Memo To: Website Fans, Browsers, Clients
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: A Few Differences and My Responses
In my “Hawk/Dove” Q&A on Iraq, which was posted here in the last two days, I agreed that there could be quibbles about my answers to the questions I posed. I’ve gotten several screeds about how I should be shot as a traitor for “defending a monster,” but serious readers know the format did not call for a defense of Saddam Hussein. I merely posed questions and supplied answers, and even said I understood there could be quibbles about my answers. The exercise is designed to see the situation as it really is, as close as possible to fact and as far from propaganda. Here are a few serious quibbles:
David Gitlitz: I know you think you've cleverly disposed of the WMD issue by suggesting the technical definition is limited to nukes, but that's just nonsense. We know he had stocks of CBW at the time the last inspection regime ended in '98, and he's done nothing to document their destruction. His "declaration" last month was a total fraud, and even Blix this week was forced to acknowledge the obvious. Are we running the risk that whatever he's got now he'll be more likely to use in the event of attack? Yes. But I've become convinced that his intransigence and unwillingness to come clean makes that risk worth bearing in order to rid the planet of the threat he poses. Again, it's not an easy call, but from my perspective it's the least bad of the available options.
Wanniski: Saddam never had stocks of chemical or biological weapons of mass destruction. I'm not being cute by saying nukes and chem/bio are different. You could have a chem/bio weapon of mass destruction if you figured out how to "weaponize" anthrax or VX or botullin, but Iraq never did. It used mustard gas and tear gas, but these are not weapons of mass destruction, and in fact we produced the mortar shells they bought in the Iran/Iraq war to fire the mustard gas. The Army War College says the kill rate on battlefield gas is about 2% and is not really used to kill, but to disrupt human wave attacks by disorienting the opposing force. The U.S. attempted to weaponize anthrax and other serious kill agents in the 1960s at Fort Detrick, but Nixon ended all that, and the work done since was to defend against an enemy chem/bio attack.
This is why Scott Ritter has argued that since 1997 Iraq has been qualitatively disarmed. They may have some remnants on some shelf or arms dump, but the gases have all degraded by now. You only need a little bit of anthrax to grow lots of it pretty quickly, but Iraq never figured out how to weaponize it. And you can't kill lots and lots of people by sending spores through the mail. When Bush last night talked about the thousands of liters of anthrax unaccounted for, he was obviously talking about liquid anthrax, which can only kill you if you drink it. On the nuke stuff, Bush last night threw around a lot of scary stuff, but each point had already been blown out of the water by IAEA's Baradei the day before. It was as if Bush's speechwriters did not watch the UNMOVIC/IAEA report on television.
I would be a bigtime hawk if I believed Saddam was a real threat to anyone these days, or that he could be in the future. But he is toothless. If we go to war with nothing but Bush being mad at Saddam for trying to kill his pop, a great many people will be killed. The consequences would be horrendous for the world economy, for a long long time.
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Major Bill Marcellino, U.S. Marine Corp, took issue with Q. 13. The reason the United States and its coalition allies only lost 143 troops in the Gulf War is that the Iraqi army was ill-equipped, demoralized, and did not put up a fight. True or False.
False. The Iraqi army had been ordered to withdraw and it only provided a cover for retreat. Its conscripts suffered heavy casualties as the coalition forces fired upon the retreating army in what became known as “the turkey shoot.”
Marcellino: The point is that U.S. forces are ultra-professional, to the point where no one, no country in the whole world, can fight symmetrically against us. There is no country or coalition of countries that could fight us symmetrically. If it's rifles and tanks and planes, any country of combination of countries against us, it's a turkey shoot.
Wanniski: Of course we all know there were serious firefights between the Iraqi army and the U.S. army in the three days of war. The fact remains that before Desert Storm began, Iraq had tried to "give up," in the sense that Tariq Aziz had told Gorbachev in Moscow that Iraq would leave Kuwait forthwith, without conditions. President Bush was persuaded by Cheney and Scowcroft that it was too late to accept that kind of deal, and that the Iraqis had to be driven out of Kuwait, not just walk out after all the trouble they had caused. Every Iraqi soldier knew they would only be fighting to cover retreat. If there had been a real engagement, there would have many more U.S. casualties. The U.S. soldiers in the field were of course unaware of Iraq's decision to leave Kuwait.
Dick Fox: You have to be kidding. Iraq said they would leave Kuwait, but they didn't. We had to push them out. They even set up defensive positions along the coast long after Aziz talked with Gorbachev. They didn't need our permission to invade, so why did they need our permission to leave?
Wanniski: I am not trying to say President Bush was wrong in deciding to expel Iraq by force. The reason for his doing so when he was advised that Saddam was finally prepared to leave Kuwait without conditions were respectable. Colin Powell actually recommended that Bush give Iraq 24 hours to get out of Kuwait, knowing that could not be done. I’m saying that the Gulf War would almost certainly been bloodier for all sides if Iraq had not decided to withdraw, but to dig in. If there is now an invasion of Iraq by the United States, the Iraqi army is more likely to dig in, which would lead to a much bloodier conflict on both sides, with civilians bearing the greatest burden as the fighting would take place in the cities, with the Iraqis in a defensive position. Our military experts certainly agree with this position.