No Good Idea Ever Dies

10/15/2010 01:24 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Justin Elliot of Salon is reading a new book by General Hugh Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during parts of the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. And apparently Shelton describes how in 1997, someone in the Clinton cabinet--from the way it's written, probably Madeleine Albright -- suggested that the U.S. let a plane get shot down in order to provide a pretext to invade Iraq: of the Cabinet members present leaned over to me and said, "Hugh, I know I shouldn't even be asking you this, but what we really need in order to go in and take out Saddam is a precipitous event -- something that would make us look good in the eyes of the world. Could you have one of our U-2s fly low enough -- and slow enough -- so as to guarantee that Saddam could shoot it down?"

The hair on the back of my neck bristled, my teeth clenched, and my fists tightened. I was so mad I was about to explode. I looked across the table, thinking about the pilot in the U-2 and responded, "Of course we can ..." which prompted a big smile on the official's face.

"You can?" was the excited reply.

"Why, of course we can," I countered. "Just as soon as we get your ass qualified to fly it, I will have it flown just as low and slow as you want to go."

This sounds completely plausible, since coming up with some bullshit excuse to attack Iraq was in the air for several years. Kenneth Pollack suggested it in his book The Threatening Storm, although no one celebrating what a brilliant and wise book it was ever mentioned it:

Assembling a [] coalition would be infinitely easier if the United States could point to a smoking gun with Iraqi fingerprints on it--some new Iraqi outrage that would serve to galvanize international opinion and create the pretext for an invasion...

There are probably [] courses the United States could take that might prompt Saddam to make a foolish, aggressive move, that would then become the "smoking gun" justifying an invasion. An aggressive U.S. covert action campaign might provoke Saddam to retaliate overtly, providing a casus belli...Other means might also be devised.

Then of course there's this:

During a private two-hour meeting in the Oval Office on Jan. 31, 2003, [Bush] made clear to Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain that he was determined to invade Iraq without the second resolution, or even if international arms inspectors failed to find unconventional weapons, said a confidential memo about the meeting written by Mr. Blair's top foreign policy adviser...

"The U.S. was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in U.N. colours," the memo says, attributing the idea to Mr. Bush. "If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach."

And they absolutely did try something along these lines:

THE RAF and US aircraft doubled the rate at which they were dropping bombs on Iraq in 2002 in an attempt to provoke Saddam Hussein into giving the allies an excuse for war, new evidence has shown.

But in any case, it's always interesting to find out how the Democratic foreign policy establishment are not just scumbags, but scumbags in exactly the same way the Republican foreign policy establishment are.

BONUS: Recall that Madeleine Albright played the Colin Powell role in our previous dramatic-presentation-of-airtight-evidence-at-the-UN-Security-Council-for-why-we-had-to-attack-Iraq that also turned out to be complete bullshit.