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Via Reason's Hit & Run blog, a poll from 2003, on why we're in Iraq:

Poll: 70% believe Saddam, 9-11 link

WASHINGTON (AP) — Nearly seven in 10 Americans believe it is likely that ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the Sept. 11 attacks, says a poll out almost two years after the terrorists' strike against this country.

Sixty-nine percent in a Washington Post poll published Saturday said they believe it is likely the Iraqi leader was personally involved in the attacks carried out by al-Qaeda. A majority of Democrats, Republicans and independents believe it's likely Saddam was involved.

The belief in the connection persists even though there has been no proof of a link between the two.

President Bush and members of his administration suggested a link between the two in the months before the war in Iraq. Claims of possible links have never been proven, however.

Veteran pollsters say the persistent belief of a link between the attacks and Saddam could help explain why public support for the decision to go to war in Iraq has been so resilient despite problems establishing a peaceful country.

Posted by aalkon at January 22, 2006 10:59 AM

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Comments

People are stupid.

You heard it here first.

But listen, demanding a literal, causitive "link" may be too much. Saddam's rule of Iraq was the product of incompetent behavior in the region by the western powers, as was the rage of the 9/11 attackers. Perhaps not solely but largely. If we'd handled things with greater decency and humility over the preceding four decades or so, neither would have happened.

Posted by: Crid at January 22, 2006 12:13 AM

The problem is that the Europeons have lost their balls. Their military is crap and their fragile economies are dependent on trade with the middle east. So like the abused housewife they tolerate their middle eastern husband's aggression and misbehavior because they lack the balls to do anything about it.

Posted by: nash at January 22, 2006 8:53 AM

It sounds like your position is evolving. Didn't Susan Sontag attribute the 9/11 attack to something like "incompetent behavior in the region by the western powers" in the New Yorker magazine way back when? She took a lot of heat for that one.

I'm not trying to be snitty. I'm actually impressed.

Posted by: Lena at January 22, 2006 9:03 AM

Since it's sunday, I have time for a little fighting. I wont comment on the mentality of people. However...
why are we in Iraq...hmmm that's a tough one...
terrorism
oil
saddam tried to kill his daddy
all neat, plausible and wrong...
why are we in Iraq?
George the 11 sees himself as the great Anarch.
it's his religious calling to convert the lands of the heathens to sweet Jesus. Of course nobody will agree with this assessment, nonetheless, like everything I saw or write it's absolutely true. You see both the pope and I are infallible

Posted by: everybody hates chris at January 22, 2006 9:19 AM

> the Europeons have lost
> their balls...

It would be fun and easy to agree, but one reason Europe doesn't assist in times like this is that we've spent the past sixty years nourishing their docility.

> Didn't Susan Sontag attribute...

Sontag was one of 10,000 names I'd planned to investigate in old age... Youth is precious, and there were Zappa albums to listen to. But she extiguished even that mild interest by claiming, as her city bled and smoldered, that the sneak attackers of civilians weren't cowards; that a president who mildly reassured a weeping nation was "robotic"; and that the little people of America were thereby being 'manipulated'. The no-fly zones --a risky, expensive, and effective shield for the freedom of millions-- are mentioned only as "ongoing American bombing."

Worst of all, the attacks were "a consequence of specific American alliances and actions." Which would have been cool, if she'd had the knowledge (or courage) to say which ones. The failure to do so was glaring, and left no doubt that she hadn't done the reading.

A sickly old Manhatten socialite wobbles drunkenly after decades of prissy chatter at white wine parties on the Upper Whichever Side. In the hour of fear and mourning following the worst attack on our mainland soil, she gets all tippytoes and says "Look at me!"

You can if you want.

(I *AM* trying to be snitty; t'Hell with her.)

Posted by: Crid at January 22, 2006 10:47 AM

And yes, impressions are evolving. A lot of national/cultural characteristics in Iraq are going to be working against us for a very long time. We can still hope that a taste for elections and commerce will bring about sturdy democratic capitalism (with women's rights and religious tolerance and all the rest). But it may be that you can only rework a nation's fundamental character after Japan- and Germany-style thrashings, which is not what's happened in Iraq. It's more obvious to me that this war was a hopeful, wishy, prayerful thing to do. That doesn't mean it wasn't worthwhile... I'm glad that our generation will be known for something besides cynical, subterranean realpolitik and feckless posturing at the United Nations. We're giving the Iraqis a shot at something precious, and should be proud of the effort even if they're not strong enough to take it.

Posted by: Crid at January 22, 2006 11:27 AM

Not all Europeans are feckless. Iraq should have been taken 12 years previous, in the first Gulf War. Instead the UN sat on its hands with endless talk and counter productive sanctions. If you want to take Vienna, then take Vienna!


Now things are tough due to serious incompetence - the US had no idea what to do after military action - but I can't see any sense in withdrawing troops at this point. To do so would simply be to abandon the very people we are trying to help. We must stay there until they can look after themselves, and the sooner that is, the better.


Although I buy into the idea of spreading democracy, getting rid of a nasty dictator, and setting up a beacon state in the middle east, I am deeply suspicious about government motivations for this adventure. The real problem is Israel & Palestine; why the diversion into Iraq?


- a post from beyond the pond.

Posted by: Norman at January 22, 2006 11:43 AM

Can you say a little more about your suspicions? What motivations trouble you?

What is it about Isreal that makes it so troubling for its much larger neighbors? (This would have been a good questions for Sontag)

Posted by: Crid at January 22, 2006 12:19 PM

You mean, apart from the fact that it's filled with Jews?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at January 22, 2006 12:27 PM

Right. Unless you think THAT's what she meant by "specific American alliances." Hard to say, ain't it?

Posted by: Crid at January 22, 2006 12:42 PM

Yeah, political analysis wasn't really her strong point. Come to think of it, her fiction kinda sucked too. Reading the Volcano Lover was about as much fun as picking a scab.

I used to see her hobbling around Soho back in the 80s. She practically lived at the Tower Records on 4th and Broadway. I adored her from afar.

Posted by: Lena at January 22, 2006 3:36 PM

Although I buy into the idea of spreading democracy, getting rid of a nasty dictator, and setting up a beacon state in the middle east, I am deeply suspicious about government motivations for this adventure. The real problem is Israel & Palestine; why the diversion into Iraq?

It’s the cold war revisited. Piss weak politicians need an "evil empire" (this time terrorism rather than communism) to drum up patriotism and to maintain political advantage through encumbancy. The only thing better than a good war is permanent war.

What is it about Isreal that makes it so troubling for its much larger neighbors?

You mean, apart from the fact that it's filled with Jews?

Not to mention their nuclear arsenal.

Posted by: gwallan at January 23, 2006 1:03 AM

Can you say a little more about your suspicions? What motivations trouble you?


Suspicions? Oil, Haliburton, oil, inventing a threat to divert attention, needing to be seen to be doing something (following 9/11) so it hardly matters what that something is, oh yes, and oil. I read yesterday (The Times, the BBC? Can't remember where) that 70% of Americans believe Saddam had some involvement with the 9/11 attacks. There's no evidence for this view at all. I wonder what the figure was before Gulf War II started. I wonder if it has been manipulated.


I don't in general think that governments are capable of machinations to the extent that conspiracy theorists believe. It's not that easy in an open society. But I don't believe that they are always playing a fair and honest game either. The occasional leak and cover-up shows that. None of us are saints, and politicians are no better than the rest of us.


What is it about Isreal that makes it so troubling for its much larger neighbors?


The problem is that Palestinians were pushed aside to create Israel. Sure, the Jews had a problem; two thousand years keeping their culture alive is remarkable, and being endlessly persecuted for it is not right. A homeland was the obvious solution. But guess what: other people have been living there for two thousand years, so the Jews' lease has kind of expired. Ancient history may be part of this problem, but only a part. History is relevant because it creates a problem in the present day: namely that Jews are persecuted somewhere all the time, but had no homeland where they can live and be themselves. Not much to ask! But they can't expect to base a land claim on a 5000-year-old storybook, or state that their lease is freehold since Jehovah granted it Abraham or Moses or whoever. (As I write this I realize I don't know the details of the creation of the modern state of Israel, so I may be talking nonsense. Please correct me!)


Why does this upset the neighbours? Suppose the Jews had been given North Carolina instead. What would the ramifications of that have been?

Posted by: Norman at January 23, 2006 1:44 AM

Now I remember where I read 70% thought Saddam was involved! D'oh!

Posted by: Norman at January 23, 2006 1:46 AM

OF COURSE it's about oil. That's not a shameful thing to say. Of course you call Halliburton & Bechtel and Kissinger Associates: Nobody's happy about it, but your local Brownie troop doesn't have the talent to deal with this stuff. Diverting attention is not much of a boogieman... Administrations get attention no matter what.

And then there's Israel. To imagine that these six million people are the core the hindrance to the freedom of the 150 million surrounding Arabs and muslims are just not sane. Now THAT'S diversion. Besides, much of Israel wasn't so wealthy or attractive until the modern nation put the wealth there... It's specicious to think this was abject theft of Arab property.

Posted by: Crid at January 23, 2006 12:20 PM

You don't think it's at all reprehensible to invade another country just because they have something you want? That's refreshingly honest, at least.


Sure Halliburton has the necessary skills, the Brownie troop doesn't. Competence is not the issue. What I wonder about is the extent to which Halliburton and the US government are in each other's pockets, and who really decides US policy.


Israel is not a threat to the freedom of the surrounding Arab states, but I think it's perceived as a source of deep injustice. As I suggested, imagine the UN had granted North Carolina to the Jews, against the wishes of the locals, who ended up being pushed out to neighbouring states, driven into reservations, or whatever. Do you think the US would accept that decision from the UN? I don't. It would have meant war, just as with Israel.


Whether the Jews have made better use of the territory is also irrelevant. You seem to think the Arabs are jealous of Israel's wealth. I don't see any sign of that. If you are arguing that Israel's wealth creation justifies their presence, then they had no justification to begin with, before they created any wealth.


The reason I think Israel/Palestine is a core problem in the Middle East is because that's what the locals say. I try to understand why they say that.

Posted by: Norman at January 23, 2006 2:30 PM

I'm glad to see this piece get some attention. People easily forget the reasons they did the things they did. I remember talking to people when the poll came out...

Most of them thought we attacked Iraq because of 9/11. ...There seemed to be a lingering suspicion in regards to the anthrax attack.

Shultz's First Law of Social Dynamics states explicitly, "Jesus was right--people are sheep."

Posted by: Ken Shultz at January 23, 2006 2:41 PM

> to invade another country just because
> they have something you want?

Can you recount the exact line of text where you read me saying that? Fella, oil COUNTS... Cheap energy makes this planet go. All civilized nations have a stake in seeing the faucet operated by sane capitalists instead of crazed crime families. If we wanted to steal oil, we coulda marched through Venezuela (or more conveniently Canada) with a troop of sidearmed Webelos. (Skip one serving of milk and cookies, and those little uniformed fuckers turn DEADLY.) Every nation on the globe is grateful that Saddam's out of the way. Be a big boy, and try to understand why they might not want to say so out loud.

> Competence is not the issue.

It's precisely that. Again I ask, who you gonna call? For years I've been asking the people who said we had options to explain what they were. History is branching rapidly, and soon you'll just go down on the books as a soap-bubble-blowing dreamer... No skin off my nose.

> I think it's perceived as a
> source of deep injustice.

It's certainly exploited as one. But perceptions are sometimes wrong, aren't they? It's a cruel facet of human nature: Those most oppressed (whether by men or blind forces) and least able to survive mistakes often have the worst judgment. See also, inner-city America.

> imagine the UN had granted
> North Carolina to the Jews

They almost have. According to one Israeli source, "19 anti-Israel resolutions are adopted by the General Assembly annually." Similar, well-substantiated statistics abound on the internet... But most troubling is your casual, grotesque fantasy that the UN might someday see fit to carve up one of the United States, and we'd have to think it over. Such a scenario would likely *not* involve "war": If the UN's ever fielded a fighting team worth resisting (without Anglo-American participation), I haven't heard about it. If you wanna see an Arab population overwhelm Western geography, go to France.

> You seem to think the Arabs are
> jealous of Israel's wealth.

Do you think the tensions in the region today are the product of righteous indignation over a 50-year-old, globally sanctioned, and essentially trivial land-grab displacing a few thousand Arabs? Have you noticed that the indignant seem to lack precisely the blessings that the Israelis hold in plenitude: Connectedness, industriousness, respect for women, law, thrift, and excellence?

> "...people are sheep."

No, they're shits. There's a difference.

Posted by: Crid at January 23, 2006 7:08 PM

Also, thanks for not making fun of the misspelling of "specious."

Posted by: Crid at January 23, 2006 7:16 PM

... exact line of text ... no, I did not quote you, but that's what you appeared to mean, and I don't see you denying it. On the contrary you say that the silent majority agrees with you.


The world doesn't run on cheap energy. The western world does, at a rate that is not globally feasible.


Who you gonna call? If the invading forces had had a plan for the peace, there would have been plenty local talent to call on. The Iraquis are not a bunch of ignorant savages. They had all the scientists, technicians, army, police, doctors and so on they needed; but we destroyed the infrastructure and allowed religious fundies and sectarians to move in, while we kept aloof. That was a big mistake. Without that mistake you would not have needed the Halliburtons ... hmmm. Surely that was a mistake? Dang, there go my suspicions again!


Yes, I'm a dreamer. I dream of lawful, constitutional, democratic government. In the US and the UK as in Iraq. No behind-the-scenes shenanigans.


As for Israel: no, I don't think righteous indignation is the cause. I do note you refer to a trivial land-grab. Perhaps it was not so trivial to the people involved. Globally sanctioned - I don't have the history to hand, but I'd guess that was by a majority vote rather than unanimous or even nem con.


Such a scenario would likely *not* involve "war": If the UN's ever fielded a fighting team worth resisting (without Anglo-American participation), I haven't heard about it. Quite so: that's my point. The US would not have stood for it and would have been well able to make their desires felt. The Arabs similarly didn't stand for it, but they didn't and don't yet have the military power to do much about it, especially if the US supports Israel financially and militarily.


But in short, are you saying the problem is that the Arabs are annoyed because they want what the Israelis have? And to express this anger, they want to destroy it, rather than improve their own condition?


For the avoidance of doubt: I'm not arguing that Israel should not exist, just trying to understand the anti-Israel point of view. And we haven't even considered the religious dimension: the significance of places like Jerusalem, or the religious right in the US.

Posted by: Norman at January 24, 2006 1:33 AM

> I don't see you denying it.

Well, show your cards. When you say "it", are you saying we went in to steal the oil, or maybe to suppress a market price? It's not true. We went into Iraq because oil is important. Saying "It's about oooiiiilll" with a snarky tone doesn't convey a clever, insightful cynicism, only a child's grasp of the obvious. Like I said, history's in motion, and it will go better for EVERYONE if that particular nation pulls its shit together. Don't you agree?

> The world doesn't run on cheap
> energy. The western world does...

First of all, the nations which aren't running well on cheap energy aren't running at all. Get out and see the planet outside of Amy's tidy Paris: Food sucks, people are mean and illiterate, and health care isn't happening.

Second, what do you mean "western world", Paleface? Zappa had a song called "Your Mouth Is Your Religion," which is another way of saying your life is your example to others. I sincerely wish everyone in China, India, Indonesia and every other shithole on the planet had the literacy and resources to live like I do (car, vacations, fresh fish for dinner, 80-yr life expectancy). Isn't that what you want for everybody, too? Morally, it's slam dunk. It's the practicalities that are under discussion here. And...

> at a rate that is not
> globally feasible.

Aw shux, let's give it a try! WE'RE NOT GOING TO RUN OUT OF OIL. And when we do, the price will go up so much that we'll have money for alternatives. People are smart, and markets are smarter still.

I hate it hate it hate it when a guy pretends that the whole world has one canteen to drink from, and it just happens to be in his hands, and he demonstrates his compassion for the thirsty masses by feeling really bad while he gulps. It's just not how things work.

> we destroyed the infrastructure...

No, we paid Saddam to do it for us; we were not aloof. The oil still isn't flowing like it ought to. Phone and electrical systems are frozen in 1967. Worst of all, he crippled the spirits of those doctors and technicians. THAT'S what's going to keep us there for decades, not the plumbing and roads.

> No behind-the-scenes
> shenanigans.

So you reject the Kissingerian realpolitik of President Bush/41's generation (CIA assassinations, United Nations chatter, etc.). Welcome aboard! President Bush/43 is glad to have your support in this historic effort to change the way business is done.

> Perhaps it was not so trivial
> to the people involved.

Certainly not... But are you saying Israel's earned the hatred of dozens of surrounding nations? Do you think their obsession is appropriate? I think it's insane and pathetic.

> The US would not have stood
> for it and would have been
> well able to make their
> desires felt.

Fine, let's shutter the UN and end the charade.

> are you saying the problem
> is that the Arabs...

The problem is... Well, see this article, linked by Den Beste years ago:

http://tinyurl.com/2gjv

> just trying to understand the
> anti-Israel point of view.

Given events in the last century, decent people are twitchy about the urge to "understand the anti-Israel point of view."

Posted by: Crid at January 24, 2006 2:51 AM

I think this thread is getting too long as we each answer and expand on each other, so I'm not going to answer you point by point, even though I disagree with much of what you say (or seem to be saying). Instead, I choose just one point and make a plea for constitutional government. (Not that it's in your power to grant my wish!) I looked at the Den Beste article, by the way - looks interesting, and I must read it more carefully.


Why is it important? When you have an organization that does not feel bound by the law, then it starts to do things which it feels are morally justified, and argues that the end justifies the means. To begin with this may be wonderful. The organization feels righteous, dynamic and powerful. It can set its world to rights, and like a wild west sheriff, knows in its heart what is right and what is wrong without needing any east coast lawyers to tell it.


But as time passes, such an organisation, not being bound by the law, finds that each extension of its power into a new area makes the next, further extension easier to stomach. There is nothing to stop it except its own sense of right and wrong, and that sense gets adapted to each new action.


As time passes the organization moves further away from norms of civilized behaviour and finds that more of its time is spent in maintaining its own existence than in doing what it originally set out to do. And it still feels morally justified in this.


In the end we have organizations such as the IRA which may have started off as freedom fighters but are now simply gangsters concerned with collecting money from various forms of vice and seeing off any threats to their continued existence. At least a democratic government can be thrown out at this point, but a self-appointed organisation like the IRA is hard to get rid of.


This is why I am in favour of constitutional government, and why it is important to pay attention to the law. This is why the UN is important: it is the only game in town when it comes to international law. Though goodness knows it is pretty feeble. It's also why the behaviour of the US in this world is especially important. The US acts like the above-mentioned sheriff, but won't take instruction from the town council. It's a slippery slope from sheriff to the black hat who runs the town. The only thing to stop you sliding down is adherence to the law.


You also asked me to show my cards. I'm not sure which cards these are, but you can note that I, too, lost a friend in one of the Twin Towers planes on 9/11, and that enough of my relatives were murdered by the Nazis for being Jewish to give me - born years after and never seen inside a synagogue - the occasional sleepless night. And I like Americans: brave, friendly, generous people I'm glad to share the planet with. Is that enough cards?

Posted by: Norman at January 24, 2006 1:03 PM

Threads are never too long. Even when nobody's reading, one's own clarity improves with writing. Disagreement is underated.

Constitutions are wonderful, so long as everyone's on board. But they're like DNA: They require context. Casual observers of science are too quick to say things like "This precious macromolecule contains ALL the information needed to produce a potato/hedgehog/Best Supporting Actor." Response to the environment make the miracle happen. There may be no words clever enough to rapidly calm a place like Iraq.

> I'm not sure which cards
> these are...

The ones that make you say "oil" three times in a sentence. You were trying to make a point....

Posted by: Crid at January 24, 2006 1:42 PM

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