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October 25, 2006

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Wilfred Owen has been here:

Sonnet
On Seeing A Piece of Our Heavy Artillery
Brought into Action

Be slowly lifted up, thou long black arm,
Great Gun towering towards Heaven, about to curse;
Sway steep against them, and for years rehearse
Huge imprecations like a blasting charm!
Reach at that Arrogance which needs thy harm,
And beat it down before its sins grow worse.
Spend our resentment, cannon,-yea, disburse
Our gold in shapes of flame, our breaths in storm.

Yet, for men's sakes whom thy vast malison
Must wither innocent of enmity,
Be not withdrawn, dark arm, the spoilure done,
Safe to the bosom of our prosperity.
But when thy spell be cast complete and whole,
May God curse thee, and cut thee from our soul!

The only thing I can suggest is a massive filing for extensions on next year's income tax just to send George a weird vibration.

I'm pretty sure that an organic farmer with Jonah-level bad judgement could do a lot of harm to other people. For example by farming organic potatoes in a blight-prone area, or not rotating his crop so they catch Ralstonia solanacearum or some other contagious disease requiring quarantine. Or maybe by figuring that human waste is organic and using it to fertilise his spinach crop.

Oops, posted in the wrong thread. Sorry.

"not seeming to be willing to entertain the thought that option or no, it was a very real possibility."

great line. I imagine one could have said in March of 2003 that losing over 2000 US troops was not an option, or that excess deaths from the war being over half a million was not an option, and yet they happened.
There should be a word for GWB's ploy of creating such a disastorous situation that allows for no acceptable options, and then blaming his political rivals for not providing any good options. It is like the definition of Chutzpah, only using other people's parents and children.

The closer one looks, the worse it http://arablinks.blogspot.com/2006/10/prediction-democrats-will-roll-over.html>gets. (h/t Blake H.)

That said, and I've been calling for declare-victory-and-leave since the ratification of the constitution, we cannot leave without killing AQ in Meso. The death of the delusional democracy project is survivable. Being driven out by AQ -- even if it's only 25% true -- is 'not an option.' I'd like to see what the military would propose if the message was 'you have no mission other than obliteration of AQ. At the lowest possible civilian casualty level.' No more painting schools, crowing about how many Robert E. Lees we've trained this week, manuevering over which member of the Dawa leadership ought to be PM.

So, hilzoy, how long should US troops occupy Kurdistan? Presumably the threat of invasion from Turkey will be there forever.

Maybe until Turkey gets admitted into the EU, then there would be enough economic carrots and sticks to stop them.

You OWN this war! Even you dems who didn't support it are complicit in the deaths of thousands of innocents, because you didn't do enough to stop it happening.

I actually agree with Bush. Cutting and running is not an option. Instead, the troop numbers need to be increased by at least a factor of 10. That then might go some way to stopping the appalling sectarian violence the US invasion has unleashed. If you create a power vaccuum how on earth do you suppose it is going to be filled. Duh?!

Of course this would mean a massive re-instation of the draft and hundreds of thousands of middle class kids dragged kicking and screaming into boot camp before being shipped off to the sands of Anbar. But tough shit America. You should shoulder your responsibilities instead of evading them, and try providing security for the Iraqi people, instead of pissing around with only 140000 troops for a population of 26 million.

You Americans BROKE Iraq, now FIX IT PROPERLY before even more people are needlessly killed.

Stand up like MEN and go and sort it out, instead of running away like lilly-livered pussies.

From that same Ackerman link:

"Balad's Shiites had been living alongside Sunnis for hundreds of years, Ali said, staring bleakly at the road outside. He had a Sunni son-in-law and Sunni friends, he said. It took the American occupation, he said, to change all that.

"What do you want to know?" Ali demanded bitterly. "How we reached this level? How we started to kill people according to their identity? How this sectarian strife was brought to us?" ...my emphasis

Okay. It is our fault. It was not the brutality of the Ottomans or Saddam that prevented the sectarian violence. There really is relatively little sectarian violence in the rest of the Middle East. Gary, if he is feeling better, can come along with battles and dates that correct me, but the Christian community in Iraq is centuries old, and this genocidal rage I don't think existed. Remember, many many Shia fought Iran alongside Sunni in the Iran/Iraq war.

So I am wondering:"What did we Americans do?"
This was not a barely repressed powder keg waiting for a fuse. I do not think it is as simple as the breakdown of civil society automatically provided the conditions for a repressed civil war.

I am just thinking about it. I think maybe, by supporting Kurdish separatism to a degree, and setting up the Iraqi Constitution along proportional lines, we created and enhanced sectarian identities to a degree that did not exist before.

But "we" did this. The Iraqis likely would not be killing each other if we had not invaded.

And I agree 100% with Raving Mullah.

Remember I wanted 50 million Americans in the ME; I would settle for 5 million in Iraq. I would go myself. Maybe now you see why.

It ain't gonna happen. And frankly, I blame everyone for this catastrophe. Rather a million Americans dead here than a million dead Iraqis. Bush should have been removed.

The smug righteousness on the left bothers me a ton. I think Digby shows the correct level of despair. There isn't any decency left in America, anywhere.

as LG&M paraphrases VDH:

    As idealists, we ought nevertheless to continue believing that we can "birth consensual government" for these people, for whom I have nothing but contempt.

(via TNH)

Tribal History of Iraq ...4 parts

by Zeyad of "Healing Iraq", June 2004

If I'm coming across as self-righteous, I must not be doing a good job of expressing myself.

About Raving Mullah's comment: I absolutely accept the Pottery Barn rule. We broke it, we own it. That is partly why I have never called for withdrawal before: our responsibilities are too great. Specifically, and I don't say this lightly, I think that 'it's too costly to us is not a good enough reason to withdraw in this case, even though the cost is not just dollars but lives, the lives of good people in the army who are doing the job they signed up to do, and who have been, imho, spectacularly let down by the civilian leadership.

That said, I think we have to ask whether Iraq can be fixed by us, now; and ask this seriously. If we are only making things worse, it is no part of decency to remain. It's not at all clear to me that, at this point, a draft and a gazillion troops would actually do it.

That Iraq can't be fixed by anything we might do with Bush still in office, Rumsfeld still secretary of defense, etc., I take to be beyond question. Bush will not call for a draft, and if he did, he and his people would not do it right. We know that.

I am not sure it could be fixed even if we had some marvelously wise replacement for Bush, though. Part of what the Post article, plus Spencer, makes clear is that the reason we didn't intervene is because the Iraqi government asked us not to, and the reason it did that is presumably because it is not opposed to the militias; it runs them. (Or: various people in the government run different militias.)

As long as that's the case, then trying to work with the government, strengthen it, help it 'stand up', etc., is not going to work. If we could induce the government to disarm the militias -- convince the people in the government that it was just time to stop all this -- then maybe; but could that happen, given Iraq as it is? If you had a militia, would you disarm now, and leave your people defenseless?

But if the existing government will not rid itself of people aligned with the militias or disarm them, then in order to "fix" Iraq we would need to replace the government. Leaving aside the questions raised by our deciding to replace a government that was democratically elected, this means that "fixing" Iraq would basically mean starting from scratch.

We might have been able to do it right when we actually were starting out, back in the summer of 2003. But this is not the summer of 2003. Things have been poisoned, and we cannot undo our mistakes.

As I said, I accept the Pottery Barn rule. I think it was an excellent reason not to invade Iraq in the first place: the likelihood that something awful would happen as a result, which it would be our obligation to fix, was way too high. It was even more clearly a reason to do it right if we had to do it at all: to seriously plan, enlist the best people we could find and not just interns from the Heritage Foundation, send enough troops at the outset, etc., etc., etc. It was a reason to do whatever we could to set things right, regardless of the cost to us.

But it is not a reason to go on if there is no way in which we can fix what we broke. Especially if our presence makes things worse.

I cannot tell you how angry this makes me, and how much I still want to be wrong. And it is, I think, all our faults. I completely agree on that one. We are members of a democratic community, and we cannot escape responsibility for what is done in our name.

Being driven out by AQ -- even if it's only 25% true -- is 'not an option.'

I'd say start getting used to the concept. You can't kill enough of them to avoid them making that statement.

And I'm not sure what bob wants us to do rather than 'smug righteousness'. Armed rebellion?

Actually, Pottery Barn doesn't operate that rule. Colin Powell lied about that too. All they ask of ham-fisted customers is that they leave the premises without doing any more damage.

I completely agree on that one. We are members of a democratic community, and we cannot escape responsibility for what is done in our name.

Sorry, I decline. There is no responsibility without authority. When I can send everyone from Bush on down to Iraq to stand trial I'll think about it.

"There is no responsibility without authority. When I can send everyone from Bush on down to Iraq to stand trial I'll think about it." ...Tim 11:57

Down the River ...Billmon;and I think I said Digby above when I meant Billmon

"But we knew, or should have known, that what Bush was planning was an illegal act of aggression, based on a warmongering campaign of deception and ginned-up hysteria. And we knew, or should have known, what our moral and legal obligations were:

Complicity in the commission of a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity as set forth in Principle VI is a crime under international law.
We were all complicit. I was complicit. Because I was afraid -- afraid to sacrifice my comfortable middle class lifestyle, afraid to lose my job and my house, afraid of the IRS, afraid to go to jail." ...Billmon

"Armed rebellion?" ...Tim

I umm have a reputation on this blog. Ask around.

"But it is not a reason to go on if there is no way in which we can fix what we broke. Especially if our presence makes things worse." ...hilzoy

I am full of it and more than a little crazed, but I don't know how to handle leaving and possibly watching millions of Iraqis die. I don't know how to handle what I have seen so far. I can't seem to wrap my mind around it. If I seem irrational, well, I am.

Well, I'd point out a practical advantage to smug righteousness and not accepting responsibility. The game's been over for years, and major blowback is inevitable. By my estimate the U.S. now has a blood feud with millions of Iraqis. This probably also means the eventual loss of Mideast oil for the U.S. and everyone else but China. When very angry people come looking for retribution I'd rather they start with the right wing and save us lefties for last.

bob: I don't know how to handle it either. I really don't.

The only thing I ever know to do, when something is unimaginable and unendurable and beyond appalling, is to try to think as clearly as I can about what would actually help.

I should say, if it's not obvious, that I think that the idea that we cannot fix what we have broken is a terrible indictment of us as a country, but more especially of Bush and his administration, who had the power to do it right or not at all. -- I mean: I remember when the intelligence report on Iraq came out and people were saying: well, they say the war has helped terrorists, which is somehow pro-liberal, but that it's essential to win, which is somehow pro-Bush. And I thought: the hell it is. I agree that it would be a catastrophe, from the point of view of our fight against terrorism, if the terrorists were seen to have driven us out of Iraq, and/or were to end up with a safe haven in W. Iraq. But those were obvious possible consequences of the decision to invade, and the fact that we invaded anyways and did NOT take steps to prevent them from happening is about the farthest thing from a 'pro-Bush point that I can imagine.

So here: if it turns out that the best thing to do would be to leave, then I think we should feel exactly like someone who wilfully destroys another person's life, and then tries to make amends somehow but keeps on making things horribly worse, and eventually concludes that he'd really better just withdraw. As I said: it's a terrible indictment.

I didn't stop hurricane Katrina either.

Tim, I realize that there is no way to avoid some AQ people saying that we were driven out by AQ. The question is whether we can drive the facts to the point where this seems a less plausible claim than it would be if we left now. As I said, I'd like to see a set of options. If there's an idea for concentrating on AQ, and ignoring civil war, Shia/Shia strife, etc., I'd be interested to hear about it.

On the Pottery Barn rule, even if you own the broken vase, they don't make you stay in the store trying to glue it together. And if you knock over a bunch of things, there's a voice on the PA saying 'clean-up on aisle 8' or somesuch. No amount of American force can fix this thing, at this point. Only the Iraqis themselves can work out how they'll co-exist.

If it comes to genocide, I'd be willing to provide logistical support to a UN effort to stop it. The time is long past when any member of the US armed forces ought to be shooting at any Iraqi. (Other than a member of AQ, or someone who shoots first).

On the history, isn't it basically a matter of fact that most of the folks in Iraqi mass graves were Shia killed in the '91 uprising, and the '98 thing? Yes, ordinary Sunnis weren't killing ordinary Shi'ites, because that was the government's job. And, as one would expect, the government was focussed on 'uppity' Shi'ites, not just killing people based on identity.

"Complicity in the commission of a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity as set forth in Principle VI is a crime under international law.
We were all complicit. I was complicit. Because I was afraid -- afraid to sacrifice my comfortable middle class lifestyle, afraid to lose my job and my house, afraid of the IRS, afraid to go to jail." ...Billmon

Granted and agreed.

BUT with this proviso: I was not prepared to make such a sacrifice because I knew it wouldn't work - "work" meaning, it would not have stopped the train. I was not prepared, and am still not prepared, to make such a sacrifice because empty and useless martyrdom ain't my thing. In order for such a sacrifice to work - i.e., to stop the government in its tracks - would require that enough people make that sacrifice to bring entire cities, major cities, to an absolute standstill.

Because nothing less will accomplish anything. Nothing less than "stopping the wheel of the World."

And I see no signs that enough people are disgusted enough to do that in enough numbers to actually make a difference.

but I don't know how to handle leaving and possibly watching millions of Iraqis die.

But that's the beauty of leaving bob, you won't, or at least "we" won't. Once American troops withdraw and aren't dying at the current rate of more than 3 per day, the media will withdraw as well, and the majority of the U.S. will say, "Whew! I'm glad that's over." Any ugly reminders that show up on the pages of the NYTimes or Washingtonpost, or maybe even on CNN now and again, will be met with "Well, we tried to help them out and they just didn't want it, they made their bed and now they can lie in it," followed by turning the page or changing the channel.

Then, years down the road, when someone blows themselves up at a shopping mall in Des Moines, people will look up and say, "What did we do to deserve that?" and some opportunistic politician will start talking about new kinds of war, and hating us for our freedom, and the cycle will begin anew. Heck, Cheney could take up Kissinger's role and re-fight the Iraq War in some new, equally disastrous theater.

Charleycarp wrote:

That said, and I've been calling for declare-victory-and-leave since the ratification of the constitution, we cannot leave without killing AQ in Meso. The death of the delusional democracy project is survivable. Being driven out by AQ -- even if it's only 25% true -- is 'not an option.' I'd like to see what the military would propose if the message was 'you have no mission other than obliteration of AQ. At the lowest possible civilian casualty level.'

Well, nice sentiment and so. But how is that supposed to work? Stay inside some bases and only come out if/when some alleged AQ guys surface?

Just to be a bit cynical here.
What´s your use for the Iraqi government and even some militias if that were in future the only mission of the American forces?
Say, you don´t protect the Iraqi government and the "Green Zone" any longer. You no longer try to train Iraqi troops (including possibly lots of militias). You don´t kill any Iraqi Sunni insurgents any longer.

In that case you (the US forces) are pretty much useless for the Shiite government majority. Isn´t it likely that in that case they would tell you to get out of Iraq?

Face it, right now a lot of the Shia leaders tolerate American troops because
- you train their men
- you kill Sunni insurgents and the odd AQ guy.
- you don´t intervene in their killing Sunnis

And to repeat, how is it supposed to work even if the Iraqi government allows you to stay?
If the US forces stay in some bases to avoid casualties they´ll be totally dependent on Iraqi intelligence. How reliable would that be?
And if your soldiers get out, detain and question suspects (assuming the Iraqis allow it), how would that be any different compared to the situation now? Do you think insurgents won´t shot at American soldiers once they know that the Americans only want AQ guys?

I am full of it and more than a little crazed, but I don't know how to handle leaving and possibly watching millions of Iraqis die.

Give the Sunnis half of Texas. Seriously. Make all 5 million of them U.S. citizens. It'll be cheaper and easier in the long run.

If we get asked to leave by the government we leave. I don't expect it to be a long campaign. The government has enough of an interest in AQ to tolerate our messing with it for a while. I'm not talking about taking AQ down to under 19 guys.

Can it be done? Maybe not. That's why I said I'd want to see what the military folks could come up with. I'm not interested in pursuing tactical policies cooked up by people like myself.

"Make all 5 million of them U.S. citizens."

I am for it.

WSJ Invokes Tet ...Meteor Blades at Next Hurrah. Whose Libyan stepson moved to England because he didn't feel safe in America.

"There were already 1.3 million Iraqis in exile in Syria, Jordan and elsewhere. Half a million or so displaced inside Iraq. Maybe 50% unemployed. Three hours of electricity a day, even in Baghdad. $6300 a second spent on the war. And that's the short list." ...my emphasis

Don't remember where I read it, but 10+ percent of Jordan's population is now Iraqi refugees. Jordan can't feed them.

There were already 1.3 million Iraqis in exile in Syria, Jordan and elsewhere. Half a million or so displaced inside Iraq.

And these bozos are disputing death counts? The number may not be right, but with that kind of displacement, it is not out of place.

Apparently, not http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/world/AP-Iraq.html>everyone is on board with the 'you own it' thing. I've been saying since mid-03 that the Iraqi government was going to have to have some Sista Soulja moments with us; maybe we're finally getting there . . .

If it comes to genocide, I'd be willing to provide logistical support to a UN effort to stop it. The time is long past when any member of the US armed forces ought to be shooting at any Iraqi. (Other than a member of AQ, or someone who shoots first).

Forget it.
Unless there´s something that´s really threatening to a lot of countries you won´t see a UN mission. Certainly not for a genocide (unfortunately).
How many soldiers would the world now need to deploy to Iraq to suppress the violence? We know that 140,000 are not enough. Unless "real" interests are threatened (say the Iraq violence threatens the oil exports of the whole Middle East), I don´t see countries offering lots of soldiers to a UN mission. Especially if casualties might be high.

Personally I´m pretty pessimistic now. One can hope for a miracle but right now I don´t see it.

The worst part - and the difference to former Yugoslavia - is that there are no recognized and undisputed leaders for the different groups in Iraq. In Yugoslavia you knew that Tudjman (sp.) spoke for the Croats in Croatia and Bosnia. Likewise Milosevic for the Serbs. Pressure him and get him to agree and you knew that his group would follow.

Where are the leaders in Iraq?

Things in Kurdistan are pretty quiet. But don´t forget that they have two parties too. And IIRC they were fighting in the 1990s. I´m sure Turkey, Syria and Iran would love nothing better than to create trouble in Kurdistan. Anything to avoid a free and prosperous Kurdistan. Still that region has the best chances.
(By the way, if the USA gets out of the rest of Iraq and decides to leave some troops in Kurdistan. Notice that Kurdistan is land-locked. With the neighbors Iran, rest of Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Supply for the troops will depend on countries not terribly fond of Kurdistan.)

A leader in the Sunni region? Dozens of tribal leaders, Baathists and clerics. Plus foreign insurgents and AQ. From relatively secular to Islamist. I don´t think they agree on much except fight against the Americans and to try and get back their old privileged position in Iraq.
(Oh, and if Iraq really gets partitioned they want Kirkuk and its oil. Which the Kurds want too.)

And the Shia region?
At least two major militias. Badr Brigade (SCIRI party) and the Mahdi Army (Sadr). And they are rivals for power and influence. Witness that town fight a few days ago.

It´s a perfect recipe for a disaster. Fighting not only between the three major groups but maybe also fighting inside the groups. Throw in outside influence like Iran (close to the Shia SCIRI party), Sunni countries like Saudi-Arabia nervous about growing Iranian influence and Turkey, nervous about an independent Kurdistan.

Even a best case scenario now probably means a lot of violence and deaths. A worst case scenario would see outside Muslim countries involved.
Thanks, President Bush!

Don't remember where I read it, but 10+ percent of Jordan's population is now Iraqi refugees. Jordan can't feed them.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR had a press conference a few days ago. And Meteor Blade´s numbers are already too low. :(

Iraq displacement October 13, 2006

The government of Iraq, UNHCR and its partners estimate there are now more than 1.5 million people displaced within Iraq itself, including more than 365,000 newly displaced who have fled their homes and communities since the bombings in Samara in February. Increasing internal displacement is also having reverberations outside Iraq, where we're seeing more Iraqi arrivals in neighbouring countries and beyond. We estimate that up to 1.6 million Iraqis are now outside their country, most of them in Jordan and Syria. Others are in Iran. There are an estimated 500,000 Iraqis already in Jordan and some 450,000 in Syria. Some have been outside Iraq for a decade or more, but many have fled since 2003 and we're now seeing a steadily increasing arrival rate. UNHCR staff monitoring the border in Syria, for example, now report at least 40,000 Iraqis a month arriving there.

Tens of thousands more are moving on to Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, the Gulf States and Europe. Of some 40 nationalities seeking asylum in European countries in the first half of 2006, Iraqis ranked first with more than 8,100 applications. Statistics received from 36 industrialised countries for the first six months of 2006 showed a 50 percent increase in Iraqi asylum claims over the same period a year ago.

Where last year, we saw more than 50,000 Iraqis go home from neighbouring countries, this year we've seen only about 1,000 returns. Far more are leaving.

Inside Iraq, the government estimates that up to 50,000 people are leaving their homes every month, joining the 365,000 people who have become internally displaced since February. Some central governorates have seen a ten-fold increase in numbers of internally displaced since the beginning of the year. This displacement amid the ongoing violence in Iraq is presenting an enormous humanitarian challenge and extreme hardship for both the displaced and the Iraqi families trying to help them in host communities. The enormous scale of the needs, the ongoing violence and the difficulties in reaching the displaced make it a problem that is practically beyond the capacity of humanitarian agencies, including UNHCR.

Can I just say that this is most entertaining?*


*And by "entertaining" I mean** tragedy on a mass scale that will only get worse and for which the United States, and Americans everywhere, will rightly take the blame.

**How do you know I'm not a literary character?

Bob is correct that the U.S. behavior in Iraq intensified sectarian splits.

I can't find examples right now, but I spent a lot of pixels and hours during 2004 and 2005 arguing in comment sections that the U.S. had done this at almost every turn since before the invasion began (privileging the exile groups, setting up the IGC along sectarian lines, refusing to allow real local elections, supporting radical de-Baathification, turning a blind eye as Shia militias took over the police force, etc.).

At least a year and a half ago I'd concluded that U.S. troops were not able to prevent things from getting as bad as they could be. I repeatedly asked those arguing that we couldn't leave because there'd be a full-out civil war to specify how U.S. troops could prevent that. No one answered that question (other than people who advocated politically and logistically impossible huge increases of troops).

On some level, given the re-election of GWB, it's completely irrelevant when or how any of us came to a 'get out' position, because it wasn't going to happen. But the experience of the last two years has been deeply discouraging about future prospects for honest engagement of the many issues where all choices are bad ("future" = e.g., January 2009 onwards in the event of a Democratic administration being elected and taking office).

Bob and gwangung,

There were already 1.3 million Iraqis in exile in Syria, Jordan and elsewhere. Half a million or so displaced inside Iraq.

No, no, no!
Your numbers are from a liberal blog. So by definition they must be wrong. :)

The UN now estimates:
- more than 1.5 million people displaced within Iraq itself
- up to 1.6 million Iraqis are now outside their country
- at least 40,000 Iraqis a month arriving at the Syrian border

And the UN numbers must be right. After all a lot of critics of the Lancet study cited a UN study from 2004 (about living conditions) with much lower war deaths. And if UN numbers from 2004 are right then surely UN numbers from 2006 are right too. Even if the numbers are even higher than those on a liberal blog, right? :)

Re CharleyCarp's pointer to and musing about 'Sistah Soulah' moments between the Iraqi govt and ours:

The opportunity for a real and non-symbolic "sod off" moment will come in December, when our UN mandate expires. Presumably, the government could decline to request an extension from the Security Council.

Surely the UNSC wouldn't pass an extension without a request and/or support from Iraq?

Ugh,

(satire warning)

If you´re an US-hating /freedom(TM)-hating American liberal, you simply have to vote for Bush-enabling Republicans now.
After all, what better way to hurt America and all that it stands/stood for?

(satire ended)

CharleyCarp:

If we get asked to leave by the government we leave. I don't expect it to be a long campaign.

I think that's correct, especially if there's any substance to the coup rumours that were floating about last week.

With regards to Iraqis who have been displaced by ongoing instability, Ken Pollack and Daniel Byman outline some of the potential security issues for nations that provide asylum.

CBC - Iraqis better off under Saddam, says former weapons inspector

Ah, well what can be said... This is what happens when you put a psychopathic dunce in charge of the world's most dangerous country.

When do we start the Impeachment proceedings?

Can I just say that this is most entertaining?*

heh. yup. :)

Off Topic - cynic in me says this will swing the election to the Republicans.

this will swing the election to the Republicans

yep.

i've been waiting for something like that to happen. the Democratic Party simply attracts bad luck. and optimism is always misplaced.

Well since my first post was not very constructive, here are some suggestions:

Talk to Saddam, he understands the country and the people. He'll know what to do! O.k., so he's an asshole, but I guess it has been vividly demonstrated by the recent sectarian carnage why he had to do much of the bad things he did. From a Machiavellian point of view, a Prince has a *moral duty* to do some very bad stuff in order to prevent even worse stuff from happening.

Better still, stop Saddam's show trial and appoint him "special advisor" to Donald Rumsfeld. Or even better still, appoint him head of state and put the U.S. troops under his direct command!

Seriously folks, the least bad and probably the most humane solution would be for the US to withdraw, but to pay a BOATLOAD of money (10% of GDP?) to other Muslim countries such as Egypt, Syria and especially Turkey (a member of NATO with a million strong army almost "in theatre"), to take over security in a way that is a lot less offensive to the locals. To sort out this mess humanely needs at least a million troops.

Unfortunately, this is never going to happen because Shrub et al. only really care about dead Iraqi's to the extent that it harms their re-election prospects. The long term strategy is about control of OIL, and Iraqi body counts are pretty irrelevant to them.

If Rumsfeld stays, we might as well leave because (1) he's not going to commit the necessary resources anyway, (2) he doesn't understand or care about the Information War, (3) there's no reason to believe that slipshod planning and slow responses to changing situations will abate under his watch.

I agree with this soldier's views, but but what he suggests can't happen without new leadership in the Pentagon (such as the likes of Abizaid or Casey), and provided that that new leadership can bend the ear of Bush.

Charles! You're back! Everything okay?

Can we have a special Welcome Back Charles Bird open thread?

We are facing two problems. One is abstract -- trying to decide what can now be done with Iraq. It is "abstract" because the other problem prevents any realistic effort to address problem number one -- problem number two is the fraudulent sickness of our own political process that allowed this hideous monstrosity to occur, and then abets it for years afterwards.

The Republicans and other war supporters who championed this nonsense must first pay the political price for their failure, and then perhaps we can start to have a realistic dialogue about how to clean up this mess. But until that happens, our politics will continue to be dominated by their sick effort to avoid accountability and cover up the wrongdoing rather than any meaningful assessment of what needs to be done next. And in that environment, there is no chance that anything rational will be done in Iraq -- it will just be more of the same bad leadership and decision making, covered up with yet more lies.

The Republicans and other war supporters have lost this war, and have no plan for even minimizing the horrible consequences of that defeat (except for the plan to try to avoid the political consequence by blaming the Democrats for defeat). We are in a slow motion slide into an abyss -- how many more years must pass before people realize this? The most important thing is to hammer that truth home and throw the bums out -- then maybe something meaningful can be done.

Otherwise, expect more of the same hideous descent into an ever worsening mess.

Except for one small point, I am in agreement with the raw pragmatism of Charles Bird's post (and also except for his partial endorsement of the linked Taranto piece, which is garbage). It makes no sense to stay when realistically, the situation can not be improved with current leadership.

Charles keeps thinking that it is Rumsfeld, rather than Bush, who is responsible. Rumsfeld is doing exactly what Bush wants, and so long as Bush stays, nothing will improve.

The Republicans and other war supporters who championed this nonsense must first pay the political price for their failure

You will pay the price for your lack of vision!

When do we begin to accept that Americans are just bad people? In other words, if Americans really are so possessed by the notion of depriving same-sex couples civil rights that they would prefer to continue to enable an administration whose actions have foolishly led to the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people
just to make a symbolic vote against people having civil rights (rights which are a harm to absolutely no one), then at what point do we say that Americans get as much bad government as they deserve -- in fact they deserve worse? There's no reason I shouldn't be able to make judgments about people based upon their own choices, even if they are aggregate choices.

Slartibartfast:

As if any Republicans are cool enough to be a stand in for Ray Charles.

I, too, think we are at the point in a destructive relationship where the best thing you can do is to leave. You know more despair (and death, in Iraq) will happen, but there is no chance at all for getting past things if you don't leave.

We have no choice. If we stay, if we are "successful" in ending the violence, all we will have done is to recreate the Iraq of Saddam, only with much more hatred. It will be 20 (30, 50? a lot) years before this terrible effects of this war fade to insignificance.

Jake

Charles keeps thinking that it is Rumsfeld, rather than Bush, who is responsible. Rumsfeld is doing exactly what Bush wants, and so long as Bush stays, nothing will improve.

He did say "provided they can bend the ear of Bush".

Which is pretty big provided.

Isn't it ironic that people are talking now about a secular strongman as being perhaps the best option for Iraq? A secular strongman. Let's see, who could that be... could it be Saddam Hussein? Yes, the reality of the situation is that Saddam Hussein is just about the best we could have hoped for and at this point we would be thrilled to have him.

Can we find out what country Hudibras is from, so we can see what evil things it has done in it's history and therefore judge him or her evil on that basis? Maybe check the IP address? Thanks!

Phil: I'll save you the trouble, sleuth. I was born in the USA and I've never left.

I'm not saying I'm judging every single American. Of course, there are many thoughtful, conscientious, upstanding Americans. I'm only saying I'm making an aggregate judgment about Americans, based on what Americans in overwhelming numbers do. Are Americans, as an aggregate, victims? Are circumstances to blame? Are Americans, as an aggregate, oppressed by anyone?

Are Americans, as an aggregate, victims? Are circumstances to blame? Are Americans, as an aggregate, oppressed by anyone?

Are Americans, as an aggregate, meaningful?

Anarch: sure they are. Look, we make judgments about groups all the time. We make judgments about the Hells Angels or the KKK or Google. There are as far as I can see two differences. First, entrance and exit in these groups is purely volitional, while it is significantly harder to stop being an American. Second, not all Americans made the choice for which I have a low opinion of them. It seems to me that if a corporation were run by a board referendum and that board vote led to immoral policies, it would be perfectly reasonable to have a low opinion of that board, even if a substantial chunk of the executives on the board voted against the policies. That doesn't mean that better evidence doesn't override your opinion of each individual board member, it just means you have an opinion of the board. It sounds fine to me.

Completely OT, Hudibras, is that related to Fortinbras? I'm assuming that it's a handle and I'm always interested in how people choose theirs.

Phil,

Did you Americans reelect Bush 43 in 2004? Despite already knowing that some or lots of his reasons for the Iraq war were junk?

Today we´ve got the Internet and global media.
A thing which was not available some decades ago. I´m sorry but your reasoning is pitiful.

LJ: No relation to Fortinbras that I know of. But I'm no expert. Hudibras is the name of a long poem by Samuel Butler.

Did you Americans reelect Bush 43 in 2004? Despite already knowing that some or lots of his reasons for the Iraq war were junk?

According to Andrew, he won fair & square. I have taken his word for it and have therefor, once more lowered my opinion of the American Electorate.

Phil,

Did you Americans reelect Bush 43 in 2004?

I am not "you Americans." I'm me. Do you have a question for me regarding my 2004 Presidential vote? Because that's the only one I'm qualified to answer. And the answer is, "No, I did not re-elect Bush 43, nor did I even vote for him."

I´m sorry but your reasoning is pitiful.

Well, it's not as rock-solid as yours, clearly, but I'm fairly comfortable with it nonetheless.

"When do we begin to accept that Americans are just bad people?"

I think we are Romans. Not that that makes us bad people, just that we are stuck with an effing empire, and should accept what we and adjust accordingly. Like, be reponsible hegemons.

"Did you Americans reelect Bush 43 in 2004?"

Well I didn't vote for him either. But Bush is not Eisenhower, or Nixon, or Reagan, or his daddy. This guy is really special, and his special specialness has been apparent for decades. It does say something about America and all Americans that George Bush has become and remained President, just as it would say something about France if Le Pen gained power.

Perhaps all it says is that America has become so divided, polarized, and traumatized that we are no longer competent or responsible. But it is a bad sign.

I've said this elsewhere and I'll say it here. It's a damn shame that the people who seem to regret this war the most are not the ones who ordered it/supported it/enabled it, but the ones who opposed it utterly at every turn. You'd think some godamn shame would prompt the war-supporters to at least realize that they have NO credibility, and to pretty much just shut up when it comes to the war and let the adults try to figure the mess out now.

"Are Americans bad people?"

No more than anyone else. We're in an odd era, politically and culturally, where a minority of Americans who are intellectual and moral dwarves have "seized the narrative," so to speak, and thus have taken over the political arena.

They've been able to so because American thought and behavior patterns have concretized into tropisms - not just in politics, but most destructively in politics. It's the tropisms which'll be the end of us, because they're deeply embedded and not susceptible to quick and easy fixes.

I'm not sure there's ever been a culture as dedicated to mindlessness as ours is. Even Victorian/Edwardian England (as classist, fossilized and complacent a culture as you're likely to find) had a lot of ferment bubbling just under the surface, from the sublime (suffragettes, socialists, Bohemians) to the ridiculous (spiritualism).

You could make a case for any number of causative factors in the concretion of the American mind - commodification, homogenization, corporatism, lack of a unifying ethos, lack of a positive mission the whole country can be part of, the infotainment behemoths that treat us like moronic cash cows - but I think even those, as important as they are, are themselves symptoms.

I'm just not sure what they're symptoms of.

I'm not interested in pursuing tactical policies cooked up by people like myself.

The beginning and end of wisdom on this topic. "I have no solution, but I certainly admire the problem."

where a minority of Americans who are intellectual and moral dwarves

I would argue that it's a minority of Americans who have their heads screwed on straight. . . 60% of this country doesn't buy the evolution of man, 5% can name the last appointee to the SCOTUS, less than that have ever read a SCOTUS decision.

I've had the thought that *intelligent action* is interchangeable with "morality" (though a subset thereof; there are moral actions that are not necessarily intelligent, like anonymously giving charity to strangers). By this measure we, as a nation, are in fact quite screwed.

Wisdom from Jim Henley:

I don’t care if you’re Nour al-Maliki, George W. Bush, Ali Sistani or Greg Djerejian himself. Iraq is beyond your ability to fix. Even if you all merge and form Voltron, Iraq is beyond your ability to fix.

We have lost.

The entire population of the U.S. over the age of 18 should be deployed immediately to the Middle East, and filtered into Iraq in 3 week intervals until we're all there.
Then collective responsibility won't be so hard to establish, and we can get down to the hard part - whatever that is.
Because no one seems to have anything real to say about what exactly should be the attitude, and its consequent slogan, for our leaving after all this carnage.
"Sorry for the mess"?
"All those bodies - whoops"?
"The hopes and dreams of all your young people gone to dust - our bad"?
The strange but true fact is we don't have a feasible option anymore. Leaving, staying, slow or fast leaving, greater or lesser troop input, stasis - none of it will work, and none of it has an antithesis that will work either.
The closest thing to a sane and healthy move would be something like mass suppuku by the upper echelons of the American military in country - say Rumsfeld and 15 generals disembowelling themselves out on the tarmac at Bagram. And even that would make us vulnerable to opportunistic nastiness from elsewhere.
Anything less severe than ritual-suicide-as-reclamation-of-honor will be seen by the world for what it is - blind greedy failure looking to change its name without bothering to change its essence.

First, entrance and exit in these groups is purely volitional, while it is significantly harder to stop being an American.

Which automatically makes talking about Americans en masse difficult, as it does for any other characteristic which is only loosely voluntary.

Second, not all Americans made the choice for which I have a low opinion of them.

It's much, much worse than that: you're talking a vastly disparate, incredibly inhomogenous population with widely ranging viewpoints that is, as noted previously, not voluntary contingent on a particular ideology (as would be members of a similar religion or, for that matter, members of an executive board). You're then extrapolating to all Americans the behaviors of a relatively small -- though incredibly potent -- subset of these people (at most 25% of the population, and probably considerably less), thereby completely obliterating the inhomogeneity which characterizes the population. That's pretty much an inherently broken argument right there.

[If you want to wax corporate, the proper comparison isn't critiquing the executive board of a corporation, it's blaming the guy who works in the warehouse for the malfeasances of the CFO. Our warehouse worker might actually be a bad man, but that's independent of the argument you've constructed to show it.]

If you want to say that the current government of the US is bad, go right ahead; it's pretty dang easy to make that case. If you want to say that people who voted for the current government are bad, that's a little harder to make stick but you can certainly construct a colorable argument to that effect. [Stated that starkly I don't accept it, btw, but it's colorable nonetheless.] Saying that Americans as a whole are too susceptible to what CaseyL is calling "tropisms" is harder still but again, I think there's a colorable argument to be made -- and this time, I actually buy it. Saying that Americans en masse are "bad" is either meaningless, massively unjustified or just plain wrong, depending on what exactly you intended to mean.

At some point the U.S. will have to proceed from self-flagellation to righteous anger and resolve. U.S. policies, deliberately or not ( not my take ) , reflect a perception they are designed to give the world the clear message the U.S. will stop at breaking no international conventions and will recognize no common constraint : they apply to others : not to you.
That is the responsibility of those who set policy. Worst. Congress. Ever. I didn't originate that comparison. BushCo. have made it inevitable.
No overreach has been effectively constrained. Domestic politics have driven the timing and nature of foreign policy.
You are in a runaway engine of suspicion and destruction. As a lynch mob recognizes no superior wisdom to its own, ignorance, greed, hate and fear rule. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse ride because the only actions possible are destructive.
What Iraqis think is no secret. The English posted blogs are out there. Some bloggers have even been to the U.S. to testify as to the nature of their experience.
Afghanistan
Iraq
Iran ( not quite yet)
A list of American "actions" in previous years.
The old adage is still true.
Act in haste.
Repent at leisure.

The best of all. Banging your head against a brick wall feels so good when you stop.

Karl Rove on Iraq: "The real plan is this: Fight, beat 'em, win."

Wotta guy. Guess the Republicans are just lucky to have Rove at the helm.

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