December 22, 2005

The Interview X2

A while back I contacted two bloggers, two military veterans, one from the left side of the political spectrum, one from the right, one was a marine lawyer, one jumped out of airplanes in the army, these two men agreed to answer some of my questions. Question 1 is here. These are their answers unedited, raw, and real. Please enjoy.

The Iraq question.

On March 20, 2003 did you feel as though we were entering into a necessary conflict? On December 1, 2005 do you still feel the same way. If you were Commander in Chief what would be your plan of execution to end this conflict.

Buzzwords - To ponder

Iraq / Al Quaeda
Stay the Course
Troop Withdrawal
Slam Dunk
Terrorist Regime
Body Armor
Abu Ghraib
Justified War

Daisy Cutter the conservative side of this debate answered the preceding question below.

On March 20, 2003, did I believe we were entering into a necessary conflict? Absolutely. And I think it would have been irresponsible, in light of the evidence and history, to NOT take down Saddam's Iraq.

Less than a year-and-a-half after 9/11, we were still being run in circles by Saddam Hussein. Why wouldn't he allow weapons inspectors to do their jobs? The whole world had agreed for many years that he possessed weapons of mass destruction. At home, politicians of both American political parties agreed on this point. Again, this was a national consensus held for many years. In fact, I think this is why Pres. Clinton ostensibly sent in his air strikes in 1998 ... unless one believes he did it to deflect attention from his legal troubles.

But the analysis of war with Iraq involved and involves more fundamental changes in America's relationship to the world. In the wake of 9/11, America could not afford to wait for the next attack. The country would not permit it. Nor should the country permit it. The risks were and remain too great, and a saber-rattling dictator in the Middle East could not be tolerated. And we knew that Saddam not only would rattle the saber but that he would, from time to time, attack both his own people (with chemical weapons, no less) and his neighbors.

As should have been painfully obvious to all concerned, Militant Islamists had declared war on us as of the start of the Iraq War... actually, they had done so long prior to 9/11. Although the WH speaks in politically correct terms about the threat posed by Militant Islam, I think they realized what was going on. To say that there is no "operational connection" between Iraq and the jihadis who planned and carried out 9/11 is to miss the point. The point is: The conflict with Iraq arose in the context of a larger war with Militant Islam.

In my view, I think that most people who oppose the Iraq War either fail to understand the larger war with Militant Islamists or they are not on America's side in this war.

On Saddam's connections to terror, this we know: He harbored terrorists ... i.e., Leon Klinghoffer's murderer, Ansar al-Islam, he paid for suicide bombers to attack Israel. He was a source of instability in the region for many years. (If you don't want to take my "word" for it, read a good liberal like Christopher Hitchens) And ... to say we should have dealt with him sooner is to say what? That the Clinton Administration was negligent? To say that we couldn't do more than had been done is to prove the ineffectiveness of the U.N., is it not?

Do I still support the war? Before getting to my answer, let me first look at this question and then describe a bit of my disappointment with the Bush Administration. What most people are asking when they ask this question is: Since we haven't found WMD and we have lost more than 2,000 troops, was it worth it? Well, like many, I was surprised that we didn't find more evidence of WMDs. We certainly found some, but not what virtually all (including the French and Russians) expected. I will note here, too, that the failure to find large stockpiles of WMD raises still other questions for me, such as: Since we know Saddam had them ... where are they? And how could the world have been so wrong? How do we make sure our intelligence capabilities are what they need to be?

The Leftists who continue to argue that the Administration lied or manipulated intelligence are themselves lying. We know that, in fact, the PBDs that Pres. Bush was receiving painted an even darker picture in Iraq than the intelligence reports given to Congress. And the Brits incidentally still stand by their Niger report.

However, I do think the Bush Administration probably didn't fully anticipate all of the difficulties we would encounter in a post-Saddam Iraq. For sure, they failed to make the case early on (except in trite platitudes) regarding the difficulties ahead and also the importance of a stable Iraq that could defend itself from the jihadi threat. This is a great frustration for me, as I believe much can and should be said to rally public support in the larger struggle against Militant Islamists.

Here is my punch line, though: Taking down Saddam remains just as right today as it was on March 20, 2003. The world is better off, and we have seen the ripple effects in Lebanon, Libya, and throughout the region. To say America is making a positive difference in Iraq is hardly some fringe right-wing position ... unless you consider people like Joe Lieberman, Christopher Hitchens, and Ed Koch to be fringe right-wingers. Whether democracy will ultimately work there remains to be seen, but it is important that the Iraqi government is not a source of instability and anti-American hatred.

Note, too, that Hillary is uncomfortable with what the Demo base is demanding -- immediate withdrawal. How come? What does she know about the American public and the war that the Demo base fails to grasp?

Another important aspect to the war ... In Iraq we are delivering an important message to the jihadis in the country and elsewhere: We won't wait for you to come after us any more. We will find you. We will do what we say we will do, including the dirty work of clearing jihadis house to house. It is hard to overstate the importance of confronting and proving wrong the jihadi template that Americans are soft, weak infidels. Let's face it: These are evil people we are fighting, and they want to expand their influence and control. Their ignorance of America and the modern world is breathtaking. For instance, the jihadis selectively recall the Somalia experience as an example of American vacillation and weakness. America has been shattering this template over the last three years.

On criticizing the war ... If I didn't support the war effort, I wouldn't be saying much about it. Why? It's hard to know the point ... I mean, what is the idea? It looks like the Left just wants to use the war as a vehicle for political gain, and in particular to damage Pres. Bush. And to those who loudly argue that our troops' mission is based on a lie and is accomplishing no good purpose ... what the hell is the purpose of such rhetoric? It sounds treasonous and it emboldens the enemy. And such arguments have a tangible, negative effect on our troops. This is why they overwhelmingly want the American people to be behind what they are doing, that is, to support their mission. Wars are won with young troops whose morale and esprit de corps are critical to their success. The time for debating whether we should be involved in military action in Iraq ended when the enemy started putting bullets down range. Sure, people have a right to speak. And I do, too. And I will remind them that their words and actions are increasing the likelihood that young Americans will get killed. Intentions are irrelevant here. Words and actions have consequences.

When you have to check to see if a statement was made by Kennedy or Zarqawi, you know we have a problem.

I do think it's appropriate to debate and discuss how we achieve the biggest, swiftest, and most complete victory. But how come the Left doesn't want to discuss this, though? How come, Jess, the questions are always something like yours: "Do you support the war?" ... "Should we get out?" I think such a view is defeatist and irresponsible. Almost all of our troops in Iraq agree, as well. Unlike me, a former military guy whose thoughts are no more worthy of consideration than any one's on this subject, I do think the views of the men kicking in the doors in Iraq is very relevant as to how polticians are affecting their morale.

It seems funny to me, too, that people want to elevate the opinions of former military types like Murtha, Kerry, and McCain to "super opinion" status, but they won't listen to the troops who are actually engaged in battle. What gives? The troops in battle disagree with the Left, that's what.

One more point/question about military status: What difference does it make that I am former member of the military? The foregoing opinions draw upon my experiences to a degree, and thus have some credibility to this extent. But I don't believe that my service entitles me to some "super opinion" status. This is a mistake that the Left routinely makes now, I think, because they can't substantively defend their position. People such as Kerry, Murtha, and even McCain are afforded 'untouchable" status simply because of their service. This is wrong. Opinions should stand on their own. McCain, Murtha, Kerry, et al., have no idea of what needs to be done on the ground in Iraq. Their confident pronouncements of various battle plans (all of which are different, interestingly enough) proves my point. I trust the field commanders. They have all the information, and the expertise.

You asked me what I would do as commander-in-chief. As for the actual fighting of the war, this is a matter to be left to the commanders on the ground. At home, though, I would make the case every day about what is at stake and how we are fighting Militant Islamists. I would highlight their atrocities (which are legion) and our military successes. I would also pressure the Muslim world to take a firm stand against Zarqawi, al Qaeda, et al. The stakes, the reality of the situation in Iraq, and the tangible progress need to be discussed and explained to people much more effectively. This is the one thing in particular I would like to see the Bush Adminstration do much better.

When the American people are unified, we always win ... and big.

The Iraq question.

On March 20, 2003 did you feel as though we were entering into a necessary conflict? On December 1, 2005 do you still feel the same way. If you were Commander in Chief what would be your plan of execution to end this conflict.

Buzzwords - To ponder

Iraq / Al Quaeda
Stay the Course
Troop Withdrawal
Slam Dunk
Terrorist Regime
Body Armor
Abu Ghraib
Justified War

Travis from Rainstorm the Progressive side of this debate answered the preceding question below.

Four things came together to take America to war in Iraq. Think of it as the Perfect Storm of bad decisions.

First, there were the Iraqi expatriates, led by Ahmed Chalabi. Chalabi is a huckster of the highest order, who would (and did) tell any lie to get America to invade Iraq, topple Saddam, and hand the country over to him. The lies he fed into America's intelligence community formed the basis of the mythical Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Second were the neo-cons: the boys from the Project for the New American Century. Brought into key positions within the Bush administration, they were determined to use America's status as the only remaining superpower to exert America's will on the rest of the world. There focus was the middle east for 3 reasons: First, OIL. Second, they viewed Israel as America's only real ally in the region and were determined to eliminate any potential threats to Israel. And third, they could not stand the fact that Saddam was still in power, thumbing his nose at America. Among the many downsides of having the neo-cons (who had no military experience, what so ever) making defense policies was their willingness to commit American troops to combat without fully understanding the implications of those decisions. Thus we got (then) Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz saying that there is no ethnic strife in Iraq, and publicly undercutting (then) Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki's estimates for how many troops the commanders on the ground would need to win the peace.

Third, the desire to remove Saddam led to the selective use some intelligence products (especially those from Chalabi and the other expatriates from the Iraqi National Congress), to the exclusion of those that did not support invading Iraq. This "cherry picking" of intelligence produced bad decisions, both about going to war in Iraq, and about what to do once Saddam's regime was toppled. While members of Congress supported giving the president the authority to invade, they did so based on the intelligence they were given by the administration. Congress did not have the luxury of choosing only the the information that supported their agenda. The Bush administration did.

Vice-president Cheney, who certainly knew better - since he was the bull goose of the cherry pickers - led the way in lying to the American people to make the case for war. But there was plenty of culpability to go around for pushing both the WMD fable, and the myth about ties between Saddam and al Qaida (remember Condi saying that we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud).

Finally, 9-11 created an environment in which a president completely unqualified to lead a nation in time of war was given the political capital to do so. The Bush administration has been characterized by some who served in it (some who served in several administrations, both Republican and Democrat) as always placing politics ahead of policy. Consequently, tough questions about the consequences for American troops in Iraq if the rosy scenarios painted by the neo-cons didn't pan out were never asked. And they apparently never crossed the mind of the one person who should have been asking them, George W. Bush.

In what may be remembered as perhaps the understatement of the conflict, Army Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, who served under Paul Bremer in the Coalition Provisional Authority, was quoted in Inside Defense as saying U.S. officials "made a lot of bad assumptions" that continue to plague coalition efforts "to this day."

I think that whether the U.S. pulls out of Iraq next year or sometime later won't matter much to the future of Iraq, (though it certainly will matter to the friends and family members of those who are killed or crippled between now and then). When its all over, Iraq will revert to more or less the 3 piece of real estate that the Brits cobbled together early in the previous century. The Kurds are already autonomous and have been for a dozen years or so. The Sunnis and Shiites are going to figure out how to divide the rest of the country and the oil that's under it.

The only thing that is keeping the U.S. in Iraq is a president who can't admit that he made a very bad mistake.

Question 3 is to be written by you. Leave suggestions in comments. I will pick one and we will ask the boys.

Posted by Jess at December 22, 2005 10:55 AM | TrackBack

For Daisy,

"Less than a year-and-a-half after 9/11, we were still being run in circles by Saddam Hussein. Why wouldn't he allow weapons inspectors to do their jobs?"

"still" run in circles?

Why is this significant? Why the linkage of Saddam and 11Sep?

and, according to two different sets of weapons inspectors, Saddam was indeed allowing them access, as much as a sovereign ruler can. It was the UN that pulled those inspectors finally when it was obvious to the most casual observer that the moron was going to take us to war, common sense or no.

Posted by: Sky-Ho at December 19, 2005 12:29 PM

Thanks for stopping in Skyh-Ho. I am sure DC will be by to give you his answer soon. He stops by quite a bit during these interviews.

Posted by: jess @ at December 19, 2005 01:13 PM


The mention of Saddam's refusal to allow access in the wake of 9-11 is impt. because of the point I made in my post: We had to evaluate threats differently after 9-11 and not take the chance, given his history of aggression, flaunting of the civilized world, connections to militant Islamic terror, usage of chemical weapons previously, and his statements vis-a-vis the U.S. There is also the point of the Iraq conflict arising within the larger war on Militant Islam, as I discussed above.

Every time the inspectors were there, they got the "guided" tour. I guess you trust Saddam. Uh, I don't think I do. Maybe you trust Saddam more than GWB. Do you?

What do you make of what happened before GWB was president? Was all of that made up, too? Was Clinton wrong? Why was regime change American policy before GWB? Why did we bomb Iraq in 1998?

I note your empathy for the brutal tyrant Saddam ... he allowed access "as much as a sovereign ruler can" ... as juxtaposed to your antipathy for our elected president ... the "moron".

History didn't start when GWB was inaugurated. You need to get over Pres. Bush. He can only serve two terms. But by the time he stops making a fool of the Left about how the Iraq War is going to turn out, though, he will end up being some one who could get elected to a third term. Watch.

I know this pains you, but the bottom line for most of you anti-war types is simple: You don't like GWB. You give yourself away by the way you framed your question.

Posted by: dc at December 19, 2005 02:16 PM

Okay, I decided to take mine to the extreme and bring up, point for point the Iraqi War Resolution. Each paragraph has been translated to fit my opinions. I'd been wanting to do it for sometime and hope it fits the format close enough.

Iraq war Resolution:

My pontification:

I still stick by my beliefs that this was not entirely about WMD, but several other factors as well. Yes, freeing the Iraqi people is actually in the resolution. If you don't believe me you can check it out for yourself. It was never an afterthought.

Posted by: Jeremy H. Bol at December 20, 2005 12:34 AM


Noted your hatred for the President and anyone who agrees with him and his policy of defending the United States.

But that asid, You disagree with the war and how it was started, but that can't be changed now, can it ?

So does this mean, NOW you are going to support your country, the country you live in, and support our country in a time of war and hope to God we are victorious ?

Or on the other hand are you going to support the enemies of this country just because your dishonorably discharged , traitorous candidate did not win the election.

Posted by: Mark at December 21, 2005 12:25 PM

Can you sue someone for derogatory comments that are left about me on a website. I feel as if I am going to cry.

Do you feel as if Bill Clinton is the best president like ever.

Posted by: Steve Bozell at December 23, 2005 06:35 PM

Like, ever? Well, like, ohmygawd. No way, Padilla.

I served under four different Presidents. Didn't agree with any of them all the time, but thought that each was worthy of my respect as my commader in chief.

To answer your question, Clinton did good things and stood up under a barrage of wingnut bullshit. But for greatness, I like war time presidents who left America better off for their conduct in office, the ways they faced adversity, and for America's standing with other nations when they left office. Both FDR and Lincoln come to mind.

Posted by: Travis Jefferson at December 24, 2005 04:07 PM
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