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Editorials

Saturday, October 9, 2004



[ OUR OPINION ]


Iraq’s ‘unique’ threat
did not justify attack


THE ISSUE

President Bush argued in the debate with Sen. John Kerry that Iraq posed "a unique threat" that justified going to war.


THE release of the most comprehensive report on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has prompted President Bush to go through unprecedented contortions to explain his decision to go to war. His most recent justification for invading Iraq goes far beyond even the broadened doctrine that the White House rewrote two years ago to warrant the use of preemptive strikes when faced with an "imminent threat." The long-awaited report states unequivocally that no such threat existed.

When the Bush administration sought United Nations approval to attack Iraq two years ago, it cited international law -- Sen. John Kerry calls it a "global test," a term mocked by Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney in this week's debates -- allowing the use of preemptive strikes for nations to "defend themselves against forces that present an imminent danger of attack." Bush's National Security Council broadened that doctrine to include threats by "rogue states" that "rely on acts of terror and, potentially, the use of weapons of mass destruction."

Former weapons inspector David A. Kay reported his findings earlier this year that it was "highly unlikely" that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction at the time of the U.S. attack. Bush responded that Saddam Hussein posed "a grave and gathering threat to America and the world" because of his potential to develop and use such weapons.

It turns out that the threat from Iraq was neither imminent nor "grave and gathering." Following a report released earlier this week by Charles E. Duelfer, a top American inspector appointed by Bush to investigate the situation, the president was reduced in yesterday's debate to calling Iraq "a unique threat" at the time U.S. troops invaded the country.

The 15-month inquiry concluded that Iraq had destroyed its illicit weapons stockpile within months after the 1991 Persian Gulf War, and its ability to produce such weapons had significantly eroded by the time of the U.S. invasion 18 months ago. Duelfer said Iraq could not have produced militarily significant quantities of chemical weapons for at least a year, and it would have required years to produce a nuclear weapon. Hussein's ambiguity about whether he had such weapons was intended as a deterrent to Iran, Iraq's enemy in an eight-year war in the 1980s.

Duelfer suggested that Hussein had sacrificed Iraq's illicit weapons in order to end U.N. sanctions while laying the groundwork for a plan to resume weapons production in the event they were lifted. It was that possible scenario sometime in the future that Bush now says constituted the threat that warranted sending troops to Iraq. That explanation of why America was justified in going to war is indeed "unique."


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Martin had no choice
except to walk away


THE ISSUE

Air Force Gen. Gregory Martin has withdrawn his nomination to be commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific.


THE sun continues to shine on Camp Smith, but that may not have been the case if Air Force Gen. Gregory Martin had chosen to pursue his Senate confirmation as the next commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific. An Air Force contracting scandal that put a former colleague of Martin in jail had cast a cloud over his nomination. The controversy would have prolonged and probably doomed Martin's Senate confirmation.

Martin would have been the first Air Force general to fill a post that normally has gone to a Navy admiral. Senator Inouye says he was surprised at the nomination of "a non-naval admiral to an area that was traditionally the domain of the Navy," but that was not the problem.

The general came under heated questioning by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a retired Navy officer and the son of Adm. John S. McCain Jr., who headed the Pacific Command from 1968 to 1972. Chief of the Air Force Materiel Command since last year, Martin worked in the late 1990s with civilian Air Force procurement officer Darleen A. Druyun, who recently was sentenced to nine months in prison for providing what McCain called a sweetheart deal to Boeing Co. before she went to work at the company.

Martin said he had nothing to do with the Boeing deal, which involved the Air Force leasing of Boeing 767 refueling planes, and saw nothing "inappropriate" about Druyun's handling of the Boeing contract.

McCain has pressed the Air Force for e-mail communications about the deal but said he found resistance. "In response to repeated requests by Congress for tanker-related records, the Air Force stonewalled for months," he said. The Air Force provided documents under threat of subpoena and then "only after doctoring them," McCain said.

McCain, calling the Boeing deal "a national disgrace" costing billions of dollars, said he would hold Martin's nomination in the Senate Armed Services Committee "until we get all of the e-mails and all of the answers." Committee Chairman John W. Warner, R-Va., appeared to support McCain, leaving Martin with no realistic option but to use the exit door.

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Oahu Publications, Inc. publishes the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, MidWeek and military newspapers

David Black, Dan Case, Dennis Francis,
Larry Johnson, Duane Kurisu, Warren Luke,
Colbert Matsumoto, Jeffrey Watanabe,
directors

Dennis Francis, Publisher

Frank Bridgewater, Editor, 529-4791; fbridgewater@starbulletin.com
Michael Rovner, Assistant Editor, 529-4768; mrovner@starbulletin.com
Lucy Young-Oda, Assistant Editor, 529-4762; lyoungoda@starbulletin.com

Mary Poole, Editorial Page Editor, 529-4748; mpoole@starbulletin.com

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