Now you may agree or disagree with the idea that Iraq is a state that sponsors terrorism. You may agree or disagree that such states should be opposed or attacked. You may have all sorts of reasons to oppose a war on Saddam. But to argue that the Bush administration has never been clear about this, that it has only recently conjured up a campaign against Saddam, or that "another war" has been "grandfathered" onto an old one, is ludicrous on its face. The issue of Iraq was on the table before the campaign against the Taliban had been waged; it was on the table before Enron hit the headlines; it was on the table when Bush's ratings were in the stratosphere; it was on the table as long ago as 1990 when Colin Powell, in the last Gulf War's endgame, helped pave the way for our current predicament.This was the closing paragraph of his most recent article in Salon. When I read this I was rather surprised. Does anybody honestly not believe that Iraq was on the agenda regardless of whether or not it actually had any ties to terrorist organizations? Even if the Rumsfeld memo didn't imply it, many of the neo-con hawks in the Bush administration had been making the argument that invasion of Iraq is a necessity long before they came into power, and certainly before 9/11. The attacks didn't change the goal, just the rhetoric- the start of the War on Terrorism prompted a change of tactics, but not the ultimate target, which had been around (as Sullivan acknowledged) since 1990.
I mean, some of the things Sullivan says makes me wonder whether he even cares about credibility. How on earth did Colin Powell "pave the way for the current mess" in 1990? Not invading Iraq had precisely nothing to do with Al Qaeda's attack on the United States; it can be argued that the Gulf War itself did, but certainly not the decision by the previous Bush administration to obey the U.N. resolutions and restrict their actions to the liberation of Kuwait. Iraq had little to nothing to do with Al Qaeda- if such a connection existed, it would have long ago been trotted out in order to support the invasion. Sullivan's citation in the article of the belief that Saddam had something to do with it that existed shortly after the attack doesn't explain anything now, either; at first we didn't know who was responsible, but we do now. Quoting former CIA chief James Woolsey as saying that they need to "develop some confidence that Iraq is involved in terrorist incidents against us, not meaning Sept. 11" right after the attack misses the point: that confidence never was developed, and we need to function knowing that, not in denial of it. His examples of the assassination attempt on Bush the Elder and the (supposed) development of WMDs as "terrorist acts" is absurd on its face; the latter would make half the countries on the planet terrorists (including India and Pakistan) and the former tactic has been endorsed by the Bush administration itself. That doesn't make the U.S. a terrorist nation, of course- it means that such acts aren't terrorism. Saddam may be a thug, but he's no terrorist.
Without that connection, then what's the point of attacking Iraq in order to forward a war on terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda? Very little- at best, it's useful to create a (theoretically) friendly regime in the region (which we don't need, and already have in countries like Jordan), and to protect the U.S. against the incredibly dubious threat of Saddam passing WMDs to terrorist organizations that are about as friendly to Saddam as Bush is. The harm done by this sort of invasion probably outweighs the benefit, but whether that's true or not, it means precisely nothing when it comes to actually dealing with terrorist organizations...they will still have failed states to operate within, friendly regimes that the United States can't touch as they weren't demonized a decade ago (like Pakistan, which is absolutely untouchable, and is one revolution away from arming terrorists with as many nukes as they desire), sources of funding, and an increased zeal to attack the United States and its allies.
I'm not the only one that's come to this conclusion.. practically every government outside the United States has (including those in the first world) and the split within the formerly united Republican party speaks volumes. The Democrats can't critique the administration for political reasons, but that doesn't mean they agree either. More and more, no matter from what angle you look at it, Sullivan is wrong- Iraq is another war, another battle, one that predates the war with terrorist organizations (started by Al Qaeda, not Saddam) and is barely related to it. Nobody's buying the administration's arguments anymore. If Sullivan keeps on parroting them, nobody's going to buy his, either.
If that's the case, then by definition the war on Iraq is "grandfathered in". Despite administration rhetoric to the contrary, it predates the war on terror and is only dimly related to the real targets and stated goals . The Bush administration saw their opportunity to justify the war that they had been calling for for a decade within the new paradigm of a war on terror, and they took advantage of it. Whether or not this war has anything to do with or real terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda has nothing to do with it. Sullivan's (or Dubya's) transparent attempts to try to shoehorn Iraq in won't change that.