November 19, 2005

Replying to John Cole Black

from - smijer

This really isn't the reply to John Cole... To sum that part up, he saw the GOP stunt on the Murtha bill yesterday, and bought it hook, line, and sinker... A lot of people tried to explain it to him, and his visitors who are also regulars at Little Green Footballs or the Free Republic, of course, gave hand signals indicating that their heads were still so far up George W's rectum that, as far as they could see, John was right. And it was grimly amusing. But finally the subject changed (somewhere around comment number 370something), and I was moved to write this... and then felt so good to get it off my chest, I wanted to let my friends read it, too:

Since this thread has devolved into "it was worth it to start a war in Iraq to liberate the Iraqi people" (and "it's worth it to continue to foment civil war there so that the Iraqi people can have their new theocracy tempered by fire"), I'd like to give everyone a friendly reminder:

The evidence is stacked strongly against the notion that we were taken to war to liberate the Iraqi people, or to protect the Iraqi people, the Kurds, ourselves, or anyone for that matter, from Saddam Hussein.

Points:

I. Our foreign policy,including the prioritization of the Iraq war, and including our pre-war diplomatic overtures, does not reflect willingness to intervene on the behalf of people who suffer under tyrannical regimes.

a. There was no ultimatum - "Iraq must stop (X, Y, Z) human rights abuses, let the Red Cross into your prisons to document that these practices have been stopped. Further, Iraq must set out a timetable for creating democratic reforms that will ensure that the government of Iraq properly represents its people, and must show significant progress toward achieving that goal. If Iraq fails to respond with action in (X) amount of time, the U.S. and its allies will organize a multinational force to take appropriate actions to enforce a regime respecting human rights in Iraq.
b. U.S. leaders failed to prioritize ongoing genocide in Sudan over the genocidal or near-genocidal actions from over a decade ago in the Iraq regime.
c. The U.S. continues to align itself politically with repressive regimes around the world. Examples: Pakistan, Uzbekhistan, Saudi Arabia. The U.S. continues to maintain warm ties with other repressive regimes, giving only lip-service to diplomatic pressure for reform in those regimes. Example: China.
d. The U.S. failed to bring together a coalition of interested Iraqis of all political and ethnic stripes, prior to invasion, to aid in the overthrow of S.H. and to be prepared for an orderly transition to a peaceful, democratic government.
e. The U.S., rather than clearly demanding that the Pentagon be responsible that the occupying forces respected human rights and the Geneva Conventions, sought ways to avoid legal limitations on our own conduct with regard to human rights.

II. The combined results of the first Gulf War, international sanctions, Operation Desert Fox, the presence of weapons inspectors in Iraq, and continued enforcement of no-fly zones over Kurdish territories left S.H. far less capable of posing a threat to his own people, the Kurds, the U.S., or anyone else for that matter, than, for instance Iran, Syria, North Korea, or the Janjaweed/Sudanese government. In fact S.H. had no remaining power to harm anyone on a large scale, and even his remaining brutality within his regime could likely have been addressed with threats, or with multinational insertion of a peacekeeping and observation mission. Nevertheless, the Iraq war was prioritized over all other measures that could have contributed to human rights and democracy worldwide.


III. The rhetoric of the U.S. Adminsitration prior to the war. Human rights and democracy were mentioned as they specifically related to Iraq and S.H., but the reason for going to war was stated repeatedly and unequivocally: "Saddam Hussein must disarm or we will disarm him", paired with "we will go to war only as a last resort." The last proved a lie (even though I realize many conservatives would have disagreed with such a policy, believing that we cannot wait until all other measures have failed, or our threats might become imminent, and then it would be too late, because then they would already be imminent. Or whatever.). The fact that the latter proved to be an intentional deception, the former becomes very questionable, as the war was started before we, with U.N. help, could complete a responsible verification of our evidence about Iraqi arms. In fact, the timing of our invasion was such that it came about just as many voices were beginning to ask responsible questions about the validity of our evidence on Iraqi arms. Nevertheless, the stated reason for going to war, and the stated conditions for avoiding war revolved around weapons - not human rights. Add to this the campaign pledges that helped Bush gain the votes of many of those who later supported or demanded the war, that he would not commit our troops for "nation building", and there is compelling evidence that the administration's interest in the Iraqi people is a novelty prepared as an ad hoc justification for invasion.

All in all, I believe there is good evidence that our continued occupation of Iraq is working against the goals of people truly interested in human rights there, rather than for them.

I somewhat disagree with Murtha's vision for calling an end to our occupation. I believe he is too focused on the location of our troops, and not focused enough on what they could or should be doing... I can't help but have sympathy that, while the Bush administration is in charge, Iraq is a bad place for our troops to be entirely - for the simple reason that the Bush Pentagon cannot be trusted to lead them according to any sane plan... However, I think that it would be better, such considerations aside, to focus on what our troops should be doing at least as much as where they are deployed.

I think that it is in the best interests of the Iraqis and the rest of us to leave with a well trained and equipped Iraqi security force. I also think that it is only inflaming the situation to continue to wage war inside the borders of Iraq. So the first step would be to bring a quick end to combat operations in Iraq. Continue whatever operations are necessary to support a retreat from the field of combat operations, and a redeployment within Iraq to well-fortified training centers, near but not central to, Iraqi population centers. All forces should then commence to a) provide inpenetrable security for those training centers, b) engage in training of Iraqi security forces, c) support airlift supplies to and from these areas. If this leaves an excess of troops, the remaining numbers can be drawn down. At this time, an announcement of the end of combat operations should be made, and joint statements with the Iraqi government should be made to the effect that all U.S. forces will exit Iraq orderly when the training mission is completed. Hereinafter, any attacks on U.S. personell can only occur at well fortified areas where U.S. casualties will be minimized and the enemy can quickly and easily be defeated. Attacks that kill Iraqi civilians will then draw the ire of the Iraqi people and those who conduct them will quickly become pariahs instead of martyrs. The newly trained security forces will have every motivation to extinguish these activities.

Then, we say "Mission Accomplished", and we leave. And if, from the rubble of our mistakes, a phoenix of Democracy arises - all the better... And if not, we will perhaps finally learn a lesson about how to conduct a foreign policy that helps rather than hurts... And perhaps our next administration will start building a foreign policy that really does center on the defense of the U.S., the use of what prestige we have left to pressure improvements in human rights elsewhere, and the use of force, if it is necessary, to act as peacekeepers in places like the Sudan, should there prove to be no other option for ending the genocide there. If we lead responsibly, we can eventually revisit the situation in Iraq... and possibly even get it right this time.

Now, tell me how wrong I am.

::

Posted by smijer at November 19, 2005 09:03 PM
Comments

Hey, smijer, I followed you over from John Cole's site. Nice essay! Very thoughtful, and little to disagree with.

Also, love the cat blogging.

univar.jpg Posted by RSA on November 19, 2005 09:07 PM
Link to comment

Commentary:

I. There are actually lots of examples where the US has intervened on behalf of people who suffer under tyrannical regimes: Bosnia, Kosovo, El Salvador, and Kuwait come to mind. This doesn’t count all of the additional countries where US forces are acting in conjunction with the UN or countries where the US Armed Forces provide humanitarian aid.
a. Actually the were ultimatums given to Iraq – some of which were designed specifically with humanitarian interests in mind (the north and southern no-fly zones for example). How many UN resolutions does it take to make an ultimatum?
d. Did you take any note of what happened to the Kurd and Shiites that stood up to oppose SH? Perhaps we could of / should of done more to encourage them but without putting our military on the ground you were not going to be able to protect those groups that created opposition. Perhaps you could ask the Shiite groups that formed after GWI with our encouragement. Well you could if they were not all DEAD.
e. Please. While there have certainly been abuses (Abu Garib comes to mind) for which people are being punished, much of your rhetoric – like the white phosphorus discussion – is your attempt to blow things out of proportion to suit your agenda. Why is it I don’t see you bitching about the human rights abuses perpetrated by Saddam Hussein and his sons / lackeys or the Muslim terrorists?
II. This comment is perfect 20 / 20 hindsight. Starting with Bush 41, and continuing for both the Clinton and W administrations it was believed by everyone – Republican and Democrat alike – that Saddam was a significant threat to the region, the US, and our allies.
III. Nowhere in your piece was any indication that if SH had met the conditions outlined by the UN Security Council (say as part of the 17 resolutions that were passed that directly related to Iraq) it might also have been possible to avoid war with Iraq. Why is that?


It would seem that you agree with the current events that are occurring with-in Iraq and President Bush’s plan for being able to exit Iraq:
· Provide a well-trained and equipped security force. This has been happening for the last 2 ½ years.
· Provide a political infrastructure that will allow the Iraqi’s to govern themselves. This has also been underway for the last 2 ½ years. Based on percentage, more Iraq’s have voted in their elections than US citizens voted in our elections. They are not there yet but they have made significant progress.
· Create an environment such that “Attacks that kill Iraqi civilians will then draw the ire of the Iraqi people and those who conduct them will quickly become pariahs instead of martyrs”. Once the Iraqi’s are able to take this step, we are no longer needed. The sooner we can get to this point the better.

“If we lead responsibly, we can eventually revisit the situation in Iraq... and possibly even get it right this time.” Based on the positions you have taken in this post, I struggle to imagine an approach that you would support or that would be attainable in a timeframe that could meet your expectations.

m

univar.jpg Posted by m on November 20, 2005 03:50 PM
Link to comment

I.

There are actually lots of examples where the US has intervened on behalf of people who suffer under tyrannical regimes

Yes, there are some. Not lots... and of thew few, perhaps Kuwait, Somalia, Haiti, and Kosovo are the only ones that were primarily humanitarian or defensive in nature since World War II, anyway... So, we have seen a small commitment from Clinton and Bush I... Not much of a record, overall.

a. Actually the were ultimatums given to Iraq – some of which were designed specifically with humanitarian interests in mind (the north and southern no-fly zones for example). How many UN resolutions does it take to make an ultimatum?

How many apple seeds does it take to make an orange? There were no meaningful ultimatums given on human rights in Iraq. There was an ultimatum given to Afghanistan before the Afghan war which made quite clear what actions meant war and what actions would lead to peace. The ultimatum in Afghanistan was to turn over al Qaeda. The Taliban refused, and we went to war. There was no question of what the reason for war was. Likewise, with Iraq, there was an ultimatum: "disarm now", or war. Unfortunately, confidence in that ultimatum was undercut by the administration's unwillingness to discover with a responsible degree of certainty whether Iraq was disarmed or not.

d. Did you take any note of what happened to the Kurd and Shiites that stood up to oppose SH? Perhaps we could of / should of done more to encourage them but without putting our military on the ground you were not going to be able to protect those groups that created opposition. Perhaps you could ask the Shiite groups that formed after GWI with our encouragement. Well you could if they were not all DEAD.

Even if the Shi'a and Kurdish parties in Iraq were gunshy about aiding in the overthrow (as the Northern Alliance did in Afghanistan), there was no reason not to have secret communications with them so that they would be ready with an organization and a plan for the peace after Saddam was out of power.

e. Please. While there have certainly been abuses (Abu Garib comes to mind) for which people are being punished, much of your rhetoric – like the white phosphorus discussion – is your attempt to blow things out of proportion to suit your agenda.

Please... you say this while the Vice President of the United is lobbying congress not to specifically outlaw torture for the CIA, and the President is threatening to veto the bill if they do. Abu Graib is the tip of the iceberg. There are secret prisons in Eastern Europe, prisoners turning up dead in prisons in Afghanistan, and routine flights for suspects like Maher Arar out of the U.S. into other nations to be tortured. On a side note, your playing down of the situation reminds me of something I read today at Respectful of Otters. Make of that what you will.

Why is it I don’t see you bitching about the human rights abuses perpetrated by Saddam Hussein and his sons / lackeys or the Muslim terrorists?

A. Saddam Hussein did not act in my name.
B. Saddam Hussein did not use my tax dollar.
C. Saddam Hussein did not pretend that he was invading Kuwait for humanitarian reasons.
D. Saddam Hussein's abuses are not happening now. The Janjaweed's are. The U.S. government's are. Uzbekhistan's are. Saddam's are in the past. If nothing else was going on now, maybe I could spend time rehashing what happened five or ten years ago.

II.

II. This comment is perfect 20 / 20 hindsight. Starting with Bush 41, and continuing for both the Clinton and W administrations it was believed by everyone – Republican and Democrat alike – that Saddam was a significant threat to the region, the US, and our allies.

Besides the fact that this is an overgeneralization, and besides the fact that he was largely looked upon as a menace by virtue of his attitudes more than his capabilities, there's another big problem. I think my neighbor is a threat. I hear a lot of noise that sounds like yelling over there, and sometimes he is very rude to me. I'm pretty sure he has guns. But if my reason for bombing his house is that I think he is a threat, my actions will reflect that - i.e. I will first ascertain whether my thoughts about his status as a threat are actually true or not. If I say, "we all think he's a threat", then blow up his house with him inside while other people are begging for a police investigation, chances are, I don't really care whether he is a threat. I wanted to blow him up anyway. You see?

III.

Nowhere in your piece was any indication that if SH had met the conditions outlined by the UN Security Council (say as part of the 17 resolutions that were passed that directly related to Iraq) it might also have been possible to avoid war with Iraq. Why is that?

Nowhere in my analysis above did I mention that if my neighbor had read and answered to my satisfaction the 17 letters our neighborhood watch committee had sent him, he could have avoided his house being blown up. One reason? It's a tangential issue. Once I make the decision to blow up his house, it my actions and my motivations for them are the biggest issues. Another reason? You don't know if it's even true... How could you know that I wouldn't have bombed his house if he had answered, to my satisfaction, the 17 letters? Another reason? It was the neighborhood watch committee, of which I was only one member, that wrote the letters. They didn't feel that my neighbor's responses so far merited immediately blowing up his house. Why do I get veto power over the committee, exactly? Another reason? For all any of us know, he did answer the 17 letters, and - as far as he was capable, and without completely undermining his own security - complied with their requests. We know that he did invite policemen inside to snoop... We know that, after some tough negotiations, he even allowed the policemen into the basement and the bathroom to snoop. The policemen said they would like more cooperation than he gave, but how do any of us really know that he wasn't giving as much as he was capable of, or could be expected to? The biggest reason? Because it sheds very little light on my motives as the bomber... which was the central question of this post... Did I bomb his house because I believed he was a threat, or did I just want to blow him up? Talking about the possibility that he could have avoided the bomb is just a distraction.

It would seem that you agree with the current events that are occurring with-in Iraq and President Bush’s plan for being able to exit Iraq: · Provide a well-trained and equipped security force. This has been happening for the last 2 ½ years.

Come, on... this is the pentagon that says "you go to war with the army you have, not the army you might like to have"... we didn't even start the occupation with our own troops properly equipped... how did we plan to immediately equip an Iraqi security force?

We went to war "at the time of our choosing", per President Bush... We could have had stockpiles of equipment and Arabic-speaking trainers and recruiters standing by to commence training the day "major combat operations ended". Instead, we are 2 1/2 years in and no clear estimate of when an Iraqi security force will be equipped, trained, and ready to replace our troops... meanwhile, we are building permanent military bases and continuing offensive operations. My view is fairly radically different - I believe that the sole business of our troops in Iraq should be preparing the Iraqis with their own security force, and it should be done securely, efficiently, and with much public fanfare. Not serving as flypaper... not "fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them over here."

· Provide a political infrastructure that will allow the Iraqi’s to govern themselves. This has also been underway for the last 2 ½ years. Based on percentage, more Iraq’s have voted in their elections than US citizens voted in our elections. They are not there yet but they have made significant progress.

Sure, if you can figure out a way that such an elected government can have legitimacy when an entire ethnic group there is boycotting the elections because they feel left out of the government... But I really didn't include that in my vision for "now"... I think it's too late for us to provide that kind of assistance to Iraq... Should there have been a coalition - Sunni/Shi'a/Kurdish shadow government waiting in the wings to provide stability and to help negotiate the necessary compromises on the new constitutions as soon as "major combat operations were ended", then there would have been hope for democracy to emerge there... As it stands now, I just don't see it.

· Create an environment such that “Attacks that kill Iraqi civilians will then draw the ire of the Iraqi people and those who conduct them will quickly become pariahs instead of martyrs”. Once the Iraqi’s are able to take this step, we are no longer needed. The sooner we can get to this point the better.

Once Americans are out of the streets of Baghdad, Tikrit, and Fallujah, and in fortified training camps, training Iraqi security... this condition can be met quickly. It is natural to react with rage to the kind of attacks that the Iraqi insurgents are carrying out... The reason they continue to have support in Iraq is that so many Iraqis hate us more than they hate those attacks. As long as the bomb goes off in someone's cafe where the Americans eat, or the gunshots kill people who were walking down the streets with Americans the week before - the worst of the insurgents will still be tolerated, feared, or supported by various Iraqi nationals. When the terrorist-prone among the insurgents are forced to choose targets between the invulnerable Americans in their fortified camps or Iraqi nationals... their game is over.

Based on the positions you have taken in this post, I struggle to imagine an approach that you would support or that would be attainable in a timeframe that could meet your expectations.

So say a lot of war supporters... Yet strategies of aggression haven't exactly brought about swift improvement... If it's going to be slow going, why not make it peaceful and constructive slow-going rather than violent and destructive slow-going?

Another thing I did not mention, but is integral... Should any sort of quasi-legitimate government arise, or failing that, any nationalized and well meaning citizens organization emerge, the U.S. should be paying war reparations to them and allowing them to run the reconstruction. It's their country. There's no reason they shouldn't be the ones to manage the contracts.

univar.jpg Posted by smijer on November 20, 2005 08:54 PM
Link to comment
Comments for this entry are closed. Please leave your notes on a more recent comment thread.