Is Libya in 2011 just like Iraq in 2003? Well, no. There are some pretty important differences, including, among others, a popular uprising versus preemptive strike, issues of moral obligation versus national security, and authorization from the United Nations. But the way we talk about the two wars--sorry, "kinetic military actions"--have some eerie similarities. For starters, Republicans seem about as mad at Obama not getting Congress's approval for Libya as Democrats wound up being over Iraq. In fact, in some cases, it's hard to tell who said what when. Pop quiz: Which of these statements were said in the run-up and immediate aftermath of the Iraq invasion--and which were said since we began bombing Libya a week ago? Where necessary, the names of countries and presidents are redacted in brackets. We're also particularly fond of the twin Shakespeare references (numbers ten and eleven).
- "When there is no imminent threat to our country, he cannot launch strikes without authorization from the American people, through our elected Representatives in Congress."
- "[THE INVASION] would appear on its face to be an impeachable offense... Now, it doesn't necessarily follow that simply because a president has committed an impeachable offense, that the process should start to impeach and remove him. That's a whole separate question. But we have to clearly understand what this Constitution is about."
- "Congress must, in the name of the American people, use the one remedy which the Founders provided for an Executive who gravely abused his power: Impeachment. Congress must reassert itself as a co-equal branch of government; bring this President to an accounting, and in doing so reestablish the people's trust in Congress and in our United States system of government."
- "And yet we hear little about the aftermath of war in [TARGET COUNTRY]. In the absence of plans, speculation abroad is rife. Will we seize [ENEMY NATION]'s oil fields, becoming an occupying power which controls the price and supply of that nation's oil for the foreseeable future? To whom do we propose to hand the reigns of power after [BRUTAL DICTATOR]? Will our war inflame the Muslim world resulting in devastating attacks on Israel? Will Israel retaliate with its own nuclear arsenal? Will the Jordanian and Saudi Arabian governments be toppled by radicals, bolstered by Iran which has much closer ties to terrorism than [NATION TO BE LIBERATED]?"
- "We've got Iran and North Korea. We've got a problem with Pakistan. ... There's a whole lot of people that are going nuclear. And I think that [OFFENDING TYRANT] is actually, with the evidence, the least able to use nuclear weapons and the least obvious offender in that area at this moment."
- "We are not in a position to go around the world every time there's a local problem and intervene. I mean, if you looked at parts of West Africa, which have had horrible slaughters, if you look at Zimbabwe, where Mugabe's one of the worst dictators in the world, if you look at Kim Jong Il... if there was an [WAYWARD PRESIDENT] principle, how many countries would it get us involved in? If you took his yardstick and you went around the world and measured pain around the world caused by governments, how many places would he get involved?"
- "I don't believe the president took us to war as he should have."
- "If they're serious about protecting civilians, you can't do that from the air. [MURDEROUS DESPOT] is going to use light infantry, he's going to use his secret police. He's going to be in the cities, he's going to be inside buildings. You're not going to be able to do that with air power. This is a fundamental mistake. And I think is a typical politician's over-reliance on air power."
- "The Administration has not explicitly acknowledged, let alone explained to the American people, the immense post-war commitment that will be required to create a stable [WAR ZONE]."
- "Shakespeare stated the enduring age-old principle eloquently and wisely when he wrote: 'Time’s glory is to calm contending kings, to unmask falsehood, and bring truth to light.' No issue is more important today. The battle against terrorism is a battle we must win. Even those who opposed the war in [MIDDLE EASTERN WAR ZONE] understand that we cannot cut and run, that this is an American issue. But to remain silent in the face of mounting failures by this President and this White House is to weaken our security even further, and we cannot let that happen."
- "More than 400 years ago, William Shakespeare wrote a riveting tragedy about a young, charismatic Danish prince who vowed to do the right thing in avenging his murdered father. That soon proved easier said than done. As a result, Hamlet couldn’t quite ever act in time--given all the ambiguities that such a sensitive prince first had to sort out. In the meantime, a lot of bodies piled up through his indecision and hesitancy. ... Middle East strongmen, the president tells us, are cruel and must leave. But the why and how of it all are also never stated. Are they supposed to flee only when protests reach a critical mass?"
- "The United States has long stood with those who seek freedom from oppression through self-government and an underlying structure of basic human rights. ... I respect your authority as Commander-in-Chief and support our troops as they carry out their mission. But I and many other members of the House of Representatives are troubled that U.S. military resources were committed to war without clearly defining for the American people, the Congress, and our troops what the mission in [COUNTRY BEING BOMBED] is and what America's role is in achieving that mission. In fact, the limited, sometimes contradictory, case made to the American people by members of your Administration as left some fundamental questions about our engagement unanswered."
- "I think there's been a certain amount of, frankly... pop sociology in America, that, you know, somehow the Shia can't get along with the Sunni, or the Shia in [NATION BEING LIBERATED] just want to establish some kind of fundamentalist regime. There's almost no evidence of that at all. [FUTURE BEACON OF DEMOCRACY IN THE MIDDLE EAST] has always been very secular."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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