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June 21, 2006

Comments

"This book augments the portrait of Mr. Bush as an incurious and curiously uninformed executive"

Sounds like the Enron defense.

Note that while Suskind calls this 'plausible deniability', it's quite different from what people usually mean when they use that phrase.

Let me guess: Criminally negligent? Reckless indifference?

srv: it may be a defense in the criminal law, but it's no defense at all to the charge of having failed to take your job with even the barest minimum of seriousness.

I wrote in my original post about the Frontline documentary on Cheney (which includes footage of Suskind talking about One Percent Doctrine); wrote a brief update about seeing it last night; there's now lots of material here, so I recommend perusal, as well as viewing of the documentary. (Anyone going to guess how long we have until Malkin and co. denounce it as propaganda? -- she may have already -- I don't care to bother to check.)

Sounds like the Enron defense

it is the Enron defense. that's how Lay and Skilling tried to defend themselves: "Oh, we didn't know nothin about any bad accounting - that was all the work of a few bad apples over there."

what else would you expect, from the CEO President?

One "JeffL" commenting at Balkin's blog raises some queries about the Zubaydah bit, which I pass along for those more knowledgeable than I:

I think in assessing Suskind's accusations, we need to consider some facts.

1) Jordan sentenced Zubaydah to death, because they believed he played a role in the millenium bombings.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5384560

This doesn't mean that he did, but we have to ask why Jordan believes otherwise

2) The 9/11 commission report says that Zubaydah was far more involved than Suskind reports.

http://www.9-11commission.gov/report/911Report_Ch6.htm

Again, doesn't prove anything. There are obvious flaws to the commission, but it's something to take into account

3) And I think most importantly, a terrorist we captured in 2001 said that Abu Zubaydah was in charge of recruiting, which is far more than just "minor logistics"

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/03/30/attack/main505014.shtml

Ahmed Ressam, convicted April 2001 of smuggling, terrorist conspiracy and other charges in the Los Angeles millennium plot, described Abu Zubaydah's role as a recruiter during court testimony.

"He is the person in charge of the camps. He receives young men from all countries. He accepts you or rejects you. And he takes care of the expenses for the camps. He makes arrangements for you when you travel coming in or leaving," Ressam said.

Prospective recruits in Pakistan would meet Abu Zubaydah, who would assign them to camps. When they finished training, he placed them in cells overseas.

These are all things that make me question Suskind's accusations. Though none of them outright disprove it. I think people need to hold off on making categorical accusations about this until it's further investigated. Suskind is a respected reporter, who has earned the trust people give his reporting. This doesn't mean that he's infallible though, or prone to having his reporting or analysis being affected by his biases, which we all are susceptible to. And let's not forget his sources may have their own agenda.

Furthermore, even if the CIA did believe that Zubaydah was only involved in "minor logistics" we have to ask whether the administration had any good reason to believe otherwise. The CIA afterall is not infallible.

No one had any reply at Balkin's, but experience suggests that will not be the case at ObWi.

"And yet, oddly, we let the surrogates handle it, and bin Laden escaped. Gosh: how could that have happened?"

Cuz, golly, nobody could have envisioned the levees being breached. And, gee, nobody could have envisioned people flying airplanes into buildings. Gosh and after all...

This is not, for that matter, the way a country with minimal standards of decency behaves.

Nor is operating a facility like Guantanamo, nor sending people to countries known to use torture in order to gain the benefits of the torture without inflicting it, nor nor nor ...

And it's also not the way a country that actually cares about preventing terrorist attacks behaves.

Nor is regularly and grossly underfunding port security and cargo screening, nor publicly saying "bring it on" to terrorists and their sponsors, nor nor nor ...

But I don't think there's any mystery about what the principal motivations of this government are.

Color me shocked, shocked, etc.

If, in the runup to the war, the President didn't bother to read the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, then -- well, I just don't know what to say.

Hilzoy, you are a diamond in the blogospheric rough, but I'm a bit surprised that you're so--well, surprised by any of this. All Suskind is doing is laying out further details of a pattern that has been glaringly evident to any thinking person for several years now. I'm not so much criticizing you here as just plain venting: the cries of "How could such a thing be possible?" about Suskind's revelations, ccoming from smart, thoughtful people, is really starting to get on my nerves. We knew this, folks. We knew every damn bit of it.

That's not just wrong; it's insane -- especially when you're making a decision as momentous as going to war.

It was in no way a "momentous" decision to the person who made it. He pumped his fist in the air and said "Feels good" when he signed the declaration. Again, we already knew this.

This is not the way a civilized country behaves.

We are not a civilized country. We have not been one for some time now. The only question that matters to me at this point is whether our democracy is broken beyond repair, and if not, whether there's any hope of repair and retribution (and I'm not talking about impeachment here) in what's left of my lifetime. I'm increasingly of the opinion that it's not. You care, Hilzoy, and I care, and the people who read OW care. But that's not enough to matter.

Uncle Kvetch: I'm not surprised by most of it, but the idea that he had not read the NIE really did take me aback. I mean, not the way it would have surprised me to learn that Gerald Ford had molested small children (total and complete shock, since that's completely at odds with everything I think about Gerald Ford), but the way it would surprise me if Donald Luskin came out against the use of money on the grounds that it hampers the economy. (As in: gee, I knew he was not just economically ignorant but so economically ignorant that nothing he says should surprise me, but: against the use of money? On the grounds that it hampers the economy?????)

And besides, even if I stop being surprised, I refuse to give up on being shocked. Because it is shocking.

Btw, that "Dark Side" PBS site that Gary linked above is just great. Here's the site map, with a list of interviews (print not video) with some really key people--Scheuer, Wilkerson, Clarke, Drumheller, McLaughlin, others like that. I have to forcibly quit reading interviews now so I can get some work done.

The posting rules and certain portions of the United States Code prevent me from commenting on this thread.

Starting to look more closely at the Dark Side material.

I refuse to give up on being shocked. Because it is shocking.

And in all sincerity, I admire you for that, because your shock (shockedness?) spurs you to positive action, and that's good. I'm trying to summon up some shock, I really am, but I have very little left. There really is nothing I wouldn't put past these people at this point.

And the worst part isn't what's in Suskind's book--it's knowing in advance how instantly & effortlessly it will be dismissed by the Important People who decide what's Important for us to know. You know the drill: Suskind is an ideologue with an axe to grind. So are all his sources. He contributed $50 to Kerry/Edwards in 2004--QED! Besides, Al Gore is a weenie and the President is so frothily masculine.

Five years from now, when we're still in Iraq and the US military death toll is well into the five figures, more people may begin to care enough to be shocked. But not now.

"And yet, oddly, we let the surrogates handle it, and bin Laden escaped. Gosh: how could that have happened?"

Possibly Bush/Cheney did not really want to capture Bin Laden. They needed the ultimate scary guy out there to keep us motivated for the Iraq invasion which was the real goal. Like Vonnegut's Cats Cradle - the Evil Dictator and the Rebel Religous Fanatic had no intention of ever really defeating the other - each needs the enemy was needed to justify their own position.

Uncle Kvetch: The only question that matters to me at this point is whether our democracy is broken beyond repair

at least one Republican was pointing out not quite two months ago, the US is not a democracy, and never has been: which is fortunate for everyone involved with making Bush President, as they decide who to make President for 2009.

Point taken, Jes. I shouldn't have said "our democracy," I should have said "the rule of law." That was quite a popular phrase not too long ago, wasn't it?

Possibly Bush/Cheney did not really want to capture Bin Laden.

Gives them too much credit. They would've liked to parade OBL's capture over the airwaves.

But they doubtless delegated the final call to Tommy Franks, and Franks didn't want to get his troops shot at, appears to be the story.

Bush is an evil man. I came to this decision years ago based upon his widely reported mocking of a condemned women on death row. I thought that any man who had to power to give life to a person yet mocks them while withholding the grant of live is purely evil.

Everything Bush has done since then has confirmed this judgement.

The thing about evil is that it spreads. It has spread to so many people in this country that I am almost without hope.

How can an entire world allow a ruler to govern when that ruler is, and has been proven time and again to be, a liar? Surely if a lie is told that leads to the deaths of innocent civilians and solders, that lie must taken responsibility for, it is murder isn’t it? Bush is responsible and yet nobody is willing to enforce the law that would impeach this killer.

The President of the United States is, among his other crimes, guilty of multiple murders all around the world, yet you, the people of the world, are so afraid of his power that you tolerate this criminal and allow him to continue on his murderous rampage unopposed.

Have you forgotten that a liar is determined to maintain his lies, he lies to frighten you, he will say anything to keep you paralyzed with fear and thus maintain his control over you.

To the peoples of other nations, do you really think that Bush is just the leader of the American people, he and his people live so far away from most of you, you seem to think that he is not your problem, think again. The President of the United States is your problem; he has defied your international agreements, murdered your people, stolen you natural resources and forced you into an illegal, immoral war.

Through his deceitful lies, Bush has taken away your power and if you think he won’t enforce his stolen authority think about this again as well. You live on this globe as well, there is no where to run, Bush is a complete nut, he actually believes that the world was created in 7 days, he reads the bible as though he were still a child in Sunday School.

The really scary thing that is never spoken of is that Bush wants to end your world and bring about the end of time, the fairy tale as it is written in the book of Revelations. He believes his version of Christianity is the only true religion and he is determined to prove that he is right.

Bush doesn’t care how many children have to live in pain and disability, or die needlessly at the point of a gun. He will gleefully order their deaths to further his own evil ends, and your opinion is, to him, irrelevant. He doesn’t care about the misery and bloodshed, he wants it, he said as much when he came before the world and said to the terrorists “Bring it on”. Is that the diplomatic verbiage of a President or the shear stupidity of a mindless, immature, child?

Look at his record thus far, Bush hasn’t been right about much of impotance and yet you, the people of planet earth, allow him ultimate power over life and death. The Earth is living on borrowed time and the way things are going, your children will suffer the consequence of shame as the try to repair the mess you leave for them. They will remember our time as we remember the time of the Nazis, we don’t ask, why did our parents allow Hitler to cause such misery, because we know that, at the time, they did not know, however the same is not true now, now we have the Internet, satellite television, cell phones, we have such technology in our time that it is virtually impossible to hide the terror of Bush. We are not like our parents, we know and we do nothing to stop the monster. We are either compliant murders along with Bush and his cronies or else we are not, and we speak out, how will your children remember you?

I am already full of shame, I ran when I first realized the danger Bush posed even within the US. I will not deny the truth anymore though; I no longer care what happens to me, there is no point to the world if it is in darkness and unhappy. I simply do not want to leave this world knowing that I could, at least, have told the truth.

Robin
[email protected]

"How can an entire world allow a ruler to govern when that ruler is, and has been proven time and again to be, a liar?"

Most rulers are liars.

"...yet you, the people of the world, are so afraid of his power that you tolerate this criminal...."

Which other world is it you come from? Given your use of the second person singular, rather than plural.

Dark Side, Part II is here. Part III is here. Probably more to come, but not immediately; I have other stuff to do.

"This is not the way a civilized country behaves...[etc]"

Wow. I don't think I have ever been this radical. Given that anecdote, I might have given responsibility to the President, the WH, the Executive Branch, the Republican Party, but saying this indicates a problem with the United States of America, and that in some way, the entire structure must be altered, is farther than I would have thought of going. Even Nuremburg did not go that far. By Nuremburg rules, "Germany" did not invade Poland, certain Germans did.

If I had the money, I would change countries tomorrow.

But, leaving that aside, if the country is to blame, then the country must be changed. What can be meant by "changing" the country? Certainly not simple a change in administrations or control of Congress. Partition is a possibility. Banning a political party would effect a change in attitude, but I doubt that would pass 1st amendment review by this court. A Consitutional convention would be very dangerous, but I would not oppose it. Think on it.
...
I found the earlier part of the post...disturbing, for no matter how it is parsed, it does support those who would allow the President his deniability and escape from certain kinds of responsibility.

I went searching for a cite, Gilliard I think, but I did read recently that a Japanese commander after WWII was held responsible for the atrocities of those under his command, even tho that commander did not give direct orders or have close contact. That commander was sentenced to death.

Let's assume that President Gore wouldn't have launched a preemptive war, President Kerry wouldn't have authorized torture, yadda yadda. I refuse to accept that a difference of a few electoral votes either way is what defines something so fundamental as whether we are a "civilized country" or not.

A little George Orwell for what it's worth:

TRIBUNE May 19, 1944

Miss Vera Brittain's pamphlet, Seed of Chaos, is an eloquent attack on indiscriminate or ‘obliteration’ bombing. ‘Owing to the R.A.F. raids,’ she says, ‘thousands of helpless and innocent people in German, Italian and German-occupied cities are being subjected to agonizing forms of death and injury comparable to the worst tortures of the Middle Ages.’ Various well-known opponents of bombing, such as General Franco and Major-General Fuller, are brought out in support of this. Miss Brittain is not, however, taking the pacifist standpoint. She is willing and anxious to win the war, apparently. She merely wishes us to stick to ‘legitimate’ methods of war and abandon civilian bombing, which she fears will blacken our reputation in the eyes of posterity. Her pamphlet is issued by the Bombing Restriction Committee, which has issued others with similar titles.

Now, no one in his senses regards bombing, or any other operation of war, with anything but disgust. On the other hand, no decent person cares tuppence for the opinion of posterity. And there is something very distasteful in accepting war as an instrument and at the same time wanting to dodge responsibility for its more obviously barbarous features. Pacifism is a tenable position, provided that you are willing to take the consequences. But all talk of ‘limiting’ or ‘humanizing’ war N is sheer humbug, based on the fact that the average human being never bothers to examine catchwords.

The catchwords used in this connexion are ‘killing civilians’, ‘massacre of women and children’ and ‘destruction of our cultural heritage’. It is tacitly assumed that air bombing does more of this kind of thing than ground warfare.

When you look a bit closer, the first question that strikes you is: Why is it worse to kill civilians than soldiers? Obviously one must not kill children if it is in any way avoidable, but it is only in propaganda pamphlets that every bomb drops on a school or an orphanage. A bomb kills a cross-section of the population; but not quite a representative selection, because the children and expectant mothers are usually the first to be evacuated, and some of the young men will be away in the army. Probably a disproportionately large number of bomb victims will be middle-aged. (Up to date, German bombs have killed between six and seven thousand children in this country. This is, I believe, less than the number killed in road accidents in the same period.) On the other hand, ‘normal’ or ‘legitimate’ warfare picks out and slaughters all the healthiest and bravest of the young male population. Every time a German submarine goes to the bottom about fifty young men of fine physique and good nerves are suffocated. Yet people who would hold up their hands at the very words ‘civilian bombing’ will repeat with satisfaction such phrases as ‘We are winning the Battle of the Atlantic’. Heaven knows how many people our blitz on Germany and the occupied countries has killed and will kill, but you can be quite certain it will never come anywhere near the slaughter that has happened on the Russian front.

War is not avoidable at this stage of history, and since it has to happen it does not seem to me a bad thing that others should be killed besides young men. I wrote in 1937: ‘Sometimes it is a comfort to me to think that the aeroplane is altering the conditions of war. Perhaps when the next great war comes we may see that sight unprecedented in all history, a jingo with a bullet hole in him.’ We haven't yet seen that (it is perhaps a contradiction in terms), but at any rate the Suffering of this war has been shared out more evenly than the last one was. The immunity of the civilian, one of the things that have made war possible, has been shattered. Unlike Miss Brittain, I don't regret that. I can't feel that war is ‘humanized’ by being confined to the slaughter of the young and becomes ‘barbarous’ when the old get killed as well.

As to international agreements to ‘limit’ war, they are never kept when it pays to break them. Long before the last war the nations had agreed not to use gas, but they used it all the same. This time they have refrained, merely because gas is comparatively ineffective in a war of movement, while its use against civilian populations would be sure to provoke reprisals in kind. Against an enemy who can't hit back, e.g. the Abyssinians, it is used readily enough. War is of its nature barbarous, it is better to admit that. If we see ourselves as the savages we are, some improvement is possible, or at least thinkable.


Bob: That would be General Yamashita, "The Tiger of Malaya" overall commander of the defense of the Phillipines. He declared Manila an open city, but naval troops not under his direct command acted on their own to resist, and committed atrocities.

MacArthur insisted on his trial and sentence. Many observers, including MacArthur's admiring biographer Manchester, have concluded MacArthur abused his discretion in the case.

Shorter DaveC: "Kill more of the Iraqis we fooled you into thinking we wanted to liberate."

Just remember that a president Gore or Kerry would undoubtly been far worse.

"This is not the way a civilized country behaves...[etc]"

Any country that reelects a war mongerer like Bush is not civilized.

Thank you, IDP.

Excellent Orwell quote, DaveC.

I don't mean that in service of any particular purpose. I've been a huge fan of Orwell's (the name he legally changed to from "Eric Blair," which is not, therefore, his "real name," I mention incidentally) since age 14, when I read his Collected Essays. (Copyright violating library here. Some essays here. There's good reasons for Russians to study them, though also good reasons for the estate to benefit.)

DaveC: I, too, love Orwell. But what does that have to do with sending people off to war without bothering to read the evidence about the threat you're sending them off to combat?

This crossed my mind when I read this snippet of the post

This is not the way a civilized country behaves. This is not, for that matter, the way a country with minimal standards of decency behaves.

and the comments from ken, Robin, bob and Steve that I think were directed at that snippet also. (They may not have been in regard to that, Lord knows I'm not too careful a reader.)

I think the Orwell quote would be more apropos if Iraq had attacked us.

Someone may as well say:

Orwell was dead wrong in that particular quote. The very essence of sentience is making distinctions, and the fact that one wishes to fight a war doesn't mean that one therefore never again has to weigh consequences or ought to favor the least destructive means that get the job done. (Important qualification in the last phrase: we're screwed in Iraq largely because "getting the job done" wasn't taken seriously.)

Orwell was wrong about a lot of what he wrote during World War II, and in later years he agreed with those who said so. Overall he did very well retaining his characteristic humane decency, but not always, and that's one of the many reasons not to make war lightly. We all slip up and get heated up once in a while, but when it happens in the context of war, people are more likely to die from it.

I'm not surprised to see champions of this current travesty of a war and occupation bring up that sort of quote, but the rest of us don't have to be impressed just because it's Orwell.

I'm disappointed that no one has seen fit to respond to the comments I've made, which Anderson posted here, that put Suskind's account of Abu Zubaydah into question. I am not asserting that Suskind is wrong. In fact his accusations fit the narrative that this administration has created through their inhumane torture policy. But I would expect people that frequent a site that touts itself as moderate would be more consider and explore facts that call these accusations into question.

I did post my comments at Eric Umansky's site. And to his credit he saw fit to actually evaluate them and re-consider some of his views. You can read them here http://www.ericumansky.com/2006/06/doubting_suskin_1.html

As I said, I'm not saying Suskind is wrong. I'm afraid he's right. But I would like people to actually consider the facts that challenge his accusations, instead of dismissing them. Partly because I'm trying to understand myself how those facts can be reconciled with Suskind's account, and I'm hoping that others can shed some light.

Kudos also goes out to Josh Marshall, who was also willing to acknowledge my points. And of course to Anderson.

"You can read them here"

Actually not. Helps to link.

I already commented at Eric Umansky's.
I'm not completely sold on Suskind's account. I think he's accurately reporting what his sources tell him; I don't know how many or how reliable his sources are, because I don't have his book.

As far as Zubaydah's importance: I believe the 9/11 Commission relied very heavily on accounts and interrogation logs given to it by the intelligence agencies, so if his confessions are tainted so, most likely, is the report.

Ressam's information seems to contradict Suskind's to some extent; to some extent it seems like it's a question of how you spin certain facts.

With Jordan, who knows. They know a lot about terror groups; they also torture people and try them in absentia fairly routinely. And I don't know exactly what they sentenced him to death for.

The description of his diaries and his sanity doesn't necessarily contradict the argument that he had some significant role.
I don't have much doubt that we tortured him or that he made a lot of crap up in response to the torture.

I'm not sure what else you're looking for, here. If I had to guess I'd say:
1) he's somewhat more important than Suskind's description implies, but less so than Bush's;
2) he does have mental problems;
3) he was tortured;
4) he did make a whole bunch of false confessions;
5) Bush was probably more aware of his interrogation than most as he was apparently the first prisoner sent to a "black site" & which the CIA used its "enhanced" techniques on
6) But who knews if he actually knew what was happening, or was willfully blind to it
7) And who knows if he ever said anything about saving face--if I had to guess, probably not.

But these are just guesses. They're not even educated guesses. Suskind's account is not gospel, it's another set of data points, and they're horribly disturbing ones. I wish we could settle these uncertainties but that would take an investigation that's not going to happen anytime soon & which I increasingly think will never happen.

Because Abu Zubaydah's statements under torture led to the detention without charges or access to lawyers of Jose Padilla, and to some of the torture memos (to cover the CIA's rears retroactively), I think Jeff L's questions merit a serious investigation, one obviously beyond the powers of a comments section.

I've collected clips about Abu Zubaydah ever since shortly after his capture, when blogger Eric Olsen wondered why big papers, after having previously described Abu Zubaydah as the mastermind of the 2000 attack on the U.S.S. Cole, did not mention that in their coverage. One of my speculations then was that they had been quietly warned that that there was no such connection, which is consistent with CIA and FBI sources having discovered that A.Z. was a much more minor player than the papers had previously portrayed (very probably on the basis of administration claims).

There was an unusual amount of leaking to the media about A.Z.'s statements under interrogation; something to suit every agenda, in fact.

As cynical about our ruling regime as I am, I find it difficult to accept the Suskind report without further confirmation. There are levels and levels of depravity; have we really descended to the ninth circle of hell so quickly?

"...yet you, the people of the world, are so afraid of his power that you tolerate this criminal...."

Which other world is it you come from? Given your use of the second person singular, rather than plural.

First person plural, yes?

Certainly Saddam Hussein provided aid and sancuary to the 1993 WTC bombers, plotted to assainate GHW Bush, celebrated 9/11, had in the past used chemical weapons that qualify as WMDs (and yes they have found WMD evidence), had not complied with many UN resolutions to end the 1st Gulf War, had in fact tipped his hand about his scheme to control all the oil in the ME, practiced genocide and etnic cleansing against the Kurds and Shiites, etc.

Does Ron Suskind refute all that? What are we talking about - that all that stuff was not so bad?

Anyway, as I have speculated before, and I do believe, the admin decided not to get bogged down in a large scale war in Afghanistan and risk a war in Pakistan, which I believe was the scenario hoped for by Al Qaeda. They changed the battlefield to a more advantageous one in Iraq that also had strategic importance if we can bring about a liberal democracy there.

I am more optimistic than most of the commenters that this will happen. And yes, the US really could have gone nukular after 9/11, but did not (no credit given on this by the way). I think that the commenters on the blog who think that the US is the most evil country in the history of the world are wrong, and I'll say so if nobody else will.

Anyway, as I have speculated before, and I do believe, the admin decided not to get bogged down in a large scale war in Afghanistan and risk a war in Pakistan, which I believe was the scenario hoped for by Al Qaeda. They changed the battlefield to a more advantageous one in Iraq that also had strategic importance if we can bring about a liberal democracy there.
You're suggesting that we would have fared worse had we focused on Afghanistan? And that Iraq was more advantageous? Words fail me.
And yes, the US really could have gone nukular after 9/11, but did not (no credit given on this by the way).
Traditionally, people don't get credit for not doing something that everyone thought was a horrendously bad thing that shouldn't even be contemplated. Democrats could've responded to Bush's election in 2000 by killing local Republicans and parading their heads around in city squares, but did not. Is that commendable, or simply human?
think that the commenters on the blog who think that the US is the most evil country in the history of the world are wrong, and I'll say so if nobody else will.
Since no commenter on the blog has said that, I can only assume you're either not reading what folks here post, or you're just having fun dancing with a straw man in the corner. Meanwhile, the actual conversation hums along.

Statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception.

[Mark Twain]

I think that the commenters on the blog who think that the US is the most evil country in the history of the world are wrong,

Can you let me know who those people are? I wish greatly to chastise them.

Quick question, Dave: How many of your children are you willing to kill to bring democracy to Iraq? If you could do it instantly by putting a bullet in the head of one of your kids, would you?

DaveC: They changed the battlefield to a more advantageous one in Iraq

This reminds me of the story about the man who was looking for his car keys under a street lamp because the light was better there.

I think that the commenters on the blog who think that the US is the most evil country in the history of the world are wrong

And which commenters would those be? Phil's "chastised" me a couple of times for criticising the US more harshly than he believed his country deserved, but I cannot recall ever having said anything as sweeping (or as stupid) as that.

DaveC: They changed the battlefield to a more advantageous one in Iraq

This reminds me of the story about the man who was looking for his car keys under a street lamp because the light was better there.

I think that the commenters on the blog who think that the US is the most evil country in the history of the world are wrong

And which commenters would those be? Phil's "chastised" me a couple of times for criticising the US more harshly than he believed his country deserved, but I cannot recall ever having said anything as sweeping (or as stupid) as that.

Dammit, and I checked to make sure the comment hadn't already posted, too. Sorry.

DaveC:

yes they have found WMD evidence

I'm sorry. Once someone says this, I really can't pay attention to any other opinions they might have.

Since others have vivisected much of DaveC's comment already, I'll content myself to this:

Does Ron Suskind refute all that? What are we talking about - that all that stuff was not so bad?

I'm not going to say that no-one in the US maintained Saddam was, in the abstract, "not so bad" (i.e. not such a bad guy) since I knew of some people who did. Those numbers, however, were vanishingly small and betokened people with no political power. Zero. Niente. Nada. None. For all intents and purposes, they simply didn't exist within American political discourse.

What innumerable people did say was that the cost-benefit ratio of removing Saddam, especially given what was known of Bush's planning, was so poor that it wasn't worth ousting him. Since history -- if you can call a five-year cycle "history" -- has pretty much proven them correct, it'd behoove you to direct your responses towards their actual arguments and not your perennial liberalesque strawman, 'cause this crap is getting tiring.

Sorry, Dave, that was a flip response to your heartfelt comment.

DaveC: Certainly Saddam Hussein provided aid and sancuary to the 1993 WTC bombers, plotted to assainate GHW Bush, celebrated 9/11, had in the past used chemical weapons that qualify as WMDs (and yes they have found WMD evidence), had not complied with many UN resolutions to end the 1st Gulf War, had in fact tipped his hand about his scheme to control all the oil in the ME, practiced genocide and etnic cleansing against the Kurds and Shiites, etc.

Does Ron Suskind refute all that? What are we talking about - that all that stuff was not so bad?

Well, Dave: Ronald Reagan obviously didn't think that "genocide and ethnic cleansing against the Kurds and Shiites" was so bad, since the US supported Saddam Hussein during the era of the mass graves. Likewise, Ronald Reagan and Donald Rumsfeld obviously didn't think that "used chemical weapons that qualify as WMDs" was so bad, since Saddam Hussein was buying the material and using the chemical weapons when the US was supporting him.

Likewise, "plotted to assainate GHW Bush" - if plotting the assassination of a head of state is so bad, presumably you agree that the US should not have actually assassinated President Allende of Chile, and should not have attempted to assassinate Saddam Hussein when he was head of state in Iraq (certainly not using a bomb that killed everyone in the restaurant where Hussein was supposed to be and wasn't) and the Bush administration should have censured Pat Robertson when he called for the assassination of President Hugo Chavez... right?

had in fact tipped his hand about his scheme to control all the oil in the ME

If this is so bad, someone should talk to PNAC. (Hey, I agree: for one state to control all the oil in the ME would be bad. Let's censure anyone who tries to do it or looks like they're going to: for example, by invading and occupying a country with massive oil reserves. Who would that apply to, right now?)

celebrated 9/11

Absolutely, this is bad. Doesn't constitute justification for invading Iraq, of course. It's just bad. Like saying something like "Obviously, we've got budget matters. You know, when I was running for President, in Chicago, somebody said, would you ever have deficit spending? I said, only if we were at war, or only if we had a recession, or only if we had a national emergency. Never did I dream we'd get the trifecta."

"Certainly Saddam Hussein provided aid and sancuary to the 1993 WTC bombers"

But, and isn't this cool? "In all, ten militant Islamist conspirators – including Ramzi Yousef – were convicted for their part in the bombing and were given prison sentences of a maximum of 240 years each." cite No countries were invaded...

So, in summary: the things you think are so bad they justify invasion, are things that the US supported Saddam Hussein in doing, or that the US has done itself, or that Bush specifically has himself done.

Aside from the "aid and sanctuary to the 1993 WTC bombers", and I think that given they were jailed for 240 years each, it wasn't a very helpful "aid and sanctuary".

kill the bold!

The NIE was always only a PR effort, not the basis for the decision to go to war. It was put together in response to a request from Congress for more info.

No reason for the president to read his staff's PR products.

Note: for a while now, adding a 'close bold' or 'close italics' in a subsequent comment does not, alas, undo unclosed tags in previous comments. (Or, relatedly, the identical effect produced by not putting different 'close' tags in the opposite order from the original 'open' tags.)

The only remedy, unfortunately, is for one of us to do it.

DaveC: I mean the following respectfully, but seriously:

I like you a lot. That's why I'm mystified by comments like:

"I think that the commenters on the blog who think that the US is the most evil country in the history of the world are wrong, and I'll say so if nobody else will."

It would be one thing if this were written by a drive-by troll who had never been here before, took one look, though 'liberal=hates America', and posted. That wold just reflect ignorance and a willingness to jump to unpleasant conclusions.

But you've been commenting on (and, I assume) reading this site for a long time. You are quite familiar with the people who comment here. So I'm puzzled about who, exactly, you take the commenters who think that the US is the most evil country in the history of the world to be.

"Likewise, "plotted to assainate GHW Bush" - if plotting the assassination of a head of state is so bad, presumably you agree that the US should not have actually assassinated President Allende of Chile...."

Didn't quite happen that way. Don't let facts interfere with a good accusation.

I've gotten to the part in Suskind's book about Zubaydah, and part of the problem is that Gellman's review isn't terribly faithful to what Suskind wrote.

For one thing "Thousands of uniformed men and women raced in a panic to each flavor of target" (115) is *very* different from Gellman's "thousands of uniformed men and women raced in a panic to each . . . target." What Suskind reported was that, as Zubaydah said that supermarkets, or banks, or whatever, were potential targets, we acted accordingly. No 1000's of officers at the Statue of Liberty.

As for Zubaydah's being "in charge of recruiting," or sentenced by Jordan, he had a substantial role & might have seemed to some recruits as a bigshot, b/c he was the one telling them where to go, etc.

Dan Coleman (100): "He was like a travel agent, the guy who booked your flights. You can see from what he writes how burdened he is with all thse logistics--getting families of operatives, wives and kids, in and out of countries. He knew very little about real operations, or strategy. He was expendable, you know, the greeter ...."

A "top CIA official" (101): "He was, in a way, expendable. It was like calling someone who runs a company's in-house travel department the COO."

So maybe that helps with Jeff's worries. Surely Z. was criminally implicated with Qaeda, but he wasn't the # 3 or whatever that we were led to imagine.

Also of interest: torture produced random crap about supermarkets, etc., whereas more subtle, non-abusive questioning yielded intel on Padilla and KSM. However, the torture guys said, "hey, maybe we softened him up." You know, like where you just can't twist a jar lid, & you give it to someone who opens it bing!, and to save face, you're like "well I got it started for you"?

(To clarify, I can well imagine that Zubaydah & other Qaeda members sat around the campfire or the hotel lounge, talking about how it would freak out the Americans to blow up some Safeways and Krogers, etc. But we didn't exactly need to torture Z. to figure that out ourselves. A couple of bright undergrads would've produced as good a list in exchange for a 6-pack of Corona.)

more subtle, non-abusive questioning yielded intel on Padilla and KSM.

Anderson, does that come across in the book, i.e., that he was not being tortured when he ID'd a photo of Padilla?

That is, I'm certain there was (comparatively) non-abusive questioning early in A.Z.'s captivity, which is what led the CIA and FBI to conclude he was a lower-level operative than had been thought. Then came the torture in response to Bush's public puffery and his subsequent noodging of Tenet. Was there then a return to legal interrogation methods? Or is Suskind's reporting ambiguous on that point?

Aside from the "aid and sanctuary to the 1993 WTC bombers"

Jes, even that's conceding too much solidity to DaveC's parallel universe. The one non-overtly-neocon source I could find for this is a USA Today story from September 2003, when Cheney was in full "there was so a Saddam-Al Qaeda connection" mode and Bush had had to publicly walk him back a step:

Military, intelligence and law enforcement officials reported finding a large cache of Arabic-language documents in Tikrit, Saddam's political stronghold. A U.S. intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity said translators and analysts are busy "separating the gems from the junk." The official said some of the analysts have concluded that the documents show that Saddam's government provided monthly payments and a home for Yasin.

Yasin is on the FBI's list of 22 most-wanted terrorist fugitives; there is a $25 million reward for his capture. The bureau questioned and released him in New York shortly after the bombing in 1993. After Yasin had fled to Iraq, the FBI said it found evidence that he helped make the bomb, which killed six people and injured 1,000. Yasin is still at large.

...intelligence and law enforcement officials disagree on [the new information's] conclusiveness [my emphasis]

They disagreed on the conclusiveness of the trailers, the aluminum tubes, and the yellowcake story, too, but we know which version got pushed publicly.

The linked story's pretty weak tea, considering that nothing more was ever reported in any non-neocon source about that convenient find of documents, talked about in very carefully parsed language by an unnamed official. If there were anything to this, it would have been followed up, big time.

Nell: Z. was injured in his apprehension, perhaps the initial period you mention.

They "got him in very good health, so we could start to torture him" (100); under torture, he spouted off about malls and banks and supermarkets and water systems and nuclear plants and apartment buildings (115).

"Then there was a small break. A CIA interrogator ... was skilled in the nuances of the Koran, and slipped under Zubaydah's skin" (116). Playing on Z.'s belief in predestination, they convinced him that he was "meant to" cooperate, and he told them about discussions with Padilla & how to find him, as well as identifying KSM (117).

"It seemed as though the FBI--and those inside CIA advocating a gentler model of interrogation--might be right. That sort of traditional, subtle 'debriefing' seemed to have worked. But as to 'extreme methods'--their worth, their deficits--a counterpoint was offered. 'Did it work,' a DO chief said, 'because he was tortured first? That's the problem. Once you go down this road--and try everything--it's hard to know what worked'" (118).

"Was there then a return to legal interrogation methods? Or is Suskind's reporting ambiguous on that point?"

I'm pretty sure I answered that.

But I'm sure one can read about it on Atrios. Why ask? Why bother? It's all on Atrios.

"Note: for a while now, adding a 'close bold' or 'close italics' in a subsequent comment does not, alas, undo unclosed tags in previous comments. (Or, relatedly, the identical effect produced by not putting different 'close' tags in the opposite order from the original 'open' tags.) The only remedy, unfortunately, is for one of us to do it."

No. Complain loudly to your software or service vendor. Scanning a comment when it is posted and adding unmatched tags in the right order is not a technically challenging problem. Remind your vendor that you write at a widely-read blog. Suggest to them that some of those readers are going to make choices about their own blogging arrangements. Point out that statements like the one above make them look quite bad.

If, in the runup to the war, the President didn't bother to read the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, then -- well, I just don't know what to say.

It's not so shocking. Model 62 is right -- the NIE was a hastily cobbled PR product. The Bush administration presented the Iraq force authorization to Congress without the NIE. It was then prepared rather hastily in response to criticism that one was needed before voting. In such an atmosphere, its hard to imagine how it could represent any sort of measured assessment of the evidence.

Bush wanted the Iraq war on 9/12 -- the NIE was irrelevant to his thinking anyway.

The one thing that is still shocking is that conservatives remain wedded to this atrocious abortion of an administration. No level of venality or incompetence will prompt them to upset their calculation that "on whole, Bush has done more good than bad."

DaveC remains a classic example of this, resorting to ad hominem nonsense when forced to defend another round of Bush stink.

Nell: Jes, even that's conceding too much solidity to DaveC's parallel universe.

I wondered, since I'd never heard of this particular rumor before, but decided it wasn't really worth digging through a mountain of crap to prove or disprove, since it made no difference to DaveC's thesis: whether or not Saddam Hussein gave "aid and sanctuary to the 1993 WTC bombers" that would not justify invading Iraq in 2003.

I'm puzzled about who, exactly, you take the commenters who think that the US is the most evil country in the history of the world to be.

Hi, hilzoy, my response was a little trollish, I suppose, but mine are not the only harsh words:

the Evil Dictator and the Rebel Religous Fanatic had no intention of ever really defeating the other

The thing about evil is that it spreads. It has spread to so many people in this country that I am almost without hope.

Any country that reelects a war mongerer like Bush is not civilized

There are levels and levels of depravity; have we really descended to the ninth circle of hell so quickly?

Not to mention Robin, who may have been a real troll. I certainly am more of a drive-by lately, given to the "I have half a mind to tell everybody off" responses, but betwen Robin and I, I am the one that draws attention for some reason! The other half of my mind tells me to drive the Crown Vic down to Texas and place bob and his dog under citizen's arrest.

I do realize that our current president isn't the first to be accused of being a war monger for with unscrupulous motivations - LBJ, Nixon, Reagan, GHW Bush and Clinton all had plenty of similar accusations. I also realize that we do live in parallel universes to a certain extent, I mean by that what you and I think are important issues to consider. Now of course hilzoy is a fantastic writer and thinker and I'm not up to the task of best representing the other point of view (this little comment is taking an exceedingly long time to write) but certainly a lot of folks in the Midwest and Appalachia would have similar knee jerk reactions as mine and so I'll just represent that.

Call me cynical or whatever, but I'd rather fight the daily war on terror half way around world than daily in Miami. And if the US was looking at fighting the shooting part WOT in a country in which the Soviet Union was defeated then my advice would have been to take the fight elsewhere. And that is what I think has happened.

DaveC: Call me cynical or whatever, but I'd rather fight the daily war on terror half way around world than daily in Miami.

And thanks to Bush, there are doubtless now thousands of Iraqis who feel exactly the same way as you do - they'd rather see Americans dying in Miami as they die on a daily basis. For you, it may seem that the deaths each day in Iraq are trivial because for you they occur only in distant, ignorable newspaper headlines, and your "priorities are different" - Iraqis and Americans being killed "half way round the world" are unimportant to you, compared to keeping people in Miami alive. And that's a perfectly understandable, human response. What you need to understand, though, is that to the DaveCs in Iraq, it's exactly the same - you don't care if they die screaming, they don't care if you do. Indeed, your preference that they should die "half a world away" so that you can ignore them is undoubtedly matched by an Iraqi thinking he would prefer you die, half a world away. Most of these Iraqis who would prefer that you die will do nothing about it - any more than you are actively seeking out ways to kill Iraqis: but a few will. That's the next generation of terrorists being created, right now, by Bush's war.

Of course, the idea of "fighting in Iraq so we don't have to do it here" is absolutely contrary to the goal of bringing about a liberal democracy there. But that was plainly never very high on Bush's list of priorities, and plainly, it's not very high on your list either.

Oh, by the way, the Libertarians and Democrats posts and comments are fantastic, though I don't think I'll have time to read and consider all the comments.

But see, the coalition is not about killing Iraqis, certainly not indiscriminately. And Zarqawi certainly was about killing Iraqis indiscriminately, and well as Jordanians, and bombing the UN HQ in Iraq, etc.

If the theater was Afghanistan, the same level of activity could be happening there and destablizing Pakistan as well. I'm thinking that many people accuse the US of all the killings done by the terroists and militias. But the US was also accused of starving 500,000 babies to death through sanctions. Now the blood is more on my hands for the deaths caused by war than the deaths caused by Saddams thugs and the sanctions against them.

Now, who's to say what deaths seem trivial to whom. Should my conscience be clear about the Congo or Burma or Zimbabwe or Sudan? How about the recent Jemaah Islamiyah terror bombings in Thailand? It was unfortunate for Iraqis that Hussein was an avowed enemy of the US, was generally dangerous and celebrated 9/11.

"...though I don't think I'll have time to read and consider all the comments."

Yes, certainly not thinking and considering is one way to go.

"But see, the coalition is not about killing Iraqis, certainly not indiscriminately."

Babbling insane nonsense is certainly another way to go.

Why do you act the fool, DaveC? Why write such idiotic stuff? Why do you play the moron?

I assume you're not trying to suggest that conservatives are all morons, so why play-act?

"I'm thinking that many people accuse the US of all the killings done by the terroists and militias."

Of course, this is insane. Why play-act as if you're interlocuters are insane? I mean, children in third grade make better arguments. Are you drugged or drunk?

"Why play-act as if you're interlocuters are insane?"

"Your," actually.

I'm sure some will note that I've been mean to DaveC.

But: "I'm thinking that many people accuse the US of all the killings done by the terroists and militias."

So say what? This is true in what universe?

It was unfortunate for Iraqis that Hussein was an avowed enemy of the US, was generally dangerous and celebrated 9/11.

Understatement of the century.

And what's this goddamned "celebrated 9/11" bullshit? Since when is that a crime worthy of destroying innocent civilians? Yeah, Dave, there are people in the world who were happy that 9/11 happened. My advice? Get over it.

It should be unsurprising to any reasonably intelligent adult human being that there are people who exist, among the 6 billion or so currently alive, who do not share our values. If you want to find them and kill them all, you're going to be a very bitter man.

In fact, you know, "Tough luck, Iraqis -- choose better dictators next time!" is such a typically scummy right-wing thing to say . . . I'm just aghast. ANd the idea that "Fight them in Iraq or in Miami" is a completely binary, either/or proposition is simply dumb.

First of all, "terrorists" are not like a game of Berzerk, where they just program them to go wherever the U.S. military is and shout "Intruder alert! Intruder alert!" The recent "subway gassing" story should prove that.

Second, L'il George's Iraq Adventure poses the danger of creating/activating homegrown terrorists, who don't have to travel from anywhere else to get here and start some havoc. See also "London underground bombings."

Third, were I an Iraqi, attitudes like DaveC's "Gosh, that was unfortunate for you" might just make me dedicate my life to seeing as many American dead as possible within my lifetime.

DaveC: But see, the coalition is not about killing Iraqis, certainly not indiscriminately.

Do you really think that makes the slightest difference to the Iraqis who have lost relatives and friends and neighbors, who have seen

If Iraq were a military power on a level with the US (and of course, if it were even a military power on a level with the EU, the US would never have attacked, but let's pretend) and the Iraqi military had occupied the US in retaliation for the US invasion in 2003, and Iraqi planes were bombing US cities, and your partner had died in an Iraqi airstrike and one of your children had lost both arms from playing in a street where Iraqis had dropped cluster bombs and you had been kidnapped by Iraqi soldiers, jailed for a month, tortured, and released without apology or compensation - how would you feel if an Iraqi told you: "It was unfortunate for Americans that George W. Bush was an avowed enemy of Iraq, was generally dangerous and celebrated the 2003 invasion"?

DaveC: Now, who's to say what deaths seem trivial to whom.

Good question, Dave. Over a hundred thousand Iraqis dead because the US invaded Iraq: that seems trivial to you, as do the 500 000 children who died because of the brutal sanctions imposed in Iraq by the US. Given the relative populations of the US, would 1.1M Americans dead by violence because of an Iraqi invasion seem trivial to you? Would 5.5M American children - under 10, under 5 - seem trivial to you? Would you blame their deaths on the Bush administration, if sanctions that killed 5.5M children had been imposed on the US until Americans agreed to rid themselves of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, etc?

Think about it, Dave. Your children are dying of dysentary because Iraqi planes destroyed the water supply infrastructure of the US. Or of some other easily treatable disease that can't be treated because the UN won't permit vital medical supplies to be imported. Or of hunger-related complications because a Middle East coalition is enforcing a ban on all food importation, and everyone except a handful of the richest families in the US - the hundred or so benefiting by Bush's tax cuts, say - are going a little hungry or very hungry.

Do these deaths seem trivial to you, Dave? Do you see them as the fault of the Bush administration?

To DaveC: the reason you attract more of my attention, at any rate, is that I don't pay attention to trolls (except for the nanosecond it takes to decide whether to warn them on posting rules), and you're not a troll. In whatever sense I can "know" people I've never met, any one of whom could for all I know actually be Jeffrey Dahmer, I know you, and that makes a difference.

I also prefer what I think of, rightly or wrongly, as the actual DaveC, as opposed to the one who likes straw men.

To everyone else: I've reread DaveC's comments, and can't see where he says anything like: "you don't care if they die screaming", the deaths of Iraqis are "trivial", etc. If I've just missed the relevant bit, sorry, and just disregard what comes next, but: if not, these are not views that should be attributed to anyone without some gesture at sourcing.

Thanks.

Apologies, Hilzoy: you're right. DaveC doesn't care if the Iraqis die, but nowhere has he expressed any preference as to whether they die screaming or die silently, so long as they die half a world away from him.

Anderson, thanks very much.

Gary, the information Anderson provided was directly from the book. None of the book reviews or blog posts so far have given enough detail to answer my specific questions.

I hope you're feeling better soon and will return to blogging.

Hey, Jes: could you dial it back a bit?

Jack: Hey, Jes: could you dial it back a bit?

Sorry, I forgot: it is perfectly acceptable to wish death and destruction on complete strangers, but unacceptable to get upset at someone doing so. My bad.

Ahh, self-righeteousness, as British as tea and crumpets...

No, No, Jack, Jes is making my point.

See, even prior to the war, by some standards, some people can reckon that America, and the people who voted for the administrations in power, bore the primary responsibilty for the suffering in Iraq. That is, the UN sanctions were caused by the US administrations. The people who voted for Bush, Clinton and Bush gave their tacit support to those sanctions, so you have, say 50 million people in the US who were moral agents of the sanctions and therefore responsible for their effects. Now the Iraqi people could not change the outcome of this because they lived under a dictatorship, so there may have been perhaps 50,000 people in the Hussein regime who were moral agents. Now in this way of looking at it, Americans were 1000 times more responsible for suffering caused by the sanctions as were Iraqis.

Same deal with the war, Americans are 1000 times more responsible, if you simply count up all the casualties, and use similar calculations. And my point about the Congo, etc is that I am not a moral agent in any of that, but even though I am guilt free in that case, that does not mean that there is no suffering there. And as a matter of speculation, if I am indeed an ignorant moron, then perhaps I am not a moral agent in the Iraq mess either.

Anyway I think that this is how some the most outraged people assess who is to blame for what and by what amount. I think that is a wrong way to go about thinking about it, but in any case I'll admit that I am morally culpable and the only matter is to what extent.

Now, I certainly have had problems figuring out how exactly to state all this, but at least this last example might clarify some of it.

Dave,
I don't believe that Iraqis should be held responsible for not overthrowing Saddam. Maybe 50,000 Iraqis had sufficient access to levers of power to envisage a coup, I don't know. That calculation is beyond my knowledge, and certainly beyond my ability to weigh fine distinctions of moral responsibility.

I do believe that sanctions were causing significant harm to ordinary Iraqis. Some of the worst harms were caused by Saddam's corruption, and at the time I had some real sympathy with the European position that the sanctions should be retooled so that Saddam didn't control so many of the choke points, or even dropped.

However, the sanctions were an international effort; changes in them would be decided internationally. While the US was more hardline than many other nations, we weren't *solely* responsible.

I remember GWB asserting in the 2000 presidential debates that the US wasn't the world's policeman. At the time, as I recall, I thought that statement was naive: as the most powerful country in the world, we wouldn't have the option of retreating into ourselves, as desirable as that might have seemed.

I no longer really know what we're arguing about. All three of the African nations you mention--Congo, Zimbabwe, Sudan--present very different problems and responsibilities. The French consider themselves morally responsible to respond in Congo; I doubt they're doing enough, but maybe you could direct pressure in that direction. Zimbabwe is a fraking mess, but without a more clear mandate from the African Union, I don't quite see how we're involved. Sudan is more tricky since US groups helped get the South the peace treaty that the Western rebel groups envied so, but I also hope that the international pressure will force the parties to accept the next stage of talks. Burma is another story.

Iraq, however: we've been intimately involved there for decades. Then we invaded, and we overthrew their ruler, destroyed their government, and purged from power their bureaucratic system. And until the formal transfer of sovreignty to what has proved a very fragile, very superficial government, we were the official occupying force; "occupying force" might seem like an ugly word, but on a diplomatic level, even Bush administration officials accepted the phrase. We might still be considered the de facto occupying force.

I don't know, frankly. There's part of me that thinks, à la Niels Fergussen (sp?), that if we want to do imperialism, we should do it properly. And there's a better part of me that thinks that we should be much more careful about what projects we undertake overseas, for whatever reason. I thought we had a moral obligation to send ground troops into Afghanistan, to destroy Al-Qaida and to occupy, in a constructive way, a seriously screwed-up country.

Ok, I'm rambling now. [Clicks "post" anyway.]

Sorry, I forgot: it is perfectly acceptable to wish death and destruction on complete strangers, but unacceptable to get upset at someone doing so. My bad.

Let's see... since, by my count, hundreds of millions of people have died during your lifetime without you once saving them -- or even materially attempting to save them, tsk tsk -- I am forced to conclude that you are one of the greatest genocidal maniacs ever to have lived, seeing as how you clearly desired those deaths. And that's not even counting all the rapes you clearly prayed for, nor the mutilations you desired, nor the torture of innocents for which you yearned. For shame.

Or in other words: seriously, tone it down.

While the US was more hardline [on the sanctions] than many other nations, we weren't *solely* responsible.

No, but we did the most to screw around with the permitted items under the oil-for-food reforms to inflict maximum hardship on ordinary Iraqis. Back with a link later if needed; Joy somebody.

You don't need to provide a link for me. Color me hard-left for knowing about it, or color me a sell-out for knowing about it, yet being reluctantly pro-sanctions, or color me hard-left for knowing about the limitations of sanctions yet unwilling to support war. The more you know, the more responsible you feel...

Nell: you mean this article?

Thanks, dutchmarbel, that's the one.

The more you know, the more responsible you feel...

Yep. It's enough to make a person long for a literal brain-washing. Time to go spray the thistle in the fields...

Jackmormon, if I read you right, you were in favor of "smart sanctions". So was I. I wasn't in favor of the sanctions as actually imposed.

As for who was responsible for the sanctions deaths,obviously the answer is Saddam, the US, and the UK. (I don't think the UN could change the sanctions regime without US consent.) The sanctions reduced Iraq's GNP by some massive amount--I think a factor of 4 or 5, if I remember correctly. So one would expect an increase in the death rate. But it didn't absolutely have to happen, because if Iraq's domestic policy had been set by the people who run Kerala or by a clique of Swedish social democrats, I'm sure the sanctions death toll could have been much reduced.

The more you know, the more responsible you feel...

And therein lies the source of the bile heaped on honest-to-god investigative reporters these days...

Thinking about how well Swedish social democrats or the Kerala government might have dealt with mortality under the Iraqi sanctions made me think about the flip side of the question--who might have increased the death rate in comparison with Saddam? No need to speculate--the Bush Administration has increased mortality in Iraq, and not just because of violence.

Donald: Thinking about how well Swedish social democrats or the Kerala government might have dealt with mortality under the Iraqi sanctions

Or the Nicaraguan Sandinistas, come to that: they dealt with American sanctions and US-sponsored terrorism far better, but then they began with socialist and democratic principles, which is of course why they were and are loathed and mistrusted by right-wing Americans far more consistently than Saddam Hussein.

Donald: "So one would expect an increase in the death rate."

What was the effect in the Kurdish sector? I suspect not much, or even positive - if so I think your argument fails.

Also note that the UN could, if it were better managed and designed and etc. etc., have played a positive role - hence I hold it partly responsible. Of course it's in part the fault of the US that the UN is weaker than it ought to be.

Rilkefan, I suppose my argument fails if you leave out the part that says "it didn't absolutely have to happen", which follows immediately after the part you quoted. I then suggested two other groups that might have done better than Saddam and Jesurgislac adds a third. I've also heard that about the Kurds, but I don't think they faced quite as harsh a sanctions regime as the rest of Iraq. But it's surely true that the Kurdish sector was better run.

I'm not interested in defending Saddam's social policies under sanctions--my main interest as an American is pointing out that fact that we contributed heavily to the death toll by deliberately destroying civilian infrastructure in the Gulf War and then imposing sanctions that wrecked the economy. That these factors alone didn't guarantee a large increase in the death rate doesn't take away our fairly significant share in the guilt.

My point was that it was unreasonable to put "the US, and the UK" in the same bin as Saddam, especially since "we contributed heavily to the death toll by deliberately destroying civilian infrastructure in the Gulf War" is nonsensical by your own admission. You're conflating different kinds of causes incorrectly. It's like saying, When X fires Y (say for workplace harrassment) and his subordinate Z, and Y goes home and kicks his dog and Z goes home and takes his dog for long walks every day, X bears some guilt for the kick.

And, I think, you're failing to note the positive effects of the destruction of Iraq's infrastructure, such as the end of Saddam's nuclear weapons program, making your stance very post hoc.

I can see a more sophisticated version of your argument which apportions a different sort of blame across the board - to Europe, the Arab countries, the UN, Russia, previous US admins - but I see I'm not going to have patience for these sorts of conversations any more, so I'd best shut up.

rilkefan, the U.S. military deliberately smashed the civilian infrastructure in the Gulf War with an eye to causing pain to the population of Iraq. This is documented, and, as Donald says, was bound to increase the death rate. Destruction of weapons and weapons programs is completely beside the point, and cannot be weighed against the intentional damage to the water and electrical systems so that you can say "oh, well, on balance the destruction was beneficial." It was optional, intentional, and designed to inflict suffering.

What Nell said, Rilkefan. The US government struck quite deliberately at civilian infrastructure in order to cause civilian suffering. (Barton Gellman, Washington Post June 23, 1991). The sanctions were supposed to prevent repair. The idea was that either the government of Iraq would be destabilized or else Saddam would feel pressure from the fact that Iraqis were suffering and would therefore comply with whatever demands we put on him. Presumably you didn't know this--your reply doesn't make any sense if you did.

Barton Gellman link here

One interesting tidbit is when the official says the concept of an innocent civilian isn't that clear.

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