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Friday, May 20, 2005

Terrible Sadness

The other day, Kid Various was flipping through his newspaper and found that photo of Don Rumsfeld with Spiderman and Captain America. Instantly, the funnymeter went off and, as a dozen different captions to the photograph surged through his mind, Kid Various thought, "This must be blogged..."

Thus began the search for an online version of the photograph (google images is a wonderful thing.)

The Kid eventually found a copy of the photo lodged here, a left wing blog basically dedicated to proposition that America is a malignant force in the world and should never sully the noble savages beyond our shores with our twisted society.

Flipping down the page (The Kid loves reading left wing blogs, He does so most every day) The Kid stumbled across this essay, which he initially thought was penned by Mr. Bach, but, in fact, was a reprint from a blog called Information Clearing House - another left wing, anti-american blog.

What follows is perhaps the most disturbing essay the Kid has ever read concerning The War. Yes, we all know these people exist, but it's amazingly difficult to internalize the fact that there are not only Americans who oppose The War, but truly hate America as well.

The Kid has wanted to blog this for 2 weeks, but every time he would read this piece he would black out from rage. Now, after some time, Kid Various can sit down, take a look at this vile construct, and, since he knows a bit about The War in how it relates to Iraq, can pen a righteous fisking.

The name of the piece is, disgustingly, Why America needs to be Defeated in Iraq. By Michael Whitney

05/01/05 "ICH" - - The greatest moral quandary of our day is whether we, as Americans, support the Iraqi insurgency.

This pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the article. This is the greatest moral quandary of our day? Not the march of freedom in our world? Not the full integration of blacks and other minorities into American society? Not thorny concepts such as end-of-life issues or abortion?

No, the most important moral question is whether or not Americans should support the Iraqi "insurgency."

Let's be clear, that's not a moral quandary. Not even close. The question of whether or not Americans should support the insurgency is as close to a moral "slam dunk" as one can probably get.

It's an issue that has caused anti-war Leftist's the same pangs of conscience that many felt 30 years ago in their opposition to the Vietnam War. The specter of disloyalty weighs heavily on all of us, even those who've never been inclined to wave flags or champion the notion of American "Exceptionalism".

Kid Various would like to note that he is an ardent supporter of American "Exceptionalism" in as much as it is supported by history.

For myself, I can say without hesitation, that I support the insurgency, and would do so even if my only 21 year old son was serving in Iraq. There's simply no other morally acceptable option.

Ugh. How painfully ugly.

As Americans we support the idea that violence is an acceptable means of achieving (national) self-determination. This, in fact, is how are [sic] nation was formed and it is vindicated in our founding document, The Declaration of Independence":

"That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends IT IS THE RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE TO ALTER OR ABOLISH IT, and to institute a new government, having its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.. but 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 PROVIDE NEW GUARDS FOR THEIR FUTURE SECURITY.

Yes, as Americans we do believe that violence is sometimes necessary to secure freedom (from which national self determination often springs.) Whitney quotes from the Declaration but conveniently omits the preceding sentences:

We hold these truths to self evident;
That all men are created equal,
That they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights
And that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The question is, who is fighting for freedom in this battle? Who is fighting to preserve the inalienable rights of the Iraqis? Who is fighting for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? The islamic radicals, or maybe the remaining baathist thugs? The Kid would like to know.

The Declaration of Independence" is revolutionary in its view that we have a "duty" to overthrow regimes that threaten basic human liberties.

Yes ,we do have a duty to overthrow regimes that threaten basic human liberties. Uh, hello?

We must apply this same standard to the Iraqi people. Violence is not the issue, but the justification for the use of violence. The overwhelming majority of the world's people know that the war in Iraq was an "illegal" (Kofi Annan) act of unprovoked aggression against a defenseless enemy.

Oh, of course, everyone knows this. You've got to be kidding us. "Illegal?" Why? Because Kofi Annan says so? This is an example of left-wing wishing being described as fact. Because Whitney wishes that there was such a thing as international law which could arbitrarily restrain the actions of the United States, he presents it as fact. When, in reality, the type of "international law" that he (and Mr. Annan) posits makes Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) (a subset of The War) an "illegal war," does not actually exist.

Framing the war as illegal is a common tactic amongst those who opposed it, as noted by Steven Den Beste.

It's a common tactic to try to get people to use a certain term for something as a way of framing the conversation. One has a different attitude about "wetlands" than one does about "mosquito-infested swamps". Draining a swamp sounds like a good idea, but everyone knows we're supposed to preserve wetlands.

Those who are trying to frame this as a discussion of "international law" are doing so because they're trying to imply certain things about international relations by extrapolation from our experience with national law. Within our nation we agree to be bound by the law, even if it tells us we cannot do certain things we desire to do, and when we have disagreements with each other, we take them to court and plead them in front of a disinterested jury which makes a decision, after which both sides are bound by that decision.

By extrapolation, the rhetoric about "international law" is being used to imply that the US may not unilaterally attack Iraq unless it gains permission through some formal process of "international law", that to do so it must prove that Iraq was directly involved in either the September attack or in other direct attacks against us, using convincing evidence publicly presented, before the UN. Based on that presentation, the UN (probably the Security Council) will then serve the function of jury and decide if the US has made an adequate case, after which it will decide whether the US would be given the right to attack.

The idea of jury trial in our normal affairs is intended as a way of restraining people from creating their own justice, and by the same token the users of this rhetoric see the process of approval by the UN as a way of restraining rogue nations (of which there is only one, needless to say, and I'm living in it). If we are sufficiently convinced of our reasons for attacking Iraq, we should have no compunction of proving it before what amounts to an international jury of our peers.

Den Beste outlines a good explanation of the reality of international law (more or less a collection of non-binding agreements between countries), go and read the whole thing.

OIF was not "illegal." It was not "legal" either. The term, in the way that Whitney is trying to use it, simply has no meaning.

A recent poll conducted in the Middle East (released by the Center for Strategic Studies) shows that "for more than 85% of the population in four of the five countries polled (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Syria and Palestine) thought the US war on Iraq was an act of terrorism". Lebanon polled at 64%. (Pepe Escobar; "Its Terror when we say so") Terrorism or not, there's no doubt that the vast majority of people in the region and in the world, believe that the war was entirely unjustifiable.

The proper response to this is, "So?" First of all, the Iraqi front is not, in any meaningful sense of the word, "terrorism." It goes unnoticed by the U.N., but terrorism does indeed have an objective definition, it is the use of (random) violence against civilians to asymmetrically combat a more powerful foe in order to sap public support from that foe and institute ideological change.

As the United States invaded Iraq as part of a regular, uniformed military operation, and sought to, at every level minimize civilian casualties in its goal to change the regime, the Iraqi phase of The War was not an act of terrorism. Even if significant numbers of civilians were killed, the crucial difference is that for us, civilian deaths are to be avoided. For a terrorist, civilians are the target

Given these facts, it makes no difference if large percentages of people in the Arab world believe that the Gulf operation counts as "terrorism." Large portions of the Arab world also believe that September 11th was engineered by the Mossad. It doesn't make it true. Therefore, Whitney's use of this polling data, to ostensibly infer that we ourselves are guilty of exactly the same crimes that have been perpetuated on us, is totally misleading and irrelevant.

The argument most commonly offered by antiwar Americans (who believe we should stay in Iraq) doesn't defend the legitimacy of the invasion, but provides the rationale for the ongoing occupation. The belief that "We can't just leave them without security", creates the logic for staying in Iraq until order can be established. Unfortunately, the occupation is just another manifestation of the war itself; replete with daily bombings, arrests, torture and the destruction of personal property. Therefore, support of the occupation is a vindication of the war. The two are inseparable.

We should remember that the war (which was entirely based on false or misleading information)

Uh, no. Another tactic of the anti-war left is to neatly wrap up the entire motivation for the opening of the Iraq front in The War as being a search for Weapons of Mass Destruction. Since, in the two years since the invasion, we have found that Iraq did not, at the time of the invasion, have significant stockpiles of WMD, in the eyes of the opponents of The War, the entire enterprise was based on lies.

First, no one in the Administration lied about Iraq's capacity for deploying WMD. Being wrong in your intelligence estimate is categorically not the same as lying. No one has ever offered a shred of evidence that the Administration forced intelligence gatherers to lie, or where themselves in serious doubt as to Iraq’s WMD capabilities.

It should be noted that this works the other way as well. Was the Elder Bush’s Administration lying when it said that North Korea was 5 years away from construction of a nuclear bomb? Ooops.

Was the Clinton Administration lying when it said Pakistan was several years away from creating a nuclear bomb? Ooops.

Intelligence is not a perfect science, and being wrong is not lying.

Second, given even that we were wrong about deployable CBW, we were not wrong on WMD's as a whole. See here (USS Neverdock’s handy round up of articles on the subject)

Third, OIF was always about a package of different issues. Perhaps no single issue could justify the overthrow of the regime. Taken as a package, war was demanded. And what’s important to remember, is that although WMD became the main selling point (an unspeakably bad mistake for the Administration) the other issues were always part of the rationale.

Specifically these issues were:

  1. Current WMD capabilities
  2. The threat of future WMD (nuclear) capabilities and disallowing Iraq regional hegemony
  3. Iraq’s links to terrorism, both Al Qaeda and non-Al Qaeda
  4. And finally, and the most important, the enterprise to begin reshaping the dysfunctional culture of the region and replacing tyranny with democracy.

was both illegal

No it wasn't

and immoral.

Even more, NO! The liberation of 25 million people from a murderous dictatorship is immoral? And leaving them to a combination of islamist tyrants and baathist thugs *is* moral? The Iraqi operations in The War were among the most moral actions ever undertaken by this nation

That judgment does not change by maintaining a military presence of 140,000 soldiers on the ground for years to come. Each passing day of occupation simply perpetuates the crime.

At the same time we have to recognize that the disparate elements of Iraqi resistance, belittled in the media as the "insurgency", are the legitimate expression of Iraqi self-determination.

Good Lord! What Che Guevarra fantasy world is Whitney living on?

So 20,000 islamist crackpots and baathist thugs (not to mention elements of foreign security serivices from Syria and Iran) out of a population of 25 million are an "authentic" expression of Iraqi self determination?

But the people who were genuinely elected by 8 million Iraqis, they're just imperialist stooges right?

Independence is not bestowed by a foreign nation; the very nature of that relationship suggests reliance on outside forces.

Ever hear of India? Ever hear of Canada? Often independence is granted. Not every road to self determination is paved with violence.

True independence and sovereignty can only be realized when foreign armies are evacuated and indigenous elements assume the reigns of power. (Bush acknowledged this himself when he ordered Syrian troops to leave Lebanon) The character of the future Iraqi government will evolve from the groups who successfully expel the US forces from their country, not the American-approved stooges who rose to power through Washington's "demonstration elections".

Again, it is the islamists tyrants, baathist thugs and foreign intelligence services who adequately represent the "Iraqi people." The elections were fraudulent. They could never represent the true aspirations of "The People." Those elected are merely puppets of the American regime. Kid Various wonders how Ibrahim Al Jaafari, the new prime minister and leader of the Islamic Dawa party would respond to that? Or the followers of that piece of human excrement Moqtada Al Sadr, who also were elected to new National Assembly. Oh yeah, those people must be our puppets. For Whitney it is logically impossible for them not to be, because if these Iraqis legitimately represented "The People" then instead of standing for election in front of the electorate, they would have picked up a gun (which the Sadrists are doing as well - so maybe they half count.)

This may not suit the members of the Bush administration, but it's a first step in the long process of reintegrating and rebuilding the Iraqi state.

There's no indication that the conduct of the occupation will change anytime soon. If anything, conditions have only worsened over the passed two years. The Bush administration hasn't shown any willingness to loosen its grip on power either by internationalizing the occupation or by handing over real control to the newly elected Iraqi government.

Kid Various is here to tell you, "yeah, we have." Believe you him, it'd be a lot easier if we hadn't. But that's not the case.

This suggests that the only hope for an acceptable solution to the suffering of the Iraqi people is a US defeat and the subsequent withdrawal of troops. Regrettably, we're no where near that period yet.

Who's killing who?

It's not the insurgency that's killing American soldiers. It's the self-serving strategy to control 12% of the world's remaining petroleum and to project American military power throughout the region.

Ah yes, how long was it going to be until we got to the old canard that "It's all about oil?" Well, we sure are enjoying all that $1.05 a gallon gasoline aren't we? From where Kid various is sitting, the best strategy towards securing cheap oil would have been to do what we have been doing for 50 years, promoting stability and propping up local dictators. Does oil make this region strategically significant? Of course it does. Does cheap oil solve our underlying security problem that has instigated The War? It does not.

The War has very little to do with oil and more to do with radically destabilizing autocratic regimes in the area and replacing them with democratic structures. But people like Whitney cannot let go of the "blood for oil" paradigm because the new paradigm is wholly antithetical to their world view.

The U.S must always be a rapacious monster feeding its appetite for cheap petroleum...that is the materialist, driving force of history. Democracy? Pshaw! That's just a cover story to dupe the simple minded American people. The very notion that the spread of our value system is now our single most important goal for our own security is completely unbelievable.

This is the plan that has put American servicemen into harms way. The insurgency is simply acting as any resistance movement would; trying to rid their country of foreign invaders when all the political channels have been foreclosed.

Oh sure, they’re acting in a totally and completely rational way right? Man, why did Kid Various ever think that blowing up a bus of Iraqi school girls was the wrong way to go? Because that’s what the insurgents are doing. They’re hitting military targets less and less and simply wreaking destruction on the populace. And The Kid can tell you “The People” are getting pissed off.

Political channels have been closed off? We opened the political channels for the Iraqi people! What political channels could Iraqis access during the days of Saddam? This is the first time, in their history, that ordinary Iraqis have had access to the political process to induce change rather than by brute violence.

Oh yeah, right, the faked elections…The Kid forgot.

American's would behave no differently if put in a similar situation and Iraqi troops were deployed in our towns and cities.

This is a ridiculous comparison. Let’s try one more appropriate. If the French navy blockaded our coast, landed troops to help us throw off the yoke of an English tyrant and then packed up and left after a couple of years, we might name streets and buildings after them.

Ultimately, the Bush administration bears the responsibility for the death of every American killed in Iraq just as if they had lined them up against a wall and shot them one by one. Their blood is on the administration's hands not those of the Iraqi insurgency.

In some completely random way, Whitney has stumbled upon a truth. The Administration bears a heavy responsibility for each death in Iraq, both American and Iraqi. It’s the responsibility borne by all administrations in time of war and it’s the reason that every President needs to heavily weigh the necessity of war. But to attempt to morally absolve a group of murderous fanatics and thugs of their culpability in pursuing evil is beyond offensive.

Expect another dictator or Mullah

We shouldn't expect that, after a long period of internal struggle, the Iraqi leadership will embrace the values of democratic government. More likely, another Iraqi strongman, like Saddam, will take power. In fact, the rise of another dictator (or Ayatollah) is nearly certain given the catastrophic effects of the American-led war.

This remains to be seen. Kid Various can tell you, the outcome of this project is not written in stone. Neither success nor defeat is certain.

Regardless, it is not the right of the US to pick-and-choose the leaders of foreign countries or to meddle in their internal politics. (The UN, as imperfect as it may be, is the proper venue for deciding how to affect the behavior of foreign dictators)





Kid Various can’t read that sentence without paroxysms of laughter. Wait a moment, he needs to breathe…

OK, back.

Yes, the UN would seem to be the perfect place to deal with the behaviour of foreign dictators, because they’re all there. Unfortunately, instead of being squeezed to adopt freedom and democracy, they’re running the show.

At this point, we should be able to agree that the people of Iraq were better off under Saddam Hussein in every quantifiable way than they are today. Even on a physical level, the availability of work, clean water, electricity, sewage control, medicine, gas and food were far superior to the present situation. On a deeper level, the insecurity from the sporadic violence, the increasing brutality, and the gross injustice of the occupation has turned Iraq into a prison-state, where the amenities of normal life are nowhere to be found.

Uh, actually no. We shouldn’t agree that the people of Iraq were better off in every way under Saddam Hussein. And only someone who has never actually met those who have lived under a totalitarian tyranny would have the unmitigated stupidity to say something that far from reality.

Yes, we have failed to provide the security necessary to properly establish a normal society in Iraq. We have certainly failed to do a lot of things, which the Kid lists in his mind every night just to make himself crazy. But one must remember life was not too secure in the Saddam times either. Neither was medicine and food plentiful. Saddam distributed all the medicine and food under the UN’s (you remember that paragon of virtue that is so good at handling foreign dictators?) oil for food program, and sold off significant stockpiles for cash, enriching his cronies and starving out those he found to be disloyal. And some of the problems we have encountered in Iraq have been unintended consequences of our successes.

For example, the electricity situation that still bedevils the Iraqis. After OIF, we found that the entire power generation system of Iraq was dilapidated and in disrepair. The problem being that even after heroic efforts to repair the generation plants and electrical grid to get power generation to pre war levels (which happened last year), it still wasn’t enough.

Before the war, electrical demand was on the order of 4400 megawatts. The power generation system was capable (though not always running at) 5000 megawatts. After OIF, however, a strange thing happened. Due to the evil “neoliberal” economic policies instituted by the CPA, ordinary Iraqis became richer. As a result, they started buying things like air conditioners and refrigerators, which they didn’t have before. Power demand spiked to 6500 to 7000 megawatts.

Unfortunately, the current system cannot handle that demand. And, even with the building of new power plants and distribution systems (to say nothing of sabotage by insurgents), it will be not be possible to generate this amount of power for several years.

Better off under Saddam Hussein… Yeah, if you were a baathist sunni. Which is why they’re the only ones picking up the gun.

Support for the Bush policy is, by necessity, support for the instruments of coercion that are used to perpetuate that occupation. In other words, one must be willing to support the torture at Abu Ghraib, (which continues to this day according to Amnesty International)

Kid Various guesses that means that by not supporting the Bush policy you have to be willing to support the torture at Abu Ghraib by Saddam’s thugs, right?

the neoliberal policies (which have privatized all of Iraq's publicly owned industries, banks and resources) an American-friendly regime that excludes 20% (Sunnis) of the population and, worst of all, "the return-in full force-of Saddam's Mukhabarat agents, now posing as agents of the new Iraqi security and intelligence services." (Pepe Escobar, Asia Times)

Are American's prepared to offer their support to the same brutal apparatus of state-terror that was employed by Saddam? (Rumsfeld's unannounced visit to Baghdad last week was to make sure that the newly elected officials didn't tamper with his counterinsurgency operatives, most of who were formerly employed in Saddam's secret police)

Um, no. Rumsfeld’s visit was to meet with the newly elected Prime Minister and cabinet and to express the opinion of the United States that the new government should not begin a purge of government officials based on their former status in the baath party.

Lately, a large topic of discussion in the Iraqi National Assembly has been demands by the United Iraqi List (the shi’a list dominated by Dawa and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq) to purge the government of many officials brought in by the (secular shi’a) Allawi government. The stance on this by the new Jaafari government is unclear, but since his base of support in the Assembly is the United Iraqi List, he has to at least listen to them.

The Bremer administration did a reasonable job of de-baathification. But many people felt they went too far. As anyone who has studied the de-nazification of Germany can tell you, the problem is that the only people qualified to be in government jobs are invariably people who have been associated in some way with the former regime. For instance, if you were a school teacher in Iraq, you were a member of the ba’ath party. There was no other option. It pervaded every facet of life.

Therefore, former PM Allawi allowed a number of former officials to have positions in the new government even though they used to be officials in Saddam’s government as well. It’s a balancing act. The message Rumsfeld brought was that a blanket purge of these people will destabilize the government at just the time it needs stability most. And that any idea of a purge should be delayed until a new government is elected this December. But this is a decision the Iraqi government will make.

We should also ask ourselves what the long-range implications of an American victory in Iraq would be. Those who argue that we cannot leave Iraq in a state of chaos don't realize that stabilizing the situation on the ground is tantamount to an American victory and a vindication for the policies of aggression. This would be a bigger disaster than the invasion itself.

Ah, so now we get to the heart of the matter…

The Bush administration is fully prepared to carry on its campaign of global domination by force unless an unmovable object like the Iraqi insurgency blocks its way. Many suspect, that if it wasn't for the resistance the US would be in Tehran and Damascus right now.

If only… If only…

This, I think, is a rational assumption. For this reason alone, antiwar advocates should carefully consider the implications of "so-called" humanitarian objectives designed to pacify the population. "Normalizing" aggression by ameliorating its symptoms is the greatest dilemma we collectively face.

We should be clear about our feelings about the war and the occupation. The disparate Iraqi resistance is the legitimate manifestation of a national liberation movement. Its success is imperative to the principles of national sovereignty and self-determination; ideals that are revered in the Declaration of Independence. The toppling of foreign regimes and the destruction of entire civilizations cannot be justified in terms of "democracy" or any other cynically conjured-up ideal. The peace and security of the world's people depends on the compliance of states with the clearly articulated standards of international law and the UN Charter. Both were deliberately violated by the invasion of Iraq. Crushing the insurgency will not absolve that illicit action; it will only increase the magnitude of the crime. Therefore we look for an American defeat in Iraq. Such a defeat would serve as a powerful deterrent to future unprovoked conflicts and would deliver a serious blow to the belief that aggression is a viable expression of foreign policy.

So, as said above, now we come to the heart of the matter. Most of the discussion so far has really been about why the United States should never have prosecuted OIF in the first place. But here, is the only reason which is one hundred percent concerned with why the United States must lose this conflict. Why the United States must be humiliated. Why the United States must be crushed.

The United States must be defeated, because, if Iraq is turned into a stable, peaceful democratic society, then America will have won. And this is intolerable because it would demonstrate that America was right. And if America is right, the Mr. Whitney and his ilk are wrong.

The Kid wrote that this essay fills him with rage, but more so, it fills him with sorrow. True sorrow that has brought him to the verge of tears. Sorrow because Mr. Whitney is not just some random crackpot with a chip on his shoulder. The grief is so penetrating because Mr. Whitney represents the viewpoint of a large fraction of Americans. Americans who look at their country and their society and see only greed, racism and oppression. Mr. Whitney can’t abide an American victory in Iraq because America is what’s wrong with the world. In his mind, and the minds of our countrymen that he speaks for, the United States of America is “the worst society that ever was.” America is a cancer that is seeking to infect the rest of the world, and only with a defeat in Iraq, can this tumor be stopped from spreading.
What makes Kid Various’ heart ache, is the fact that these people are so blind that they cannot see that America, the society which has given them everything and opportunities unknown to previous generations, is truly the Exceptional Nation.

Kid Various could live in Iraq for the rest of his life. He could marry an Iraqi. He could learn Arabic, convert to Islam and raise children in that country. But he will never be Iraqi.

But any of the Iraqis that he knows could come to the United States, and become an American.

This is our greatest gift to the world.

America is not based on ethnicity, or blood or land. It’s not based on how much money you have or who your father was. America is based on a set of ideas, some of which are laid down in the Declaration:

We hold these truths to be self evident,
That all men are created equal.
That they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights.
And that among them are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Hapiness.

And you buy into that set of ideas, you can become an American!

That is something that is unknown in the world. People have struggled to come here from all over the globe for the past 200 years to help build a society that is the most prosperous, most socially mobile, most just, most free, most good society in the history of mankind and the Mr. Whitney’s of America, these blind people, can only see the flaws. They cannot see the miracle of America. And I weep for them.


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