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March 21, 2014


Eric Chen

Professor Nacos,

I'm responding here to your March 3rd post regarding the Ukraine crisis because the comments there are closed. Perhaps you can move this comment to that post.

I agree the Ukraine crisis is complicated, but Russia's actions do appear similar to the Nazi Anschluss, which was also more complicated than its popular history.

Along with the historical cue, the calls for more robust action are understandable in light of the Russia-Georgia conflict in 2008. Given the murky and mixed fault between Georgia and Russia, President Bush and our European allies responded with the correct, proportionate mix of diplomatic agreement, military show of force, military aid, and sanctions in 2008.

However, the 2008 episode was a clear warning that warranted heightened vigilance and greater care toward Russia by President Bush's successor. President Obama ignored the warning, though, and has signaled US weakness to Russia during his presidency, especially with the mishandling of the Syria problem.

This time, Russia's culpability is clear. Russia didn't annex anything in 2008; they just annexed Crimea.

The proportionate leadership response by Obama to Russia's escalation from its 2008 Georgia action would be a commensurate escalation from Bush's 2008 response. Instead, Obama's response so far to Russia's escalation has been weaker than Bush's 2008 response, which sends a permissive, encouraging signal to Putin.

Professor Nacos:
"I wondered: Did Kerry indeed say that in the 21st century you are not invading another country on completely trumped up pretext? Yes, he did. Obviously Washington’s diplomat-in-chief chose not to remember the invasion of Iraq some 11 years ago that fell squarely into the 21st century and was trumped up with bogus justifications."

Or, Secretary Kerry speaks with knowledge of the truth: the 1991-2003 enforcement with Iraq of the Gulf war ceasefire and related UNSC resolutions was justified and not at all "trumped up".

Regarding _Regime Change in Iraq from Clinton to Bush_:

Regarding the role of intelligence in the enforcement of the Gulf War ceasefire and related UNSC resolutions:

The accusation that Operation Iraqi Freedom was based on manufactured intelligence or the 'confirmation bias' of Bush officials relies on revisionist premises.

First, the Iraq enforcement procedure that President Bush inherited from President Clinton did not pivot on the intelligence. Intelligence only colored the argument. Intelligence was not a required element of the operative enforcement procedure. The Iraq enforcement pivoted on Saddam’s compliance to a mandated standard on a range of requirements, including but not limited to accounting for proscribed weapons.

Second, Iraq's guilt on WMD was established and presumed in 1991 as the basis of the Gulf War ceasefire and related UNSC resolutions. From that point, the US and UN carried no burden of proof to demonstrate Iraq's WMD. The presentation of intelligence did not and could not trigger OIF because the burden of proof was entirely on Iraq. OIF was triggered by Saddam's failure to meet Iraq's burden of proof on a mandated standard of compliance. Among other requirements, Iraq needed to account for its proscribed weapons.

A pervasive, fundamental misunderstanding of UNSCOM and UNMOVIC is the belief their role in Iraq was to discover whether Iraq possessed proscribed weapons. Actually, on the basis that Iraq's possession of proscribed weapons was established and presumed, the UNSCOM and UNMOVIC role in Iraq was not to find anything, but rather to verify whether Iraq had sufficiently accounted for its proscribed weapons. With UNSCOM and UNMOVIC, Iraq failed to satisfactorily account for its proscribed weapons.

Third, based on Iraq's history, track record of deception, defiance, and belligerence, established and presumed guilt, and the stakes involved, Clinton and later Bush officials with the added threat considerations in the wake of 9/11 were _obligated_ to view any intelligence on Iraqi WMD in an unfavorable light for Iraq. Iraq had squandered all benefit of the doubt during the Clinton administration, and with Saddam, we had to be certain. As President Clinton explained in 2004, "I thought the president had an absolute responsibility to go to the U.N. and say, 'Look, guys, after 9/11, you have got to demand that Saddam Hussein lets us finish the inspection process.' You couldn't responsibly ignore [the possibility that] a tyrant had these stocks."

In fact, because of Iraq's established and presumed guilt and burden of proof, our ignorance of the state of Iraq's WMD - as Clinton framed his cause for war with Iraq in 1998 - was legally sufficient to trigger military enforcement. If all of the intelligence on Iraqi WMD was mistaken, then that only returned our enforcement on Iraq to the lower bar of unaccounted for Iraqi weapons that triggered Operation Desert Fox in 1998. Solving our ignorance about Iraq's weapons was Saddam's duty.

In other words, the presentation of intelligence was irrelevant as a cause of war. The failure of Saddam to comply and cure his presumption of guilt was the cause of war both in 1998 and 2003.

President Bush was faithful to President Clinton's Iraq and counter-terrorism policies, and it's unfortunate that Bush deviated from Clinton's public case against Iraq by citing intelligence in an affirmative claim rather than using Clinton's lower bar of dangerous ignorance induced by Iraq regarding the status of proscribed weapons. Nonetheless, Bush's public presentation did not change the parameters of the Iraq problem, the established enforcement procedure Bush used to resolve the Iraq problem, Iraq's established and presumed guilt on WMD, and the urgency added by 9/11 to resolve the Iraq problem.

To summarize, within the operative enforcement procedure, it did not matter whether the CIA had said, ‘Mr. President, it is a slam dunk that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction’ or ‘Mr. President, we have not known for sure since 1995′ – because the US and UN held no burden of proof on Iraq’s weapons. The entire burden of proof was on Saddam. Within the operative enforcement procedure, Saddam was guilty until Saddam proved Iraq was fully rehabilitated. Within the operative enforcement procedure, until Saddam fully accounted for his proscribed weapons, Saddam was presumed to possess them – regardless of whether Iraq’s possession was demonstrable by intelligence services.

Iraq’s WMD had been an established fact at the basis of the Iraq enforcement since 1991. The notion that the US, UN, or any intelligence service held a responsibility to prove Iraq’s WMD is a false premise foundational to the false narrative of the Iraq enforcement. If the CIA had said, ‘We don’t know’, that would not have changed the Iraq enforcement procedure, because anywhere Iraq lacked account of proscribed weapons meant possession.

After the fact, the 2004 CIA DCI Special Advisor Report on Iraq's WMD, commonly called the Duelfer Report, confirmed that Iraq was in violation of the UNSC resolutions related to weapons, though not entirely as suggested by the pre-war intelligence. There is, of course, no disagreement that Saddam remained in violation of UNSC resolutions related to humanitarian and terrorism standards that were also triggers for the military enforcement.


The link between 9/11 and Iraq is not a major part of my take on the issue because the Bush administration did not claim Saddam was behind the 9/11 attacks, and the Iraq problem, which included Saddam's guilt on terrorism, and the operative procedure to resolve the Iraq problem were mature by the close of the Clinton administration - before 9/11.

However, the 9/11 attacks did significantly boost the urgency and political will to resolve the Iraq problem expeditiously.

President Clinton explained the link between 9/11 and Iraq:
"Noting that Bush had to be "reeling" in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001, Clinton said Bush's first priority was to keep al Qaeda and other terrorist networks from obtaining "chemical and biological weapons or small amounts of fissile material."

"That's why I supported the Iraq thing. There was a lot of stuff unaccounted for," Clinton said in reference to Iraq and the fact that U.N. weapons inspectors left the country in 1998.

"So I thought the president had an absolute responsibility to go to the U.N. and say, 'Look, guys, after 9/11, you have got to demand that Saddam Hussein lets us finish the inspection process.' You couldn't responsibly ignore [the possibility that] a tyrant had these stocks," Clinton said."

President Bush concurred with his predecessor that the 9/11 attacks increased the urgency to resolve the Iraq problem:
"Some citizens wonder, after 11 years of living with this problem, why do we need to confront it now? And there's a reason. We've experienced the horror of September the 11th. We have seen that those who hate America are willing to crash airplanes into buildings full of innocent people. Our enemies would be no less willing, in fact, they would be eager, to use biological or chemical, or a nuclear weapon.

Knowing these realities, America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof -- the smoking gun -- that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud. As President Kennedy said in October of 1962, "Neither the United States of America, nor the world community of nations can tolerate deliberate deception and offensive threats on the part of any nation, large or small. We no longer live in a world," he said, "where only the actual firing of weapons represents a sufficient challenge to a nations security to constitute maximum peril."

President Bush's implementation of the preemptive doctrine in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks was an extension of the preemptive doctrine implemented by President Clinton in response to the escalating Islamic terrorist campaign that culminated in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

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