|Tuesday, February 10, 2004
11:05 - Selective Amnesia
Lileks today has one of those Bleats that occasionally pops up out of nowhere and answers a lot of questions that we all knew had answers, but until then just sort of existed in a formless miasma of vague assumptions and half-remembered statistics. Many of us knew of stuff like this, for example, but I certainly couldn't have pulled together all the data points like this.
Okay, well, outtakes: went back to the microfilm today to February 1998, when the Clinton adminstration was making the case for attacking Iraq. How things change. Clinton was arguing that Saddam not only had WMD, but that one day he might want to make more WMD, and this wasn’t acceptable. Interesting to read between the lines - the Clinton administration seemed to be arguing that the potential for future production was itself a valid reason to strike. Military force is never "the first answer,' Clinton said, “but sometimes it’s the only answer.” “If Saddam isn’t stopped now,” the AP story said, quoting Clinton,“’He will conclude that the international community has lost its will. He will then conclude that he can go right on and do more to rebuild an arsenal of devastating destruction. And someday, someway, I guarantee you, he’ll use that arsenal.’” Thus spake Clinton in 1998. He went on to note that the strikes planned could not possibly destroy Saddam’s arsenal, because A) they didn’t know where everything was, and B) they didn’t want to kill Iraqis by unleashing clouds of toxins. And it gets better: a sidebar noted that this war plan – Desert Thunder – had been prepared weeks before, in case Saddam stiffed in the inspectors.
Bill Clinton had a plan to go to war before the crisis flared! What does that tell you? Obviously, he was looking for any excuse! Halliburton! We all know about the ties between Clinton and Halliburton – he gave them a sweet no-bid contract after his Balkans war, you know.
Anyway: it's deja vu all over again. You want to talk imminence? WMD? Democratic concern and conviction? Go back to the papers of 1998; it’s all there, right down to the terrorist links: Hezbollah, for example, swears it will strike Israel if the US attacks Iraq. (A poll of Palestinians showed that 94% supported Iraq, and 77% wanted Iraq to kill Jews if the US attacked Iraq.) Bob Dole was quoted as supporing the strikes but urging Clinton to seek Congressional Authorization. A story on Bush 41’s reaction said that the former president would completely support Clinton if he decided to attack, but noted that Bush 41 urged Clinton to get more international support - which was lacking at the time.
And indeed, Kofi struck a deal. Which fell apart by summertime. Which lead to cruise missile strikes. Which lead to boredom and disengagement. Which lead to half a decade of Saddam on the throne and the dissidents in the shredders and the tots in the gulag and dead people heaped in ditches and oil-for-palaces deals and Uday and Qusay pleasuring themselves in Rapeland Incorporated and Abu Nidal putting his feet up in a Baghdad apartment, pouring a nice cool glass of tea, and thinking: ah. This is the life.
Wonderful stuff, microfilm. I hope the various mechanisms we have for archiving the Internet remain as accessible over time.
(And this is right after James says "No politics tonight". Geez. I'd hate to see what he's got under the broiler. ...No, wait. I wouldn't hate it. What the hell?)
A friend of mine noted that after reading Lileks' piece, he now remembers Clinton saying and doing these things-- but it had slipped his mind before. Somehow I don't think this is an uncommon thing. Dean Esmay noted a few days ago that despite all the rhetoric from Left and Right, if you were actually to compare Bush's governing profile to Clinton's, including spending proposals, things signed and vetoed, corporate backers kicked-back-to, and political positions held (and even level of religious fervor in speeches), the two are nearly indistinguishable. I guess this applies to Iraq, too, but who remembers that now? Who wants to remember?
As I mentioned a while back, I was listening to the Henry Rollins comedy CD that I bought off iTunes; his routines were as anti-Republican as you expect from any comic, with the usual offhand jibes and guffaws at unquestioned and accepted caricatures of Reaganites and Robertsonians. But when Rollins started talking about Clinton and Monica, his take was as follows: Don't we have more important things to worry about than whether the President got a BJ at work? Like, say, this Saddam Hussein guy? This dictator who's got all kinds of chemical and biological weapons, and is probably lining 'em all up to fire at us any day now? Can't we get some troops in there and finish him off before it's too late? Thunderous applause all around.
You'd almost think he wanted us to take out Saddam.
But what's happened all of a sudden that's made the Left so deathly afraid of the US actually doing the things they themselves have wanted for so many years?
Is it that 9/11 has made the Left that much less willing to take care of problems in the world, now that it's clear that these problems actually can cause us damage? I wonder who in America really was the most frightened by the events of that day.
And for that matter, I wonder what exactly it is that people like Kerry think they're going to do when they start getting asked the hard questions later this year? (Or whoever else; but if Kerry's it, then I'll pick on him.) Like, say, If you oppose the war in Iraq, why did you vote in favor of it? And If you hate the Patriot Act so much, why did you vote for it, and even speak so eloquently in support of it during debate? I wonder if he'll plead temporary insanity. Temporary insanity brought on by 9/11. Like the whole rest of the country! We were all spooked! We were all insane! We've all gotten better now. 9/11? C'mon, what, are you guys still on about that silly 9/11 thing?
It's been this country's goal for a lot longer than Bush has been President to reform the Middle East, eradicate terrorism, solve the Israel/Palestinian problem, and get rid of dictators with illusions of WMD-fueled superpowerdom. There's something that's changed between 1991 and now, though, and it's not that Bush is in office. It's 9/11. That's the moment at which we realized as a nation that we had to pick up the pace, because our current efforts were getting nowhere. And that evidently scared the bejeezus out of the Left. Because it meant we were actually doing something.
Apparently their most powerful, and most insidious, weapon these days is selective amnesia. Convincing us that everything was just peachy all over the world before the 2000 elections; that the Fourth Reich began on that November day, and whatever happened the following September was just something to gawk at on the roadside from the safety of our handbasket on its way to Hell.
The nice thing about selective amnesia, though, is that it's pretty easy to counter, as long as you've got history on your side.
UPDATE: Maybe Kerry can blame it all on typos. Good God, this is funny.
UPDATE: One source for anyone who wants to see more where the Clinton stuff came from is Snopes. A whole blinkin' page full of "Democrats in favor of taking out Saddam" quotations from 1998 on. It's as comprehensive a list as I've seen. (Thanks to Tim Blair.)