It's a big country ... and we don't expect to find anything by looking ... somebody will have to tell us.

Before the war, a majority of John Q. Public would have insisted on finding WMDs. Postwar, an overwhelming majority no longer gives a hoot.

Everybody and his cousin still assumes the Coalition would plant WMD evidence if necessary. Maybe everybody and his cousin sees too many movies. Or maybe not.

WMD "discoveries" were a breathless staple of war coverage. CNN would tease a "disturbing new development". Judy Woodruff put on her best "disturbing new development" facial expression, cued "disturbing new development" theme music, and tossed it to Wolf Blitzer for a barrage of "smoking gun" overkill.

Every day, another "disturbing new development" quietly bit the dust.

So we haven't found any WMD. Every shooting war incites a spin war, and the spin war may go on for generations. Die-hards are still spinning up novel theses to post-justify Vietnam.

There are plenty of candidate explanations for the missing WMDs ... depending how warm the audience is. We accidentally blew them up ... we found them, but they're, y'know, secret ... they're too well hidden (the vault thesis, again) ... they're in Syria.

Late entrants include a remarkable report by NYT's Judith Miller ... a report that walks like a fish, quacks like a fish, and smells like a fish.

Ted Koppel spotted a more promising trial balloon launched by B-list neocons. By this "all's fair in love and war" thesis, the WMD scare was never anything more than a necessary selling tool for war. War was necessary and salutary as an "object lesson" to lesser beings, reminding them (for their own good) that the US is big and tough.

So no WMDs -- and no apologies! You've been had, John Q. Public, and it's for your own good! Same for you, Coalition of the Willing! A disturbing new development, but this looks like the Real McCoy! Over to you, Wolf ...

Posted April 24, 2003 09:26 AM | Comments (50)


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