Juan Cole: Answering HitchensRoundup: Historians' Take
Juan Cole, in his blog (April 23, 2004):
A reader sent me these questions that he said Christopher Hitchens had posed. I then found them at his web site. They are:
1) Do you believe that a confrontation with Saddam Hussein's regime was
inevitable or not?
2) Do you believe that a confrontation with an Uday/Qusay regime would
have been better?
3) Do you know that Saddam's envoys were trying to buy a weapons
production line off the shelf from North Korea (vide the Kay report) as
late as last March?
4) Why do you think Saddam offered"succor" (Mr. Clarke's word) to the
man most wanted in the 1993 bombings in New York?
5) Would you have been in favor of lifting the"no fly zones" over
northern and southern Iraq; a 10-year prolongation of the original"Gulf
6) Were you content to have Kurdish and Shiite resistance fighters do all
the fighting for us?
7) Do you think that the timing of a confrontation should have been left,
as it was in the past, for Baghdad to choose?
My reply would be simple. If you are arguing for war, you don't have to ask all these fancy questions. There are really only two questions you have to answer. The first is, would you yourself be willing to die fighting for this cause you have espoused? The second is, would you be willing to see your 18-year-old son or daughter killed for this cause? (I do not ask if you would be glad or satisfied; I ask if you would be willing).
My answer with regard to the aftermath of September 11 and defeating al-Qaeda in Afghanistan is, yes, I would have been willing to go fight and die myself to protect my country from another such attack. And, had my son been of age and had he enlisted after September 11, I could have accepted that and everything it entailed.
With regard to Iraq, the answer to both questions in my case is"no." I would not have been willing to risk my own life to dislodge Saddam Hussein from power. And, I would certainly not have been willing to see my son risk his, nor would I like to see him ever sent to Iraq as a draftee, because I believe the entire aftermath of the war has been handled with gross incompetence, and I certainly don't want my flesh and blood mauled by the machinations of Richard Perle and his buddies.
With regard to Mr. Hitchens's questions, most of them are logical fallacies, of the same form as"have you stopped beating your wife?" There are some questions that are traps. For instance, there are many reasons for which Saddam might have harbored one person wanted in connection with the first world trade center bombing that are not particularly sinister. It certainly is untrue that Saddam had anything to do with that bombing. It was done by al-Qaeda. The question is a trick because it tries to lead the reader in a particular direction, even though the evidence does not.
Likewise, ' Do you think that the timing of a confrontation should have been left, as it was in the past, for Baghdad to choose? ' is further tautology. The question is posed in such a way as to make the reader accept that there must have been a" confrontation" between the Baath military and the US. Gen. Zinni thought there would never have been any such thing, and that Saddam was contained. Gen. Zinni is not a milquetoast. Iraq had a weak army, a paralyzed command structure, rusting equipment, and could not even hold out in its own country against the US for more than a few days when the US launched a" confrontation." So the question can be rejected, since there may never have been such a confrontation. And, if there was, it seems obvious that the US could always win it hands down. That being the case, the US was never in any danger from the Saddam regime, which was a toothless old lion with rheumatoid arthritis and bad breath.
These word games are inconsequential. Do you, Abraham-like, offer up your first-born at this altar? That's what nearly a thousand US military families have done with regard to deaths, and thousands more with regard to permanent maimings and cripplings, and what yet thousands more are likely to be asked to do. If it had been me, I wouldn't have ordered them to do it, not in Iraq.
Another question we could throw back at Mr. Hitchens (who, it seems to me, isn't actually doing much for the war effort in Iraq), is whether, if you could only capture one, would you rather have Saddam Hussein in custody, or Usama Bin Laden? Given what we know Usama is planning, I opt for putting all our efforts and I mean all our efforts into capturing him tout de suite. Chasing around Iraq after Salafis and Mahdists doesn't make the homeland even one whit safer.
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Ruth Mary Gill - 5/7/2004
I note that Christopher hasn't bothered to answer this one (probably hasn't been interested enough to read it in the first place) - can't say I blame him either - what total rubbish!
If you had one fifth of the intelligence of Christopher Hitchens you could count yourself extremely lucky.
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