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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Green Zone - upsetting movie

Stylistically, the Green Zone movie is a lot like the Bourne movies. Okay as far as that goes. But I agree with Kyle Smith's NY Post review and Russ Douthat's NY Times commentary. I was angered by the movie's conspiratorial fill-in-the-blank fictions and contrarian views about the Iraq intervention. I'm frustrated that no matter how inaccurate or debateable, those fictions and views are asserted as settled truth by OIF opponents. Early on, I could still explain the justification for Operation Iraqi Freedom with people willing to listen and consider, but by now due to prolonged and heavy repetition, people refuse to even reconsider what for them has become axiomatic.

The core premise of Green Zone is the prevalent myth religiously asserted by OIF opponents that Saddam was falsely accused of WMD. In fact, Saddam's "material breach" (UNSCR 1441) of the Gulf War ceasefire WMD mandates was established by UNSCOM, decided by the UN Security Council, confirmed by UNMOVIC to trigger the decision for OIF, and corroborated post hoc by the Iraq Survey Group.

Iraq's guilt of proscribed armament was established and presumed in the UNSCR 687 disarmament process. The burden was on Saddam's Iraq to prove it was disarmed and rehabilitated according to the standard set by the Gulf War ceasefire. The US-led UN burden under the Gulf War ceasefire was not to discover and prove; instead, it was to enforce and verify the mandated performance by the guilty party. Iraq should have satisfied its burden in 1991-1992, but Saddam's repeated noncompliance and added abuses meant the proof requirement was more stringently enforced. It's true the intelligence was uncertain by 2002-2003, but that was not due to a conspiracy like Green Zone contends. Rather, the quality of the intel was a consequence of the deteriorated disarmament-turned-containment and Iraq's "denial and deception operations" (Iraq Survey Group) in violation of UNSCR 687. Because Saddam's guilt of proscribed armament was established, any intel was rightly and necessarily viewed in an unfavorable light for Iraq.

In fact, the pre-war intelligence estimates were not an element of the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" (UNSCR 1441). Contrary to Green Zone's core premise that the US went to war with Iraq based on unverified intel, the UNSCR 1441 inspections provided the verification of Iraq's "continued violations of its obligations" (UNSCR 1441) that established casus belli. The intel didn't - and by procedure couldn't - trigger the invasion in Iraq's "final opportunity to comply" (UNSCR 1441). The principal enforcement trigger for the Operation Iraqi Freedom ground campaign in 2003 was the same enforcement trigger for the Operation Desert Fox bombing campaign in 1998: the confirmation by the UN weapons inspectors that Iraq failed to prove "full and immediate compliance by Iraq without conditions or restrictions with its obligations" (UNSCR 1441).

In other words, Green Zone's core premise is wrong - Saddam's "material breach" (UNSCR 1441) of the Gulf War ceasefire in Iraq's "final opportunity to comply" (UNSCR 1441) is confirmed. According to the operative law, policy, and precedent, and determinative facts, President Bush's decision for OIF was correct.

Even more than the movie's fundamental mischaracterization of the casus belli for OIF, I was disappointed by Green Zone's displayed preference for tyranny over liberalism. For example, the movie contends that contra the humanitarian mandates of UNSCR 688 (1991) and Public Law 105-338 (1998) reiterated in Public Law 107-243 (2002) and the compliance and nation-building processes mandated by UNSCR 1483 (2003), we should have immediately turned Iraq over to the same actors who carried out the brutality of Saddam's regime and the terrorist insurgency. I wonder how badly the critical discussion about liberalization on the Arab street has been corrupted by the revisionist anti-OIF narrative and rejection of liberal strategy demonstrated by Green Zone. When I visited Egypt earlier this year, local newspapers parroted the most caustic Western anti-war rhetoric. I believe anti-OIF Westerners have caused great harm to the progressive liberal cause around the world. Green Zone will only cause more damage at a time when the emerging democratic Iraq should be an inspiration. The Iraq intervention should be upheld by the world's liberals, not discredited as a lie and conspiracy.

My comment at a movie review:
"... war as the first, best solution to the real but immensely complex problem of Iraq"

Not first at all. We invaded Iraq only after 12 years, across 3 US presidencies, of intensively attempted but failed alternate solutions to the worsening problem of Iraq - hardly war as a first resort. Regime change for Iraq became US policy under Clinton [correction: Iraqi regime change became US law under Clinton but became US policy under HW Bush], and became the next-up solution in 1998 after Clinton declared Saddam's Iraq had failed "its final chance" and bombed Iraq in Operation Desert Fox - without going to the UN for permission. Contrary to the movie's emphasis on the intel, intel wasn't even a requirement for Operation Iraqi Freedom because Saddam's Iraq's guilt was established and had only deepened with every act of noncompliance and abuse. So, the Green Zone got its premise fundamentally wrong: the intel - whatever its quality - did not trigger any invasion. Through much of 2002, President Bush even gave Saddam ample warning and he tried the UN process, ignoring Clinton's precedent of bypassing the UN. Despite the generous opportunity to finally comply and resolve the problem peacefully, Saddam instead opted to repeat his pattern of noncompliance. Therefore, the trigger for the invasion was not the intel, but the same trigger for Clinton's order to bomb Saddam's Iraq in Dec 98: Saddam's Iraq's failure to meet the standard of proof required to establish its innocence.

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