« Gerrymandering | Main | Variations on a Theme »

September 21, 2004

Comments

"Their's not to make reply, Their's not to reason why, Their's but to do and die."

https://www.progressivetheology.org/essays/2004.08.06-Light-Brigade.html

The worst part is that Bush strenthened Al Qaeda by invading Iraq.

Thousands of troops that should be in Afghanistan or securing the homeland are in Iraq

Bin Laden has not been caught. His movement is getting bigger

Bin Laden wants nothing more than a George W. victory on Nov. 2

I doubt Bin Laden can believe his luck that the most powerful enemy in history of his brand of Islam was suddenly saddled by an idiot as its leader.

1,000 troops did not die for nothing. They died A) so George Bush could present a phony tough guy act B) because George Bush is not smart enough to intelligently fight his real enemy and C) because it sometimes happens that human organizations have poor leaders and those leaders make major mistakes.

Serena,

Thanks for your comment, but I'm going to try and focus this discussion on one question (i.e., the tangents of whether AQ is now stronger will distract from that question).

The second part of your comment does address the question (thanks), but I don't think it's fair to assert A) Bush just wanted to look tough or that B) he's not intelligent. Those are exactly the sorts of comment that don't advance understanding (and I'll ask folks to not go down those paths please). Your third comment I think is better considered and possibly the real answer here.

I think that the Bush administration thinks they died for PNAC.

Whether or not the rest of the Bush administration knew what Colin Powell knew in 2001, that Saddam Hussein was not a threat, they certainly knew that there was no connection justifying fullscale invasion between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda: they certainly knew that Afghanistan needed full-scale help if it was not to fall back into the warlord-ruled state before the Taliban took power: and they had certainly been told that occupying Iraq post-invasion would not be easy and would require much more manpower and much more money than Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz were prepared to admit upfront to Congress.

The thousand+ US servicepeople who have been killed, and the seven-thousand+ US servicepeople who have been injured, went into harm's way because - ultimately - their leaders trusted the C-in-C to use their lives and strength and health in the best way possible to serve the safety of the US. This trust has been broken. Whether Bush & Co broke this trust deliberately or by accident, they made so many mistakes that even if you believe them to be well-intentioned, you have to admit their utter incompetence.

We haven't talked about the servicepeople being charged with illegal acts of torture in Abu Ghraib, but to my mind every US soldier who was expected by their superiors to carry out illegal orders, is also a casualty of the ill-conceived "war against terror", whether in Afghanistan, Cuba, or Iraq. Yes, they should have refused to obey the illegal orders they were given, and yes, they should be court-martialled for it, to make it clear that carrying out illegal orders is a crime: but it's also a crime to give those illegal orders, and that responsibility should be being traced right up the chain of command. (See TalkLeft.) Because the soldiers who were ordered to commit torture are victims as well as criminals.

I don't think it was the right thing to do to invade Iraq. I am not sure now what the right thing to do is: whatever it is, I don't think Bush can do it. He's changed his tune too many times over about Iraq - the links to Al-Qaida, the mythical WoMD, the need to bring democracy. What's needed - what was needed all along - was a clear plan with achievable steps and the will to both carry it out and to supply the requirements. Bush & Co had no clear plan post-invasion, beyond the non-plan "everything will go fine!" and have been switching around on what will constitute "success". Kerry has, rightly, refused to be tied down to what his plan for Iraq will be on January 21 2005 - you can't make plans for Iraq that far in advance. And whatever Bush claims his plan is will be unconvincing: he's had over 18 months now to come up with one, and hasn't done it.

I can hope - and I do - that the thirteen thousand Iraqi civilians who have been killed, and however many more have been injured, and however many have been unjustly imprisoned and tortured by US forces: and all of the US casualties, the dead and the injured and those ordered to do things they should never have been commanded to do - that the end result will be an Iraq which is a better place to live in than before. But I don't see Bush doing it. And I mean that literally: he's in command, he's in charge, he's had a chance to prove he could do it - and I don't see him doing it.

As I sought to attempt an answer to this question, I tried to imagine the parent or spouse of the fallen soldier across from me. What would I tell them about the reason that this war required the sacrifice of their son, daughter, husband, or wife?

There are a couple of ways to answer this, I guess.

On a base spiritual--feel good level--I would argue that they died first because they wished to protect those on their left and right, those they served with and those with whom bonds had been built. In the end, it wasn't God or country that motivated them to step into harms way; it might have been what started them down that path, but it wasn't what necessarily kept them there.

Which leads to second part of the answer which gives little solace and comfort to the berieved and where putting aside my own personal opposition to this war, becomes more difficult. What is the geo-political rationale for the deaths of 1,000 of our national treasures?

Setting aside the divisive arguement of how we got there for a moment, we're left with explaining what we're doing there, now. Our President believes that they died providing the Iraqi's with the opportunity for freedom and democracy, for the opportunity that a free society has for lifting all in the rising tide of democratic institutions and it's benefits. That we're there taking on the terrorists and seeking to discredit the aims and true intentions of radical islamists.

If this truely is the fundamental explanation that is to be given to the next of kin, does this ring true or hollow in their ears? Would I accept that my son died so that an Iraqi child might enjoy a chance to become what they freely choose to become, that they may live more comfortably than they do now? Am I expected to believe that my son's role in life was to give opportunity to others?

If I accept that how do I judge whether that goals is succeeding or will succeed. Do I adjudge that by comparing the Iraq of a year ago and the Iraq of today or the Iraq of 10 years from now? When can I assess whether his life was extinguished for a good conclusion or just for a good idea, poorly executed, and wastefully expended? How does the parent of a those killed in Vietnam answer that question? Was there in in the end, value in the sacrifice of that child there?

I can meet the eye of that parent when I tell them that their child died fighting for their comrades. I can't quite hold that contact when I get to the second part of that question.

"Given what we now know about WMD, Hussein and 9/11, and the increasing unlikiness of democracy in Iraq, what do you tell the families of the fallen? What did their loved ones die for?"

After 9/11 a battle ground had to be established. Afghanistan could not be it as a history of warfare must show. Hussein presented just that moment in history to establish just that ends. The fact that multiple goals could be accomplished in parallel just makes more feasible.

Hussein is done. Thousands of terrorists have met their end. The world now knows the extent of our resolve, if the current political climate doesn't blurr it somewhat. Bin Laden may or may not be dead, but is certainly inaffective.

Democracy in Iraq? Let's put it this way. They have a democratic choice. Just as we have. What they choose is what develops. We can't make them us. We don't know what us is.

In the shadow of 9/11 and all the attacks previous, all those that have sacrificed have joined an enormous point in history that will determine how many more generations our country can stand.

Kool-aid me to death. I don't care. Millions of Americans feel this way regardless of what MSM has been reporting. Are we right? We truly hope so.

Excellent comments Jes and Callmeishmael.

If this truely is the fundamental explanation that is to be given to the next of kin, does this ring true or hollow in their ears? Would I accept that my son died so that an Iraqi child might enjoy a chance to become what they freely choose to become, that they may live more comfortably than they do now? Am I expected to believe that my son's role in life was to give opportunity to others?

This point in particular is important I think. I don't know how many of you saw the news story where the mother of a soldier who had died in Iraq interrupted a speech Laura Bush was giving in New Jersey, but even though it now looks like stirring up trouble is her mission in life, I can't bring myself to blame her.

I watched the Iraqi woman who spoke at the RNC (sorry I've forgotten her name), and think if she sat across from the parent of a fallen soldier, she might be able to make them see that their son or daughter's death was not in vain.

There's a more complicated pitfall within this, though. With the constant barrage of anti-Muslim sentiment we hear (with folks insisting there's something funadmentally wrong about Muslim culture and religion), how do you justify the loss of American lives to improve the lives of Muslims? In other words, if we're to believe on one hand that the average Muslim is anti-American, then how can we on the other hand defend the loss of US life to offer them a better one?

I don't believe that of course, but many of the same folks who'll insist our mission to bring democracy to Iraq is a good one also insist that your average Iraqi is "this close" from being a terrorist. I can't reconcile those points of view, unless I view our invasion as "missionary" in some way. That gets very ugly very quickly, however.

blogbudsman - Iraq was revenge?

How despicable a notion is that?

Revenge - it's not just for breakfast any more.

After 9/11 a battle ground had to be established.

I find using Iraq as a proxy battleground for our fight against AQ indefensible. The innocent Iraqi lives lost are not ours to spend in such an effort. That's a horrifying assessment to me.

Jesurgislac always puts forth a far better argument than I do. But his position that - "they made so many mistakes that even if you believe them to be well-intentioned, you have to admit their utter incompetence." - cannot be supported. Tactics can always be disputed, mostly after the fact. This was an incredible undertaking. We didn't have years to mull it over like FDR. We were attacked. I doubt 'J' believes what's being called mistakes were well intentioned. Call them mistakes if you want. Many believe it was incredibly brave and bold, historically unprecedented and politically extraordinary. The world will be greatly changed based on the events of the last few years. It does not have to revolve around American, but it must respect our right to live here.

blogbudsman: . I doubt 'J' believes what's being called mistakes were well intentioned.

Depends. If Bush truly intended to have Iraq descend into chaos - if the infamous "flypaper" idea was what was planned all along - then no, I do not believe that the mistakes which led to this were well-intentioned. You cannot both decide to set up a democracy in Iraq and intend to lure terrorists there so that they can be fought in the streets of Iraq.

I don't understand the PNAC mindset. I admit that freely. But I did think - and I've said that repeatedly - that given that Bush & Co planned a conquest and occupation of Iraq*, they would carry it out competently. Unless some arcane PNAC reason really does require chaos in Iraq, I'm assuming the present situation in Iraq is not what Bush & Co wanted, or thought they would get, in March 2003. But it is the end result of their decision-making, and, especially in the last few months before invasion and in the first few months of occupation, they made so many obviously bad decisions.

Decisions that looked bad at the time, not with the benefit of hindsight. Disbanding the army. Refusing to police Baghdad and permitting mass looting of museums, hospitals, shops, and government offices. Giving reconstruction contracts to foreign companies, not Iraqi companies. Not announcing clearly the terms of the US occupation and the circumstances under which the occupying forces would leave. Not moving fast to set up local elections. Allowing Iraqi civilians who had been caught up in arrest sweeps to remain in jail without any rights for weeks or months on end. I doubt if these mistakes were made out of purposeful malevolence towards Iraqis or US soldiers - but whether out of stupidity or greed or malice, the end result has been the same.

*Which I didn't think would be intrinsically a good thing, however it was carried out. But however bad an idea I thought it was, it became worse for being carried out so incompetently.

PS: Jesurgislac always puts forth a far better argument than I do - I forgot to say: thank you! An unexpected compliment is always the best kind. :-)

But his position that - "they made so many mistakes that even if you believe them to be well-intentioned, you have to admit their utter incompetence." - cannot be supported.

It's been supported by almost everyone on the left, as well as by Tacitus and by a quorum here. That doesn't make it incontrovertible, mind, but Jes isn't exactly on his own.

Tactics can always be disputed, mostly after the fact.

The point here is that the tactics were disputed before the fact, by a number of people within the Administration as well as a number of us yokels out here in the hinterlands, all of whose objections were routinely ignored.

[Added in proof: See Jes' post above for a list.]

As to the question at hand... I'd like to believe that our soldiers died in Iraq to make it a better place. I'd like to believe they died to make the world a better place. I'd like to believe their lives were charily spent in a carefully-strategized attempt to fundamentally transform corruption and brutality into peace and liberty. I'd like to believe that they died realizing a beautiful dream that we should all feel privileged to share.

For now, though, I think their lives were squandered in a bloody monument to the folly of hubris. Here's hoping that I'm proven wrong and that one day I'll be able to dream again.

What did you son die for?

One of the serious problems with the question at this point it the broad ranging past tense. The soldier died in the past, but the history of the war is yet to be written because the war is not over yet.

In the middle of the Korean War you could have asked the question and gotten hopeless answers. But now you can point to North Korea and point to South Korea and be very clear about the differences. You can point to the cold war and its outcome and say that the soldiers there made a difference in the long run. That was 54,246 American servicemen.

What will we say that they died for? If we leave any time in the next 5-10 years, you probably won't be able to say anything more than: "They got rid of Saddam and left a mess behind."

If we commit to the project I think we will be able to say: "Those 3,000 American soldiers died over 15 years to depose one of the most ruthless dictators on the planet and show the Middle East that it is possible to have a functioning and democratically grounded government. They fought many enemies--secular facists, Shia fundamentalists, and Sunni fundamentalists and helped meld together a country which many though was hopeless into a strong whole. This helped change the hopelessness in the region and undercut the terrorists who had thrived on the chaos in the home of one of the world's largest religions."

I debate myself:

Invading Iraq and toppling Hussein is a good thing because:

1. Hussein, based on his past incursions into Iraq, was "functionally" a terrorist, who also happened to be a head of state, and who also happened to be sitting on a large quantity of "black gold" which would keep him a danger for the future.

2. It was better to get rid of Hussein NOW because, like Iran or North Korea, getting rid of him in the future may not have been an option.

3. With the rising cost, and limited availability of oil, Hussein was in the process of granting exclusivity of his oil to nations that don't really care about his penchant for violence - in this case, Russia, China, and to a more limited degree, France.

4. It put other states on notice that they should not have too friendly a relationship with terrorists. "Terrorist organizations", have only limited capability for violence without state sponsorship, and using policework, international cooperation, and limited military strikes, can be handled. But terrorist organizations WITH state sponsorship have such a larger element of danger, such a greater ability for violence, these partnerships must be ended before they can begun.

Good outcomes of this preventionary intervention into Iraq include: Libya, a cooperating (for the most part) Musharraf, a more cooperating Saudi Arabia.

5. Intervention forces states to, in a sense, take sides - i.e. Saudi Arabia and Pakistan (the two most troubling countries) cannot basically support terrorism as an unofficial policy, but must actually commit to fighting those forces in their society that did unofficially support terrorist policies. This has been happening.

OBJECTIONS:

a. So it was about oil then?? No, it was about a madman as head of state, having access to one of the premiere resources that the world depends on, who at any point could have held the world hostage, based on that resource.

b. So why didn't we invade Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, if they are, as you say, the sources of terrorism, if unofficially? Wouldn't that have made more sense?

Saudi Arabian leaders can be reasoned with, without fighting. And by the actions of the last year, they now clearly see that supporting terrorism unofficially cannot be accepted - for their own survival. Also, Saudi Arabia is beginning to toy with some democratic reform, which we wish to encourage. And this has been accomplished without invading Saudi Arabia.

Pakistan, really CANNOT be invaded. It is a country of 150 million! We have to use other means at our disposal.

3. But we have now created "a thousand mini-Bin Laden's". All the US is done is made the implicit explicit. Again, now every society has to make a choice between getting along and acting responsibly as a nation, and going after terrorist cells, or comfortably letting these cells simmer, thinking that they don't have a stake.

Also, if there is put in place in Iraq, a much better regime for the Iraqi people, a lot of the "thousand mini-Bin Laden's" subside, based on a freer and happier people being in place.

Invading Iraq and toppling Hussein was a bad thing because:

1. It was going after the wrong target - all of Al-Queda's networks, rather than Iraq. The US pulled necessary resources off of following and extinguishing Al-Queda, and chose to attack Iraq. This gave Al-Queda and Bin Laden a breather, allowing them to regroup.
2. Spawning of a thousand mini-Bin Laden's. This has happened, and could have been AVOIDED by approaching the future threat of Iraq in another way -i.e. continuing the tougher sanctions, contuing to build more internation support for a future invastion of Iraq, if necessary, etc.
3. Tying up military resources that may be needed for other trouble spots -i.e. North Korea. If there IS another problem in the world, at this point, the only way the US can help handle it, is by a draft.
4. Losing the good faith of the international community. While this gets written off as "so what?", it is this type of good faith that allowed for the international community's support of Gulf War I, including a SUBSTANTIAL contributions of forces and MONEY from over one hundred other countries. There wasn't anything like this, this time.


Sebastian I note you pointedly left out Vietnam on your trip down memory lane, any conclusions to be gained there that could be applied to our current situation in Iraq by any chance?

You also failed to note there were no terrorists in Iraq prior to the occupation, that Sadam was but one of many ruthless dictators/regimes on the planet (was this our 1st baby step? where next?), or that this administration has seriously underestimated the effect of removing the cap on a balkanised country in a very unstable region of the world.

If you are going to change the hopelesness of the region you might want to start where that hopelesness is most deeply felt, with the Palestinians, resolving that conundrum would seem like a worthy goal wouldn't it?

My conclusion:

There was a definitive case to be made for invading Iraq. But, the decision was rushed, and the occupation phase, was horribly, disgustly mangled and managed. If we had waited, could have had perhaps more internation support, and definitely could have had the occupation better run.

So the best justifiable case: Wrong war (needed to build larger coalition, had to include Muslim/Arabic troops, other Europeans to have any chance of success), right place (Hussein is a monster sitting on prime natural resource), wrong time. (Hagel, McCain)

Worst justifiable case: Wrong war (not against Al-Queda), wrong place (finish in Afghanistan, not an imminent threat), wrong time (weren't prepared for aftermath anyway).

Sebastian, you say

In the middle of the Korean War you could have asked the question and gotten hopeless answers. But now you can point to North Korea and point to South Korea and be very clear about the differences.

I think there was always a clear answer during the Korean War: they died to show that you can't get away with unprovoked invasions of other countries. The same answer applies to the first Gulf War. A widespread belief that you can't get away with an unprovoked invasion makes everyone safer.

You could also put the Korean war more strongly: they died to show global Communism that it couldn't be advanced by military means.

One reason why I'm so uncomfortable about the current war is that it was started to show that you *could* get away with unprovoked invasions of other countries. I think that's inherently destabilizing and that the risks were underappreciated at the time.

What did the 1000 soldiers (and let's not forget the unknown number, but certainly more than 10,000, of Iraqi civilians) die for? They died because if removing Saddam had been easy, it would arguably have been worth it, and because the administration thought it would be easy.

I'm not one to pull memories of VietNam out at the blink of an eye and I've resented how often it has come into this election cycle but...
We entered VietNam on the idea, really the academic concept, that we were halting the communist dominos from falling all over the world in this one place Viet Nam.
In Iraq, on the blogbud side and on the Wolfowitz side, the concept was to create a presence through force of an alternative to the already slowly altering MiddleEast politics-as-usual. The alteration there that was already ongoing was the gradual descent into Islamic Fundamentalism due to a wide variety of reasons.

Conceptually, the two reasons are morally defensible. The strategies used and the eventual goals though were not based in an academic setting unfortunately.
Now we wonder in Iraq, "What is an attainable goal?" - just as we did before we began thinking how do we get out of Viet Nam.

So the new geopolitical rational is that we invaded Iraq "to create a presence through force of an alternative to ... the gradual descent into Islamic Fundamentalism".

Funny that, I had thought per GHWB that geopolitical reasoning had led us to leave Sadam in place for that very same reason.

Of course 9/11 changed everything didn't it? I guess the 'old' geopolitical reasoning is kinda like 'old' Europe?

"I think there was always a clear answer during the Korean War: they died to show that you can't get away with unprovoked invasions of other countries."

Korea was just like East Germany, it was one country divided into two parts. I'm also sure that Kim would have argued with your idea of 'unprovoked'. According to him we were clearly maintaining a puppet government and keeping the historically unitary Korean people apart.

Interestingly, I would argue that Gulf War I and the Korean War offer excellent lessons about the foolishness of leaving dictators like Kim and Saddam in power after they invade. We left Kim in power because we didn't want to engage China, but we had no similar reason for leaving Saddam in power.

"Sebastian I note you pointedly left out Vietnam on your trip down memory lane, any conclusions to be gained there that could be applied to our current situation in Iraq by any chance?"

Yup, but I didn't leave it out for the reason you seem to think. I left it out because I wanted to show that a fairly unified understanding of 'why' might exist now without having existed then. Vietnam has no current unitary understanding and I didn't want to start a big tangent on what I think the understanding ought to be.

postit
I didn't support the war in Iraq. My statement above was an attempt at distilling the NeoCon view of the Middle East.
I may have gotten it wrong.

So the new geopolitical rational is that we invaded Iraq "to create a presence through force of an alternative to ... the gradual descent into Islamic Fundamentalism".

Funny that, I had thought per GHWB that geopolitical reasoning had led us to leave Sadam in place for that very same reason.

First, I think it is the old rationale. Second, we left Saddam in power because the UN demanded it--finishing him off would have fractured the precious coalition of allies.

Seabastian
"Trying to eliminate Saddam .. would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. Apprehending him was probably impossible ... We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq ...there was no viable "exit strategy" we could see, violating another of our principles. Furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-Cold War world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the United Nations' mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression that we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land."

G.H.W. Bush

postit - "Funny that, I had thought per GHWB that geopolitical reasoning had led us to leave Sadam in place for that very same reason."

I thought Sadam stayed in place because our only mandated mission was to remove him from Kuwait?

If we commit to the project I think we will be able to say: "Those 3,000 American soldiers died over 15 years to depose one of the most ruthless dictators on the planet and show the Middle East that it is possible to have a functioning and democratically grounded government.

how sad.

sad, because having critiqued early judgment you immediately suggest the rosiest outcome imaginable, and without even a hint of irony. sad, because your suggestion that "Vietnam has no current unitary understanding" makes me wonder whether those deaths really weren't in vain and whether these might not be as well. whether, having almost certainly failed to achieve our putative goals, we will even manage to learn from our failure.

the history of the Korean war holds nothing even remotely resembling the descent into darkness and strategic failure that we are experiencing now in the Middle East. you can overlook Abu Ghraib but that doesn't mean that it isn't common knowledge elsewhere in the world. you can deny that number of US troops to Iraqis was grossly inadequate to begin with and is growing proportionally worse as insurgents grow in numbers, but that doesn't help the people who will remain outnumbered and hated even as their kill ratios rise. you can insist that the US invasion of Iraq was morally and legally necessary, strategically sound, and that it has not in fact been mismanaged in ways that would have seemed literally possible only a few short years ago, but that and a dollar will get you a latte.

you can hope against hope and express supreme confidence that it will all work itself out in the end, but that makes you no different from the person who jumps off cliff without looking at what's below. are you more likely to hit something soft or something hard?

when all's said and done, people die for mistakes all the time, not just in war. mistakes, deadly mistakes, are inevitable, and there's no way to learn from them until you can see them for what they are.

Edward - "I find using Iraq as a proxy battleground for our fight against AQ indefensible. The innocent Iraqi lives lost are not ours to spend in such an effort. That's a horrifying assessment to me"

How can you not think of 9/11 and the incidents preceding, how can you not think of Saddam Hussein and his reign of terror past and future, how can you not look into the future of bus bombs in Milwaukee, mall bombs in Tucson, exploding police stations in Knoxville and not deal with the horror?

Isn't that the very heart of the dilemma? It IS HORRIBLE. It is horrible that 3,000 died. It is horrible that 1,000 died, 10's of thousand dead or maimed. Higher numbers in years ahead.

Isn't that the argument? Some believe it is time to address horror with horror and all the risks involved. Some do not.

Jesurgislac,

I don't understand the PNAC mindset. I admit that freely. But I did think - and I've said that repeatedly - that given that Bush & Co planned a conquest and occupation of Iraq*, they would carry it out competently. Unless some arcane PNAC reason really does require chaos in Iraq, I'm assuming the present situation in Iraq is not what Bush & Co wanted, or thought they would get, in March 2003.

My appraisal of the PNAC or neocon mindset is that it is fundamentally flawed by virtue of its naive belief in the inevitability of democracy. Most neocons became most convinced of this inevitability after the Soviet Union collapsed and the newly free countries were able to hobble together nascent democracies, mostly free of U.S. aid or support. The "End of History" is what they were thinking - get rid of Saddam and the rest takes care of itself. It clearly didn't. One can, with certainty, make the claim that neocons are blinded by ideology, rather than pragmatically guided by it.

And JC, that has to be the best written critique of the war I've ever read (and I've read plenty.) Honest, smart, sharp. Thanks.

Jesurgislac,

I don't understand the PNAC mindset. I admit that freely. But I did think - and I've said that repeatedly - that given that Bush & Co planned a conquest and occupation of Iraq*, they would carry it out competently. Unless some arcane PNAC reason really does require chaos in Iraq, I'm assuming the present situation in Iraq is not what Bush & Co wanted, or thought they would get, in March 2003.

My appraisal of the PNAC or neocon mindset is that it is fundamentally flawed by virtue of its naive belief in the inevitability of democracy. Most neocons became most convinced of this inevitability after the Soviet Union collapsed and the newly free countries were able to hobble together nascent democracies, mostly free of U.S. aid or support. The "End of History" is what they were thinking - get rid of Saddam and the rest takes care of itself. It clearly didn't. One can, with certainty, make the claim that neocons are blinded by ideology, rather than pragmatically guided by it.

And JC, that has to be the best written critique of the war I've ever read (and I've read plenty.) Honest, smart, sharp. Thanks.

I presume that every soldier, or nearly every soldier, who died in combat in Iraq died honorably and had knowingly risked life for noble reasons.

My belief starts with the basic promise that every soldier gives at enlistment: when my country calls on me, I will be there. The enlistee knows at enlistment, or if not at enlistment, soon after, that it is not his or her place to create or even to question strategy and tactics, but merely to carry them out, upon command.

Every soldier that went to Iraq learned that their unit would deploy some time before the actual deployment. Every soldier had the opportunity to skip out, to lie low, to become someone else, and let the unit go without them. Each soldier that died in Iraq said no to that opportunity, and chose to honor that contract: I will be there.

For many, that was the last life or death choice they made. They didn't know, when they jumped in the humvee that last morning, that they were choosing death. When death called, it barged in so swiftly that there was no choice whether to answer that door.

Some others may have had a choice. In a firefight, do you stick your piece up over your head and squeeze off a blind burst in the enemy's general direction, or do you put your eye over the wall and find a real target? Some chose the latter, and paid the ultimate price for the risk they voluntarily took on. I dare say that few of those who made that choice did so thinking of 9/11 or of Saddam's WMDs or of a free and democratic Iraq. They were thinking, as soldiers always do, of the buddies kneeling beside them and of other buddies who had been last week's casualties. Not of what was earned or lost in the abstract by a war, not of the general good or ill of a nation, but of particular sacrifices made by particular people, of particular debts owed, of particular victories and defeats.

I am one who believes that this war was destined to be a disaster before it was ever begun, and that the incompetence of its direction, although demonstrable, has not been so determinant as the very decision to undertake it. I believe that our nation and our world would be better off had none of those soldiers died.

But they did not die in vain. They died in proof of their own purity of motive; they died in courage, in solidarity with their brothers, and they died in the keeping of solemn promises. The flags that cover their coffins are honored by the purity of their ending, and should be treasured by their families as symbols of lives that went right.

blogbud
You've gone off the reservation.
AL QUEDA is the international terrorist group who could conceivably do the horrible things you bring up.
It is wholly irresponsible and intellectually dishonest to use those images of terror and attach them to a dictator (admittedly very bad) who had no relation to the events of 9/11.

Saddam had plans to bomb Wisconsin?

I don't understand the desire to attach "meaning" to the casualties. These aren't martyrs, who died specifically to advance an ideological cause; these are soldiers, who do what the politicians in their country require them to do. To be callous, the feelings of the bereaved shouldn't affect policy in the slightest.

Kerry shouldn't be influenced by them, and, given Bush's avoidance of funerals for the fallen and his barring of photographs of coffins of dead soldiers from Iraq, Bush certainly isn't influenced by them.

bogbudsman: "How can you not think of 9/11 and the incidents preceding, how can you not think of Saddam Hussein and his reign of terror past and future, how can you not look into the future of bus bombs in Milwaukee, mall bombs in Tucson, exploding police stations in Knoxville and not deal with the horror?"

To echo what others have said: please explain how invading Iraq makes terrorist attacks in the US less likely. We have taken a loathesome but contained dictatorship and turned it into a recruiting ground for al Qaeda. We may well turn it into a failed state where al Qaeda can train at will for lack of a government capable of controlling its territory. We have taken the sympathy we had after 9/11 and transformed it into hatred, especially in the Middle East. Because we went to war in Iraq we have had neither the military, economic, or diplomatic resources to pursue more important problems in the war on terror, like securing Afghanistan, trying to keep North Korea and Iran from getting nuclear weapons, and basic homeland security.

I think it's necessary to meet horror not with horror, but with intelligence and competence. Both seem to be in short supply in this administration.

Tom
War, even justifiable war includes sacrifice. When we forget or overlook those sacrifices we have lost our humanity.

How Do You Ask a Man to Be the Last Man to Die in Iraq*?

* admittedly we have female soldiers as well sacrificing in our armed forces now but the altered quote was left primarily intact for effect.


Sorry carsick, I shot at the wrong man! my apoligies.

Good arguments by the way.

Sebastian :

"Vietnam has no current unitary understanding"

that part of the US population that remembers Vietnam remains divided and those too young to know from experience could care less since history has yet to make a definative asessment. By your own analysis might not the view from the future looking back at Iraq be very much like that of Vietnam today? I would propose that is indeed a very strong possibility.

A discussion with hilzoy:

"To echo what others have said: please explain how invading Iraq makes terrorist attacks in the US less likely."

A significant number of terrorists trained in the years leading up to 9/11 no doubt diverted their efforts from our homeland and gasped their last dying breaths in Baghdad.


"We have taken a loathsome but contained dictatorship and turned it into a recruiting ground for al Qaeda."

And a burial ground.

"We may well turn it into a failed state where al Qaeda can train at will for lack of a government capable of controlling its territory."

Proving just how high the stakes are.

"We have taken the sympathy we had after 9/11 and transformed it into hatred, especially in the Middle East."

Those there dancing in the streets on 9/11 must be a little smarter now.

"Because we went to war in Iraq we have had neither the military, economic, or diplomatic resources to pursue more important problems in the war on terror, like securing Afghanistan,..."

Secure Afghanistan? Many have tried. Diverting the battle field to Iraq may have saved soldier's lives.

"...trying to keep North Korea and Iran from getting nuclear weapons,..."

The UN went as far as it could given it's corruption in Iraq. It's time for the UN to step up in NK and Iran and establish itself as a meaningful body in the future. If you are correct, and you very well may be, they should be able to step to the plate, especially with international support.

"...and basic homeland security."

Another huge debate. How secure can our democracy be? How secure do we want it to be. I share many of the concerns that you must have. Let our legislators, the voice of the people, make their mark.

"I think it's necessary to meet horror not with horror, but with intelligence and competence. Both seem to be in short supply in this administration."

Your premise is debatable. Your conclusion is false.

Finally - debating by fisking by sentence often comes across as flip. I truly an not being flip here. This discussion is as important to me as it is to you. The survival of our way of life, even global stability depends on both of us being sincere and not totally wrong. What we do in November, what we do after November, how we use our power (horror), intelligence and competence will determine the future of our country.

What we do in November, what we do after November, how we use our power (horror), intelligence and competence will determine the future of our country.

There I agree.

A significant number of terrorists trained in the years leading up to 9/11 no doubt diverted their efforts from our homeland and gasped their last dying breaths in Baghdad.

So, you go with the theory that Bush & Co's intentions towards Iraq were malevolent all along? That any claims they made about building democracy there were false - lies, in fact?

"At some point the Iraqis will get tired of getting killed and we’ll have enough of the Iraqi security forces that they can take over responsibility for governing that country and we’ll be able to pare down the coalition security forces in the country."

blogbud ooops I mean Rumsfeld

Hey blogbud
"A significant number of terrorists trained in the years leading up to 9/11 no doubt diverted their efforts from our homeland and gasped their last dying breaths in Baghdad."

(I'll answer in the way you seem familiar with)

Debatable.

carsick - "It is wholly irresponsible and intellectually dishonest to use those images of terror and attach them to a dictator (admittedly very bad) who had no relation to the events of 9/11."

Yes it would be.

Jesurgislac - "That any claims they made about building democracy there were false..."

No, I don't think the 'claims' were false. The intent is true. Implementation is problematic. Iraq has an opportunity to establish some form of democracy, should they figure out how to do so. I confess, I need to study more on what the great thinkers of the ages feel about cookie cutter democracy. If democracy is choices, then they have a foothold. If democracy is a mini-America, then Lord knows.


carsick - "blogbud ooops I mean Rumsfeld"

Not a diplomat, but not always wrong. I'd think you'd like a straight shooter. No? Anyway, wouldn't mind having his pension. (Now that was flip - guilty as charged)

Rumsfeld: "not always wrong"

What an endorsement.
Not always wrong. Just on the big things. Enough incompetence to be fired but ...you know...not ALWAYS wrong.

Blogbudsman:

1. You're arguing that Bush & Co are not incompetent.

2. You're arguing that the chaos and destruction in Iraq is a good, positive accomplishment, because lots of terrorists are being killed.

Those two ideas put together to me suggest strongly that your belief is that the current situation in Iraq is what Bush & Co planned all along. If so, then any claims Bush & Co made claiming benevolence towards the people of Iraq were lies: if Bush & Co intended the current situation in Iraq, or even if they did not intend it but are not trying to remedy it because they like it this way, then plainly Bush & Co not only do not intend Iraq to become a democracy: they do not even want Iraqis to live better than they did under Saddam Hussein. The "liberation" of the people of Iraq, by the flypaper theory, was one big lie - the intention was to build a killing bottle, with the people of Iraq still inside.

That's just leaving aside the rather simplistic, and already proved to be wrong, notion that the number of terrorists in the world is fixed, so if you kill a couple of terrorists and a bunch of civilians you've diminished the number of terrorists. Not so. Odds are, as the Israelis could tell you from bitter experience, you have actually increased the number of terrorists in the world.

Is this really what you want to argue for, Blogbud?

carsick - "Rumsfeld: "not always wrong"

I thought you were debating style, not substance. Is it 'wrong' not to be politically 'correct'.

What's your story carsick? Do you really think having a weak Democratic president is going cure your queasy stomach?

The critical thing here is Edward's first point. Brooks and others are pulling some emotional sleight-of-hand. To argue that the Iraq war was foolish does not detract from the bravery of those fighting, and it does not demean the deaths.

Brooks is trying to suggest that to criticize Bush on Iraq is to insult the soldiers. That is vile.

It was Bush who decided that our goals in Iraq were worth American and Iraqi lives. If that was a mistake the blood is on his hands, not his critics'.

How can you not think of 9/11 and the incidents preceding, how can you not think of Saddam Hussein and his reign of terror past and future, how can you not look into the future of bus bombs in Milwaukee, mall bombs in Tucson, exploding police stations in Knoxville and not deal with the horror?

Blame it on my Christian upbringing. I don't believe innocent Iraqis should pay for bin Laden's sins.

Tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis who had nothing at all to do with 9/11 or Hussein's teror, or future terrorists attacks, were not ours to sacrifice.

We had no right on any moral plane I respect to take their lives unless their state had attacked us, which it hadn't, or we had reasonably good reason to believe it imminently would, which we didn't.

Pre-emptively striking at a debatable "gathering threat" before all diplomatic efforts are unquestionably exhausted is immoral. Iraqi people died because we could invade...not because we had no choice.

"It was Bush who decided that our goals in Iraq were worth American and Iraqi lives. If that was a mistake the blood is on his hands, not his critics'."

No, in our postmodern media-driven world (in which Brooks is steeped to the eyeballs), you create realities by describing them. According to his fundamentally damaged perception, Kerry would be 'responsible' for Iraq being a mistake by being the person who talked about it, creating that storyline. Since Bush talks about Iraq being a golden domino of something or other, he's responsible for that being true, which it is, because he said it and people believe it.

More evidence that the media aren't biased, they're just pathologically broken.

More evidence that the media aren't biased, they're just pathologically broken.

Another topic very worthy of debate!

with your permission, sidereal, I'd like to elevate that comment to a post...

According to his fundamentally damaged perception, Kerry would be 'responsible' for Iraq being a mistake by being the person who talked about it, creating that storyline.

No, Dean was. That was, IMO, what ultimately killed him: he couldn't survive under the weight of a narrative the media held him responsible for creating.

[And yes, the mental gymnastics involved in the media's role there does betray a pathological level of brokenness.]

All yours.
I love talking about the fecklessness of broadcast media.

"It was Bush who decided that our goals in Iraq were worth American and Iraqi lives. If that was a mistake the blood is on his hands, not his critics'."

If we are assigning blood I suggest that there might be a bit on the hands of the car bombers and I think some spurts on robes of the decapitators. But I could be wrong.

A lot this comes down to whether or not you think that former Ba'athists (from the Sunni side) or sharia fundamentalists (Sadrs Shi'ite cronies) ought to be allowed to take over Iraq. I say allowed, because frankly we haven't had any extended and serious fighting whatsoever since 14 days after the invasion.

1,000 American soldiers dead in the course of the invasion and occupation. There were those who were warning of 10,000 American dead during the invasion alone.

We are arguing about totally unrealistic visions of what it costs to secure Iraq if that is going to be what tips us back from it.

"Tom
War, even justifiable war includes sacrifice. When we forget or overlook those sacrifices we have lost our humanity."

I sometimes forget that the US was late to the First World War, and so didn't suffer the same psychological blow as, say the UK or Australia or France in the loss of the flower of a generation (yes, I know the US lost soldiers, but US WW1 memorials are nowhere near as ubiquitous nor as gutwrenching as those of WW1 in W.Europe). The value of a death in battle isn't related to the justness of the cause. I don't think the war poets Sassoon or Owens devalued those who died in the war by pointing out the pointlessness of it; quite the opposite.

One wonder how those poets, or the greek playwright such as Aristophanes, would have been received in the current truncated discourse.

Jesurgilac
You have it exactly right.
Did Bush (as bud seems to endorse) intend to create a violent flycatcher so he could pull their wings off or did he, as Bush just said to the UN, go in to "deliver the Iraqi people from an outlaw dictator.

bud may argue that the two goals are not in conflict but I bet the American and Iraqi people woulldn't have thought they weren't in the run up to invasion.

Jesurgislac. That word 'lies' flies off your keystrokes so easily. One crisis created an opportunity to deal with the other, although only connected afterward. Great historic coincidence. I think we have enormous 'benevolence' toward the people of Iraq. If you want to call events not taking shape exactly as we'd hoped, like the people of Iraq not shaking off their chains and charging to the front, then we did miscalculate. Your argument kind of steamrolls into a crescendo, but no, my belief implies nothing of the kind. Even with that, the 'current' situation, the real situation, where the insurgents are concentrated in two or three dense metropolitan areas, is not the quagmire you want us to believe. Why can't the liberation of Iraq and the 'flypaper' theory co-exist. It's not a conspiracy, it's adapting in a crisis, it's adjusting to conditions, it's being bold and decisive. A 'killing bottle, with the people of Iraq still inside'. Great rant, wonderful rhetoric. Facetious

And this 'America, you behave yourself, or we'll grow more terrorists'. There are no 'odds'. If you want to die, become a terrorist. Not a good career move. So what's the alternative. Let the terrorists terrorize to their hearts content, killing any citizen that they can muster hate for, because if you try to stop them, they'll grow another. You done argued your wagons into a circle.

Good stuff though. I should turn in a half days vacation. The company didn't get all of me today.

Tom
My point was more to the politicians not calculating the loss of soldiers as people when they decide to go to war. The decision to go down that path should always include whether they will be able to face the bereaved afterward.
Bush doesn't seem to be able to. Kerry called the nation to see the pointlessness of a war upon his return as a soldier.

"...the 'current' situation, the real situation, where the insurgents are concentrated in two or three dense metropolitan areas, is not the quagmire you want us to believe..."

Yet,

"Another ominous sign is the growing number of towns that U.S. troops simply avoid. A senior Defense official objects to calling them "no-go areas." "We could go into them any time we wanted," he argues. The preferred term is "insurgent enclaves." They're spreading. Counterinsurgency experts call it the "inkblot strategy": take control of several towns or villages and expand outward until the areas merge. The first city lost to the insurgents was Fallujah, in April. Now the list includes the Sunni Triangle cities of Ar Ramadi, Baqubah and Samarra, where power shifted back and forth between the insurgents and American-backed leaders last week. "There is no security force there [in Fallujah], no local government," says a senior U.S. military official in Baghdad. "We would get attacked constantly. Forget about it."

If we are assigning blood I suggest that there might be a bit on the hands of the car bombers and I think some spurts on robes of the decapitators. But I could be wrong.

Sebastian,

You are not wrong. Plenty of blood to go around.

But to suggest, as Brooks does, that denying Bush's version of the facts somehow casts aspersion on our troops is contemptible.

The phrase "died in vain" is heavily loaded. Taken literally, anyone who dies in a failed cause dies in vain. More commonly, I suppose, it is taken to mean "died in a foolish cause," from which it is easy to extrapolate, wrongly, "died foolishly." But these are not the same. The soldier is not always responsible for the foolishness, and to automatically conflate the soldier and the leader is wrong.

Why can't the liberation of Iraq and the 'flypaper' theory co-exist.

Take a look at the West Bank, blogbuds, and ask yourself if it looks "liberated" to the Palestinians living there.

Oh, and for a point-by-point analysis of why the "flypaper theory" is not compatible with any claim to benevolence towards Iraqis,

Oh, and for a point-by-point analysis of why the "flypaper theory" is not compatible with any claim to benevolence towards Iraqis, read this.

(Sorry about earlier flawed post.)

Am I expected to believe that my son's role in life was to give opportunity to others?

Isn’t that really everyone’s role? Don’t most of us pity those who don’t see that as their role in life? Aren’t they reviled as greedy and uncompassionate…even evil?

how do you justify the loss of American lives to improve the lives of Muslims?

For the greater good of both Muslims and Americans.

In the end I would tell that parent that his/her child died in a continuing effort to relatively peacefully convince the ME to change for the better, to help them build a better society, which will, in turn, make us safer. It is indeed less peaceful (at least initially) than the method Trickster recommended, but much more peaceful and moral than others that could be employed to try and remove threats against us.

Crionna: "Am I expected to believe that my son's role in life was to give opportunity to others?

Isn’t that really everyone’s role? Don’t most of us pity those who don’t see that as their role in life? Aren’t they reviled as greedy and uncompassionate…even evil?"

That's an issue I'm struggling with in this debate. How do you reconcile the decision to invade Iraq to liberate people who didn't ask to be liberated vs. not liberating those who are begging for liberation. Take Liberia, for example. Here, the people of Liberia--long term friends with extremely close relationships and feeling of good will towards the US-- asked for help during a bloody attempt by a ragged collection of boy-soldiers to maintain illegitamet power yet we sailed by and relied on the French to do our work.

These two examples would indicate that we don't use that role as a guiding principle in our foreign policy.


The flypaper theory has consequences, no doubt. And the people of Iraq will suffer more because the terrorists will swarm wherever we stand. But we have to believe the world will be safer for us and the Iraqis when all is said and done. We did not start this war. And I for one fear that Bush's little slip may be true. This war, this wide spread, deeply rooted war will not end well for mankind.

These two examples would indicate that we don't use that role as a guiding principle in our foreign policy.

But the post was not "What is, or should be the guiding principle of our foreign policy?", rather "Did 1,000 troops die for nothing?". I say no.

The question of what should be the guiding principle of our foreign policy is so huge, I'm not sure that I can even begin to answer it, especially if I would then have to justify why we haven't helped every single person in the world who is deserving of help, whether they ask for it or not.

Then again, its been said that for years our foreign policy was simply not to be threatened and when threatened to remove that threat. How best to remove the threat of Theotalitarianism (currently espoused by a minority of Muslims) I don't know. We're trying door number one and finding what's behind it to be difficult to deal with. Trickster proposed an interesting door number two. And I haven't seen many other doors discussed. Everyone seems content to talk about how door number one was such a poor choice.

Perhaps a thread with people offering different solutions would be less partisanly bickered over and provide some insights. What ifs seem to be much more fun that What the he11's.

blogbudsman: I didn't think you were being flip. I don't, however, understand why you think that the war in Iraq was in any way a part of the war on terror, or how it will help to make us safer. As both Josh Marshall and the Medium Lobster have pointed out, the fact that terrorists died there would help us only if there were a finite supply of terrorists which we were using up, or if we were at least putting them out of action faster than our actions create new ones. This is not at all clear. Plus, as I said, we risk creating a failed state where al Qaeda can roam at will. You said that this just shows how high the stakes are. I agree with you that they are very, very high, but I don't see how this answers my point. It also makes me all the more angry at the Bush administration's inept prosecution of the war.

In the final analysis, the one who will determine what these soldiers died for is George W. Bush. He is the one who sent them in to begin with, and how he conducted the war crucially affects the good that can possibly come of it. I think that by failing to plan for the occupation, staffing the CPA with inexperienced kids whose sole qualification was having applied for jobs at the Heritage Foundation, and so on, he risks making it the case that they died for the sake of his administration's ineptitude and arrogance. And that breaks my heart.

As an anti-Iraqi war advocate prior to Bush 43's invasion, I have yet to see any justification for the deaths of both Coalition tropps and that of Iraqi civilians. 'War on terrorism' is a false premise- one cannot make war on a tactic (means) of resistance. A state can make war on another state or strive to eliminate a militant group. There is no way that terrorism can be stopped as nihilists/fanatics will always exist and declare that their beliefs are the only & right way & try to impose that way on all.
Another problem is the conflation of the term 'terrorist' with those who actively oppose the occupation, i.e. 'insurgents' or 'rebels'. I would guess that most Iraqi's are glad that Hussein is out of power but that their cost was incredibly high in terms of lives lost/damaged, the loss of infrastructure and the imposition of an occupation with a governemnt imposed on them by a foreign power. All these will create resistance (military & otherwise) to any occupying military force. And the tactics used to achieve their goals will vary from covert support to open rebellion.
So again, what did these people die for? I'm hoping that any future leader (US & others) will stop for a moment & reflect upon what was lost by all sides and ignore that feeling of hubris and realize that war needs a rational base not merely revenge.

Wait a minute: where did Sebastian come up with that "3000 soldiers dead over 15 years" projection? We've had nearly 1100 die in 18 months, and Bush is by some reports planning more "major offensives" after he's been safely elected. There are also rumors that military action against Iran is next: will that one be casualty-free for US forces?

As for our "intentions" in Iraq, whether Bush ever meant to establish a Western-style democracy or whether his true intent all along was to shatter Iraq and leave it in chaos:

The rationales for the war are ever-shifting, from WMDs to "revenge!" to "establish democracy." This IS exactly what happened in Vietnam - and is exactly why the execution of the war has been criminally incompetent. The people who plan and drive the war either don't know what they're trying to accomplish or are trying to accomplish multiple, diametrically opposed outcomes.

You DON'T use people as lures for death and destruction (the flypaper theory) and then expect them to trust your claims to have freed them.

You DON'T wreak vengeance against people who had nothing to do with what you're wreaking vengeance for (the "revenge!" theory) and then expect them to believe in your good will (or, for that matter, your sanity).

Iraqis are not stupid, and they have very long memories. They don't listen to Bush propaganda about our benevolence. They know what went on in Abu Ghraib (they knew before we did, and they know in more detail than we do); they know those ideologically-chosen financial advisors are not looking out for ordinary citizens' interests; they know our hand-picked governments (Occupation phase and interim phase) were and are US puppets; they know, in short, a lot of things that Americans choose not to know. Iraqis have no choice but to know what's going on: it's their country, their homes and livelihoods, their relatives and friends and acquaintances that the war is happening to.

I understand all the dancing around to make a silk purse out of this bloody sow's ear on an ideological level: such mental and moral gymnastics are necessary in order to keep supporting Bush. I find it profoundly depressing me that half the country has fallen for it.

If Bush wins in November, he'll know he has gotten away with an act of wilful, destructive folly. By what stretch of reasoning do his supporters believe his leadership will improve when he has paid no price, none whatsoever, for his malfeasance? I'd really like someone to explain that one to me.

Read this, and defend the flypaper theory to me again.

Of course, it's not just the moral argument; it also does. not. work. Most of the people attacking U.S. soldiers in Iraq had neither the desire nor the ability to attack U.S. civilians in America. Now there are more people with the desire. If Iraq becomes even more of a failed state and we and the government lose control enough so that Al Qaeda is able to set up new camps, there will also be more people with the ability.

As to what they died for--if nothing else they died for the people fighting next to them, and to do their duty for their country. That is not nothing. We all depend for our survival on people willing to do that.

I don't know if it's still possible to have an outcome in this war that's worth their sacrifice. I was pessimistic on that question from the start, which is why I opposed the war to begin with, and it's gone worse than even I expected. I could be wrong. I hope I am.

We will do the best we can going forward, but honestly the focus has to be on preventing future deaths (of Iraqi and American civilians as well as American soldiers, long term as well as short term--I'm not saying we just withdraw) rather than retroactively justifying deaths that have already happened and probably cannot be justified.

Damnit, I hate having to do this. I mean, every other freakin' post by Edward is a question, but does anyone actually answer it? Noooooo!

Obviously, some responsible hack^h^h^h^hparty has to take up the slack; namely, me.

Did 1,000 troops die for nothing?

No.

"Did 1,000 troops die for nothing?". I say no.

Beatchya to it ;)

Slarti: What, in your view, did they die for?

[That's not snark, btw. I'm interested in your perspective here.]

Damnit, I hate having to do this. I mean, every other freakin' post by Edward is a question, but does anyone actually answer it? Noooooo!

I answered it in my first post on this thread, Slarti.

caseyl - "They know what went on in Abu Ghraib (they knew before we did, and they know in more detail than we do);

Yes they did Casey, long before we arrived on the scene and far more horrible than when our little sadistic misfits put on their show. It was a big deal because MSM and political opponents made it a bid deal. We have worse situations that that in our own prisons nearly every day.

and far more horrible than when our little sadistic misfits put on their show.

That Saddam Hussein did worse, I do not argue with. But is that really a goal to aim for: "Not As Bad As Saddam Hussein"?

The American soldiers who tortured prisoners in Abu Ghraib were acting under orders. That they should not have obeyed those orders, I agree. That they were "sadistic misfits" I disagree: it's the soldiers like Joseph Darby who were misfits, and let's be grateful that such "misfits" exist. The soldiers who obeyed criminal orders are also victims in this war - they should never have been given those orders, and I hope that - eventually - we'll see all those who gave the orders punished, much more gravely that the grunts down at the bottom end who did the dirty work.

hilzoy - IMHO, your reasons for voting against George Bush are misdirected. Your anger and frustration and fear could be diagnosed as resulting from this great threat of Islamic fascism. And a great concern about our future. What I relate to are articles Like This . I still don't fathom how you could vote for John Kerry. I hope you do vote, I'm sure you will. I recommend you vote for Nadar and promote the emergence of Third Party politics. Yeah, that would serve our purpose quite nicely.

Yes they did Casey, long before we arrived on the scene and far more horrible than when our little sadistic misfits put on their show. It was a big deal because MSM and political opponents made it a bid deal. We have worse situations that that in our own prisons nearly every day.

Um, you know, some people would consider those two things a) a call to aim a little higher than "Not as bad as Saddam," and b) a reason to reform our own prisons in the U.S., not to excuse what happened.

hilzoy - IMHO, your reasons for voting against George Bush are misdirected. Your anger and frustration and fear could be diagnosed as resulting from this great threat of Islamic fascism.

Wow -- it only took two days for someone to bust out "you're crazy" from the Slimy Politics Handbook. "Could be diagnosed?" What, you're a psychoanalyst? Can we see some credentials?

Damnit, I hate having to do this. I mean, every other freakin' post by Edward is a question, but does anyone actually answer it? Noooooo!

Obviously, some responsible hack^h^h^h^hparty has to take up the slack; namely, me.

Did 1,000 troops die for nothing?
No.

[///]

"Did 1,000 troops die for nothing?". I say no.

Beatchya to it ;)

Er, Slarti, Crionna...that was Brook's question, and as I noted, it's shamelessly loaded. My question, designed to get to the heart of the matter, as well as hopefully elicit, as it has, some lovely, considerate and comforting rationales any of us could use should we encounter and be asked by someone who's lost a loved one in this conflict (see Trickster's thoughtful comment), was "What did 1,000 troops die for?" That presumes they did not die for nothing.

blogbud
Are you implying that hilzoy and others who reject the failures of the current administration and support John Kerry are actually like animals randomly shocked in a cage and therefore paralyzed by fear? Unable to be rational due to their overwhelming fear of Islamic Fundamentalism?

Ha ha ha

That's a new one.

blogbudsman: Since in your last post you restrict yourself to diagnosing the causes of my "anger and frustration and fear" rather than offering any reasons why my "reasons for voting against George Bush are misdirected" (let alone why I should vote for Nader -- I'd rather emigrate, thanks), it's hard for me to know how to respond. I will just say this about the article you cite: it implies that the mistakes Bush made are obvious only in retrospect, and that pointing them out is a sort of Monday morning quarterbacking. I think this is just false.

When you decide to undertake a very difficult task, like invading Iraq without producing a failed state or civil war, it is fairly obvious that you need to have thought seriously about how exactly you're going to pull it off, and that you need, in addition, to plan for the possibility that some of your more optimistic assumptions are wrong. This is not rocket science; it's not a revelation that I and others had only after the invasion went wrong; it's just basic common sense. The fact that the Bush administration did not bother to have a backup plan is, to me, just amazing.

Likewise, the fact that they chose to staff the CPA not with people who had done similar, or even relevant, work in the past, but with political cronies and kids whose resumes they apparently got from the Heritage Foundation is not something whose idiocy is apparent only in retrospect; it's completely obvious. If you are serious about getting a job done, you make sure to hire good people who know what they're doing. Again, it's just common sense, which the Bush administration chose to ignore.

If you want to argue that failing to plan for contingencies or to hire people who know what they're doing is not a problem, feel free. Likewise, if you want to try to convince me that the Bush administration didn't make these mistakes, I'm open to persuasion. Until then, however, I plan to keep on regarding the anger and frustration I feel when I think about this administration's policies in Iraq, and the damage they have caused, as directed at their proper object.

Edward

Hence my emoticon in my latter comment, and I would tell that parent that his/her child died in a continuing effort to relatively peacefully convince the ME to change for the better, to help them build a better society, which will, in turn, make us safer. in my former.

People were killed in Abu Ghraib. People were tortured. People were probably raped. Many of them if not most were innocent. Your statement that "It was a big deal because MSM and political opponents made it a bid deal" is reprehensible and disgusting. I don't think worse things happen in our prisons every day (not as far as violence by guards towards prisoners), but if they do we should be up in arms about it, not making snide comments about it to justify other abuses. I do think worse happened under Saddam Hussein. I'm not sure of the relevance of this. North Korea and Sudan are currently more brutal governments than Saddam's Iraq before the war, and historically there are also the examples of the genocidaires in Rwanda, Pol Pot, Hitler and Stalin. Does that justify or mitigate Saddam Hussein's brutality at all?

We did start the war with Iraq. Iraq did not attack us on September 11 and did not work with the terrorists who did. These are empirical facts proven long ago.

I don't think I can argue with someone who doesn't seem to recognize basic moral principles or provable facts, and who instead snidely diagnoses anyone who disagrees with him with a psychological disorder. Probably I should not try. But it's not like this is uncommon on your side of the political spectrum--look at the Jonah Goldberg column. Yes, Jonah, I think Al Sadr was a lover of peace and will mourn for his death, and the worst thing that happened in Abu Ghraib was forcing people to war panties on their heads. Christ.

Sorry Crionna,

that's what I get for not re-reading all the comments.

e

In a similar vein, from the Goldberg article: 6. Abu Ghraib was, at minimum, a preventable public-relations disaster.

Terrorizing naked prisoners with attack dogs is, in the best case, merely a PR problem. Pure drivel.

They died for less than nothing. Everybody except Halliburtin was better off before the invasion.

They died because George was trying to prove he was better than his father. "Your too chicken to go to Bagdad Old Man - well watch this drive"

They died for the PNAC wet dream that somehow or other the existance of Israel can be legitimized to the Arab peoples.

Iraq is further from a stable relatively democratic society than it was. It will be, at best, a worse dictatorship then it was. At worst a hellish, brutal civil war mess for decades.

People cannot be governed without their consent. George read the constitution for God's sake.

Mr. Finnerty,

You're dancing near the edge of the types of comments that I'm advising against in the original post.

Unless you want to back those up with cites from reputable sources, could you try to bring that all together with a bit more respect for those who've passed away, and Bush as well (he is the President of the US for at least a few more months)? "Chicken" talk is not considered helpful or appropriate here. Thanks.

ed finnerty: besides what Edward said, I can't see why you think that whatever government Iraq ends up with will be worse than what it had before. Speaking as someone who opposed the war from the getgo, I don't see what reason there is to think that, nor do I think it's necessary to think that in order to argue that the Bush administration has gotten things hideously wrong.

hilzoy - you deserve a good answer, better than I can give you on the fly today. And besides, I truly believe what I say, so I should be able to explain it, if not persuade. Edward, sorry about extending the Abu Ghraib argument. It's off thread and will always draw an emotional response. Besides, debating what acts some humans are capable of, regardless of creed or nationality, opens too many wounds. Carsick, you crack me up.

sorry, I will try to be more civil

From what we know the situation is as follows

prior to the invasion Iraq was a Stalinist dictatorship under Saddam. It was suffering badly from a human development point of view as all Stalinist dictatorships tend to do. The sanctions were causing particular hardship to the average iraqi. These were almost certainly to be removed resulting in improvements to the quality of life. Iraq would have required long term containment. I expect but cannot prove that the stalinist phase would not have run much longer as these tend to not be sustainable over the long term. They were not about to attack their neighbours. If you think otherwise I would ask you which neighbour you thought was threatened.

The current situation is certainly worse in material terms for the vast majority of iraqi's then it was beforte the invasion, and much worse than it was before the 1991 war and sanctions regime. Leaving all else aside, there is no safety and security on the streets without the protection of an armed militia. The country has effectively reverted to a tribal state. It is a personal judgement admittedly, but I consider this worse than the stalinist dictatorship it replaced.

I see no prospect for how a representative government can arise out of this in the near term. The society will need to rebuild itself from the ground up.

Therefore, I say everybody loses for the reason that I see no winners. To enumerate;

The Iraqi's - chaos and insecurity with no way out. No water and electricity.

The American People. Iraq was no threat so they cannot by definition be safer. However, Iraq is now a threat so they are by definition less safe.

The Soldiers/Military. Killed, wounded and demoralized. Tainted with a torture scandal from the highest ranks on down. Drawn down heavily in readiness and supplies.

Iraq's neighbours. Less safe due to an unstable rouge regime on there borders.

Sorry, I can't see any winners.

I'm sorry about the comment about the Presidents motivation but I can't come up with an alternate explanation for such a clearly irrational act.

Like Gwynne Dyer said before the war, "I can't even come up with the cynical underlying reason for this act"

Hope this comment was more constructive

Hope this comment was more constructive.

not only more constructive, excellent in fact...thanks for taking the time.

not that you won't get some argument, mind you...

e

I addressed this very subject on a blog elsewhere, different phrasing, different words, but same basic idea. Caused quite a stir.

What did they die for? It pains me (as a veteran) that sadly, they died for not very much at all. That doesn't mean that their deaths are not without honour or different than soldiers who have died in other wars under circumstances of similar incompetence and reckless disregard - the soldier who dies from tripping over his rifle on the way to front really is no different from the one who single-handedly takes out a machine gun nest - in the big scheme of things.

One could also say that they died "for" the integrity of our armed forces who were ordered under false pretenses into a war where they do not get to say "no thanks" because they can see that it was poorly planned and thus poorly executed. It is a shame that more senior officers in the pentagon didn't have the fortitude to stand up to the Bush administration (some did - they are spending more time with their families now) and point out the obvious flaws with this botched, and grossly rushed illegitimate war, but the after effects of 9/11 were still raw, so some slack can be given I suppose.

The point is that when we need our millitary to act for whatever reason, except for the most, most exceptional circumstances we cannot have them say "well, we looked into it and we would rather not" it is a given that they will do what the political leader of the time instructs them to do - sometimes, sadly, that means they are needlessly sacrificed for no good end - that is part of the implicit (or even explicit) contract they sign onto when they join up. It is under this banner of service to our country, right or wrong, that they died and what they died "for".

"Did 1,000 troops die for nothing?"

Um, yes.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad