Nick Confessore, over at TAPPED, launches on the McCain speech that TG and I liked so much. His arguments are – to put it mildly – self contradictory and ahistorical. He may not be happy that McCain spoke, but his attempted deflation of McCain’s argument grounding the war in Iraq in domestic security issues is far from connvincing, and doesn’t hold up to ten minutes worth of Googling.
I wonder if John McCain feels mildly ashamed for the obfuscating and dishonest speech he delivered last night. I only heard it on the radio, so perhaps I was imagining the whiff of resignation and unenthusiasm in his tone. But McCain has certainly hitched his wagon back to George W. Bush’s train (albeit probably for self-interested and tactical reasons). No doubt he will continue to have enormous appeal among independents. I wonder, though, how many Democrats will continue to have stars in their eyes. He makes spin sound very good — but it’s still spin.
I’ll leave aside McCain’s elevation of the fight against terrorism with World War II, an oratorical and intellectual error he shares with many people, including many Democrats.
Well, let’s start. Obviously this war is one that’s different than World War II. Nothing, except World War II will be the same as World War II. But to compare the current war – in seriousness – that one is not, to me, farfetched. If Confessore doesn’t think this is that serious how serious does he think it is? Is it more serious than, say, organized crime? Bad Olympic judging?
The worst of his offenses against the truth came, predictably, with regards to Iraq:
[snip McCain speech]
The only reason Michael Moore makes an appearance in McCain’s speech is to provide the senator with the requisite straw man — someone who believes Iraq is an “oasis of peace” to go along with the unnamed people, presumably Democratic peaceniks, who supposedly supported freeing Saddam Hussein from the box of sanctions and the threat of military force.
Well, let’s examine that. Did the 70 Members of Congress who signed a letter that said:
In February, seventy members of the House of Representatives signed a letter to President Clinton asking that the Administration “delink” economic sanctions from the military sanctions against Iraq.
“More than nine years of the most comprehensive economic embargo imposed in modern history has failed to remove Saddam Hussein from power or even ensured his compliance with international obligations, while the economy and people of Iraq continue to suffer,” the letter states. “Morally, it is wrong to hold the Iraqi people responsible for the actions of a brutal and reckless government.”
count? It’s not hard, if you have any kind of a memory at all – it’s only four or five years ago, remember, and I’m the one who went to Santa Cruz in the 70’s – to recall that there was a large body of opinion that held that the sanctions were immoral, were killing 500,000 Iraqi children a year, and that they should be narrowed or better still, eliminated.
This is not to say that McCain’s argument is entirely poppycock. Many smart analysts on both the right and the left believed that the costs of keeping Saddam boxed in were so high relative to the costs to Saddam of being boxed that, over time, the status quo would erode and war might someday be necessary to prevent his resurgence.
But no credible voice in the Democratic foreign policy establishment was calling for an end to sanctions or backing down from our deployments in the Persian Gulf, nor considered Saddam an angel.
So here be moves the goalpost, and suggests that far from ‘presum[ed] Democratic peacenicks’ we need to be concerned with ‘credible voices.’
The bottom line is that the choice McCain posited last night was a false one. It was not a choice between knocking Saddam off on the one hand, and letting him acquire nukes on the other. On the central justification for the Iraq War — preventing a dictator from developing a WMD capability — the inspections regime worked, showing before the invasion what is now undeniable: Saddam didn’t pose a threat to us at the time.
And here, I’ll pose the simple problem that while the sanctions regime may well have worked, it was obvious – and I think it was obvious, but will try and document my case a bit more when I get a moment – that sanctions were beginning to fail.
For two years before the American invasion of Iraq, Saddam’s sons, generals and front companies were engaged in lengthy negotiations with North Korea.
So, given the amount of cash Saddam was siphoning off under the gaze of those who controlled the sanctions, how long, exactly, were they supposed to hold up? And what would have happened next?
There’s probably an argument to make somewhere that sanctions could have collapsed and all would have been OK. I think it would have been a wrong and stupid one, but it would have been an argument.
Confessore’s whole post was just a dodge of McCain’s central point, which was that the choice wasn’t a binary one between war and peace, and that those who argued for peace need to understand that the status quo ante wasn’t sustainable.
When the Democrats come up with an argument, as opposed to a dodge, on this issue we’ll have a much more interesting election.