Saturday, October 16, 2004


Jeff Merriam is a friend and a fellow international development professional. He sends a daily e-letter to a group of his friends. This is what he wrote on the subject of WMDs.

By Jeff Merriam

Did anyone watch the debate? Score another win for the challenger. It’s nice to know that the president is not worried about Osama; that would explain why he concentrated his efforts in fighting terrorism in a country that had no terrorist ties to Osama. Clarity on that topic proves less than reassuring.

So let’s ask the hypothetical question, just to expand our minds and sensibilities, what if Bush had continued to track Osama using the full power of our military? Let’s say we had 100,000 troops in Wazieristan and Afghanistan combing through every cave complex and cattle yard. Would the junior Senator from the great state of Minnesota being telling his staff to stay away from Capital Hill between now and the election? Would we have caught the slime ball? Maybe not, but I bet you that people would be feeling a hell of lot more faith in the whole homeland security apparatus. I’ll bet Al Quaeda would be considerably less organized. I bet Bush would look better in the polls.

And what if, just what if there had been weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? Let’s just say we found big juicy missiles full of bio-toxins and an active nuclear program. What if the idiots in the White House actually knew what they were talking about on that score? Would the still blow the occupation with their arrogance? Would they get and destroy all the WMD before the bad guys found a way to use it against our troops or Israel? Think about it, if the Iraqis had WMD wouldn’t they have used them? Wouldn’t more American kids be dead and dying than the horrible numbers we have now?

There were caches of conventional arms found all over Iraq by our troops, but they were so busy racing to Baghdad to get the bad guys that they failed to destroy those caches. Now the bad guys are using those left behind rocket launchers and AK-47s. Can you imagine what a mess the region might be if there really were WMD? Think about Israel getting hit by nerve gas and maybe a small nuclear device in central Tel Aviv? Would our attack tactics have been different? Would we have stopped and destroyed the WMD before we moved on?

What difference would finding WMD meant to the occupation and post war mess? Little or no difference at all. Bush would be vindicated for his attack, but the administration still totally blew the occupation, and, by the way continues to blow it. I think the major difference is that the insurgents would have some nasty weapons that they do not now have. Numbers of deaths from car and suicide bombing would be in the hundreds and not in the tens. In other words, even if Bush was right about WMD we would be up to our neck in dead bodies. I don’t even think Bush would have the time to smugly tell the world, “You see, I told you Iraq was a threat.” He would have to add, “Heck it still is.” Think about it: what if the insurgents had missiles that could travel 1000 miles. They would be falling on Haifa, Rijad, Adana, and who knows where else.

Now the super leap in logic: what would happen if the neo-conservatives actually listened to the people that new piddly-squat about the Middle East and a) put in enough troops, b) put together a sufficient international coalition, c) recognized the need for nation building and made plans to do it, d) did not make Sadr into a martyr, e) retained the good offices of civil servants and members of the military to help run the country and maintain the peace, and f) put Chalabi behind bars where he belongs? What are the chances that someone would have gotten all of these things right you ask? Actually very high, because a number of people suggested these elements be included in the strategy. But that doesn’t answer the question. Assume also that they actually understood what they were doing. Would there still be an insurgency? Yes, there would, but it would be considerably smaller and less effective. It would probably be contained in Baghdad and Fuluja and the acts would have a frequency of a couple a week instead of five to ten a day.

What if instead of an American force there had been a legitimate multi-national, UN sanctioned peacekeeping force on the ground headed by the US? Would we need as many troops? Would frustrated unemployed youth see the US as the big invader, or would they recognize the multinational force as a liberator? I suspect they would resent anyone that came in to “keep the peace.”

So what exactly does all this mean? It means the fundamental mistake in this whole situation was going to war in the first place. Had there been weapons of mass destruction, the casualty levels would be ten fold what they are now. Had there been an international coalition, there still would have been some form of insurgency. The resentment in the Muslim world towards the US and the West would be only marginally less pronounced. Bottom line: this was a stupid war from day one. Even if everything were done right we still would be in the midst of a quagmire. That the Bush Administration bollixed the situation so badly can only be judged the carnage that rains down on the country every day.

We should have stuck around Afghanistan and found the bad guys there. The world supported us in doing that. Instead we have a possible Code Orange, or even Code Red time up for us in the next week or so because of the elections correlating with the Bush Administrations poor record on both homeland security (look at the budget numbers) and fight against international terrorism. What if we caught Osama? I suspect that it wouldn’t bring Al Quaeda toppling down, and I would be willing to bet cash money that there would be reprisals during the first couple of weeks until the system either created a new leader or simply petered out. But we don’t know because we shifted resources to a pet project of a bunch of arrogant, poorly informed, misguided, partisan, true believers.

Why did we go into Iraq? What the hell motivated such a stupid departure from the actual war on terrorism? If the presence of WMD would have just made the situation worse, what the hell were we thinking?

That’s right Dude, I got to thinking. Why should we settle for a measly 20,000 when we can have the whole million?

It comes back to Bush’s fervent belief that God, of all entities, put him on earth for a purpose and that purpose was to make the Middle East democratic. God did put Bush on this earth for a purpose, in fact there were two purposes; first, to take the mantle of the worst US President from the shoulders of Millard Fillmore, and second, to get John Kerry elected.