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War Watch
First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC
By Orson Scott Card January 25, 2004

Two Dangerous Fantasies about the War


Why Joe Lieberman Is the Only Choice for Democrats

There are two fantasy versions of the history of the campaign in Iraq.

One fantasy version is: We invaded Iraq because they sponsored Al-Qaeda's attack on the World Trade Center.

Some people are making much of the fact that most of the Americans who believe this absolutely false statement (which was never made by the administration) are vastly overrepresented among people who get most of their news from Fox's cable news channel.

I watched the war mostly on Fox, and no one -- no one -- ever stated, while I was listening, that Iraq was linked to 9/11.

People don't believe this because they watch Fox News; maybe they watch Fox News because they're folks who used to not watch any news at all, but finally have found a news station they can stand to watch.

But the fact remains that neither the Bush administration nor Fox News ever made the claim that Iraq was directly linked to 9/11. They have made the claim -- correctly -- that Saddam's Iraq was a state that openly rewarded suicide bombers in Israel, and secretly sheltered, funded, and supplied international terrorist groups.

So the only people who actually care about the distinction (i.e., Saddam aided terrorists but not that particular group of terrorists) are those who think we are going to war to punish people for 9/11; and those who think that the only legitimate target of our campaign is Al-Qaeda and no other terrorist group.

Personally, I believe that terrorism is a terrible evil -- and always was, even when it was IRA terrorists, funded by Irish-Americans, who were thus complicitous in the murder of Ulster and English civilians.

Today there is an interconnected network of terrorists -- Hamas, Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, and many others -- who are linked by their belief that Islam gives them the right and duty to kill Jews and Americans wherever they find them. All of these terrorist groups have declared war against America, and many of them have killed Americans. The insistence that we either should or can go after only one of these groups is a specious one.

I'm especially amused when presidential candidates claim that President Bush "lost his focus" and should have kept after Al-Qaeda.

Whenever you hear such a claim you are listening to a dolt or a deceiver, because he either should know or does know that there was and is no possibility of dismantling Al-Qaeda without removing the governments that eagerly support terrorists and giving a little spine to the governments that are too frightened not to shelter them.

The second fantasy version is: We invaded Iraq because we were told that they had or were about to have extremely dangerous weapons of mass destruction, and now that all turns out to be lies.

First, no one has introduced any evidence of lies. There have been some pieces of seeming evidence that turned out not to be reliable, but the conclusion that Saddam had WMDs was universally held. At no point in the discussion in the U.N. did anyone raise the serious possibility that Saddam did not have at least some of the weapons, and programs to acquire the others. Our failure (so far) to find them surprised everybody.

You do have embarrassed or disgruntled people in the intelligence community claiming now that they tried to tell the government that Saddam might not have had imminently deployable WMDs.

But think about how this works inside the intelligence bureaucracy. Theguys who have long careers in the intel biz are the ones who know how to hedge their bets. They always include paragraphs in their reports that warn of the possibility of a conclusion opposite to the one they're actually propounding.

Then, if their main point turns out to be wrong, they can always point to that "warning" they gave. "We tried to tell them that this stuff was unreliable, but the Bush administration was determined not to listen."

Well, some of them might well have tried to warn about the lack of WMDs -- though what I've read suggests that nobody actually thought we'd find the near-nothing that we've found to date.

But the preponderance of what the Bush administration was hearing -- from American and British sources, and from all the refugees from Iraq who were in a position to know anything -- was that Saddam's illegal programs were going full-bore.

What no one could have known was the degree to which Iraqi scientists, like German scientists under the Nazis half a century before, had deliberately slowed down their work to keep these weapons out of Saddam's hands.

Nor does anyone know what happened to the chemical-weapon stockpiles that we know Saddam had -- since he did order their deployment and authorize their use in combat against us, which means he thought he had them. Even these have not been found, and it strains credulity to think they never existed.

But all of this is Monday-morning quarterbacking. If we suddenly do find a huge cache of these weapons, or learn they were "exported" to Syria shortly before or during the invasion, then we'll find that the same intel officers "always" knew said that they probably had these weapons.

The real reason why that second fantasy is a fantasy is that America's reason for invading Iraq was never just the WMDs, nor even mainly the WMDs.

Remember that in the aftermath of the invasion of Afghanistan, the Bush administration had overwhelming support for an immediate invasion of Iraq. Everyone expected it, and I've heard from sources I trust that in the winter of 2002 our ships were already on their way to Kuwait in preparation for an immediate invasion of Iraq. If the invasion had happened at that moment, here's what the justification would have been:

1. Saddam had never kept a single one of his commitments in the ceasefire agreement, which meant that the 1991 Persian Gulf War was not over.

2. Saddam was waging a genocidal campaign against the Shi'ites in the south -- the so-called "swamp Arabs" -- and was only prevented from slaughtering more Kurds in the north by American planes and Kurdish fighters using American arms. Since the mere threat of genocide was the justification for Clinton's non-U.N.-sanctioned intervention in Kosovo, clearly it would have been justification enough in this case, where the genocide was an ongoing effort.

3. Saddam was firing on American planes several times a week and had been for many years, ample cause and legal justification for invasion at any time.

4. Saddam was a known financer, harborer, trainer, rewarder, and protector of terrorists, including terrorist groups that had declared war against all Americans, as well as terrorist groups that were actively murdering civilians in Israel and Jews in other countries.

In summary, we would be invading Iraq because we were still at war with Iraq and it seemed (to the Bush administration) the most obviously justified campaign in the War on Terrorism after the one in Afghanistan.

Then Ariel Sharon invaded the West Bank, and our essential Arab allies in the Persian Gulf, without whom no invasion of Iraq was possible, insisted that we wait for a while, lest our campaign in Iraq seem linked to the hated Israeli campaign in the West Bank.

We waited.

Then the anti-American propaganda mill in Europe -- i.e., the universities, intellectuals, and Leftist parties -- and, one must add, the same group in America as well -- began to pound out an anti-war message. (Which they don't mean; they were merely against a war in which America defended itself. They had no serious problem with the terror campaign against Israel and still seem to think it's not worth a moment's protest. They don't mind the slaughter of civilians, as long as Jews and Americans do the dying).

By the time we had the go-ahead from our Persian Gulf allies, Tony Blair, our one staunch European ally -- well, England is near Europe, anyway -- needed to show his own people that this was an international effort with U.N. sanction, or that at least we had tried.

It was in the campaign to win over the U.N., and only then, that the WMD situation became the main plank in the pro-war platform, and that was only because this was the only violation of U.N. resolutions that the Security Council veto-holders and the largest NATO powers seemed even remotely interested in considering.

In other words, it was not us, but France, Germany, Russia, and China that decided that the only place worth focusing our efforts was the question of WMDs.

But, as I wrote at the time and repeat now, even if not a single WMD is ever found, the campaign in Iraq was morally and legally justified by any rational standard of international law and fundamental national rights.

Personally, I think Iraq was a bad strategic choice on military grounds, but nobody could have predicted how quickly the Leftist Elite throughout the western world would insist that it had suddenly become morally wrong for a nation to defend itself without getting the permission of the U.N.

But if you give it even a moment's thought, the behavior of the U.N. is not an argument against the legitimacy of the American war against terrorism, it's an argument against the legitimacy of the United Nations as the arbiter of which wars are permissible.

I can promise you right now that if China ever invades Taiwan, the Security Council, in which China holds a veto, will not sanction American military intervention to save our ally from being swallowed up by imperialist China as ruthlessly as they swallowed Tibet.

Would that make it "wrong" for us to take military action against naked aggression by the Chinese dictatorship against a people who have made it clear they do not wish to be a part of the Chinese Communist empire?

No. This myth that we need U.N. approval or a war is "illegal" is only a temporary club designed to beat the Bush administration with.

It is certainly true that in trying to persuade the French, Germans, Russians, and Chinese to vote with us on a resolution supporting military action in Iraq, the Bush administration pulled out all the evidence they could find to support the only argument that seemed to have a hope of working with that hostile, anti-American audience: WMDs.

But it did not work with them, and we Americans, even those who hate Bush worse than the devil, should have the honesty to remember that WMDs were never the only or even the most important reason for the U.S. to topple Saddam's government.

And when we listen to American presidential candidates, the clearest test of either their judgment or their honesty is what they say now about the need and justification for the war in Iraq. We already had one Democratic President who spent two terms downgrading and misusing the American military while the war that the terrorists declared on us was effectively ignored.

Isn't it time that we Democratic voters chose a candidate who promised to keep our military strong and to defend us against the governments that wage war against us and all other civilized countries, by supporting, sheltering, training, and funding the terrorists who murder unarmed and unoffending civilians?

There is only one Democratic candidate I know of who is openly pledged to support our just and necessary war against terror-loving governments: Joseph Lieberman. Therefore he is the only Democratic candidate that I -- as an American and as a Democrat who thinks that Jewish lives in Israel are worthy of our protection -- can in good conscience vote for.

And Lieberman has stuck to his support for the war even when it didn't look politically wise. Can you believe it? Integrity!

I just hope he can keep his campaign going long enough for moderate Democrats to come to their senses and realize that we have a responsibility to nominate a candidate who will, if elected, continue the war against terror until we win it.

All the others seem determined to surrender at the first opportunity, laying us and Israel -- and the rest of the world -- bare to perpetual blackmail by evil murderers like the ruling Ayatollahs of Iran and the Ba'athists of Syria.

Copyright © 2004 by Orson Scott Card.

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