Friday, June 18, 2004

More Questions Than Answers

More Questions Than Answers

With the Bush administration groping in the dark for ex post justifications for the Iraq war, a stunning revelation—or at least what would appear to be one—was brought to light. Speaking in Kazakhstan today, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russian intelligence had information of Saddam Hussein and Iraq’s intention to attack the US. Putin added:

After the events of September 11, 2001, and before the start of the military operation in Iraq, Russian special services several times received information that the official services of the Saddam regime were preparing 'terrorist acts' on the United States and beyond its borders
[. . .]
This information was passed on to our American colleagues

Saddam=Bin Laden=9/11

Cleary this should be the type of revelation that buttresses the Bush administration’s claim that Iraq was a gathering threat which needed to be pre-emptively stopped. Just days after the 9/11 commission concluded that al Qaeda had no collaborative links with Saddam Hussein and Iraq—though there were contacts between them which the commission notes—Putin’s claims serendipitously breath life back into the Administration's moribund pre-text for war. The Bush administration has for a long time attempted to insinuate—yet not literally; however the intention is the same—Saddam Hussein and Iraq to the tragic events of 9/11. There is no better example of this ‘guilty by insinuation’ than in the American public’s overwhelming belief that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11, close to 70% percent of Americans have believed this at one time or another. This is where the 9/11 commission stands on this faulty today:

Our position has not changed. We indeed passed this information on to our American partners but we consider that there are rules, defined by international law, for using force in international affairs and these procedures were not observed.

“The international community will not hold a veto over the United States National security.” “The United States will act within in it own interest to protect it national sovereignty.” These are but a few of the proclamations the US made when they explained why they were acting pre-emptively against Iraq. If Russia had Intel that the US was going to be attacked and they indeed did pass it on to the US, then wouldn’t it only seem reasonable that the US should act to protect its national security, despite international protest? Russia could surely understand that the procedures of International Law not be observed because, again, and the “Intel” can’t stress this enough, Iraq was planning attacks on the US. How can someone make sense of these inconsistencies in Russia's position? They can’t because it doesn’t make sense.

But the Bush administration has some explaining to do, also.

If the US did, in fact, have this Russian Intelligence, then why didn’t they convey it to the American people and the world community? Undeniably, people would have been sympathetic and wholly accepting of the US’s right to defend itself. There would have been no anti-war movement—or rather, it would have been much smaller. It couldn’t have been a matter of revealing the source and, therefore, compromising Russian intelligence in Iraq, since if America attacked, Iraq would be no longer, thus there would be no need to cultivate intelligence sources with the Ba’athist under Saddam gone. But if it was a matter of protecting Russia as the source, then why not convey the intelligence in a manner that would have given anonymity to the Russians? Moreover, why would the national security interests of the US be compromised by withholding vital and credible intelligence?

Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc

In the run up to War no mention of this intelligence was cited. Could this be because this intelligence wasn’t actually passed on to the US? As I see it, this seems likely to be the case. So if the US was denied this crucial information—and the Bush Administration, as of this writing, has not commented on the revelation yet—it would put the Russia’s in a bad light. They had intelligence of impending attacks on the US by Iraq, yet withheld it from the US, all the while opposing the War, for more than unsavory reasons. That is completely despicable—not unexpected, but despicable. So maybe the intelligence is incredibly false. Iraq wasn’t ever going to attack the United States, and Russia was wrong.

But wait, it’s all in how you interpret the intelligence—if there is any. Was Iraq planning to attack the US before September 11, 2001 or after? Putin characterized the Intel as being acquired “After the events of September 11, 2001, and before the start of the military operation in Iraq”, which was around the time Iraq was placed on the Axis of Evil. It wasn’t until August of 2002 that the Administration stated, publicly, its intentions to topple Saddam Hussein—privately the machinations for toppling Saddam had begun in the summer of 2000, and picked up steam after 9/11.

Therefore for an entire year, as nearly 200,000 American and British troops began assuming military formations on the Saudi/ Iraqi border, Iraq knew that it was going to be attacked. Is it a stretch to surmise that Iraq, also, was drawing up a war strategy? It’s not. And it’s not moral equivalency to assert that Iraq was likely to draw up a war strategy, given that it was unlikely that Saddam would surrender. Could this dubious intelligence the Russians were so surreptitiously acquiring have been the Iraqi war strategy against a likely US attack? Yes. And wouldn’t US intelligence also be capable of ascertaining such information—if not predicting it in their battle plan? Consequently, if the US did indeed have this intelligence, then it certainly wasn’t that compelling to them at the time.

That is why I’m doubtful it should be so compelling to us now—post hoc.

Because it’s evident, from my assessment, that Iraq’s intention to attack the US was a consequence of the US’s intention to attack Iraq. Surely Iraq had always had the intention to be at war again with the US, as the US, illustrated by Clinton’s 1998 Los Angeles Times has a piece that questions the veracity of Putin’s intelligence claims. What’s interesting is the administration’s inability, thus far, to definitively say whether or not they actually received this specific intelligence:

Traveling with Bush aboard Air Force One on Friday, a White House spokeswoman said the U.S. had "ongoing cooperation with the Russians on a variety of matters, including intelligence matters," but she refused to discuss specifics.

. . .

State Department officials said they could not specify what the Russian intelligence indicated, but Adam Ereli, a deputy department spokesman, said the two countries "have a very good and close record of cooperation in the field of counter-terrorism."

However, most say, as I’ve already suggested, that Putin’s revelation is pure politics. But what escapes scrutiny is the substance of the claims Putin avers. The White House has yet to acknowledge what would be a significant boost to their rationale for war. That is why I assert, again, that the intelligence Putin speaks of is complete and utter garbage.

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