Allow me to preface this writeup with a brief statement of my own opinions. I do feel that Saddam Hussein is a threat to the security of the U.S., and I do feel that the U.S. may have to take positive action of some sort to deal with him. I do not, however, support the present Administration's 'plans' for military operations against Iraq in any form they have described them. I also do not believe that Iraq and Al-Qaeda are, in fact, the same problem from the U.S. point of view. I consider a war on Iraq to be a strategically stupid maneuver at this point in time, given the demands the War on Terror (however stupid) places on our alliance commitments, force structures, domestic order and global reputation.

The following was written me in an email by a friend and posted with his permission. I should note that this friend is presently in the midst of a doctoral thesis on the topic of diversionary war (that is, American Presidential use of force in response to or in order influence public opinion). His conclusion is that foreign war very seldom makes any discernable positive difference in a President's approval ratings. His take on this whole recent shebang:

OK, Bush/Blair make their big pitch over the last two weeks, it meets a tepid response. Things are slowing down in Congress and the Security Council, and now all of a sudden we have the long-sought missing link that connects Hussein to Al Qaeda. Big time, total cahoots. Despite admin assurances for the past year that they hadn't found a thing, much to their disappointment. And they are insinuating (not proving or making refutable claims, mostly insinuating)some very strong links. Here's a statement Condi Rice made on McNeal/Lehrer last night:
At the same time, she cautioned that "no one is trying to make an argument at this point that Saddam Hussein somehow had operational control of what happened on September 11th, so we don't want to push this too far." Rice added: "This is a story that is unfolding, and it is getting clear, and we're learning more. ... When the picture is clear, we'll make full disclosure about it."
Notice the "at this point", "learning more", "make full disclosure". And her decision to raise the possibility of "Saddam controlled Sept 11th" in the first place, when neither the questions nor her previous answers implied anything at all approaching that; it was a gratuitous caveat.

"We suspect that A---[a classmate of ours -tc] is spending his time on Italian beaches instead of writing. But, I don't mean to suggest at this point that A--- has been blackmailing his students into sleeping with him. We're still learning more and will make full disclosure later".

Carefully constructed phrasing to leave the listener thinking that we do indeed suspect Hussein was a controlling force behind 9/11, and that the admin has some secret info about this that they are not quite ready to release. Trust 'em.

(conspiratorial rant begins here)

Much as I normally don't credit administrations with such skills,and much as my thesis is (was) arguing otherwise, I begin to smell a rat. Notice how absolutely perfect this is:

  1. A series of bizarre leaks from the Pentagon about war plans for Iraq, stories about administration debates, etc.
  2. Democrats and the media make a big deal about these stories, both attacking the plans and declaring that Bush shouldn't be talking about this, he hasn't made a case to the American people yet. This debate, this attempt by critics to take the up the opportunity to beat up the administration, is what puts Iraq on the national agenda.
  3. A series of moderate Republican statesmen write op eds or otherwise indicate that the administration should slow down, that there are some real arguments against going to war. Unless of course Saddam will imminently develop WMD or unless there is a Hussein - 9/11 link.

    This gives much larger media attention, because of the "dad's advisors chastise son" angle to the story. It also puts on record the point that even the war opponents would want to invade if there were a 9/11 link; no one disagrees with that publicly.

  4. With there now being a big hue and cry calling for Bush to make his case -- for something we didn't even know he wanted to do before we started asking for him to make the case. "You want a case, I'll give you a freakin' case", says Bush, and the admin launches a full-court press about why we need to invade Iraq ASAP.

    Bush is not the one suddenly making an issue of it, of course; his critics have been telling him he needs to speak out.

    Note that the timing of 1 - 4 just happen to result in Bush starting to make that case during the 9/11 anniversary week.

  5. The moderate Republicans from point 3 are now nowhere to be seen (not all of them, but one hasn't been hearing much from them).
  6. While the greater specificity of WMD allegations isn't surprising, now as the critical debates are starting, just now the Administration discovers an Iraq - 9/11 link that they had been insisting just wasn't there as recently as a month or two ago. Per point 3, we now have a casus belli that even the skeptics agreed would be sufficient to change their minds.
  7. War.

I still doubt this was planned, but if one were to orchestrate a campaign to put war with Iraq on the front burner, this makes a great script. That the timing also happens to crowd out the mid-term Congressional campaign is icing on the cake. (end quote)