« More On The Eason Jordan Implosion | Main | Kafka Didn't Foresee the Half of It »

February 23, 2005

Comments

If a bunch of people got together to say "our city can't be used by the insurgents anymore so we just have to get rid of them" great. If these people are more along the lines of "let's get training, weapons and ammunition from the US for as long as we can and get rid of our more direct enemies before we turn on the Americans" it isn't going to be pretty.

But predictable. The vast majority of Iraqis don't welcome and don't want the foreign military occupation in their country. They don't want their cities bombed, they don't want tanks rolling down their streets, they don't want their hospitals and mosques attacked, they don't want to be arrested and dragged off to jail and tortured without any recourse to due process.

There isn't anything the US can do about this, of course. The war in Iraq is lost: it's just a question of how long it will be before Bush & Co claim that the situation is exactly what they planned all along* and they're going to withdraw now and go attack some other country.

*No matter how far or how fast they have to move the goalposts to do it.

But predictable. The vast majority of Iraqis don't welcome and don't want the foreign military occupation in their country. They don't want their cities bombed, they don't want tanks rolling down their streets, they don't want their hospitals and mosques attacked, they don't want to be arrested and dragged off to jail and tortured without any recourse to due process.

Really? I'd have thought...no, I wouldn't, and hopefully neither would you.

The war in Iraq is lost

Of course! Us having deposed Saddam and then withdrawn, having overseen democratic elections is so clearly not what anyone in their right mind would think of as a positive outcome.

FID works best when you can co-opt an existing band of brothers -- like the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan -- and embrace it with U.S. precision firepower and C4ISR capabilities.

This actually set off some alarmbells with me. The Northern Alliance was a bunch of warlords of whom quite a number were as bad as the Taliban they fought (HRW has quite a number of rapports about them).

In actual fact: isn't this also what the US did with the Taliban, when those were fighting the Russians? Arming them and training them?

Dutchmarbel: In actual fact: isn't this also what the US did with the Taliban, when those were fighting the Russians? Arming them and training them?

To be accurate, what the US did when Afghanistan's government went Communist and started proposing radical nasties like equality for women and fair division of land, was locate the one social group that loathed these modern, radical, "anti-Islamic" ideas - the Islamists. The Islamist mojaheddin included the people who are now the Northern Alliance and the Taliban and a large number of "foreign fighters", including Osama bin Laden. The CIA armed and trained these people and called it "anti-Communism": and this direct American intervention against Afghan government occurred well before the USSR invaded, and may well have triggered it.

The problem is that apparently no one in the Bush government sees now, by the results, that this intervention was a really bad idea: they justify it because, after all, it was "anti-Communist" and ignore the devastatingly horrible results that inevitably followed.

You will still find right-wingers who calmly justify the US's active support for Saddam Hussein in the 1980s as just "political realism", yet demand to know why left-wingers don't support the removal of an evil mass-murdering dictator.

I do recall right-wingers justifying Bush's endorsement of Ahmed Chalabi, and assuring me that it didn't mean a thing that he'd been convicted of fraud in Jordan, nor that neither the State department nor the CIA trusted him.

It would appear that it's impossible for some people to learn from their mistakes.

Slarti: Us having deposed Saddam and then withdrawn,

It's news to me that the US plans to withdraw, Slarti. Aren't they building permanent military bases? (Whether they'll be able to keep them is another matter. But they do seem to be being built.)

having overseen democratic elections is so clearly not what anyone in their right mind would think of as a positive outcome.

If the US ever does run democratic elections in Iraq, and then gets out when the government tells them to go, this comment will have some appropriateness.

As it stands: the US apparently plans to continue fighting a permanent war against the Iraqis, whether or not the Iraqis ever elect a government that tells the US to get out. Eventually it will dawn on some President that it's past time to quit fighting an unwinnable war in Iraq: if it happens under George W. Bush, I assume Bush will simply move the goalposts far enough and fast enough and claim this was the outcome planned all along.

It's news to me that the US plans to withdraw, Slarti.

You seem to be of two minds about this, Jesurgislac:

and they're going to withdraw now

Which is it? Are we going to cut and run, or stay there forever? Is there...I dunno...maybe a third way, where we leave when we've set Iraq on its feet? I'm thinking not, but things are not all either-or.

If the US ever does run democratic elections in Iraq

Which criteria do you plan to hold us to, Jesurgislac?

the US apparently plans to continue fighting a permanent war against the Iraqis

Apparently, to you. I don't think much of the population over here believes that to be true.

if it happens under George W. Bush, I assume Bush will simply move the goalposts far enough and fast enough and claim this was the outcome planned all along

Speaking of goalpost-moving...any positive outcome at all under Bush will mean, to you, that Bush lied again. I ask again, what are your criteria for success, and is it possible for the Bush administration (or any other, for that matter) to meet them?

Don't do it Slarti. When Jesurgislac jacks a thread off the argument can only circle back to her burning single minded, unyielding manic hatred for all things Bush. She's not dragging this blog left, only down.

Now back to Sebastian's concern. I tend to agree. This is a dangerous development that will have to be grabbed hold of quickly. I like the one comment in the link:

"We don't call them militias. Militias are...illegal," says Maj. Chris Wales, who spent most of January tracking down and finding these new forces.

Slap some lipstick on that pig, Major.

Sebastian’s thoughts on motivation are accurate, but at some time it will take strong, determined leadership to leash these junk yard dog units. At some point, as one or another unit tastes success and power, their gratification will become tenuous.

There are those that might argue we have the same smoldering situation in our own country, two and a half centuries after our own revolution. Those historians among us probably can dredge up other shadowy parallels. Freedom rings many tones.


circle back to her burning single minded, unyielding manic hatred for all things Bush

You're on the edge, blogbudsman. Keep it civil, if you want to continue posting here. It is possible to frame that same observation in a more polite way, believe it or not; I strongly recommend you consider doing so from now on.

Of course! Us having deposed Saddam and then withdrawn, having overseen democratic elections is so clearly not what anyone in their right mind would think of as a positive outcome.

The US having invaded a defenseless country, overseen elections that are putting in power a theocratic regime (a cross between the Iranians and the Taliban), killed approximatly a 100,000 Iraqis, Totured more than a handfil of Iraqis, leveled entire cities or substantial parts thereof, turned Iraq from an ennemy of Iran into one of it's best friends, spent 200 billion to do this, it is obvious that only a Bush apologist would see this as a positive outcome.

it is obvious that only a Bush apologist would see this as a positive outcome

And here's your warning, Don Q. Enjoy. You're entitled to argue my points, but name-calling is out of bounds, not to mention completely devoid of any merit as an argument. In short, it has no place here.

The US having invaded a defenseless country

Iraq was hardly defenseless.

overseen elections that are putting in power a theocratic regime

Are you suggesting that we ought to have subverted the will of the Iraqi people in their choice of representation? Interesting.

killed approximatly a 100,000 Iraqis

How many would be acceptable, in your mind?

leveled entire cities or substantial parts thereof

Warfare is messy, especially when your opponents insist on using civilians for shields.

turned Iraq from an ennemy of Iran into one of it's best friends

Wow. When did that happen?

spent 200 billion to do this

Approximately half of what we spent on Vietnam, so far, and a couple of percentage points of casualties, with far more in the way of accomplishment. Interesting that this would register as an utter failure.

Slarti: I ask again, what are your criteria for success, and is it possible for the Bush administration (or any other, for that matter) to meet them?

I posted my criteria for success on my livejournal, and on Tacitus, in November 2003.

I see no possibility of the Bush administration now achieving them.

I see no possibility of the Bush administration now achieving them.

I'd be shocked if you said otherwise. Still, examining your criteria...unless I missed something, success is not precluded.

Still, examining your criteria...unless I missed something, success is not precluded.

Actually, I must write an updated post on these criteria. Back in November 2003, I was still sort-of optimistic - I thought it possible, if Bush & Co did a complete reversal (unlikely though that was) that success in Iraq was still achievable. If they quit dragging their heels over elections: if they quit pouring money into foreign companies for Iraqi reconstruction, instead of Iraqi companies: if, if, if... But they dropped the ball.

Besides, I have to page back too far to find it now. ;-)

me: I see no possibility of the Bush administration now achieving them.
Slarti: "I'd be shocked if you said otherwise."

*grin* I hope Blogbudsman is paying attention. That's the way to do it... ;-)

Approximately half of what we spent on Vietnam, so far, and a couple of percentage points of casualties,

In 'Dispatches' by Michael Herr, he reports the experience of sitting in a bar with other war correspondents, discussing US casualties in (AFAIR) the A Shau valley. "Finally, one little round guy with spectacles, who had remained silent, spoke up: 'Five hundred isn't that bad,' he said. 'We lost that many in twenty minutes on Guadalcanal.'"

leveled entire cities or substantial parts thereof

Warfare is messy, especially when your opponents insist on using civilians for shields.

Please refrain from deliberately conflating 'fighting in cities' and 'using civilians for shields'. And no, war isn't necessarily 'messy' - in the ten-thousand-people-dead sense - when it happens in cities. War is 'messy' when your poorly-trained, panicky soldiers antagonise large parts of the population and then proceed to use 155mm phosphorus shells and 2000lb bombs in urban law enforcement. Shrugging off massive and avoidable civilian casualties by saying 'warfare is messy' is beyond the pale.

Finally: Slarti, Don Q said anyone who thought Iraq was a positive outcome was a Bush apologist, and you said this was 'namecalling.' You had already implied that anyone who viewed the current imbroglio as not being a positive outcome was not 'in their right mind'. Apparently this is not namecalling.

Slarti, WHY would you be shocked if Jesurgislac said otherwise? Have you noticed some constant in her thought process that you quite can't grasp?

And I'm not an edgy kind of guy really, and its definitely not my place to try to influence this blog or its commenters in any way. Up to this point, I've benefited from being allowed to comment. Thanks posters. I hope you find your way in life.

I'm a little worried however that some of these units could eventually form a dangerous anti-government militia or strange long-term force which can provide deniability cover for violent action...

These already exist -- they just are not labeled as government units. The existing political factions that are not part of the insurgency already have well armed militias -- we never disarmed them (including the Sadr militia -- one of the few who did engage in fighting against us for a while). We have used them very sparingly because of the obvious danger of increasing tensions by, for example, having Kurdish militia fighting in Sunni areas (and they would expect something for it -- like a guarantee of Kirkuk). Right now, all factions not in the insurgency are glad to see us do the fighting against the Sunni Baathists, their mortal enemies.

Some areas in the South which are "peaceful" are in fact simply under the command of the local militias or gangs. There is no central government control, and minimal American presence in areas not in open insurgency.

And the danger is not so much that they will be "anti-government" -- the danger is factional fighting or a broad civil war arising amongst various armed camps as they jockey for power. The only thing preventing that now is the presence of the American military, and they are waiting for us to leave rather than fighting us (imagine how broad the insurgency would be if they believed we were not leaving).

The question for Iraqis is who are they fighting for. The "new Iraqi state" or the "Iraqi people" is unlikely -- they fight for the factions or tribes with which they identify. Since no one is particularly willing to die for the amorphous new state, its hard to get them on board for that "faction." The new forces the US is trying to organize attract Iraqis desparate for some sort of job, but not eager to die for the new state.

Slartui,

No, if we left to tomorrow having been unable to beat the insurgents it would not be viewed as a win.

I know there are conservatives that think we won the Vietnam War but that's not reality. Same here. You can define victory any way you want but our enemies will know our defeat if they see it.

And here's your warning, Don Q. Enjoy. You're entitled to argue my points, but name-calling is out of bounds, not to mention completely devoid of any merit as an argument. In short, it has no place here.

If you think that being called a Bush apologist is an insult then you must believe that Bush has done something less than honorable. There may yet be hope for you.

Iraq was hardly defenseless.

Where was that brave airforce fearlessly defending the skies of Iraq, that Navy fighting us ship to ship in the Gulf or those WMDs?. At best we met an underequipped, underfunded military whose sole talent was keeping Saddam in power.

overseen elections that are putting in power a theocratic regime


This is likely to be their next Prime Minister

Graying and bearded, with a warm handshake and an easy smile, Jaafari is regarded by many Iraqis as their nation's most trustworthy politician -- and by outside experts as a savvy politician skilled at staying in the background.

He was born in Karbala, one of the most holy cities in Shiite Islam, with a name -- Jaafari -- that is the same as a word for a religious school of thought linked to the Shiite Sixth Imam, although most Iraqis would relate it more to the large and well-respected Jaafari clan, said Abbas Kadhim, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at UC Berkeley who graduated from Mosul University, where Jaafari studied to become a physician.

Jaafari gained additional links with Shiite politics as one of the top leaders of the Dawa Party, Iraq's first Shiite Islamic political party, which began an uprising in the late 1970s and was crushed by Saddam Hussein's forces in 1982.

Jaafari fled to Iran in 1980 and remained there until 1990, organizing cross-border attacks while studying Shiite theology in the holy city of Qom.

He also has ties to Iraq's most senior Shiite religious leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who endorsed the United Iraqi Alliance in the Jan. 30 Iraqi election. Jaafari's wife -- also a physician -- is a distant relative of al-Sistani.

Despite his wife's profession, Jaafari's stated support for Islamic laws including those controlling the status of women have worried some female Iraqi politicians and political groups.

How many would be acceptable, in your mind?

Ideally ZERO, in reality as few as possible.

Approximately half of what we spent on Vietnam, so far, and a couple of percentage points of casualties, with far more in the way of accomplishment. Interesting that this would register as an utter failure.

We have a yearly trade deficit of approximatly half a trillion dollars with the rest of the world, another half a trillion budget deficit and no likelyhood of it being reduced as long as Bush is in the WH, not to mention a multi trillion dollar debt.

As far as accomplishments go, can you tell me what they are, casue the OIL ain't flowing and we have very likely set up all the elements needed for a nice and bloody little civil war.

Does anyone else find it suspicious that the creation of these irregulars occurred during the period Negroponte has been Ambassador, in light of his history in Central America in the 1980's?

Don Q,
Could I ask you to ratchet it down a bit as well? I would really hate to see you booted out of here. I realize that your passion drives your comments, but frankly, (and I hope this is no insult to Slarti), if you change his opinion (which you would have a much better chance of doing by laying out the facts rather than trying to get digs in at his expense) I don't think it would result in any massive differences in the way things are going. It's only going to be the slow accumulation of factual arguments that will make a difference, drained of personal insult.

ajay:

Please refrain from deliberately conflating 'fighting in cities' and 'using civilians for shields'.

They weren't just fighting in cities; they were also hiding in cities. If you think they weren't using noncombatants as shelter against attack, you haven't been paying attention.

You had already implied that anyone who viewed the current imbroglio as not being a positive outcome was not 'in their right mind'.

I suggest you reread what I wrote. If all is not clear after a second reading, I can put it out in long form.

Don Q:

If you think that being called a Bush apologist is an insult then you must believe that Bush has done something less than honorable.

If you didn't think that was an attack on me, it just baffles me why you'd even give it a mention. Personal attacks are not allowed, period.

Where was that brave airforce fearlessly defending the skies of Iraq, that Navy fighting us ship to ship in the Gulf or those WMDs?. At best we met an underequipped, underfunded military whose sole talent was keeping Saddam in power.

Just because we've got better weapons doesn't mean the other fellow isn't carrying a knife. War is not about meeting at the dueling grounds with sabers.

Ideally ZERO, in reality as few as possible.

How would we know if we were below the "as few as possible" threshold?

We have a yearly trade deficit of approximatly half a trillion dollars with the rest of the world

Non sequitur; we were discussing the war being expensive.

As far as accomplishments go, can you tell me what they are, casue the OIL ain't flowing

You must have me confused with Ted Rall; I never thought it had anything to do with oil to begin with.

GT:

I know there are conservatives that think we won the Vietnam War but that's not reality.

Really? I don't know even one. Still, anecdote != data.

LJ:

Kee-rect! I'm not really that thin-skinned, I just hate to see this degenerate into anything resembling...well, you know those places just as well as I do, and hopefully avoid them. Katherine and hilzoy have presented very well-posed arguments that have swayed the opinions of myself and Sebastian (hate to speak for him, but I'm going on empirical evidence here); this is the kind of thing I have envisioned as a model for ObWi (and I think Moe would agree). Ad hom attacks are usually satisfying for those engaging in them but rarely conducive to change. If you're looking to spleen, this is not the place for it.

Slarti: You must have me confused with Ted Rall; I never thought it had anything to do with oil to begin with.

Really? You think Bush would have invaded Iraq anyway, even if it had no oil at all? I thought you were less naive than that.

They weren't just fighting in cities; they were also hiding in cities.

Try "living in cities". People have to live somewhere. Most people in Iraq do live in cities. Insurgents included.

People have to live somewhere. Most people in Iraq do live in cities. Insurgents included.

Not sure what your point is, here. I mean, even brutal dictators have to live somewhere.

You think Bush would have invaded Iraq anyway, even if it had no oil at all?

Short answer? No. Longer answer? Without oil, Iraq would not have been able to become anything remotely resembling a credible threat.

NK is a bigger threat and has no oil.

Slarti: Not sure what your point is, here.

You're asserting that insurgents are hiding in cities. I'm pointing out that a more accurate description would be that they're in the cities where they live.

It's the same comprehension problem that it appears that Sebastian is suffering from: "I think it is very important that locals turn against the insurgents both by directly fighting them and by reporting them as they move."

Why would locals turn against locals in favor of a hated foreign occupation?

GT: NK is a bigger threat and has no oil.

Yes, but North Korea wasn't defenceless like Iraq: Bush knew it actually does have WMD, and so will never call for an invasion.

Slarti: Short answer? No. Longer answer? Without oil, Iraq would not have been able to become anything remotely resembling a credible threat.

Except that it never was anything remotely resembling a credible threat at the time Bush decided to invade (see comment to GT, above) so what's your point?

You know, there is an interesting point beyond all this talk about Bush and such, and that is whether it is a good thing to develop a military capacity in the way described in the post. Jaffe had an earlier article (Jan 31) that had this:

One of those groups, which called itself the Defenders of Baghdad Brigade, appeared out of nowhere about a month ago, setting up camp around Baghdad's Martyr's Monument, which commemorates Iraq's dead in the Iran-Iraq war. U.S. officials supplied them with rifles, ammunition and body armor. Less than three weeks later they were out on Election Day guarding polling sites.

and

"These groups just started appearing like mushrooms. In the last month they have been appearing so quickly that we can barely keep track of them," Lt. Col. Jim Bullion said. U.S. military officials say they aren't sure what will happen to these groups after the elections. "It's really heartening to see the Iraqis seizing the initiative," Col. Bullion said.

The article has a bit more about Thavit and Mohammed, but two things bother me. One is the alacrity (3 weeks?) with which they were embraced and the next is that ability to supply body armour and munitions when I thought our troops were suffering a shortage.

If we luck out and these guys are worthy of US trust, great. But please remember, hope is not a plan.

I'm going to focus on the question of whether or not Iraq was defensiveless. I think it was perceived as defenseless by the Bush administration and that was a big motivator for the invasion. They thought it would be easy, a "cakewalk", six month commitment, max. I also think that they exaggerated the credibility of the sources of information on WMD while also assuming that those weapons would not be a significant factor in the invasion. They also assumed (correctly) that Saddam's army would be easy to subdue.
No country is completely helpless. It seems to me that the Bush administration was assuming that Iraq would be nearly helpless.
It turns out that Iraq was not helpless in the sense that there are many people willing to fight as insurgents or guerrillas or terrorists--however one chooses to characterize them.

I have a question. If there are lots of guys (I am assuming the volunteers are male) out there joining or forming militias, why aren't they being incorporated into the Iraqi Army?
Is it a question of being more loyal to a local leader than to the country itself? is it a recruiting failure on the part of the Iraqi Army? Is it because the Iraqi Army is seen as an America tool and not really Iraqi? Are the militias potentially mutually antagonistic? Do they represent factions? I think the answers to these questions it make a lot of difference in how we assess and respnd to these militias.

Lemme weigh in really quickly on the whole "we are beaten" thing that's coming up in the comments. What exactly do you mean by "beaten?" I'm pretty sure that we'd all agree that the U.S. withdrawing from Iraq in a manner that leaves the Ba'athists/Zarqawi and company back in control of the country would indeed constitute a defeat.

If, OTOH, things begin winding down somewhat (say going from a running average of ten spectacular car bombings a week to one or two) and there's enough of a security apparatus in place to keep applying pressure to the insurgency, then I'd call that a win.

Something in between, OTOH, well, that depends how close to the above-mentioned two options it falls. U.S. Withdraws and the insurgents essentially kill everyone in the government and take over Al Anbar, Ninevah, and Baghdad, yeah, I'd say that's a defeat. If there's still a small scale insurgency but the Iraqi government stays in place and doesn't do things like lose control of major population centers, then I'd say it's mostly a victory.

The key to all of this is to see how the ING units that have been placed in charge of Haifa Street handle themselves. If they aquit themselves fairly well, I'd count things as mostly done.

A large and increasing # of conservatives seem to think we would have won the Vietnam if not for those darned hippies, and in general don't seem to think that there is any war that this country cannot win. If it's not going well, the answer is to bomb a little harder. If we lose in the end, well it's clearly the fault of the anti-war people who sapped our will. It's pretty close to an un-falsifiable theory that more hawkish is always the way to go, and it tends to undermine my trust in their arguments for a specific war.

I was on the verge of losing hope for Iraq before the election. Now--I think a civil war is still probably more likely than not, but it is not inevitable yet and our leaving would make it so. The Iraqi people risked their lives to try to vote into power a democratic government. The Shi'ites have showed surprising good faith and restraint, and the results of the election seem to increase the odds that they and the Kurds reach some accomodation. (That 2/3 requirement was very smart, as was the requirement that women be represented in the new legislature.) They are going to have to take care of their own security eventually, but they need more time, and I think we owe it to them.

I'm not crazy about a lot of the new leaders--Allawi and Chalabi I trust about as far as I could throw them; I know less about other people--and I'm concerned about women's rights, but I think it is premature to conclude that they want to become just like Iran.

One of the reasons I have such a hard time coming up with a clear position on Iraq is that I tend to think that, while there is no obligation to enlist to support a war, you shouldn't support a war in which you would not willingly serve if there was a draft. By "willingly serve" I don't mean you'd have to be psyched about it--I mean that you would not apply for C.O. status, move to Canada, risk going to jail, take student deferments, borderline medical exemptions that a poorer person probably wouldn't get, have a child specifically to get a deferment, that sort of thing.

Since I will not, realistically, be drafted myself, I tend to think about it in terms of my husband. And if there were a draft, I would desperately want him to find a way not to go. I just don't trust his life in Bush's hands, in a war he and I opposed strongly before it started, that was sold so dishonestly, that I am convinced has made the U.S. left safer and may also end up leaving the Iraqi people worse off no matter how hard we fight. I really don't.

And yet, it's also clearly immoral to abandon to Iraqi civilians who risked their lives to Zarqawi's band of murderers and terrorists, if there is any chance at all we have of making the situation better.

So there's no position I can hold with even close to a clear conscience. And my views won't affect U.S. policy even a tiny bit, and there are many other issues where the answers seem clearer and where I have slightly less miniscule chance of changing things, I tend to stick to those.

Andrew, as I mentioned to Slarti above, I outlined my criteria for success in Iraq some time ago: I plan to update them since.

My criteria includes successful reconstruction of Iraq, which seems to have been forgotten about as a goal...

"in a war he and I opposed strongly before it started, that was sold so dishonestly, that I am convinced has made the U.S. left safer"

Katherine, is this a typo? Or is there something going on with the U.S. left we don't know about?

I am all for the Lebanese rising up against the Syrians.

I am for the Iranians that dare to speak out against their despotic theocrats.

I am thrilled that the Iraqis voted in a free election.

I personally know a few people from Poland, Hungary, Croatia, the Czech Republic that are grateful that the US faced down its enemy at that time. Not to mention Ukraine, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Romania, East Germany, etc. Yes, I know Serbia and Kosovo are a mess and Bosnia only a little better.

I know refugees from Cuba who want the country of their birth to be free.

There are those like me that hope for freedom for people across the entire world.

Ronald Reagan was one of those people. George Bush is one of those people.

Sure there are problems, plenty of 'em. North Korea starved 2 million of its citizens to death. Was Bill Clinton responsible for that. I don't think so. Sudan is a mess, but the Sudan Peace Act that Pres Bush pursued gives the people living in the southern part of Sudan a little breathing room. The Congo, Zimbabwe, Myanmar, there is a huge list.

The bad guys have to be fought. It is that simple, and not that simple. I bet the White House has contingecy plans for North Korea. And when and if something happens there, and somebody accuses them of planning it all along, I'd say thank goodness somebody was planning for this. If things go imperfectly as in Iraq, well yes things aren't perfect, lets learn from our mistakes.

But to imagine that all of our country's leaders have evil intentions, to think ill of fellow citizens for supporting their leaders who are fighting for freedom, I just can't see how anyone could come to those conclusions. I trust the basic decency of our elected leaders, no matter how imperfect. It is strange to me how a grown person could not see this, although I remember having such attitudes (against Reagan, no less!) when I was younger.


Actually, Lily, some of that's addressed in the article, but it is unfortunately behind a subscription wall. Here are some of the parts that deal with your questions about loyalty and hint at some points about recruiting

Part of the reason that the unit inspires such allegiance is that all of their recruits are hand-selected by Gen. Thavit and Gen. Mohammed. By contrast, most Iraqis who join the regular Iraqi Army are recruited at a half-dozen joint U.S.-Iraqi-run recruiting stations and lack the cohesive bond and pride that grows out of being handpicked.

"The reason the Commandos are special is that a couple of great leaders at the top have just flat out put their imprint on that organization," says Gen. Petraeus.

Some U.S. military officials, however, worry that the Commandos' allegiance is as much to their leader as it is to the Iraqi government. "If you tried to replace Gen. [Thavit] he'd take his...brigades with him. He is a very powerful figure. You wouldn't get that from other units," says Col. Dean Franklin, a senior officer in Gen. Petraeus's command. "Pound for pound, though, they are the toughest force we've got."

I'm wondering what toughest force means in this context.
and there is this

Then on Jan. 30, the day before the Iraqi elections, Maj. Wales got a tip via his boss, Gen. Petraeus, that a new 2,000-man force calling itself the Second Defenders of Baghdad Brigade had formed somewhere in the city under the command of an Iraqi general named "Faris."

But Maj. Wales's usual American and Iraqi sources had never heard of the unit -- or the general. "There are no generals named Faris in the Iraqi Army," one senior Iraqi general in the Ministry of Defense told him.

-snip-

Maj. Wales made a few more calls to U.S. liaison officers working with the Iraqis and turned up nothing. Finally, he got in touch with Gen. Babakir Zebari, Iraq's top general, who said the brigade had recently moved into tents and a hangar bay at Baghdad's long-abandoned Muthana Airport.

On Feb. 1, Maj. Wales and a small team of American officers set out to find them. After about 15 minutes of searching the airport grounds, they found the brigade. About half of them were in civilian clothes. The other half wore new Iraqi Army uniforms. All of the men seemed to be from one or two Shiite-dominated towns in southern Iraq. Many said they were vetted by Sheik Ali Shalan of the Al Shamer tribe in southern Iraq.

-snip-

A short while later, Maj. Gen. Fouad Faris, the commander of the brigade,drove up in a white SUV. A small round man who trained at Sandhurst, the British military academy, Gen. Faris said there were 1,300 men at the airport under his command and an additional 1,500 on the way. "I am very close to the minister of defense, which is why he chose me for this mission," Gen. Faris said. The Americans later confirmed his account with top Iraqi military officials.

It wasn't clear, however, what the troops were going to do. Initially the brigade was supposed to help guard election polling places, but they arrived in Baghdad two days too late. "I was just yelling at the men for not
arriving here in time for the elections," he explained.

Now the general suggested that his troops might be asked to guard the Green Zone, where the U.S. embassy is based. In the near term, he needed to find someplace better to house the men and set up a brigade headquarters. "This is not a good situation here," he told Maj. Wales. "It is much too crowded."

I'd love to be optimistic, but this has all the signs (not being able to find anyone in charge, the new Army uniforms) of a huge mess waiting to happen.

Jay C--not only a typo, a compound typo. It was supposed to be "less safe".

Mmf. It seems to me that if you want to start up a death squad, this is how you do it. Arm an ethnically/religiously homogeneous group that's mostly loyal to its own leaders; if they happen to, say, burn a few villages belonging to an opposing group, well, oopsie. Just as effective whether it's unintentional or deliberate/

A large and increasing # of conservatives seem to think we would have won the Vietnam if not for those darned hippies

If this was in response to my response to GT, Katherine, that's not what GT was claiming. It may have been what he meant, but my mind-reading skills are not what you'd call well-developed.

I'm just now checking in, and I will leave aside the fights and also the question about "winning" (it seems to me more informative not to try to force things into categories like won/lost, but just to look at the facts, good and bad, and whether we did all we could reasonably have been expected to do to bring about the best outcome, and also what dangers remain).

That being said: nothing in the article makes me particularly worried that these are death squads or anything. And there are obvious advantages to having Iraqis do this themselves: for one thing, they presumably know one another, and have better sources of information, than we do; for another, it's very heartening that they are taking responsibility for their country.

But, but, but, the problem is their being outside the regular command structure. We are talking about a country that is still at serious risk of civil war. In this country, militias formed (apparently) largely on the basis of religious/ethnic and clan loyalty are being created, armed, and funded. Even supposing no malign intent on anyone's part, it is absolutely normal for e.g. one group to see what everyone else regards as a fair compromise in which that group, alas, has to sacrifice something as involving a completely unfair imposition on them, and so on and so forth. It makes things much, much worse if the groups that might feel this way have their own militias, and if they have been given to understand that using these militias as they see fit is OK and legitimate. At the moment, their ideas about what's OK and legitimate align with ours. But that may not always be the case.

What particularly worries me about this is that if various militias do begin to act on behalf of one group, rather than on behalf of the nation, and it becomes necessary for the Iraqi government to rein them in, the Iraqi government will need to have some credible military force of its own with which to do so. At the moment, it doesn't. It could develop one over time, or it could use the armies of other groups; but in that case it would acquire debts to those groups that might compromise its freedom of action.

All a way of saying: in some ways this is a good thing, but it's also very dangerous. It would be much better if we didn't have to court these dangers. Unfortunately, it seems that we do.

Oh, and Slarti: "that have swayed the opinions of myself..." -- interesting. Sometimes I wonder whether I ever do; luckily, I think that the value of civil discourse alone would make it all worthwhile, without regard to convincing anyone, but still, it's nice to know. Thanks.

Jesurgislac says:

"It would appear that it's impossible for some people to learn from their mistakes."

It would appear this person is talking to themselves.


"My primary value with regard to Iraq is the establishment of an independent, stable democracy."

I guess one would have to argue that the election was irrelevant. That working to rebuild their military is irrelevant. One has to deny alot of facts to reach the conclusion Iraq is not heading towards being an independant, stable democracy.

"Secondary: to work for peace in the Middle East, which I believe a stable democracy can only assist with."

Hmm... see Libya, the Syrians feeling the heat to withdraw from Lebanon. The Israeli's pulling out of Gaza. Movement towards creating a state in Palestine. I guess Iraq also played no role in that.

"Stable democracy. I would announce - and make clear that my country would not back down on this - that the occupation of Iraq would not come to an end until there had been a minimum of two elections, with safe transfer of power between governments at the second election."

One election down.

Oh, this is too tiresome I just can't go on. It seems like all the goals that Jesurgislac wishes for are being achieved. To point out anymore is just more likely to give me carpal tunnel, but no enlightenment for Jesurgislac .

Most emphatically, hilzoy. I'd say so much more often, but I don't want to come across as fawning all over you. Really, you and Katherine both have my utmost respect and admiration. And I mean that in the most un-toady-esque way imaginable.

And yes, civil discourse has its own appeal regardless of outcome, just as Doing The Right Thing occasionally not only fails to reward but actually can come with penalties.

westone: To point out anymore is just more likely to give me carpal tunnel, but no enlightenment for Jesurgislac .

Can I suggest that your time would be more productively spent trying to convince others of your position instead of merely gunning after Jes?

Slart: likewise. I never say this often enough, largely for the same reasons.

Hmmph, hot thread.

Seb, to get back to the original point of your post, why are these groups you talk of not a sign of the commencement of the long-antipated civil war? And if you think not, what would be reasonable sign of the start of a civil war?

How about this for a definition of success in Iraq? We will have won if the lives of the Iraqi people have improved so substantially and long term, that it can reasonably be said to outweigh the cost of 100,000 Iraqi lives, 1000+ American lives, substantially more Iraqi and American injuries, and however many billion dollars we end up spending over there.

This still leaves quite a bit of room for argument, depending on how much you value those lives, but it allows me to establish some goalposts. Iraq as a peaceful and stable democracy would count as a win. Having an election does not qualify as having a peaceful and stable democracy - especially when a significant segment of the population is afraid to even come out and vote. Iraq as a repressive Iran-style theocracy would count as a loss, even if they do have elections. The gain (if any) compared to Saddam's regime would not be worth the cost listed above. An Iraq embroiled in civil war would count as a loss. An Iraq with the same long-term ongoing level of insurgency as we have now would count as a loss, even if democratic institutions make progress.

I'm not suggesting that Iraq needs to have a perfectly free, perfectly peacful, ideal democracy for us to declare success. There will doubtless be flaws even in the best-case scenario. I am saying that it's not sufficient to point at a final outcome and say "it's better than Saddam's regime, therefore we win." The outcome has to be so far improved from what it was, that you can with a good conscience face the families of those 100,000+ dead and wounded and say "it was worth it." I don't think such an outcome is impossible yet, but I'm certainly not calling it likely either.

Note - success or failure does not necessarily mean that the war was morally right or wrong. If we succeed, but we could have achieved the same level of improvement through a different course of action that cost less death and suffering, then the war was still the wrong choice. Contrariwise, if we fail, but there was good reason to believe that it was the only course which would cause more good than harm, the decision to go to war can be defended.

Back to the original point of the post - I find the formation of the irregular troops worrying. As others have mentioned, this sounds likely to lead either to a) private armies serving different factions, b) quasi-govermental "death squads", or both.

westone - "One has to deny alot of facts to reach the conclusion Iraq is not heading towards being an independant, stable democracy."

"One election down. ... It seems like all the goals that Jesurgislac wishes for are being achieved."

I won't presume to speak for Jesurgislac, but I might point out the difference between taking a necessary step towards a goal, and achieving or even being likely to achieve said goal. The Iraqi election was an important step, but the roughly 20% Sunni portions of the country didn't participate. Probably many of them would have, if they hadn't been afraid to go to the polls. Of those who did vote, most had no idea who exactly they were voting for, due to lack of available information about the slates of candidates.

Of course, as flawed as the election was, it was an important step. It's possible to be optimistic that it will lead to ongoing progress and a successful democracy. It's not at all accurate to offer it as proof that Iraq has a stable democracy, or that it is obviously just on the verge of one.

To me, formation of irregular militias sounds a lot like something that Juan Cole has been worried about for at least the last year, that Iraq would become what Lebanon was in the eighties.

For all the talk about goalposts and conditions for success in Iraq, I think it's a moot debating point, as these condition always change over the long haul, and I-told-you-so's aren't really worth it over a period of years. I also think that no matter what the outcome in Iraq, the original intent of the invasion - to serve notice to the world and to the UN that some new rules were in play -- has been largely a success, as far as the original architects are concerned. No matter what happens now to the Iraqi people, it's irrelevant. It will be spun in a positive direction by the supporters of the invasion, and in a negative way by those who opposed it.

The more important issue at hand is what happens to international relations and alliances over the next decade as a result of the message that has been sent and received. There are a lot of nuclear-armed nations suddenly in free play, and we've gone from a fairly stable international situation to a dangerously unstable one in just a few years. And as someone who grew up with the risk of nuclear missile and with regular tests of civil air raid sirens, I was looking forward to my kids growing up without that kind of fear. Wishful thinking, as it turned out.

"Seb, to get back to the original point of your post, why are these groups you talk of not a sign of the commencement of the long-antipated civil war? And if you think not, what would be reasonable sign of the start of a civil war?"

I'm not sure what distinction you are trying to make. Insurgents have been fighting the Iraqi government for almost 2 years. Either that is or is not civil war, these groups don't change it so long as they are fighting for the government. If they aren't, which is the question I raise, then we have a multi-faction civil war.

I'm going to try to synthesize some very desparate posts. Upthread Dave C laid outthe basis for his support for a series of Republican administration: the promotion of democracy around the world. i am not going to argue with him about whether this promotion happened because of or in spite of Republican leadership; I just want to note that the promotion of freedom is a goal common to us all. It is our common ground in the foreign policy areana. Since it is a goal of such emotional resonance the disagreements about policy get very passionate. My contempt for Reagan for example is based o my shame and embarassment over the death squads and assacinations for which we are responsible.. And I will never forgive Nixon for shaming us by helping to impose a dictator on the people of Chile. My point is that we, the citizens, share the same goals. The disagreement is over policy.
Dave has faith in this administation. I do not. partly that's policy. I am resistant to investing too much faith in any politician. This particular politician has, I believed betrayed the good faith and good ideals of people like Dave.
Now are discussing the definition of success in Iraq. To Dave (I think-correct me if I am wrong) success is some kind of democracy, maybe not perfect but perfectable over time. Part of the advance of freedom to which all Americans are committed. I would be happy with this outcome, too. But I don't believe it ever was the goal of the Bush administration. Instead I believe Bush wanted to remake Iraq in the American image and implant a pro-American government. The problem with this extraordinarily naive and arrogant goal is that it completely ignores one of the deepest human instincts: nationalism. We have to get out of Iraq soon. Otherwise our stated goal of spreading freedom will be seen as nothing but a cover for spreading our power and control, which contributes to the instability to which double plusgood refers. This dilemna will grow particularly acute if the new Iraqi government writes conservative religious values into law.
But what to do? As Katherine points out, we have an obligation now.
Things might work out. I have some optimism. But mostly I think Bush, in his megalomania, has created a situation wherein the stated goal, democracy, can't be reached by us because efforts to restore order are seen as threats to nationalism. In other words, we can't be the ones to define success. The Iraqis have to do that and we will have to accept their decision even if it means a government most of us don't like.

Seb: I'm not sure what distinction you are trying to make. Insurgents have been fighting the Iraqi government for almost 2 years. Either that is or is not civil war, these groups don't change it so long as they are fighting for the government. If they aren't, which is the question I raise, then we have a multi-faction civil war.

Well, I suppose that we could use the term "civil war" to describe the insurgency, but I've been using the term "insurection" simply because both sides haven't been fighting house to house with artillery support.

As far as "fighting for the government", if these groups are irregulars, then they'll likely have less allegiance to the government should political circumstances change. And it's one thing when insurgencies fight government forces, it's all business after all. It's quite another thing when you're fighting with the Shia across town. Then it gets personal, and you have to untangle a lot of grudges before it ends. And that's part of what messed up Lebanon for so long.

Hell, even I as a wee Scottish lad on my mum's knee was told "Never, ever trust the English. But trust the English before you trust a Campbell." And that was because of this kind of use of irregulars over two hundred and fifty years ago.

And oops, I see that was part of the intent of your post. Profound apologies for not reading it carefully, Sebastian.

On the whole "what would make it worthwhile?" question, I thought I'd put in a plug for the selfish cynical view. Which is, indeed, selfish and cynical, but gets a lot fewer people killed than grandstanding messianic interventionism.

The promotion of democracy in Iraq or anywhere else, in and of itself, is not and cannot be worth the life of a single American soldier. If a military has any legitimate purpose at all, it is the defense of the citizens of its own country, those who bankroll and staff it. The notion that one *can* uplift the world's benighted peoples by killing a bunch of them in the hope that it will save more in the long term is morally problematic at best; the notion that one *should* do so with taxpayers' money is bankrupt.

The Iraq war had, in retrospect, nothing at all to do with the defense of the United States: it was an act of unprovoked aggression against a nation that did not threaten us, justified by lies and distortions about the possibility of future threats. The Trotskyist idea that we must spread democracy to the rest of the world by force in order to be safe ourselves is falsified by the example of Switzerland, which has stayed neutral, free and democratic over the centuries as tyrannies have come and gone all around it.

Therefore there is *nothing* which could now happen, short of a surprise discovery of a suitcase nuke in Baghdad with documentation proving that Saddam was about to have it smuggled into NYC, which would make the war worthwhile.

But trust the English before you trust a Campbell.

Or a Bruce, for that matter.

William Wallace was a Norman terrorist...

"The Trotskyist idea that we must spread democracy to the rest of the world by force in order to be safe ourselves is falsified by the example of Switzerland, which has stayed neutral, free and democratic over the centuries as tyrannies have come and gone all around it."

I'll agree that the idea is problematic without agreeing that Switzerland is a good counterexample. If Hitler had taken the rest of Europe would Switzerland have survived? I seriously doubt it. If Stalin had taken the rest of Europe would Switzerland have survived as a democratic country? I seriously doubt it. Switzerland is in the great position of strategically being the last place you would bother with when taking over Europe. It is very defensible and not a great staging area for other attacks. That is great for them, but a poor lesson for anyone not so luckey.

We're okay with the Bruces, that was just the magic of Hollywood, it didn't actually happen.

William Wallace was a Norman terrorist...

Wallace wasn't Norman. Anti-Norman, maybe...

Or a Bruce, for that matter.

G'day, Bruce!


Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiimmanuel Kant was a real pissant
Who was very rarely stable...

"Wallace" the surname derives from Anglo-Norman French, "le waleis". Means a foreigner or a stranger. Actually, his family were probably from Brittany rather than Normandy proper. But I'm sorry, this is not relevant, and I've already been accused of threadjacking once today.

Actually, what I had in mind for Bruce (or Brus) untrustworthiness was his theft of the Scottish crown (effected by murdering Comyn). His betrayal of Wallace is, as far as I can tell, typical Hollywood shortcutting that makes him a betrayer in the context of the movie without having to actually extend the movie past Wallace's death to capture Comyn's murder.

My mother tells me that we're related to Wallace, but she's never been able to produce anything like documentation (other than the name "Wallace" crops up way back in the root-hairs of the family tree). This too is fertile ground for conspiracy-theory speculation: did Bruce kill Comyn by accident, by intention, or as a ritual desecration of the altar at Greyfriar's?

How are ya, Bruce?

Wallensis, in Latin, means a Briton of Strathclyde

The Wallaces had in (apparently) what's now Glasgow for centuries prior to William. To call him a Norman is a little problematic, then. Might as well call me French.

With this, I excuse myself from this threadjack.

"Wallace" the surname derives from Anglo-Norman French, "le waleis". Means a foreigner or a stranger.

I thought his last name was derived from "Welsh"? Besides, my surname derives from "Moorish", but I doubt that there's much in the way of Moorish bloodlines there.

My mother tells me that we're related to Wallace, but she's never been able to produce anything like documentation (other than the name "Wallace" crops up way back in the root-hairs of the family tree).

Everyone in Scotland is descended from William Wallace, just as eberyone is also descended from Prince Charles the Pretender.

But it's not individual treasonous behavior that concerns this topic. The real issue is those treasonous Campbells.

Oh, wait, that wasn't it. What were we talking about?

"Wallace" the surname derives from Anglo-Norman French, "le waleis". Means a foreigner or a stranger.

I thought his last name was derived from "Welsh"?

Same root, "Wales" also. See here.

Mmm, that's some gooood threadjack.

Sebastian: yes, Switzerland has strategic positioning advantages, and not every country is so lucky. But *we are*. The US is essentially uninvadable and has had no natural enemies since 1815.

And neither we nor the Swiss would have had to worry about Hitler or Stalin had it not been for Wilson's "make the world safe for democracy" nonsense.

"And neither we nor the Swiss would have had to worry about Hitler or Stalin had it not been for Wilson's "make the world safe for democracy" nonsense."

I actually think we had far less to worry about in the short term than the Swiss. But in the long term Hitler or Stalin would have been quite dangerous.

No one in the world is in the position that Switzerland was in during WWII. No one is safe if terrorist sympathies are allowed to fester.

But *we are*. The US is essentially uninvadable and has had no natural enemies since 1815.

Ahem? Right here? Just over your northern border, feigning sleepy good-neighbour Flanders to your yelling and shouting Homer. Waiting for the day when you drop your guard and we can sweep south like a snowstorm from hell, lock up your handguns, legalize your dope, and ram socialized healthcare and decent beer down your throats.

Until that day, we wait, silent as a moonlit snowscape, pondering your shameful behaviour in the war of 1812, and plotting our vengence.

DaveC: But to imagine that all of our country's leaders have evil intentions...

I must protest. The assumption that all of our country's leaders have evil intentions (for some definition of evil) is one of the premises on which the US system of government was founded. Shorthand for this concept is separation of powers. Without the assumption that power corrupts etc etc there is no justification for the elaborate separation of powers that exist, and little reason to emphasize freedom of speech and press.

Furthermore, the loudly proclaimed and oft-repeated assumption that Democrats have evil intentions (for some definition of evil) has a widespread, well established and current provenance within the GOP, including many members who are publicly endorsed and embraced by the party per se. Viz. Limbaugh, Coulter, and Powerline. Motes, beams etc.

You also seem to be assuming, rather rashly IMHO, that the very same leaders who rammed through the PATRIOT act, permitted Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, sponsored the Bybee memo, and evict citizens from their public events for carrying or wearing signage which is politely critical, are somehow "fighting for freedom" somewhere else. For myself, I still have a few of my critical faculties and some small familiarity with sociopathic behavior, and I see no reason to trust leaders whose rhetoric is so transparently at odds with their action.

People like yourself, who get all perplexed about other peoples' inability to trust the basic decency of our elected leaders, are exactly who the founders were trying to protect from their own sweet nature. You can trust whomever you want, but many of us prefer to stick with tradition and verify instead.

p.s. I used to date a Campbell (not named Campbell though) and she definitely couldn't be trusted. She even tried to push me down a flight of stairs once. ;-)

You must have me confused with Ted Rall; I never thought it had anything to do with oil to begin with.

There are none so blind and those who refuse to see.

Non sequitur; we were discussing the war being expensive.

We have spent 200 billion on a war that was suppose to pay for it self. how many more billions must we throw away on a fantasy?

++ungood, my Grandmother was Canadian, so for me, could you limit your punishment to legalizing my dope? (The decent beer and the snowstorms from hell, we already get, here in NY.)

And it was my Canadian cousins who first persuaded my that my history classes might have had some, um, spin to them, specifically about the War of 1812.

Actually I'm more worried about drunk drivers than terrorists. The danger from terrorists is greatly overblown. Yes i know how many people died in 911; about as many as died in the Chilean coup that put Pinochet in power, considerably less than the death squad death toll in Gauatemala. I AM NOT saying the victims deserved it. I went to high school with one of the victims. She was on one of the floors above the crash and she did not deserve to die. But there is a huge streak of selfindulgence in our continued fear-the-terrorists-they killed-our -people schitck. Many many countries have suffered far more than us and didn't use their suffering as an excuse for invading a country that inflicted no harm on them. Drunk drivers are more of a menance to you and me than terrorists. (This rant is in response to Sebstian upthread in case your're wondering).
The real terror threat is leaked nuclear materials or biological weapons. Thst's an issue best addressed through a combination of international law enforcement, intelligence, pressure on leaky countries and defense at our borders here. The Iraq war was not helpful against this real threat.


The real terror threat is leaked nuclear materials or biological weapons. Thst's an issue best addressed through a combination of international law enforcement, intelligence, pressure on leaky countries and defense at our borders here. The Iraq war was not helpful against this real threat.

That's because the purpose of the Iraqi war was to get access & control over the Iraqi OIL fields, build military bases to protect said oil and to use this military to bully the neighboring countries into giving their oil on our terms, and if in the process we helped Israel so much the better.

Unfortunatly for Shrub and fortunatly for the world this Bush endeavour has turned out like all the other Bush endeavours. The man does have the Negative Midas touch.

radish brings up a good point, and reminds me of something that I've been pondering lo these many months.

It seems to me that we who are old enough to have participated in, or directly remember, the span of rapid change from the 1960s-1970s, experienced an anomalous era. Social and political ferment are eternal; but during that era, the established power structure was more or less continuously engaged in listening to and responding to demands for change by... well, by acceding to the changes, by and large. From LJB throwing his weight behind civil rights; to Nixon, of all people, creating the EPA; to the Church Committee investigating and reforming the CIA. That's not how it usually works, esp. once political incorporation had filled the continental US from sea to shining sea.

Before 1900 (roughly speaking) people with grievances didn't have to get the government's attention to address whatever grieved them. If they were sufficiently motivated, society's discontents could leave the major urban centers and set up their versions of Utopia elsewhere, in the semi-autonomous and sparsely settled Territories.

But after the frontier was gone and the Wild West tamed, that was no longer an option. People needed the government to pay attention to social issues, and the government wasn't any too keen on the idea (not least because the government had already allied itself with the mercantile-industrialists, who were hardly amenable to social change). Government response to uprisings was brutal or allowed brutality (attacks on suffragettes, labor organizers, and even WWI vets; not to mention the horrors of the South). Nobody on the front lines of change, so far as I know, expected anything more: they *assumed* the government was an enemy, not an ally.

I think that's one of the reasons FDR awakened so much rage: he took the need for social change seriously, and he upended a lot of applecarts. When his opponents called him a "traitor to his class," they might not have been referring only to his patrician background; they might also have been amazed, and appalled, and furious that he was even taking things like labor and poverty seriously as issues the government had a duty to do something about.

By the time the 60's rolled around, I think what we had what was the first generation to reach adulthood that assumed, as a matter of faith, that government had a duty to "do right" by its citizens. After all, they'd been raised by families who directly benefitted from the government via the GI Bill; the government was anything but a distant and disinterested entity. When they saw how wide the gap was between what they were taught to believe about America and how the government actually reacted to social problems and crises, they didn't jump on the Conastogas and head west; they organized and demanded government action. And since an increasing number of the people in power had the same post-war formative influences as the protestors, they also took it as a given that govenment should be listening to, and addressing, those issues.

I think it may also have been fueled by novelty, with mass communication enabling people to see, live on TV, exactly what was going on in parts of the country that had previously been hidden. And to see what collective action looked like, also live on TV.

So, between the novelty of mass communication, and an immediate legacy-generation of people who considered progressivism a legitimate use of taxpayer dollars, I think the 60s-70s were an anomaly. I think what we've got now - embedded interests working to solidify and perpetuate their privileges; and a mostly-oblivious, mostly-ill informed populace - is more the norm.

Sorry! That turned out to be totally OT.

So, is OIL an acronym, or are the capital letters just supposed to be emphatic, or scary, or what?

So, is OIL an acronym, or are the capital letters just supposed to be emphatic, or scary, or what?

All three.

There are none so blind and those who refuse to see.

Cliche is no substitute for a decent argument, Don Q.

That's because the purpose of the Iraqi war was to get access & control over the Iraqi OIL fields

How convenient: the war was indeed actually about oil, but so ineptly executed that even circumstantial evidence cannot be had. Well, you've won me over, me foine bucko.

Wonder if it'll look any different tomorrow, after I've sobered up a bit? In the meantime, make at least a token attempt at substantiating your claim.

ok, after a good long pout i'm back.

the tensions between unification and dissolution remain very powerful and unresolved. Kurds vs. Sunni vs. Shia may have to be a full-out civil war before they can decide for themselves how they wish to govern themselves.

since it'd be nice, for us as occupying power, to give the forces of unification their best shot, i think the encouragement of household forces is a terrible idea. When the chips are down, where will their loyalty lie?

on winning: we successfully removed from power what some people apparently honestly believed was a grave threat to US security. WHile a lot of people don't fit in that category, the president is one. (note the use of the word "apparently".) So, by his definition, we "won".

whohoo. i'd be a lot more enthusiastic if he weren't (to me) so self-delusional. so now what? how do we keep winning? or, more to the point, how do we grasp victory from what really seems to be the jaws of defeat?

mostly, get lucky. that is, we have no other choice than to hope that the constitutional convention can come up with a constitution that includes a power-sharing agreement that is acceptable to the Kurds and that is minimally fair to women.

on a different point: i am no longer surprised the degree to which fear mongering works on americans. the differences between americans' perception of risk vs. the actual risk is just staggering. while both parties are guilty of this (and many special interest groups as well), right now the republicans are doing a tremendous job of spending inordinate sums of money on the wrong thing.

Francis

p.s. I'm afraid I cannot as yet let go the issue of blog manners. This statement -- "her burning single minded, unyielding manic hatred for all things Bush. She's not dragging this blog left, only down" -- is not grossly inappropriate, but one more in a long line of repeat behavior. I excused myself from posting for a day or two to cool down, only to see this behavior left unpunished.

While I understand the reluctance to ban, I strongly urge the Editors to delete or disemvowel such posts if we are going to keep any shreds of comity here.

He was warned, fdl. I think he might not be back, but my tolerance has diminished quite a bit. Still, the conference amongst the ObWi godhead on the topic of banning him has not yet occurred, and it's best not to get too insistent with the powers that be. I have, it must be said, gently corrected one person from either side of the political fence today, and I...I just don't like having to do with it.

Plus, I haven't figured out how to pull the trigger yet. Which, you know, presents some obstacles to prompt service.

Tragedy tomorrow, comity tonight.

Hey Francis
I don't mean to be snarky to slarti, but I want to acknowledge that he has taken on board the discussion and stepped it up by calling someone out by name. If rules are not applied in a step by step manner, they have a tendency of hurting more than helping.

As for deleting such posts, if the person in question then returns and does something that appears, to the unintiated reader, as a very mild retort and gets thrown out, we have to spend a hugh amount of time telling newbies about the history, blah, blah blah. People get angry, accusations fly about being an echo chamber blog that doesn't tolerate dissent. Then people go back and find these snippets of arguments and recycle them.

Disemvowelling does offer an alternative, but in the blogs that I've seen it used, sometimes seems to act as a goad, with the person in question seeing how much they can get away with. Far better to let the record be available and have discussion about what was said and what was meant.

And anyone who makes the pun that Slarti did in the last line deserves all the slack that can be rendered to a mod.

Slart:

How convenient: the war was indeed actually about oil, but so ineptly executed that even circumstantial evidence cannot be had. Well, you've won me over, me foine bucko.

Remarkable, isn't it? Even worse than Arbusto. And to think that you voted for these guys all over again.

Re evidence, just because you haven't been paying attention to what has and hasn't been secured and rebuilt since Baghdad fell doesn't mean you can't do a little research now. Plus if I were anything remotely resembling a Republican I'd be embarassed to use either of the words "circumstantial" and " evidence" in a conversation about Iraq, let alone string them together one after the other...

I'm just sayin'.


WMDs only 'bureaucratic reason' for war: Wolfowitz


May 29 2003
Los Angeles: The US decision to stress the threat posed by Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction above all others was taken for "bureaucratic" reasons to justify the war, Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz was quoted as saying in remarks released today.

Wolfowitz, seen as one of the most hawkish figures in the Bush administration's policy on Iraq, said President Saddam Hussein's alleged cache of chemical, biological and possibly nuclear weapons was merely one of several reasons behind the decision to go to war.

From the horse's mouth WMDs was just a convenient lie.

Oil ministry an untouched building in ravaged Baghdad

April 16 2003, 4:26 PM Since US forces rolled into central Baghdad a week ago, one of the sole public buildings untouched by looters has been Iraq's massive oil ministry, which is under round-the-clock surveillance by troops.

The imposing building in the Al-Mustarisiya quarter is guarded by around 50 US tanks which block every entrance, while sharpshooters are positioned on the roof and in the windows.

So the OIL ministry was worthy of security but the rest of the city was not...


www.eia.doe.gov - Iraq Country Analysis Brief

According to the Oil and Gas Journal, Iraq contains 115 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, the third largest in the world (behind Saudi Arabia and Canada), concentrated overwhelmingly (80% or so) in southern Iraq. Estimates of Iraq's oil reserves and resources vary widely, however, given that only about 10% of the country has been explored.

115 Billion barrels of Oil at $50 a barrel, well you do the math but don't tell me it's not about OIL.

Democracy? you must be joking. I could make a list of all the dictatures we are backing and have backed and all the democratically elected goverments the US has overthrown in the 50 years, but I'd be here all night.

115 Billion barrels of Oil at $50 a barrel, well you do the math but don't tell me it's not about OIL.

Given that there is in fact no arrangement by which Iraq has to sell us any oil at all, it's extremely unclear how it would all be about oil. The oil argument, in my opinion, has never been laid out with any coherency. If we're trying to corner the world's second-largest (by some estimates) oil supply for our own private use, we'd be effectively removing cartel pricing and the net effect is that it would bring world oil prices down, which means that the profits of the purported Bush oil cronies would drop. Certainly our efforts over there have not served to bring oil prices down, so maybe the cheap-oil argument isn't working out. In any case, the cheap and abundant oil argument doesn't make any sense.

If on the other hand we're attempting to drive oil prices up by destabilizing the region and making the supply unreliable, the last thing in the world we'd want to do is be taking pains to guard the supplies, the pipelines, and the ministries.

Maybe there's a third (and fourth, etc) choice; I don't know. What I do know is that I've laid out two more explanations what we might be up to in Iraq vis a vis oil, than you have. Insistence that it's all about oil doesn't equate to a compelling argument, even if you've wished really hard that it does.

Re evidence, just because you haven't been paying attention to what has and hasn't been secured and rebuilt since Baghdad fell doesn't mean you can't do a little research now.

Just because you've been predisposed to interpret things a certain way doesn't mean you don't have to evidence your assertions. It does, however, seem to mean that you won't. Some of us just can't defocus enough to see the hologram in those random dot stereograms; perhaps you'd do me the service of describing exactly what you see.

Re: the oil. The US was the primary recipient of Iraq's oil exports before the invasion. Hussein was happy to seel it to whoever would buy it. The US already had the oil.

Now, a strong military presence in a US client state in a oil-rich region, that might be another thing. But Turkey, Jordan, Israel, Egypt, the Gulf States, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan are all US allies as well. But one that would accept military bases, and was miltarily weak, that's another thing. And serving the world notice that the US would no longer accept international limits on its foreign policy (US to UN: Get Stuffed) was just gravy. That message has been waiting to be delivered by the Neocons for at least a decade.

Sebastian, you might like to read Make Iraq Our New Strategic Oil Reserve, an op-ed written by John Herrington (Secretary of Energy in the Reagan administration), published March 23, 2003 in the Los Angeles Times (I read it at that time; the link is to a saved copy; you have to pay to get it from the LA Times).

The demand for oil is certain to rise as China's economy continues to grow.

Oops, I wrote "Sebastian" but I see I meant Slartibartfast.

double-plus-ungood, you will really appreciate the last paragraph in that op-ed:

If Pakistan can be appointed by Hans Blix to head the nonproliferation effort at the International Atomic Energy Agency, and Libya can chair the human rights commission at the U.N., pigs can fly. Americans can also take off their "kick me" sign, as then-U.N. Ambassador Jeane J. Kirkpatrick told us to do in 1984. Take Iraq out of OPEC.

double-plus-ungood, you will really appreciate the last paragraph in that op-ed:

Yeah, sounds about right. At the risk of sounding like a blog pimp, I just posted an opinion on my own blog about the consequences of abandoning the UN.

Some of us just can't defocus enough to see the hologram in those random dot stereograms; perhaps you'd do me the service of describing exactly what you see.

Sorry, but no. Defending a one-dimensional soundbite as though it were a thesis doesn't appeal to me, and neither (at this time) does writing a thesis to defend. If you're genuinely interested in whether oil was the core reason for the invasion of Iraq there are plenty of resources enumerating and discussing the evidence from various angles, all freely available on the internets.

Yes, I've seen a great deal of speculation to that effect, radish, but I tend to place a rather low weight on speculation. YMMV, though.

Slarti, two things:

1. I very much appreciate the way you handled Blogbudsman's comment about me: I think that was just right. You've got exactly the right touch as a blogmod, IMO.

2. I see that all the evidence that the invasion of Iraq was "all about the oil" is to be reduced to "speculation" - just as you have consistently dismissed all evidence presented that Bush stole the Florida election in 2000. As DonQ pointed out, there's none so blind as those that will not see.

Not to revive the threadjack thread, Jesurgislac, but I've repeatedly invited you to present any evidence whatever that Bush stole the 2000 election, and you've repeatedly neglected to do so. So I'm going to go this route: if you're going to continue to make this claim, please assemble your evidence on your livejournal and I'll take a look at it.

If you're going to use the opinion of punditry as evidence, though, rest assured that I've got refutation in kind. Please don't go that route.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad