February 20, 2003

Daniel Ellsberg (he of the Pentagon Papers) has an excellent collection of interviews and writings which give an extremely well informed and intelligent take on US agression in Iraq from the perspective of someone who worked in the Defense Department for years. Full of great information and sensible reasoning.

Some selections:

The senior Bush administration has prepared us to the idea of responding to chemical or biological weapons with nuclear weapons. That turns out to have been the function of this new category, which at first puzzled me, of "weapons of mass destruction." I've been in the arms control field for nearly forty years now, and I'd never heard of this "weapons of mass destruction" category, which lumps together biological, chemical, and nuclear. Between chemical and nuclear there's an enormous difference of destructiveness, by a factor of at least a thousand. So what's the purpose of lumping them together in this new category, "WMD"?

It came in about 1990. I now realize that they already had Iraq in mind with that, and the purpose of that is to say that, if we use nuclear weapons in response to chemical weapons, that would not be first use, we would not be initiating nuclear war. Rather, we would be retaliating to a weapon of mass destruction with a weapon of mass destruction, which happens to be about a thousand times more destructive.


After Iraq, we are not going to be able to get any degree of cooperation from governments with large Muslim populations. Al Qaeda can grow and do what they want—they're safe, essentially. That doesn't mean they're going to beat the U.S., and it doesn't mean they're going to drive us out of the Middle East. But it does mean they're going to be able to kill a huge number of American civilians, much more than if we had the police and intelligence cooperation of Arab and Muslim states, which the Iraq war will destroy.


I would be happy to see Saddam yield to inducements from his Arab neighbors and others to seek asylum somewhere, with assurance against war crimes prosecution if necessary. It would mean a success for threats of US aggression, but it would be a much better prospect for all than a war. France's warning that it might veto a UN-authorized attack for at least the next several months, while the inspections proceed, is both appropriate and could be effective; it should be joined by Russia and China (it would be too much to expect of Blair), while other members of the Security Council, starting with Germany, should warn in advance of a "no" vote in the absence of obstruction of inspection by Sadddam or positive findings of forbidden weapons (not empty casings) by the inspectors.

Even one to three vetoes would not guarantee that the US would not attack on the basis of a claimed "provocation"—a Tonkin Gulf incident, manufactured or simply claimed—but it might actually slow down the US attack by months, long enough for the illegality and recklessness of the whole project to become a matter of consensus, even in the US. The chance of this is small, but not zero: definitely worth pursuing.

Very good stuff.

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