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October 5, 2007

Great Political Blog Posts of Our Time
Posted by Patrick at 12:59 PM * 231 comments

Ezra Klein crushes the “liberal hawks,” sees them fall at his feet, takes their horses and goods and hears the lamentations of their women. Word.

Comments on Great Political Blog Posts of Our Time:
#1 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2007, 02:06 PM:

Klein has hit the nail squarely on the head.

The ones who insist that the intervention in Iraq was justified, and who keep seeing light one friedman away down the tunnel, are as much part of the neo-con cheering section as the ones who write the policy papers.

The idea that criticising the neo-cons is anti-Semitic is one hell of a long stretch (among other things it seems to assume that such figures as Jeane Kirkpatrick and Condoleezza Rice are or were Jewish).

#2 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2007, 03:36 PM:

As a Jew, I find the whole antisemitism argument pathetic and insulting. It assumes that all Jews have a single political agenda*, and that the Neobarbs** speak for that agenda and all the Jews†.

* Protocols of the Elders of Zion, perhaps?
** It occurs to me I've been using that term for some time without explanation. It's probably obvious that I mean it derogatorily and derisively, I also use it in the sense that these fools are having an effect very like that of the barbarians who took over Rome and stripped it of everything they could carry, never mind that pulling down the only superpower is guaranteed to cause a power vacuum that will be filled with chaos.
† Yeah, right. In the first place, remember the old line about how if 3 Jews discuss a topic they'll have 4 opinions? In the second place, the whole idea of neo-Zionism is built around advantage to the interests of the Neobarbs, not the Jews. Nor is it the case that the interests of Israel and of Jews in general are identical or even roughly aligned. And in the fourth place, the control of Israeli politics and policy currently rests in the hands of a minority alliance many of whom are political or religious extremists.

#3 ::: Sean Sakamoto ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2007, 05:56 PM:

Christopher Hitchens has a column online where he deals with the fact that his words influenced a young man, previously anti-war, who went to Iraq and died there.

These pro-war columnists and writers need to realize that they are complicit in this disaster, and that people they'll never know paid terrible consequences for their deluded and misguided punditry.

The link

#4 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2007, 06:14 PM:

Bruce @2:

Thank you, thank you, thank you! The whole anti-neocon=anti-semitic thing has been making me crazy, but I wasn't sure I could discuss it without getting sidetracked by a larger Jewgirl-in-the-diaspora discussion. Thank you for so succinctly laying it bare.

#5 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2007, 06:27 PM:

Klein: "what Roger Cohen feels does not matter"

I know a Roger Cohen. I've advised him to change his name.

#6 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2007, 01:28 AM:

Roger "Therapeutic Violence" Cohen doesn't even deserve the liberal hawk label. A liberal hawk is someone who advocates war and interventionism because they truly believe that doing so advances liberal causes human rights, democracy, or justice. (Nevermind the congnitive dissonance inherent in that statement.) Cohen's no liberal--he's just a scared, scared little man who wants to lash out against the world to make himself feel safer. He's swallowed the Republican "Only we can save you from the scary brown people!" bullshit hook, line, and sinker.

#7 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2007, 02:03 AM:

Heresiarch, your "Therapeutic Violence" link is to a Richard Cohen column.

#8 ::: Zander ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2007, 03:37 AM:

"Baghdad is closer to Sarajevo than the left has allowed..."

I suppose a comment about the state of geography teaching in America would be out of place here? Yes, I thought so.

One of these days I'll have something useful to contribute...

#9 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2007, 04:44 AM:

Steven desJardins @ 7: er, ah, erm... *slumps in defeat*

Now I feel like I ought to apologize to Richard Cohen.

#11 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2007, 11:31 AM:

#3 Sean Sakamoto: Christopher Hitchens has a column online where he deals with the fact that his words influenced a young man, previously anti-war, who went to Iraq and died there.

Thank you for linking to that. Reading it clarified something for me.

I've been an avid reader since I was a kid. I've written a lot of stuff, have two degrees in one sort of writing or another. I've made a modest (compared to the number of years I've been putting pen to paper, or fingertips to keyboards) amount of money from writing. Words are, pretty much, okay by me.

Nevertheless, for some time now I think I have secretly... hated writing.

No, I don't mean I hate having (or getting) to write something. And I'm not referring to hating a particular piece of writing, or writing by a particular author.

I mean hating the existence of writing itself.

How weird is that? I don't actually know how weird that is, but my guess is: pretty weird.

I imagine people will tell me, that's silly, that's like hating knives because somebody you know got stabbed to death by one. So I guess my response to that would be... What's wrong with admitting to yourself that part of you hates knives? It doesn't mean you'll stop using them for appropriate purposes. It doesn't mean you blame the knife that stabbed your friend to death. It just means that part of you hates the simple, factual existence of knives. The End.

And it's that Hitchens piece that allowed me to finally put a name to this thing I'd been secretly feeling for a while. Maybe that's pure happenstance. Or, you know, maybe it isn't.

#12 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2007, 12:14 PM:

Michael #11

I imagine feelings like that might be common - not necessarily about writing, but about feelings in general. Perhaps it's just the mind's way of dealing with things we have a lot of exposure to. We just need to get away for a while.

Hell, maybe that explains why Watterson quit Calvin & Hobbes - he just might have been sick of that kid and his tiger.

#13 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2007, 05:43 PM:

Fragano Ledgister @ #1

one friedman away down the tunnel

A unit of measurement that can only be expressed in imaginary numbers.

#14 ::: Seth Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2007, 08:11 PM:

LMB @ 13: "One Friedman", in the left-blogosphere, equals six months, because of that pundit's frequent assurances that in the next six months we will really truly know whether Iraq is on the path to glorious democracy or truly and irretrievably fucked over.

#15 ::: CommunityRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2007, 01:36 AM:

I'd just like to point out that it is possible to support the military removal of Saddam and the Baathists without being a drooling Bushie.

The tendency of some anti-invasionists to paint all hawks with a too-broad brush is no more accurate, nor fair, than the tendency of the pro-invasionist cons to paint all anti-interventionists as America-hating or limp-wristed terror-lovers.

I supported the invasion. I supported the removal of Saddam and the destruction of the Baath regime. These were some nasty, nasty people and because America was already so tangled up in Iraq, due to our feeding resources to Saddam during the Cold War, and because of our failure to remove him during the first Gulf War, I think we owed it to Iraqis to finally go get the job done.

Does this mean I think everything has gone perfectly?

Hell no. Much of what has gone wrong has gone wrong precisely because we failed to remove Saddam in 1991, when we had for more manpower and a better political footing from which to project it. Rumsfeld didn't factor in how exhausted the Army and Marines would be. Bush and Rove used poor and weak logic in "selling" the invasion to the public. And of course, the Iraqis themselves have much to answer for. Those aren't Americans out there car-bombing markets filled with women and children.

But I digress. The so-called 'liberal hawk' stance deserves defending. Some people might not think so, but that doesn't automatically make all liberal hawks the moral or ethical equivalent of the seedier portion of the NeoCon populace.

Being a liberal hawk means believing that the U.S. armed forces must remain as a powerful interventionalist force in matters of dire humanitarian crisis. If we fault the cons for anything, maybe we should fault them for not prioritizing in the Middle East? (knock, knock, Darfur...)

If America turns its back on military interventionalism, as seems to be the want of many right now, the world will be a far less stable place for it.

Maybe lots of people could live with the U.S. being an isolationist.

But how do we explain an isolationist policy to the memories of those who fought in WWI or WWII? Korea?

These are questions that go far beyond Bush. America must still define itself in a post-Soviet world. Especially with the Chinese rising as the next (probable) superpower. What is our "job", as a nation, anyway? Do we just keep all the troops home and never again bother with a foreign military adventure?

If so, I think we will have all but handed "lone superpower" status to the Chinese. Would this be desireable?

I'm not saying I have all the answers. I am asking questions as a self-identified LibHawk who resents being tarred and feathered for Bush's mistakes and misdeeds.

#16 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2007, 07:39 AM:

@ #15 CommunityRadioVet: ...Being a liberal hawk means believing that the U.S. armed forces must remain as a powerful interventionalist force in matters of dire humanitarian crisis.

The problem for me is one of definition because my particular definition of a "liberal hawk", in this instance, is a liberal who supported the invasion of Iraq.

The problem I believe that people who meet my definition of "liberal hawk" have is that everything we have seen in Iraq since the invasion was predicted beforehand, by people who knew what the hell they were talking about. That being the case, in this instance I can see no practical or philosophical difference between a "liberal hawk" who disregarded those predictions and a "neo-con" who disregarded those predictions.

As for the notion that there may be times when the United States should for all sorts of moral and practical reasons exercise its military might on foreign shores, you don't have to be a "liberal hawk" or a "neo-con" to believe that. However, if you are actually going to go forward with such projects, you do need to be "a person with half-a-brain". That is, if people who know what they are talking about tell you that you are going to end up with something like we now have in Iraq, you should give their advice some *serious* consideration before you ride off to the rescue.

Lessons we have (supposedly) learned:

(1) Oppressed though a people may be, they often don't like having their country invaded and occupied. In fact, oppressed though they may be, they often despise you for coming to their rescue in this manner. See if there is something short of invasion you can do to help get things squared away.

(2) Imagine the worst way things can go, then if you must invade, prepare for the worst way things can go.

These two points are and were perfectly obvious *before* the invasion of Iraq. Next time, as a "liberal hawk" we will rely on you to hammer these points home before you support another fiasco like Iraq.

#17 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2007, 08:36 AM:

CRV (#15) --

To briefly reply:

I supported the invasion. I supported the removal of Saddam and the destruction of the Baath regime. These were some nasty, nasty people and because America was already so tangled up in Iraq, due to our feeding resources to Saddam during the Cold War, and because of our failure to remove him during the first Gulf War, I think we owed it to Iraqis to finally go get the job done.

Yes, the US was already involved in Iraq (as it is in many places). And yes, Saddam was brutal.

On the "why" of not removing Saddam in the first Gulf war, George H. W. Bush and Dick Cheney spoke at the time and afterward, making a case for not doing so. Given the benefit of hindsight their arguments are still persuasive and turned out to be accurate.

A military option should always be discussed. In the course of the discussion one must provide a) concrete victory condition(s), b) objective means for determining if those conditions have been met, c) a determination that the victory conditions are possible, and d) a determination that military force is the best way of achieving those victory conditions.

I don't believe that any of those four conditions were met prior to Gulf War II. A plan that includes "here a miracle occurs" is probably not a good plan. A plan that requires that everything go perfectly is probably not a good plan. Desperation could get you to go with a plan that requires you to roll snake-eyes five times in a row. I can't think of any other reason for going with a plan like that. We were not desperate at the time.

If America turns its back on military interventionalism, as seems to be the want of many right now, the world will be a far less stable place for it.

Maybe lots of people could live with the U.S. being an isolationist.

Please don't think drawing back from military interventionism is the same thing as isolationism. Military intervention is only one part of engagement in the world.

The credible threat of military force did make Saddam jump through every hoop we put in front of him. The actual use of that military force is what has placed us in the current sorry position where we can no longer credibly threaten military force elsewhere.

But how do we explain an isolationist policy to the memories of those who fought in WWI or WWII? Korea?

The dead of WWI, WWII, and Korea are "sunk costs." Nothing we do today will bring even one of them back to life.

Many have argued (Sir Winston Churchill among them) that the US intervention in WWI lengthened that war, increased the number of casualties, and made WWII inevitable. For WWII, the US was attacked directly by Japan, and Germany declared war on us (rather than the reverse). Korea was a UN action. I think that limiting ourselves to participation in UN actions from then on, and only in our own name if directly attacked, would have been a good plan.

By grinding down our forces, proving that the US military isn't invincible, and particularly by financing that grinding down by mortgaging America to the Chinese, the current intervention in Iraq is far more likely to lead to China emerging as the world's sole superpower than keeping our military ready at home to defend our home, and only sending them abroad only in response to UN mandate and as only one part of a UN force would have been.

#18 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2007, 09:04 AM:

Has there ever been a case where a long-term counter-insurgency ended well for the US?

A month or so ago, I heard that the Iraq war may best be compared to the occupation of the Philipines in the Spanish-American war. Weren't we there from 1898 to 1913?

Wars like this aren't as much lost as they are abandoned.

#19 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2007, 09:09 AM:

>>But how do we explain an isolationist policy to the memories of those who fought in WWI or WWII? Korea?

>The dead of WWI, WWII, and Korea are "sunk costs." Nothing we do today will bring even one of them back to life.

Exactly, Furthermore, the world CRV @15 is proposing "intervention" in is not the same as the world of WW1, WW2, or the Korean war.

Justifications for engagement back then were ideologically predicated on "making the world safe for democracy". They were rooted in an era when alternative ideologies were prevalent or threatening to become so, and rooted in the assumption that democracy was a revolutionary ideology that should be spread at gun-point, if necessary. But in today's world, representative democracy is the prevalent and normative form of government for most of the planet's population, with strong multilateral pressure towards its adoption by those states that don't yet conform. That excuse is sixty-two -- or sixteen -- years obsolete. Democracy won. So why the mania for invading foreign countries?

(Incidentally, I don't like the word "intervention". All too often it's used as a euphemism for waging aggressive war and committing mass murder -- by the same usage, Goebbels' ministry of propaganda could equally truthfully have described the Nazi invasions of Poland and Russia as "intervention intended to impose regime change on a despotic dictatorship".)

Personally, I find CRV's arguments to be reprehensible and weasel-minded. He's clearly been drinking from a poisoned fountain ... but I've got a business trip to pack for, and dissecting his case in detail will have to take second place to expedience.

#20 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2007, 09:17 AM:

In case I'm not being clear enough, I'd like to drop two thoughts into this stream:

1) If you're a hawk of any kind, be it liberal or otherwise, you are advocating policies that rely on the threat or realization of mass murder. End of story. There is blood on your hands, or the intention to shed blood, or at least the foolish idea that the other side's blood runs less red than your own. They don't see it that way. They will never see it that way. Which means you are doomed to a failure of discourse because you're never going to be able to engage in a meeting of minds with the other side.

2) The Iraq invasion was carried out without UN approval. This is the unpalatable fact that drove Tony Blair out of office, and it's going to come back to haunt the current and future US administrations -- because it's Waging Aggressive War, and that's what the Nazi top brass at Nuremberg were hanged for.

#21 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2007, 09:31 AM:

James MacDonald @ 10: That is, quite possibly, the very place that I first read that quote.

CRV @ 15: "because America was already so tangled up in Iraq, due to our feeding resources to Saddam during the Cold War, and because of our failure to remove him during the first Gulf War, I think we owed it to Iraqis to finally go get the job done."

There is an underlying assumption in this statement that seems worth teasing out. America owed it to the Iraqis to remove Saddam? Leaving aside the issue of who else we owe a leader-deposing to, you are making the assumption that removing Saddam could have been a good thing for the Iraqi people. This further implies that you think that a viable alternative to Saddam was democracy, and that only his presence was preventing it from coming forth.

I am not sure that is the case. All the evidence seems to suggest that the alternative to Saddam is, in fact, complete anarchy. That Saddam was, if nothing else, providing the sort of long-term stability that is crucial to the development of civil society which, in turn, supports democracy. Now that civil society has been shattered utterly, and Iraq has gone back to tribalism. I fail to see how that is doing them a favor.

#22 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2007, 09:36 AM:

Argh. Macdonald, of course.

#23 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2007, 09:46 AM:

LMB McAlister #13: As Seth Gordon has succinctly explained, a friedman is a period of six-months, by the end of which Iraq will be the earthly paradise.

#24 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2007, 12:12 PM:

#15 CommunityRadioVet "I'd just like to point out that it is possible to support the military removal of Saddam and the Baathists without being a drooling Bushie."

Well, no, because GW takes anything other than a "No!" to be a "Yes!" He immediately co-ops the middle and (relatively) "saner" voices to his extreme vision.

"These were some nasty, nasty people and because America was already so tangled up in Iraq"

I can, off the top of my head, list four other countries and regimes that are just as bad, and some of those are our closest allies in this war.

"due to our feeding resources to Saddam during the Cold War, and because of our failure to remove him during the first Gulf War, I think we owed it to Iraqis to finally go get the job done."

So is your argument that because of our guilt in complicity that we had a moral obligation to remove Saddam from power? While I agree here that Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsefeld did promote this war as an attempt to assuage their souls of the damage done in the 80s, I don't feel that billions in treasure, 3800 of our souls, and 30,000+ Iraqi souls is an acceptable cost to esponge the guilt from two old men.

Please note, these conversations are all about Iraq (which was stupid adverturism/empire building). When the conversation shifts to Afghanistan, the equation changes. Gee, I wish we would have finished up in the Stan before we moved on. That whole "old guilt" thing might come up again.

#25 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2007, 12:29 PM:

#15 CommunityRadioVet "I'd just like to point out that it is possible to support the military removal of Saddam and the Baathists without being a drooling Bushie."

Except for the minor detail that a state has no legal way to attack and overthrow another state.
To attack another state simply because you disapprove of it is to launch a war of naked aggression.

The civilized nations of the world agreed a long time ago that launching a war of aggression is in itself a war crime: and that leaders who do such things are to be hanged when they can be brought to justice.

#26 ::: CommunityRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2007, 03:16 PM:

These are all very good, well thought out comments.

I appreciate them.

I suppose when I looked at Iraq in the run-up to the war in 2003, I saw a regime that we never really stopped being at war with, going all the way back to 1991. Our military never left the theatre, we still had occasional brushes with Saddam's forces, there was the no-fly zone... Invading just seemed like finishing something that had been started, and which never stopped.

Perhaps we as a nation need a watershed conversation, focusing on these topics:

1) What is the purpose of the United States in a 21st century, globalized society?
2) Based on this, what is the purpose of the U.S. military?
3) Should the U.S. always seek and get international approval before military action?
4) Should the active component be diminished or expanded?
5) What do we do with Iraq and Afghanistan, given events of 2001-2007?

Again, I'm not saying I have the answers. I'm a Reserve NCO and I see all that is going on with a sort of detached perspective. I go where they tell me to go, or a stay home because they tell me to stay home. I signed up in 2002 simply because, following 9/11/2001, it seemed like one of those times in U.S. history when the country would need men and women to step up a little and do their part in an era of armed conflict.

My plan is to be in the Reserve until death or retirement. Approx. 30 years, barring any unforseen event. (e.g: Thanks, CRV, but we're drawing down the Reserve by half, and you're in a non-critical MOS, here is your honorable discharge, your country appreciates your effort...) Much can happen in that time frame. A lot of action, if we go "muscular", or no action whatsoever, if we alter our mindset significantly and withdraw our forces from foreign soil.

Sometimes I think we'd be doing ourselves a favor if we brought everyone home; from Europe, from the Middle East, from everywhere that is not specifically U.S. soil. We;ve lived so long with our forces spread out abroad that it's strange to think of it being otherwise.

Many argue that it's suicide for the U.S. to abandon the role of World Police. Many also argue that the U.S. has a moral duty to remain as World Police, lest the nastier nations of the world do as they please, unchecked.

How much military force, exercised to a given level, is enough to truly defend the U.S. against aggression? Perhaps bringing the troops home from abroad, and shifting our focus to better internal security, is all we need to defend ourselves against the Islamist threat?

I will say one thing, regarding the United Nations. I used to believe in that body. Back in my 20's I had a U.N. flag and once told someone it was the only flag I'd ever want to fight under. I was in the depths of my Star Trek geekdom at that time, and being a Carl Sagan fan to boot, I thought it a waste of effort and resources that we, as a species, had not yet managed to do away with our international squabbles.

As I got older, and especially after 9/11/2001, I started to look at how the U.N. operates. One thing that really hit me is that the U.N. is an ostensibly democratic body that includes members from non-democratic nations. (e.g: we give votes to representatives of nations which deny their own people the vote!) Through this process, we basically allow countries whose interests and motives lay directly opposite to ours, a say in how and when and why the U.S. gets to use its military.

Now, especially after I joined up in 2002, I became very leary of us subordinating our military decisions to a body whose members might very much enjoy telling us to keep our military home, so that they can do as they please with their own militaries. Or, on the flip side, sending our military forces places we don't want them to be, because the U.N. told us to get out in front with that blue U.N. guidon, and march.

Again, I don't have all the answers. I'm more full of questions at this stage in our history, and am interested in what people think. Because what you all (and the rest of the country) thinks, will greatly determine where and when folks like me get deployed; and why.

To reiterate, I appreciate the thoughtful responses.

#27 ::: Andrea ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2007, 04:25 PM:

Bruce @ 2: Speaking as a Jew... I thought it was two Jews, three opinions. ;)

#28 ::: Liz B ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2007, 05:17 PM:

CRV@ #26:

Many also argue that the U.S. has a moral duty to remain as World Police, lest the nastier nations of the world do as they please, unchecked.

It may have escaped your notice, but the U.S. is fast becoming one of the "nastier nations of the world". Your government

- engages in wars of foreign aggression
- kidnaps citizens of other nations (Canada, Italy, Germany among them) and holds them without trial
- condones torture (fecal matter by any other name)
- engages in widespread gerrymandering and voting fraud
- has the world's largest nuclear, biological and chemical arsenal, and is the world's only nation to ever have used nuclear weapons in anger.

Leaving aside allegations of widespread corruption in the legislature, please tell me how, exactly, the U.S. can possibly lay claim to any sort of moral high ground?

The U.N. may not be perfect, but at least they operate under a stringent system of checks and balances. Which is partly why they are very slow to move, when they move at all, but it also means that clusterfucks like the invasion of Iraq (a war which is manifestly a war of foreign aggression, even if one does not go so far as to call it a neocolonialist adventure) don't happen under their aegis.

#29 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2007, 05:21 PM:

One thing that really hit me is that the U.N. is an ostensibly democratic body that includes members from non-democratic nations. (e.g: we give votes to representatives of nations which deny their own people the vote!) Through this process, we basically allow countries whose interests and motives lay directly opposite to ours, a say in how and when and why the U.S. gets to use its military.

You know, I don't have a problem with this. Here in the U.S., we give the vote to people who want to deny me my right to vote. We give the vote to people who want to deny me my right to bodily integrity. Barring actual felony, we give the vote to every citizen of age--I mean, when the machine is functioning correctly, of course. We don't pre-screen them to make sure they're in favor of a continuing democratic nation or even equal human rights for all citizens before allowing them to vote. Agreement on ideological matters as a prerequisite for voting would sort of defeat the purpose of putting things to a vote.

Likewise, in the U.N., all member countries get a vote, regardless of whether they share an ideology or a short-term interest. There are things that will a nation's membership in this body revoked, but I think they need to be more heinous then Not Being A Democratic Republic.

As for "a say in how and why the U.S. gets to use its military," that seems oversimplistic. I'm sure we don't need U. N. approval to use our military to defend ourselves in the case of invasion. What we need U.N. approval for is to take military action on someone else's soil. Because without that approval--without this association of nations getting together and saying, "Rogue nation X is doing unspeakable things and we agree they must be stopped"--we're just invaders. I don't see how being the invaders is A-OK for us but evil for others.

I think it's the U.N. that needs to be World Police, not the U.S.. If one country all by itself acts as unilateral World Police, to my mind that's just another way of saying Global Bully. And we might be using our Bully Superpowers for good today, but who can guarantee we won't use them for evil tomorrow? Superman makes a good story as long as the author compels him to be a hero; if he was real, I'd be scared shitless of him. If he were to get bored with upholding justice and saving lives, who could stop him robbing national treasuries and blowing up hospitals? He'd do what he wanted to, period. Likewise, if the U.S. insists that no other nation has the right to have any say in whether it invades a foreign nation, then the only moral principal guaranteed to guide U.S. military action is "The U.S. Wants Something." And the only guarantee that What The U.S. Wants is in fact a good thing is, "Trust us!" Why should anyone trust us to continue wanting what's right? Being the U.S. does not make our every action and intent sanctified. We're as capable of being Evil Invaders as the next vigilante.

Global power should not be centralized in the hands of a single nation to use and abuse as it will. It should instead be exercised by an agreement of many nations. I prefer a democratic U.N. in which even undemocratic nation get a vote, rather than a single democratic nation acting like a despot in the global theater.

#30 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2007, 05:25 PM:

And of course as Liz points out, the U.S. has already taken military action based on Wanting Something that isn't very good at all. We're already more like the Superman that got bored with being a good guy and saw no reason not to simply take whatever he wants. Our actions over the past 6 years are an eloquent argument against any nation being trusted to play the role of World Police all by itself.

#31 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2007, 06:13 PM:

Military action based on wanting something that isn't very good at all? A prime example of that would be, in my opinion, America's invasion of Afghanistan to secure our Strategic Opium Reserve. Record breaking bumper crops, Mission Accomplished!

#32 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2007, 06:36 PM:

Andrea @ 27

If you accept Richard Dawkins' theory of memes, then if you have three opinions, they'll find two Jews.

#33 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2007, 06:38 PM:

Sovereign nations are going to act like, well, sovereign nations whenever they (or more precisely, the admin in power) perceive it be in their best interests. Which does raise an issue - because of the damned Iraq mess, it's going to be that much harder for the US to take action under a Democratic admin than it used to be. Meaning if we see a Bosnia popping up, our leadership won't count for as much.

It's a good thing if it becomes harder to take unilateral military action, but it's not an unalloyed blessing - and it may cost lives in the future.

The US built up a little bit of moral capital after 9/11 - and we've squandered it.

#34 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2007, 06:46 PM:

CRV @ 26

we give votes to representatives of nations which deny their own people the vote!

I'm curious who you are denoting as "we" in this sentence. Are you saying that the authority of the UN derives from the US (and so from its citizens) and therefore should be wielded only in a manner approved by them?

You need to be very careful when making value and moral judgements about things that other people have done that are similar to those you have done (in your capacity as a citizen of the US from whom the power of the US flows - see the Constitution). The US has put in power and supported a number of very repressive, non-democratic regimes in many parts of the world; how does this give the US or any of its citizens the right to judge who may or may not rule in another country? Does this "right" stem from the power to do so? Does it stem from some higher power which has delegated to the US powers of judgement? Have we not, in the US, always held that we had the right to go our own way with no let or hindrance from outsiders? How then do we have the right to let or hinder others?

#35 ::: CommunityRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2007, 07:14 PM:

Liz @ #28,

I think that's a rather one-sided view of America over the last 65 years.

At the same time we used atomic weapons on two Japanese cities to end war in the Pacific, we also resurrected both the Japanese and the Western European economies, thanks to enormous cash, food, and material outlays at the end of the war, continuing through the 1950s. It would have taken both Europe and Japan far, far longer, all on their own, to rebuild their cities and their nations without U.S. foreign aid.

And without U.S. military might to act as an umbrella, it's almost a foregone conclusion that Western Europe and even Japan would have been annexed by the Soviet Union and/or Communist China; something both the Japanese and Western Europeans greatly feared, and for good reason.

I also think it's worth noting that while we have the largest WMD arsenal, we are the nation least likely to use them in modern times. We've also actively destroyed a huge amount of WMD stocks since the end of the Cold War. Besides, we're not the only ones who have these. All the major powers have them. If we have more than anybody else, maybe that's just a result of us being the biggest financial player in the world poker game; rich nations tend to accumulate more high-tech military hardware than poor nations.

As for torture and wars of aggression, we're getting into some debatable territory. I will say that what American forces do to extract information from captured enemy combatants is not the same as what many other nations (like Baathist Iraq) did; even to their own people. The U.S. does not put prisoners into plastic shredders. The U.S. does not tie a man to a chair and then slowly vivisect his wife and children in front of him, just because he happens to belong to the wrong religious sect or ethnic minority. Put more simply, the U.S. version of "torture" is on the weak, watered-down side of the forcible-extraction spectrum, whereas nations like Cuba and China still occupy the hard, ferocious side of the spectrum. Again, we in the U.S. don't flay a man's skin from his bones or nerve gas him just because he's from the wrong village, nor do we drag pregnant women from their homes and perform non-voluntary abortions as a form of state-policy birth control.

Maybe that doesn't matter to some people. Maybe it's black/white for some people, and as long as the U.S. uses "torture" to get info, the U.S. is just as evil and bad as all the rest. I think that's being too simplistic and not fair, but that's just me.

Nicole @ #29,

I still find it unsettling that a nation like Libya gets to chair a Human Rights organization at the U.N. That's like letting Ike Turner chair a committee on domestic violence. We're allowing representatives of non-democratic, often horribly authoritarian nations to have (more or less) equal say in international matters that affect open, free societies (like ours) on issues of great import.

I wouldn't mind if the U.S. entered into and abided by an international body that was composed strictly of nations that passed a democratic and freedoms litmus test. That I would not mind at all, and I would be more willing to agree with those who say we'd have to act within the bounds set for us by such a body.

But the U.N. is infested with autocrats and the handymen of autocrats; and whatever we might think of George Bush, he's gone in 18 months whether he likes it or not. How long has Quadaffi been "President" of his country? How about Castro? Mugabe? Are these men due to step down on account of term expiration and other limiters of executive power? Why do we, as a nation which binds itself to so many democratic-fostering rules, participate in any kind of international, democratic process, with people who would sooner starve or shoot their subjects, than give them freedom?

Food for thought.

#36 ::: CommunityRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2007, 07:21 PM:

Bruce @ #34,

"We" = The U.S., most of Western (and now some of Eastern) Europe, the U.K., Australia, Canada, Mexico, etc... Places where (more or less) democracy has existed and been practiced in stable form for at least a few decades.

As to the argument that the U.S. has the "right" to tell other nations how to order their affairs, again, a debatable piece of territory.

I think the real question is this:

Do free, democratic, Western nations have the "right" to go in and knock off despots, dictators, strongmen, and other autocrats, most of them in the Third World, as we see fit?

If an autocrat suppresses his own people, denies them even basic freedoms, is it not a foregone conclusion that those people neither approve of nor desire that strongman's form of government over their affairs? Or do we pretend that everyone in Iraq loved Saddam? Or that all Cubans think Castro is the bees knees?

Again, we need a watershed dialogue on these issues. Because half the country thinks we should intervene on behalf of suppressed peoples, while the other half thinks it's none of our business. Until we can come up with a policy consensus that is either one way or another, we're kind of screwing ourselves.

#37 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2007, 07:57 PM:

CommunityRadioVet #36: Mexico is a place where democracy has been stable for 'at least a few decades'? That's odd given that most people who know anything about the subject seem to think that Mexican democracy is a very recent thing, dating back to the 1990s.

And as for "If an autocrat suppresses his own people, denies them even basic freedoms, is it not a foregone (sic) conclusion that those people neither approve of nor desire that strongman's form of government over their affairs?" The answer's simple: No. The fact that a dictatorship exists and that it denies what you consider basic liberties does not mean that it is unpopular or hated by the people. It may, actually, be quite the opposite. You assume that everyone on the planet values liberty -- or what you consider liberty. That's an assumption that requires proof.

#38 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2007, 08:49 PM:

#36 CommunityRadioVet: Because half the country thinks we should intervene on behalf of suppressed peoples, while the other half thinks it's none of our business.

This is not what the two halves of the country think. Half (maybe) of the country thinks we should exercise our power morally and with intelligence. The other half (maybe) thinks we ought to kick the asses of our enemies.

I must tell you that I'm a little dubious about you. I apologize for feeling that way. Might I recommend that you tighten up your comments and be less full of theory and more full of the real world consequences of this "we must do good to the rest of the world" thing?

I think there are plenty of people here who could agree with you under some circumstances, if you would only get past the airy-fairy crap and get to the practical consequences of what you are saying.

Dialogue is good. Let's have a real one.

#39 ::: vian ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2007, 09:06 PM:

CRV:
Or do we pretend that everyone in Iraq loved Saddam? Or that all Cubans think Castro is the bees knees?

First of all, I don't think there's anyone , on this blog or elsewhere, who claims either of those things. But what gives the US the right to unilaterally decide who stays and who goes?

How do you think the rest of the world feels about the fact that certain American Administrations claim the right to remake the world in their own image? And they also think no-one can stop them (the current desert quagmire to the contrary). America has, in the eyes of many, gone from thinking of itself as First Among Equals to First At All Costs.

The UN is not perfect, but it represents the best chance for global consensus. The US, it seems to a lot of us out here, is only worried about shoring up its own interests and throwing its weight around.

(Also - just to lay my colours, here, Bush and his cronies didn't go in to Iraq to remove Saddam - they went in to remove non-existant WMDs, no wait, to secure oil supplies, or was it to start a sand exporting business? Certainly US business interests in the area are reaping rewards.)

Iraq was not a paradise, but it was stable and more moderate than its neighbours, despite Saddam or because of him. Darfur is still a hell hole, Zimbabwe is a basket case, and let's not even get started on Burma. What is the Global Policeman going to do? Invade all of them? Pick and choose? America has to start working with the rest of the world, rather than trying to work over it. (Or, depending on your point of view, working it over).

#40 ::: Sylvia Li ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2007, 09:19 PM:

CommunityRadioVet #36: "Do free, democratic, Western nations have the "right" to go in and knock off despots, dictators, strongmen, and other autocrats, most of them in the Third World, as we see fit?"

The answer to that is, also, No.

You don't.

No amount of self-congratulation about being all "free" and "democratic" yourselves can excuse unprovoked aggression against another state.

There is only one occasion on which intervention can perhaps be justified, and that is to stop a current, ongoing mass slaughter. Even then, you have to weigh whether the last state of those you wish to help might not end by being worse than the first.

It is pretty clear by now that Iraqis were immensely better off under Saddam than they are now. For all his brutality, he maintained civil order, which is one of things, like air, where you don't fully understand how essential it is until you are deprived of it.

#41 ::: John Chu ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2007, 10:14 PM:

Not quite related, but if we're talking about how the US currently conducts itself abroad, this quote from Jim Hoagland's column in the Washington Post is illustrative, if nothing else:

Why has a secretive government addicted to power politics and flexing its military muscles abruptly turned to negotiations and peaceful compromise?

And why is North Korea doing the same?

Frankly, I'm with Erza Klein on this one. If one's motivations makes absolutely no detectable difference to the end result, did the motivation actually matter?

#42 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2007, 10:24 PM:

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say I'd wager a great deal that almost no one being waterboarded, sleep-deprived, or treated with electroshock (or being quietly disappeared to places where they do worse things) at the courtesy of the US is thinking "Well, at least I'm not being flayed or eviscerated."

I mean, Jesus Christ Almighty. How the fuck is it that we're still having this conversation?

#43 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2007, 10:30 PM:

CRV @ 36: "If an autocrat suppresses his own people, denies them even basic freedoms, is it not a foregone conclusion that those people neither approve of nor desire that strongman's form of government over their affairs? Or do we pretend that everyone in Iraq loved Saddam? Or that all Cubans think Castro is the bees knees?"

Well, for the record, I hate the Bush administration with the fiery passion of a thousand recently-bathed cats, I am disgusted with the inaction of the supposedly Democrat-controlled Congress, and I am utterly appalled at our nation's recent behavior, both domestically and internationally. Nonetheless, I'd be pretty fucking irate were the UN to invade and topple the U.S. government. These problems are our problems, not theirs. They are ours to deal with.

#44 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2007, 11:09 PM:

CommunityRadioVet @35:

I think that's being too simplistic and not fair, but that's just me.

Well, yes, I think you are being too simplistic and unfair. But it was big of you to say so.

More seriously, yes, I think you are being too simplistic and unfair. Accusing other people of being black & white in their opinions while stuffing straw opinions into the mouths of people you disagree with. Whoever said they didn't care about all the other injustices in the world? All the dead babies and raped children and the eviscerations and all the other crimes you mention? How does objecting to the crimes of one's countrymen equate to not caring about the criminal activities of others?

Are you one of those people who berates a traffic cop for not catching drug-dealers while he's giving you a speeding ticket? What happens when you do that? Does the blinding light of revelation come on in his eyes, does he drop the ticket and rush off to take down a drug king-pin? Or does he just sigh and finish the ticket? Maybe you goad him a little into studying harder for the detectives exam, but he still finishes the ticket.

You deal with what's in front of you, and save deeper plans for when you have a spare moment. If you never get a chance to implement anything deeper, at least you'll have done something.

#45 ::: Seth Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2007, 11:46 PM:

Do free, democratic, Western nations have the "right" to go in and knock off despots, dictators, strongmen, and other autocrats, most of them in the Third World, as we see fit?

If the other free, democratic, Western nations decided that the United States had an undemocratic form of government, because the US Constitution (via the Senate and the Electoral College) gives disproportionate power to residents of small rural states, would they have the "right" to invade us and "knock off" our current government, replacing it with something that more closely approximates their democratic ideal?

#46 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 12:03 AM:

CRV @ 35: "I still find it unsettling that a nation like Libya gets to chair a Human Rights organization at the U.N. That's like letting Ike Turner chair a committee on domestic violence. We're allowing representatives of non-democratic, often horribly authoritarian nations to have (more or less) equal say in international matters that affect open, free societies (like ours) on issues of great import."

We also let Republicans run for office in a government they've sworn to destroy. If your democracy isn't strong enough to encompass those who seek to destroy it, it has already failed.

#47 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 02:06 AM:

Lovely. Because I think that the U.S. should not aspire to the role of Global Superman, or because I don't think the U.N. should be kicking nations out for not being sufficiently U.S.-like, I am apparently unconcerned with human rights violations worldwide.

Let's turn that around.

If the U.S. is supposed to play World Police Office Of One, then why did it go to Iraq instead of Darfur? Or the Congo? Is it because they care more about oil than genocide, murder, and rape? Whoever's doing Global 911 Triage has their priorities so out of whack that the whack is no longer recognizable as a whack.

#48 ::: CommunityRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 02:16 AM:

Now that's an interesting thought.

How many of you would welcome a foreign military invasion if it meant Bush and the Republicans would be hung up by their toes?

My thoughts on this idea mirror those of Heresiarch(sp?)

Back to Saddam...

I think where Saddam is concerned, his menace did not restrict itself to internal matters alone. Especially not after the Iran-Iraq war, and the invasion of Kuwait.

Granted, lots of people see no difference between an American invasion of Iraq in 2003 and an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, but this is where I think we get back to the power and value of motivation. Yes, it does matter what motivates people to take certain actions, because those motivations will often determine the long-term outcome.

Saddam invaded Kuwait for keeps. He had no intention, so far as we can tell, of letting Kuwait go without force being exerted against him.

And while many might argue that Bush also has no intention of ever letting go of Iraq, I think any arguments about cheap oil have long since been dashed on the rocks of reality, and in any case, Bush has term limits whereas Saddam did not. Even if Bush is determined to keep Iraq forever, it won't matter as of January 2009 because that won't be Bush's call any longer.

More thoughts...

Technically, the U.S. invasion and sacking of Germany during World War 2 was as "wrong" as invading Iraq. Certainly by the time we'd driven the Nazis back inside their borders, we'd accomplished everything necessary to win the war, right? The point had been made, correct? It was up to the Germans then to rid themselves of Hitler.

But who now, in 2007, can doubt that invading and sacking Germany was the right call at the time?

Dare we imagine the mess that would have resulted from leaving Hitler and the Reich in operational status in 1944?

Look, I understand people hate Bush. Based on numbers, most of the country dislikes Bush to some degree, at this stage.

But is hating Bush a good enough reason to let Saddam remain?

Moreover, here is another good question:

Assuming we did nothing with Iraq in 2003, what would have happened? What should have been done otherwise? How would this have helped the Iraqis? Do we just lift all the sanctions and let Saddam and the Baathists continue on about their business, rebuild their air force and army and possibly go to war (again) with Iran? Or Kuwait? Or us, for that matter? What about the Kurds?

Again, my basic premise: you can support invasion and removal of the Baathists without being a drooling Bushie.

#49 ::: CommunityRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 02:31 AM:

SPECIAL DISCLAIMER: Just as I argue that you can support the invasion without being a Bushie, I also recognize that you can be opposed to the invasion without being a Saddam-lover.

A couple of people seem to think that I am implying that you can't be anti-invasion without turning your back on human rights issues.

I just want to clear things up on my end. I recognize the reasoning of the anti-invasion argument, as couched in the practical belief that a broken egg is a broken egg, regardless of how it got broke.

I just think Iraq is one of those cases where a job was left unfinished and, sooner or later, we'd have to go back in and get it done.

Yes, from a pure human rights perspective, a place like Darfur trumps Iraq. So in a sense the argument that Iraq is a human rights crusade rings hollow.

All the same, no nation, even ours, launches a huge military effort without there being secondary and tertiary, sometimes self-serving, motives.

Not a terrible thing. Just the reality of how the world, and wars, work.

The bottom line for me is this:

The horror of the invasion and occupation is finite. Sooner or later, the occupation will end. The troops will come home. The Iraqis will truly be free to chart their own course. Who knows? Maybe democracy survives. At least now there is a chance.

With Saddam in power, there was no chance. None. Even if he died, one of his sons would just assume his place. The Kurds would still be in danger of extinction. The Shiites would still be under the heel of the Sunni minority. Men would still be getting fed into plastic shredders. New mass graves would be opened for business.

When we balance a finite horror versus a near-infinite horror, I think we have to pick the lesser of the two evils: the finite horror.

This is, of course, my opinion. It might not be the one some people like. It's just mine.

Cheers. I am off to bed.

#50 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 03:08 AM:

CRV @ 36

Do free, democratic, Western nations have the "right" to go in and knock off despots, dictators, strongmen, and other autocrats, most of them in the Third World, as we see fit?

I think you missed my point. I asked the question, "Does the United States, which has been responsible for creating (often by violence) dictatorial regimes in a number of foreign countries, have the right to declare that a foreign country's government is sufficiently evil to justify unilateral military action including invasion?"

How can we possibly have the moral right to object to non-democratic governments when we have fostered those governments all over the world for the last century? If you want a full list of those fosterings you'll have to wait a day or two until I have the time to research the ones I'm not sure of, but off the top of my head: the Phillipines, Nicaragua (twice that I'm aware of), Guatemala, Chile, Iran, South Vietnam, Saudi Arabia. There are at least a half-dozen more, but I'd have to check some facts to be sure which ones were American-driven and which were just home-grown nasties who managed to pull off some American support after the fact.

It seems to me that the moral high ground is not so easy to find in this situation as you seem to think.

#51 ::: Despina ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 05:28 AM:

Bruce: So we can only cast the first stone if we are without guilt? That sets a prohibitively high standard, doesn't it?
Honour killing in Syria? No comment because we have high school killings.
10,000 executions a year in China? No comment because we acquitted OJ.
Slavery still rife in sub-Saharan Africa? Well, have you seen the working conditions at Wal-Mart?

The Kurds and majority Shi'a were crying out for outside help to topple Saddam, as the monks in Burma are crying out for help now. Letting them down is no more moral, to my mind, than being the cop who won't intervene in domestic violence matters.

Multilateral approaches are ideal, but multilateralism, as practiced by the UN, is about lowest common denominator decision making and is no sure recipe, anyway, for getting it right: if the UN sanctioned the Holocaust it wouldn't be right; it's failure to sanction Tanzania's liberation of Uganda, Vietnam's of Cambodia, NATO's of Kosovo, Britain's of Sierra Leone weren't good calls.

For a preference utilitarian such as myself the key issue is to do a cost-benefit equation which, in the Iraq case wasn't helped by Saddam's very extensive bluff (taking in his own cabinet and every intelligence agency), the incompetence of the weapons inspectors (read Barton's book, The Weapons Inspector, about the dummy inspection he co-ordinated in which inspectors failed to find "the bomb", failed to interview "the scientists", failed to notice the existence of a very large basement, and left their confidential notes behind). And then there was Blix, the international lawyer, somehow believing there were additional angles from which Saddam could be attacked in order to make him fully compliant with Resolution 1441 (something Blix said he wasn't).

The take-home lesson of the failures of Iraq should NOT be to abandon humanitarian interventions and to always, as a matter of course, value incumbency and stability over change. Such thinking will cause more Holocausts. Americans (I'm not one) should be reassured that most of the reasons they (we) non-Americans "hate" you is because we misinterpret your role vis Israel, because you exert a cultural dominance we envy, and because some developments (shopping centres for instance) which politicised people often despise are attributed to the Americans when others are more significant.

Want someone to blame for 9/11? Blame Naomi Wolf for making it seem that global intervention was a way of impoverishing the periphery and enriching the core. Blame generations of academics who believe economic irrationalism is better than economic rationalism and that the moral outcomes created by socialism are somehow better than those created by neo-classical economics.

#52 ::: John Chu ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 05:51 AM:

#48: Why don't the Iraqi people deserve the right of self-determination that you deserve?

I see that you've invoked Godwin's Law, then cowered behind the shield of "it's just my opinion" in successive posts. I feel like if I had the right card, I could shout "Bingo!" right about now. Taking a stand doesn't mean a whole lot if you constantly back away from the ramifications of that stand.

I think the "ticking time bomb" scenario is inaccurate. Even if invading Iraq were the correct thing to do, the US had great flexibility in terms of timing. The mere threat of war was doing wonders in getting Saddam to cooperate with UN inspectors. If the rationale was to find WMD, the inspectors, as we know now for certain, would have verified that Saddam was bluffing without the cost of a single human life. I don't find a single compelling reason, even if it were necessary, for the US to have invaded when it did. I don't see why the sole alternative to going to war was to remove all sanctions and allow Saddam to do whatever he pleased. There were more than two options at that point, including the option we were actually taking at the time.

The "his sons would have just taken over" line argues that there is no such thing as a successful homegrown revolution. I don't think history justifies that argument. What is the difference that makes a successful homegrown revolution impossible in Iraq, but possible in other countries?

Furthermore, this war has cost the US a lot of moral authority. (Take the international reaction to W's recent statements about Burma, for example.) This war has made the US far less effective in the role Global Policeman. If you think that's the right role for the US, it's hard to see why you'd think embarking on this war was a good thing, given the consensus at the time was that the results would be this dire.

Obviously, your opinion is "just your opinion." But the inconsistencies are puzzling.

#51:So we can only cast the first stone if we are without guilt?

Despina, surely this is an exaggeration of what Bruce said? His examples had to do with toppling some despotic regimes while simultaneously supporting others. Unless you literally can not tell the difference between slavery in sub-Saharan Africa, and working at Walmart, I don't see how your examples are reasonable ramifications of Bruce's argument. I don't see how the elimination of nuance is useful here.

#53 ::: Despina ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 06:10 AM:

John Chu: it is, you're right, sorry. It was almost a form response from me exploring some themes endless (wearyingly) replayed in debates here (Aus) and I shouldn't have posted it. I think, if this is more to the point, that we shouldn't be ashamed of having chosen in the past between the lesser of two evils (Saddam versus Khomeini; Stalin versus Hitler - though that, of course, proved wrong) or for responding to a dynamic situation by changing our alliances. I don't support extreme interventionism and internationalism but neither do I believe the nation states formed over the past century or so are entirely sacrosanct entities, nor do I think we can seriously talk of sovereignty residing with the kleptocratic, cruel despots of states such as Iraq, ruled by unelected leaders who sieze power and maintain it through fear. The death toll (partially) attributable to Saddam is what? 1 million in the Iran-Iraq war, 200,000 in the Anfal campaign, 40,000 maybe in the Kuwait campaign, maybe 300,000 as a result of the sanctions which followed his non-compliance with a UN sanctioned peace treaty. All the numbers are debatable - it's possible to find dramatically higher death tolls, or lower ones, from equally reputable sources. In counting the cost of the invasion, the anti-war movement have to figure what the alternative death tolls would have been if he were to remain in power, and what any likely succession would look like (Uday, Qusay, a military coup, a civilian uprising?) and also what, barring more repression, was going to prevent the country drifting into civil war. If Australian PM John Howard was responsible for a tenth as many deaths domestically, I'd hope for an international intervention.

#54 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 06:41 AM:

Back at #2 when Bruce Cohen talked about Neobarbs, I'm tempted to stretch that analogy a bit further; many of the barbarians (Goths, Vandals, Burgundians etc.) actually wanted to be Romans - Romans had so much cool stuff! and it sure beat the hell out of being overrun by the Huns - but didn't want to mess about with the complex financial arrangements, paying taxes, the honouring of contracts, the (partial) rule of law. I'm assuming I don't need to tell anyone what happened next.

On the other hand, the Romans were busy abandoning these principles at the same time; I'm not sure whether this shows I've stratchd the analogy too far or not enough.

#55 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 07:13 AM:

CRV, various: it seems to me your strategic thinking is flawed.

"I suppose when I looked at Iraq in the run-up to the war in 2003, I saw a regime that we never really stopped being at war with [...]"

This is, of course, exactly correct. The "sanctions" were the modern-day equivalent of a blockade, and without pressure from the European states, which allowed the oil-for-food program, Iraqis would have starved by the hundreds of thousands in the 1990s.

"I'd just like to point out that it is possible to support the military removal of Saddam and the Baathists without being a drooling Bushie."

Strategically it did not make sense. Yes, if we'd instituted a draft, and put enough boots on the ground soon enough, we could probably have accomplished nearly everything the W. Bush administration intended. And the strategic purpose of this would have been...? Nothing, apparently. Even with better theater strategies there were risks to the Iraqi people. From the US geo-strategic view Saddam was already contained, and it wasn't worth it. In terms of global strategy, we'd have done much better to put those resources into stablizing Afghanistan, and denying al-Qaeda its refuges.

But, of course, this was the W. Bush adminstration, Rummy strategy our specialty. More Iraqis, probably, are now dead than the entire population of Seattle (I believe you live in the Puget Sound area, yes?) On top of which we have succeeded in making al-Qaeda popular with many Muslims, especially young Muslim men (remember what I keep saying about masculinity?), we lost Usama bin Laden in Afghanistan, we have vastly weakened the USA internationally, and we have run up huge debts which we are about to have a great deal of trouble paying. Invading Iraq in the way the USA has done seems to have been one of the great strategic errors of history, on par with invading Russia in the winter. It was clearly that from the beginning; I'm here rehashing what I wrote during the run-up to the war. Why do you, even now, defend it?

#56 ::: Martin Wisse ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 08:16 AM:

#49: you can support the invasion without being a Bushie

Of course you can, but it doesn't matter. Whatever your (no doubt noble) motivations for supporting the War on Iraq, the reality is that they didn't matter. What mattered was why Bush wanted the war and how Bush would wage this war. Even if you're so naive to think that the war could've been a good thing if it had been waged otherwise, the reality is that you don't have control of how the war is waged and hence your support for the war is for the war that Bush wages, not the war in your head.

#57 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 09:01 AM:

Despina @ 53 I think, if this is more to the point, that we shouldn't be ashamed of having chosen in the past between the lesser of two evils (Saddam versus Khomeini; Stalin versus Hitler - though that, of course, proved wrong)

Despina, are you arguing that we should have allied with Hitler against Stalin? If not, you should maybe take another look through your posts before you submit them.

I would not argue that picking Pinochet over Allende, or the Shah over Mossadegh, were picking the lesser of two evils. (But I know that others would.) I think we can agree that beating prisoners to death in Afghanistan can only be the lesser of two evils if you're imaginative.

Of course, I've learned in this thread that the inner beauty of supporting an autocratic leader is that it later justifies as many violent interventions as you'd like, until you get it "right".

The thing about invading people is that they don't like it. They like it even less when it's colonialism, and only a rarefied few appreciate incompetent colonialism.

If Australian PM John Howard was responsible for a tenth as many deaths domestically, I'd hope for an international intervention.

How many foreign deaths would he need to be responsible to justify an international intervention? Does that scale up for a larger country like the US or remain constant? Is it OK for authoritarian nations to participate in an intervention, or is that tacky?

#58 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 09:11 AM:

#48 How many of you would welcome a foreign military invasion if it meant Bush and the Republicans would be hung up by their toes?

The answer is, probably, none of us.

If Grand Fenwick (say, for example), decided to put George Bush on trial for war crimes (which I think would be a splendid idea), and in order to do so invaded the USA and occupied it, I'd be out blowing up Fenwickian military vehicles, and, if I found an American citizen who was collaborating with the Fenwickian occupiers, that person would have a rotten final night.

Various other Republicans might also have problems for their roles in bringing about the invasion, and for turning collaborationist afterward.

After I'd dealt with the Fenwickian problem I'd turn back to finding George Bush and putting him on trial for war crimes.

The neocons forgot that other countries have conservatives too.

#59 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 09:14 AM:

All this alternate history is fun, but how the hell do we get out? Partition the coountry? Go back to the UN and petition for a peacekeeping force? Point east, shout "Look, it's Elvis!" and sneak out?

#60 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 09:29 AM:

Despina @ 51

I'm afraid you've missed my point as well. I am saying not that we're bad so we can't do anything; I don't believe that at all. I am saying that in this area of action, namely the choosing of forms of government for other countries; we have already and several times over, shown that we will not choose democracy for someone else when we don't feel like it. Given this, how can we have the moral standing, or even simple trust from others, that we won't put in place a worse government than the one we depose? And I'll repeat for emphasis, that we have done this before, so it's hardly an academic or hypothetical question.

#61 ::: CommunityRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 10:03 AM:

(Stands up from his seat and applauds wildly for post #51)

#62 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 10:05 AM:

Steve C. @ 59

How we get out depends on several things, among them: what level of civil disorder we're willing to leave behind us, and how badly we're willing to trash our own military capability in the process of extricating ourselves.

Incidentally, I'd like to point out that believing (as I do) that the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq was immoral, unwise, and executed with breathtaking incompetence at the policy and strategy levels, says absolutely nothing about one's beliefs about how to deal with the problems of baing there. I, for instance, do not advocate an immediate withdrawal of all forces, pretty much on the basis that Colin Powell gave for not invading in 1991: if you break Iraq, you buy it. We're at the buyers' remorse stage of that purchase.

Our fear-ridden leaders* have left us very few options for exiting Iraq with either honor or practicality, let alone both. It's pretty clear that their preference is to use the "Elvis Card", for values of Elvis = Iran. This is a really bad idea, about equivalent to pouring gasoline on a raging fire.

I am not a military strategist, nor a logistical analyst (IANAMSNALA), but it seems clear to me that we do need to start drawing down troop deployments in Iraq before lack of ready troops and matériel** forces us to do so much faster than is safe for our own forces. At the same time, we can't in good conscience leave the Iraqi people to the aftermath that would surely occur if no other force takes up the job of security and infrastructure reconstruction that we have failed so miserably at. The US must, like it or not, go hat in hand to organizations like the UN that could field such a force, and admit we've screwed things up and that we need help getting them straightened out. Then we need to somehow hold things together during the year or two that would be required for the UN, for example, to put such a force together.

While I'm on the subject of holding things together, I'll point out that, despite a much stronger moral position, and initially better results in Afghanistan, the US has allowed the situation there to deteriorate significantly, and shows little interest in putting in the effort to fix the problems. We have the same destruction and lack of repair of infrastructure, aggravated by a deadly earthquake for which aid was far too slow to arrive from just about anywhere, and a similar loss of control and security in outlying provinces, to the point where the government is seriously trying to treat with the Taliban in an attempt to slow down the fighting. So what do we do there? Despite our government's best efforts to deny the problem, I think we're going to be haunted by Afghanistan for at least as long as Iraq.


* Just to be clear, that's an allusion to Rocky and Bullwinkle, though it does have resonance with the real world, doesn't it?

** I use the French spelling in an attempt to avoid arguments about how to spell this word in English.

#63 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 10:07 AM:

At NASFiC in 2005, a panel on warfare inevitably brought up Iraq. John G Hemry, who served in the Navy, didn't seem too happy about our having invaded another country. He said something to the effect that this is not who we are. What is the story that defines America? Someone was oppressing it so America threw it out after a great struggle.

Don't tell me it's different now. It most definitely is not.

#64 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 10:47 AM:

Bruce Cohen #63

I tend to agree. Besides Afganistan, Pakistan is worrisome too. It's like having a dynamite factory next to a warehouse fire.

If a radical Islamist coup topples Musharraf, what would India do?

#65 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 10:50 AM:

Despina #51: So what's the opinion of "preference utilitarians" such as yourself on the cost-benefits analysis of the almightly fratricidal clusterfuck that is Iraq today?

Want someone to blame for 9/11? Blame Naomi Wolf for making it seem that global intervention was a way of impoverishing the periphery and enriching the core. Blame generations of academics who believe economic irrationalism is better than economic rationalism and that the moral outcomes created by socialism are somehow better than those created by neo-classical economics.

W.T.F? Canadian journalists (and other assorted socialists) caused 9/11? There was me thinking it was blowback from the oh-so-socialist Ronnie Reagan shipping arms to Afghanistan and the notoriously liberal CIA training Bin Laden. I don't think flying planes into skyscrapers was some kind of oblique socialist critique - I think OBL is a murderous criminal lunatic.
But if you wanted to go down the blame route, how about blaming the US for 50 years of supporting brutally repressive dictatorships when it suited them - all in the name of freedom, of course.

Also, this argument makes it look like you're trying to use 9/11 as a valid pretext for invading Iraq. Which is, to put it politely, total and utter fucking nonsense.

#66 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 10:55 AM:

The UN charter definitely allows for self-defence for all countries and this is not limited to on your own soil/airspace/territorial waters; attacking an airfield or military camp in another country that is attacking you would fall under self defence (although only maximialists on this issue would argue that invading another country that you're pretty sure has weapons of mass destruction that might possibly be used against your forces or maybe other people in the region or conceivably be given to terrorists etc. etc. comes under the self-defence doctorine.)

It reserves the use of offensive force to end a conflict to forces acting under a UN mandate; for examples see Korea, or Gulf War I. Would the invasion of Germany in 1945 be illegal under this system? I'm pretty sure you could get a Security Council Resolution and international consensus to support it; the occupation and rebuilding plans might have helped sway any dissenters.

Going further on than this, if the US is/was to be a World Policeman, then it needs the support of the world. Which is what the UN Security Council is about. Obviously this body won't always agree with the US position, but the good thing (for Americans) is that the US has a veto; you can be World Policeman, with a mandate to police the world, but you don't have to do anything about any situation you don't like.

Obviously the UN is a flawed institution, like just about everything built by people. But if we (and that's everyone in the UN who are reasonable, democratic, etc.) don't let other countries (unreasonable, undemocratic) play their parts, then we lose some of the carrots to try and improve the situations in those countries and so have to rely more on the stick. And I think that's where this thread came in.

#67 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 11:07 AM:

Blame generations of academics who believe economic irrationalism is better than economic rationalism and that the moral outcomes created by socialism are somehow better than those created by neo-classical economics.

You aren't going to get 'economic rationalism', because people aren't really rational.

You can't have pure socialism or pure capitalism, because the people involve have, one the one hand, personal likes, dislikes, and desires, and on the other recognize that roads, government, etc are social in nature and can't be handled as anything else. - I'm assuming here that your 'neo-classical economics' is to be understood as capitalism.

Not to mention that most of the world doesn't know who those academics are, and would have a hard time caring less about them.

#68 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 11:08 AM:

"Walk softly and carry a big stick."

#69 ::: CommunityRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 11:29 AM:

John Chu @ #52: why is it cowardly to recognize that a) my opinions are still only mine and that b) right as I might think I am, I am sensible enough to recognize that I don't have all the answers? That's not "backing away", that's stating a position firmly, with a humility clause. Humility = cowardice?

(More applause for Despina at #53)

Serge @ #63: Your argument would make sense, if members of the Continental Army, in addition to taking out the Redcoats, also terrorized and killed a significant number of neutral or otherwise friendly colonists on a weekly basis; including women and children. The "freedom fighters" model doesn't seem to work in Iraq, because a terrific number of insurgents don't seem particularly interested in freedom. For anyone. Not even themselves. Unless suicide bombing a crowd of kids getting candy from GIs at a parked Stryker counts as being 'free'.

Martin @ #56: so what you're basically saying is that if I supported the military removal of Saddam, in any way or for any reason, then I have inevitably allowed myself to flow down a logical tributary into the NeoCon river, which runs inexorably to the Sea of Bushism? I am sorry, but that sounds too much like, "You're either with us, or you're with the terrorists!!" Bush was wrong when he drew that artificial line in the sand, and I think Ezra Klein is similarly wrong in drawing his artificial line in the sand. Especially when we don't yet know the full outcome of the invasion; it has, after all, been only a little over four years.


Which brings me to a point I don't see made often enough in these sorts of discussions.

Why are we, as Western intellectuals, so ready and willing to conclude that a) the Iraqis were obviously better off with Saddam and that b) we have totally and thoroughly ruined that country beyond anything past a faint glimmer of hope for a better future?

As I noted above, it's barely been 4+ years since we invaded Iraq. We're still in the infancy of this thing. Even after the troops come home, there is still a ton of history that will have to be played out, before we on the outside can get a firm grasp on whether or not the invasion was the correct or incorrect call.

Granted, the TV news and the papers make it seem mighty grim. Death is death. And the deficit here in America cannot be ignored. But do we really think that if we went and got an honest poll of the Kurds, or the Shia, that they would openly welcome Saddam or his Baathists back into power? The only people that I believe truly miss Saddam are the Sunni and those who had positions of comfort or status in Saddam's autocracy.

For those who lost (or were losing) life, limb, or loved ones to the Saddam flesh-eating machine, I don't think even the worst chaos in postbellum Iraq can quite convince them that, yes, bad as he might have been, maniacal and murderous as he might have been, at least Saddam provided stable murder and predictable attrocity.

However comfortable we in the West might have been with Saddam's stable, predictable, and contained heinousness, I am disturbed that so many people (not necessarily on this thread, but in the West in general) have such an easy time consigning Iraqis to a fate with Saddam and his sick get in the driver's seat.

As I noted before, the horror of the postbellum is finite. The horror of Saddam, for all intents and purposes, was going to go on for a long, long, long time. Indeed, had been going on for a long time already.

Randolph @ #55: I defend it for the reasons stated above; namely that Iraq has not fully played itself out yet and that it's way too soon to be declaring the body cold when the heart is still pumping and the lungs are still taking in oxygen. Bad as Iraq might seem to us on the comfortable, detached outside, for Iraqis, this entire project is just getting started. I would like for us in the West, whether we think we bungled or not, to not abandon the Iraqis utterly simply because we, from our perspective, see no positives. And no, I am not saying the invasion and occupation have been run perfectly. Or even well. They have not. Certainly not the occupation anyway. But that's a whole thread all by itself.

#70 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 11:30 AM:

Serge wrote -
"Walk softly and carry a big stick."

Wasn't that "Speak softly..."?

Walk softly and carry a big stick makes me think of ninjas armed with tetsubo(tetsubos? tetsubae?) but that could be too many years of anime speaking....

:-D

#71 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 11:42 AM:

Scott Taylor @ 70... Oops.

#72 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 11:43 AM:

CRV @ 69... This is not my blog and so Our Hosts may deem what I'm about to say inappropriate. It indeed isn't the most intellegent response, but smarter ones are pointless so here goes.

Go fuck yourself.

I shall now withdraw my presence from this thread.

#73 ::: John Chu ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 11:50 AM:

#69: why is it cowardly to recognize that a) my opinions are still only mine and that b) right as I might think I am, I am sensible enough to recognize that I don't have all the answers? That's not "backing away", that's stating a position firmly, with a humility clause. Humility = cowardice?

Do you think that humility is the same as cowardice? If so, I have nothing to add. If not, why would you assume that I do? It's possible to make sense of my words without the absurd assumption.

When you have said provocative things with are inconsistent with the facts at hand, then end with "This, of course, is just my opinion" it reads like you are backing away from the ramifications of your stand. This construction is designed to inoculate yourself against those who disagree with you. Rather than meeting their arguments on their merits, you escape with "This, of course, is just my opinion." It also comes dangerously close to a flamer bingo tell.

You pull the same act when you question my use of the word "cower" rather than address the inconsistencies in your argument I pointed out in the same post. I do apologize, though, if the word "cower" stuck you the wrong way.

You keep suggesting that the horrors of Saddam are infinite with absolutely nothing to justify this. I find it hard to believe that you think native revolutions never happen. I mean, "when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."

#74 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 11:53 AM:

PRV #69: As I noted before, the horror of the postbellum is finite.

Indeed - the internecine violence must stop once all the populace have fled abroad or been killed!

I don't know what the current estimated post-war death toll is; it's certainly in six figures. So how do you think someone who has lost someone to a Sunni car bomb or Shia death squad is going to feel when presented with a pious anecdote about how much worse things under Saddam were?

It is one thing to support the removal of Saddam; it is another to support the criminally incompetent way in which the post-invasion 'reconstruction' was handled. Which, given the competence of the bunch of goons in charge and the lack of planning, was entirely predictable.

#75 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 12:09 PM:

via Firedoglake (7/23/07), an Iraqi speaks out:

Stop telling lies to yourself American. We know that your racist brutal murdering war criminal troops came from your society and reflect its values. we know that because we see how they behave and have to bury their victims. If you are stupid enough to think we feel anything but hatred and contempt for your soldiers and the country that sent them to make war on my people then you are a fool.

As to Saddam bad though he was your country is far worse.

#76 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 12:25 PM:

"As I noted before, the horror of the postbellum is finite. The horror of Saddam, for all intents and purposes, was going to go on for a long, long, long time. Indeed, had been going on for a long time already."

So your measuring stick for the US invading another country is whether they would be worse off if we left them alone? How much worse?

After all, Baghdad and their other cities were functioning metropolises, where people were not afraid to get in groups of more than 3 for fear of a suicide bomber blowing them up, or a US/Blackwater patrol deciding they were bad guys and gunning them down.

Also, by that measuring stick, the US is going to be very busy indeed, since there are many failed countries (Africa has several such) where armed intervention is necessary (in your opinion) to get them back on their feet. We can start in the Congo and move over to Ethiopia; oops, been there, done that.

Yes, the military will definitely be a growth industry for many years to come, fixing all those countries whether they want to be fixed or not. Except they don't have oil, do they? Not being cynical or anything, of course.

#77 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 12:37 PM:

Serge @72: You're not alone.

#78 ::: CommunityRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 01:05 PM:

Chu @ #73: did I misinterpret your use of the word "cower" to describe my behavior? In post #52 you specifically said I "cowered". I am not sure how many ways I am supposed to take the word "cower" in the context given. And yes, I think I have addressed most, if not all, of the points being made by just about everyone on this thread who has disagreed with me.

If you're looking for a specific address of your specific points from #52, then here you are:

The relaxation and removal of sanctions appears to have been an inevitable consequence of growing humanitarian cries over the Iraqi civilian populace. Much as people here argue that it doesn't matter why people supported invasion, the invasion is still a Charlie Foxtrot, many prior to 2003 were arguing that it didn't matter why we had an embargo on Saddam; all it was doing was hurting innocent people while in no way damaging Saddam or his iron grip on national power. So I think yes, it can be said that the choice lay between relaxation of restrictions on Saddam, and invasion for the purpose of removal.

Successful, home-grown revolutions do not always follow the same pattern; and it's not always a given that the death of a dictator will automatically foster a home-grown revolution. The Muslim world in particular seems inclined towards home-grown revolutions that result in more despotic, more autocratic, more theologically fundamental government, not less. The seculars and moderates are very much stuck between a rock and a hard place: life under Saddam, or life under under something akin to the Ayotolla. Finding a third option is perhaps not possible without outside, Western military intervention.

But lets suppose we did nothing in 2003. Let's suppose we left Saddam alone, the embargo inevitably faded to nothing but paper talk (so popular with the U.N.) and life in Iraq proceeded hence. How many more decades would Saddam have lived? Would he have buried the hatchet with fellow strongman Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? Or would the two have re-launched the Sunni-Shia bloodbath that typified Iran-Iraq relations in the 80's? How many more Iraqis and Iranians might have died? To say nothing of Saddam's continued want to exterminate the Kurds?

In the end, I'm not saying I think we in the U.S. should always play World Police at every step. I think that's an issue most Americans are pondering heavily right now, and I, like so many, am not quite sure what to do. On the one hand I think we as a powerful and free nation have an onus to police the world against fascist autocracies and brutal dictators. (I use onus here in the strictest Latin sense; not the legal sense) How can we be a nation that proclaims freedom to the world and liberty and justice, if we sit back and whistle quietly as the Husseins and the other crackpot mass killers of the globe go on about their merry, bloody business?

However, as Bruce Cohen has been quick to point out, the U.S. has a soiled history on this sort of thing. We have and do support dictators and crackpots, so long as they're "our" kind of crackpots. This might have been forgiveable during the Cold War, when the looming threat of the Soviet Union occluded almost all other considerations. But not now.

This is why I think we, as a free and powerful nation, need a real and true watershed conversation, about our role in the world, and how we might "right" ourselves.

Certainly, putting a stop to dictator-cherry-picking would be a good goal. We can't shake hands with one devil in one country, then string up another devil in another country, and say we're being consistent. In point of fact, it is our inconsistency on this subject that has infuriated me for a long time now, and while we can't remove all crackpot murdering dictators simultaneously, Iraq was as good a place to start as any, if only because our conflict with Saddam from 1991 was never really put to rest. Better to finish that job before embarking upon another.

Having said this, we also have the problem of Afghanistan, which is very much an unfinished job, and deserves renewed attention. Even I must concede that, in hindsight, it might have been better to wait and complete our tasks in Afghanistan before embarking upon the Iraq invasion. The renewed threat of the Taliban makes plane the problem we face when we too-quickly jump from one exercise to the next without clear consideration for the long-term effects of what we do.

Again, I don't have all the answers. And I think there are multiple, valid arguments to be had in much of this. If that makes me inconsistent or puzzling, perhaps it's because I find the entire Western-Islamic story in modern times to be inconsistent and puzzling. Like most conscientious Americans I am trying to parse out the valid data from the disinformation, without lapsing into rank moral equivalence or abject cynicism.

I think there is still much good that can be done in Iraq, in spite of all the problems and mistakes. And I think it's too early to tell if Iraq, as a whole, has been the massive blunder that so many currently believe it to be.

I stand by my assertion that to leave Saddam untouched was, most likely, the poorest of all possible choices. Could we have done a better job during and after the invasion? Sure. Maybe we should have even waited, as noted above. But the longer we waited, the more free Saddam became to fill more mass graves with political, ideological, and ethnic enemies. And how do we explain to the dead that they died simply because we didn't feel it was the right time, for us, to topple the enactor of their misery and demise?

There are valid moral arguments going both ways.

#79 ::: CommunityRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 01:12 PM:

Serge,

I am baffled as to what, if anything, I wrote in post #69 that deserves a GFY. But whatever. If you feel you've been angered to the point you can't have a reasonable discussion anymore, it probably is best to remove yourself. You're a better man than I am, in that regard, as I've too often kept arguing on this blog past the point at which it's been productive.

On that note, I think I'll withdraw from this thread as well. I am not sure how many ways I can explain or illustrate my feelings.

For some people, no amount of explaining can change their feeling that Iraq is 100% wasteful and needless and unnecessary, and that anyone who supported the invasion is, whether they like it or not, a Bushie.

I disagree with that, as I've said many times. But if people keep insisting that I am wrong, well.... OK. End of conversation.

#80 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 01:13 PM:

CRV

You're still missing the point, which was, I believe, that we did not, and do not, have the right to decide to overthrow a government in another country. We did not, and do not, have the right to start a war with another country - we tried people in Nuremberg for that, and for lying about the whats and whys of their acts, and a number of them were hanged as a result. Should we hold our own government to any lower standards?

#81 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 01:16 PM:

I wonder how true were the reports that Saddam would have accepted exile?

Would have been a hell of lot cheaper.

#82 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 01:36 PM:

CRV at 78: we as a powerful and free nation have an onus to police the world against fascist autocracies and brutal dictators.

Why? Who says? I didn't vote for that -- and I would bet that the people who voted for Bush in 2000 didn't either. And what does "police the world" mean? When we find fascist autocracies and brutal dictators, what do you suggest we do? Invade? Every time? And then occupy the country? Sorry, but this strikes me as insane. (Thomas Jefferson is whirling in his grave. This is not what he helped found a country for. Betcha.)

While you're arranging this "conversation" you think we ought to have about the above assertion, can "we" agree to not unilaterally invade and/or occupy any more countries?

And anyway, who is this "we" you mention? There were lots of people all over the world, including in this country, who disagreed with Mr. Bush's plans to invade Iraq, and he listened to none of us.

Your assumption that arguments against the invasion of Iraq or the potential invasion of other countries -- for whatever reasons -- are driven by hatred of George Bush (your post 48) is incredibly insulting. For the 100th time, I don't hate George Bush. I despise his actions, his choices, his policies! Please don't use that phrase again. It is not argument, but an unprovable ad hominem attack which is not worthy of inclusion in a serious discussion.

The future you envision, in which the United States invades, conquers, and then occupies and cleanses countries which are fascist and brutal dictatorships, is not a sane one. We cannot do it, and we should not do it. Should human beings have to live under such regimes? No. But turning the United States of America into the World Police is not the way to remedy the situation. How do I know that?

*Pointing...*

#83 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 01:45 PM:

The future you envision, in which the United States invades, conquers, and then occupies and cleanses countries which are fascist and brutal dictatorships, is not a sane one.

And how the heck do we invade, conquer, and occupy ourselves? Because the government we have is doing pretty much the same things that it accused Saddam Hussein of doing.

#84 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 01:52 PM:

"However comfortable we in the West might have been with Saddam's stable, predictable, and contained heinousness, I am disturbed that so many people (not necessarily on this thread, but in the West in general) have such an easy time consigning Iraqis to a fate with Saddam and his sick get in the driver's seat."

However monstrous Saddam was, he would not have killed 650,000 Iraqi in the past four years. That is the the work of the Bush administration. And, you know, Saddam was our creature for a while--in fact, a creature of the very same faction that has led us into this war. All right, then, let's try this this way: There are roughly 6 million people in the state of Washington; the 2001 population of Iraq was perhaps 23 million. So, then. Suppose the state government of Washington was taken over by the fascists. The federal government, for whatever reason, looked the other way. Let's say, then, that the Chinese--not because Washington was remotely a threat to China, but because some current Chinese leader's father had been threatened by one of the fascists--decide to invade. The Chinese, believing their own propaganda about decadent barbarians send too few troops, make alliances with other fascist factions, let civil disorder overtake the Puget Sound region, and so on. Some four years later, the conflict is continuing, and during the course of the dispute (rationalized, of course, as for the good of Washingtonians) the entire population of Bellevue and Redmond were killed. In one of these classic strategic blunders, the invaders dissolved the fascist police forces and militias, which proceeded to go home, taking their weapons, and start a resistance, which is quietly abetted by citizens of neighboring states. (1) What do you think, at that point, the chances of a successful installation of a government sympathetic to China are? (2) Do you think that continuing the invasion is likely to lead to a better outcome? (3) Short of further mass murders, can the Chinese win? Is any advantage likely to come to China from trying?

#85 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 02:04 PM:

Serge #72: Tu as raison.

#86 ::: Ronit ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 02:11 PM:

CRV, read Riverbend's Baghdad Burning. Read it carefully and thoroughly. If that doesn't help you understand 'Why are we, as Western intellectuals, so ready and willing to conclude that a) the Iraqis were obviously better off with Saddam and that b) we have totally and thoroughly ruined that country beyond anything past a faint glimmer of hope for a better future?', then I don't know what will. More importantly, you'll understand why Riverbend and many other Iraqis have come to that conclusion.

From her blog:

Friday, December 29, 2006

End of Another Year...
You know your country is in trouble when:

1.The UN has to open a special branch just to keep track of the chaos and bloodshed, UNAMI.
2. Abovementioned branch cannot be run from your country.
3. The politicians who worked to put your country in this sorry state can no longer be found inside of, or anywhere near, its borders.
4. The only thing the US and Iran can agree about is the deteriorating state of your nation.
5. An 8-year war and 13-year blockade are looking like the country's 'Golden Years'.
6. Your country is purportedly 'selling' 2 million barrels of oil a day, but you are standing in line for 4 hours for black market gasoline for the generator.
7. For every 5 hours of no electricity, you get one hour of public electricity and then the government announces it's going to cut back on providing that hour.
8. Politicians who supported the war spend tv time debating whether it is 'sectarian bloodshed' or 'civil war'.
9. People consider themselves lucky if they can actually identify the corpse of the relative that's been missing for two weeks.


#87 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 03:15 PM:

Serge (72) has more than enough credit to get away with saying that.

CRVet, you're dead wrong. Granted, Saddam Hussein was a bad man in many ways. He did damage. But before the war, Iraq had infrastructure and a civil society and a functioning economy. Its people had thousands of social organizations and ties that had nothing to do with Saddam or his regime. Most days, most of Iraq's citizens had something approaching normal lives.

Bush & Co. didn't go into Iraq to make its citizens' lives better. To hear those guys talk, good vs. evil in Iraq was entirely a matter of what Saddam Hussein did or didn't do. That's simply not true. Good takes more than one form. Good is lost when people are afraid to leave their houses, are short of food, can't get medical care, can't go to school or run their businesses or work at their trades, and have had dozens of friends and loved ones killed.

Saddam Hussein was bad. But then, so is Paul Bremer, who decreed that Blackwater's mercenaries were not subject to the rule of law, and turned them loose on the Iraqi people. Nothing can have been more predictable than the consequences.

White phosphorus is allowed under various international arms agreements because it's used in marker rounds. In the quantities in which we've been using it, it's a weapon. The effects are horrific.

Many of the prisoners we've taken, tortured, and held for unconscionable lengths of time, were people we've known were innocent or nearly innocent, scooped up indiscriminately, or turned in by countrymen who were getting paid per prisoner.

We've shot up wedding parties. We've shot up religious congregations. We've killed families whose only crime was living next to a road where an IED went off.

War is only acceptable when it's necessary, and when there's a good chance it'll do what it's supposed to. We're not meeting that standard. After everything we've thrown at Iraq, we can't even hold Baghdad. We've nevertheless gone on fighting this war, knowing we can't succeed, because Bush's vanity and the Republican Party's fortunes are tied up in it. That makes us responsible for every bit of it.

Bush and his cronies wanted to fight a war before they ever got hold of the Oval Office. Why? Because they like the effect wars have on the United States. It's right there in black and white on paper.

Don't even try to say that we're doing this to benefit the Iraqi people.

Here's the passage that made me see red:

As I noted before, the horror of the postbellum is finite. The horror of Saddam, for all intents and purposes, was going to go on for a long, long, long time. Indeed, had been going on for a long time already.
Why this is wrong:

1. The future keeps its own counsel. Moral action happens now. Suffering and evil occurs at a rate of one day per day. They hurt right now, and they're wrong right now.

2. Having a schedule that says "we're going to stop doing this sometime soon" excuses us nothing, unless we put our words and intentions into action. Judging from the debacles in Afghanistan and New Orleans, we have no reason to expect US forces will be reassigned to helpful, constructive activities in Iraq. Judging from innumerable examples throughout military history, it's going to be all we can do to get out of Iraq without our retreat turning into a bloody rout.

3. We've already blown past deadine after deadline in Iraq. You have no idea how long this snafu is going to last.

4. Saddam Hussein was mortal, his life of finite span. The evils engendered by this war will go on rolling past any imaginable lifespan he might have had. Contemplate the fact that the events of 1919 are still a live issue in the Middle East.

5. Are we now going to accept as international law the idea that if one nation declares the ruler of another to be a Bad Man, they're allowed to invade and trash the place? I tell you now: I'm sure as hell not willing to have my city treated the way we've treated Baghdad. Let Godzilla and Mothra head for your house next time.

#88 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 03:16 PM:

A few people have mentioned Iraqi death tolls; at this point, they're over a million*. Just so we're clear what we're talking about. The current American death tolls are probably about twice what they were on 9/11. Just so we're clear what we're talking about. We're talking about immense quantities of death.

CRV, I don't know if you're an idiot or just an uninformed, heartless bastard, but either way, I second Serge's emotions.

If I posted something where I said, "You know what I like? I like it when millions of people die for no goddamn good reason. Just my opinion. Food for thought. :)" I'd be a damn fool if I expected people to respond happily.

*Those were the first three links I found. I'm sure there are plenty more.

#89 ::: Iain Coleman ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 03:17 PM:

CRV @ 69: Why are we, as Western intellectuals, so ready and willing to conclude that a) the Iraqis were obviously better off with Saddam and that b) we have totally and thoroughly ruined that country beyond anything past a faint glimmer of hope for a better future?

Because we've killed a million of them and destroyed their civil infrastructure? Just a thought.

#90 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 03:33 PM:

I'd have been a lot more surprised by the stuff happening in Iraq if it weren't what I'd expected before it started.

#91 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 03:39 PM:

Steve C. @ 64

Yes, on bad days Pakistan scares me silly. A nuclear-armed country in a constant state of tension with another nuclear-armed country over largely religious issues is bad enough, but when one of them has as unstable a political situation as Pakistan does, with a significant probability of having a fundamentalist Islamist government sometime in the next few years, it raises the nail-biting quotient considerably.

#92 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 03:53 PM:

Bruce, you are so right. NPR this morning is reporting that a helicopter escorting Musharref somewhere fell out of the sky, but of course it was entirely an accident, not an assassination attempt, nothing to see here, move along... Right.

#93 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 03:56 PM:

P J Evans @ 90

That's the point that shows the responsibility for the mess in Iraq. If your best experts in the relevant areas all tell you what's going to go wrong with your plan, and you tell them you're going ahead anyway because you know better than they do, and what they said comes true in cards, spades, and the Queen of hearts, then you are responsible for both the moral and political consequences. Now, for "you", read Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et. al.

And as a primary rule of getting things done right you cannot let someone who has proved to be that incompetent while having delusions of adequacy be the one who continues to control the situation, especially when it's clear that his only motivation is to justify his original mistakes, no matter what the cost to his own nation or any other. And I point out that all those ratbastards (they're not "gentlemen" by any stretch of anyone's imagination) swore an oath to the Constitution, and have broken it over and over in the pursuit of their incompetence.

#94 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 03:58 PM:

I didn't think much of the referenced article. In particular, the "if you're not against him, you're for him" line seems like crap to me.

Let's suppose that Hilary Clinton ends up as president, pushes through a national health care system, and the thing is a *disaster*--even worse than the current system[1], with long lines and poor care and constant budgeting shortfalls, with medical professionals fleeing the system as fast as they can find something else to do, and middle-class people scheduling bypass surgery in India so they live long enough to get the surgery. Imagine it's now 2015, and we're arguing about how to fix this mess. Would it really be the case that anyone arguing in favor of a national health care system was in favor of Hillary's disaster? And that anyone who supports single-payer health care would be obliged to shut up and write about something else, or be tarred with supporting the current screw up?

Because that seems like the kind of argument he's making here. That anyone who thinks the Iraq invasion was a good idea and says so is supporting the president and the current screw up.

For whatever it's worth, I don't and didn't support the Iraq invasion, and I expected things to go badly (but not as badly as they have) when we invaded. I'm not trying to address whether saying that the Iraq invasion was a good idea makes any sense, but whether it implies support for the president and his botched Iraqi invasion.

[1] It's a hypothetical. If you spend a lot of time arguing why that just couldn't happen, you might be missing the point....

#95 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 04:01 PM:

I was going to say something yesterday about "Community Radio Vet," but got thrown off, because I couldn't find the earlier posts I was looking for. Now I did.

"CommunityRadioVet" is probably the former "PublicRadioVet."

What I said, previously:

"PRV's blithe minimalization of the damage that's been inflicted in this country by Republicans over the past 7 years makes me wonder about his true allegiance and agenda in posting here."

[I'm driven] into agreeing with one of Teresa's operating principles that I generally want to take with a grain of salt. PRV's statements sound very much like ones that a slightly-sophisticated, hired sock puppet might make...."

Teresa's reasoned reply [in 87] is good to read, but I'm gradually gaining a deeper understanding of why she doesn't always exhibit this kind of patience.

#96 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 04:11 PM:

Iain #89: Isn't there a common saying like "Better a thousand years of tyranny than one night of anarchy?" We seem to be getting a horrible demonstration of this in Iraq now.

I wonder if the invasion *could* have been done well. Was it doomed to failure ahead of time, or was it doomed by the enormous, well-documented blunders we committed? It doesn't seem impossible that we could have installed a new strongman who was, at least for a time, less offensive to our sensibilities.

#97 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 04:18 PM:

Bruce #91:

Yeah, and North Korea, too. I can see instability/craziness in either country leading to a nuclear exchange, and God knows what the world will look like afterwards.

#98 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 04:20 PM:

Albatross (96), why limit yourself to one? It was a bad idea, and they made it worse.

#99 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 04:22 PM:

"CommunityRadioVet" is probably the former "PublicRadioVet."

He is and made the change out in the open here.

#100 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 04:29 PM:

The invasion was *illegal* ahead of time -- at least if you believe that signatories should abide by the provisions of the Geneva Convention concerning pre-emptive invasions.

It was always immoral, too, in terms of fostering a community of nations and establishing International Law. Furthermore, the correct response to the attacks on the World Trade Tower was to initiate a an international police action against the actual perpetrators, since these attacks were the result of a "criminal conspiracy," not an act of war. Etc., etc.

Just a tired, repeated "grup" opinion.

#101 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 04:33 PM:

Teresa #98: Maybe so. I really don't know. The "we're going to turn Iraq into a democracy because then the Arab world will fall like dominoes, all becoming liberal democracies" line was so obviously nuts I assumed it was BS for the rubes, and that there was something harder-headed and less defensible behind it. I wish I'd been right, though we certainly could ended up in a disaster with smarter people running things, too.

This seems like the strongest argument around against an interventionist foreign policy. It's the argument that convinces you to stop picking schoolyard fights, after your fourth or fifth successive ass-kicking. "Gee, this doesn't seem to be working out too well for me. Maybe I should try something else."

#102 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 04:39 PM:

tnh, #87: "But before the war, Iraq had infrastructure and a civil society and a functioning economy."

Not very much of any, really; the sanctions were taking their toll. (The only reason they didn't simply starve was the oil-for-food program, which IIRC the USA opposed.) Still, what there was is gone. Other than that, I can only agree.

#103 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 04:46 PM:

Randolph: before the invasion Iraq had the "infrastructure" of potable water, electricity, and medical care in its cities.

#104 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 04:52 PM:

Albatross, it seems to me that you're conflating the invasion and the aftermath.

The invasion could have been done better, by using third world auxiliaries or other forces to secure weapons depots, yellowcake storage facilities, etc. That would have required a President capable of working with allies to forge a consensus - perhaps a George H.W. Bush.

The aftermath absolutely could have been done better - it's almost as if someone took a checklist of "what not to do" and did it. (Re: the strongman install - google "Ahmed Chalabi 2003", then read Riverbend to find out what Iraqis thought of him.)

Make your own list of the "top ten things to do to install democracy in a country". Then check how many of them were done, and when the first elections in Iraq were done, and how they were handled.

Part of the problem has been that the definition of success has been so vague - because the real definition of success is a permanent presence in an American puppet state in Iraq. Or, as Atrios has said, "Leaving is losing."

#105 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 04:54 PM:

albatross @ 96

How to do it right:

1. Don't go in until you have sufficient strength as determined by your own generals.

2. Include, just behind the initial wave of invasion troops, at least 2 brigades of elite military police plus a cadre, several thousand at least, of senior civilian police with training in civil unrest situations. All of these will become the cadre and instructors for a new police force recruited from native Iraqis.

3. DO NOT DISBAND THE ARMY AND SEND IT HOME WITH ITS WEAPONS. Sorry for the shouting; this is one of the alltime bonehead blunders.

4. If unrest and looting begin, stomp on it hard with the police cadre backed by flying reserves of infantry to handle the holdouts with RPGs.

5. As soon as the dust settles find all the local politicians, tribal leaders, mullahs, and civic leaders you can and ask them to start forming a new government and writing a provisional Constitution. DO NOT INSTALL AN OCCUPATION GOVERNMENT.

6. Immediately start a weapons-exchange program to get as many AKs and RPGs off the streets as possible.

7. Reconstitute the Army under non-Baathist general command. Do not purge Baathists below the rank of colonel-equivalent; instead, make all officers swear an oath to Iraq and the constitution to come.

8. If an insurgency starts up, stomp on it hard as soon as you see it, and make sure that the citizens of Iraq always feel that you can maintain security in general, even if some really bad incidents occur.

9. Have a plan before you go in on how to hand over security to a mix of local Iraqi, regional, and UN forces within 2 years of the invasion.

10. Plan to spend a hell of a lot of money on the local economy for infrastructure repairs beginning as soon as the first wave of tanks moves on from a given town towards Baghdad. Don't give the money to your friends.

There are probably more, but most of these are easily done, some are expensive but doable. A few require a little luck, but some of that could be made along the way. It might not work, but it's got to leave the situation on the ground in Iraq a lot better than it is. And every one of these points was made before the invasion.

#106 ::: Liz B ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 05:02 PM:

CRV:

You're operating under a series of, charitably speaking, misguided assumptions. Iraq is not the first foreign adventure the US has engaged in over the past half century or so: it's merely the one with the least amount of justification relative to its death toll.

(Before 1990, at least, the US government had the excuse of 'The Russians are coming!' but whether the US's aggressive military stance during the Cold War was entirely warranted is a question I'll leave to historians.)

Torture is torture, regardless of degree. It serves no useful function in the gathering of information: its sole function is the projection of power by either the individual torturer or the institution involved - in this case the state - and its outcome is to silence both agency and dissent. (I recommend the first section of Elaine Scarry's "The Body in Pain" for a thorough, if slightly outdated, examination of the psychology involved.)

You, yourself, are being simplistic by pretending that to point out the faults of the US is both to fail to criticise the faults of other undemocratic regimes, and to fail to recognise the US's occasional better points. It's not an either/or proposition, and to pretend that it is... That's intellectually dishonest, at the very least.

Do free, democratic, Western nations have the "right" to go in and knock off despots, dictators, strongmen, and other autocrats, most of them in the Third World, as we see fit?

I'd like to draw your attention to something called the just war doctrine, which has been around since Constantine. For a war to be just (if one accepts that war ever is), it needs to have just cause, right intention, and proportion response, and also needs to be declared by a legitimate authority. In addition, it must be used as a last resort.

With Iraq, there was no just cause, nor right intention. Nor has the damage dealt to that nation been proportionate - one of the major points against it at this moment in time is how much damage has been caused for so little humanitarian gain - and of a certainty, it wasn't used as a last resort.

Intervention in a repressive state can only be morally justified when one is certain the humanitarian gains outweigh the cost. And in a nation like Iraq, which remained one whole, single nation state only through the repressive policies of its ruler, replacing the regime does not even begin to solve the problem. In fact, demonstrably, it can create a worse one, as centuries-old family, tribal, political, religious, ideological grievances have the breathing space to develop into widespread violence.

It's pretty much a truism, anywhere, that after every ideologically motivated revolution comes the civil war. (see Russia 1917-on, Ireland 1921-1922 for the examples that immediately come to my mind.)

The horror of Iraq is not that of the invasion, in case that's not clear. A properly handled invasion might have (I say might have) benefitted the Iraqi people. The horror of the invasion is that it created the perfect conditions for long-running civil war, sectarian conflict and ultimately, unless strong leaders emerge on all sides who desire compromise, or someone else intervenes, genocide.

The horror is not finite. It could go on for the next hundred years or longer - perhaps not at the same level of intensity, but certainly intense enough for its victims.

In short, the US had no moral right or platform from which to invade Iraq. But once they did, they compounded their sins by an incompetant, badly-organised and badly-administered occupation.

Other have pointed this out, but...

Just think of it this way: 650,000 unnecessarily dead people. Iraq's population might still be around 20 or 25 million people (not that anyone's taking very accurate census records right now); that's roughly one person dead in every forty. Unless you're very lucky, that list includes 1 in 40 of your neighbours, your friends, your school graduating class, your family.

Doesn't sound like a lot, does it? But it adds up to a cost that by anyone's measure is far too high. And it's only going to rise, regardless of whether the US remains or leaves.

And you can add the human cost to the destruction of infrastructure, the exodus of the educated classes, the rise of extremism.

Are you still so certain that US interventionism is the lesser evil? Because really, seriously, it doesn't look that way to me.

#107 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 05:10 PM:

TNH # 87 wrote: The future keeps its own counsel. Moral action happens now. Suffering and evil occurs at a rate of one day per day. They hurt right now, and they're wrong right now.

This is 200 proof pure truth. It is what we do in the now that matters, for good or ill. Thank you!

#108 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 05:17 PM:

#101: There *was* something harder headed and less defensible behind the invasion: "let's stop paying through the nose for oil and try to control the source." Or less charitably: "let's give W a chance to feel superior to his daddy, and set up a pipedream Disneyland for the cartels that contributed to our personal fortunes -- simultaneously removing the missile threat to the state of Israel and giving us a one up military position with respect to Iran and Syria."

Illegal, immoral (in terms of ends and means) and stupid (in terms of predictable real world results). Six years ago, people were in doubt about these issues and blinded by the possibility (in ill-informed minds) of winning a "shock and awe" military engagement -- with a trickle down effect of the personal wealth accrued by Halliburton and the oil companies. Many pro-war sympathizers hardened themselves to the toll of civilian life and misery that would be exacted by this folly, judging it to be worth the price to obtain an illusory freedom from fear (with the self-righteous spice of routing a loathsome tyrant and establishing a fairy tale happy ending of armed might establishing a democracy). Not only didn't it work, but the consequences we have now were predicted then.

Aren't we all reasonable sure of these points, by now? I apologize if I'm being over-bombastic and killing the thread by missing the point of the discussion. Maybe I should stick to quiet resentment of Dan DiDio for the unreadability of most contemporary DC comic books.

#109 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 05:25 PM:

Lenny, let's not forget the bullshit fear-mongering ("mushroom cloud" and chemical weapons), plus the constant subtextual and underhanded linkage to 9/11 which is still believed by some ridiculously high percentage of the American people.

You know, this is ridiculous. I feel like I've read (and written my own responses) to this particular issue a thousand times. It's Groundhog Day all over again. I don't want to do this any more.

#110 ::: CommunityRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 05:41 PM:

(Checking back in to give Albatross wild applause for post #94)

As for all the other comments....

Hopefully, in the long run, things work out for Iraqis. That the U.S. will withdraw is a foregone conclusion at this point. Once we leave, I hope the Iraqis can get things cleaned up and they can move on, preferably without a Saddam clone at the helm. I never gave a shit about 'defending' Bush or his policies. I just wanted Iraqis to have a life that was better than what they'd known under "President" Hussein. Once we're gone, it really is going to be all up to them. I hope they can figure it out without too much violence and unrest.

If this makes me a "sock puppet" (thanks, Lenny, I can feel the love) or a Bushie.... Albatross is right, that kind of binary thinking is pure crap.

#111 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 05:44 PM:

Lizzy L @ 109

Yep, the definition of insanity: doing the same thing and expecting different results this time. Or saying, just a little longer, because surely it's going to improve in six months / a matter of weeks / when the moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter aligns with Mars. Only it doesn't.

#112 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 05:58 PM:

CRV @ 110

Isn't the definition of democracy that the people of the country make the decisions? Where do we get off telling Iraqis what they should do?
We already f*cked them, first by supporting Hussein in the first gulf war (you remember, the one between Iraq and Iran), then by letting him get away with mass-killings of Iraqis after the second gulf war (that was the one where he invaded Kuwait, apparently under the assumption that we'd ignore it). This time, we clearly invaded them, on one of a number of pretexts - I was referring to it as the 'excuse of the month', it changed so often - none of which are legal under international treaties.
And we are apparently planning to be there forever - a hundred acre embassy compound? (It sounds like a palace to me.) We also aren't taking in even the small number of refugees that are applying to us for entry - what does that sound like?

#113 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 06:02 PM:

#110: "I just wanted Iraqis to have a life that was better than what they'd known under "President" Hussein."

And, clearly, you have no clue about how that can become possible. In the meantime, your willingness to shrug off the selfishness, cruelty, and destruction effected by dishonest criminals in the mistaken notion that "their intentions were good" is annoying.

#114 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 06:08 PM:

#105- exactly.
I mean not pouring money into the country as rapidly as possible so as to replace the destroyed infrastructure was just insane.

It occured to me a few years ago that if the Neocons and their pals really had the strength of their convictions, they would have given every family an AK47 and ammo, every street an RPG and heavy machine gun. After all, an armed society is a polite society, and obviously all these armed people could form a nice representative gvt based upon their armed strength....

#115 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 06:17 PM:

CRV: There’s a flaw in your justification for the war: We didn’t do it to depose Hussein; at least not when we went in. That was a side effect of removing the WMD. That may have been a lie, but that’s what we told the world.

As for the issue of torture; 1: you have no way to know that we are doing “torture light”, esp. as we admit to exporting the victims to other countries (see Harar and Syria). On the gripping hand, there is no such thing as “weak, watered-down side of the forcible-extraction spectrum” It’s may be (though I have my doubts) that some torture is more akin to Murder 2 than Murder 1, but when all is said and done, someone is tortured, and someone has been trained to think committing torture is acceptable.

That, IMO opinion (and without the qualifications above) isn’t acceptable, ever. At it’s mildest you are training people to be sociopaths. If the spectrum, intensity; frequency, shifts you are training them to become psychopaths.

For what?

Nothing. There’s no way that torture can be a reliable means of extracting information. But you know that’s what I think, because it’s come up before.

Saying that we aren’t tainted because we aren’t as bad as the “real” bad guys (who can/do make the same sorts of justifications you are rationalising here) isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement. Saying we aren’t as bad as... Stalin, Pol Pot, Samoza, Marcos, et al., doesn’t mean we are good, only that the guy who kills three people is no Manson.

That’s a ringing endorsement, so we ought to just forgive him, right?

As for your complaint on who sits where at the UN... how were you when corrupt guys like Delay were sitting on committees in the House of Reps? Right now, I’d be ashamed to see the US on a Human Rights Committee anywhere, because we are failing.

And we don’t have the excuse of Libya, because we not only elected the people who approved the policies (when they were approved) we re-elected them, some of them three times.

That litmus test you describe... China could pass parts of any sane list, parts (like percentage of population in prison) which we would fail. We are not a paragon. Further, in the mindset that positive reinforcement of good acts, (carrots vs. sticks) including them in disputative bodies exposes them to (one hopes) good arguments about things they would otherwise be merely lectured on, which lectures the US is not, at present, in any position to honestly give (I loved Perino pontificating on the need to not imprison people without process in Burma).

In the sauce for the goose dept., your arguments in favor of overthrowing the gov’ts of other countries, “for the good of the people therein” is appallingly parochial. It assumes that US style democracy is the best (or even desired) form of gov’t for everyone.

Using that logic, China could decide it needed to invade all sorts of places (like say, Tibet) because the slavery practiced there was so horrible, and the feudal gov’t in place was wrong. The Soviet Union would have been justified in conquering the rest of Western Europe, which you think would have been bad (I agree, but probably for very different reasons to yours).

There is no “one true way” to have a good gov’t, merely a whole lot of ways to have bad ones.

And, in closing, Well, for the record, I hate the Bush administration with the fiery passion of a thousand recently-bathed cats, I am disgusted with the inaction of the supposedly Democrat-controlled Congress, and I am utterly appalled at our nation's recent behavior, both domestically and internationally. Nonetheless, I'd be pretty fucking irate were the UN to invade and topple the U.S. government. These problems are our problems, not theirs. They are ours to deal with.

If that's what you truly believe, why do you argue that we have the right to do the same for anyone?

#116 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 06:21 PM:

CRV @110
Once we leave, I hope the Iraqis can get things cleaned up and they can move on... I just wanted Iraqis to have a life... I hope they can figure it out without too much violence and unrest.

I hope. I just wanted. I hope. While we're on the subject, I would like a pony.

Seriously, that's a load of very good intentions. Which is handy, because the highway to the Infernal regions has some repairs due. Lotta traffic going that way, and those handbaskets are hard on the roadbed.

#117 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 06:21 PM:

Ooops, threading error (internal) you didn't say the last. The question is, therefore, a dead letter.

#118 ::: CommunityRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 06:24 PM:

Thanks for the lecture, Lenny.

You are clearly this forum's expert on annoying.

When can I expect the police to be by to pick me up as a clear-cut accessory to the crime? After all, if I support the invasion I must be a Bush "sock puppet" right? Because nobody in their right mind could have possibly supported the removal of Saddam without being a Bush "sock puppet", or so I have been told by minds vastly superior to my own.

It's a black and white world, I guess.

[/sarcasm]

#119 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 06:24 PM:

#114: #105- exactly

Maybe not. Maybe not such a good idea to retaliate against murder by taking the law into your own hands, trashing the concept of International Law - rights and responsibilities of "sovereign nations" - in the name of "self defense." (And that's looking at it charitably -- believing that the motivation was self defense rather than vengeance or desire for economic gain.)

#105 sounds to me like an argument along the lines of "if you're going to take the law into your own hands and practice a philosophy of might makes right, at least do it competently"

Not wanting to cast aspersions on the estimable Bruce Cohen, who may be intending primarily to stress that the military operation committed in our names *was not* handled competently.

#120 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 06:33 PM:

CRV wrote in #118 -
Thanks for the lecture, Lenny.

You are clearly this forum's expert on annoying.

When can I expect the police to be by to pick me up as a clear-cut accessory to the crime? After all, if I support the invasion I must be a Bush "sock puppet" right? Because nobody in their right mind could have possibly supported the removal of Saddam without being a Bush "sock puppet", or so I have been told by minds vastly superior to my own.

It's a black and white world, I guess.

[/sarcasm]

This? What you just said?

Not. Fucking. Helping.

If you need to back the fuck off, take a breather, then fucking do so, and do some reading on the topic before you return. But this isn't helping your cause one tiny bit - unless your cause is "poke at the hornet's nest, stir them up."

#121 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 06:34 PM:

Because nobody in their right mind could have possibly supported the removal of Saddam without being a Bush "sock puppet", or so I have been told by minds vastly superior to my own.

Well, if you keep using the Bush sock-puppet arguments, you can expect this to come up again.

Most of us non-Bush-supporters would have preferred not invading Iraq, because we didn't see much good coming from it. And we were, unfortunately, right.

We're now deeply in debt as a nation (mostly to China), we can't afford, or so we're being told, to do the things we need to do for our own people (see Katrina and SCHIP, just for openers), and we don't see anyone in DC who seems to get the message (see the continued support for staying in Iraq despite the expressed views of more than half the people in this country).

#122 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 06:36 PM:

It's not illegal to be an astroturfer or a paid Internet sock puppet -- only odious. And you may be innocent of those charges. (Our moderator has been silent on this, and may very well chastise *me* for voicing my suspicion prematurely.)

I wanted to extend the benefit of the doubt to you, back in the "Get Out of Jail" free thread. But your rhetoric in this thread has made me increasingly more suspicious. I'm watching to see whether you engage with the substantive comments people have made to you on the propositions you offer, or whether you append additional soliloquy on the indignity of being misunderstood. (If you *are* a paid sockpuppet, I probably shouldn't be offering you that tip.)

#123 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 06:39 PM:

guthrie @ 114

an armed society is a polite society

I really hope you meant that as irony. Iraq is currently much better armed per capita than the US (which is considered gun-happy by most of the world), and it is far from polite.

#124 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 06:46 PM:

Am I afraid I'm with Lenny here? Am I afraid this dialogue is not being conducted entirely in good faith? Why would I suspect that? Could it because certain points are so often raised in the form of questions? Does that make me suspicious? Am I tired of reading this thread?

I don't have all the answers. I just hope to start a dialogue.

#125 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 06:48 PM:

I just wanted Iraqis to have a life that was better than what they'd known under "President" Hussein. Once we're gone, it really is going to be all up to them. I hope they can figure it out without too much violence and unrest.

CRV, perhaps you didn't mean it this way, but this sounds very like: Have a nice life, Iraq, too bad about all those dead people...

Good intentions, as abi pointed out brilliantly above, don't cut it. I think what some of us here -- me, anyway -- would like to hear you say is:

I was wrong. The United States didn't have the right to invade Iraq. The United States doesn't have the right to invade and occupy any country we want to invade, no matter what the rest of the world believes or thinks or wants us to do, whatever our good intentions might be, unless they attack us first.

We get that you are sorry that the war in Iraq turned out badly. That's good. We would like to know that you realize from this that good intentions cannot make a foreign policy, and that the United States is not the moral arbiter of the world.

You seem unable or unwilling to make this connection -- from consequences to actions -- and that, I believe, is why many posters are getting frustrated, angry, and snarky.

#126 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 06:52 PM:

Prefer all vague and incoherent threats
To real harm today, and here, and now.
(And those who pose such problems, disavow:
For lives are unfit subjects for such bets.)
When faced with lesser evils, don't forget
That evils they are still, and any good
Is dearly bought. When choosing evils, should
Inaction be an option, choose not yet.
The future keeps its counsel closely veiled.
Until then, all we have are guesses, made
For reasons good or ill, and blindly weighed
To fathom who'll be right, and who has failed.
Until the ends are known, the means are all
On which to judge; with them we stand or fall.

(A ranting and indefinite sonnet for a ranting and indefinite thread. I need more dragons.)

#127 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 07:01 PM:

Lizzy @125

I tend to agree with you (and certainly it was a total cock-up to invade Iraq), but I'm never going to say never about the future. What if the PRC went after Taiwan? Or some nation aggressively (and stupidly) tried to attack Israel?

#128 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 07:05 PM:

Oops. There's an inconvenient comma in my post. Please make the appropriate mental correction, those of you who notice it.

CRV, your embrace of American triumphalism (the USA as World Cop) is painful and it's really starting to get on my nerves. No, don't bring WW II into this argument again, it won't fit. You are no doubt feeling picked on, attacked, barraged, bludgeoned, even. No wonder.

Is it doing any good?

Welcome back, Terry, we missed you.

#129 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 07:07 PM:

I feel a bit self-conscious saying this, but is it time to take a break on this thread?

(I certainly am, if only because I'm going to bed, although I'm glad to stay up for the sonnet)

#130 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 07:13 PM:

Steve C. at 127, we have defense treaties with both those countries, and everyone in the neighborhood knows it. I am not suggesting that we should not honor our treaties.

Neil, you're probably right. I'm outta here.

#131 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 07:23 PM:

CRV: re the revolution: There was a lot of terrorising neutral people in the colonies. It drove some to Canada (where they were called Loyalists, when what they really were was apolitical). Militia members riding up and demanding things, and then shooting the place up if the “taxes” weren’t paid.

Why are we, as Western intellectuals, so ready and willing to conclude that a) the Iraqis were obviously better off with Saddam and that b) we have totally and thoroughly ruined that country beyond anything past a faint glimmer of hope for a better future?

Are you trying to argue that the present situation is better than it was under Saddam? Do I believe the place is irredeemably screwed? No. I have more faith in people than to believe that (just as I think we can get out of the present nightmare, and maybe address some of the underlying problems we’ve built in the past 40 years).

Do I think the time it will take to do that is longer than it would have been had they turned Hussein out/deposed him on their own? You better believe it. The best thing I can see is they become a semi-autonomous satrapy of Iran. After the next best is a Lebanon-style civil war for about 10 years.

I see those no matter when we leave (and the longer we stay, the worse the civil war option gets, because the more anger/hate/feuds get created in the slow-burning civil war we’ve already made.

What do you think is going to happen?

To go on (because you do)

In the long run? Why in the name of heaven should they care about the long run? In the Long Run... we are all dead. In the short run they are dying, starving, being treated terribly (tortured, belittled, insulted, treated as second class citizens by an occupation army, which has mercenaries doing god know what; in support of that occupation, etc.).

Why should they give damn about tomorrow? They are being killed today. They are being killed today at rates which make living under Saddam look like a halcyon time of easy living.

If we assume that Hussein was going to ramp up to double his going rate, and push that to his death, his “infinite” horrors are less than our “finite horrors” in the “birth” of this thing (that’s your term).

I figure that, were I willing to kill the people doing that to me; then the thing itself isn’t worth doing. Since you admit that, were someone to do the same in Washington, you’d be manning the barricades, how can you defend us doing it to someone else (yes, this is a restating of the question I disavowed; I was wrong, you do say those things)?

#132 ::: CommunityRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 07:35 PM:

Scott @ #120: no, you're right, my comments to Lenny were not exactly constructive. But then, when serge told me to fuck myself, that wasn't constructive either. It would seem that people are allowed a little "steam valve" language now and again? I would hope that applies as equally to me as to someone like Serge?

Lenny @ 122: I didn't realize that there was an invisible litmus test for posters on this blog. I didn't know my comments were being carefully deconstructed and examined for evidence of sock puppetry. I do know I think the, "If you're not against the invasion, you're a drooling Bushie!" argument is pure horse shit. If that means I fail the litmus test, oh well. I think shibbolethism is for small minds, and it would sadden me to find it practiced by this cosmopolitan group.

At this point, I am not sure what else I can say to illustrate my point of view.

I do have a few problems with some of the assumptions people have made.

For instance, how can Teresa possibly know that, "before the war, Iraq had infrastructure and a civil society and a functioning economy. Its people had thousands of social organizations and ties that had nothing to do with Saddam or his regime. Most days, most of Iraq's citizens had something approaching normal lives." Unless Teresa has been holding out on us, and spent several months (at least) traveling Iraq, prior to 2003, I am not sure where she arrives at the conclusion that the life of an average Iraqi, prior to 2003, was anywhere near functional, or normal, to say nothing of safe.

Likewise, where are people getting their death figures? Nobody has a consistent number, and I have to wonder, do any of these very-high numbers, over half a million to one million or more, even account for natural death, accidents, disease, etc. Do they also lump part or all of the deaths under Saddam's rule, but prior to his capture, under "innocent dead"? Statistics can be misleading.

For example, the U.S. lost 43,000+ lives to auto accidents in 2005. That's the entire population of a large town or small, incorporated city. If all a foreigner was ever told about the U.S. was that 43,000 people died every year on U.S. roadways, what conclusions might he draw? Especially if we don't break out the numbers? How many of these deaths were alcohol or drug related? What age groups were involved? How many were a result of car chases or police pursuit? How many occurred in rural versus suburban areas? Etc, etc.

To just throw up a number and say, "650,000 Iraqis are dead since we invaded!!!" doesn't tell us anything about who died, where, when, or how. And yes, the who, when, where, and how of it DOES MATTER. How many of the dead are dead from internicine fighting, not U.S. bullets? Are any of these dead Baathists or other Saddam soldiers who fought through and after the invasion? How many Shia? Sunni? Kurd? Where did they die, and how?

Death figures, all by themselves can be scary, and they are a great rhetorical tool if all you want to do is bludgeon someone into silence.

Again, 43,000+ Americans died in 2005 behind the wheel. Assuming that's a rough average, that means approx. 200,000 Americans will have been killed in their cars since the Iraq invasion began over four years ago.

If we count all American deaths total for the year 2003, the American Heart Association places that figure at 2,440,000.

Two million, four hundred and forty four thousand Americans, dead. In 2003.

If all someone said to you in 2004 was, "Over two million Americans died last year!" what might you think? If all you did was see the gross figure? Was it a plague? War? What horrible event could kill over two million Americans in a single year?

See, death statistics, if not broken out and examined carefully (and honestly) can be very, very misleading.

Which is not to belittle the deaths of the innocent in Iraq who have died. I am not belittling those deaths at all. But I think it does do the truly innocent a diservice to lump their demise in with the demise of, say, two dozen foreign jihadis caught running a torture house in a local village, and who are gunned down by U.S. Marines, along with a dozen more local jihadi sympathizers who showed up for martyrdom.

Can anyone name for me the annual or average Iraqi death toll, prior to 2003? Does anyone even know? What would Iraq's "peaceful" annual death toll be? A peaceful (more or less) America loses over 2 million a year. Assuming a populace of 300 million Americans, a 2.5 mil death toll accounts for 0.8% of the populace. Let's say a third world nation has a higher percent, due to poor sanitary and living conditions, aside from war; say 1.3% or thereabouts. If Iraq has a nominal population of 28 million people, a natural, peaceful death toll is going to be 364,000 dead every year, whether the occupation is happening or not!

Now I am no statistics wiz, but even with basic arithmetic at work, I can see how these ridiculously high "war death" figures could be grossly inflated by the natural, inevitable death toll, on account of disease, old age, accidents, and all the other stuff that hits all countries, regardless of whether they're at war or not.

Again, if people can cite their sources for these figures; sources that seperate the "annual dead" from the truly "war dead", I would like links.

#133 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 07:38 PM:

Lenny Bailes @ 119

That argument is an attempt to undercut the standard apology for Bush that "he couldn't have known what would go wrong; he had good intentions, so no blame attaches, and we should let him try to pull the fat from the fire, because he knows what he's doing." That position is totally unacceptable to me, and I try to bring it crashing down whenever I see it. I saw it oozing out of CRV's posts, and I wanted to make him take it back.

#134 ::: CommunityRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 07:41 PM:

Terry,

You misquoted me in post #115. The bold portion was someone else. Those were not my words.

Just pointing it out.

#135 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 07:43 PM:

Lizzy L.: Nice to be back, nice to be missed.

Maia and I took the weekend to see friends at the replacement for the NorCal ren faire. It was a damned nice break, from the little pains of the everyday.

abi: may I post that sonnet elsewhere; it says so much.

#136 ::: CommunityRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 07:46 PM:

How about this:

Would everyone just be happy if I threw myself at the feet of the forum and begged forgiveness for daring to disagree with the general consensus, where Iraq is concerned? People seem prepared to believe all sorts of nasty/bad things about me, simply because I think you can support removal of Saddam without being a Bushie. I would further add that you can support the 2003 invasion without thinking all has gone peachy since.

But what do I know, I'm just the sock puppet around here.

Fuck it. I am going home. Wasted my day on this thread. Shoulda been workin'...

(muttering....)

#137 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 07:46 PM:

Abi @ 126... For lives are unfit subjects for such bets

Make an omelette,
Break in a shell.
All for a bet,
Life becomes Hell.

#138 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 08:05 PM:

CRV: I noted my missattribution in 117. Just pointing it out.

I also point out that the core argument in that point is one you later seem to adopt; despite saying the invasion was a net gain for the Iraqis.

You don't need to beg my forgiveness; and I don't think you're a sock puppet. I do think you hold mutually contradictory positions, and want everyone else to give you a pass on them.

You also seem to think we ought to accept that your desires for a good outcome ought to be divorced from your support for bad methods.

What you are saying is a needful thing is the infliction of horrendous misery on millions of people. When the miseries you are saying justified such an intervention are weighed against the cost, it's insane. More harm has been done to them, than would have been done to them; had there been no intervention.

On your moral calculus, the invasion is a bad thing, but you are still supporting it.

That, not your being against the general consensus, is what I fault you for.

#139 ::: CommunityRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 08:11 PM:

Terry,

An honest and thoughtful answer, on your part.

I shall retire for the evening and cogitate.

If I read you right, you're saying the cure has been worse than the disease.

Anyway, back tomorrow...

#140 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 08:11 PM:

Damn it, I was almost out the door...

CRV, I believe that Robert Mugabe, Kim Jong Il, the military junta which rules Burma, and George Bush should be removed from power. I do not wish the USA to invade and occupy Zimbabwe, North Korea or Burma, or Canada to invade the United States.

No one here is asking you to beg forgiveness for your sins: no one here is your spiritual advisor. We are asking you to think.

Now I really am gone.

#141 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 08:14 PM:

CRV wrote -
Scott @ #120: no, you're right, my comments to Lenny were not exactly constructive. But then, when serge told me to fuck myself, that wasn't constructive either. It would seem that people are allowed a little "steam valve" language now and again? I would hope that applies as equally to me as to someone like Serge?

Serge wasn't trying to convince you of anything. He was insulting you, and withdrawing from the field of discussion. There is a telling difference - and the reasons why are Serge's own, and not for others to discuss, honestly.

If you are interested in discussion - discuss. Keep in mind that you gather more flies with honey than vinegar. Hyperbole is the weapon of a weak mind. And remember that the people judging your words are not just the people responding to you - indeed, they are the least of your worries. The real concern is not the iconoclasts (of either side), but those who have held their silence - out of fear, out of indecision, or out of disgust. They are the ones who will be convinced - or repulsed - by your words and deeds.

Blowing off steam is, honestly, something best done in private - or at least somewhere a bit more private than a blog that has hundreds or thousands of readers. Better to back away, and come at something fresh, than to keep building up a head of steam - on both sides of the discussion - until only a Modhammer (or Teresa's Disemvowulator) can bring peace.

And I'm as guilty of occasionally using words I oughtent have, in discussions where I should have backed off two posts ago, as anyone.

But acknowledging one's weaknesses, and trying better, is to water the fruit of enlightenment. Or at least make yourself a better human.

"And I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin', Ringo. I'm tryin' real hard to be a shepherd.
-- Jules Winnfield, Pulp Fiction.

#142 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 08:32 PM:

CRV: The Lancet study you are discounting (the one with the 650,000 number you are using) is based on the "background radiation" level of deaths.

The number they used was (IIRC) the median difference between the rate of deaths, before the war, and the reports they were collating from after the war. There was a lowball in the 30,000 range (which is the one Bush used when asked about it) and something like 1.7 million using some other set.

It was the excess dead, the number of people who, using the metrics available, who would not be dead if the rules of life prior to the invasion were still in play.

And they used a model which tried to balance the disparity in reports, it wasn't just pulled out of someone's ass.

#143 ::: Darkrose ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 08:47 PM:

CRV@#69: The only people that I believe truly miss Saddam are the Sunni and those who had positions of comfort or status in Saddam's autocracy.

Well, CRV, why don't you see what an actual Iraqi woman has to say? She's not in Iraq anymore, of course--she and her family are now part of the refugee stats. I suppose since she's Sunni (I think), it doesn't matter, but for my part, when I read Riverbend's post about how she wears hijab now because it makes her invisible, and as a woman it's safer that way, I wanted to cry. What the hell kind of "liberation" is it when it's safer to not exist?

#144 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 08:47 PM:

CRV... The words I used against you were indeed excessive. For that I apologize. It remains though that, to me and not to some nebulous consensus of the Left, your opinions are unpleasant, and past experience has shown that there is no point in debating you. Again, I apologize, but only for the words.

#145 ::: Darkrose ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 08:52 PM:

Ah, I see Ronit beat me to it. But yes: anyone who thinks the invasion was justified should read Riverbend's blog. Have plenty of Kleenex on hand.

#146 ::: James E ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 09:06 PM:

Terry Karney@142 - the low end of the Lancet study was around 390,000 (warning: PDF), and the top end was around 950,000. Given that the study's over a year old, various people have extrapolated the median death toll to be about a million now, but I don't think the original research team have officially endorsed this.

Bush's 30,000 figure may have come from Iraq Body Count (which counts only violent deaths that can be checked against media reports and official records), but if so it was already well out of date by the time he was bandying it around.

#147 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 09:08 PM:

CommunityRadioVet: I have no opinion about whether or not you're a "Bushie", but your comments about Iran show that you know nothing about that country. For example:

The Muslim world in particular seems inclined towards home-grown revolutions that result in more despotic, more autocratic, more theologically fundamental government, not less. The seculars and moderates are very much stuck between a rock and a hard place: life under Saddam, or life under under something akin to the Ayotolla.

The Iranian people successfully revolted from 1905 to 1911, and got themselves a constitution and a parliament. Over the next couple of decades they struggled to remove foreign influence (the British and Russians seemed determined to run the country for their own benefits). In the early 1950s a popular prime minister, Mohammed Mossadegh, nationalized the British-owned Iranian oil industry, after which the CIA (operating at Britain's request) instigated a coup removing Mossadegh from power in favor of an American-picked prime minister. The shah of Iran, not wanting to see another popular rival to his power, set up a brutal regime with a secret police force (Trained by the CIA and the Mossad) that targeted the very same liberal democrats and secular nationalists who had supported Mossadegh. Large gatherings were illegal, except in mosques, which is one reason that the anti-shah movement was a religious one.

So what Iranian history reveals is that the Iranians were perfectly capable of moving in the direction of liberal democracy and secularism, except when we interfered. Your description of them as "inclined towards" despotism and theocracy is like the playground bully who grabs his victim's own arm to pummel him with, and taunts "Why are you hitting yourself?". It was we who kicked the legs out from under secular, democratic Iran.

Would [Saddam] have buried the hatchet with fellow strongman Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?

"Strongman"? That's a term generally used for dictators, especially those without formal power. manuel Noriega, for example, was called a strongman because even though he was the de facto dictator running Panama, he was just a general. Panama had an actual president, but he was just Noriega's figurehead.

Ahmadinejad isn't a strongman, and he's not a dictator. He's not even commander-in-chief of Iran's military. He's an elected politician with power limited by a constitution, and Iran's supreme leader can remove him from office with the stroke of a pen.

Teresa likes to say that many problems are solved simply by knowing enough verbs, but I find that when it comes to politics, most people suffer a shortage of nouns and adjectives. Iran isn't a dictatorship, and it isn't totalitarian -- it has real elections, and political parties, and a parliament, and separation of powers, and the rule of law. It is, by western post-Enlightenment standards, a repressive theocracy. But modern Iran would fit right in with pre-Enlightenment Europe. (Except for the elections and general spirit of anti-monarchism, which would mark Iranians as radical egalitarian liberals.)

It's possible that Ahmadinejad could become a dictator. Even though he's not commander-in-chief, he is popular in Iran's Revolutionary Guard, the segment of Iran's military which would get control of nuclear missles if Iran was to develop them. I suppose it's remotely possible that Ahmadinejad could stage a putsch, and become a military ruler. Supreme Leader Khamenei appointed a new head of the Revolutionary Guard a few weeks ago; I suspect this may have been partly to make sure the position was held by someone loyal to the constitutional regime.

Or would the two have re-launched the Sunni-Shia bloodbath that typified Iran-Iraq relations in the 80's?

First, this wasn't a Sunni vs Shia fight. It was a secular-socialist-Arab-nationalist vs radical-Islamic-Persian fight. Saddam thought that Iranian Sunnis and Arabs would rise up and collaborate with him, but only a few did.

Second, Iraq attacked Iran in September 1980 because he thought the Iranian military would still be weak and disordered from the revolution of '79. The invasion failed. Since then, Iran has gotten stronger and Iraq weaker. It's unlikely that Saddam would have attacked Iran again, and if he had, he'd have lost.

#148 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 09:20 PM:

CRV, the best studies of "excess mortality" in Iraq I am aware of are the Lancet studies; 2006 study, 2004 study. The 2004 study is not publicly available on the web but can easily be found at a good research library.

Short summary of findings from the 2006 study:

Pre-invasion mortality rates were 5·5 per 1000 people per year (95% CI 4·3–7·1), compared with 13·3 per
1000 people per year (10·9–16·1) in the 40 months post-invasion. We estimate that as of July, 2006, there have been
654 965 (392 979–942 636) excess Iraqi deaths as a consequence of the war, which corresponds to 2·5% of the
population in the study area. Of post-invasion deaths, 601 027 (426 369–793 663) were due to violence, the most
common cause being gunfire.
I am very angry with you, and strongly suspecting that you are a concern troll, possibly with an accomplice. Let's see some reason in your response, and not more defending of the indefensible.

#149 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 09:21 PM:

Just to add a little more information: a lot of Iranians came here before the revolution to get away from the shah's secret police. Anti-shah is not necessarily pro-ayatollah.

#150 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 09:42 PM:

CRV: I am not sure where she arrives at the conclusion that the life of an average Iraqi, prior to 2003, was anywhere near functional, or normal, to say nothing of safe.

Where do you arrive at the contrary conclusion -- except from blunt assertions, repeated endlessly, for which you have provided no documentation? All your claims to the contrary, ordinary people did not walk in danger of their lives as they now do; not even Cheney has been brassy enough to make that claim.

#151 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 10:30 PM:

CRV: In re accusations of you being a concern troll.

I think I'm offended, in a general way, that you implied the other people respondindg to you weren't being honest and thoughtful.

I especially think this because I was not the first person to make those claims. I hope you do think on it.

I also hope you decide to treat the replies you get here as being honest; thoughtful you will have to weigh on the basis of the arguments.

#152 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 10:42 PM:

The hawkish declaration:

I'll make things up, just so that I can gloat
about the wondrous victory to come,
but through the storm I cannot stay afloat.

The enemy would have swift cut my throat
by telepathic action; I'm not dumb:
I'll make things up, just so that I can gloat.

Saddam was evil, he just got my goat,
still now he's dead that evil-minded bum;
but through the storm I cannot stay afloat.

Around the facts, I'll dig the deepest moat,
when I need lies, I'll not have to keep mum:
I'll make things up, just so that I can gloat.

Throughout Iraq the corpses swell and bloat,
yet I just sit right here and suck my thumb
but through the storm I cannot stay afloat.

I tell my lies repeatedly by rote,
those who state facts are mere vermin and scum.
I'll make things up, just so that I can gloat,
but through the storm I cannot stay afloat.


#153 ::: CommunityRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 10:42 PM:

Still cogitating.

However, a little humour to try and lighten the mood.

Perhaps my all-time favorite Bloom County strip.

#154 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 10:44 PM:

CRV #153: You are clearly indebted to your memory for your jokes, and to your imagination for your facts.

#155 ::: Iain Coleman ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 10:49 PM:

Community Radio Vet seems not to have noticed the millions of Iraqi refugees moving out to places like Syria. If our actions had improved Iraq, would they not stay?

CRV has also failed to understand the implications of the Iraqi excess deaths statistic. The last rigorous estimate had a midpoint of 655,000: extrapolating to the present day gives just over a million. This is consistent with recent surveys. The point is that these are excess deaths, over and above the death rate under Saddam. If we had made Iraq a better place, this number would be negative. Instead, it's topping a million.

CRV also gives no indication of understanding what has happened to basic infrastructure - electricity, sewage - in Iraq as a result of the invasion. Nor is there any hint of understanding what happens to a society when a state monopoly of violence is replaced by the clash of armed factions, none (including the US-led coalition) able to achieve dominance. Not even any sign of empathising with what it feels like when driving down the street risks being battered off the road and shot up by heavily armed foreigners, and when walking down the street is subject to codes of dress and behaviour imposed by your most fanatical neighbours, backed up by bullets to the head or power drills to the joints.

Finding out about this stuff is not difficult, if you're interested. CRV has not done so. Is there really much point in further discussion until CRV has remedied this oversight?

#156 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 11:22 PM:

Finding out about this stuff is not difficult, if you're interested. CRV has not done so. Is there really much point in further discussion until CRV has remedied this oversight?

trying not to dogpile, but this distills the essence of what i have been screaming in my head while reading this whole thread. and i'm gonna freakin' injure myself if i try to articulate or amplify it any further.

just.... well said.

#157 ::: Gar Lipow ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 11:23 PM:

We also had a more recent survey, not as rigorous as the Lancet, but using respectable techniques that yielded an estimate of 1.2 million excess deaths. Given how long ago the period covered by the Lancet study ended that result is actually consistent with the Lancet study - a confirmation.

#158 ::: CommunityRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 12:42 AM:

I was going to save this for the morning, but thought I'd put it out for tonight.

It seems to me that the crux of the whole "Invasion = disaster" argument rests on the idea that the cure has been worse than the disease; that the post-invasion period under U.S. occupation has been far harder and more deadly on Iraqis than their previous life under the Saddam Hussein dictatorship.

Before I continue, I just wanted to point out that very few long-lived dictatorships in modern times, were terrible for everyone who lived in them. Germans, Austrians, even the French, and other Europeans who were friendly to the Reich, enjoyed a great deal of material and physical well-being, prior to the turning of the tide and the crumbling of the Nazi government under Allied bombardment. If you weren’t a homosexual, gypsy, Jew, artist, dissenting intellectual, or other “unwanted” type, and could be counted on to be a good, patriotic Deutschlander, the Reich was good for you. Especially in the beginning, when the Nazis were on the offensive and the Fatherland had not yet begun to feel the pinch of rationing, nor the taking of both old and young men to fight in the final days.

For most Germans, the Hitler years were pretty good; and a German who didn’t have to experience the depredations of the SS or the “Final Solution” would have been hard pressed to cite any examples of how Hitler, or the Reich, were ‘bad’ for Germans.

Of course, most of these Germans never knew about the labor and death camps, until after the war. A secular or Christian German wouldn’t necessarily know the ever-present terror of the Juden in their midst; or if they did, they did not care. Such is the ease with which the ‘friendly’ population in a tyranny can exist. Why complain when, for you and your family at least, life is good?

This is why I always take reports out of Iraq, from Iraqis, about how life under Saddam was so much better than it is now, with a big grain of salt. I have no doubt that for many Iraqis, life really was better under Saddam; especially for the Sunni, and those with Baathist ties and connections. When you’re part of the ‘inside’ group which controls and exercises unjust power, of course life seems good. You don’t have to worry about things in the same way as the ‘out’ group.

Consider the post-invasion opinion of a Baghdad-dweller who had a relatively comfortable and care-free life under Saddam, with the opinion of a minority Kurd who lost friends or family to Saddam and the mass graves. You’re going to get two, quite different opinions on Saddam, life under Saddam, life after Saddam, etc.

So whose opinion is more valid? When considering whether or not the cure has been worse than the disease, whose opinion matters more?

Going back to World War II, whose opinion, in the final play of history, mattered more? The opinion of the homosexuals, artists, gypsies, and Jews who lived and died by the millions in the labor camps? Or the patriotic Deutschlanders who bitched and moaned after the Reich surrendered about how tough it was to make a living in the crumbled, burned out remnants of Germany’s former glory?

There is no single opinion in Iraq. The post-invasion experiences of the Marsh Arabs are different from those of the Badghdad Sunni which are in turn different from those of the northern Kurds, which are again different from those of the Shiite majority in various locations. All will tell different tales, contradict one another, based on their own personal experiences under (and after) Saddam.

So again, whose opinion matters more? The Kurd who lost his brother and sister to the gas attacks? Or the Sunni in Baghdad who now has to scrape and be afraid like his Kurdish counterpart?

In a sense, all of Iraq now has to suffer the same fear, terror, and unknown, as everyone that suffered under Saddam’s rule. For the moment, all Iraqis who used to live comfortably are getting a huge taste of what it was like to be a Kurd, a Marsh Arab, a vocal Shia dissenter; or anyone else who dared oppose Saddam, or who just happened to be in Saddam’s way. And of course they’re going to look back on the Saddam days and say, damn, those were good days! This freedom thing under the new government is such bullshit!

I have no doubt that good Deutschlanders thought the Allied occupation was ‘bullshit’, even through the Berlin airlift and several decades of American shielding against the Soviet threat. When you’ve been enjoying your spot in the sunny places of tyranny, only to find yourself demoted, cast down, or otherwise forced to live a life of difficulty (like everyone else) your natural reaction is not going to be one of gratitude.

Again, we must ask: whose opinion matters more? How do we balance the ‘security’ and material ease of the one part of Iraq, under Saddam, with the terror and death of the other parts of Iraq, under Saddam?

The Allied taking of Europe and the destruction of Germany eventually cost almost two million German civilians their lives. Two million. Best estimates place the total German Jewish death toll, on account of the Final Solution, at 160,000 people. Was this a fair bargain? The death of so many countless civilians and the destruction of their entire infrastructure and their comfortable lives, against a mere 160,000 Deutsch Jewish lives lost? Even if we factor in all the other Jewish and “unwanted” peoples, bringing the Nazi toll up to the familiar 6 million mark, was it worth it? Did all those German civilians deserve to die and have their comfortable lives ruined so that the Jews could have a chance to live without fear of the Reich?

We’ll never know how many more mass graves Saddam would have generated, had he been left as-is. Certainly the mass graves generated by Saddam generated fewer headlines on the front pages of our Western newspapers. It’s easier to go easy on Saddam when much of what he did flew under the radar; especially when you have blog posts from a Baghdad-dweller endlessly complaining about present living conditions and violence and relatives being shot at or shot up in a post-invasion nightmare.

But again, just because our Baghdad-dweller is having a nightmare now, does not diminish the nightmare of Saddam. Certainly not for the Kurds, or Marsh Arabs, or other peoples and villages that fell afoul of Saddam’s plans. While the ‘inside’ peoples of the Baath era enjoyed a relatively painless existence, those on the ‘outside’ remained in very real danger of genocide.

Has the post-war period been properly managed by the U.S?

No.

Is the chaos of Baghdad largely a byproduct of American failure to properly plan?

Yes.

Does this automatically make the 2003 invasion a moral or practical failure?

Again, we have to ask ourselves, deep down inside, can we really tell ourselves that it was OK to let Saddam stay in place, when it meant creeping extinction for the Kurds? Why are we in the West seemingly so comfortable with the controlled heinousness of Saddam, versus the chaotic bloodshed of the troubled post-invasion occupation? Is it just that Kurds and Marsh Arabs and Shia dissenters didn’t matter as much, person for person, than all the rest? Is it merely a Vulcan logic game? The stability and safety of the many outweighing the death and murder of the few?

I’m sorry, but I can’t just glibly say, “Oh well, life under Saddam sucked, but at least it didn’t suck as bad as life without Saddam!” I think that’s too easy for us, in the West, sitting in our heated, safe, comfortable homes and offices, to make that call. It’s almost like Northerners in 1860 saying, “Oh well, slavery sure sucks, but at least the plantation owners are taking care of those poor negroes! Besides, it isn’t worth the deaths of white men to force emancipation.”

The German-Jew analogy, the Confederacy-slave analogy, these might seem like stretches. I use them to illustrate that for LibHawks, the Iraq question had nothing to do with Bush or oil or any of that bullshit, and everything to do with an oppressed and murdered people being allowed to languish and suffer, simply because we in the West felt it was not our job, not our business, to go in and get rid of “President” Hussein.

Now that the post-invasion is going so badly, most everyone initially opposed to the invasion is crowing, “AHA! We were right all along!” And I have little doubt that for those who were committed anti-invasionists, right from the start, the current situation must feel and seem enormously gratifying; the Republican strategy in shambles, Bush exposed as a massive liar, NeoCons on the run, and even the misguided LibHawks forced into questions and rear-guard maneuvers.

Doubtless, it must seem bizarre or even insane that anyone still stands up and says, “Yes, I supported and continue to support the military removal of Saddam.”

But some of us do exist. And we feel there is moral merit to our position. And we resent being made into ideological clay pigeons, along with the NeoCons and Republicans and everyone else who took the country to war.

If it makes some people feel better about themselves to lash out at LibHawks and paint us with the same broad brush usually reserved for the conservative side of the spectrum, fine. Throw us in the ideological dungeon with the NeoCons and wipe your hands of the matter, assured of your moral, ethical, and pragmatic superiority.

Me, I’m still going to express objections to the notion that Saddam was better for Iraq. It wasn’t that long ago that Americans were overlooking the evils of the Reich, or the sickness of Stalin, simply because another war in Europe was unthinkable, or people were so in love with the Soviet experiment they couldn’t bring themselves to face the horror of the Gulag.

On that note, a few links I dug up, regarding the "Life under Saddam" meme.

Woman recounts life under Saddam regime

Iraqi Women Speak Out about Life under Saddam's Dictatorship

49% preferred life under Nouri al-Maliki, only 26% preferred Saddam

Babies found in Iraqi mass grave

Uncovering Iraq's Horrors in Desert Graves

Secrets of Iraqi mass grave revealed

#159 ::: CommunityRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 12:50 AM:

I'm on the road tomorrow (new job and all) and won't be able to check in or read much. I'll be curious to see what people have to say.

Maybe I'm just talking to the air on this one? Nearly everyone here seems to think I am out to lunch, and some people are downright pissed off about it.

Maybe for most of you it is a pure Vulcan logic scenario: needs of the many versus the needs of the few.

For me, it's just not that simple.

Goodnight, all.

#160 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 01:01 AM:

Oh, goody, CRV has played the Godwin card. That exceeds my tolerance for nonsense, and exhausts my patience. My advice, ladies and gentlebeings, is that we all just stop talking to him, since he's not listening. In fact, it might not be a bad idea to shut down this thread, since it's been pretty much monopolized by this worthless discussion. I'm not going to post here again. See you on the open thread.

#161 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 01:12 AM:

CRV, I don't have the time or energy to respond at length to your two posts. I will say three things.

1) No one blogging here hearts Saddam Hussein. You keep suggesting that we don't appreciate his level of brutality, and that of his sons, because if we did, we would support his military removal. Not so.

2) Your suggestion that the Allies fought the Germans in WW2 to save the Jews from extermination is complete nonsense. I cannot imagine why you think this. Have I misunderstood your post?

3) No one here makes ethical, political, or any other kind of judgments copying the thinking processes of an imaginary television character. If you were making a joke, it wasn't funny.

Going to bed now...

#162 ::: Sylvia Li ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 01:16 AM:

I have a request, CRV. If you continue this discussion tomorrow, could you please stop harking back to WW II and Hitler to find your comparisons for Saddam's rule? It is so... utterly out of proportion... so completely distorted and off balance... that it is making me physically nauseous.

#163 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 01:48 AM:

CRV: Your trouble is that you're mind-bogglingly ignorant, and you attack everyone who points that out. How anyone sane could think himself justified in having an opinion on Iraq when he hadn't even heard of the Lancet studies of excess deaths (132 "where are people getting their death figures") is a study in four-legs-bad two-legs-good.

Maybe if you weren't so staggeringly ignorant of the subject your flights of rhetoric would be worth parsing... Well, if you weren't so immensely ignorant and also so full of ad hominems.

#164 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 01:52 AM:

CRV, first, Iraq is not Germany. Saddam Hussein was not Hitler. The Iraq invasion is not World War 2. Stop trying to pretend that they are.

Second, the Allies did not fight the Axis to save the Jews of Europe. If Hitler had killed every Jew in Germany, but the German military never left the borders of Germany, the nations of the world wouldn't have lifted a finger to stop him. It wasn't Krystallnacht that united the UK and France against Germany, it was the annexation of Austria and Czechoslovakia, and the invasion of Poland. The US didn't get involved till we were attacked by Japan.

Likewise, the first Gulf War wasn't fought to save the Kurds. It was fought because Iraq invaded Kuwait, and the Saudis were worried they'd be next. And this one was fought for reasons of geopolitics and American electoral politics. It's nice that you're concerned for Saddam's victims, but the militarists who make American military policy use your feelings and concerns to manipulate you into supporting their wars. Then, when they have your support, they don't fight the war you want, they fight the war they want. In this case, it was a war to control Iraq's oil supplies, and install a compliant puppet government that would put up with large permanent American military bases.

#165 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 02:07 AM:

CRV: To make a simple answer to you.

Yes, leaving Saddam Hussein in place would have been better (and the Kurds is a chimera. Under the auspice of the No-fly zone they were autonomous. They were printing their own money; the "swiss" dinars).

Using your, explicit metrics we come to opposite answers.

1: Is life better or worse now? It's worse. The 2 million (which is about 10 percent of the population) who have left are voting with their feet. The, not clearly defined, number of internal refugees certainly don't think life is better.

The, families of the, roughly (and somewhat conservative) excess dead don't think so.

The hospitals are closed, the schools are empty, the professional classes driven out (of the country, or of business) the power isn't working, the water is foul, food isn't being distributed.

Those are the facts.

On the other metric, is the system better now that Hussein is gone?

That's not our business. We can't rule the world, which means we are picking and choosing which "evil" regime gets pushed over. And on that metric there were better targets.

Looking at the results (which is what the post this thread started from), the fruits of this adventure are rotten. To say that because you had good intentions is mitigating, but not exculpating.

You say you resent that you are being painted with the tar of the neocons, I'm not sorry for you. You've hitched your wagon to them; and you are unwilling to cut the traces, even in the face of the failure of concept (not just execution; when you say you'd act just like the Iraqis in similar circumstances, you're admitting the idea was flawed from it's very conception; but you still won't say it was a bad idea).

You say thisIf it makes some people feel better about themselves to lash out at LibHawks and paint us with the same broad brush usually reserved for the conservative side of the spectrum, fine. Throw us in the ideological dungeon with the NeoCons and wipe your hands of the matter, assured of your moral, ethical, and pragmatic superiority.

You follow it with a pious declaration of your moral superiority; Me, I’m still going to express objections to the notion that Saddam was better for Iraq. It wasn’t that long ago that Americans were overlooking the evils of the Reich, or the sickness of Stalin, simply because another war in Europe was unthinkable, or people were so in love with the Soviet experiment they couldn’t bring themselves to face the horror of the Gulag.

Which is so much nonsense and claptrap (it's not like the "Right" was reading Sakharov and Solzheneitsen). Because the folks pushing the "saving the Iraqis from Saddam" idea were propping up the Samosas, are still cozying up to the Sauds, had no problem with the Shah, ignored Burma, didn't care about the Congo, and, and, and.

Those are the same people who thought intervening in Bosnia was a fools errand, and not the thing America ought to be doing.

The same people who complained about Somalia (even though it was Bush Pere who got us into that mess).

The folks who said targetting bin Laden was "wagging the dog".

If you don't want to be accused of being a fellow-traveller of the Neo-cons, stop walking with them.

#166 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 02:32 AM:

CRV #132: Likewise, where are people getting their death figures? Nobody has a consistent number, and I have to wonder, do any of these very-high numbers, over half a million to one million or more, even account for natural death, accidents, disease, etc

OK, it's settled: you're being deliberately ignorant. When I brought up death statistics, I linked to three different sources. They were admittedly not the sources I would use were I writing something scholarly about it, but they were the first I found on a quick look and they all gave their sources. One of them explained the methodology. A quick glance would have showed you where people are getting their death figures, that the number is, in fact, consistent (the lower numbers coming from earlier studies) to a reasonable margin of error, and that, in fact, the studies do account for non-war-related deaths.

This, combined with your similarly sweeping ignorance and lack of curiosity about everything else you're talking about goes to show either that your intentions are bad and that your goal is to dissemble and muddy the discourse, or, if not, that you need to do some research (or, even easier, pay attention to the world around you) that you don't seem willing to do. Either way, it's sickening, and I don't see a third option that explains what you've been doing.

#167 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 03:05 AM:

Things are so much better in Iraq that they have a cholera epidemic now.

#168 ::: Darkrose ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 04:16 AM:

CRV@156: For the moment, all Iraqis who used to live comfortably are getting a huge taste of what it was like to be a Kurd, a Marsh Arab, a vocal Shia dissenter; or anyone else who dared oppose Saddam, or who just happened to be in Saddam’s way.

So, in other words, those people in Baghdad who are fleeing to Syria, or staying and hoping they'll at least be able to identify the body of the next family member killed...they're probably Sunnis who had it easy under Saddam, so they deserve it.

#169 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 05:23 AM:

Terry @135:
Of course you may use the sonnet elsewhere. And thanks for your contributions to the thread. Many things well said.

CRV in general:
You are arguing in generalities and without information, either about history or the present situation. As a rule, if you're going against an accepted wisdom, you need to be more than brave and strong and resolute; you also need to be well-informed.

And WRT the specific matter of Serge's outburst in comparison to yours...I have noted, as have many of the commenters here, that conversations you're involved in tend to be contentious, wearing, and generally one step short of flamewars*. After a while, this seems less like a coincidence than a personal characteristic. Serge, on the other hand, tends to make a conversation more mellow, more peaceable, and more amusing**. Guess which one of you has more credit to spend on a venting outburst?

Lizzie L in many places:
I have particularly enjoyed your firm and gracious line of conduct here.

-----
* The reason you still have vowels and posting rights, I suspect, is because they aren't flamewars, or when they are, it's not you flaming.

** Particularly when the punning starts.

#170 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 05:39 AM:

Lizzie -> Lizzy, with apologies.

#171 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 06:39 AM:

Terry Karney #165: 'Propping up the Samosas'. I think you mean 'Somozas'. I, for one, like samosas (and most other Indian dishes).

#172 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 06:57 AM:

We cannot keep propping up the Mimosa Regime! We must uproot them now!

#173 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 07:05 AM:

It's not that Hussein was "better for Iraq"; it is that what we've done is WORSE, and is going to remain that way for years into the future.

Not to mention we've now created a brand new breeding ground for terrorist recruits, and have possibly irreparably damaged our standing among even moderate Muslim nations.

#174 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 07:18 AM:

That's why Formosa is now Taiwan, isn't it?

#175 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 08:37 AM:

Correction, this is the proper link to the 2006 Lancet study (PDF file).

#176 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 08:57 AM:

Madeline F @163,

I'm grateful for your pithy summary; it's what I've been thinking and not able to distill down. There are more errors than sentences in his posts, but there are just enough contemptuous attacks on his readers buried in CRV's posts to keep me doubting that he's just a slightly dim and startlingly ignorant person with empathy issues and delusions of liberalism.

(In other words, "I am Sergicus.")

#177 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 09:24 AM:

I am Sergicus!

#178 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 09:28 AM:

I am Sergicus!
Oh, wait.

#179 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 10:03 AM:

CRV @ 69: "People seem prepared to believe all sorts of nasty/bad things about me, simply because I think you can support removal of Saddam without being a Bushie."

You keep using that "drooling Bushie" line despite the fact that no one has ever said that. Ever. The point that Ezra made, way up there, is that when you give support for the war, you don't get to give support to some other war you wished we'd fought. You give support to the war that we, i.e. Bush, did fight. The war you've been supporting for the last four years isn't the hypothetical war in your head where we went in for the right reasons, and where everything went just great. You're supporting the war where we went in for a muddle of stupid, unclear reasons and fucked it up royally.

You don't get to make the "in an alternate universe invading a country like Iraq could have potentially been a good idea." Now, personally I think that that argument is wrong too, but it doesn't even matter--we aren't there, we're here, now, and this is the war we fought: an incredible long-shot from the very beginning, that was utterly doomed because those in charge of it weren't even trying to get it right.

The argument that you're trying to have, about whether military intervention into another country's affairs can ever be justified, is irrelevant beside the awful reality of the actual war in Iraq. Even those who are pro-military intervention aren't going to change their opinion about Iraq based on that argument, because any reasonable response carries the clause "provided, of course, that it is done in a cautious and skillful manner." Iraq clearly and obviously falls outside that rider.

So all your talk of WWII and so forth is pointless. It's a totally different beast. As is Bosnia, for that matter. They worked, for one, and, tellingly, worked because they were well-thought-out and well-executed. The plans that were given were reasonable, and paid passing resemblance to the reality on the ground. None of that was true for Iraq. Your analogy fails.

P.S. Your assertion that those of us who were opposed to the Iraq war are thrilled to see it fail is libelous. We are without exception appalled at what is happening there, and wishe with all our heart that we had been wrong and Bush's invasion had went perfectly. Take it back.


#180 ::: John Chu ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 10:06 AM:

#78: CRV, whether you misinterpreted my use of the word "cowered" depends on whether you think I thought you were being humble or not. For the record, I did not think you were being humble. Or to put it another way, your words did not convey humility to me. They were a bunch of unsubstantiated assertions with "just my opinion" tacked on at the end. It doesn't take much to see "just my opinion" as a (flamer bingo worthy) shield against criticism.

As for addressing my criticisms, thank you. Everyone else has since taken your arguments apart, so for me to do so would be redundant.

#181 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 10:22 AM:

Heresiarch #179: Hear, hear!

John Chu #180: And when he doesn't say "Just my opinion," he uses the cutesy "Food for thought," sometimes with an unbearable smiley. Just say what you goddamn have to say.

Just my opinion. :)

#182 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 10:29 AM:

Heresiarch, ethan: Word.

CRV: "Applauding wildly" in response to posts you agree with, in the context of a thread like this, makes me think that you forgot to take your meds.

I do have to ask what you hope to achieve by continuous posting. You haven't engaged with people's substantive criticisms, and you don't seem to be convincing people by repeating the same cheerleading points over and over.

#183 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 10:50 AM:

Serge #172: Uproot them? I'd rather drink them...

#184 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 10:54 AM:

abi at 169, thank you. See you on another thread. In the cool grey light of morning, rereading CRV's post at 158, I realize that this one's dead, Jim.

#185 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 11:13 AM:

Fragano: Yes, I meant Samoza. No matter how I looked at it, it looked wrong. I should have looked it up, but I was late to bed.

John L: I have to disagree, the question is would Saddam Hussein have been better.

What it isn't (thouch CRV keeps asking us to believe it is) is, "Was Saddam Hussein good for Iraq.".

I think we all agree he wasn't. What, it seems, we can't agree on is is that he was so bad he had to be deposed by outside force We can't seem to agree on this even when those arguing agree that should it happen here they'd be in the insugency. Somehow the Iraqis are supposed to realise we are the "good guys" and welcome us with kisses and flowers; forever (and I am not singling out CRV here, I've been in lots of other discussions where the arguments are much the same, it just happens that he seems to be the only person in this discussion who has that belief).

And now I have to go feed the horses. I'll be back in a few hours.

#186 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 11:34 AM:

Jakob @ 182: And I note with some irony that two of the three posts he was "applauding wildly" were made by "Despina".

#187 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 11:43 AM:

Terry: And now I have to go feed the horses.

This seems a handy euphemism even though I know you mean it, in this instance, literally. I shall adopt if for my own use.

And so now, to all: I have to go feed the horses.


#188 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 11:54 AM:

That exceeds my tolerance for nonsense, and exhausts my patience.

The little gem that makes my eyes cross, for what it's worth, is "OK, fine, maybe I should just grovel and ask forgiveness for having dared to disagree with the general consensus."

It's self-congratulatory - How courageous to dare to disagree! (Cf. "politically incorrect")

It indicates a persecution complex - I am reminded of my grandmother responding to any criticism, no matter how valid or trivial, with, "Fine! Fine! I'm a bad person! I'm a horrible mother! I admit it! Happy now?"

And it's dishonest. CRV, your offense isn't disagreeing with others opinions or conclusions. Your offense is not giving a damn about the facts.

I'm getting to the point where I just scroll past his long tirades because there's far too much in them to make me see red. I have enough stress in my life without adding artificially manufactured stress.

And yet... he is not a phenomenon unto himself. His line of "argument" (if you can call it that) is common to the talking heads on Fox News and their loyal listeners, all the people still supporting this regime either because they can't bring themselves to believe bad things of a Republican president, or to believe that Iraq without Saddam could be worse than Iraq with Saddam, or to admit they were wrong to support the war in the first place.

So, watching those with more patience than I respond to CRV's vacuous claims has been a help. Now I have better responses for the people who sound like him in real life.

#189 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 12:05 PM:

Joel: Well spotted. I'd forgotten where else I'd seen that name.

#190 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 12:30 PM:

"Despina" posted #51 and #53 in an attempt at confusing a different issue. He'd noticed that folks were calling him a sock puppet in a different thread and figured that part of what clued us in was because he hadn't posted other than in single (and simple) minded defense of Charlie Rimmer. So he threw some blather in the air over here in an attempt at barn-door-shutting.

He's an ignorant man, so what he put up here was ignorant.

#191 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 12:46 PM:

James: I thought that was probably the case, but didn't feel certain enough about it to raise the point.

#192 ::: Darkrose ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 02:20 PM:

Jakob@174: That's why Formosa is now Taiwan, isn't it?

That's nobody's business but the Turks.

#193 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 02:56 PM:

And Darkrose wins the thread!

Here, have a second-hand internet. Only 120,000 miles on it thus far. Equipped, not stripped.

#194 ::: soru ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 04:36 PM:

'The 2 million (which is about 10 percent of the population) who have left are voting with their feet.'

It is worth pointing out that, according to the UNHCR data here:

http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/home/opendoc.pdf?tbl=SUBSITES&id=470387fc2

refugee numbers went down a _lot_ following the invasion, with hundreds of thousands of refugees actually returning. While they have gone up again since 2005, they are still less than half of their peak under Saddam.

When people write that Saddam 'was more moderate then his neighbours', they really are mistaken about the nature of his regime: refugees went from Saddam's Iraq to all neighbouring countries that would let them in, most notably Iran. I'm not aware of any traffic in the opposite direction.

#195 ::: Asteele ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 05:12 PM:

Soru, that chart is asylum seekers *arriving* in industrial countries. It certainly has nothing to do with overall refugee flows which are orders of magnitude higher than prewar.

#196 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 05:15 PM:

Soru: Who here has said Hussein was more moderate than his neighbors? We've all said he was bad.

We've also said the "antidote" is worse.

#197 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 06:10 PM:

soru @ 194

Oh come on, already -- it would be nice if you were even close. In an immediately prewar briefing paper, Human Rights watch pegged tne number of Iraqi refugees in Jordan alone at 200,000 to 300,000 based on UNHCR reports. That's our of an estimated 1 to 2 million iraqi expatriates worldwide, which covers refugees from the Iran-Iraq War and the Gulf War as well as Saddam's policies. That covers nearly 20 years of those who "voted with their feet".

Late last year UNHCR estimated that 1.6 million have left Iraq since the beginning of the current minuiet in March, 2003, about three and a half years. 750,000 are located in the vicinity of Amman, Jordan alone (not the whole country), with an estimated million in Syria and 150,000 in Cairo.

If you want to make the point that the current situation is better than things were under Saddam, refugee numbers will be of no help to you. Look for your pony somewhere else.

#198 ::: soru ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 07:40 PM:

' Who here has said Hussein was more moderate than his neighbors?'

Post #39

'Iran-Iraq War and the Gulf War as well as Saddam's policies'

Those two wars _were_ Saddam's policies.

'If you want to make the point that the current situation is better than things were under Saddam'

No, my point is simply that if an ongoing civil war is even remotely comparable to Saddam's rule, he can't be whitewashed as a normal dictator, the kind of ruler that any country that has contact with the world outside europe will have to deal with to some degree.

He really was a tyrant, his rule was not legitimised by anything other than his murder of the other candidates for the job, and the massacre of those who objected to the murders. Those western politicians who dealt with him as if he was in some sense the 'President' of Iraq were by so doing complicit in his crimes.

If you see someone walk into a shop, shoot the owner, and blatantly set up shop selling the goods at fire sale prices, you wouldn't get a sympathetic hearing in a court of law if you take advantage of that murder discount.

I see no reason why ordinary civilians like us should join those politicians in that complicity. We are not even getting any oil money out of the deal...

#199 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 01:21 AM:

Michael Weholt, #187, not the night-mares, I hope!

#200 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 02:58 AM:

Soru: You are being, at best, disingenous. To refresh:

#39 ::: vian ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2007, 09:06 PM:

CRV:
Or do we pretend that everyone in Iraq loved Saddam? Or that all Cubans think Castro is the bees knees?

First of all, I don't think there's anyone , on this blog or elsewhere, who claims either of those things. But what gives the US the right to unilaterally decide who stays and who goes?

How do you think the rest of the world feels about the fact that certain American Administrations claim the right to remake the world in their own image? And they also think no-one can stop them (the current desert quagmire to the contrary). America has, in the eyes of many, gone from thinking of itself as First Among Equals to First At All Costs.

The UN is not perfect, but it represents the best chance for global consensus. The US, it seems to a lot of us out here, is only worried about shoring up its own interests and throwing its weight around.

(Also - just to lay my colours, here, Bush and his cronies didn't go in to Iraq to remove Saddam - they went in to remove non-existant WMDs, no wait, to secure oil supplies, or was it to start a sand exporting business? Certainly US business interests in the area are reaping rewards.)

Iraq was not a paradise, but it was stable and more moderate than its neighbours, despite Saddam or because of him. Darfur is still a hell hole, Zimbabwe is a basket case, and let's not even get started on Burma. What is the Global Policeman going to do? Invade all of them? Pick and choose? America has to start working with the rest of the world, rather than trying to work over it. (Or, depending on your point of view, working it over).

So the gloss you put on Vian's comment at #39 isn't what it says.

More moderate than his neighbors. No mention of the wars. No, other than a left handed comment about despite Saddam, or because of him.

The wars you cite aren't as clear cut as being, "his policies" since the first was one the US supported him in. The second was a little less clear cut than it might seem. There is still some question as to just what it was the US ambasador said before Hussein went into Kuwait. Looking at the statements of the amabassador, and the Iraqi Foreign Minister it's not clear we didn't lead him to believe we'd look the other way if he invaded Kuwait.

And there is the question of provocation; since Kuwait was slant drilling into Iraqi oil-fields (a more direct threat to Iraq than any WMDs were to us; even had Hussein possessed them.

When you say the present state can be compared to Husseins rule, well that passes disingenous, and moves right to mendacious.

In short, you are presenting lies as facts, twisting the actual sayings of people and pretending that represents a fair summation of things (when you had every possibility of doing what I did, and actually quoting the post you referenced.) and otherwise making a false case.

But then, as you aren't doing much but justify the war (with your specious claims) you are complicit in it, and everything which stems from it; in a far more direct way than any of the rest of those whom you accuse of being supportive of Hussien, because we somehow failed to have him deposed sooner.

#201 ::: soru ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 06:10 AM:

Ok, take the whole quote, rather than the key phrase. Is there some possible way of reading that whole post that does not imply that the government of Iraq was at worst average for the region, better than at least some of Turkey, Jordan, Iran, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia?

If that is what you meant to say, 2 million refugees, millions dead, would make your words a lie as blunt and futile as someone saying Iraq is a democratic peaceful paradise now. I'm reasonably sure there are only two rulers in history who have gassed their own populace.

If you mispoke, did not mean what you said, fair enough. Apologise, instead of going on the attack.

#202 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 09:28 AM:

soru #201: as blunt and futile as someone saying Iraq is a democratic peaceful paradise

"Democracy recapitulates autocracy"?

#203 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 10:13 AM:

soru, it really is time to stop digging. The hole is deep enough already.

You blow in here and made a claim (While they [refugee numbers] have gone up again since 2005, they are still less than half of their peak under Saddam) apparently citing information from one chart and table (at the bottom of an UNHCR factsheet) concerning (as Asteele @ 195 pointed out) refugee applications in industrialized countries. To get there you have to go past the first paragraph of the factsheet:

An estimated 60,000 Iraqis are being forced to leave their homes every month by continuing violence. As of September 2007, there were believed to be well over 4 million displaced Iraqis around the world, including some 2.2 million inside Iraq and a similar number in neighbouring countries (in particular Syria and Jordan) and some 200,000 further afield. Around one million were displaced prior to 2003. The ability of neighbouring states to handle such larger numbers is close to breaking point. In recent months visa restrictions have been considered which, if implemented, will result in Iraqis having greater difficulty finding a safe haven. UNHCR’s April 2007 Conference on Iraqi displacement focused attention on the huge humanitarian crisis developing in the region. Over the past year, Iraqis have once again become the leading nationality seeking asylum in industrialized countries, with 22,200 Iraqis applying for asylum during 2006 and 19,800 during the first six months of 2007. However, some 95 percent of uprooted Iraqis are still located in the Middle East.
Now, let's look at those numbers.

First off, if you check the report I cited before, you will find the figure of 1-2 million is for the Iraqi diaspora in general as of 2001 (not an UNHCR estimate, by the way). As it happens, this generally includes others than refugees, for example, legal emigrants who have established themselves in new host countries. The current UNHCR estimate of the prewar number of Iraqi refugees is roughtly one million, including hundreds of thousands of internal refugees. This is based on the information from the factsheet you pointed us to. As stated before, this is the end number after more than 20 years of Saddam, including two wars and a decade of sanctions.

The UNHCR estimate for total Iraqi refugees is now 4 million, with a bit over half being internal refugees. The figures you referred to covered an atypical 5% of refugees, recognized asylum seekers and resettlement arrivals in countries outside the Middle East.

soru, based on the data you supplied, you are well and truly busted.

Some who supported the invasion of Iraq are now struggling to prove that they really weren't wrong, that there really was some reason or other that even at this late date justifies their opinions. Admitting the obvious, that they were deeply wrong, apears to be impossible, perhaps because it would demonstrate that they really weren't intellectually and morally superior to those who disagreed with them in 2003. You are making it easy to count you in that number.

You made a specious claim, and when that was challenged, made an invalid generalization from a statement taken out of context, apparently trying to prove that we believe something we have repeatedly rejected in this thread. Apparently you hoped that it would distract us from the issue at hand. Sorry, no game.

#204 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 11:03 AM:

soru @ 201

I'm reasonably sure there are only two rulers in history who have gassed their own populace.

You aren't going to count the rulers who had their troops fire automatic weapons or tank cannon at their own populace, or deliberately starved millions of them? Or, if you want to talk about rulers attempting to subdue dissident or secessionist regional populations (as Sadam Hussein was doing when he gassed those villages), bombed them from the air? Mass murder is mass murder, never mind the weapon.

#205 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 11:30 AM:

Soru: Ok, take the whole quote, rather than the key phrase. Is there some possible way of reading that whole post that does not imply that the government of Iraq was at worst average for the region, better than at least some of Turkey, Jordan, Iran, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia?

Apparently yes.

Further, since you are putting it forth, explain the ways in which Iraq differed from those countries; and how those things compared.

All in all you can't really support this, because you are cherry picking the region (I love the bit about, "some of Turkey" When you don't think the country most likely to enter the EU can't be seen as a whole as better than Hussein, well that says a lot about how see things).

Second, you didn't just pick, "the key phrase," you manufactured it (unless I'm blind. I read that post three times [once to check it, twice to put in the HTML and thrice to double check it] it doesn't say that anywhere). You took your impression of the meaning of the post, and presented it as a quotation.

That's what offended me. Not the other nonsense (not even the imputation that I was saying Hussein was more moderate, and that I was being deceitful in my comment about refugees) which has the figures wrong, even if we grant that everyone who left was a "refugee", the present numbers are still higher. Applications for asylum (the number you cited) is not the same as number of refugees.

Not all refugees apply for asylum. The US, for example, no longer offers asylum to people from Iraq, because the gov't there is no longer seen as one which the people have reason to flee.

Now, so there's no question.

Hussien was bad.
It might have been better for the Iraqis to overthrow him (better being dependant on what followed him).
We had no right, just because of that, to invade.
The situation on the ground now is worse than it was when he was in charge.

The last is because there is no law. Life is Hobbesian, a war of all against all. The systems of modern life (on which the society was based) are gone. Power... almost non-existent. Fuel, scarce, dear, and hard to come by. Food, not as available as it was. Water; fouled. Absent fuel for boiling it is dangerous to drink.

There is civil war. Ethnic strife and ciminality are rampant.

None of that was the case when he was in charge.

Yes, opposing him was likely to get one abused, tortured or killed.

The same is true in lots of places. We didn't/won't invade to clean them up. Which is the way it should be.

Imposing outside solutions to those places isn't going to fix it. About the only one I can say is worthy of intervention is Darfur; because it's an actual conflict. There are two sides and mediating between them is a measurable thing. It's why Bosnia/Kosovo/Albania worked.

#206 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 03:38 PM:

Feed the night-mares,
Feed them well.
Feed them grain
With bits of hell.

As in your dreams
They monsters weave,
Their bits of hell
They'll surely leave.

Woe! you cry,
But deep your sleep.
The night-mares reign
And monsters keep.

If quiet sleep
You'd rather carve,
Don't feed the night-mares.
Let them starve.

#207 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 03:52 PM:

Marilee @206
You remind me of one of the earliest poems I can recall writing:

Dreamshades

Sleeping in red
Lets fiery things from fiery dreams
Into my head.

Sleeping in white
Shows forests, mountains, trees and streams
Twisted with blight.

Sleeping in green
Is night to morning with, it seems,
Nothing between.

Sleeping in blue
Brings gentle, soon-forgotten dreams
Involving you.

(I was maybe 12).

#208 ::: soru ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 06:21 PM:

'you manufactured it (unless I'm blind. I read that post three times [once to check it, twice to put in the HTML and thrice to double check it] it doesn't say that anywhere'

Really, it does - check a fourth time. Post #39, or search for 'neighbour'.

'I love the bit about, "some of Turkey" When you don't think the country most likely to enter the EU can't be seen as a whole as better than Hussein, well that says a lot about how see things'

Some of (Turkey, Jordan, Iran, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia), not 'some of Turkey'.

(I forgot Syria).

The point as I see it is, you, and perhaps others, do genuinely seem to believe that if you looked at the poorer parts of not-always-democracy Turkey, that would be about the same as Saddam's Iraq. Simultaneously, you believe that thinking that to be true is in no way whitewashing, downplaying or minimising Saddam's crimes.

I guess that makes sense - if you really do think the facts are that way, then it wouldn't seem to you like you are doing any of those things.

Can you understand that if you are wrong, or simply faced with someone who thinks differently, it really will seem to them that you are?

If I really am misunderstanding what you are saying, please speak up and say what you meant to say instead.

#209 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 07:54 PM:

abi, #207, I only do doggerel, not poetry. I thought of that after I shut the computer down last night (re: telling Michael not to feed the night-mares) and wrote it down carefully enough that I was able to guess accurately today. So. what happens if you sleep in the nude?

#210 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 08:07 PM:

Soru: you are right I missed that; and you know what, in most ways Hussein was more moderate than his neighbors. It was, so long as one didn't cross him, an easier place to live than Syria, Jordan, Saudi, and most of Turkey (so long as one wasn't a Kurdish separatist).

So I don't think it means what you were trying to make it mean (that Saddam was a decent guy, because his regime had it's good points; in comparison).

So there you have that.

But

Here is, again, the answer to your other questions.

Hussein's Iraq was not a nice place to live.

The Iraq we've made is worse.

Was that clear enough?

To go on:

It wasn't our place to "fix" it. No more than it is anyone elses job to "fix" our system. I don't need to whitewash his crimes, play down his tyranny, or any other thing you are pretending I'm doing.

He was a bad man, a tyrant. His rule of Iraq wasn't good, but it wasn't our place to remove him.

Futher, we have made things worse.

How much plainer does it have to be?

#211 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 11:41 PM:

I came up with a metaphor. Accusing opponents of the Iraq war of opposing the spread of freedom and democracy is like* accusing people of being opposed to the concept of human flight because they object to little boys jumping off of roofs with sheets tied to their arms. Spreading freedom and democracy is much like human flight, in the sense that no amount of optimism and confidence can be substituted for technical expertise and foresight.

*Yes, technically, a simile.

#212 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 12:14 AM:

jumping off of roofs with sheets tied to their arms

heh.

;)

#213 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 01:46 AM:

A comparison that occurred to me earlier today is with Russia in the early 20th century. Life under the czars wasn't good, to put it mildly, for a whole lot of people, and what we'd think of as modern civilization existed in precarious circumstances, subject to the whim of various authorities. There was progress happening with regard to the rule of law, the protection of basic rights, and the material conditions of life. But it was slow, slow, slow for most people. By any sensible standard in the Western liberal tradition, the czar was a bad guy at the top of a bad regime, and his removal was no bad thing at all.

But it didn't take terribly long for the Soviet regime to become worse. There was genuine progress on a lot of fronts for some years, and some of this continued. But by mid-century a lot of the Soviet peoples were worse off than they and their ancestors had been in 1917. In some ways they're still worse off than that, in fact, or have barely managed to regain the lost ground and may well lose it again. The Soviets were really, really bad for the people they ruled.

So all of those who tried to wave away Soviet evils by saying "but the czar was bad" were missing the point. And those who say "but Hussein was bad" to justify the current misery of Iraq are making exactly the same error.

#214 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 02:40 AM:

P J Evans, #67: You aren't going to get 'economic rationalism', because people aren't really rational.

Didn't we have this discussion just recently, WRT John Barnes and Utilitopia?

ethan, #181: His "food for thought" appears to consist entirely of Twinkies. No substance, no nourishment, just a bunch of artificial junk calories in a plastic wrapper.

#215 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 03:48 AM:

Marilee @209:

Sleeping while nude
Means late at night your smile gleams
When you're in the mood.

But I wasn't writing that when I was 12.

#216 ::: soru ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 06:45 AM:

'And those who say "but Hussein was bad" to justify the current misery of Iraq are making exactly the same error. '

What about those who think that, in order to make the point that the situation is currently awful, it is necessary or useful to minimise, whitewash or just plain lie about the prior situation? Aren't they making a very similar mistake?

In my view, those people who speak truth are on one side, and those who tells lies are on another. Go read post #210, where someone is explictly saying, having thought about the issue, that Saddam's Iraq was a _better_ place to live than contemporary Turkey.

Never mind the 7 figure death totals, mass graves, massacred villages. Never mind the surveys that showed 75% of people had a friend or family member detained, tortured or exiled.

Truth is, there was a time in the 1970s when the Turkey/Iraq comparison would have been valid, could have gone either way. Saddam pretty much personally changed that.

There are countries that are liberal democracies, there are countries where if you speak up against the regime you risk death or worse. _And there are countries that are worse than that_. Saddam's Iraq was one of that third group.

(in any case, the czar, and the succesor liberal regime, were overthrown mainly because of WWI, participation in the eastern front of which probably was worse than life under communism).

#217 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 06:50 AM:

Soru, if you ever demonstrate a habit of posting reliable data and using it in an honest and straightforward manner, I'll be happy to reply to you. Unfortunately, in your case that's going to mean a serious shift in habits.

#218 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 07:48 AM:

Marilee @209, Abi @215

Talking of old poems and nudity (as we were) some time ago, as part of an attempt to illustrate the difference between "bear imagining" and "bare imagining" I wrote this haiku:

People in the nude
Aren't as funny as you think
They just have no clothes

(The alternate last line to get people to spill drinks was "except if they dance")

#219 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 08:34 AM:

soru #216: In my view, those people who speak truth are on one side, and those who tells lies are on another.

Oh, now that's just silly. If you said "do harm" rather than "tells truth," I could agree with you.

#220 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 08:35 AM:

(...need I mention that, either way, the only person I see telling lies is the one preaching about not doing so?)

#221 ::: soru ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 09:34 AM:

'Oh, now that's just silly. If you said "do harm" rather than "tells truth," I could agree with you.'

Does that mean that you think that lying, deceit and distortion are safe techniques? That if you have admirable aims, like preventing harm, they can be used without risk of sabotaging those goals?

Now you may think differently, but as far as I can see that is what is necessary in order to place those two camps in opposition to each other, to say that that which is true is not, by default, in support of that which is good.

Steve Brust's LJ has a really good parable which illustrates this point here:

http://skzbrust.livejournal.com/51984.html

#222 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 09:53 AM:

For example: some people here may recall that a fundamentalist christian I work with recently tried to convert me. I told him I appreciated that he wanted to help me, but that I wasn't interested. This was a lie. I didn't appreciate it. I felt gross, uncomfortable, slimed. But I think lying did less harm than telling the truth.

For another example: If the Bush administration had told the whole truth about Iraq from the beginning, if they had said, "Saddam Hussein's a bad man, who's done lots of bad things. That's not why we're invading his country, though; in fact, when he was doing lots of his bad things we were friends with him, valued allies. It's just that, well, he's got lots of oil, and besides, me and my friends will make lots of money off of extended warfare," and still started this fucked up war, it would still be bad. Maybe not as bad, because he probably wouldn't have been re-"elected," and because the discourse would be far less muddy, but still bad.

In general, one should tell the truth. In general, one should also not make sweeping generalizations about what is always good and always bad. Is all I was saying.

Plus, every single thing you've said has been distorted and misleading at best, and an outright lie at worst, so really now.

#223 ::: soru ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 12:05 PM:

' But I think lying did less harm than telling the truth.'

Social interaction and politics are, or should be, different things, that work by different rules. Break that rule and you get groupthink.

'every single thing you've said has been distorted and misleading at best, and an outright lie at worst'

It certainly looks like that is your understanding of things.

However, I think it might be a useful exercise for you to examine precisely how you came to that understanding.

For example, post #205 says:

'Second, you didn't just pick, "the key phrase," you manufactured it (unless I'm blind. I read that post three times [once to check it, twice to put in the HTML and thrice to double check it] it doesn't say that anywhere). '

There are a lot of examples I could have picked where other people are expressing similarly forceful opinions about my supposed lack of truthiness. Do you think that in all such cases that forcefulness was justified by the facts?

Do you think the same social forces that can make someone not be able to read what is in front of their face also make someone take a valid point about there being different categories of refugees and greatly overstate it?

Do you think they might then ignore some point that could be made about the variability in the numbers of refugees accepted by bordering states also being an influence on their numbers? Would they reject out of hand the idea that the numbers showing up in neutral european countries like Finland and Sweden might actually be, in some ways, a more useful metric?

And, most importantly, how many rhetorical questions is too many?

#224 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 12:12 PM:

Did you notice that you ignored my second example?

I'm out.

#225 ::: soru ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 01:00 PM:

For the record, I don't have anything particularly relevant to say about your second example - it's just one of those artifical hypotheticals that produce strange results mainly because they don't resemble any plausible reality.

Unless you think Bush really could have popped up on TV to say 'I am evil, mwahahaha', and everyone else involved would have continued on as they did in this world.

#226 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 03:05 PM:

those people who speak truth are on one side, and those who tells lies are on another.

...plus...

Social interaction and politics are, or should be, different things, that work by different rules

...requires politicians who tell the truth, but somehow does not lead to...

one of those artifical hypotheticals that produce strange results mainly because they don't resemble any plausible reality.

- o0o -

Sometimes the sweets are
Not worth the effort it takes
To swing the damned stick.

Probably lots of
Coffee and blackcurrant things
And I'm on a diet.

#227 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 04:29 PM:

I will note in passing, that Nancy Pelosi, in one of these great political own-throat-cutting moves, has supported a House Foreign Affairs Committee resolution, calling on "the U.S. to designate the World War I-era killings of 1.5 million Armenians as genocide" (Bloomberg) This may be one of those great fait accompli (that is, irreversible mistakes) in the history of diplomacy, leading to an absolute disaster in Iraq. If it goads the Turks into closing the Incirlik airbase to US supply fights and invading Kurdish Iraq, this could get very bad, very quickly.

#228 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 08:07 PM:

Soru: I misttyped (tired, and the like), though context ought to have made plain the reversal I made re Turkey; i.e. it was better, so long as one wasn't an independence minded Kurd; or living near some independence minded Kurds.

But you keep refusing to answer the real point: It wasn't our job to get rid of Hussein.

If you think it was, justify it, in such a way as all the other countries which are bad (by our, or perhaps only your, lights) don't have to be invaded and rescued as well.

If they do need to be invaded/rescued explain the rationale for starting in Iraq, and why we aren't gearing up (at a national level, a la WW2) for the crusade of liberation the world is about to witness.

Justify it in such a way as those countries (like the former Soviet Untion, Modern China, much of Europe, Venezeula, etc.) wouldn't be justified in using a model of their choosing, saying the US doesn't measure up and coming in to clean house?

Show your work, it will be graded (and not only by me, whom I have reason to believe you discount on the basis that you think me sadly disconnected from reality, because looking at the day to day life of the average Iraqi, I say the present situation [which was perfectly predicatble, so predictable that lots of us did just that] makes the invasion a net-evil. I can say that because I was one of the invaders, and got to talk to those average Iraqis, some of whom; and not an inconsiderable number, were more than glad to see us. Most of them no longer feel that way, I can't imagine why).

Until, and unless, you make an honest attempt, I'm done with you.

#229 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2007, 04:43 AM:

soru @ 223: "Social interaction and politics are, or should be, different things, that work by different rules. Break that rule and you get groupthink."

I'm sorry, but what? In what conceivable way is politics anything other than social interaction, conducted according to a set of pre-decided rules? Politics without social interaction wouldn't be anything more than mere bureaucracy.

#230 ::: Mark smells spam ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2009, 11:20 AM:

Seems odd that a moderaptor would have elided the link but left the message otherwise intact...but it definitely has that tinned processed meat food product smell.

#231 ::: Rob Rusick spots odd spam @230 ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2009, 11:21 AM:

Odd and pointless comment spam.

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