Michael Ubaldi, February 10, 2004.
Over a year ago, the White House was convinced that the same man who recently wrote a panicky report on the terrorist insurgency in Iraq was Saddam's guest and ally.
And while we stroll down memory lane, recall what opponents of Iraqi liberation were actually arguing (if miserably) before the war began.
Michael Ubaldi, February 10, 2004.
With sad news this morning, we should remind ourselves that Iraqis are made of sterner stuff:
The Kurds of Iraq are battered but not bowed. We will not be intimidated. We know all too well who we are dealing with. Unable to strike devastating blows against U.S. forces, the terrorists are increasingly assaulting free Iraqis.
Iraqis, however, are fighting back. While a small minority of former Ba'athists and their fundamentalist allies is resisting democracy, the vast majority of Iraqis support the U.S. and Coalition presence and are volunteering to fight for their freedom in partnership with the Coalition. Fully aware of the risks, many thousands have come forward to join the Iraqi police. The contrast between the forced conscription that characterized Ba'athist rule and the willing engagement of so many Iraqis in the defense of Iraqi democracy is both striking and moving.
Barham Salih, Prime Minister of the Kurdish Regional Government, in the February 4, 2004 Wall Street Journal. Good men will triumph in Iraq.
Michael Ubaldi, February 9, 2004.
Al Qaeda is losing in Iraq. If Bush wanted to kick off his campaign with one hell of a bang, he'd get himself behind a podium with the incriminating document in his hands, its contents and meaning in the speech he'd give. Bush could come out swinging so hard he'd hit David Gregory in the mouth. And he could do it tomorrow.
Michael Ubaldi, February 6, 2004.
Zeyad's reward for standing tall among the uncertain people of Iraq didn't come without a story worth telling:
This was scary. An American patrol was distributing leaflets in our neighbourhood today. This isn't an uncommon practice. But the pictures on the leaflets caught my eye, and I nervously picked one up and looked closely. The pictures were mine, the ones I took on Dec. 10 at the anti-terror demonstrations. The writing on the leaflet said:
"The spirit of tolerance between different religions, political organizations, sects, and ethnicities is part of the democratic society. All Iraqi citizens are equal and free to voice their opinions. Respecting others will help make Iraqi a better place for all Iraqis".
I sighed in relief. For a short moment, after recognizing my photos, I seriously thought the leaflets had to do with something from the blog and I was a bit anxious. I then started to get amused and I told one of my neighbours that the pictures on the flyers were mine, he smiled at me as if I was raving and said "yeah, sure they are". Arrgghh. I AM OUTRAGED! hehe... Can I sue the CPA for printing my photos without permission? LOL.
Take a look at those photos: Iraqis demonstrating peacefully, smiling, appealing for a better life. They have been given this chance by Americans and others risking — and sacrificing — their lives. How is it that those who accuse the president of unilateralism and isolation wish to disengage America from our fellow citizens of the world?
Michael Ubaldi, February 4, 2004.
Zeyad offers clarifications, good wishes and links to new Iraqi additions to the blogosphere. What's remarkable is the interest and familiarity many of these blogging Iraqis have with the works and philosophies of America's Founding Fathers. At the end of a previous post, Zeyad quotes Alexander Hamilton. An author of one of Zeyad's recommended weblogs praises Thomas Paine. Consider the ease with which these few Iraqis treat passages that far too many Americans - highly educated Americans - would consider esoteric and opaque, phraseologically and philosophically obsolete. (No slang? No ironic qualifier to round off the statement? Absolutist beliefs? Shame!)
The regret is, then, that American political discourse loses much by skipping over its fundamental documents to more accessible, modern thought. But we should be both impressed and heartened to see that the young men and women of a free Iraq are so attracted to the speeches, treatises and biographies that drew up our country's blueprint.
Michael Ubaldi, February 3, 2004.
Wit, thy name is Ali:
For the 1st time I realize what a big lie Iíve been living in for the last 9 months and the worst thing is that it was me who made that lie and believed it so much that I accepted no other opinion...For 9 months Iíve thought that things were OK, that America did the right thing, we got rid of S.H. and his killing machine, that Iím happy, free and dreaming of a better future.
...So, one morning I walked down the streets as usual heading to the hospital were I work, but this time my eyes were open and I was very attentive to all that surrounds me:
-The 1st thing that struck me was that all the pictures of Saddam were gone, now of course Iíve noticed that before but I didnít think about it seriously, I mean NOBODY asked me whether I liked it or not, besides who did this? Was it the Iraqi people? Impossible, Iraqis loved Saddam (the whole media canít lie) was it the Americans? I think if they had spent their time removing his pictures they wouldíve been in Nassireah right now. So I came to the conclusion that there must be a conspiracy behind this, and donít ask me what conspiracy and who conspired and why, itís a conspiracy and thatís it.
-The second thing that annoyed me was that NO policeman or security guard or American soldier bothered to ask me where I was heading, where did I came from and didnít even ask for an I.D. I checked my wallet and I found that I wasnít carrying any, and in fact I havenít carried an I.D. since the 9th of April, while prior to that I used to carry 2 or 3 I.D. cards (including the military service certificate) and still I would check my wallet every now and then to make sure that I havenít forgot or lost any on the road. I mean seriously what is a man without an I.D.?
-Another distressing incident came as I went to buy a newspaper, I found dozens of strange Iraqi newspapers and magazines and more foreign ones ( the total number of Iraqi newspapers till now is 132) instead of the 10 that were all owned by the government before the war, and I said Ēwhat a mess! Who am I supposed to believe now? How can I tell which one of these is telling the truth?Ē and only for my further disappointment I read a title of the new Iraqi army celebrating the graduation of 700 volunteers! Now what? Arenít we going to fight anymore (I mean a real war)? What a waste, we had only the chance to go through 3 major wars in the last 23 years and there are still many enemies that we havenít taught a lesson yet.
Read it for yourself. With people like Ali believing in themselves and their future, Iraq's going to be just fine.
Michael Ubaldi, February 2, 2004.
Michael Ledeen is impressed with the complexity and amusing historical parallels of the prevailing opinion on Saddam Hussein's weapons capabilities. Ledeen dubs the Ba'athist Iraq's WMD program, as according to David Kay, "Potemkin," after the city-scale con pulled on Catherine the Great. But he's not buying:
As I say, it's a terrific theory. But I'm skeptical, and I've got a real reason for my skepticism, which David can easily confirm. Last August I called him in Baghdad to tell him that I had a person ó a good person, like himself, a person I trust ó who was prepared to take him to an underground laboratory from which a quantity of enriched uranium had been taken a few years ago, and smuggled to Iran. Wow, he said, let's go look. Have the guy call me, we'll check it out.
The guy could never get David on the phone because the CIA decided not to investigate after all. The CIA never went to look, and I don't know if that stuff was real or fictional. But this case was totally different from the Potemkin WMDs of David's elegant theory. Because my guy was in contact with the people who said they had moved the stuff from Iraq to Iran...He said the people who had done the smuggling had a full description of the material on a CD Rom, which they were willing to provide. CIA wasn't interested. And that's the end of it, so far as I know.
So there's one instance where the CIA wasn't curious enough to take a ride and look at a lab. And I ask myself whether there were other such cases. I know of other examples, not involving WMDs, but involving Saddam's money, where CIA refused to look, and the stories they were told ó and decided not to believe ó turned out to be true.
...And then there's the story from the Syrian journalist in Paris who claims to have maps from high-ranking military intelligence officials in Damascus, identifying the sites where, he says, some of Saddam's stockpiles were moved. Have we checked that story?
Ledeen agrees that the CIA is hurting for reform, though for strikingly different reasons as are popular in Washington today. That political debate risks wandering into discussions on whether despots deserve the benefit of the doubt. As I've been asking for the past several days: Is this a failure of intelligence, or a failure of the belief that intelligence can reliably penetrate the closed societies of dictatorships? Remember that Iran, North Korea, Libya, Syria and other nations possess weapons programs that would never have been detected without those countries' respective admissions. To what extent were those shortcomings in intelligence preventable? Reform Langley to political satisfaction - and perhaps coax it out of the sociology business. But we shouldn't assume that we will ever have the luxury of knowing exactly what goes on behind steel-wrought doors. American military action cannot be constrained by doubts about inherently fragmented intelligence.
THAT'S WHY THEY CALL HIM 'INSTAPUNDIT': Glenn Reynolds puts it simply. "The only way to be safe is to invade first, and answer questions later." Exactly. Dictators don't have legitimate claim to any power - let alone 4th Amendment protection.
Michael Ubaldi, February 2, 2004.
What's better than an Iraqi who knows well the challenges his people face and the rewards of peaceful living that follow? One with the heart of a poet, like Alaa. If you scroll down, you'll find his thoughtful analysis on security in Iraq - and unlike President Bush's political opponents, Alaa offers constructive advice.
Michael Ubaldi, January 31, 2004.
We've come to expect that Bill Buckley puts in the final word:
The question will naturally arise: If we had had proof positive that the weapons did not exist on Iraqi soil, would we have held back the war?
...Whether the war that proceeded was indefensible asks a different question, not one that can be authoritatively answered pending the distillation of the scene in Iraq. If what comes out of the bloody present is a reformed society freed of a sadistic tyrant, bent on a future in which there is, so to speak, separation of church and state, and if such developments inspire a whole region in the direction of civic stability, you will not find presidential aspirants in the year 2008 declaiming about the misleading evidence on which we acted in 2003.
And whether or not that exonerates Bush, it will vindicate the policy of forging peace by liberating nations.
Michael Ubaldi, January 31, 2004.
Pointing fingers at Western intelligence - and away from, of all people, Saddam - is today's political trend, illogical as it may be. And some are even conveniently forgetting just how potent a threat Saddam posed, or how the liberation of Iraq - weapons or not - is vital to winning the war on terror. But not everyone is dropping the charges of weapons possession and pursuit, least of all those who know Saddam better than most:
Iraq's foreign minister said on Thursday weapons of mass destruction acquired by the country's former rulers, which inspectors have failed to find, had been carefully hidden and he was confident they could be found.
"I have every belief that some of these weapons could be found as we move forward," Hoshiyar Zebari told a news conference in Sofia. "They have been hidden in certain areas. The system of hiding was very sophisticated."
...Zebari, on a visit to Bulgaria, said: "We as Iraqis have seen Saddam Hussein develop, manufacture and use these weapons of mass destruction against us. He hasn't denied that."
Jed Babbin of National Review approaches from the same angle:
The fact that Saddam's WMDs haven't been found proves precisely nothing about whether he had them, what form they were in, or what became of them.
The facts are that we weren't wrong, but our diplomatic strategy was completely disconnected from our military one. We blew any chance of finding the WMDs by wasting six months in the U.N. debating whether or not to disarm Saddam.
...How many times do we have to repeat it? This is a different kind of war, and we are have to fight it in a different way. Preemption of terrorist threats is the only course for a nation that doesn't want to suffer another 9/11....In 1998, President Clinton signed the Iraqi Liberation Act making regime change in Baghdad the lawful policy of the United States. That law expanded U.S. efforts ó both covert and overt ó to topple Saddam. From that year ó when Saddam threw the U.N. inspectors out, until March 2003 ó the world, and the U.S., fiddled and diddled about what to do. And Saddam had all the time in the world to do what he could to plan for the inevitable.
Babbin speaks of the facts. What facts have changed? Saddam's temperament, a man with something to hide and someone to overpower, certainly hasn't. Would anyone have found a MIG-25 buried by the Ba'athists had the Allies not been tipped off? Unlikely - and a MIG, of course, is considerably larger than the largest WMD component, estimated by David Kay to be "no larger than a two-car garage." Sounds like the Iraq we always knew. Foreign Minister Zebari's statement reflects Kay's own that "All of Iraq's WMD activities were highly compartmentalized...with deception and denial built into each program."
While the politically expedient - or, depending upon your opinion of the war, advantageous - conclusion to Kay's findings of only bits and pieces of Iraq's weapons programs is that they must never have existed, it nevertheless requires an enormous suspension of disbelief. Would Saddam Hussein, a man who ruled for two decades and might as well have ruled for two more, invite his own destruction for crimes he hadn't committed? How in the world do science institutions fool the shrewd leader of a Stalinist country that had its eye on everyone, and his competing secret police? This is where the theory stumbles, for to bridge the logical gap Saddam must be made arbitrarily incompetent or even insane: How could he let himself be deposed if he could easily demonstrate that WMDs had no place in Iraq? Why, he must have been crazy.
But he wasn't too crazy to bribe dozens upon dozens for years. What ever could the bribes have been for? Bribery is a risky declaration of need - the recipient can always pocket the cash and do as they please - and therefore a tacit sign of submission. Saddam was stiffed a couple of times, but ended up no weaker for his submission. One flimsy part of the standoff theory is that Saddam would lose respect had he submitted to prove a lack of WMDs. Oh, was Egypt planning to invade? Were the WMDs providing Saddam, post-1991, with anything other than pariah status among neighboring dictatorships, some of whom who had weapons programs much like his own? Moammar Ghadafi's submission has won him stature for the short term. We should not mistake a practical conquerer like Saddam for a martyr. Or lack of discovery for proof of nonexistence.