Historically-ignorant student journalism

From this gem of a student opinions article, which argues that comparisons between Hussein and Hitler are fallacious, bogus, and part of some right-wing media conspiracy, the author says,

Now, I may be one of the few people on campus who was actually old enough to care during the Gulf War but WTF??? No plans? So the Gulf War WASN’T started by Saddam invading Kuwait?

Look kiddies, if you want people to believe you’re a journalist of any credibility, you should probably avoid making broad statements that debunk your entire argument.

…Or were you just willfully ignoring proof that Saddam would invade neighboring countries if he had any hint that he could get away with it because it didn’t work with your agenda?

Let’s do a main points count, shall we?

Invading other countries
Hitler: check, Hussein: check
Gassing his own citizens because of cultural differences
Hitler: check, Hussein: check
Using torture as an oppression device
Hitler: check, Hussein: check
Using secret police to arrest dissidents
Hitler: check, Hussein: check
Blatantly refusing to comply with treaties
Hitler: check, Hussein: check
Advocating violence toward Jews
Hitler: check, Hussein: check

But hey, why confuse you with logic right Josh?

Um, the Gulf War was a long time ago, in the past. I don’t think we can call it a plan anymore…unless they planned to travel back in time to do it again.

Yes 'This war" and “The Gulf War” are two different wars.

It’s important to note that the article in question was an opinion column not a news article.

Yes, if you write an opinion column and what to be taken even somewhat seriously you should have at least some of the facts straight, but hey, that never stopped anyone else, did it?:stuck_out_tongue:

The first Gulf War was started in response to the invasion of Kuwait.

This Gulf War was started as the opening move in a neo-conservative gambit to expand American hegemony over the Middle East. It’s been in the works for years – they were just waiting for a galvanizing event like 9/11 to sell it to the American people.

(Are you familiar with the Project for a New American Century? You should be. http://www.newamericancentury.org/.)

Everything in the quote you include is true:

  • Iraq is a mostly-destroyed third world country. Their army in this war was a fraction of what our forces faced 12 years ago. The sanctions in the intervening years have crippled them economically.

  • Saddam Hussein is (or was) a “CIA operative-turned-second-rate dictator”. You may have a short memory but I can remember way back in the 1980’s when Saddam was Our Guy. We started backing him after the Iranian revolution next door tossed out the Shah (Our Previous Guy). That’s why there are photos of Donald Rumsfeld shaking Hussein’s hand in the early 80’s. That’s why the U.S. downplayed international outrage about the gassing of the Kurds in 1988. He was still Our Guy.

  • Since getting kicked out of Kuwait 12 years Iraq certainly has lacked the wherewithal to invade anyone else. And, as the author of your quote correctly points out, large portions of Iraq were not even under Hussein’s control. The Kurds were running their own autonomous region in the north, and in both the north and south the no-fly zone severely limited Hussein’s military capabilities.

Nazi Germany was a first-tier industrial and military power with the ability to project its influence around the globe. It had some of the world’s leading scientific minds and some of the most technologically advanced weapons on the planet. It was able to conquer most of Europe with relative ease. (If Hitler hadn’t been foolish enough to invade Russia they’d be there still – America alone certainly didn’t have the power to dislodge them.)

Hussein’s Iraq was a mere pipsqueak by comparason. The ease by which it crumbled calls into question the entire Bush administration rationale for the war. If they were so weak, what were we scared of? The missing WMDs? Even if they did exist, why would Hussein give them to religious fundamentalists who were his ideological opposites?

But, hey! Why let a few facts get in the way of your rousing, chest-thumping, feel-good patriotism?


It’s been a while but when Hitler started wasn’t Germany reeling from WW1, (bombed, reparations, etc) (wasn’t this a major factor in Hitler’s rise?)

Wouldn’t this be a point of similarity:confused:

Is it that Saddam’s Iraq had probably peaked power-wise in a ruined country, while Hitler’s Germany was just starting?

Wow. Usually the paranoid conspiracy theories don’t show up until the end of a post, not the beginning.

I assume the Illuminati didn’t have this scheme in mind during the first Gulf War, which would have been a perfect opportunity. Yet somehow or other, they knew that there would be a major terrorist attack sometime between then and 9/11. Amazing prescience, wouldn’t you agree?

Actually, everything in the quote you include is somewhat exaggerated and/or distorted.

For instance:

Mostly destroyed in the sense that Saddam did not manage to rebuild his army, thank God. The oil infrastructure that drives their economy is OK, and it would be more accurate to say “Saddam’s refusal to abide by the terms of the cease-fire and theft from the oil-for-food program have hurt them economically”. Of course, that makes it harder to blame the West for containing Saddam, so I don’t wonder you prefer other phraseology.

Also more than a little off. Iran and Iraq fought a war. The realpolitik of the period was to try to balance them off against each other - the fundamentalist Islamic madmen of Khomeini against the secular madmen of Iraq. Neither was our ally, but the more time they spent killing each other, the least opportunity they had to threaten the rest of the region. Which Iraq did shortly after the war with Iran ended.

The problem being that you are blaming Bush for acting before the problem got out of hand. I thought it was the Left who was predicting a blood bath of block-to-block fighting in Baghdad, and flaming trenches of oil and all that.

I would be interested in your take on how we should handle North Korea. If we have no reason to go to war with countries that can be conquered with relatively little loss of life, how should we deal with NK’s nukes? Should we be more, or less likely, to go to war?

And I wonder why Saddam would send his airplanes and other weaponry to Iran during the first Gulf War, if he is so consistent as to regard the arming of fundamentalist terrorists with such horror?

Are you suggesting that he would never offer refuge to, for instance, the terrorists who attacked the Achille Laurel?

Indeed. Or a nice conspiracy theory.


Saddam Hussein was never a CIA operative as the fool asserts. What’s equally as bad is that the author implies that the CIA put Saddam into power- although I seem to recall nothing about CIA involvement in the 1968 Ba’athist coup.

I haven’t seen anything on the 1968 coup either, but to be fair I have seen claims of CIA involvement in both the botched 1959 coup ( in which Saddam, a shooter in the assassination attempt, was wounded ) and in the successful 1963 coup, though I believe the CIA has denied participation in the latter.

Here’s one article on this:


  • Tamerlane

Was there a coup in '68, or am I mistaken?

There was. Iraq was quite the coup-happy country. Saddam came to direct power in the last, in 1979.

  • Tamerlane

The explanation for the ignorance of the opinion article’s author is at the very bottom: “graduate student in screenwriting”. Michael Moore wannabe, probably. Well on his way, of course.

Here’s something that might be of interest, written my someone who is not historically ignorant.


“Comparisons put forward by proponents of a U.S. invasion of Iraq between Saddam Hussein and Adolph Hitler are misleading for several reasons: Germany was the most advanced industrialized country in the world during Hitler’s reign and was part of an axis of other major military powers. Iraq, by contrast, is an internationally isolated Third World country whose military and civilian infrastructure was severely damaged in a devastating six-week U.S.-led bombing campaign in 1991 and has been under the toughest international sanctions in world history ever since. Unlike Nazi Germany, the ability of Iraq to do much damage beyond its borders in the foreseeable future is extremely limited.”

The rest is pretty interesting too.

I’m no expert on WW2-era Germany so I’m not sure if Germany was “the most” or perhaps better described as one of the most “advanced industrialized” countries. But in either case the Hitler/Hussein analogies are, in all but superficial ways, bogus and unhelpful.

I would say the German economy pre-WWII was in far worse shape than Iraq during the 90s. Their military as well.

Herr Schickelgruber ignored treaties and cease-fires to build up his military so as to able to invade and conquer his neighbors. The West had a chance to stop him with minimal bloodshed, but did not.

Saddam Hussein ignored treaties and cease-fires to build up his military so as to be able to invade and conquer his neighbors. The West had a chance to stop him with minimal bloodshed, and took it.

Of course, the situations are not exactly analogous, but the comparison is instructive.

Perhaps it is not exactly true that “the only thing we learn from history is that we do not learn from history”.


"I would say the German economy pre-WWII was in far worse shape than Iraq during the 90s.

And I would say that is a meaningless comparison since the entire world economy was in a depression prior to WW2, and not just Germany’s. So you can’t just compare 1930s Germany to 1990s Iraq. You have to compare 1930s Germany to 1930s France, Britain and the US and then compare 1990s Iraq to the US and the E.U. I suspect you’d find the differences there to be enormous–and let’s not forget about the sanctions and the isolation.

Not to mention that there’s no evidence of an Iraqi build up of any consequence! The US spends more money on its military than the rest of the world combined, no? Where is there room here for a meaningful parallel to the 1930s?

From page 26 of the document Rebuilding America’s Defenses – Strategy Forces and Resources, published by the Project for the New American Century in September 2000, one year before 9/11:

On page 63 of the same document, in a discussion of how to transform the U.S. military into a force capable of enforcing a global “Pax Americana”:

This document is available at the Project for the New American Century website: http://www.newamericancentury.org/RebuildingAmericasDefenses.pdf

The Project is run by William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard. Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld are all signatories of the project’s statement of principles: http://www.newamericancentury.org/statementofprinciples.htm

Many of the individuals involved in the current war wanted to press on to Baghdad in the first Gulf War but were prevented by Bush 41.

They didn’t know in advance there was going to be a terrorist attack. But once it happened they were quickly seized upon it as “a new Pearl Harbor” that could be used to convince the American people to go along with an attack on Iraq that furthered their plans for an American global hegemony.

Again, you are exaggerating more than slightly, Pochacco.

To get from statements of desired strategic development to dark plans of world conquest is a bit of a stretch. And why exactly is Bush Jr. part of the conspiracy, but his father was not? And why didn’t we simply keep Kuwait once we had driven Saddam out?

Or is this another of those theories for which lack of evidence is interpreted as a sign of how subtle the plotters are?

“Sure, there’s no sign that space aliens are controlling the President’s mind thru chip implants. But that’s just what they want you to believe…”

Mandelstam -

Well, I am not sure of your comparison. Certainly the US is far better off than Iraq, just as she was far better off than Germany even in the depths of the Great Depression. But that doesn’t establish that Iraq has been “mostly destroyed”.

Nazi Germany was in far worse shape than Iraq was six weeks ago, and still managed a military build-up that threatened her neighbors because nobody did anything to stop her from violating her agreements.

Saddam, being economically in much better shape than Weimar-era Germany, was much more of a threat. I have heard figures of six billion dollars stashed away by Saddam someplace, the result of his thefts from the oil-for-food program. (I heard it on NPR - ask me if you need a cite.) That seems like a substantial chunk of change available for building up his military and WMD.

And clearly, if he had been allowed to continue to frustrate the inspections, and subsequently had the sanctions removed, he could have picked up where he never really left off, in seeking WMD to use to threaten his neighbors.

Just as Hitler did, although Hitler’s WMD were mostly the Panzers and the Luftwaffe.

Hitler was not stopped, until it was almost too late. Saddam was, and in time to prevent any more than one attack on his neighbors.

The analogous time would have been if the West had issued credible threats of war against Germany when she threatened Czechoslovakia. Hitler himself admitted later that he was bluffing, and could never have survived a military confrontation with the West (the quote is from Shirer’s biography of Hitler). But at that time, we did not have Bush, we had Neville Chamberlain - and subsequently, World War II.

A dictatorial madman with a penchant for attacking his neighbors, an atrocious record of human rights violation, and a callous disregard for treaties or international opinion, who wants military power to use to create an empire. Who are we describing, Saddam or Hitler?

Both! The difference being, one was stopped in time, by a leader of courage and in the teeth of the moral cowardice of many in the rest of the world.

The other was not. Which is to be regretted.


Gee, thanks for misstating my position so I look like a tin-hat-wearing kook.

Here, let me have another go. For years a group of neo-conservative thinkers have been pushing to attack Iraq for a variety of reasons. They haven’t made a secret of it – the position papers have been available online all along for anyone who cared to read them.

For example, here’s a quote from a 1998 New York Times editorial written by William Kristol and Robert Kagan:


In another 1998 editorial in the National Standard by Robert Kagan pushing for a Clinton-era invasion of Iraq he wrote:


And Paul Wolfowitz himself wrote in a 1998 statement to the House National Security Committee (where he was pushing his plan at the time for creating a free zone in southern Iraq where revolution could take hold):


Up until 9/11 however, the American public responded coolly to this push for war with Iraq. George W didn’t run on a “let’s get Iraq” platform, and if you go back and read the neo-conservative commentators from the first year of his administration they complain repeatedly that he’s even softer on Iraq than Clinton was.

Here’s William Kristol in an interview recently with the Washington Post:


Why is George W a part of this movement while his father is not? Because it was formed in the aftermath of the first Gulf War by conservatives who felt that Bush 41 had screwed up.

From the same Washington Post article:

This entire argument is summarized in this piece from The American Prospect, run by well-known conspiracy nut Robert Reich: