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February 15, 2007


Bush, Rumsfeld, Feith, Cheney, Rice and all their enablers across the land should be over there, sorting body parts, for minimum wage, until they've paid back every dollar they spent killing these people.

Our local paper also has an Iraq blog, written by Capt. Jeffrey Leonard, a local army reservist counselor, called up and serving in Iraq. His blog is Life in Iraq. His writing is incredible... I only wish he didn't have so much tragedy to deal with.

I think this has exhausted my capacity for horror. As soon as I attempt to drum up the words to express the anger at the people who authorized and supported what led to this nightmare, I feel deflated. What's the point? Tomorrow will bring another fresh peek at Hell, and the stubborn fools will still--still--insist "although it hasn't worked out as planned" that invading Iraq was the right decision. It's not the idea of a pre-emptive war without immiment threat that was flawed, it's merely been the application (and often due to circumstances that anyone who didn't listen to the constant chorus of critics leading up to the invasion couldn't have possibly foreseen).

As if there weren't mere halves of bodies littered throughout Baghdad the first night of shock-n-awe bombing, and mothers picking through the smoldering rubble the next morning to collect the parts of missing children, husbands, sisters.... Ah, yes, but that's war...and better there than here again. Better anywhere than here. Regardless of whether or not they were involved, just so long as they're discernible "other."

If I didn't have the sort of sneaking suspicion I'd bet everything I own on that Bush went to war ultimately for the thrill/power trip/approval ratings he thought it would bring, I'd perhaps suck it up and concentrate on doing what I can to soothe those mourning (that's how wars go, I'd tell myself, but this one was necessary). But I would bet everything I own on it that that spoiled idiot gave precious little thought to any of this past the opportunity for photo-ops in flightsuits with Hail to Cheif drowned out by rapturous cheers or dreams of avenues named after him in Baghdad. We let a petulant pubescent throw away so much of what we value in pursuit of his own glory. And why? Fear. Fear and the desire to lash out, even if indiscriminantly.

Who could possibly blame any Iraqi mother for teaching her remaining children to mistrust, if not despise, America after an experience like that? It hardly matters who killed her child. The promise Bush and Blair made via TV upon taking Baghdad was that the worst was over. They failed the Iraqis. They failed us. They both should go, quickly, and let competent people take over.

I look at it and think "what a waste". Bush defeated Saddam, but left us with something worse. I know I'm the one who doesn't post much, but I can still appreciate that follow-through is important even if I fail at it myself.

ScottM: thanks for the link. Too many different kinds of heartbreak.

Edward, exactly.

Look on the bright side, "We will never forget 9-11."

My only disagreement with Edward (who is far more eloquent than I) is that to me both the idea of pre-emptive war and the implementation were flawed.

Otherwise, Edward, no one could have said it better.

Honestly, you people really are a bunch of pantywaists, getting so worked up over birthpangs.

Schools. Painted.

America's charnel house -- stunning. I would expect that pictures of this are circulating in the Arab world like Abu Gharib torture pictures.

Makes "you break it, you own it" ridiculously pathetic in describing the true consequences unleashed by a needless war of choice.

Either that, or it "proves" that Iraqis just do not "appreciate" the freedom we have brought them.

Byrningman, I at least would appreciate a break on the sarcasm. Or at least I'd like to see some evidence that it actually helps build sympathy, leads to constructive action, or does anything else worthwhile. When we're living in the midst of lunatics and evil men, we don't really need someone playing at them.

To expand a bit: When I read something like this piece, I feel horrified and enraged and scared, and I'm trying not to let overwhelm me or keep me from doing my part to live up to my personal responsibilities and my obligations as a citizen. Part of that, at least for me, is being honest about what I'm feeling, because I think that a huge part of what's gone wrong with my country since 2001 is people unwilling to say anything as simple as "I'm scared and not sure what to do". Certainly a pernicious ongoing effort to hide and confuse the truth is part of what this administration does as routine policy.

In the midst of all this, one of the things that tells me someone is on my side is a willingness to tell the truth and not to hide it. A key characteristic of the people who I regard as my enemies - not because I set out to hate them, but because they set out to hate the republic as I value it - is that they have no interest in the truth. They only use words for what effect they might have on others. In calmer times I might appreciate some good word twisting as much as the next literature junkie, but right now...it seems like just pouring gasoline on the fire, keeping us that much farther from the honesty it'll take to actually get anything done.

My only disagreement with Edward ... is that to me both the idea of pre-emptive war and the implementation were flawed.

Yes, to me as well. I meant the line, "It's not the idea of a pre-emptive war without immiment threat that was flawed," to read as a continuation of the supporters' reasoning I hear all the time. I am wholly certain that pre-emptive war without imminent threat is immoral.

I've been burning up with the need to write about why I'm still fuming at the lingering apologists for the war's rationale, from McCain to Andrew Sullivan. None of them will concede that it was an immoral idea from the start, they'll simply pick away at who misled them or who failed them.

Very strong agreement, Edward, and if you write up your thoughts on it, I'd love to read them.

Cleek: Why bring Rumsfeld, Bush, et al. to Iraq, when you can bring Iraq to them.

Look, what we need here is personal accountability from our politicians. What we must demand of our Leader -- or point him towards that tree of liberty watered by the blood of tyrants -- hmmm... one wonders if Jefferson would have been banned at Obsidian Wings -- is a willingness to be harmed by the foreseeable consequences of his or her own actions. To that end we must ship the unclaimed parts back to the homefront and arrange them in a giant heap on the lawn of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Call it: The Pile of Parts. We'll keep piling on until the war is over -- a symbolic tradition in many lands -- when the souls of the departed can go to rest.

But, lest our Leader should insulate his or herself from the heaping pile of limbs gathering on the front porch, I demand an extra-sacrifice among key decision-makers. I demand that our President wear at every waking moment, manacled to the left wrist, the severed arm of one Iraqi whose life was purposelessly lost because of the President's actions. We People are merciful People, and we allow our Leader to rotate the limb when it decomposes past usefulness. Every bill he signs, every hand he shakes, every time he drunkenly paws at Laura, that hand will be there.

Consider the modesty, cost-effectiveness, and wisdom of the Aha plan. I'm not even asking for commensurate sacrifice from our Leader, just modest deterrance. We recognize when dealing with madmen and rogue states that the secret to deterring a state is deterring its leaders, not its people. The same is true for Democracies, but these forms of deferral of responsibility that have grown with the modern state -- the decision-maker hiding behind the duties of the Office -- have brought true moral responsibility to its knees. Indeed, they've brought the ascendancy of the West to its knees. The error is sewn into the origins of the modern State.

A Leader who smells the plight of the Iraqi at every waking moment is more likely to make responsible decisions than a Leader who is permitted to forget: that is my proposition!

Memento Iraqi!

Fair enough. And like you, I am still waiting for people to say that it was wrong from the start and not because Hussein wasn't a threat, not because there were no WMD's, not because the aftermath was almost a forgone conclusion. Simply because it was wrong. To repeat a line I heard just before we started the "Awe" part of the campaign, "Democracies don't start wars."

The key word is "start."

And for those who think that we would be justified to attack Iran because they may be supplying militias in Iraq with arms, I want them to be ready to say that it would have been okay for the Soviet Union to send bombers our way because we were supplying the resistance in Afghanistan with pretty sophisticated weapons.

If they can't sign on to that statement, then they are being hypocrites if they advocate even surgical bombing of Iran.

John Miller:

I am still waiting for people to say that it was wrong from the start and not because Hussein wasn't a threat, not because there were no WMD's, not because the aftermath was almost a forgone conclusion. Simply because it was wrong.

Well, it was wrong. To paraphrase Talleyrand, horrified at Napoleon's judicial murder of the duc d'Enghien, "it is worse than a crime, it is a mistake." The invasion of Iraq was misbegotten on its merits, and incompetently carried out to boot.

Let us now honor honest men like Mark Twain, who once wrote The War Prayer. Situations like this were exactly what he had in mind.

"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at
such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left."

--Shakespeare, Henry V

(and yeah, I know the king responds, and ostensibly wins the argument...but I don't buy it.)

Edward: I believe your password still works and all, so you can write whenever you want.

More Than Just a Read-Thru

Jim Henley linking Eric Martin. NSFW.

Doesn't compare to what is in the article, but I notice the suffering of Edward and Jim and Eric and everybody and I just have nothing.

"Look on the bright side, "We will never forget 9-11.""

Speaking of which, why is America talking about the Shiite threat all the time now, rather than the Sunnis who, y'know, attacked us? Here?

And I really have to wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that Israel got spanked by Shiites last summer.

(Possible reason number 2 is that the Saudis, our terrorist-funding pals, are tired of watching their Iraqi peeps get beat by the dominant Shiites.)

Also, while we're busy not forgetting 9-11, the Iraqis are going to remember 9/11, 9/12, 9/13, 9/14, 9/15, 9/16, times ~1500.

And Bush wants them to thank us.

Thanks, Hilzoy, for the blog link. One thing we CAN do is bear witness--so we need to read this. We need to read it, hold it, know it. Baghdad Burning hasn't posted since Dec. 31. I wonder what happened to her, am scared for her. I didn't know about this one or the one by Capt. Jeff. Devastating. I want more people to read these. Thanks also to Edward, Sebastian, Bruce, and John Miller, and I join the chorus: it was just wrong. It. Is. Just. Wrong.

The "Lessons of 9-11", indeed.

For what it's worth, I sent a link to the McClatchy article to the White House, under the title, "Read it and weep, you sumbitch".

I received in return:

"On behalf of President Bush, thank you for your correspondence. We appreciate hearing your views and welcome your suggestions. The President is committed to continuing our economic progress, defending our freedom, and upholding our Nation's deepest values.

"Due to the large volume of e-mail received, the White House
cannot respond to every message. Please visit the White House
website for the most up-to-date information on Presidential
initiatives, current events, and topics of interest to you. In order to better receive comments from the public, a new system has been implemented. In the future please send your comments to [email protected].

"Thank you again for taking the time to write."


I swear, it was sooo much easier to keep my breakfast down, when these guys were dismembering people out of sight, on a government payroll. And a janitor would come by after each shift to clean the plastic shredder...

Um, guys, if you find this so offensive, do try to remember that the perpetrators are the ones we're fighting.

it was sooo much easier to keep my breakfast down, when these guys were dismembering people out of sight, on a government payroll

yes, it's true that we've eliminated the government monopoly on torture, kidnapping and dismemberment. now anyone with a handheld drill and some zip-ties can set up a little shop of his own. sweet sweet liberty.

Brett, one of the many problems with our effort in Iraq is that from the information supplied you and I have no way of knowing whether this was done by the forces we are fighting, or by the ones we are aiding. The quoted post was done by Sahar but I don't know whether that is a Sunni name or Shia, or if it could be either. In an quick look at the McClatchy site I wasn't able to find that information.

or by the ones we are aiding

Umm...the Iraqi Army, for instance? Or the local police?

the Iraqi Army, for instance? Or the local police?


surely you're aware that one of the big problems is that we can't trust that the people in the army & police aren't also moonlighting in the militias (and vice versa)... ?

I've heard that's happened, yes, but I haven't read much about it being so much of a problem lately. Possibly you have; if so, I'd be interested in reading about it too.

I could say a bit about how questionable the "aiding" descriptor is when applied simultaneously to organizations and individuals, and note that your tax dollars are supporting child pornography activities by that same rule, but I have no idea whether we're knowingly supporting those militias.

Possibly someone else does, though. If so, please share.

Slarti, the fact that the primary loyalty of many members of the Iraqi police, army, and other Iraqi security forces (e.g., the Facilities Protective Service) is to the militias of which they are also members was acknowledged to be a big problem from mid-2005 through most of 2006.

Isn't the burden of proof on anyone who downplays that concern to point to what might have changed the situation, rather than on those who believe, in the absence of such evidence, that it continues to be a concern?

Nell, Slarti was not downplaying it, just saying he hadn't read much about it lately and would appreciate more recent info.

That being said, you are correct. If one is going to say it isn't a problem anymore, it would be incumbent on them to provide some supporting evidence.

Brett, it's very simple: if you undertake such a task as the Iraq war in the absence of an ongoing genocide you simply have to get it right, but you guys were so busy bashing dissenting or even just cautionary voices, so enthralled by your grand designs of reshaping the middle east, that there wasn't much time or room or willingness left to think about the aftermath and worst case scenarios - which is exactly what we have now, a worst case scenario.

Slart, it's a systemic problem, it doesn't really matter much anymore if the US are the good guys or not.

Thanks, John. It's ambiguous whether Slarti's comment is downplaying the militias-in-Iraq-security-forces phenomenon or not.

His main point, I think, is an objection to the term 'forces we are aiding'. I.e., regardless of whether the militia-members-operating-inside-Iraq-forces is as much of a phenomenon now as it was over the last year, it's not a phenomenon for which the U.S. has responsibility, or certainly not knowing responsibility. (in response to Baskaborr's comment).

I agree with that point to some extent, so would propose a revision of Baskaborr's comment with which there might be less to quibble:

from the information supplied you and I have no way of knowing whether this was done by Iraqi Sunnis, Iraqi Shia Badr Brigades or Mahdi Army members, foreign jihadists, or other of the multiplying armed organizations in Iraq.

That last category includes, but is sadly not limited to, the 'Son of Heaven' organization recently involved in a massive firefight near Najaf; Kurds and Turkmens responding to the increasing pace of attacks in Kirkuk (and in anticipation of the referendum mandated to happen by the end of 2007); and members of the anti-Iranian MEK who may be in Iraq. I have a link to a recent story on the topic of multiplying militias but can't find it right now and don't want to hold this comment until I do.

Hm. Typepad is making life tough here.

The 'multiplying militias' article by Farah Stockman.

It's like George W. Bush dumped Iraq into a giant industrial shredder.

You know, like the ones the hawks were so concerned about that turned out not to have existed.

Here's an http://arablinks.blogspot.com/2007/02/border-closings-along-with-market.html>item. Hearts and minds are a pretty tough sell with empty bellies.

Edward: "It's not the idea of a pre-emptive war without immiment threat that was flawed...."

John: "My only disagreement with Edward (who is far more eloquent than I) is that to me both the idea of pre-emptive war and the implementation were flawed."

The Iraq War had nothing to do with pre-emptive war; it was a preventive war, which is entirely different.

"Pre-emptive war" means you strike just before your enemy attacks you, thus pre-empting their attack -- if there is no attack about to come, to be pre-emptive, by definition there can be no pre-emptive war.

This was the case in Iraq. Despite the deliberately vague and misleading claims and implications strewn about by the Bush Administration, Tony Blair, and others.

"Preventive war" is attacking someone on the theory that at some undetermined point in the mid or long-range future, they are apt to be a threat, and thus should be attacked.

This is what the U.S. and Britain and the others did to Iraq.

Iraq was not a pre-emptive war, and it would be useful if people would stop erroneously claiming it was, thus asserting that Bush's version of events was correct (even if they don't understand that's precisely what they're doing), and confusing others.

Pre-emptive war:

Preemptive war (or preemptive attack) is waged in an attempt to repel or defeat an imminent offensive or invasion, or to gain a strategic advantage in an impending (usually unavoidable) war. Preemptive war is often confused with the term preventive war. While the latter is generally considered to violate international law, and to fall short of the requirements of a just war, preemptive wars are more often argued to be justified or justifiable. However, the legal ground for pre-emption remain highly a contentious issue.


The U.S Secretary of State Webster in 1842 pointed out that the necessity for forcible reaction must be “instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation”.

Preventive war:
A preventive war is the term given to the kind of war whose public justification is proclaimed as "self-defense." The concepts of preventive war and preemptive war differ only in the certainty of an attack —the latter concerns an imminent attack, while the former requires no military provocation. The rationale for preventive war is the claimed prevention of a possible future attack, which international law considered to be indistinguishable from a forbidden war of aggression. The term preventive war arguably belongs more to political rhetoric than to diplomatic and legal language. In contrast, "preemptive" (if it is understood as anticipatory self-defense) has a strict and universally accepted legal meaning enunciated by Daniel Webster in the Caroline Case, requiring a degree of certainty in the imminence of an attack and no time for deliberation.
After five years of people discussing these vital points, there's simply no excuse for perpetuating Bush's false claim that this was a pre-emptive war, whether out of sheer sloppiness, or ignorance, or whatever.

We. Did. Not. Pre-empt. No attack on the U.S. (or Britain) was coming from Iraq minutes, or hours, or days, or weeks, or months, before we invaded Iraq. That claim is utterly false.

Preventive war is illegal, and under almost all circumstances, immoral.

Pre-emptive war is, when circumstances justify it, neither.

Invading Iraq was not a pre-emptive war.

If anyone would like to read more about just war theory, I recommend Michael Walzer, among others.

Ah, I see that Katherine just wrote a long post exactly about preventive war, three days ago; why people are subsequently still claiming that Bush's war was pre-emptive (in 2007!), instead, I can't fathom.

Gary- If only you could be as helpful about where to go to know less about Just War theory.

Gary. I stand corrected. However, you have reinforced my basic statement that what we did was wrong not because of the mistakes made, or the rationale used to justify it, but simply because it is wrong.

And anybody who knew the ME, knew even the rudimentary facts about Iraq and Hussein, should have realized that Hussein was not and very probably (to an extremely high confidence level) never would be a threat either through doing anything himself or using terrorists groups as surrogates.

I'd really really like to agree with you unreservedly, John, but I can't quite.

For almost all would-have-been-likely practical purposes, I essentially agree with you.

But I can't agree with putting it in such absolutist terms, if your premise is that under no circumstances or conditions is it ever justified to attack a country until we, ourselves, have been directly attacked.

Of course, maybe that's not what you meant by "simply because it is wrong," in which case we pretty much agree.

But if, hypothetically, it was known to our government, which was being run by sane and reasonable people, that Saddam Hussein, or some other leader of a country with some significant resources, had completed nuclear weapons, and was, say, in the process of attaching them to ICBMs which could reach the U.S., and we had reason to believe that -- for some hypothetical reason -- that leader was going to launch those missiles at us within a day or two of them being ready, no matter what sanctions, or retaliation, we threatened -- well, then I'd say a pre-emptive attack on those missiles could possibly reasonably be justified. But only if all other possibilities had first been exhausted (see "Missile Crisis, Cuban" for the most obvious example of alternatives being found, and d damn good thing, too).

So I wouldn't agree that a pre-emptive attack is, in every possible circumstance, is simply wrong.

On the other hand, if you agree with me about that sort of rather extreme hypothetical, and were simply saying that a "preventive" attack, as in "we think that we'll be in danger six months from now," or a year, or two is never justified, than I'm inclined to agree, at least vis-a-vis a nation as powerful as the United States presently is.

On the other hand, I'm not so inclined to be absolutist about that always being the case, at all times, forever, for every country in the world, though I certainly would need immense convincing of the justifications for any exception, to be sure, and agree with it strongly as a general rule.

But I'm not so inclined to condemn Israel for attacking Saddam Hussein's nuclear reactor at Osirak. Maybe Israel could have waited a few months; maybe Israel could have just lived with a nuclear-armed Iraq. Maybe. It's certainly fairly arguable, but I tend to think it's fairly arguable either way.

That was an extraordinarily unusual circumstance, however, and certainly shouldn't be extrapolated to some sort of general policy of generally condoning preventive attacks.

On pre-emptive attacks, rather than preventive attacks, I'd more strongly defend Israel's pre-emptive strike on Egyptian airfields on June 6, 1967, after Egypt massed 100,000 troops, with 950 tanks, 1,100 APCs and more then 1,000 artillery pieces, in the Sinai, the Straits of Tiran had been blockaded, and it was believed Egypt would attack within 48 hours. Naturally, this too is at least arguable.

Another case where a pre-emptive attack might arguably have been justified would have been if Stalin hadn't been blind to Hitler's intentions, and he'd launched attacks against the forces prepared to launch Operation Barbarossa 48 hours, or so, before Hitler crossed the Soviet border in force. Certainly the Soviet Union would have been better off militarily if they'd attacked pre-emptively, although it might arguably have muddied the waters politically, perhaps to the point of not having been worth it. Again: arguable on both sides, I tend to think.

Then there's the argument about whether (if they had had the capability, which is really as much to the point as whether they had the will, but never mind that for the moment) Britain and France should have militarily intervened when Germany re-occupied the Rhineland in 1936. To be sure, the French and British would have been asserting their rights under the Versailles Treaty and the Locarno Treaties to enforce the provisions of those treaties as regards the Rhineland, but I'm not sure that, nonetheless, it's entirely a separable question, and might not also have been considerable as a (hypothetical) example of a preventive war, and one that might arguably, perhaps, have been justified.

Of course, hindsight always lends clarity rarely, if ever, possibile in advance.

Concerning the Rhineland re-occupation: The troops had orders to immediately retreat, if they met any official resistance from the ex-entente forces and Hitler was not willing to force a confrontation at that time.
It is one of the really few occasions where a simple threat would have been sufficient.
Another occasion was when Bismarck wanted to "finish the job" on France in the 1870ies* and Britain intervened (dipomatically).

*with no immediate threat from France but expecting a 1914-scenario for the future

Concerning the terms preventive/preemptive
The use over here is the opposite. preventive (lit.:coming first) means attacking while the other side prepares its own attack (as Frederick II put it: Better 'praevenire' than 'praeveniri'). There is no actual term for 'attack now because someone else could at some time think about attacking us'. I propose the term 'prophylactic war' (vorbeugender Krieg).

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