Iraq, Downer, Rudd, and a really positive story to end on

As we know it is ten years now since Shock and Awe and Alexander Downer, Foreign Minister at the time, has weighed in with a self-justifying set of reminiscences: Even with hindsight the Iraq war was the best option for all concerned.

Second, there is the issue of chemical and biological weapons. These days it’s fashionable to proclaim Hussein didn’t have any. The whole issue of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction arose not because poor old Saddam was some benign and misunderstood gentleman, but because he did have these weapons and he used them. He used them against the Iranians in the Iran/Iraq war which he started.

After the Iraq war, the unit charged with the task of finding Hussein’s stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons – known as the Iraq Survey Group – found none. The assumption is that the regime had destroyed its stockpiles sometime between 1992 and 2003. That remains an unanswered question. The UN inspectors were never happy this had happened. Nor were Western and Israeli intelligence agencies.

But what the Iraq Survey Group did find was that Hussein planned to reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction programs once the UN inspection team had been sent packing. Had that happened, the Middle East would have been a much more dangerous place than it already is.

Not quite how I recall it.  I certainly blogged about it a lot but, alas, on the doomed Diary-X, almost all of which has disappeared for ever. Frustratingly there IS a list!

  • Monday March 31, 2003 The Canon fires a salvo…
  • Sunday March 30, 2003 Ho-hum… –** Still readable!
  • Saturday March 29, 2003 Rabbit returns; Ninglun raves about War but promises not to for a while…
  • Thursday March 27, 2003 Glebe 1981-1984: 4
  • Wednesday March 26, 2003 Concerning Mr Rabbit, Iraq and other matters.
  • Tuesday March 25, 2003 Ninglun muses.
  • Monday March 24, 2003 6 out of ten, perhaps?
  • Sunday March 23, 2003 Not on Iraq (includes recipe for Vegetarian Eight Treasures)
  • Friday March 22, 2003 Some well-chosen words on Iraq
  • Thursday March 20, 2003 Wartime Economy Entry
  • Wednesday March 19, 2003 Glebe 1981-1984: 3
  • Tuesday March 18, 2003 Alphabetical and visual
  • Monday March 17, 2003 Golden oldie
  • Sunday March 16, 2003 Bosie and Oscar at Cafe Max
  • Saturday March 15, 2003 Entry dedicated to cuteness and silliness
  • Friday, March 14 2003: Rabbit yesterday, rabid today?
  • Thursday, March 13 2003: Honouring Mister Rabbit
  • Wednesday, March 12 2003:Let’s get cynical 😉
  • Tuesday, March 11 2003: Glebe 1981-1984: 2
  • Monday, March 10 2003: Certainty is a curse — you can be sure of that 😉
  • Sunday, March 09 2003: Glebe 1981-1984: 1
  • Friday, March 07 2003: The 80s and a really good rant (not mine)
  • Wednesday, March 05 2003: Surry Hills is like that…
  • Tuesday, March 04 2003: Well may they say God Save the Queen…
  • Sunday, March 02 2003: Alexandra Road 1977-1978: 2
  • Saturday, March 01 2003: To be or not to be…
  • No, don’t bother. They are lost. All but one:

    It is a very quiet Sunday; indeed, in terms of human contact it has been a very quiet week. I haven’t actually seen anyone since a brief visit by M last Tuesday, and haven’t spoken to anyone outside work (and the people in the coffee shops — The Coffee Roaster opened at 7 am this morning, having forgotten about Daylight Saving ending) since Wednesday. I could have gone to the pub today, I guess, but the trouble is I am not really all that fond of pubs. Too often one is in fact talking to drunks who are, by nature, incredibly boring. Further, I do not feel like venturing far, and the pubs where I am likely to find friends or acquaintances are not all that close.

    So I am having a quiet one and actually wondering whether I enjoy the solitude. At times I do; at other times I don’t. I guess one needs to get used to it.

    Yesterday I could have had lunch with my friends Nina and Trevor, but their visit to Sydney was on a Saturday when I have to work, so that was ruled out. I am taking a short break from coaching in a few weeks, not doing any in the school (Easter) holidays: the kids don’t need it and nor do I…

    And I note that I had dinner with David Flint, among others, on May 23, 2003

    Back to Iraq. Late in 2002 I had read Scott Ritter, and more, and despite the subsequent issues with him (and his dick) I still think he got a lot right. Put it this way, his work of that period is rather less embarrassing than Blair’s Dodgy Dossier, still available as a PDF. Around the time I was also impressed by  the classic Four Corners American Dreamers, by the material coming from the Carnegie Institute – check what they say now, by Phyllis Bennis, and later in 2003 by Bridges, Bombs, or Bluster? by Madeleine Albright:

    Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.

    There are only two powers now in the world. One is America, which is tyrannical and oppressive. The other is a warrior who has not yet been awakened from his slumber and that warrior is Islam.

    Make no mistake about it: the choice for sure is between two visions of the world.

    Few readers will fail to identify the first quotation cited above: it was uttered by President George W. Bush, speaking soon after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Few readers, similarly, will be surprised to learn that the second quote came from a Sunni Muslim cleric in Baghdad, Imam Mouaid al-Ubaidi. The third quote, however, may be a bit harder to identify: it was spoken by French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, describing the different world views now held by Washington and Paris. And it should remind us that not everyone divides the world along the same lines as the United States.

    Framing choices is central to national security policy. Since World War II, no nation has played a more influential role in defining such alternatives than the United States. Today, however, the Bush administration purports to be redefining the fundamental choice “every nation, in every region” must make. America’s radical adversaries — eager to promote themselves as the United States’ chief nemeses — are echoing the attempt. Those caught in the middle, however, suggest the choices before them may not be quite so simple.

    For President Bush, September 11 came as a revelation, leading him to the startled conclusion that the globe had changed in ways gravely hazardous to the security — indeed, the very survival — of the United States. This conclusion soon led Bush to a fateful decision: to depart, in fundamental ways, from the approach that has characterized U.S. foreign policy for more than half a century. Soon, reliance on alliance had been replaced by redemption through preemption; the shock of force trumped the hard work of diplomacy, and long-time relationships were redefined

    See also from The Atlantic in 2004 Weapons of Misperception:  Kenneth M. Pollack, the author of “Spies, Lies, and Weapons: What Went Wrong,” explains how the road to war with Iraq was paved with misleading and manipulated intelligence.

    Based on a review of the available information and on his knowledge from time spent as an analyst for the CIA and as a member of the National Security Council for two terms, Pollack now believes that experts and observers the world over were seriously mistaken regarding Iraq. After a period in 1994-1995 during which key discoveries, defections, and disclosures revealed the extent of Iraq’s continued efforts to obtain weapons of mass destruction, Saddam may have recognized the degree to which those programs were hindering his efforts to get sanctions lifted. At this point, Pollack argues, Saddam likely reduced his programs and destroyed his weapons, retaining only a very limited research-and-development capability while ensuring that teams of scientists were kept together, in anticipation of one day restarting the programs.

    If this is indeed what happened, how did the world, and particularly the world’s top intelligence agencies, miss such a crucial turn of events? The simple answer, Pollack suggests, is that we never considered the possibility. The intelligence community made what might be called an “informed misperception”—based on what was known about Saddam, it was reasonable to assume that he would never willingly give up his weapons. After the UN inspectors were withdrawn from Iraq in 1998, any information the intelligence agencies received was colored by the unchecked belief that Saddam would continue to pursue weapons whatever the cost. Without inspectors on the ground, the agencies were forced to rely more heavily on defectors’ reports for information on Saddam’s programs—many of which now seem to be false.

    Pollack does not suggest, however, that the seemingly false pretenses under which the U.S. entered Iraq were all, or even mostly, the intelligence community’s fault. His most scathing criticism falls on the Bush Administration and, particularly, its tendency to misstate the facts of the case when trying to persuade the country to go to war. In his eyes, the Administration consistently engaged in “creative omission,” overstating the imminence of the Iraqi threat, even though it had evidence to the contrary. “The President is responsible for serving the entire nation,” Pollack writes. “Only the Administration has access to all the information available to various agencies of the U.S. government—and withholding or downplaying some of that information for its own purposes is a betrayal of that responsibility.”

    Kenneth Pollack is the director of research at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. He was an Iran-Iraq military analyst for the CIA, and the director of Persian Gulf Affairs and Near East and South Asian Affairs for the National Security Council.

    See my links page from my former Geocities site for more of what I was reading at the time. Among them I note an earlier version of Sourcewatch. Worth reviewing is Weapons of mass destruction.

    So I don’t think I can accept Alexander Downer as settling the matter at all.

    Quickly referring to the extremely odd behaviour of the Labor Party in recent times, I do find I can accept much that Paul Sheehan says in the first three-quarters of his article today: PM in snake pit with no antivenom. Compare How ‘Chicken Kev’ has left Labor on its knees by Tim Soutphommasane.

    …as my colleague Nick Dyrenfurth has argued in these pages, Labor’s best hope in this year’s election may just be to lose with some dignity and honour. Like a footy team deep in the fourth quarter looking at a heavy loss, it may just have to continue doing its best to make the margin respectable. Good teams don’t abandon discipline in some deluded belief they can still win when they can’t. They know when they have to be content with winning back some respect.

    So it is, now, with Labor. The grand old party of Australian politics is losing not just the respect of the electorate, it is quickly losing its self-respect. Coming back from here will not be easy.

    Sad but true, I fear. Compare Jim Belshaw’s An odd post – why the ALP will, must, recover.

    Now for uplift.

    In 2007 I posted Three uplifting stories and Teacher Pride Rules!  In the latter I wrote:

    That’s for Dorothy Hoddinott, and every other teacher I have known — the good the bad and the ugly — from Cronulla to Wollongong to The Mine, down to the latest recruits carrying on the job, like Aluminium and The Rabbit.

    I haven’t heard from “Aluminium” lately but I do know The Rabbit’s teaching goes from strength to strength and he looks fairly set to outdo me.

    Dorothy I met through ESL circles.  There is a great story on her in today’s Herald.

    One morning earlier this month, Dorothy Hoddinott left Wollongong at the crack of dawn to drive back to Sydney. The Holroyd High School principal had been attending a conference but was determined to make it back in time to see one of her former students graduate from university.

    Zainab Kaabi finished high school 11 years ago. But her personal accomplishment was also an exceptionally proud and significant moment for her mentor and former principal.

    Not only did Hoddinott once willingly add $9000 to her personal credit cards to secure her student a place at university. But the young asylum seeker inspired her to set up a trust fund in her name, which has since expanded to support refugee students studying in public high schools and universities across the state.

    The Friends of Zainab trust fund was established when, in her final year of high school, Zainab Kaabi told Hoddinott she would have to drop out because, as she was now an adult, she would no longer be eligible for her welfare payments under the conditions of her temporary protection visa.

    Hoddinott recalls telling her ”I’m not going to let you leave school, you’re too good. Sorry but you’re a scholarly girl.”

    She contacted everyone she knew for donations and set up the trust fund, allowing her to remain at school.

    The donations continued to support her through a bachelor of medical sciences at Macquarie University and a bachelor of pharmacy at Sydney University…

    See also Holroyd High School.