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July 24, 2007

Comments

Aren't some of these clowns running things the same people who were blasting Democrats for stabbing South Vietnam in the back for not supporting the South Vietnamese?

Thugs. All of them.

I'll repeat the substance of a comment I made in Sebastian's thread because it is even more appropriate here:

I would urge you not to treat this particular issue as a human rights campaign unless you are prepared to follow through with equally vigorous efforts campaigning for U.S. reparations and more for all the people of Iraq. Moral exhortations on behalf of just those Iraqis who have supported the occupation too easily merge with the selective hectoring by liberal hawks who urged the invasion as a
"humanitarian intervention."

The U.S. government would be acting in its own long-term interest in issuing visas to those who worked with it in Iraq (and their families), in order to help assure that there will be anyone in the Arab world or middle east willing to do so for the next 25 years. It would also be acting in its own long-term interest to engage in active diplomacy aimed at managing its withdrawal from Iraq. However, the current regime is not likely to do neither of these things in the next year unless forced by cataclysmic events in the region.

If this is a question of honor, it's a peculiarly imperial sort of honor. The moral and human rights situation of Iraqis who have worked with the occupation force is no worse than that of Iraqis who are living in the "wrong" neighborhood, or who were in the "wrong" place when someone nearby shot at U.S. troops and were sprayed with cannonfire from a helicopter, or who were waiting in line to buy gas when a carbomb exploded. Casting the rescue of this particular group as a moral issue, one of honor, carries the risk that for some this will assuage the guilt and responsibility we all share for the destruction of a sovereign country. That's perverse and abhorrent.

By all means urge the U.S. government to live up to this most minimal obligation. But don't pretend that it's a human rights campaign.

Reflecting on the post title, I could put my previous comment more succinctly: It is too late for us to avoid moral shame. We added that to our humiliation some time ago, and This campaign does not even begin to mitigate it. Nor should it.

Wingnuts will find a way to blame Democrats for these further deaths. That is the way it works these days.

Someone in the Bush administration has nixed the idea of letting in these Iraqis -- it could be under the 1% Cheney argument that one of them might be a terrorist. “The tie-up is Homeland Security and vetting,” said James Zogby, head of the Arab-American Institute. “They’re arguing that working for the U.S. is one thing, trusting them over here is another.”

Most likely is that it looks too much like the US is planning to leave, which is probably not a popular agenda item in the Bush administration (even if only a long shot contingency item). That might explain why nothing has been done to set up an office in the State Dept. to process Iraqi visa applications. The State Department’s Visa Office advises that there is still no designated consular district at which Iraqi nationals may apply for nonimmigrant and immigrant visas. A similar parallel is the struggle involving Clinton over whether the Pentagon has done anything to draw up possible exit plans.

Here is a bellweather on a possible change in policy -- the US ambassador wrote and asked that anyone working for the embassy be granted a visa good at the end of their employment. Iraqis employed by the U.S. government in Iraq should be granted "immigrant visas" to come to the United States at the end of their service, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker has written to the State Department in a two-page letter sent earlier this month.

If he can get this in through the back door, then maybe something will free up.

Most likely is that it looks too much like the US is planning to leave

I agree with dmbeaster here, who echoes a comment Sebastian left in a previous thread, preparing to let thousands of Iraqis into the U.S. means preparing for defeat, and look how the Defense Department responded when HRC asked about contingency planning - "your helping the enemy!!!"

There will be no planning for withdrawal until after Bush has left office, there will be no mass immigration of Iraqis who worked for the Coalition in Iraq until after Bush has left office, any plan that makes it out of Congress with teeth for withdrawal will be subject to immediate veto, if Congress refuses to pass a funding bill, Bush will play chicken with the troops in Iraq.

And I keep hearing this voice in my head:

They have taken the bridge, and the second hall. We have barred the gates, but cannot hold them for long. The ground shakes. Drums, drums in the deep. We cannot get out. A Shadow moves in the dark. We cannot get out...They are coming.

Nell: If this is a question of honor, it's a peculiarly imperial sort of honor. The moral and human rights situation of Iraqis who have worked with the occupation force is no worse than that of Iraqis who are living in the "wrong" neighborhood, or who were in the "wrong" place when someone nearby shot at U.S. troops and were sprayed with cannonfire from a helicopter, or who were waiting in line to buy gas when a carbomb exploded.

I agree with you, of course. The UK government, disgracefully, has spent three years trying to get Iraqis who had fled from Saddam Hussein to go back on the grounds that Iraq was now safe for them. Any Iraqi now ought to have the right to claim asylum and leave to remain in the UK on basic human rights grounds, and I'll say so when I write to my MP.

But I do think that we're under a special obligation to Iraqis who were working for the occupation, who will certainly be specially targeted by the resistance as soon as the occupation leaves. We need to encourage them to get out before the occupation comes to an end, and promise them safe asylum in the UK with their families when they do.

It looks pretty like there is an active will to deny Iraqis that have served the US in Iraq from the start entrance by procrastinating and blocking long enough that they have been killed as collaborators before the process is finished.
http://www.alternet.org/waroniraq/56397/>An example

"There will be no planning for withdrawal until after Bush has left office, there will be no mass immigration of Iraqis who worked for the Coalition in Iraq until after Bush has left office, any plan that makes it out of Congress with teeth for withdrawal will be subject to immediate veto, if Congress refuses to pass a funding bill, Bush will play chicken with the troops in Iraq."

I'd say that's an accurate assessment: There's little contingency planning for leaving, because Bush doesn't intend to leave. So the question is, will Democrats be willing to stay in Iraq long enough after the 2008 elections to make those plans, and extract those people, or is getting the hell out ASAP going to be too important to rescue them?

Keep in mind that Republicans will, whether or not you like it, whether or not you think it's fair, be able to say afterwards with perfect honesty, "WE didn't abandon them, because WE didn't leave. YOU left."

You don't want them saying that, you'd better be prepared to moderate your haste enough to make sure it's not true.

Sebastian and Hilzoy: thanks for highlighting this issue. It should be a totally non-partisan issue.

Some good news on the legal side: S.1104 and HR.1790 were the first pass at this – raising the limit from 50 to 500. S.1104 passed with unanimous consent in the Senate and 412 Ayes in the House and was signed into law on June 15. You don’t get much more bipartisan than that these days.

So the limit has already been raised, which could be a buffer as these new bills work their way through. That is, sad to say, the limit is already higher than what we can apparently handle from the implementation side.

One issue I have with the new bills: they are specific to Iraqis. The earlier bills specified employees in both Iraq and Afghanistan. If you write or call I would urge you to ask them to include Afghanistan in these bills as well.

FYI – if you go the snail-mail route letters are still taking three weeks or more to get through screening. If you mail it you may want to fax it as well, and then follow up with a call to verify your fax was received.

Keep in mind that Republicans will, whether or not you like it, whether or not you think it's fair, be able to say afterwards with perfect honesty, "WE didn't abandon them, because WE didn't leave. YOU left."

I think it's safe to say that most outspoken liberals are quite used to being called traitors by this point. I can't speak for hilzoy, of course, but personally I'm not exactly fazed by that sort of accusation any more.

More to the point, I won't be surprised in the least if the Republicans in Congress oppose this bill publicly on the grounds that it "emboldens the enemy", as dmbeaster alluded to. Privately, I have a hard time believing that the ones who aren't rank cowards aren't instead vindictive idiots who would gamble with the lives of the Iraqis who helped us just to score political points against the Democrats in the 2010 elections.

Keep in mind that Republicans will, whether or not you like it, whether or not you think it's fair, be able to say afterwards with perfect honesty, "WE didn't abandon them, because WE didn't leave. YOU left."

Anybody who listens to what Republicans say after 2004, deserves what they get.

I think that in the interest of national amity every GOP legislator and staffer from 2000-2007 should get a full pardon, and a stipend, and a visa. Provided they never ever again claim to be US citizens.

OCSteve -- thanks; those are good points.

Nell: I considered making the title something like 'Adding Even More Moral Shame to Moral Shame And Humiliation', but I thought it would be to long, and that people would get that I was quoting. Also, it was late. But I didn't mean to suggest that our invasion, and the subsequent prosecution of the war, have not been anything to be ashamed of.

I think that we have a huge moral obligation to everyone in Iraq. That was why, having opposed the war before it happened, I wasn't in favor of pulling out until I was convinced that staying would not help.

But I don't see that that means that there are no distinctions to be drawn among people we have a huge moral obligation to, and people we have an even huger moral obligation to. Everyone in Iraq has suffered because of this war. But not everyone in Iraq incurred huge additional risks in order to help us, and not everyone in Iraq will be specifically targeted because of that very fact.

I have always thought of the situation of people in Iraq as a human rights issue. I'm not sure what you have in mind by "treating this particular issue as a human rights campaign", or why treating it as one would require that I make equal efforts on behalf of all Iraqis. -- I mean, I have, one way or another, tried to do what I could, which isn't all that much, for all Iraqis. But as I survey the human rights problems around the world, there are tons that I have not really done anything about. I have also tried on, say, Uganda and the LRA, but I haven't said nearly enough about the eastern Congo, or the way the conflict in Darfur is spilling over into neightboring countries and displacing people there, or about any number of serious human rights issues.

This is partly a function of time, and partly a function of what I think I understand well enough to urge action on, or alternately to try to explain. But in general I do not accept the idea that I do not get to start working on one problem unless I am prepared to devote equal amounts of time and energy to all similar problems. That's a prescription for never doing anything, I think. Working on one group always beats working on none.

If liberal hawks want to join in trying to help the refugees, great. If they try to argue that if we do this, we will have exhausted our obligations to Iraqis, I will of course argue that they are wrong. Beause they would be wrong.

But honestly, I am willing to deal with what people try to make of this later, by doing my best to skewer their arguments, rather thn worrying about it now. I don't care who this benefits politically. I don't care whether it helps one party or the other. (Fwiw, I think it helps the Democrats, and that it is also in our national interest to do this; but that is not the point.)

Brett: Keep in mind that Republicans will, whether or not you like it, whether or not you think it's fair, be able to say afterwards with perfect honesty, "WE didn't abandon them, because WE didn't leave. YOU left."

With "perfect honesty"? Surely you jest.

Yes, with perfect honesty: If Republicans don't plan to leave, and Democrats leave after taking power, it is perfectly honest to say that the Republicans didn't leave, the Democrats did.

That's part of being in power, you know: For better or worse, what you do gets attributed to you. You're going to own the departure, and it's consequences. And nobody but yourselves are going to be impressed by your claim that Republicans should have laid the groundwork for you to do something they didn't want to do.

Brett: If Republicans don't plan to leave, and Democrats leave after taking power, it is perfectly honest to say that the Republicans didn't leave, the Democrats did.

But as the Republicans know that they have to leave Iraq, and they are only keeping the army in Iraq in order to lay blame for leaving on the Democrats in 2009, it is hardly "perfect honesty" for Republicans to claim "we never meant to leave" when what they mean is "we never meant to take responsibility for the mess we made".

And nobody but yourselves are going to be impressed by your claim that Republicans should have laid the groundwork for you to do something they didn't want to do.

True: nobody but the honest and the sensible will be impressed by Democrats doing the work that Republicans should have done themselves. That the Republicans don't want to do it is no excuse: the work has got to be done, and the fact that the Republicans currently in power don't want to do it and see "don't wanna!" as a good excuse for not doing it, is typical of their utter failure as a party of government.

I have the same concerns as Nell and had them over at Crooked Timber, though I didn't post. (Others did. Some of them must have gone too far, as dsquared went on a comment-deleting rampage.)

Nell, I think it is a human rights campaign, on the grounds that these people are in the very high risk category even by Iraqi standards. And it's also a basic obligation any organization has to protect the people that work for it, as you say and prefer to emphasize. So I'm going to write my congresspeople as suggested.

But the issue makes me uneasy for the same reasons it makes you uneasy, I think. It sounds like a campaign to save the Good Iraqis who chose to heroically work with the well-intentioned invaders from the Bad Iraqis who oppose us and want to kill them. Any time we touch a moral principle in our foreign policy it seems to morph into self-congratulatory sh**.

I also think the thing smacks of political triage. There are, I've read, about 2 million internal refugees in Iraq and another 2 million outside the country. They are all our responsibility and some significant fraction of these people might want to come here if they had the chance. There are also countless orphans, people maimed, immense property losses and to varying degrees this is our responsibility as well. But I think that when we leave Iraq it's probably going to be with the attitude that we liberated them, spent hundreds of billions of dollars, lost thousands dead and tens of thousands wounded and gave them a chance to have a democratic government and they blew it. There's not going to be a nationwide sense that we owe Iraq massive reparations and zero chance of any of the "serious" Presidential candidates saying something like this. Nope. That's Kucinich territory. But helping a much smaller number of Iraqis who actually worked for us. Maybe, just maybe, we can find it in our national heart to do this.

So saving the "good" Iraqis who helped us is the first baby step towards doing the right thing for all Iraqis and if that's as far as it gives us the same moral statures as say, the Soviets allowing communist dissidents from rightwing dictatorships to come and live in Moscow. And right now the Bush Administration doesn't even want to do that much.

Brett, the fact that the administration chooses to live in a fantasy land in no way absolves them of failing to anticipate their fantasies not coming true. Bush may not intend to leave, but it's pretty obvious by now that we can't stay with the current troop levels indefinitely, and that those who have aided us will be in great danger when we either leave or reduce our numbers. Failing to plan for that would be irresponsible on the part of the administration, and then trying to shift blame onto the Democrats for their own failures would be the worst sort of political opportunism.

Sorry, I think any "moral shame" should be reserved for the Iraqi civilians we killed. Let's give their relatives visas. To tell the truth, I personally feel no debt of honor to Iraqi translators paid to work with the U.S. who were warned that it was a bad idea by their fellow civilians. That can be on the head of the GOP idiots who talked the Iraqis into it in the first place.

After the innocent civilians are taken care of then we can talk about the mercenaries.

Failing to plan for that would be irresponsible on the part of the administration, and then trying to shift blame onto the Democrats for their own failures would be the worst sort of political opportunism.

Yes, and Brett has warned us that this sleazy immoral tactic is precisely what we must expect from the GOP.

Note that Brett has not come out and approved it himself, though his language sounds somewhat as if he thinks these disgusting tactics might be somehow justifiable.

He's pointing out why it's important to destroy the GOP permanently. So if you know of an honest republican legislator or staffer, encourage them to leave the GOP. They can't do much good as republicans, and they should have a chance to salvage their careers.

Tim: the mercenaries?

Read the Packer article, or the one on Alternet. They are people who have been living under even worse threats than everyone else, since they are specifically targeted for working with us. And a lot of them seem to have it because they wanted to help.

That's wrong, Tim. You can't get inside the heads of Iraqis who worked for us. Some might be heroes, some might be collaborators in the worst sense of the word, and some might be people who needed to put food on the table for their families. I don't think anyone deserves to be tortured to death and I don't want to brush it off by pointing out (rightly) that GOP idiots have a lot to answer for.

But yes, we should feel moral shame for the civilians we've killed. There's not been any noticeable across-the-political spectrum campaign to force our government to determine the number of civilians who have died at our hands and to demand investigations into the circumstances or reasonable levels of compensation for the survivors. I wouldn't expect visas handed out by us, as chances are a fair number of these civilians and their relatives don't feel kindly towards the US.

"But as the Republicans know that they have to leave Iraq"

It is, I have observed, a common assumption among liberals that your opponents secretly agree with you about the merits of your proposals, and the premises underlying them, and publicly disagree with you out of sheer cussedness, or simple malevolence. Nope. I assure you, Republicans know nothing of the sort, they still think this war can be won.

"That the Republicans don't want to do it is no excuse: the work has got to be done"

It's only "got to be done" to execute a policy Republicans don't intend to execute. Do your own work.

"these civilians and their relatives don't feel kindly towards the US."

Um. I meant the relatives of civilians killed by the US. It probably wouldn't hurt to proofread before hitting the post key.

Brett B: There's little contingency planning for leaving, because Bush doesn't intend to leave.

Know how whenever there's a news article about contingency plans to attack Iran, or something equally cataclysmic, there are always commenters ready to downplay and put such reports in perspective by saying that the U.S. military has contingency plans for everything, even invading Canada and the like, and that we civilians need to get our undies out of a bunch?

If that's true, then it stands to reason that there are contingency plans for withdrawal from a country where the U.S. has deployed almost two hundred thousand troops.

If there are not, it can only be because the political leadership of this regime has actively discouraged the development of such plans. This seems unlikely, but not impossible, given the Pentagon's rather sketchy planning for the post-invasion occupation. It also seems wildly irresponsible, given that since April 2004 it has been clear that the wrong sequence of events could throw the situation out of U.S. military control, forcing a quick withdrawal.

Either way, Congress needs to know about what plans exist. That's why Sens. Byrd, Clinton, Bayh, and Webb have asked chairman Levin to hold hearings in the Armed Services committee on the state of such contingency planning.

When writing your members of Congress, urge that the evacuation and resettlement to the U.S. of Iraqis who have worked with the occupation and their families be made an integral part of such planning.

If it turns out that there has been no such planning up to now because it has been suppressed by the political leadership, that should simply add one more article of impeachment to Cheney's and Bush's long list.

Brett: Nope. I assure you, Republicans know nothing of the sort, they still think this war can be won.

As Larv said: just because they prefer to live in fantasy land, does not absolve them of the obligation to meet the demands of the real world.

J Thomas: Note that Brett has not come out and approved it himself, though his language sounds somewhat as if he thinks these disgusting tactics might be somehow justifiable.

Actually, I think Brett has approved this political opportunism, when he avows: "It's only "got to be done' to execute a 'policy Republicans don't intend to execute. Do your own work."

But that's not really relevant. The notion that the US can remain in Iraq indefinitely at the current troop levels, or that doing so will somehow cut the violence in Iraq by 90% (down to 2003 levels) are fantasies unsupported by any evidence whatsoever: Bush wants to stay until 2009, and Republicans in government are afraid to cross the administration and admit that it's got to be done.

Thank you, Donald, for elaborating my point thoughtfully. I'd like to make it clear that I agree completely with Donald, and not with Tim.

The reality of the situation is that if we wait for the U.S. public and political leadership to meet our obligations to the Iraqi people as a whole before making efforts to secure the safe resettlement of Iraqis who have worked with the occupation, none of them will be provided any help.

I'd urge, again, that those making efforts to see that visas are offered make the case to your represetatives in pragmatic terms, about the impact abandoning these workers will have on the country's ability to secure help anywhere in the region in the foreseeable future. It will help you and your representatives avoid undeserved self-regard.

Anybody remember the Simpsons episode where Flander’s observes that buying insurance is a form of gambling?

Hurricane Neddy

I suspect that the Bush administration believes insurance, for other people, is tantamount to giving up. However, insurance for themselves is an act of bravery.

That's wrong, Tim. You can't get inside the heads of Iraqis who worked for us. Some might be heroes, some might be collaborators in the worst sense of the word, and some might be people who needed to put food on the table for their families.


Prioritize. We're mostly all agreed that the GOP is going to do diddly squat for anybody in Iraq, so this is probably a moot point. Save your efforts for those that need it the most, not those whose situation is at least partially self-caused. There are always consequences when you pick the losing side.

What political oportunism? I'm sure that, laboring away in some basement of the Pentagon, is a team updating the bugout plans for Iraq. But anybody actually trying to WIN the Iraq war would be utterly irresponsible if they were to visibly start laying the groundwork to execute such plans, and that appears to me to be what you're demanding: That an administration publicly committed to winning a war actively aid you in turning your own predictions of defeat into a self-fulfilling prophesy.

I do not, personally, know whether this war is winnable. What I do know is that it's stark raving bonkers of Democrats to expect a Republican administration, on the basis of your having won a razor thin majority in Congress, to severely compromise it's own policy in order to make it more convenient for you to implement your own, assuming you win in 2008.

That's not something YOU do for Republicans, you shouldn't expect them to do it for you.

If you want an orderly departure from Iraq, you're going to have to schedule it long enough after the 2008 elections to do the work on your OWN time. And if you're not willing to wait that long to bug out, the consequences will have been chosen by you, and everyone will know it.

Brett demonstrates that the spirit of the 'decent interval' is alive and well in the Republican Party thirty years on. Let us hope that vigorous oversight, and a State Department, CIA, and Pentagon who have learned the lessons of the 1972-75 period, prevent the same kind of outcome.

Brett: That an administration publicly committed to winning a war actively aid you in turning your own predictions of defeat into a self-fulfilling prophesy.

The Bush administration is not committed to winning the war in Iraq. It is merely committed to staying in Iraq till 2009, at which point Bush and Cheney can retire with mutual grunts of relief. If the Bush administration were committed to winning the war in Iraq, it would have instituted a draft back in 2002 when General Shinseki told them they'd have to do that, abandoned the idea of cutting taxes when they had a war to pay for, and put the best and most experienced people to work planning how to succeed in Iraq. None of that has ever been on the Bush administration's agenda. To claim that they are committed to winning is nonsense: they're committed to stay till they can blame someone else for leaving, that's all.

Your comments make clear how they will, despite that, try to lay blame on the Democrats.

"Note that Brett has not come out and approved it himself, though his language sounds somewhat as if he thinks these disgusting tactics might be somehow justifiable."

Actually, I think Brett has approved this political opportunism, when he avows: "It's only "got to be done' to execute a 'policy Republicans don't intend to execute. Do your own work."

I do not say that Brett agrees with these treasonous ideas himself. I do not call him a despicable excuse for an american citizen. I do not accuse him of promoting the interests of the GOP when those interests are directly opposed to the welfare of the USA. I do not say he is a GOP shill.

I give Bret Belmore the benefit of the doubt about his personal choices. He is warning us just what immoral behavior to expect from the GOP, and doing so is indeed a public service.

"The Bush administration is not committed to winning the war in Iraq.

...

they're committed to stay till they can blame someone else for leaving, that's all."

Yes, I've already pointed out this liberal tendency to assume that your foes actually agree with you about everything, and only pretend to disagree out of sheer malevolence. Repeatedly demonstrating this character flaw doesn't make it any more rational.

So, like, does anyone have any thoughts as to what, ther than writing congresspeople, we can do about this?

hilzoy: I reject the idea that I do not get to start working on one problem unless I am prepared to devote equal amounts of time and energy to all similar problems.

You, too, have misread me. I did not and do not advocate not starting to work on the one problem. I advocate ceasing to view it as a human rights campaign and working on it instead as a piece of pragmatic foreign policy.

My reasons for doing so are illustrated perfectly in your comment:

I'm not sure what you have in mind by "treating this particular issue as a human rights campaign", or why treating it as one would require that I make equal efforts on behalf of all Iraqis. -- I mean, I have, one way or another, tried to do what I could, which isn't all that much, for all Iraqis. But as I survey the human rights problems around the world, there are tons that I have not really done anything about.

The reason that treating this particular issue as a human rights campaign does in fact require that you go on after this effort is resolved to actively support meeting our obligations to the rest of the Iraqi people is that the devastation and suffering are the consequences of an invasion by your government. That's the difference between the situation of refugees in Syria and those in the Congo.

If liberal hawks want to join in trying to help the refugees, great. If they try to argue that if we do this, we will have exhausted our obligations to Iraqis, I will of course argue that they are wrong. Beause they would be wrong.

Here you capture my intent.

I'm urging people to view this as a pragmatic campaign rather than a human rights campaign to avoid the argument above, to avoid unseemly self-congratulation, and to temper expectations to a reasonable level.

Because most people in this country and our government, all branches, don't care very much about the people of Iraq. People who supported the invasion still try to justify their position on the basis of their good intentions on behalf of the Iraqi people. Good intentions are meaningless or worse if they don't take reality and the agency of those being 'helped' into account. The treatment of Iraqis, even the most pro-American of them, by the occupation operatives shows clearly this was never really about empowering or freeing the Iraqis, but only about imposing a pre-determined arrangement on them, in the (perceived) interests of the U.S.

I've already pointed out this liberal tendency to assume that your foes actually agree with you about everything, and only pretend to disagree out of sheer malevolence.

Brett, I'm not a liberal but I'm giving the GOP the benefit of the doubt here.

I'm supposing they're taking this stand out of slimy political self-interest because I don';t want to believe they're so utterly stupid or delusional that they'd actually believe there's a victory hiding in there.

So, do you have some concept of a GOP plan for victory? Say the GOP wins the presidency and both houses of congress in 2008. Do you have a plan for how they could win in iraq by 2012?

Urge your friends and colleagues to write their Congressional reps and Senators. Share the George Packer March article widely.

Inform the public, by way of letters to the editor, just how small the numbers are of Iraqis being permitted to resettle here, and the scale and nature of the threats to Iraqis who have worked with the occupation.

Integrate the issue in your communications with the larger issue of contingency planning for withdrawal, which has strong public support.

Avoid making it a case of 'save the Good Iraqis', which does not, and which also sets up an abhorrent moral framework.

Hmmm...I think the one clearly defined variable here is that the Bush Administration equates leaving with losing, and that as long as we don't leave on their watch they will not have lost the war (in their mind).

Thus, since this is the only thing that's clear (to them), they won't leave - no matter how bad the current situation is in Iraq, no matter how little chance we have of "winning" (however defined), no matter whether staying longer makes it worse for Iraqis once we leave.

So, let me just say it again, Bush will not leave Iraq. Democrats do not have the votes to override a veto and force him to leave. If they refuse to pass a bill to fund the war, Bush will leave the troops in Iraq to their own devices. The democrats do not have the votes to impeach and remove him from office. We are there until at least January 2009, and likely for months, if not years, thereafter, President Hillary or no.

I've got to go, but one last thing: I reject, utterly, Packer's analogy with the massacre in Cambodia, which the targeting of those working with the occupation is not like either in scale or in nature.

The sooner we leave Iraq, the sooner there will no longer be Iraqis working with the occupation. If we had left when we should have, in 2003-4, many fewer Iraqis would be at risk of this particular form of targeting.
The devastation that feeds the urge for revenge would be correspondingly smaller as well.

"I do not, personally, know whether this war is winnable."

Nice construction there, Brett: but can you at least give us some sort of idea what YOU think a "victory" would look like? So we might at least have some sort of metric for discussion as to the likelihood/unlikelihood of said "win" scenario?

Not just to nitpick, Brett: but your comments here mostly, unfortunately, typify the (low) state of pro-war/pro-Administration commentary one finds all over the blogosphere: long on passive-voice references and/or exhortations to "victory", long on bilious disdain for those not eager to jump on the Victory Bandwagon; but rather short on real-world, real-life solutions as to what can actually be done to realize those goals, given real-world, real-life conditions as they exist.

Yes, I've already pointed out this liberal tendency to assume that your foes actually agree with you about everything, and only pretend to disagree out of sheer malevolence. Repeatedly demonstrating this character flaw doesn't make it any more rational.

The character flaw represented by this response is not responding to the merits of the remarks you flag, and offering ad hominem as a substitute for a reasoned response.

italics begone!

If the troops come back under Bush and the Republicans, they will turn on them.

The Repugs have a better shot at surviving angry military famlies if they come back under the Dems.

"The sooner we leave Iraq, the sooner there will no longer be Iraqis working with the occupation. If we had left when we should have, in 2003-4, many fewer Iraqis would be at risk of this particular form of targeting.
"

You keep saying things like this, and then suggesting that I'm misinterpreting when I call attention to them. You *seem* to express a willingness to abandon people to torture and death because you feel that Bush and Cheney did something wrong: didn't leave when we should have.

You seem to justify it by alluding to the occupation. I don't understand how that works. Or rather I fear I do, but I'll let you discuss it rather than voice what I'm sure is another misunderstanding.

For some reason I'm being reminded of how when Republicans are in power they cut taxes and run up the debt to record levels, then when Democrats come back in they're left to clean up the mess and face the blame for telling people there's no free lunch. Maybe some day the US public will see through this game, and maybe they'll even see through the similar game that's being played with Iraq. I'm not holding my breath.

Although it's irrelevant to the point I'm trying to make,

1. I think we might have won in Iraq given a more competent President.

2. I think we might yet win in Iraq if Bush is replaced with somebody competent who actually wants to win.

3. But the cost and duration of doing so has been vastly increased by the mistakes Bush has made. Maybe too high.

4. None the less, the cost of restoring our reputation for cutting and running is so high, it might be worth sticking around to try to win, just to replace that reputation with one for being mindlessly stubborn.

However, this has no bearing on the point I've been trying to make, which is that it's fundamentally absurd to expect an administration of the opposite party, and different policy goals, to compromise it's own goals in order to smooth the way for you to implement your own if you win the next election.

You wouldn't do it for Republicans, don't expect them to do it for you. If you don't want to abandon our employees in Iraq, then you're going to have to accept the fact that we're going to be in Iraq through at least 2009. Bush's refusal to start your withdrawl for you before the 2008 election won't make the deaths resulting from your deciding to run away immediately his fault.

And... Please try to get over this notion that everybody agrees with your view of the facts, and is just lying if they say otherwise. Bush may be mistaken in thinking we can win, but you've precious little evidence that he's lying about that belief.

Why does any of this only apply if we leave? Translators are getting killed right now.

However, this has no bearing on the point I've been trying to make, which is that it's fundamentally absurd to expect an administration of the opposite party, and different policy goals, to compromise it's own goals in order to smooth the way for you to implement your own if you win the next election.

Except that what we're expecting this administration to do has NOTHING to do with compromising its goals.

Handling CURRENT refugees is a CURRENT problem.

Refusing to handle that is a cost to our reputation that is NOT being handled at all by current policy.

And, eventually, the US WILL leave Iraq, either near term or long term. A lot of long time friends will eventually want to come to the US for some reason or another (some of which might actually reflect well on the US and its reputation). It would be easier to set up the mechanisms now. We have to be able to treat our friends well, don't we?

Brett,

"However, this has no bearing on the point I've been trying to make, which is that it's fundamentally absurd to expect an administration of the opposite party, and different policy goals, to compromise it's own goals in order to smooth the way for you to implement your own if you win the next election.

You wouldn't do it for Republicans, don't expect them to do it for you."

Unfortunately, KCinDC just posted the perfect counterexample, that the Democrats have done this for the Republicans on the budget, cleaning up the Reagan-Bush the Elder mess by compromising its goals for a range of issues from healthcare to education. Bill Clinton left a surplus, which Bush the Younger used to implement his goals on tax cuts. And likely this will play itself out again in the next few years, especially if Hillary wins next year.

Like KC, I am not holding my breath for the Republicans, or even the SCLM, to notice this anytime soon.

"Unfortunately, KCinDC just posted the perfect counterexample, that the Democrats have done this for the Republicans on the budget, cleaning up the Reagan-Bush the Elder mess by compromising its goals for a range of issues from healthcare to education."

Nope, not at all the same thing. It's perfectly routine that, when a new administration comes in, they have to clean up any messes the last left behind. It's quite another thing, and unprecidented, to expect the administration in place to start changing it's policy to accomidate the other party's expectation that they're going to win the NEXT election. And that latter is what you're asking.

It's quite another thing, and unprecidented, to expect the administration in place to start changing it's policy to accomidate the other party's expectation that they're going to win the NEXT election.

So it's Republican party policy to leave Iraqis who've worked for the US to die, because working out a way for the interpreters &c who want to leave Iraq right now under threat of their lives would likely be helpful to the next administration?

That's explicit, at least. A Republican who thought that their party might win the next election might consider this bad tactics, but I guess that Republicans no more think they're going to win in 2009 than they believe they're going to win in Iraq.

win in 2008, er. Typo.

Brett,

Okay, now I'm confused. You're saying that because Bush believes that the war is winnable, it's okay if he takes no steps to prepare for an alternative outcome? Really? Isn't that what got us into this mess?

I also don't understand why you seem to think that we're assuming that the administration, or pro-war types in general, actually agree with us about the facts. We aren't. What we do think is that our view of the facts is the correct one, and that the administration and many of it's supporters are delusional in denying certain realities and downplaying the likelihood of failure. Is the war winnable? Maybe so, but given our history in Iraq I can't understand how anyone could think that victory is sufficiently likely as to make planning for the worst unneccessary.

The question at hand is not whether the war is lost, it is whether we should start taking steps now to protect those Iraqis who have helped US forces and NGOs and who are likely to be targeted for retaliation. Unless you think that the administration can justifiably assume that such protection and/or asylum will never be necessary (or at least not for the foreseeable future), I don't see how you can insist that this is the Democrats' responsibility, or that Bush has no reason to start such preparations. It's not as if this is just some potential problem waiting off in the distance for when we leave Iraq. Translators and other "collaborators" are being killed right now. Such retaliation will no doubt increase with a reduced US presence, and it'd be smart to start preparing for it now. Hell, even if it continues at the present rate, it'd be the right thing to do. This in no way requires Bush to compromise on his policy goals. It's not starting the withdrawal, and it's not an admission of defeat. It's just acknowledging reality.

Nope, not at all the same thing. It's perfectly routine that, when a new administration comes in, they have to clean up any messes the last left behind. It's quite another thing, and unprecidented, to expect the administration in place to start changing it's policy to accomidate the other party's expectation that they're going to win the NEXT election. And that latter is what you're asking.

Um, no it isn't.

This is a CURRENT problem, which applies to translators AND other refugees in Iraq.

Actually, I expect the Republicans to lose, and lose badly, in 2008. (A pity both major parties can lose at the same time!) I'm not sure that Republicans are as pesimistic about their chances, though they ought to be.

However, stating that your expectations of cooperation from Bush are irrational isn't the same as agreeing with administration policy.

Nell: "The sooner we leave Iraq, the sooner there will no longer be Iraqis working with the occupation. If we had left when we should have, in 2003-4, many fewer Iraqis would be at risk of this particular form of targeting."

Sebastian: You keep saying things like this, and then suggesting that I'm misinterpreting when I call attention to them. You *seem* to express a willingness to abandon people to torture and death because you feel that Bush and Cheney did something wrong: didn't leave when we should have.

You are reading something into what I'm saying that is not there, and doing so in the teeth of my direct statements to the contrary. I believe there used to be some award for that around here...

I have said several times, explicitly, that I believe the U.S. government should right now issue visas and help resettle in the U.S. Iraqis who have worked for the occupation. I also believe that people who agree with that should take action to press the government to do so. I have myself taken such action, months ago, and have responded to hilzoy's request in this thread with suggestions for those who want to take such action.

You have imputed to me the belief that Iraqis working for the occupation deserve to be targeted, when nothing I've said has done more than point out that the longer the occupation, the more Iraqis end up being so targeted. Such targeting is a standard, highly unpleasant feature of any occupation to which there is violent resistance. I condemn such targeting, along with the occupation against which it's ultimately aimed.

Ok, Nell. You should just realize that isn't what you communicated at the beginning. And it wasn't just the conservatives in the thread who thought so.

Brett: However, stating that your expectations of cooperation from Bush are irrational isn't the same as agreeing with administration policy.

Expecting Bush to do the decent thing is irrational, I agree. But you are expressing this as if you think he ought not to do the decent thing.

Further, you appear to be arguing that because the Republicans believe they're going to win in Iraq, it's right and appropriate that they should send a message to the Iraqis that, no matter how bad things get, the Americans will never help Iraqis who worked for them escape Iraq. In short, your argument is that the Republicans believe they can win in Iraq while alienating and betraying the Iraqis who were once actually motivated to help the US.

And you engage in ad-hom attacks because we say this makes it obvious the Republicans expect to lose in Iraq and lose in 2008?


Larv, plenty of Democrats, some writing in this very comment thread, have expressed the belief that Bush thinks the war lost, and is just running out the clock so that the inevitable bloodbath will occur during a Democratic administration.

As for taking steps now, I think that, all along, we should have made immigration from Iraq easier, but as a pragmatic matter I can understand why we didn't. If we're to fight this war, if Iraq is to be a viable state, we need those very people whose exits you want to facilitate. And we need them in Iraq. Too bad for them, isn't it?

Moreover, we need to avoid creating the impression that we've already decided to leave, and making visible preparations for an evacuation will create exactly that impression. That's what I mean by demanding that Bush turn your expectation of defeat into a self fulfilling prophesy.

I'm quite sure that at least some preparations and planning are going on covertly. Stop insisting on the public equivalent of announcing a schedule for the surrender, you're not going to get it.

Nell wrote-

"The sooner we leave Iraq, the sooner there will no longer be Iraqis working with the occupation. If we had left when we should have, in 2003-4, many fewer Iraqis would be at risk of this particular form of targeting.
"

Sebastian wrote--

You keep saying things like this, and then suggesting that I'm misinterpreting when I call attention to them. You *seem* to express a willingness to abandon people to torture and death because you feel that Bush and Cheney did something wrong: didn't leave when we should have.

You seem to justify it by alluding to the occupation. I don't understand how that works. Or rather I fear I do, but I'll let you discuss it rather than voice what I'm sure is another misunderstanding."


I think this is called mindreading, except it's worse than that, because Nell said nothing of the sort and shouldn't have needed to explain what she meant to anyone, as she just did in the 3:51 post. It only "seems" like she is advocating doing what you suggest because you are projecting those thoughts on her. There are lefties you can find who do talk the way you are imagining Nell to do, with a kind of ruthless attitude towards people who work with US forces, so maybe you should find someone like that and argue with him.

You should just realize that isn't what you communicated at the beginning. And it wasn't just the conservatives in the thread who thought so.

Don't insult hilzoy by implying that she for one minute interpreted my comments as saying that I thought Iraqis working with the occupation deserved to be targeted, or deserved to be abandoned.

She did initially misunderstand me as saying that we shouldn't act on their behalf until we had helped all Iraqi refugees and victims of the war. I clarified that I was saying that if we make helping them a moral demand we should be ready to accept that moral demand on behalf of all Iraqis.

At no point was her misreading of me even close to as uncharitable as yours, much less was it repeated misreading.

Larv, plenty of Democrats, some writing in this very comment thread, have expressed the belief that Bush thinks the war lost, and is just running out the clock so that the inevitable bloodbath will occur during a Democratic administration.

I'm not a Democrat, Brett. Too right-wing for me, and the wrong country to boot.

As someone upthread has pointed out, we assume it's political opportunism rather than witless stupidity that still thinks that if the US can hold on long enough, the war will be won.

As for taking steps now, I think that, all along, we should have made immigration from Iraq easier, but as a pragmatic matter I can understand why we didn't. If we're to fight this war, if Iraq is to be a viable state, we need those very people whose exits you want to facilitate. And we need them in Iraq. Too bad for them, isn't it?

That does sound like the "pragmatic" line of thinking that led to the US's current defeat in Iraq, yes. If you don't anticipate ever making Iraq a country where people will actually want to live, you can at least bygod stop them from getting out of it!

Note: I have made a list of things I think we might be able to agree on in the other thread, just to help us see where the disagreements lie. It's here.

Fwiw, I wasn't sure that Nell was saying we should hold off until we could help everyone; in fact, I suspected she wasn't, but since that seemed like a possible implication of what she was saying, I wanted to clarify.

"As someone upthread has pointed out, we assume it's political opportunism rather than witless stupidity that still thinks that if the US can hold on long enough, the war will be won."

Do you have a ferret in your pocket, or have you been annointed spokesperson for... who? (I'm assuming you haven't discovered royal connections.)

There's a lot of first person plural going around: on the other thread, Nell explained that "And we are talking about letting a couple of thousand emigrate to the US...."

I can only speak for myself, and I've never been talking only about any such thing, but about how we should let hundreds of thousands of Iraqis in. Neither do I here know what G. W. Bush is thinking, unlike Jes and the multitudes who elected her spokesperson.

My suggestion is that everyone here who is appointed spokesperson for others submit some paperwork on the election involved, and that others consider relapsing into first person singular, as well as addressing their complaints to individuals only about their own acts, rather than the acts of others. It has fewer complications.

Hmm: I know the blog, or Typepad, or something, went down for a few hours, but why no new comments?

"Hmm: I know the blog, or Typepad, or something, went down for a few hours, but why no new comments?"

Because it wasn't possible for some folks, I suspect, until just about now.

That is to say, I engage in the usual problematic human endeavor of overly judging from my own experience (I hate when other people do that!; when I do it, it makes sense!), and note that I've been testing, and only just got through.

I don't think people are aware it's back up again (KCinDC linked to this over at TiO, btw).

The outage occurred at a good time, anyway - the discussion was on the verge of boiling over, IMO.

(Ok, now I understand what Gary was talking about. Test?)

As usual, my deep understanding of the various physical and philosophical rules of the universe aren't always clear until they're completely disrupted temporarily in a way that all the people can experience.

Meanwhile, I live to give mere physical humans such as Matt a simple gift such as to be clued into this great truth. I live to serve, in my superiorly experienced way.

Or, as we say, "test."

Alternatively: heeheeheeheeheehee.

Brett: "I'm quite sure that at least some preparations and planning are going on covertly. Stop insisting on the public equivalent of announcing a schedule for the surrender, you're not going to get it."

I am not sure what insisting you are speaking about. If you are talking about the desire to pass legislation with a timeline in it, that's one thing.

If you are talking about Clinton's request for acknopwledgement that the Pentagon is at least planning on how to withdraw, that does not meet your criteria.

And if you are quite sure that some planning is taking place, I would like to know where the evidence is, because it is just assurance that such planning is taking place that Clinton is asking for. I am definitely not convinced such planning is taking place.

I am definitely not convinced such planning is taking place.

I'm not sure Mrs Clinton really cares about withdrawal planning one way or another since I'm pretty sure that if she's elected, she won't be ordering any such thing. Redeployment away from the FOBs, maybe. Troop reductions down to logistical support for ourselves and the Iraqis, some training types, some force protection, and a few combat/special forces types to go after the higher value targets. But other than that, Bush & Co have gotten us good and stuck in Iraq, and for a good long time.

If it's true that Iraq was a disaster waiting to happen, and our invasion (which I assume was undertaken stupidly but with a preponderance of good motives and incompetently managed because of simple incompetence) was just the precipitating factor, then I'm not sure how much a hilzoyan moral system would demand we do for those we don't bear direct responsibility for consciously endangering (like the translators), esp. relative to our obligations to other human beings in awful circumstances.

That is, does Nell's argument apply as well to everyone starving anywhere and so forth?

4. None the less, the cost of restoring our reputation for cutting and running is so high, it might be worth sticking around to try to win, just to replace that reputation with one for being mindlessly stubborn.

You're joking, right? Because this recalls M. Ledeen's witticism that was so popular back in the spring of '03: "Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business."

We sure showed the world, didn't we? And now you're just making a funny and not seriously recommending that we give up on looking tough and go for thuggish insanity... right?

Also, and fyi: "nonetheless" is one word.

4. None the less, the cost of restoring our reputation for cutting and running is so high, it might be worth sticking around to try to win, just to replace that reputation with one for being mindlessly stubborn.

You're joking, right? Because this recalls M. Ledeen's witticism that was so popular back in the spring of '03: "Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business."

We sure showed the world, didn't we? And now you're just making a funny and not seriously recommending that we give up on looking tough and go for thuggish insanity... right?

Also, and fyi: "nonetheless" is one word.

RF, I don't understand your point about the disaster waiting to happen. Are you suggesting that all these people were going to suffer and die anyway, even if we had never invaded and botched the occupation?

And why would incompetence make us less culpable? Don't we have more responsibility for people injured by our incompetence than for people whose injuries have nothing to do with us?

However, stating that your expectations of cooperation from Bush are irrational isn't the same as agreeing with administration policy.

There we go. Regardless of the tone of Brett Belmore's comments, he insists on leaving open a reasonable doubt that he might actually not have drunk the koolaid and he might disagree with Bush's insane fantasy. He doesn't come out and say so, but he doesn't confirm that he agrees with the GOP either.

Brett is obviously correct that Bush will not cooperate with any plan that comes from congress or from the US people.

And so, what happens if we try to get a project going to rescue those iraqi translators etc who are most at risk?

Suppose the US government makes a list of, say, 7000 iraqis that we will offer asylum to. How likely is it that before the first iraqi employee actually leaves the country, that the list is leaked to an arabic-language website?

If it somehow happens that none of the people we wanted to get out survives long enough to leave iraq, whose conscience should that be on? Should it be on Bush's conscience, when he obviously doesn't have one? Or should it be on the people who hoped he would cooperate, who should have known better?

So OK, let's imagine a timeline, on the assumption that nothing really important happens between now and the US elections.

November 2008: GOP loses.

December 2008: Iraqi government tells us to get out of iraq at our earliest convenience. (Note that they have already demanded we leave in a nonbinding resolution, and their PM has so far prevented any binding resolution from being voted on.)

January 2008: US military reveals to new president their secret withdrawal plan that they hid from Bush, who ordered them not to make one.

The withdrawal plan calls for removing heavy equipment over a period of about 6 months. It takes that long -- it took us that long to move the equipment into kuwait before the 2003 attack. It probably took longer than that to build the giant airbases etc.

However, we might be able to cut it to, say, 5 months by destroying the most worn-out equipment. Compare the cost of staying in iraq an extra month versus the cost of replacing that equipment. It probably works out better to leave a lot of stuff behind.

The big holdup is heavy equipment, not people. If we were to take 200,000 iraqis with us, that wouldn't be such a big logistic strain. (Maybe double the troops-plus-contractor/mercenaries.) And we wouldn't be talking about that many, probably. Let each local commander choose who to take with his own unit, and it probably works out pretty well. No delay compared to moving equipment.

There is some problem about iraqis who are working far from their families. This can be worked out, given sufficient trustworthy translators. And there's a fair chance the problem of spies among the translators etc won't be such a big problem when we're leaving. It's a much bigger deal to scare people who'd want to collaborate with us when it looks like we intend to stay forever, than to go after people who intend to leave with us. But there is the issue of kidnapping for ransom. Say you're about to leave the country and somebody takes your son and offers to sell him back to you for sufficient money -- if you can possibly raise the money before your deadline to leave, you will.

August 2009: All US troops gone from iraq, along with as many iraqis as we want to take who want to come with us. Some equipment still waiting in kuwait to be transported elsewhere.

US troops could train iraqi army units in kuwait, in jordan, in egypt, in germany, etc. We could train their logistics and repair guys wherever. We could ship them whatever equipment and supplies we wanted them to have, including whatever is needed to maintain US equipment we chose to give them rather than transport out or destroy.

Depending on how bad things have gotten by 2009, it might work out fine. Given competent execution by our military, and clear goals set by the civilians -- lots of attention paid to feedback from the soldiers about what they can do, and what they think they ought to do -- it might go very well.

And we'd have no qualms about leaving when the iraqi government tells us to. Surely they haven't told us to leave yet because Bush has told them specificly they'd better not tell us that.

If things are bad -- the iraqi government has no credible existence, shia are attacking our supply lines all the way to the kuwait border, somebody is smuggling in sophisticated weapons that knock out our helicopters and slice up our armor, etc -- then it might be much harder. But it could work out fine in less than 8 months after Bush is out of the way.

J Thomas, I've heard it said elsewhere that the bulk of the heavy equipment in Iraq would be cheaper to replace than to remove. (How accurate this is in terms of military equipment, I've no idea: but typical depreciation is costed over three years, so quite possibly most equipment that was sent to Iraq more than three years ago is now officially worth nothing.) FWIW.

It is absolutely more essential to get human beings out than to get materiel out.

Jesurgislac, I myself have repeatedly claimed that the bulk of heavy equipment in iraq would be cheaper to replace than remove. I'm not certain it's true.

Our transport problems have left us rotating the soldiers to iraq and back, but leaving the same equipment for the new guys instead of rotating their transport with them. We tend to send replacements as old stuff gets blown up or worn out, but not as much sending the old stuff home to be repaired. So a fair amount of equipment might be pretty new.

But in the worst case (assuming iraq hasn't deteriorated too badly by 2009) given adequate planning it should take about 6 months to move out. And that's plenty of time to pull out the iraqis we want to take who want to go with us.

@rilkefan: I don't share the assumptions or follow the logic.

Just stopped in long enough to say something I couldn't last night, when Typepad was down:

Gary: There's a lot of first person plural going around: on the other thread, Nell explained that "And we are talking about letting a couple of thousand emigrate to the US...."

That was novakant, not me.

FWIW, I understood 'we are talking about' to mean 'the subject of this post and comments is', i.e., the granting of visas and settlement in the U.S. of Iraqis and their families who have worked for the occupation, a number that has been discussed as being in the thousands. I didn't take novakant to be speaking for anyone else on the thread on what ought to be the ultimate number of Iraqis invited to resettle here.

KCinDC: "I don't understand your point about the disaster waiting to happen. Are you suggesting that all these people were going to suffer and die anyway, even if we had never invaded and botched the occupation?"

IIRC, part of my opposition to the war stemmed from my sense that Iraq was not a stable polity given its divisions and history, and that Saddam was the only force holding the country together; but I didn't see a path to an acceptable outcome there in any case, since Saddam wasn't immortal and his sons were if possible worse, and the sanctions (which I favored) had a lot of attendant problems.

So most outcomes were bad; saying we're in a bad outcome now isn't enough to show we're entirely responsible for the full badness (which I doubt anyone is claiming) - clearly one ought to have a sense of what the expected badness of non-intervention outcomes was in judging what we ought to do now.

And of course bad outcomes are occurring all the time without our intervention, and making any sort of moral argument here implicates us in those outcomes if we could do something about them.

Rilkefan, a few years ago my brother visited me. During his visit, he happened to brush up against a pottery tablet that a friend had made for me, knock it to the ground, and smash it into unrepairable pieces. Politely, I told him it didn't matter: he came close to using up all the goodwill I had towards a a brother when he told me that no, it didn't, because the tablet had clearly been too close to the edge and anyone could have knocked it to the floor at any time.

Your argument that it's not really the US's fault that the US broke Iraq because Iraq "was not a stable polity given its divisions and history" suggests to me exactly the same kind of exculpatory reasoning. Sure, it's possible that some other train of events could have reduced Iraq to civil war, with probably about a million people dead and at least 4 million refugees. But this particular train of events was caused by the US invasion and occupation, and the argument that the US isn't really responsible because it might have happened anyway is... childish.

Jes, where does your moral stand lead?

If we're going to judge by results, we have to predict the results of our actions, and predict the results of alternate actions including doing nothing, and choose the best among them. How else can it go?

And then if the results don't fit our predictions, we have to live with that.

The alternatives all seem to involve not judging by predicted results. So for example Hippocrates said, "Firstly, do no harm". If I understand that right, it sounds at least harmless. When you never do anything that could hurt, you guarantee that your results will be at least as good as doing nothing.

So when Hippocrates had the choice of aborting a fetus that was clearly going to kill its mother, or doing a caesarian to save a baby when otherwise both would die, was he doing no harm? There was the chance in either case that he'd kill both. And there was always some slight chance that both might live if he did nothing. Perhaps wait until one of them was definitively dead before trying to save the other? Or did he do nothing rather than risk doing harm?

I think in practice you just have to predict the future the best you can, and make your best choice, and follow up the best you can too.

In that context we might perhaps choose to believe the Bush administration about their noble goals, and fault them only for their awful predictions and inadequate follow-up. Or we might suppose they were lying in the first place about what they wanted, and blame them for that too.

J Thomas, isn't this the line of moral reasoning that let you decide that Pol Pot weren't really to blame for massacring a million Cambodians, because they'd probably have starved to death anyway?

Jes, yes, it is. To the extent they were doing the best they could compared to their alternatives, they aren't to blame.

Similarly, we don't blame Bush for doing badly about Katrina, except that it looks like he should have prepared better and should have done better with what he had. He put a man in charge of FEMA who appeared to not know how to manage FEMA. FEMA was put under Homeland Security in a way that reduced its effectiveness at any task, and particularly at non-terrorist tasks. and FEMA made promises to MS and LA and NO that they couldn't fulfill. Etc.

And then when it happened, FEMA wasted a lot of money for poor results. We wouldn't have minded wasting a lot of money if more of it had good results. After the planning has failed and you have to do something quick, of course some of what you try will fail. But when the money is wasted and the good results don't come through at all....

We had the resources. We could have managed. And if the US government had obviously been managing things after 3 days, we wouldn't have minded so much that it took them time to get moving. It takes time to move resources into a hurricane area, that needed to be stored outside that area or perhaps be lost. There are limits to what we can do. But when it's things we knew how to do, but Bush didn't let us do them, blame him.

Crisis morality.

Link for Jes.

If it's true that Iraq was a disaster waiting to happen, and our invasion (which I assume was undertaken stupidly but with a preponderance of good motives and incompetently managed because of simple incompetence) was just the precipitating factor ...

Similarly, we don't blame Bush for doing badly about Katrina, except that it looks like he should have prepared better and should have done better with what he had.

That's just silly: nobody knows how Iraq would have turned out, it was a war of choice fought because of a perceived threat (that's putting it very kindly) to the US which turned out not to exist, there were plenty of prominent voices warning about the dire consequences, the situation is now worse than it ever was before and that's the responsibility of the US.

Rilke: Link for Jes.

I'm sorry: I hadn't realized it was against the new posting rules to reference an argument presented without apology in a previous thread - especially as J Thomas, as you will see, agrees that it's an appropriate reference. The US is not to blame for the hundreds of thousands dead in Iraq: Pol Pot is not to blame for the millions dead in Cambodia: Bush is not to blame for the thousands left behind to drown in New Orleans. Identical reasoning in all cases. In fact, since in the end everybody dies, no matter how hard you try to stay alive, why blame anyone for any deaths their actions cause?

Release all convicts from Death Row! Rilkefan has spoken: their victims would have died anyway: therefore, their slayers cannot be blamed.

He spairis no lord for his piscence,
Na clerk for his intelligence;
His awful straik may no man flee:-
Timor Mortis conturbat me.

Goodnight.

Novakant, in my opinion the people who misjudged the war so badly ahead of time should have known how ignorant (and maybe stupid) they were, and resigned.

After they got evidence showing how badly they were doing, they should definitely have resigned at that point. That was a moral obligation.

The problem is a lot like the problem of hypothermia -- people who get cold lose their sense of judgement and are likely to do all sorts of stupid things. But unfortunately, once they've lost their judgement they are not in great position to notice that they have hypothermia and that their judgement is shot. At least not until they get experience with that. And there's the further problem that when you have hypothermia, likely all the people around you also have hypothermia and their judgement is shot too. What can you do at that point except the best you can?

I remember once on a caving trip, on the way out I dropped my light into thigh-deep icewater. So I got out my backup flashlight and turned it on, and my hand shook and dropped that too. So I got out my other backup light and turned it on, and I dunked it into the water reaching for the flashlight which was still burning and providing plenty of light. I turned off the third light and put it back in my pack. I reached all the way down to get the flashlight, getting very wet, and brought it back up. Then I reached down for the carbide lamp and had trouble picking it up because I was holding the flashlight. So I switched the flashlight to my other hand and reached again. Then I put the flashlight in my pack and started taking the carbide light apart in the dark to get it working again. I'd practiced that enough I could do it in the dark in water, but my fingers were real clumsy. And then somebody came back for me. "Put that thing away and wade out with your flashlight. We don't have time for the main light now." Oh. Right.

After three or four hypothermia cases on camping, climbing, or caving trips I figured out that when I'm cold and somebody else isn't cold, I should tell them I'm hypothermic and then follow their lead. But it took that experience to notice the problem. I wouldn't have remembered just from being told.

When your judgement is bad is the hardest time to notice that your judgement is bad and you shouldn't depend on it.

Jes, you have deeply misunderstood my claim. Hmm. I stated that badly. I have failed to state my claim in a way that's easy for you to understand. Better.

Pol Pot is not responsible for the dead in cambodia to the extent that he looked at the alternatives and chose the best one. The food wasn't there. The USA wasn't going to ship in emergency food. To maximise the food supply, put every spare hand to work farming, producing food, under strict rationing. This was probably the best plan, and to the extent that Pol Pot followed it, he was doing as well as he could do.

Bush had many choices available. He could invade, using the best military, diplomatic, economic, etc advice available. He could wait, again getting advice. He could try to buy iraq from Saddam -- Saddam might have sold for much much less than we've paid.

He could -- if he chose -- try to enlist Saddam into making iraq a US client state. That didn't work out well last time, but maybe Saddam would try again. We give iraq stuff and Saddam lets us confirm his lack of nukes, gives us bases to threaten syria and iran, lets us train his army to help us invade syria or iran, etc. Get expert advice....

As far as I know Bush didn't even think of many of his choices, much less try them out. If we'd tried to buy iraq from Saddam before we invaded, he might very likely have sold. Saddam could be sitting on the beach at the riviera (or if the french might extradite him for war crimes, at malibu or venice beach) while we organise his country *with no casualties*. But Bush didn't even ask.

Bush never looked seriously at the alternatives. If he was smart enough to do that, he was wrong not to. If he wasn't smart enough to do that then he should have resigned.

Bush is not to blame for Katrina overwhelming our resources. Bush is to blame for not getting sufficient resources in place so that they were so easy to overwhelm. We could have done much better. We've done much better some other times. We knew how to prepare and we weren't prepared. Bush's responsibility. If we'd been prepared as much as we know how to, and it wasn't enough, *that* wouldn't be Bush's fault.

I wonder if the phrase "due diligence" sums it up. I'm not sure, I'm not sure all the connotations that phrase has for lawyers etc.

When there's nothing you can do, it isn't your fault.

When there's nothing you can do but you should have been ready -- you knew how to be prepared but you weren't prepared -- then it's your fault after all.

When you just don't have the resources to do the best we know how to do, then -- whoops! -- it isn't your fault after all.

When you could have gotten the resources by asking for them, stealing them, begging, or making political compromises that are less crippling than the lack of resources, then it's your fault again.

Pol Pot couldn't have gotten those resources. We would not let him have them under any circumstances, though he should have found ways to contact us to confirm that. Not particularly Pol Pot's fault.

Bush *had* the resources available for Katrina and his people chose not to marshal them. Bush's fault.

Wheeeee!

"Pol Pot is not responsible for the dead in cambodia to the extent that he looked at the alternatives and chose the best one. The food wasn't there."

Paging Gary.

The fact that the food wasn't there was directly because of what Pol Pot had done.

"To maximise the food supply, put every spare hand to work farming, producing food, under strict rationing. This was probably the best plan, and to the extent that Pol Pot followed it, he was doing as well as he could do."

What? He deliberately singled out the former middle class and urban class and put them on starvation rations. The 'depositees' had completely separate rights from the 'base' people and were deliberately starved to death. That wasn't about maximizing rations, that was about intentionally killing people.

"To keep you is no benefit, to destroy you is no loss."

Which is why he then had them dig their own graves before having them beaten to death with iron bars or buried alive.

"Bullets are not to be wasted."

I guess that was maximizing scarce resources.

Minor historical inaccuracies are one thing, but you are getting the whole thing wrong--and it kind of makes your analogy both gross and hard to track.

To be clear, Gary, I was paging you so you could help on historical accuracy.

Sebastian, to the extent that you are right, the KR was responsible for their crimes.

To the extent that the lack of food was not their doing, they faced a bad situation with no good solution, that was not their fault.

They were not responsible for the US bombings that prevented a lot of cambodian food production.

They were not responsible for the NVA stealing a lot of the food.

To the extent that their own actions interfered with food production, they were responsible for the initial crisis.

About recognising class differences, that was inevitable, wasn't it? At Katrina we didn't treat aid workers exactly like hurricane survivors. The aid workers got the resources they needed to do aid -- starting with 3 square meals a day and all the clean water they wanted -- and the victims got whatever aid was available. How could it be otherwise? Organizations always treat their own people best. Do you know of an exception to that?

"About recognising class differences, that was inevitable, wasn't it? At Katrina we didn't treat aid workers exactly like hurricane survivors. The aid workers got the resources they needed to do aid -- starting with 3 square meals a day and all the clean water they wanted -- and the victims got whatever aid was available. How could it be otherwise? Organizations always treat their own people best. Do you know of an exception to that?"

Again, your analogy is rather broad. Yes organizations always treat their own people best. That is a rather far cry from reducing the food allocations further than needed so you can starve someone to death, or beating them to death or burying them alive in the Killing Fields. Blandly calling that 'treating others worse than your own group' is almost misleading understatement.

Did the aid workers beat the hurricane survivors to death? Would they have been responsible for that if they had, or would it just be making the best of a bad situation?

Ugh, I got to see a Center for American Progress screening of "No End in Sight" a month ago. It's very good, though of course it can't cover everything. It made me more sympathetic to the idea that Iraq might not have been a disaster if things hadn't been handled so unbelievably incompetently after Saddam was deposed -- not that invading would have been a good idea anyway.

KCinDC - thanks. The real question is, however, will it send me into a blinding rage of shrillocity from which I will never recover?

"Did the aid workers beat the hurricane survivors to death?"

My link above describes the case of a doctor who killed hurricane survivors who might have been evacuated. [Probably under circumstances justifying that act by community standards.]


I think "First, do no harm" is a good point of discussion here.

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