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Sunday, September 4, 2016

Comments on Stephen Knott's "When Everyone Agreed About Iraq"

PREFACE: Stephen Knott is a Professor of National Security Affairs at the United States Naval War College and the author of Rush to Judgment: George W. Bush, the War on Terror, and His Critics. I critiqued his 15MAR13 Wall Street Journal article, When Everyone Agreed About Iraq. Professor Knott's e-mail in the exchange is omitted.

from: [me]
to: [Stephen Knott]
date: Sun, Sep 4, 2016 at 5:24 AM
[addenda date: Tue, Sep 6, 2016 at 1:20 AM]
subject: ... your 2013 WSJ article

Professor Knott,

Rather than write a quasi-thesis on your WSJ article, I'll interject comments and references from my table of sources at My theory is a recipe-like format is more useful for your work. If you prefer a woven narrative, I cover the same ground in my OIF FAQ explanation, 10th anniversary of OIF survey, and other OIF-related posts.

Comments on When Everyone Agreed About Iraq
For years before the war, a bipartisan consensus thought Saddam possessed WMD.
By Stephen F. Knott, March 15, 2013, Wall Street Journal

[Note: Quotes from the article were italicized in the e-mail and block-quoted here.]

At 5:34 a.m. on March 20, 2003, American, British and other allied forces invaded Iraq. One of the most divisive conflicts in the nation's history would soon be labeled "Bush's War."
_Operation Iraqi Freedom was at least as much President HW Bush and President Clinton's war as it was "Bush's War". OIF was the coda of the US-led enforcement of Iraq's compliance with the UNSCR 660 series, including the Gulf War ceasefire, that began in 1990-1991. At the conclusion of the decade-plus of Iraq's noncompliance, Operation Iraqi Freedom, the ultimate enforcement step for Iraq's "final opportunity to comply" (UNSCR 1441), progressed from the penultimate enforcement step, Operation Desert Fox, that had enforced Clinton's judgement, "Iraq has abused its final chance".

President HW Bush address to the nation on the suspension of Allied offensive combat operations in the Persian Gulf, 27FEB91:
President Clinton statement regarding UNSCR 1205, 05NOV98:
President Clinton announcement of Operation Desert Fox, 16DEC98:
New York Times: With Little Notice, U.S. Planes Have Been Striking Iraq All Year, 13AUG99:

The overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime became official U.S. policy in 1998, when President Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act—a bill passed 360-38 by the House of Representatives and by unanimous consent in the Senate. The law called for training and equipping Iraqi dissidents to overthrow Saddam and suggested that the United Nations establish a war-crimes tribunal for the dictator and his lieutenants.
The legislation was partly the result of frustration over the undeclared and relatively unheralded "No-Fly Zone War" that had been waged since 1991. Saddam's military repeatedly fired on U.S. and allied aircraft that were attempting to prevent his regime from destroying Iraqi opposition forces in northern and southern Iraq. According to former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Hugh Shelton, in 1997 a key member of President Bill Clinton's cabinet (thought by most observers to have been Secretary of State Madeleine Albright) asked Gen. Shelton whether he could arrange for a U.S. aircraft to fly slowly and low enough that it would be shot down, thereby paving the way for an American effort to topple Saddam. Kenneth Pollack, a member of Mr. Clinton's National Security Council staff, would later write in 2002 that it was a question of "not whether but when" the U.S. would invade Iraq. He wrote that the threat presented by Saddam was "no less pressing than those we faced in 1941."
_Iraqi regime change as the solution for Saddam's failure to comply as mandated by the Gulf War ceasefire was implicit and covert policy under HW Bush and progressed to explicit law and policy under Clinton.

[President HW Bush remarks on assistance for Iraqi refugees and a news conference, 16APR91:]
National Security Advisor Scowcroft response to Congressman Murtha's letter on Iraq, 14NOV91:
President HW Bush letter to Congress reporting on Iraq's compliance with UNSCRs, 19JAN93:
[Los Angeles Times: Hussein Torpedoed CIA Plot Against Him, Officials Say, 08SEP96:]
Secretary of State Albright policy speech on Iraq, 26MAR97:
Joint statement by Vice President Gore and leaders of the Iraqi National Congress, 26JUN00:

Radicalized by the events of 9/11, George W. Bush gradually concluded that a regime that had used chemical weapons against its own people and poison gas against Iran, invaded Iran and Kuwait, harbored some of the world's most notorious terrorists, made lucrative payments to the families of suicide bombers, fired on American aircraft almost daily, and defied years of U.N. resolutions regarding weapons of mass destruction was a problem.
_Before the 9/11 attacks, Bush officials were deeply concerned that the 'containment' of Iraq was broken and that a noncompliant, unreconstructed Saddam was "out of the box" (Rumsfeld). President Bush entered office with President Clinton's assessment, "Iraqi actions pose a continuing unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States". 9/11 pushed Bush's Gulf War ceasefire enforcement with a heightened threat consideration of Saddam's distinctive WMD-and-terrorism threat, which was marked by Clinton, that raised the urgency to expeditiously resolve the Saddam problem with the "full and immediate compliance by Iraq without conditions or restrictions with its obligations" (UNSCR 1441) required to satisfy "the need to be assured of Iraq's peaceful intentions [and] ... to secure peace and security in the area" (UNSCR 687).

President Clinton address to Joint Chiefs of Staff and Pentagon staff, 17FEB98:
President Clinton letter to Congress on the continuing national emergency with Iraq, 28JUL00:
Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld working paper regarding Iraq, 27JUL01:
President Bush remarks to the United Nations General Assembly, 12SEP02:

The former chief U.N. weapons inspector, an Australian named Richard Butler, testified in July 2002 that "it is essential to recognize that the claim made by Saddam's representatives, that Iraq has no WMD, is false."
In the U.S., there was a bipartisan consensus that Saddam possessed and continued to develop WMD. Former Vice President Al Gore noted in September 2002 that Saddam had "stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country." Then-Sen. Hillary Clinton observed that Saddam hoped to increase his supply of chemical and biological weapons and to "develop nuclear weapons." Then-Sen. John Kerry claimed that "a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his [Saddam's] hands is a real and grave threat to our security."
Even those opposed to using force against Iraq acknowledged that, as then-Sen. Edward Kennedy put it, "we have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing" WMD. When it came time to vote on the authorization for the use of force against Iraq, 81 Democrats in the House voted yes, joined by 29 Democrats in the Senate, including the party's 2004 standard bearers, John Kerry and John Edwards, plus Majority Leader Tom Daschle, Sen. Joe Biden, Mrs. Clinton, and Sens. Harry Reid, Tom Harkin, Chris Dodd and Jay Rockefeller. The latter, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, claimed that Saddam would "likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years."
_Saddam's guilt of UNSCR 687-proscribed armament was a "bipartisan consensus" (Knott) because Iraq's "continued violations of its obligations" (UNSCR 1441) were basic established fact in the UNSCR 687 disarmament process.

[On top of the basic established fact of Saddam's UNSCR 687-proscribed armament, which was presumed until Iraq proved it disarmed as mandated, the pre-OIF "bipartisan consensus" was informed by the indicators - corroborated by the Iraq Survey Group - of Iraq "rebuilding his [Saddam's] military-industrial complex", "increasing its access to dual-use items and materials", "creating numerous military research and development projects", and running "procurement programs supporting Iraq’s WMD programs" (ISG), and most compellingly, the UNSCR 1441 inspection findings of "about 100 unresolved disarmament issues" (UNMOVIC), which provided the basis for key assessments. In other words, while the panned intelligence estimates were predictively imprecise, the "bipartisan consensus" was nonetheless based on sound data of Saddam's confirmed "material breach" (UNSCR 1441).]

In terms of enforcement, Saddam's WMD was not an intelligence issue because there was no burden on the enforcers of the Gulf War ceasefire to prove Iraq was armed as estimated. It was a compliance issue because the "onus [was] clearly on Iraq" (UNMOVIC) to prove Saddam disarmed as mandated. Upon the established fact of Iraq's proscribed armament, the only legally prescribed and practical way to know Saddam disarmed was Iraq proving he was compliant with UNSCR 687. The UNMOVIC Clusters document finding of "about 100 unresolved disarmament issues" confirmed "Iraq has been and remains in material breach of its obligations under relevant resolutions, including resolution 687" (UNSCR 1441) and thus retained "the threat Iraq’s non-compliance with Council resolutions and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles poses to international peace and security" (UNSCR 1441). While the pre-war intelligence estimates were additionally cited by Bush officials, the basis for enforcement of the UNSCR 660 series, including with OIF, was always Iraq's "material breach" (UNSCR 1441).

UNMOVIC Clusters document (“Unresolved Disarmament Issues Iraq’s Proscribed Weapons Programmes 6 March 2003″): - note the "A Historical Account of Iraq's Proscribed Weapons Programmes" section.
IAEA Iraq Nuclear Verification Office's Iraq Nuclear File: Key Findings:
Secretary of State Powell presentation to the U.N. Security Council, 05FEB03:
President Bush report to Congress on the determination and legal authority for Operation Iraqi Freedom, 18MAR03:

Support for the war extended far beyond Capitol Hill. In March 2003, a Pew Research Center poll indicated that 72% of the American public supported President Bush's decision to use force.
_The public support at the time for President Bush's decision to use force is less compelling than whether Bush's OIF decision accorded with the controlling law, policy, and precedent that defined the operative enforcement procedure for the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" (UNSCR 1441) and, in the operative context, the determinative fact findings of Iraq's (non)compliance with the Gulf War ceasefire mandates. The answer is yes, it did. President Bush's decision to use force demonstrably was correct on the law and facts, which is more compelling than the public support it had at the time.

My OIF FAQ explanation synthesizes the situation, law, policy, precedent, and facts of the OIF decision:

If Mr. Bush "lied," as the common accusation has it, then so did many prominent Democrats—and so did the French, whose foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, claimed in February 2003 that "regarding the chemical domain, we have evidence of [Iraq's] capacity to produce VX and yperite [mustard gas]; in the biological domain, the evidence suggests the possible possession of significant stocks of anthrax and botulism toxin." Germany's intelligence chief August Hanning noted in March 2002 that "it is our estimate that Iraq will have an atomic bomb in three years."
_They didn't lie. Again, the burden was on Iraq to prove Saddam was disarmed as mandated, and there was no burden on the US and UN to prove Iraq was armed as estimated. That being said, the UNMOVIC and the post-war Iraq Survey Group findings variously support Mr. de Villepin's statement about Iraq's "capacity to produce" CW and "possible possession" of BW.

[Regarding Saddam's "capacity to produce" CW and BW, ISG found "clear evidence of his [Saddam's] intent to resume WMD", a covert active Iraqi Intelligence Service biological and chemical "network of laboratories could have provided an ideal, compartmented platform from which to continue CW agent R&D or small-scale production efforts", a large IIS "covert procurement program", and substantial readily convertible "dual-use" production capability in which "it would have been possible for Iraq to assemble a CW production plant ... Iraq had improvised and jury-rigged equipment in the past" and "the equipment used for their [BW agent simulants] manufacture can also be quickly converted to make BW agent". The clandestine IIS role in Iraq's WMD-related violations is significant because Saddam's CW and BW programs started in the IIS. The IIS is also the Saddam regime arm that managed Saddam's terrorism, which included "considerable operational overlap" (IPP) with the al Qaeda network.

Regarding Saddam's "possible possession" of BW stocks, neither UNMOVIC nor ISG cleared Saddam. UNMOVIC: "With respect to stockpiles of bulk agent stated to have been destroyed, there is evidence to suggest that these was [sic] not destroyed as declared by Iraq." ISG found that the evidence needed to make a determination was missing: "ISG cannot determine the fate of Iraq’s stocks of bulk BW agents [nor] ... The fate of a portion of Iraq’s BW agent seed-stocks."]

The nuclear-related IAEA findings in the UNSCR 1441 inspections were less alarming than the UNMOVIC findings. However, Iraq wasn't fully compliant with the UNSCR 687 nuclear mandates, either, and ISG corroborated that there were indicators of proscribed nuclear activity. While Mr. Hanning's pre-war estimate of the maturity of Iraq's nuclear program was off the mark, the confirmed indicators of proscribed nuclear activity validate Bush's push to restore the UNSCR 687 IAEA inspections forthwith.

DCI Special Advisor Report on Iraq's WMD (Iraq Survey Group), 30SEP04:
a. Iraq’s Chemical Warfare Program:
b. Biological Warfare: - note the "Unresolved Issues" section.
Update report of the International Atomic Energy Agency to the Security Council pursuant to resolution 1441 (2002), 27JAN03:
[10 year anniversary of the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom: thoughts:] "A false premise asserted by OIF opponents is the casus belli for OIF was based on a claim that Saddam possessed nuclear weapons":

According to interrogations conducted after the invasion, Saddam's own generals believed that he had WMD and expected him to use these weapons as the invasion force neared Baghdad.
The war in Iraq was authorized by a bipartisan congressional coalition, supported by prominent media voices and backed by the public. Yet on its 10th anniversary Americans will be told of the Bush administration's duplicity in leading us into the conflict. Many members of the bipartisan coalition that committed the U.S. to invade Iraq 10 years ago have long since washed their hands of their share of responsibility.
We owe it to history—and, more important, to all those who died—to recognize that this wasn't Bush's war, it was America's war.
Mr. Knott, a professor of national security affairs at the United States Naval War College, is the author of "Rush to Judgment: George W. Bush, the War on Terror, and His Critics" (University Press of Kansas, 2012).
_In fact, nearly all the Bush case versus Saddam is substantiated. President Bush's decision for Operation Iraqi Freedom was correct on the law and facts. We owe it to history to set the record straight on the law and policy, fact basis - the why - of OIF.

More current, the stigmatization of OIF has been the cornerstone premise for President Obama['s] choices with Iraq, Libya, Syria, Iran, and other foreign affairs. The prevailing yet demonstrably false narrative that has stigmatized the Iraq intervention has effectively discredited the vital American leadership of the free world. Re-normalizing American leadership of the free world requires de-stigmatizing OIF, and the basic step of de-stigmatizing OIF is setting the record straight on the why of OIF at the premise level of our political discourse. History will follow suit.

For those who died in the line of duty and for their loved ones who are inundated by dis[mis]information, we owe them the confirmation that their mission was moral, strategic, lawful, justified, and manifested the principles of American leadership of the free world. In short, we owe them the knowledge that their mission was honorable.


from: [me]
to: [Stephen Knott]
date: Tue, Sep 6, 2016 at 11:22 AM
subject: Re: ... your 2013 WSJ article

Professor Knott,

Thank you. I hope the information will be put to use. Responding within the scope of your 2013 WSJ article, I gave you a lot of it - enough to re-lay the foundation of the issue in the discourse - but my response wasn't altogether comprehensive.

For example, whereas the Gulf War ceasefire compliance basis is key to properly understand President Bush's decision for OIF, I left out that contrary to their disinformative partisan rhetoric on the issue, Obama officials plainly understood the compliance basis of the Iraq intervention.

Vice President Biden statement on behalf of the UNSC, Security Council Takes Action to End Iraq Sanctions, Terminate Oil-For-Food Programme as Members Recognize ‘Major Changes’ Since 1990, 15DEC10:

For 2nd example, I didn't unpack Secretary of State Powell's panned 05FEB03 UN Security Council presentation to show that contrary to the prevailing narrative, the main points of Powell's speech are in fact validated nearly across the board:

In your words, "We owe it to history—and, more important, to all those who died" to set the record straight on the Iraq intervention. And, what's past is prologue. Re-litigating the narrative of the epochal Iraq intervention versus active disinformation reinforcement such as Professor Smith's biography [of President Bush] and the Bush on Trial play is critical to insert keystone premise in the discourse that's needed to correct the currently misguided course of American leadership in the world...if it's not too late already for us to right our course.

With respect to you[r WSJ article], President Bush's OIF decision was more justified than a publicly supported bipartisan consensus. With respect to Judith Miller, Professor Inboden, et al, it was not a mistake excused by the pre-war intelligence estimates. Rather, knowing what we know now according to the situation, law, policy, precedent, and fact record of the Gulf War ceasefire enforcement, President Bush's decision for Operation Iraqi Freedom demonstrably was correct.

Critical responses to pundits:
Explaining the grounds for Operation Iraqi Freedom to a law professor (Chibli Mallat);
Correcting Politifact's fundamental distortion of the Gulf War ceasefire enforcement;
Comments on Stephen Knott's "When Everyone Agreed About Iraq";
Augmenting William Inboden's critique of J.E. Smith's Bush biography regarding Iraq;
Objection to Paul Miller's characterization of OIF as an "outlier" in American Power and Liberal Order;
Critique of the Iraq portion of chapter one of Anne Pierce's A Perilous Path;
Critical response to John Rentoul's "Chilcot Report: Politicians".

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