Quite a lot of people are upset about this:
Starting in 2004, some members of the George W. Bush administration and Republican lawmakers began to find evidence of discarded chemical weapons in Iraq. But when the information was brought up with the White House, senior adviser Karl Rove told them to “let these sleeping dogs lie.”
The issue of Iraq’s WMD remnants was suddenly thrust back into the fore this week, with a blockbuster New York Times report accusing the Bush administration of covering up American troops’ chemically induced wounds.
To people familiar with the issue, both inside that administration and outside, the blame for the coverup falls on one particular set of shoulders: Rove’s…
I was listening a little to Rush today and he was clearly flabbergasted about it. While we did not find in 2003-2004 the sort of active, WMD program that global intelligence services said would be there, it is clear from recent reports that Saddam had, indeed, quite a lot of WMDs and WMD-related materials. The fact of the matter is, of course, that Saddam wasn’t supposed to have so much as a spark-plug which could be WMD-related – per the 1991 Gulf War cease fire and various UN resolutions, every last bit of it was supposed to be removed and destroyed from Saddam’s domain. It is absolutely certain, now, that this was not done – Saddam secreted quite a lot of chemical weapons and various components for WMD programs. This, and this alone, gave sufficient moral and legal justification for the resumption of hostilities between the United States and Saddam’s regime in 2003. The whole liberal narrative about the war – that we faked evidence of WMDs in order to start a war in order to enrich Cheney’s buddies at Haliburton (and, really, this is what the left thinks the war was all about) – is false. Stupidly false, too.
Liberals will just keep on with their narrative as they never let facts get in the way of a good (for liberals) narrative, but quite a lot of criticism over these new revelations (which really aren’t all that new, of course; they are just being noticed, now, in the MSM) is coming from the right – condemnations of Karl Rove for not getting the Bush Administration to front-and-center this information, especially in the 2005-2006 time frame, when it could have proved crucial to resetting the political battlefield – a battlefield which ultimately went disastrously bad for the GOP in 2006 and 2008, largely on the strength of the liberals’ false narrative about the campaign in Iraq (to me, it wasn’t Katrina that wrecked the Bush Administration credibility – though the false narrative in that event played a big role – but, rather, it was the insertion into the American mind that Bush et al had lied about Saddam’s WMD that did the damage). Why, the question is being asked, did Rove drop the ball on this one? Why did he, so the accusation go, keep this information quiet? The allegation from other political players at the time is that Rove felt we had already lost the battle over WMDs and it was better not to stir things up, and so as evidence of WMDs piled up – and American soldiers were injured by said WMDs – a lid was kept on things. Why?
I can’t read Rove’s mind so I don’t know – if Rove gives comment on it, then those comments can be weighed in light of accumulated evidence. But here’s what I think really caused the problem:
The fundamental flaws in Bush Administration policy regarding the war were two:
1. A failure to clearly identify radical Islam as a problem.
To be sure, the Bush Administration was more clear about this than the Obama Administration, but even Bush Administration people – and President Bush – were out there routinely declaring that Islam means peace and essentially making it clear that there was no fundamental problem within Islam that needed to be addressed.
2. Following upon that, there was no strategic plan to completely remake the Muslim world.
As we couldn’t fault Islam, itself, so we couldn’t craft a plan which would have us knock down all known generators of the problem within Islam. We curtailed our efforts. We stopped at the Iraqi border and clearly never thought about marching in to Syria or Iran (two prime makers of radical Islam), but we also refused to cut our ties with the Saudis who provided lavish funding directly to Islamic groups who preached hatred, and indirectly (along with many other oil-rich Arabian States) actually funded Jihadist groups.
Hamstrung as we were, I can see Rove’s position: the only thing that was wanted, especially from 2006 onwards, was a successful conclusion to Iraq. Bush and team managed to accomplish that, but as the real problem was never addressed and all political activity had been exhausted on just getting to victory in Iraq, there was nothing left over, really, for the larger issue. Re-fighting the WMD issue would have been a waste of time – and, in fact, counter-productive. Of course, in reality, fighting the WMD issue the first time was a waste of time – and counter productive. We never should have bothered with such nonsense. We did it primarily because it was felt – incorrectly – that we needed a broad, international coalition and some sort of UN approval (and it was vital to get UN approval – or at least attempt to – in order to get Britain on board). We dithered around with that and got caught up in a side-show: whether or not Saddam had WMDs. Well, he did. And I remain convince that he had a lot more, but it was moved out of his territory by other, concerned actors during the period between our first demands and the many, many months which passed in trivial, useless action with the UN.
So, don’t fault Rove for silence on Iraqi WMDs – as a political operative, he was doing what was necessary to achieve a narrow, political goal: garner enough support to see us through to the end in Iraq. It wasn’t his job to set national policy – that was President Bush’s. Here is where I fault him – though, of course, partially with hindsight. While I’ve always felt that the reason for going into Iraq was for the larger, strategic necessity of changing the Middle East in a fundamental way, I did believe that if we could secure a reasonable regime in Iraq, we could provide an alternative to the Muslim people and they would cease to listen to the purveyors of hatred and war. I’m not so sure, today, that even if Obama had continued Bush’s policies in Iraq that this would have come to pass. It might have – and we certainly should have tried – but the more I see of radical Islam, the more convinced I become that only a really sound thrashing from one end of the Muslim world to the other will convince the Muslim people that they’d better get on board with stamping on the jihadists. This is not, by the way, because I think that most Muslims like the jihadists (I think most Muslims despise the beheaders and enslavers), but because I think that most Muslims are deathly afraid of the jihadists. And rightly so, as we’ve seen with the ISIS barbarians – our actions would be to show that if you sign on with us, we’ll be there for you as long as needed and we’ll ensure that the jihadists are never able to triumph.
We’ve pretty much lost the war right now. Iraq is a disaster, Syria is a disaster, Iran is triumphant and Afghanistan will go back to the Taliban within weeks of our withdrawal, from what I can see. The jihadists are strong and feeling stronger and the people of the Muslim world who don’t like the jihadists look out and see absolutely no one around the world who will come to their aid…so, they mostly just go along to get along and hope that not too many of their sons and daughters fall victim to the jihadists. We will, though, eventually have to get back into this war and win it – savagery like ISIS simply cannot be allowed to stand…and the longer we allow it to survive, the worse and more powerful it will get, and eventually those people will do something so horrible to us that we’ll have to act. And when that time comes, we have to treat the whole Muslim world as a unit, just as the jihadists do (they care nothing for the artificially created political boundaries within the Muslim world). We’ll have to go to war against the enemy where ever he is, and go after everyone who in any way, shape or form gives aid to the jihadists. But that is a war for another time – maybe even ten or twenty years from now. For now, the disaster is what it is – and what happened between 2004 and 2008 is what happened. No sense raking it over too much, or trying to assign blame for it all to Karl Rove. Mistakes were made; that we all know. Our job is to learn from them.