Friday, March 14, 2003

Deep background on Iraq. Given that the debate over war with Iraq has been going on since last summer, it's rather amazing that anyone can come up with something interesting and original to say. From this morning's Times, two pieces that qualify on both counts.

-- On the op-ed page, Richard Nixon biographer Roger Morris offers a fascinating slice of history: John F. Kennedy's support (over the objections of France and Germany) of a 1963 coup in Iraq that brought Saddam Hussein closer to power, and Lyndon Johnson's support of a 1968 coup that actually vaulted Saddam to within the inner circle. Morris writes:

This history is known to many in the Middle East and Europe, though few Americans are acquainted with it, much less understand it. Yet these interventions help explain why United States policy is viewed with some cynicism abroad. George W. Bush is not the first American president to seek regime change in Iraq. Mr. Bush and his advisers are following a familiar pattern.

-- As columnist Paul Krugman notes, over the last few weeks some of the lonely liberals who had supported George W. Bush's war plans have backed off, repulsed by the president's inept, bullying approach. Elsewhere, though, reporter Kate Zernike (a former Globe reporter) files a piece from Boston on liberals who do support war, or who at least refuse to side with the antiwar movement.

Among them: Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel, Kennedy School of Government dean Joseph Nye, and Carr Center for Human Rights director Michael Ignatieff, who tells Zernike, "Liberals are always accused of equivocating and splitting differences, but this guy [Hussein] really is awful. But I'll tell you, it's extremely unpopular among my friends."

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