Monday, May 10, 2004

Andy Comes Around

More from Andrew Sullivan's bout of conscience:

"THE CASE STANDS - JUST: There were two fundamental reasons for war against Iraq. The first was the threat of weapons of mass destruction possessed by Saddam Hussein, weapons that in the wake of 9/11, posed an intolerable threat to world security. That reason has not been destroyed by subsequent events, but it has been deeply shaken. The United States made its case before the entire world on the basis of actual stockpiles of dangerous weaponry. No such stockpiles existed. Yes, the infrastructure was there, the intent was there, the potential was there - all good cause for concern. Yes, the alternative of maintaining porous sanctions - a regime that both impoverished and punished the Iraqi people while empowering and enriching Saddam and his U.N. allies - was awful. But the case the U.S. actually made has been disproved. There is no getting around that. The second case, and one I stressed more at the time, was the moral one. The removal of Saddam was an unalloyed good. His was a repugnant, evil regime and turning the country into a more open and democratic place was both worthy in itself and a vital strategic goal in turning the region around. It was going to be a demonstration of an alternative to the autocracies of the Arab world, a way to break the dangerous cycle that had led to Islamism and al Qaeda and 9/11 and a future too grim to contemplate. The narrative of liberation was critical to the success of the mission - politically and militarily. This was never going to be easy, but it was worth trying. It was vital to reverse the Islamist narrative that pitted American values against Muslim dignity. The reason Abu Ghraib is such a catastrophe is that it has destroyed this narrative. It has turned the image of this war into the war that the America-hating left always said it was: a brutal, imperialist, racist occupation, designed to humiliate another culture. Abu Ghraib is Noam Chomsky's narrative turned into images more stunning, more damaging, more powerful than a million polemics from Ted Rall or Susan Sontag. It is Osama's dream propaganda coup. It is Chirac's fantasy of vindication. It is Tony Blair's nightmare. And, whether they are directly responsible or not, the people who ran this war are answerable to America, to America's allies, to Iraq, for the astonishing setback we have now encountered on their watch."

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