“The case for overthrowing Saddam was unimpeachable. Why, then, is the administration tongue-tied?” Thus the Murdoch-owned September 5/12 Weekly Standard. If the Standard‘s editors can’t figure out the answer, let me help them. The Bush Administration is tongue-tied because it doesn’t know what lie to put out next. The Weekly Standard whistles up its Condé Nast scrivener, Christopher Hitchens, to try to make the arguments the White House can’t come up with. He offers us ten points in favor of the war. Let me deal with them one by one.
“(1) The overthrow of Talibanism and Baathism, and the exposure of many highly suggestive links between the two elements of this Hitler-Stalin pact. Abu Musab al Zarqawi, who moved from Afghanistan to Iraq before the coalition intervention, has even gone to the trouble of naming his organization al Qaeda in Mesopotamia.”
Few theories have been so generally discredited over the past two years as the supposed connection between the Taliban and the Baath Party in Iraq before the war in 2003. One of the supposed links–publicized by Jeffrey Goldberg in The New Yorker–was an Iranian Kurdish drug smuggler held in prison in Iraqi Kurdistan who claimed to have met bin Laden in Kandahar, in Afghanistan, and senior Baathists in Iraq. Before the war began, the smuggler had long been exposed as a liar. On Zarqawi Hitchens is all over the map. For example, Zarqawi was famously at odds with bin Laden in Afghanistan.
“(2) The subsequent capitulation of Qaddafi’s Libya in point of weapons of mass destruction–a capitulation that was offered not to Kofi Annan or the E.U. but to Blair and Bush.”
Long before the invasion of Iraq, Qaddafi was eager for rapprochement with the United States. Blair had already reopened relations with Libya. The scenario of a cowed Qaddafi suddenly abandoning secret plans to construct a nuclear arsenal is far less persuasive than the likelihood he’d never been serious about building WMDs and took whatever shipments from Pakistan were in the warehouse and surfaced them as an extra stimulant for the rapprochement he’s wanted for a long time.
“(3) The consequent unmasking of the A.Q. Khan network for the illicit transfer of nuclear technology to Libya, Iran, and North Korea.”
The A.Q. Khan network unmasked? This was so generally known that to put it in his list Hitchens is truly scraping the bottom of the barrel.
“(4) The agreement by the United Nations that its own reform is necessary and overdue, and the unmasking of a quasi-criminal network within its elite.”
It would be far more impressive if the war led to the reform of the United States. Far more money has disappeared since the war than ever went missing before. At least $5 billion is missing from the Paul Bremer era alone.
“(5) The craven admission by President Chirac and Chancellor Schröder, when confronted with irrefutable evidence of cheating and concealment, respecting solemn treaties, on the part of Iran, that not even this will alter their commitment to neutralism. (One had already suspected as much in the Iraqi case.)”