(A technical problem caused a delay in the posting of this article) Ruminations, May 11, 2014
Rice and Rutgers
A week ago, Condoleezza Rice bowed out of the Rutgers commencement speech. With class Rice said that, “Commencement should be a time of joyous celebration for the graduates and their families. Rutgers’ invitation to me to speak has become a distraction for the university community at this very special time.”
The “distraction” began last February when the faculty passed a resolution to rescind the invitation to Rice in the mistaken belief that she had “a prominent role in the administration's effort to mislead the American people about the presence of weapons of mass destruction." The faculty’s student minions then took to the campus to demonstrate against Rice.
We can call the faculty’s belief “mistaken” on two levels: (1) that the Iraqi war was fought based solely on the existence of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and (2) it was the intent of the Bush Administration to deceive the American people about WMD. Now we don’t want to condemn the entire Rutgers’ faculty; certainly the history and political science departments were aware of the situation and would not have voted to rescind the invitation.
For the sake of the other academic departments who were not as well informed, let’s briefly review the reasons for going to war and Iraq’s WMD.
Early bi-partisan support for war against Iraq. In 1991, the United States and a coalition of forces drove Iraq back from Kuwait and the war was halted with a truce. A “treaty” ends a war; a “truce” pauses a war. Saddam considered the war not over. His Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, on the 10th anniversary of the 2001 Gulf War truce, stated, "We believe in what we said 10 years ago: We are victorious. Victory can be achieved through the strategic results of any confrontation, and we are confident that we gained victory in that struggle, which lasted 10 years and is still going on."
That sounds like Iraq was still at war with the United States. Hang on -- let’s go back to a time before 2001.
In early 1998, private Republican citizens Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and Richard Perle made a case for a preemptive strike on Iraq to Clinton and Security Advisor Sandy Berger. Their rationale was fourfold:
1. Saddam was responsible for the deaths of one million Iraqis.
2. Saddam was supporting terrorists.
3. Saddam represented a danger to the region and perhaps, the United States.
4. UN weapons inspectors were convinced -- and had some evidence -- that Saddam was continuing his weapons programs.
Influential leaders of both parties may well be onboard, but the American people were not. In February, Secretary of State Madeline Albright, Secretary of Defense William Cohen and Berger appeared at a town hall-type meeting at Ohio State University to begin building the case for a preemptive attack on Iraq. The meeting proved to be an embarrassing fiasco. Clinton representatives were shouted down and mocked by the attendees ("One, two, three, four, we don't want your racist war") – and on national television, no less.
In October, a bi-partisan U.S. Congress passed, and President Bill Clinton signed, The Iraq Liberation Act of 1998. This bill (passed in the Senate unanimously and in the House 360-38) stated that “It should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and to promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime." In 2003, when Bush sent troops into Iraq, he was executing The Iraq Liberation Act of 1998.
Saddam was responsible for the deaths of one million Iraqis. The estimated Iraqi deaths during and after the U.S. invasion come to somewhere between 100,000 and 130,000. Most of those deaths were not directly caused by U.S. actions but were caused by the civil war. In addition, something under 5,000 coalition forces were killed.
How do these numbers compare to deaths under Saddam? Both the New York Times and the Washington Post reported that Saddam was the force behind 1 million Iraqi deaths. A breakdown comes to approximately 400,000 military deaths, 400,000 adult civilian deaths and 200,000 child deaths.
Saddam supported terrorism. In his September 20, 2001, address to a joint session of Congress, President Bush stated that, “From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.” Did Iraq harbor terrorists? Yes it did.
Terrorist groups, including a segment of al Qaeda, were present in Iraq prior to the American invasion. Much of this information can be found in the Iraq Perspectives Project (IPP), a review of some 600,000 pages of documents recovered from Iraq. (http://www.jfcom.mil/newslink/storyarchive/2006/ipp.pdf ). The IPP says that there was “strong evidence that links the regime of Saddam Hussein to regional and global terrorism … In the period after the 1991 Gulf War, the regime of Saddam Hussein supported a complex and increasingly disparate mix of pan-Arab revolutionary causes and emerging pan-Islamic radical movements. … Iraq developed elaborate bureaucratic processes to monitor progress and accountability in the recruiting, training, and resourcing of terrorists. Examples include the regime's development, construction, certification, and training for car bombs and suicide vests in 1999 and 2000.”
And let’s not forget the highly publicized bounty of $25,000 that Saddam paid to the families of suicide bombers who detonated their bombs in Israel. Starting in 2000, Hamas estimated that Saddam paid out $35 million. With the invasion of Iraq in March, 2003 these suicide missions virtually came to a halt.
The then CIA Director George Tenet, in his book At the Center of the Storm, says that Iraq had provided al Qaeda with “safe-haven, contacts and training.” He later told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence: “We have solid evidence of the presence in Iraq of al Qaeda members, including some that have been in Baghdad. … Iraq’s increasing support of extremist Palestinians, coupled with growing indications of a relationship with al Qaeda suggest that Baghdad’s links to terrorists will increase …”
Saddam represented a danger to the region. During his reign, Saddam initiated military actions against Iran and Kuwait. After Kuwait had been defeated, he had begun to move his army in the direction of Saudi Arabia. Other Arab countries were concerned.
Subsequent to the invasion, we learned that Iraq had begun to smuggle explosives into their embassies in foreign Mideast countries. We don't know for certain why the explosives were moved there but we can infer that they were going to be used in some manner.
Weapons of mass destruction. The search for WMD yielded very little. Although a few weapons were found, there was nothing resembling the caches that were expected.
• 1,500 gallons of chemical potential precursors were found-- not chemical weapons themselves.
• Thirteen chemical weapons warheads were discovered by Polish troops and may have been constructed in the 1980s. It was not a stockpile but they were there.
• 550 metric tons of yellowcake (which can be enriched for use in nuclear weapons) was found, enough for 100 nuclear weapons. It was the last major remnant of Saddam’s nuclear program. The existence of the material and its removal was kept secret until 2008 for fear of alerting terrorists who obviously would have other designs for the nuclear material. Saddam had held on to the yellowcake for 22 years rather than sell it. I wonder what he planned to do with it.
Charles Duelfer, sent by President Bush to spearhead the WMD search, said that he had expected to find weapons and had not. Still the documents he did find and testimony he heard led him to conclude that Saddam’s weapons programs were more dangerous to world stability than he had previously thought. (See Duelfer’s final report http://www.gpoaccess.gov/duelfer/index.html).Some excerpts of the Duelfer Report:
• Those around [Saddam] at the time do not believe that he made a decision to permanently abandon WMD programs.
• Baghdad reluctantly submitted to inspections, declaring only part of its ballistic missile and chemical warfare programs to the UN, but not its nuclear weapon and biological warfare programs, which it attempted to hide from inspectors.
• [With the weakening of sanctions,] prohibited goods and weapons were being shipped into Iraq with virtually no problem. ... Major items had no trouble getting across the border, including 380 liquid-fuel rocket engines. Indeed, Iraq was designing missile systems with the assumption that sanctioned material would be readily available.
• Saddam never abandoned his intentions to resume a CW [chemical weapons] effort when sanctions were lifted and conditions were judged favorable. ... Iraq organized its chemical industry after the mid-1990s …to conserve the knowledge-base needed to restart a CW program, conduct a modest amount of dual-use research… Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) maintained throughout 1991 to 2003 a set of undeclared covert laboratories to research and test various chemicals and poisons.
• Saddam … aspired to develop a nuclear capability … [and] he intended to focus on ballistic missile and tactical chemical warfare (CW) capabilities.
Was there an administration’s effort to “mislead?” Let’s look at the supposed effort to mislead for which the Rutgers undergrads consider Rice, in part, responsible. The then CIA Director George Tenet, in his book At the Center of the Storm, says that, on December 21, 2002, he and his CIA deputy John McLaughlin met with the president, vice president, national security advisor and others for the purpose of deciding what information to make public. Tenet says that “Everybody in the room – as well as the most credible intelligence services in the world [Britain, Germany and Israel, among others] – already believed that Saddam had chemical and biological weapons and was working on a nuclear program. … I told the president that strengthening the public presentation was ‘a slam dunk’ …”
One would have to conclude that any decision by the administration short of removing the Saddam regime from power would have been irresponsible.
UN complicity with Iraq. By 2000 the erosion of UN sanctions accelerated. The semi-annual debates over the renewal of sanctions in the Security Council became the forum for Iraqi proponents to argue the case for relaxing sanctions further.
Quoting from Duelfer again: “The introduction of the Oil-For-Food Program (OFF) in late 1996 was a key turning point for [Saddam’s] Regime. OFF rescued Baghdad’s economy from a terminal decline created by sanctions. The Regime quickly came to see that OFF could be corrupted to acquire foreign exchange both to further undermine sanctions and to provide the means to enhance dual-use infrastructure and potential WMD-related development.” OFF became a $64 billion cash cow for Saddam.
Saddam needed cooperation from the United Nations hierarchy. Those under suspicion include Secretary General (1992-1996) Boutros Boutros-Ghali and Secretary General (1997-2006) Kofi Annan.
Boutros-Ghali selected Banque Nationale de Paris (BNP) to handle the escrow funds for Saddam and the OFF program. The Bank was said to be far from the best choice for this operation. A report issued by the Volker Independent Inquiry Committee to investigate the corruption of and mishandling of funds said that the purpose of Boutros-Ghali’s steering committee and the bank was "to ensure the timely and effective implementation" of the Oil-For-Food Program and designed to report to” Boutros-Ghali. But, the committee operated secretly and "did not keep official records or minutes of proceedings and determinations." Significantly, the U.N. archives are "devoid of records of the Steering Committee.” What we don’t know is the relationship between Boutros-Ghali and Saddam and the influence Saddam may have had over the bank.
The Heritage Foundation’s Nile Gardner stated that prior to the war “55 audits [under the aegis of Kofi Annan] produced by the Internal Audit Division (IAD) of the U.N. Office of Internal Oversight Services paint an ugly tableau of widespread mismanagement and incompetence on the ground in Iraq, which undoubtedly played an important role in clearing the way for Saddam Hussein to skim billions of dollars from a humanitarian program designed to help the Iraqi people. In particular, the United Nations failed to effectively oversee the U.N.-appointed contractors whose role it was to inspect humanitarian goods coming into Iraq and the export of oil from the country. In addition, the U.N. wasted millions of dollars as a result of overpayments to contractors, appalling lack of oversight, and unjustified spending.”
We know that Kojo Annan, (Kofi’s son) while working for a Swiss consulting company Cotecna, was the beneficiary of millions of dollars. What of his father? Gardener states the Secretary-General's glaring omission from the pages of the Interim Report defies explanation and smacks of political interference.” Reading between the lines, one could infer that Kofi Annan was deeply involved with OFF and benefited financially, but it will never be proved.
Wait. There’s more: “The close ties between Russian and French politicians and the Iraqi regime and the huge French and Russian financial interests in pre-liberation Iraq were almost certainly an important factor in influencing their governments' decision to oppose Hussein's removal from power.”
And let’s not forget that during the Security Council debate, Saddam had threatened to expose the French "all the way up to Chirac” if France supported a U.N. resolution for war. The French didn’t and Saddam didn’t.
Why didn’t Volcker’s committee do more to ferret out the guilty? Former Ambassador to the U.N., John Danforth, at the time, offered this explanation: “The fact that [Volcker] doesn't have subpoena power, he doesn't have a grand jury, he can't compel testimony, he can't compel production of documents and witnesses and documents that are located in other countries might be beyond his reach.”
Conclusion. Douglas Feith, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, once proffered the choice one has to make when all options are bad: one looks at the potential consequences of the actions and then decides with which consequences one would rather deal. The consequences of war are always bad but the consequences of the continuance of the Saddam regime would probably have been much worse. A reading of the IPP documents leads one to conclude that had the second Iraqi war not occurred in 2003, then there is a strong probability that it would have occurred later. In short war with Iraq may have been inevitable.
In spite of the difficulties, death and destruction that has occurred in Iraq, Iraq’s Prime Minster, Nouri-al-Maliki, recently said “the overwhelming majority of Iraqis agree that we’re better off today than under Hussein’s brutal dictatorship.” The WMD question was of a secondary importance; the change of regime in Iraq was a humanitarian triumph and will eventually yield enormous strategic rewards.
Rice, in concluding her withdrawal from the Rutgers’ commencement speech said, “I am honored to have served my country. I have defended America’s belief in free speech and the exchange of ideas. These values are essential to the health of our democracy.”
Amen, Madam Secretary. It’s a shame that Rutgers is being run by the undergrads.
German Chancellor Angela Merkle, like most politicians, speaks with one voice for home consumption and with another for the real world. This is as it should be. We the people often get emotional and want solutions to our problems based on that emotion – but, the truth be known, those solutions are sometimes simplistic and wrong. Nonetheless, politicians must cater to our emotions and appear to be onboard with what we want even though they know it is wrong and they will never acquiesce.
Merkel, a month ago, was furious, along with her fellow Germans, that the U.S. National Security Agency was tapping into phones around the world. And yet, when she met with President Barack Obama last week, she said “we have a few difficulties yet to overcome, but we share the same values, and we share the same concerns” -- and that was about it. The popular furor had died down and she thinks it’s a good idea to track possible terrorists as long as the U.S. shares information with Germany (although she is still a little miffed that her personal cell phone was tapped).
And then, Merkle joined Obama in a display of unity in sanctions on Russia if the Russians expand their foray in Ukraine. She said, “Should that not be possible to stabilize the situation further, further sanctions will be unavoidable.” That was the statement for popular consumption. Having recently been warned by German companies BASF, Siemens, Volkswagen, Addidas, Daimler and Deustche Bank that they want no more sanctions, she added she added, “This is something that we don’t want.” Did Obama react to her lack of seriousness about sanctions? No, because he’s not serious either.
Quote without comment
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D, NV) speaking in a press conference on Tuesday, May 8: “I have been a fan of earmarks since I got here the first day. I disagree -- underline, underscored, big exclamation mark -- with Obama. He's wrong."