Why Did You Oppose The Iraq War Daddy?

Kevin Drum asks:

Question: [Re:] the primary critique among the anti-war left, has the Iraq war vindicated them?

Well, my quick answer as to my primary critque of the Iraq Debacle is - for the same reasons Bush pere did not go to Baghdad at the end of Desert Storm. But my long answer relies on the Congressional testimony of General Wesley Clark in September 2002:

GEN. CLARK: I've been concerned that the attention on Iraq will distract us from what we're doing with respect to al Qaeda. . . . I think, as a minimum, that when one opens up another campaign, there is a diversion of effort. The question is whether the diversion of effort is productive or counterproductive. I really -- it's -- there are forces operating in both directions at this point. You can make the argument, as General Shalikashvili did, that you want to cut off all sources of supply. Problem with that argument is that Iran really has had closer linkages with the terrorists in the past and still does, apparently, today, than Iraq does. So that leads you to then ask, well, what will be the impact on Iran?


. . . SEN. CLELAND: And if you took out Saddam Hussein and the Ba'ath Party, the secularist party, don't the . . . Shi'ite Muslims make up a majority of the population in Iraq, and wouldn't that give Iran a strong hand there, and we ultimately end up creating a Muslim state, even under democratic institutions?

GEN. CLARK: Yes, sir. I think that there is a substantial risk in the aftermath of the operation that we could end up with a problem which is more intractable than we have today.

One thing we're pretty clear on is that Saddam has a very effective police state apparatus. He doesn't allow challenges to his authority inside that state. When we go in there with a transitional government and a military occupation of some indefinite duration, it's also very likely that if there is an effective al Qaeda left -- and there certainly will be an effective organization of extremists -- they will pour into that country because they must compete for the Iraqi people; the Wahabes with the Sunnis, the Shi'as from Iran working with the Shi'a population. So it's not beyond consideration that we would have a radicalized state, even under a U.S. occupation in the aftermath.

Was General Clark vindicated? Kevin writes:

The fact that Iraq is a clusterfuck doesn't demonstrate that preemptive war is wrong any more than WWII demonstrated that wars using Sherman tanks are right. It's the wrong unit of analysis. After all, Iraq didn't fail because it was preemptive (though that didn't help); it failed either because George Bush is incompetent or because militarized nation building in the 21st century is doomed to failure no matter who does it. Preemption per se had very little to do with it, and the argument against preemptive war, which is as much moral as pragmatic, is pretty much the same today as it was in 2002.

Now, you can argue that non-preemptive wars are more likely to get broad international support, and that this in turn is more likely to lead to success. But this just gets back to Max's original point: does this mean that anti-war liberals think the war would have been OK if only the UN had authorized it?

Maybe so. That actually comes perilously close to my own view. But it's not an argument I've heard much of lately.

PEDANTIC UPDATE: I've used the term "preemptive war" throughout this post, but it's worth noting that this is yet another case in which the Bush administration has twisted broadly-accepted language for its own use. A preemptive war is one in which an attack is imminent and you decide to strike first rather than wait for a certain invasion. A preventive war is one in which you invade in order to prevent a possible but uncertain future attack. Iraq was a preventive war.

Didn't Kevin just concede the point? The argument was always about preventive war, whatever word Bush used. General Clark explains again:

. . GEN. CLARK: I think that the United States always has the option of acting unilaterally. But I'd say in this case it's a question of what's the sense of urgency here, and how soon would we need to act unilaterally? And so I think it's very important that we recognize that so far as any of the information has been presented, as General Hoar said, there is nothing that indicates that in the immediate, next hours, next days, that there's going to be nuclear-tipped missiles put on launch pads to go against our forces or our allies in the region. And so I think there is, based on all of the evidence available, sufficient time to work through the diplomacy of this.

But to put a fine point on it, General Clark testified before the House Armed Services Committee and said:

We have an unfinished, world-wide war against Al Qaeda, a war that has to be won in conjunction with friends and allies, and that ultimately be won by persuasion as much as by force, when we turn off the Al Qaeda recruiting machine. Some three thousand deaths on September 11th testify to the real danger from Al Qaeda, and as all acknowledge, Al Qaeda has not yet been defeated. Thus far, substantial evidence has not been made available to link Saddam�s regime to the Al Qaeda network. And while such linkages may emerge, winning the war against Al Qaeda may well require different actions than ending the weapons programs in Iraq.

. . . I would offer the following considerations:

- The United States diplomacy in the United Nations will be further strengthened if the Congress can adopt a resolution expressing US determination to act if the United Nations will not. The use of force must remain a US option under active consideration. The resolution need not at this point authorize the use of force, but simply agree on the intent to authorize the use of force, if other measures fail. . . .

- The President and his national security team must deploy imagination, leverage, and patience in crafting UN engagement. In the near term, time is on our side, and we should endeavor to use the UN if at all possible. This may require a period of time for inspections or even the development of a more intrusive inspection program, if necessary backed by force. This is foremost an effort to gain world-wide legitimacy for US concerns and possible later action, but it may also impede Saddam�s weapons programs and further constrain his freedom of action. Yes, there is a risk that inspections would fail to provide the evidence of his weapons programs, but the difficulties of dealing with this outcome are more than offset by opportunity to gain allies and support in the campaign against Saddam.

. . . Force should not be used until the personnel and organizations to be involved in post-conflict Iraq are identified and readied to assume their responsibilities. This includes requirements for humanitarian assistance, police and judicial capabilities, emergency medical and reconstruction assistance, and preparations for a transitional governing body and eventual elections, perhaps including a new constitution. Ideally, international and multinational organizations will participate in the readying of such post-conflict operations, including the UN, NATO, and other regional and Islamic organizations.

Force should be used as the last resort; after all diplomatic means have been exhausted, unless information indicates that further delay would present an immediate risk to the assembled forces and organizations. This action should not be categorized as "preemptive."

I think this answers Kevin's question. The Anti-War dirty hippies were utterly and completely vindicated. Small solace for the greatest strategic blunder in the history of our country by the worst President the United States has ever had.

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    Why? (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Edger on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 12:46:28 AM EST
    The smell.

    I don't like being blatantly and transparently lied to.

    Then of course, there was also later information freely available to anyone who would look around that justified my initial reaction.

    The smell. The easily recognized smell.

    Next, war with Iran? (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by technopolitical on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 12:55:28 AM EST
    I've been encouraged to cross-post the following comments from the Booman Tribune; please excuse my shift in topic and any ignorance I may display regarding recent discussion here.

    I've seen many statements to the effect that no one can stop Bush if he wishes to attack Iran. However, it seems to me that there is a clear option, and I'd like to hear thoughts on whether it does in fact make sense.

    Constitutionally, Congress has control of the power to declare war. It has delegated some of that power to the President, but what it has delegated, it can reclaim. The scenario, then, is this:

    Congress passes a bill, by a veto-proof margin, that clearly revokes its delegation of the relevant war-making authority to the President. The bill would clearly state that an attack on Iran without Congressional authorization would be illegal, and members of the armed forces would be reminded that it is their responsibility to refuse illegal orders°°.

    Legally, Bush could delay for up to 10 days (not including Sundays)°, then veto the bill, upon which Congress would presumably override the veto in record time.

    Bush could then order whatever he wished, but with what effect?

    ° From Wikipedia comments on the Uniform Code of Military Justice: "U.S. military law requires obedience only to lawful orders. Disobedience to unlawful orders is the obligation of every member of the U.S. armed forces...."

    °° U.S. Constitution Article 1, Section 7: "...If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it...."

    And a follow-on comment:

    Regarding President's godlike authority over everything remotely related to military affairs:

    Powers of Congress,
    U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 8:

    "To declare war...."
    "To raise and support armies...."
    "To provide and maintain a navy...."
    "To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces...."
    "To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union...."
    "To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States...."

    What is left to the President?

    Presidential powers,
    Article Two, Section 2:

    "The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States...."

    All this within the laws determined by Congress, of course, fulfilling his duty to:

    Article Two, Section 3:

    "...take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed...."

    Hypothesized super-majority (none / 0) (#4)
    by technopolitical on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 02:32:34 AM EST
    The hypothesized super-majority in this scenario would, of course, require a major political shift.

    Big Tent made a good argument for (none / 0) (#5)
    by Edger on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 03:00:00 AM EST
    essentially that here on Jan 09. It seems that so far the only thing missing is the political will to do it. The Democrats in Congress seem to be terrified of being backstabbed and accused of not supporting the troops by republicans if they cut funding or impeach Bush.

    I think they need to grow some backbone and quit letting rethugs define aad set the parameters of argument, and present it to the people as 'doing what they know is the right thing" because right now IMO by not doing either they look like they are doing what they know is the wrong thing out of misguided self interest. The support is out there. But it won't be forever. Although Kucinich has been making some good noises lately none of the others seem to be hearing, or listening.


    My suggestion addresses a different issue (5.00 / 1) (#26)
    by technopolitical on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 05:20:05 PM EST
    Big Tent's discussion addresses Congressional powers with respect to the war in Iraq (the power of the purse), and addresses questions regarding intervention in an authorized conflict. This approach may apply equally well to the Iran issue, but my point is that, in this instance, the war-making power is also directly relevant: A new war requires new authorization.

    If no such authorization has been delegated, then a resolution asserting this would have considerable effect, particularly if it noted the obligation of officers to refuse illegal orders.

    My suggestion addresses the more difficult case, in which an existing authorization must be withdrawn. I note why this seems to be clearly within the power of Congress, and that legislation to that effect could be effective even if Bush disregarded it (again, by obligating officers to refuse orders that would then be clearly illegal).


    Is this what you had in mind, techno? (5.00 / 1) (#27)
    by Edger on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 06:53:05 PM EST
    Republican Rep. Walter Jones (NC) introduced a resolution requiring the President "to receive congressional authorization to use military force against Iran,"

    I guess one of the points I tried to make with all of my comments here is that it appears to me that Bush is try to cover himself and have it both ways. Congressional Authorization would give him the power to attack of course, but he as president is also bound to retaliate in the event of an attack. Gulf of Tonkin style or not......


    Yes, or almost (5.00 / 1) (#29)
    by technopolitical on Thu Jan 18, 2007 at 07:36:03 PM EST
    Provided that the resolution can be trumpeted as clarifying the illegality of this use of force, then yes. The Congressman seems to think it has a force like that of legislation:
    "This resolution makes it crystal clear that no previous resolution passed by Congress authorizes such use of force. The Constitution of the United States declares that, while the Commander in Chief has the power to conduct wars, only Congress has the power to authorize them."

    Surely a clarification of congressional intent should have more force than a Presidential signing statement°, but if a resolution if this sort had the full force of legislation, it could be used, in effect, to rewrite bills without presidential signing or veto.

    ° Sometimes better regarded as a statement of criminal intent.


    Yes, I saw that in it too (none / 0) (#30)
    by Edger on Fri Jan 19, 2007 at 07:25:39 AM EST
    Maybe it's the moonbat paranoiac in me but my immediate reaction to it was: Bush will love this. It's perfect: "Oh, Dick? Would you call our good friends in Tel Aviv and remind them that I'm very concerned about an Iranian attack on one of our ships in the Persian Gulf, And ask them if they have one of their submarines in the area that could take care of this problem for us? And reassure them that America will stand by them and support them always - they can count on that."

    From Seymour Hersh via Patriot Daily:

    If the Democrats won on November 7th, the Vice-President said, that victory would not stop the Administration from pursuing a military option with Iran. The White House would put "shorteners" on any legislative restrictions, Cheney said, and thus stop Congress from getting in its way."
    "Cheney's story, according to the source, was his way of saying that, whatever a Democratic Congress might do next year to limit the President's authority, the Administration would find a way to work around it."

    The number one objective of U.S. post-Cold War political and military strategy should be preventing the emergence of a rival superpower.
    --"Defense Planning Guidance" Draft Excerpts

    Bush want the US to attack Iran. (none / 0) (#6)
    by Edger on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 03:13:31 AM EST
    Cheney wants the US to attack Iran.
    The rethugs want the US to attack Iran.
    Pelosi and the Democrats want the US to attack Iran.
    Christ... the President of Iran wants the US to attack Iran.

    The US will probably attack Iran by the middle of April. Maybe next month after the Stennis Carrier Group which deployed yesterday arrives in the area.

    The world is losing it's mind.


    Keith (none / 0) (#7)
    by Edger on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 06:28:45 AM EST
    edger (none / 0) (#11)
    by jimakaPPJ on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 07:49:54 AM EST
    Iran is already attacking our troops in Iraq.

    Iran is clearly threatening the destruction an ally, Israel.

    Iran is clearly going ahead with plans to develop nucelar weapons. Guess what they will do with them.

    What do you want to do? Wait until you can see the whites of their eyes?

    BTW - Worked in 1812. Doesn't now.


    already attacking our troops in Iraq. (none / 0) (#13)
    by Edger on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 08:01:41 AM EST
    Be rather difficult for them to do if they hadn't been sent there, wouldn't it? Thank George for the maiming and death of those troops next time you're worshipping, Jim. And look in the mirror.

    any proof (none / 0) (#15)
    by soccerdad on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 08:38:01 AM EST
    or just the usual made up crap.

    how many times does bush ... (none / 0) (#21)
    by Sailor on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 10:53:37 AM EST
    ... have to lie to these commenters before they stop believing him!?
    There is zero proof iran is involved. Remember WMDs, didn't exist. Aluminun tubes? Not fit for centrifuges. Mobile bio weapons labs? Nope, didn't exist. They have offered no proof, just more lies to whip simpletons into a frenzy of bloodlust to kill even more innocent civilians and invade more countries in the PNAC blueprint.

    But yet they fall for the lies everytime.
    1) there is zero proof that iran's nuclear program is for a bomb, and even if it is it will take years. Wer have time to negotiate, not threaten.

    IRT the IEDs:

    These stories were leaked to coincide with public accusations by then Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad that Iran was meddling in Iraqi affairs. A few days after the stories appeared, Rumsfeld declared that these shaped charges were "clearly, unambiguously from Iran" and blamed Tehran for allowing the cross-border traffic.

    But the administration had a major credibility problem with that story. It could not explain why Iran would want to assist the enemies of the militant Shiite parties in Iraq that were aligned with Iran.

    HIDING?? (none / 0) (#8)
    by Edger on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 07:32:35 AM EST
    Yesterday (Jan 16/07) Steve Clemons at TWN quoted Chris Nelson's Nelson Report saying:
    OK. . .what to watch for if the US really thinks bad things are about to happen?

        ...increasing to three carrier strike groups would be noticeably more 'robust', belligerent and suggestive of intending or anticipating attack. The difference between two and three strike groups is huge. Two ='s strong and capable, but existing offensive intent is less probable; three ='s 'we don't care about provocation, we're preparing to fight in this new dimension'.

        (An indicator would be to watch for announcements about Nimitz strike group; Nimitz reportedly has completed the routine pre-deployment work-up and is in San Diego.)

    A google search on: site:navytimes.com nimitz stennis produces this as the top and the second search results of 5:
    Navy Times - Stennis group could leave early for gulf deployment
    The aircraft carrier John C. Stennis, shown here during pre-deployment training ... The Navy could also launch the San Diego-based Nimitz, which in November... www[dot]navytimes[dot]com/story.php?f=1-292925-2438831.php - 32k - Cached - Similar pages
    The Navy Times story, though dated Dec 21/06, has been removed by the Navy Times, and opening the link produces:
    The story you are looking for cannot be found.

    Is anyone near (none / 0) (#9)
    by Edger on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 07:40:23 AM EST
    or in San Diego who can find out or go look and see if the Nimitz is still there? It's kind of hard to miss, it's big. ;-)

    It snowed here in San Diego last week (none / 0) (#22)
    by Dadler on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 12:35:59 PM EST
    As for the Nimitz, I'm pretty sure it's still here for the time being.  Next time I'm near the harbor, maybe when I pick my son up from school this afternoon, I'll take a peak.  But in the meantime, I did find this interesting little blog entry detailing what all our carriers are up to right now.

    Thanks, Dadler (none / 0) (#23)
    by Edger on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 12:45:54 PM EST
    Good link..

    techno (none / 0) (#10)
    by jimakaPPJ on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 07:45:54 AM EST
    The bill couldn't get passed, much less with a veto proof majority.

    Congress can provided funds and take awat funds. What he cannot do is micromanage the war. That is clarly under the President's power as CINC.


    Powers (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by Skyho on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 07:54:31 AM EST
    *Congress can provided funds and take awat funds. What he cannot do is micromanage the war. That is clarly under the President's power as CINC. *

    So, a president can micromanage a war.

    But, you can also say that Congress can macromanage a war, in big chunks.

    Personally, I would simplistically like to see all the money for war taken away, and a new budget formed for the express purpose of getting our citizens out of Iraq.


    Congress can dictate how money is to be spent (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by Molly Bloom on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 09:10:10 AM EST
    I believe Professor Turley gave examples all the way back to the Mexican War of how congress dictated how funds for war could be spent on KO on January 10, 2007

    TURLEY:  No.  It`s as simple as that.  The president can only spend funds that are given to him by Congress.  Congress can put conditions on those funds.  And indeed, Congress has often put conditions on funds going to the military, including war or national security operations.

    OLBERMANN:  Walk us through the most relevant historical parallels.  I think we all know there are some from the late stages of Vietnam.  But what else is, what else is there in that pile, and what do they tell us about the Constitution and situations just like this?

    TURLEY:  Oh, you can go back to the Mexican War to see Congress starting to put conditions on these types of funds.  The Civil War had many conditions passed by Congress.  Congress prohibited the United States from going into Angola by conditioning funds.  They required the United States to leave Somalia.  They put restrictions on Bosnia.  They put limitations on contra funding.

    All--if you go back through history, there are many, many such circumstances.  This is part of the intended tension that the framers wanted in the Constitution.  They intentionally gave this war authority to two different branches, the executive and legislative branch.  They wanted tension.  They wanted these people to have to compromise.  And they wanted to make sure that neither Congress nor the president could go at it alone.

    Whine about micromanaging all you want, it is Congress' job. Don't like it? Move to a dicatorship, but leave our constitution and democracy alone.


    Iran Time Bomb (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by Edger on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 10:17:14 AM EST
    Ticking, Ticking
    How or why so many American citizens can sit silently and watch, without an outcry of dissent, while so many incompetent US officials with divided loyalties make absurd foreign policy, never ceases to amaze me.  Very likely the placid citizens of Germany or Japan also watched silently, while the military regimes began to launch aggressive wars for territory and scarce resources during the 1930s. Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz should heed the words of Admiral Yamamoto: "In the first six to twelve months of a war with the United States and Great Britain, I will run wild and win victory upon victory.  But then, if the war continues after that, I have no expectation of success."  

    In the first six hours or six days or even six weeks of a war with Iran, we too shall run wild with victory, but as in Iraq, if the war continues after that, we have no expectation of success. The folly of imperial overreach almost always means the economic or moral collapse of a society, and Japan, Germany and Italy were no exceptions.  You don't need an advanced degree from a war college to comprehend the historical folly of imperial war.  Yet our Neocons scarcely seem to have studied history or warfare.

    It gets worse (none / 0) (#24)
    by aw on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 03:38:15 PM EST
    China to America: BACK OFF!
    Do you ever get the feeling that Bush frequently bites off more than he can chew?

    China warned the United States on Thursday not to meddle in its trade relations with Iran after Washington expressed concern about a Chinese oil company's planned investment in an Iranian gas field.
    I need all of you to appreciate this fact. China helped Iran develop a missle that was used to spank Israel during its conflict with Palestine last summer. When you consider that Israel has some of the best military technology and equipment that America has to offer, this does not bode well. Why are these weapons being built by China and Iran, in a spirit of cooperation? Well, take a guess at who their mutual enemy might be...a mutual enemy with a thirst for oil, a lust for invasion, and a bloated military budget.

    And here's some more appreciation. Chinese stealth technology has advanced to the point where US naval fleets cannot detect Chinese subs. Now if they also have weapons like the Tomahawk already developed (or very close to being developed) then I need you to think about the ramifications of that. Ever seen The Hunt for Red October?

    Consider how "stretched thin" our military forces already are, conducting war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and getting ready for a third battlefront with Iran. What makes you think that the US is ready to take on the likes of China?????

    via Crooks and Liars

    It's a pretty sad situation isn't it? (5.00 / 1) (#25)
    by Edger on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 03:59:19 PM EST
    And not just China and Iran, but also Iran and Russia. All three cooperating, and turned against America by Bush seemingly doing his absolute best to create the situation....

    You know, the Carrier Stennis is manned by more than 8000 sailors. Eisenhower too, I think. Nimitz less - maybe 5-6000?

    The blowback if Iran destroys one of those ships with one of who knows how many Sunburn missiles they bought from Russia hidden in the hills along the Gulf because they are prodded and provoked and pushed into it by the monkey in the oval office determined to 'rapturize' the world (or if Israel fakes Iran doing it in another Gulf of Tonkin setup operation) will be unbelievable... and we'll be as close to catastrope as we ever were at the height of the cold war - and probably much closer.

    If these people running these countries don't start figuring out cooperation instead of confrontation there won't be much left to confront each other over...

    And still some come here wanting to 'debate' as if encouraging this kind of idiocy is just 'another point of view' as valid as any other???


    Why? (5.00 / 1) (#28)
    by Donna Z on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 07:14:15 PM EST
    To begin with I can read, have seen maps of the world, and even then had a tiny working knowledge of the politics of the region.


    The big internet frenzy at the time of the hearings was all about getting Scott Ritter a spot on the list of those to testify. We called and wrote, but this idea was not meant to be. Thus, when the hearings finally arrived, I watched along with others expecting to hear the worse. When what to my wondering eyes did appear but a four star general supporting and adding to my thoughts.

    I guess some people, some even elected to listen, missed it. I certainly didn't. Now give me a little diplomatic surge.

    Not vindication (none / 0) (#1)
    by Che's Lounge on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 12:15:11 AM EST

    Edger (none / 0) (#14)
    by Che's Lounge on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 08:29:53 AM EST
    Last time I saw it (about two weeks ago) it was in port, as was the Reagan. The Lincoln (Mission accomplised-could almost see the San Diego skyline) is deployed I think, or on sea trials.

    The Nimitz finished a refit about two years ago. It is an older carrier and looks small next to the Reagan.  The Stennis, which used to be here, is now out of WA and is being deployed as I write. None of this is secret. During the invasion, families could track the location of the groups in the local paper. So don't any of you snotballs get your undies in a bunch that the lefties are givin' away military information.

    Oh, and Pendleton's brig is standing room only.

    standing room only (none / 0) (#17)
    by Edger on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 09:18:21 AM EST
    ;-) That's good. Some of those old keyboard kommandos have a hardtime bending. They'll be more comfortable standing, and there'll be room for more like minded company for them.

    The Nimitz (none / 0) (#18)
    by Che's Lounge on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 09:30:40 AM EST
    is next sceduled for deployment in March or April, according to my sources.

    Thx, Che. (none / 0) (#19)
    by Edger on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 09:36:26 AM EST
    Eisenhower is there, off the coast of Somalia. Stennis is on it's way. It would take Nimitz what? Maybe 2-3 weeks to get to the Gulf? So it can be there just a bit before Blair steps down...