FISH, BARREL, MARK STEYN. This is way too easy, but here I go anyway. Yesterday I was reading right-wing columnist Mark Steyn - who, you will not be surprised to learn, is a major fan of the red-faced ranting UN ambassador-designate, John Bolton - when my eyes alighted upon this extraordinary passage:
The assumption seems to be that, with things going Bush's way in Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, Bush needs to reach out by stiffing the counselors who called it right and appointing more emollient types who got everything wrong. Each to his own. But as I see it, the question isn't why Wolfowitz and Bolton should hold these jobs, but why Kofi Annan, Jacques Chirac, John Kerry and assorted others still hold their jobs. (Mark Steyn, Chicago Sun-Times, 3/20/05)
Now, I realize it has become a sign of terminally unhip liberalism to point out that we supposedly went to war to root out Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. Nevertheless, I thought it would be fun to review Steyn's pronunciamentos before and during the war. Roll the tape:
There may be valid arguments for not going to war with Iraq, but not the ones that begin: Oh, even if Saddam has weapons of mass destruction, he'd never use them against the West. Never bet on a dictator's rationality. (Mark Steyn, Jerusalem Post, 1/22/03)
Let's say Saddam has long-range weapons of mass destruction. If he nuked Montpelier (Vermont), Chirac would insist that Bush needed to get a strong Security Council resolution before responding. If he nuked Montpellier (France), Iraq would be a crater by lunchtime. (Mark Steyn, Chicago Sun-Times, 2/7/03)
"Weapons of Mass Destruction. Remember them? Not a single one has yet been found" (Bill Neely, ITV, April 10). MBITRW [Meanwhile Back in the Real World]: Actually, I almost wish this one were true. Anything that turns up now will be assumed to have been planted. If I were Washington, I'd consider burying anything I found. After all, an America that feels no need to bother faking justifications for invasion would be far more alarming to most Europeans. Instead, horrible things will turn up, but will never be "conclusive" enough for the French, who've got all the receipts anyway. (Mark Steyn, Daily Telegraph, London, 4/12/03)
Maybe the Bushies took Steyn's advice and buried the weapons. Because here, lest we forget, is the conclusion of Bush's hand-picked weapons inspector, David Kay:
Two days after resigning as the Bush administration's top weapons inspector in Iraq, David Kay said Sunday that his group found no evidence Iraq had stockpiled unconventional weapons before the U.S.-led invasion in March. (CNN, 1/26/04)
Now, a fair-minded observer would note that Steyn never came right out and said that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction - rather, he claimed that Bush's war was justified because of strong suspicions that Iraq had such weapons. True enough. Check the record, and you'll see that even Hans Blix thought Saddam possessed such weapons.
But what Steyn omits, of course, is that UN inspectors were on the ground, assiduously searching for those weapons, and were forced to leave only so that Bush could get his war on before the desert got too hot. Bush's mistake wasn't in being wrong, or in overhyping the evidence; it was in short-circuiting the very process he'd agreed to as an alternative to war. Sorry for the italics, but this stuff just drives me crazy.
And remember, Mohamed ElBareidi, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, had already pretty much cleared Iraq of possessing nuclear weapons. (Yes, Saddam wanted nukes. News value, please?) Except that folks like Bush, Dick Cheney, and, of course, Steyn didn't believe ElBareidi. Except that ElBareidi was right.
But what about the progress Iraq appears to have been made? I'm glad; I hope it lasts; and it could have been accomplished far more effectively if Bush had been willing to build a genuine international coalition. Since the weapons turned out not to exist, then there really wasn't any hurry, was there?
Now, let me return to trying to figure out what Bush was right about, and what Chirac, Annan, and Kerry were wrong about. The mind boggles.