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Name: Antony Loewenstein
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Sunday, October 23, 2005

The wheels are falling off

LA Times, October 22:

"A top U.S. official for aid to Iraq has accused the Bush administration of rushing unprepared into the 2003 invasion because of pressures from President Bush's approaching reelection campaign.

"Robin Raphel, the State Department's coordinator for Iraq assistance, said that the invasion's timing was driven by 'clear political pressure,' as well as by the need to quickly deploy the U.S. troops that had been amassed by the Iraq border.

Soon after the invasion, Raphel said, it became clear that U.S. officials 'could not run a country we did not understand. It was very much amateur hour.'"

From an Australian perspective, many questions remain, namely the real reason Prime Minister John Howard committed to the Iraq invasion and what he hoped our country would get out of it.


Blogger Wombat said...

I listened to an interview yesterday with Scott Ritter, the chief United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq between 1991 and 1998.

I highly recommend it to anyone intersted in the build up to the Iraq war. He sheds light on many specifics, such as UN resolutions and the Iraq Sanctions. A very enlightening, and alarming listen from an intelligent man with great integrity. H ealso has some disturbing information about what he considers to be the innevitable attack against Iran.

Sunday, October 23, 2005 1:27:00 pm  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

Ritter is a hero...and therefore trashed by the usual suspects. He's hardly a leftie, in fact, he's a real US patriot.
Indeed, his insights into Australian Richard Butler are largely ignored in Australia.

Sunday, October 23, 2005 1:29:00 pm  
Blogger Wombat said...

I would be very interested in reading what he has to say about Butler. Do youhave any links Anotony?

He has also been scathing in his criticism of Hans Blix.

And yes I agree. He is a remakable man. Ex marine in fact.

Sunday, October 23, 2005 1:39:00 pm  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

Check out his new book, much on Butler. He's said some of this before, but not in such detail.
Butler, when heading UN group to 'disarm' Iraq, was essentially doing the US govt bidding.

Sunday, October 23, 2005 1:40:00 pm  
Blogger Wombat said...

Wil defintitely buy the book. As far as you know, was Butler involved in any way with CIA's effort to assainate Sadam during sanctions and weapons inspections, or was he just a glorified envoy?

Sunday, October 23, 2005 1:50:00 pm  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

Havn't read anything about taking out Saddam, though Butler's role, allowing US spies, assisting the US in setting up 'acceptable reasons' for invasion etc, should be more widely known. Whenever I read his work, I wonder how he sleeps at night....

Sunday, October 23, 2005 1:52:00 pm  
Blogger Wombat said...

Well, allowing US spies seems to be in accord with Ritetrs account that CIA spies were trying to locate the whereabouts of Sadam so that he could be taken out. According to Ritter, the withdrawl of US inspectors in 1998 was not Sadam's idea but the Washington's so that they could luanch missile strikes to get rid of Sadam.

Anyway, with regard to the Howard Government's complicity in misleading the public, I just came across this article:

Australian government faces new charges of manipulating intelligence

Does anyone have any more information as to the friction that exists between the Howard Government and the Australian military and intelligence establishment? It doesn't seem tobe getting much mainstream exposure.

Sunday, October 23, 2005 3:03:00 pm  
Blogger Iqbal Khaldun said...

There's a new book co-written by Lance Collins with another retired intelligence officer, Australia's answer to Scott Ritter. That's probably the best, most current resource on that very serious problem. Details here:

Sunday, October 23, 2005 4:19:00 pm  
Blogger James Waterton said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Sunday, October 23, 2005 5:00:00 pm  
Blogger James Waterton said...

The wheels are only really falling off this blog. Found any more amusing racist cartoons, Ant?

Regarding Ritter, how does his present sentiments square with his 1999 book Endgame - Solving the Iraq Problem Once and For All? Here's an excerpt from that book:

I have grown convinced that there has been a total breakdown in the willingness of the international community to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussein is well on the road to getting his sanctions lifted and keeping his weapons in the bargain. A resurgent Iraq, reinvigorated economically and politically by standing up successfully to the United States and the United Nations, will be a very dangerous Iraq -- one that sooner or later will have to be confronted by American military might.

That was what he was saying after returning from Iraq in 1998. I lifted that quote from a Tim Blair post. Now I know you all don't like him much, but you gotta hand it to the guy - he makes a pretty convincing case against Ritter, using the man's own words. TB's post also pulls another quote from Ritter's 1999 book -

[TB] Ritter’s resignation led to an appearance before a combined session of the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees, where his hawkish attitude was ridiculed by Senator Joe Biden (again, this extract from Endgame):

[SR] Biden was relentless, suggesting that the question of taking the nation to war was a responsibility “slightly beyond [Ritter’s] pay grade” ... the use of force was the kind of decision that people like Colin Powell and George Bush made, said the senator from Delaware.

How times have changed. He never returned to Iraq in the capacity of weapons inspector, but that didn't stop him radically altering his view on Iraq's WMDs. Why the shift? Most likely the guy has found a new - diametrically opposed but more lucrative (maybe not enough hawks bought his 1999 book?) - angle and is working it for all it's worth. I cannot understand why the left gives such an obviously tainted figure the time of day, let alone hero status. A final quote Blair digs up to hammer the last nail into Ritter's coffin :

No matter how difficult stopping Saddam Hussein is today, it will become more and more difficult, and extract a higher and higher price, the longer he is left to rebuild his arsenal.

Sunday, October 23, 2005 5:06:00 pm  
Blogger anthony said...

Speaking of drastically changing your mind on major political issues for gain, monetary or electoral:

The House calls on the Prime Minister Bob Hawke to act immediately to put pressure on Australia's allies to intervene in Iraq to stop the slaughter of the Kurds and establish their right to self-determination ... we're in the disgusting position of sitting on our hands while these people are absolutely slaughtered - the least we can do is get our Prime Minister to speak up and put the full weight of this country towards the protection of these innocents.

Guess that quote!

I mentioned it before, but nobody took the bait :(

Sunday, October 23, 2005 5:22:00 pm  
Blogger James Waterton said...

I promise that I haven't checked the link yet - so here's my's not Bob Brown, eh? I remember he was quite the hawk over Iraq mk 1.

Checking link now....

Correct! Award myself a gold star.

Ritter and Brown must have triple jointed backs to achieve these feats of flippery.

Sunday, October 23, 2005 5:32:00 pm  
Blogger anthony said...

"feats of flippery"

heh heh...

Sunday, October 23, 2005 7:26:00 pm  
Blogger Iqbal Khaldun said...

In a debating tournament, the only aim is to isolate your opponent's arguments with an apparent contradiction. A useful technique is that little morsel of information which apparently contradicts your opponent's argument. The exception that makes the rule. Of course the problem with debates is they rarely provide any insight into the truth.

So let's look at the truth. Let's even assume that the Ritter quote is accurate. Was the Iraq of 1998 an economic, political or military menace? No, it was completely crippled thanks to the first Gulf War. Should we thank America for weakening Iraq in that war so that the threat posed by Iraq was diminished? I don't think so. An easier way would've been to immediately end or drastically reduce military aid to the region, something which the US provides in many billions per year (foremost to Israel, but in fact to all the Arab regimes, even, sometimes, to Iran). People (such as States Parties of the UN) have continuously submitted proposals for doing this, and there are countless resolutions calling for a nuclear and arms free Middle East. Most or all of these resolutions have been opposed by the US and its major client Israel. So, in the absence of any genuine attempt to stop the arms race, something which cannot even begin without US support because it is the US that provides the vast majority of arms to the regimes there, Iraq, like all the regimes in the Middle East could and can be expected to arm itself and develop more advanced weaponry.

That brings us to another question. Was Iraq under Saddam the greatest threat to the region? Almost definitely not, unless we accept the racist assumption that Arabs, who happened to be armed by Western nations, are intrinsically more dangerous and war-mongering than Jews or Turks or Indonesians or whoever else, who happen also to be armed by Western nations. Even a cursory study of Saddam's regime reveals that it was unlikely to take steps which would jeopordize its own power. When Saddam invaded Kuwait, he actually told April Glasby, the US Ambassador to Iraq and she did not oppose it. He must have interpreted this as a green light for the invasion, after all the US had tolerated, indeed supported his murderous war with Iran and his genocidal treatment of minorities within Iraq. Also, it is worth bearing in mind that Kuwait was artificially created by the British after the end of WWI, with the stated purpose of dividing 'Babylon'. Like Germany, what is now known as modern-day Iraq was considered a regional power centre and the British were eager to dilute this power. Saddam would obviously have known about this history, and would have likely felt that his invasion was a liberation rather than an expansionist exercise. Of course, this doesn't justify what he did. Far from it, but it does suggest that there were reasons behind it. Indeed Saddam doesn't have a history of nihilistic world domination. No, he's quite a calculative person.

It was only later, although not much later, that a policy decision was made in Washington to make an example of Iraq - if you mess with the status quo in the Middle East, there have to be consequences, lest other regimes favour their own geopolitical machinations independent of Washington. It's important to remember that prior to the invasion of Kuwait, when Saddam was at his strongest, he was not considered a threat by the US.

As for the Bob Brown quote - thanks for the trivia. Your google search skills must be very good. I guess now we should forget the misery of present day Iraq, thanks to the invasion 'mark 2', and look out for that feisty Bob Brown. Brandis had it right, he's looking more like that little Austrian guy every day.

Sunday, October 23, 2005 8:17:00 pm  
Blogger leftvegdrunk said...

Welcome back, Iqbal.

*dips lid*

Sunday, October 23, 2005 8:29:00 pm  
Blogger Wombat said...

Another thoughtful and provocative response James,

I will certainly look into the accuracy of Tim Blair's argument. I does indeed like Ritter has contradicted himself, but I will try and get my hands on the newest book to see if he does address this anomaly in his argument.

I do find it fascinating that the pro war advocates are to this day still ignoring that every basis for the war has been completely discredit. One person compiled a count of the number of pre and post facto rationalizations for the war and came up with a number of 27.

And what's worse is that all of these have been borrowed by Blair and Howard. If that's not world breaking feats of flipper, I don't know what is. If a CEO of a business had made the same number of false statements, they'd be facing just as many charges of lying to their shareholders. Yet, these three continue to be given air time and are supported almost unconditionally by the media.

What is also interesting, is the fact that is spite of a formidable smear machine working against him, only Tim Blair has been able to find these apparent contradictions in Ritter's arguments.

In his defense, what Ritter is saying now has not been challenged. Perhaps Tim Blair should put his acute dissection abilities to determine what in Ritter recent claims is false. There in lies the rub for the pro war advocates. Their argument if completely and utterly discredited, so their resources are being utilized to attack their critics, without addressing the substance of the argument directed at them.

I will try and get these points to Ritter one way or another and get a reply from him.

His new book is focused specifically on a precise timeline of events fro the end of the Gulf War, through to March 2003.

Monday, October 24, 2005 1:53:00 am  
Blogger leftvegdrunk said...

Anthony, James:

You are overlooking one crucial element that differentiates the first international war against Iraq from the latest. The first war was waged on the premise that Iraq had invaded another country. The second was premised on a number of spurious and debatable reasons which changed with time and have been proven unsound. You are correct in saying that Bob Brown, and others, supported one war and not the other. But this is not necessarily an unforgivable inconsistency in light of the different contexts within which each statement was made.

Your point about Brown is tenuous at best, at worst irrelevant. As others point out here, the rationale for the war has been revealed as bullshit, as many expected it would be. As supporters of war and (possibly unwitting) defenders of the power elite, your only hope now is to attack your political opponents in the only way you know how.

Monday, October 24, 2005 10:13:00 am  
Blogger Wombat said...

Interesting post Iqbal,

Glad you brought up April Glasby. In fact not only did she tell Saddam that the US had no interest in the feud between he and the Amir of Kuwait (who at the time was more dispised in the MIddle East than Saddam), but her message was repeated by James Baker. In fact, both he and Glasby are reported to have said that they recognised Kuwait as part of Iraq, though that could be heresay.

What is also overlooked, and perhaps forgotten, is that Suadi Arabia shared a good relationship with Saddam and had in fact forgivven a multi-billion dollar loan to Iraq in gratitude for wearing Iran down. It was only when Dick Cheney showed the Saudi royals some doctored photos of Iraq's tanks ammassed along the Saudi border that the Saudi's not only approved the military action against Iraq, but pretty much paid for the whole thing.

Russia produced it's own sattellite imagery of the region which showed no evidenc of these tank divisions in the area. Needless to say, no one paid much attentino to this incovenient piece of evidence.

Monday, October 24, 2005 1:30:00 pm  
Blogger anthony said...

Dirt- I’ve only seen the quote out of context- and no, Iqbal I wasn’t googling Bob+Brown+Backflips- the point is that he rants about self-determination and safety for the Kurds. Perhaps my idea of self-determination and safety goes too far, but the first Gulf War should have been about regime change- something that is apparently an evil term around here. The effects would have been just the same as today- what you call ‘resistance’.

*rant* Suddenly, ten+ years on, he’s not willing to pay that foreseeable price and is screaming every imaginable line of opposition. In my view, he’s decided that Kurds don’t deserve long-term security from Saddam, so his disgusting party can make some electoral gains. Like Che Guevara, he’s a mistaken poster boy of a doomed movement. *end-rant*

Monday, October 24, 2005 2:26:00 pm  
Blogger Ian Westmore said...

Antony Loewenstein wrote:

many questions remain, namely the real reason Prime Minister John Howard committed to the Iraq invasion and what he hoped our country would get out of it.

Well if he expected trade he will be very disappointed. Our glorious American 'allies' have pressured Iraq into buying wheat from them in future ending our 50 dominance of the Iraqi market. So add another $800 million a year to our war costs and remember this loss will probably go on indefinitely. How are the Nats going to explain that one to the bush?!

As for people changing their minds, remember these:

He [Saddam] has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors.
Colin Powel, 24 February 2001, Cairo press conference

The Iraqi regime militarily remains fairly weak. It doesn't have the capacity it had 10 or 12 years ago. It has been contained. And even though we have no doubt in our mind that the Iraqi regime is pursuing programs to develop weapons of mass destruction -- chemical, biological and nuclear -- I think the best intelligence estimates suggest that they have not been terribly successful.
Colin Powell, 15 May 2001, testimony to a US Senate committee

But in terms of Saddam Hussein being there, let's remember that his country is divided, in effect. He does not control the northern part of his country. We are able to keep arms from him. His military forces have not been rebuilt.
Condelezza Rice, 29 July 2001, CNN Late Edition

Monday, October 24, 2005 3:09:00 pm  
Blogger Iqbal Khaldun said...

We've got to clear about what is meant by intervention. These are complex matters. For example back in 1991 after Saddam was smashed in the first Gulf War, there was an opportunity for regime change. Only this regime change didn't need Western troops in Iraq. All it required was military and logistical support for the ethnic groups and regular troops who were rebeling against Saddam. They actually pleaded for assistance but close to none was given (the Kurdish sectors to the north were a notable, limited exception... stress exception).

As ever, the West has the enviable privilege of being judge, jury and prosecutor. Imagine the howls from Washington or London if the Iraqis demanded compensation for the role played by the US and the UK in the disintegration of that country.

Monday, October 24, 2005 8:35:00 pm  
Blogger leftvegdrunk said...

Anthony, as far as context goes, I wasn't expecting you to dig up Hansard or anything. By context I simply meant the year in which the statement was made.

Do you see the differences between then and now?

Also, the term "resistance" is not a made-up-conspiracy-leftist word. Pick up the Lexington column in this week's Economist as an off-the-top-of-my-head example.

Monday, October 24, 2005 9:52:00 pm  
Blogger anthony said...

Yes, of course I can see the differences.

I expected someone to note the fact that following the 1991 success, the Kurds formed a de facto state largely separate from the rest of Iraq. I was interested to see whether anyone here considered this relative autonomy from Hussein and his murderous mates to have satisfied Brown’s ‘goals’ during the first Gulf War.

I personally believe that it is not satisfactory, and an independent Kurdish state (this does not necessarily mean Turkey should cede territory) fills Brown’s own requirement for self-determination for the Kurds. As for security, this should have extended beyond the US making the north a no-fly zone, arming the Kurds, and leaving Saddam in power in 1991.

Also, the term "resistance" is not a made-up-conspiracy-leftist word.

I believe the correct term for what is being widely called resistance should be terrorism, as undefined as the latter may be. As I was telling Andre not long ago, I don’t see the world as black and white- but killing random civilians and especially children to make the Americans look bad, all in the name of resistance, is as dark as it gets.

Monday, October 24, 2005 10:31:00 pm  
Blogger Wombat said...


We will agree to disagree. I understand you perspective, but it is one sided. Resisting foreign occupation is actually allowed under the Geneva Conventions and UN charter. The fact that these people are not playing by America's rules does not make them terrorists.

US dropped 500 pound bombs, napalm and chemical weapons that were used in Fallujah kill women and children too. By dropping them in populated areas without meaning to kill innocents, when you know this is inevitable is ridiculous.

What was the first thing the US did in Fallujah last November? They shut down the hospital so that causalities could not provide propaganda fodder for the resistance. If you don't regard that as a war crime, then you are deluded.

Similarly, demanding that all residents of Fallujah leave the town and deeming those who remain to protect their property to be terrorists, is not absolution of guilt.

The US is using Al Zarqawi, a one legged man whom no one has been able to identify since March 2003, as a justification for flattening entire townships. This is pure madness.

And let's wait and see how dark it get's when the Pentagon finally hands over the X rated version of the photos and videos from Abu Graib. The stuff we are not supposed to see, that made Senators turn various shades of green when they did see them.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005 1:39:00 am  
Blogger leftvegdrunk said...

Anthony, I agree completely with your condemnation of the terrorist activities of those opposing US occupation.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005 7:55:00 am  
Blogger leftvegdrunk said...

Back to the main topic of this thread, just quickly. This week's Economist surveys the problems facing the Bush Jnr government and concludes that it is in pretty bad shape. But rather than the democrats (via "Brutus McCain") spelling the end of Shrub, the Economist reckons that the fourth estate may be the catalyst for change in Washington:

"There is a noticeable mood of shame in the Washington press corps: shame that it failed to ask tough questions about weapons of mass destruction; shame that it was not quick enough to dig into the murky world of lobbying; shame that it was used to smear critics of the Iraq war. That shame is congealing into a desire for revenge. The press will be asking a lot more hard questions - and this time it will find eager sources among disillusioned conservatives."

(This is from Lexington's piece, in the print edition only unless you are a subsciber.)

This Tomdispatch article by Nick Turse lists just some of those disillusioned conservatives who may have stories to tell.

I reckon it won't be long before we see a similar mobilisation of the media in Canberra. Well, I hope so, anyway.

PS Hey, why are there no Tim Blair minions invading this thread? There mustn't be anything to argue endlessly about here. Or maybe Blair just hasn't told them to comment on this one. Good little stooges that they are. *pat* (I know, I am hopeless at taking the piss.)

Wednesday, October 26, 2005 8:14:00 am  
Blogger Wombat said...

I woudn't read to much into the quote from the Economist. The press corps knew what they were getting into from the beginning.

Perhaps there is shame that they have played into the hands of the administration, ie. providing favourable press in return for access.

Nonetheless, there is definitely a shift taking place. The Fitzgerald investigatino has taken a huge bite out of this gang and looks set to continue. It's difficult to know what to make of the newly emboldened press. Things can shift so quickly. There are rumours that Cheney is huuredly pushing for war with Syrian and Iran. If this were to happen, the Bush administration could regain momentum.

Conservatives may be forced to do something drastic to save the party.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005 1:21:00 pm  
Blogger leftvegdrunk said...

Addamo, Lexington is often on the money, and I am hoping this will not be an exception. And yes, it's nearly Fitzmas.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005 1:47:00 pm  
Blogger Wombat said...

Well, let's hope the Lexington is right.

And I share your sentiments about the Canberra press corps. It seems however, that such a shift usually follows a change in momentumn at the polls. I would guess that Howard's strength is preventing this from taking place that way it has in the UK and the US.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005 1:57:00 pm  

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