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June 21, 2004

What He Did to His Own, He Would Do to Us

Anybody who either 1) has doubts about the toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime or 2) still believes Ted Kennedy and his ilk to be admirable should read Nick Schulz's description of and commentary about the short Ba'athist torture video:

I must confess that in recent weeks I had begun to harbor some doubts about a war I had supported. And I was not the only war supporter to begin second-guessing recently. We doubting Thomases had been perhaps most perplexed at President Bush, steadfast in the wake of mounting Coalition deaths, the Abu Ghraib scandal, and other bad news. Did this man not see what we were seeing?

There is no doubt that he had. But President Bush — along with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has also remained resolute despite withering and unfair criticism at home — had also seen things that we had not. Seeing this footage helps one better understand the mindset of President Bush and of his stalwart British ally and explains their resolve in the face of tremendous difficulties and setbacks. Seeing these films and ones like them out there, will, I believe, make any fence sitter shed his doubts about the appropriateness of destroying Saddam's regime. If anything, they make one wonder, almost shamefully, how and why it took the civilized world — or at least part of that world — as long as it did to rise up against it.

Although I haven't come across any examples, yet, I'm sure somebody, somewhere has already objected that this is yet another shifting of justification for the war. The strategy of those who opposed the war (and continue to oppose the Bush administration) is to pull apart all of the pieces of the other side's argument and prance around between them so as to obscure the fact that they can't conclusively knock down a single one. Just over a year ago, in an edition of my since-discontinued Just Thinking column, I wrote the following, which is still, surprisingly and sadly, applicable today:

Before the war, the administration's appeals to the human atrocities in Iraq were often dismissed as lip service. Even those who attributed some degree of sincerity to them tended to move discussion on with a "yeah but." Plenty of regimes abuse their people, the argument went, why attack Iraq? Now that the extent of those atrocities is being revealed in heart- and gut-wrenching detail, some post-war-anti-war advocates require reminding that President Bush mentioned the humanitarian crisis in every speech in which he made the case for war. He did so to illustrate the loathsome nature of the regime. He did so in the context of enumerating the many United Nations mandates at which Hussein had thumbed his nose. And he did so as a simple matter of moral principle, apart from international relations.

The atrocities are bad enough, Lord knows, to condemn the regime. But it was their combination with shadowy terrorist connections and proven ambitions to procure WMDs that made war a necessity — even in defiance of an international effort to maintain inside deals with the monster. A dictatorship that would order prisoners to have their hands hacked off a knuckle at a time is one that would gas one of its own villages is one that would work with terrorists to deliver blows to a hated nation of free people.

Posted by Justin Katz at June 21, 2004 9:14 AM
Middle East

It should be mentioned that the Reagan/Bush administrations were supportive of Saddam back in the 1980's and up until the early 1990's over the opposition of many liberals. Republicans knew then exactly what Saddam was up to. So is it really Ted Kennedy that is soft on Saddam or the Republicans and conservatives who ignored for years what a vicious person he is?

Posted by: Joel Thomas at June 22, 2004 12:18 AM

The Reagan administration wasn't but so supportive of Hussein. I thought I'd written about the timeline somewhere on this site, but I can't find it. Essentially, there were some instances of my-enemy's-enemy cooperation with respect to Iran, but throughout most of the '80s Hussein was held at arm's length (by our nation, at least). As for the "early 1990's," Hussein invaded Kuwait in August 1990, which didn't leave much time for support.

At any rate, the point isn't that governments don't have to get dirty in guiding their countries through the wrestling of international powers, or that those calls were made well in the '80s, or even that Kennedy was "soft on Saddam," but that Kennedy is minimizing monstrosities and comparing the American President to their source. Frankly, it's disgusting.

Posted by: Justin Katz at June 22, 2004 12:51 PM

"over the opposition of many liberals"

So why did they suddenly start opposing his overthrow?

Even if your assertion was 100% correct (which it is not), it would still be the case that it was the Republicans who realized their errors and went about correcting them, which on your scenario the Democrats should have cheered. Also, it was not Bush himself who was 'supportive of Saddam', even if that phrase were accurate. But the main point is that Kennedy was equating the evils of the Saddam regime with the American executive branch and military. That comparison, whatever the reason for making it, not only is a vicious slur against the Bush administration and our military, but diminishes the severity of Saddam's crimes. Which is equivalent to legitimizing them to some degree, which, as Justin says, is disgusting.

Posted by: Mike S. at June 23, 2004 11:09 AM