Post-Emptive Proof

Seen through a neocon lens, Libya’s WMD concession validates the war in Iraq.


Right weapons. Wrong country. No matter?

The Bush administration, of course, still hasn’t discovered any trace of the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction it cited as justification for pre-emptive war. But a cadre of right-wing commentators are now offering yet another rhetorical end-run around that awkward failure. Through this neocon lens, Libya’s decision to scrap its WMD program validates both the war and the pre-emptive policies behind it.

According to Andrew Apostolou, National Review contributor and research director of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, not only was Moammar Khaddafi’s decision to abandon his weapons program a result of Iraq’s ‘liberation’,, but so was Iran’s acceptance of nuclear inspectors. Apostolu explains:

“Bush and Blair have turned the threat back onto the dictators, treating the WMD programs as the death warrants for these wicked regimes, not their tickets to survival. The liberation of Iraq communicated the simple point that international obligations are to be observed; they are not an initial negotiating position with which one quibbles, negotiates over, and ultimately evades. While many in the think-tank lunch circuit in Washington, D.C. may find it hard to grasp, this message has been received loud and clear in Tripoli.”

While it’s admirable that Apostolu gives so much credit to international law, his analysis is about as water-tight as a seive. Not only does Apostolu blithely ignore the lingering WMD threat in North Korea, but he seems unmoved by Washington’s equally blind ignorance of several other nation’s weapons programs — notably Israel’s.

William Safire doesn’t try to reach Apostolu’s ideological heights. Still, the conservative stalwart of The New York Times Op-Ed page contends that Khadaffi’s decision displays the influence of Washington’s approach.

“Events are proving that we and our coalition allies were right to root out the sources of terror in Afghanistan and Iraq. As the skin-saving démarche of Qaddafi demonstrates, introducing freedom to countries long denied it has a powerful effect on the actions of regional neighbors.”

That, of course, has been the neocon dream all along — a Saddam-free Iraq representing both carrot and stick of a restructured, shoot-first US policy in the Mideast and beyond. But many folks aren’t convinced by the neocon revisionism. Katrina vanden Heuvel of The Nation nimbly undercuts the notion that Libya acquiesced simply because of the situation in Iraq. Khaddafi, she reminds us in her blog, has been the focus of ten years of international pressure and diplomatic negotiations. As was the case when Tripoli finally gave way on the Lockerbie bombing case, this was a settlement long in the making, she asserts.

Others, such as Byron Williams, dismiss the effort to link Libya’s WMD decision to the Iraqi war as little more that misdirection. Lost amid the hype of Saddam’s capture and the spin of the Libyan backdown, Williams asserts, are scores of unanswered questions about the administration’s seemingly open-ended war.

“As fascinating as it is to ponder what we have, we may be better served by asking what we have not. We do not have peace in Iraq or enhanced safety at home, we do not have WMDs, we do not have access to the intelligence the administration used to go to war, nor a corresponding truth that justifies said decisions, we do not have Iraqis in leadership of the Iraqis’ own choosing, and therefore do not have the makings of authentic liberation in Iraq, let alone a successful formula for democracy. But we got him.”

Such skepticism, of course, rubs Bill O’Reilly raw. The Fox nabob and New York Daily News columnist isn’t satisfied with the official level of hype and spin. Building a scrap of news into a castle of predictive assumptions, O’Reilly gleefully ponders the possibility that the administration might finally link Saddam to Al Qaeda and thus blow gaping holes in the anti-war arguments made by Howard Dean and others on the left. Never mind that even the most hawkish of the Pentagon’s neocons aren’t trying to make that case. O’Reilly, a comfortable master of the outlandish argument, isn’t about to let the facts derail a cherished ideological flight of fancy.

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