« The Road Not Taken | Main | Best Morning Ever »

August 12, 2007


all that makes one a little bit queasy about a quick and complete withdrawal though, no?


Actually, no, it doesn't make one even the least bit queasy about a quick and complete withdrawl. Do you know why? Because one who has been paying attention has for a long while realized that the departure of American forces will lead to a great deal of killing and torture. One little war game doesn't change that analysis.

However, one who has been paying attention also realizes that if Americans stay, there will be likely greater death and destruction.

This is the problem with opening the gates of hell: you are no longer in control, despite your desperate need to believe that you are. In the future, we would do well to remember that.

you should read the galbraith article in the ny rev of books. it makes about as much sense as anything else i've read. bottom line -- the civil war in inevitable. there is no earthly way the shiites will give sunnis anything (and galbraith goes into very detailed reasons why -- the baathists for instance raped, murdered, and drilled in holes in the heads of hakim (SIIC) and sadr's (MAhdi) relatives.

what he says is get out and pull back to kurdistan, which despite the awfulness of the PKK is pro-western and a potential long-term ally.

but in response to novakant -- the basic issue is that we are prolonging and EXACERBATING the war for a number of reasons: (1) we're radicalizing sunni militants, who will continue flocking in and will attack us and shiites; (2) we're arming everyone; (3) our support of various state forces is simply support for whatever faction happens to be controlling them; etc.

no one says we need to leave in a day, but there is no humanitarian reason to stay indefinitely. we're making things worse by prolonging the inevitable

The pull-back to Kurdistan idea is a nice one, I guess. Does resupply go through Turkey?

I'm not talking about continuing the US military presence in its current form, there are strong signs that it makes situation worse indeed, even though probably not worse than what is to come after a withdrawal, as is laid out in the quoted article. What I'm talking about is how, if civil war and major ethnic cleansing is deemed inevitable, we prepare for that case. I see absolutely no indication that, after a cathartic civil war of a year or two, things will fall into place somehow - that seems to be the hope of most people arguing strongly for withdrawal. I think this is unfounded, the civil war might well go on for 10 or 20 years and for as long as it lasts we would be faced with both a failed state and a permanent humanitarian crisis in the middle of a volatile region. Apart from trying to find a political solution the least we could do is establish a safe haven for the civilians affected.

I am certainly not an expert, I'm actually just a kid, but I would be interested in hearing what some of you think of this idea. The United States unleashed this civil unrest, and while I don't have a lot of sympathy for the actual combatants, I do think we as a nation have a responsibility to the average Iraqi- the kids, the old people, the mothers and fathers- to not get them all killed in nasty ways. So why doesn't the US actively support Iraqi refugees around the world? Why don't we allow Iraqi refugees to settle in the US? Or, if we're so terrified that terrorists are going to hide among the refugees in order to get into the US, couldn't we pay for refugee resettlement in other countries? Use our economic and political influence to make it easier for average Iraqis to live somewhere safe? I know many European countries have taken in thousands of Iraqis, but I also know that the majority of Iraqi refugees have gone to other middle eastern countries, where they are crowded together in camps and can't get work etc.

I know its nowhere near a perfect solution, but if we put as much effort into it as people say we ought to be putting into supporting democracy and peace, I can't help but think that it might make a real difference for a lot of people.


good suggestion. It has actually been suggested before. See this post and this post detailing some the issues for instance.

The upshot is basically this:

1. The refugee situation is very complicated because of the existing sectarian divisions in the middle east.

2. This particular administration has not been especially interested in any large scale immigration solutions, probably at least in part because this would seem to admit the failure of their project.

publius: "no one says we need to leave in a day, but there is no humanitarian reason to stay indefinitely. we're making things worse by prolonging the inevitable"

I just commented on this topic on eric martin's blog (I hope he doesn't mind me repeating myself here).

Bottom line, we're not getting out of Iraq any time soon. It's politically impossible now. Bush isn't going to budge on troop reduction or removal, and the Democratic congress won't stop funding the war for fear of negative blowback in the upcoming elections. That means we're going to have about the same number of American forces in Iraq until after the next Presidental is chosen. And no matter who's elected - Clinton or Giuliani or Romney - we'll see only cosmetic reductions of American troops that first year.

The best of the worst-case solutions for the mess in Iraq is soft-partitioning, and if Hill-Bill is elected, I'm giving three-to-two odds they'll push for a variation of the partitioning plan Bill Clinton backed for Bosnia. But it took a few years to put that in place, so you can expect to see a substantial American military presence in Iraq into 2010.

The case for leaving is not predicated on the assumption that, by leaving, things will necessarily get better. It's not even predicated on the assumption that there will be a horrible civil war and then everything will be better afterwards. It's true that there's no evidence for either of those hopes.

No, it's much simpler. The case for leaving is: there's no reason to think that things will be better if the US stays in Iraq for another year, or another decade. We're doing no good staying there, and plenty of harm.

If you think the occupation of Iraq should continue, it's not enough to point to things that might go wrong when we leave. You also need to explain why prolonging the occupation will make them better. Otherwise you're performing what Hilzoy calls "cost analysis", which, as she pointed out, makes no more sense than benefit analysis.

Rival Shiite factions would fight one another to control much of the rest of the country, and Iran presumably would back one side, although the gamers couldn't assess how overt Iranian interference would be

but what did the third pre-cog predict ?

Is there any of this that couldn't have been forseen before the invasion? Yeah, I didn't think so.

Matt, we have to get out of this binary logic trap: occupation vs. leaving them to their own devices. Conflicts like these are almost never resolved by the warring parties themselves, at one point or another outside interference will be needed to solve this mess. Meanwhile we have to do something to help the 4 million refugees and displaced persons, that few seem to give a flying f@ck about. The US won't take them in, but how about putting some money on the table for a start.

The affirmation that Iraq will descend into chaos if our troops leave started life as wingnut propaganda...and has very effectively made its way to Conventional Wisdom status.

Kudos to the wingnut propganda artists.

The Iraqis are having a referendum in a few months.

What say we put the question of whether our troops should continue to occupy their country or not to them?

The Iraqis are having a referendum in a few months.

What say we put the question of whether our troops should continue to occupy their country or not to them?

Why not? Bush does not intend to get their input.

Novakant: Consider a hypothetical.

The US falls under a tyrannical government. It's invaded by the armed forces of Annexia, whose leaders proclaim that we were planning to attack them. We weren't - didn't even have the slightest capability for it - but it made a pretext. For the next half decade, Annexian forces run the country, more or less, cutting deals in some states, counties, and cities with local authorities and would-be authorities, in other places just being the show themselves. The quality of life plummets. More than a million Americans die in hostilities unleashed by the collapse of civil order - KKK versus black and Hispanic gangs, for instance, and Dominionist Christian militia movements against secular groups. Something like ten million Americans flee the country by land, sea, and air, anywhere they can go, severely stressing social networks in recieving countries that were already stressed by spillover chaos from the war and occupation.

The Annexian occupation has been characterized by the utter lack of any interest in human rights. The Annexian government rejects all restraints on its warmaking power, including the Geneva Conventions, and while the Annexian opposition claims that they're not in favor of this, they keep dodging any practical expression of a real desire to change. When push comes to shove, both factions in Annexian government end up endorsing free-handed surveillance, torture, indefinite imprisonment, and a lot more. Nobody knows for sure how many Americans have died in Annexian custody, because Annexia doesn't want to keep track and intereferes with, then tries to debunk, any independent effort to find out. Annexian leaders in the field as well as at home talk openly about the need to humiliate Americans, because only abject defeat with that extra emotional crushing gets our attention. Furthermore, Annexian leaders there and here talk about waging a crusade against our pernicious Christian views, in terms sloppy enough to cover everything from deism to many flavors of atheism to Buddhism along with Christianity, Islam, and Judais - it's all stuff that the Annexian religious tradition calls for wiping out, and supporters of that effort hold real influence in their military.

So there's the situation.

Annexian opposition leaders talk aboutw hat to do if, as they expect, they take power in elections next year. Keep in mind that they have repeatedly endorsed as law policies supported by the current administration. All their major candidates wish to maintain a permanent Annexian presence here in America.

Do you wish them to stay? Do you think most Americans would? Or do you think that perhaps their very presence makes the chaos-exploiting violence possible? Would you trust the people who've tortured relatives and colleagues of you to start acting nice now? Do you feel reassured by the hand-slapping justice that the architects of cruel policies keep getting, so much so that you'd like those people to keep being decisive in American affairs? You know that a lot of those who fled won't want to come back while the Annexians are there, and you know that a lot of the resident bad guys have Annexian support while what you'd be inclined to think of as good guys have been deemed enemies for their interference with Annexian plans. Do you see good stuff coming out of that?

That's what Iraqis are facing. Sometimes, in fact, the choice actually is between dichotomies, like "get all the way out" or "stay, as unwanted overlords, perpetrators of great evil, supporters of local tyranny and corruption, and committed enemies of basic human rights". If Iraq needs anyone else there, above all it needs us gone.

well, I don't know how I can make my point any clearer: I am not arguing for a continued occupation in its present form, I think it's counterproductive, I am arguing for us to take seriously the humanitarian and political challenges that lie ahead; ideally this should happen under the aegis of the UN and a conference of regional powers, but the US has an obligation to pay and to provide soldiers if needed, because understandably not many other countries will be willing to involve themselves substantially - there are concrete problems that could be alleviated right now, like the refugee crisis or the regional political situation, but they aren't; the US has to change tack and step back but won't be able to simply wash their hands of this for a long time - it's not going to be that simple

So why doesn't the US actively support Iraqi refugees around the world? Why don't we allow Iraqi refugees to settle in the US?

Too busy arresting Iraqis for wearing Arabic t-shirts.

The thing is, Novakant, sometimes the legacy is so bad that it doesn't matter if one now has good intentions. One doesn't, for instance, put even genuinely reformed murderers in charge of caring for their victims' loved ones.

Your desire is predicated on the belief that we can genuinely change the way our institutions work in Iraq enough to make a difference, and that we can convince the Iraqi people of this. I see no ground for either, a lot to believe that real good would come from our removing ourselves.

the US has to change tack and step back but won't be able to simply wash their hands of this for a long time - it's not going to be that simple

I'd guess it will be that simple. Once Bush is history and it's obvious that there's no money or oil in the deal, the right is going to drop Iraq like a hot potato. And I can't see us lefties trying to keep them there.

Bruce, in a number of cultures there was a tradition that murderers were responsible for caring for the dependents of the victim.

It wouldn't mske sense for us, with out unsettled society, but it's worked for some cultures.

That's true, J., but this is not that culture and neither is Iraq. And the whole point here is to deal with what real people in Iraq are thinking and feeling about what real people from America and elsewhere have done to them and might do in the future.

Maybe you can spend some time posting on all the shenanigans the Democrats have been pulling... Between supporting FISA and stealing votes in Congress?

I love the smell of fascism in our Democrat controlled Congress!

Well, I was going to post something but Bruce Baugh has pretty much said what I have to say, with the exception of his rather mild response to J. Thomas's utterly mystifying statement. What culture has a "tradition that murderers were responsible for caring for the dependents of the victim?" I'm an anthropologist and though I have studied many legal systems around the world I'm not familiar with this form of justice. And even if there were such a place, at one time, it has absolutely nothing to do with the duties of one state towards another today.

I have to say here what I find myself saying to the pathetic remnants of the "bomb Iraqi civilians now" crowd now that they realize the war has been lost and they are trying to figure out how to make it anyone's fault but their own:

you can't unshit the bed. There is no scenario, from now until the end of time, that will not make the Americans the "bad guys" here. There is no amount of new american fire power, no amount of new american lost guns, or stolen money, or new laws, or new figurehead politicians, or mea culpas, or even withdrawn troops that can save America's reputation or moral standing.

I, myself, don't care very much about America's moral standing anymore. I did care about it, very much, before we as a country aquiesced in the bombing of a civilian population on the word of noted liars like those in the Bush administration. I did care before my entire country's foreign policy became based on fear and cowardice rather than reason and diplomacy. But at this point, frankly, I think we have to take our lumps as a society. One of those lumps is realizing that we can't fix what we have broken. We can't restore Iraq as a sovereign nation (we didn't try when we could have, and we aren't going to bother to try at this point) and we can't bring the dead to life. Its *perfectly true* that we will be guilty for all the deaths that result from the maelstrom of sectarian violence that we have unleashed. And its perfectly true tht we will emerge from Iraq, if we do, simply having thrown away the lives of our soldiers in order to make Iran the premiere power in the region. That's the price we will pay for our arrogance and our inattention to morality and reason *before* we went to war. People who object now and think we must somehow fix things are like children who threw a valued china figurine against the wall and now stand crying and pointing and begging someone to "make it all right again." Its. Not. Going. To. Be. All. Right.

No one has the power to kiss this one and make it better. That is the price we are all going to pay, us and the Iraqi people, for the arrogance of Bush and those who thought they could simply wish the world to work the way they wanted it to. Don't blame the rest of us for being clear eyed and clear headed on this. Or rather, go ahead and blame us. YOu will anyway. Because at all costs the people who willingly and even joyfully went into this war for glory, revenge, democracy, painted schools, the wimmins rights (yeah, that's going well), the Iraqi people, the shi'a people, the kurdish people, the sunni people, the not iranian people, the israelis, etc... etc...must not be blamed or embarrassed.


Please familiarize yourself with the posting rules, aimai. We ask that people not use profanity in comments. Thank you.

You know, one of the reasons that I hate the stupid and pointless no profanity rule is that it necessitates situations like the one above: someone writes a comment of incredible eloquence and power about vitally important issues and the only response is a posting rules reminder. What a fracking waste.

I'm not blaming you for enforcing the rules, but I'd really like to see them change.

Turbulence, the point of the "no profanity" posting rule is to avoid getting this blog automatically banned by workplace firewalls: it's practical/pragmatic, rather than prudish.

(Great post, aimai.)

Yeah, its a well written post, but aimai is being over-dramatic.

Germany and Japan are quite "respectable" now, and America's stain from Vietnam was forgotten in a few years.

Most people find history boring.

A few years and a few billion dollars worth of non-military foreign aid is all it will take to make people forget about our adventures in Iraq (or was it Iran? I always get those two mixed up?).

the pathetic remnants of the "bomb Iraqi civilians now" crowd

you're not addressing anybody in this thread here, right?

anyway, your narcissistic, self-pitying swan song doomsday eulogy fails to impress me at all:

there's stuff that can be done and there's a lot of stuff that could be done, if only somebody put up the money to do it

people working on Iraq within the UN and humanitarian organizations aren't 'children' - a situation like Iraq is nothing new and can be dealt with, that doesn't mean fixing it, but alleviating the worst and pushing for an eventual political solution

the reputation of the US is wrecked, but it wasn't that stellar to begin with, a nicer US would be nice, but we all know at the end of the day we're dealing with an expansionist capitalist superpower and all that comes with it

the Iraq problem won't go away, Iraq is not some African country which can conveniently be forgotten by the world; the Iraqis will not be able to fix this problem by themselves

mixed up my elegies with my eulogies, dang

The idea of an immediate withdrawl makes me uneasy. Something nasty will almost certainly happen when the US withdraws. Nonetheless, I am in favor of US withdrawl from Iraq as soon as is possible for two reasons: First, I don't see any way a continued US presense can reduce the nastiness that will inevitably occur in Iraq when the US withdraws, whether it withdraws now or in response to rumors of a Y10K problem. Second, the US presence seems to be actively making things worse. So might as well go now and let the atrocities that would have been committed by (and against) Americans not happen and get the inevitable civil war started and therefore over with sooner rather than later.

I agree with novakant that it will probably be ugly. But I strongly disagree with the statement that Iraqis can't fix this themselves. On the contrary, they are the only ones who can fix it. Democracy can't be forced.

Unfortunately, whoever does order the withdrawal will be blamed for the results and get no credit, should the results be less horrible than predicted.

Re alphie's commenst - 'most people find history boring'.

If you're an elephant who's accidentally sat on an ant, it's easy to forget about it. If you're the ant you tend to remember it longer. The US (and Britain) are good at forgetting about nasty things they've done to other peoples. Their victims tend to remember rather longer that e.g. the British were bombing Iraqi civilians in the 1920s and that the US helped overthrow a more or less democratic Iranian government in the 1950s. It's going to take a lot of time for Iraqis to forget someone coming in and breaking their country (and those in the countries around them who get the fallout). Meanwhile, it's all too likely that in a decade or so all too many Americans will be enquiring 'why do they hate us?' As Gary Younge, the Guardian columnist once put it: 'America's innocence is one of its few eternally renewable resources.'

Magistra, I'm reminded of this quote from Samuel Huntington -
"The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact, non-Westerners never do."

The affirmation that Iraq will descend into chaos if our troops leave started life as wingnut propaganda

Sadly, no. It started with earnest, originally-war-supporting liberals like Juan Cole and Tony Cordesman. It has now been picked up and amplified by right-wingers because it's useful.

The affirmation that Iraq will descend into chaos if our troops leave started life as wingnut propaganda

Sadly, no. It started with earnest, originally-war-supporting liberals like Juan Cole and Tony Cordesman.

The affirmation that Iraq will descend into chaos when our troops leave started with liberals.

Changing that when to if came with wingnuts, who still aren't convinced we'll ever leave.

If we leave it will descend into chaos?

If we stay, the result is a slow motion version of the same thing. Our presence is not preventing chaos or the civil war -- it is only affecting the pace of it. Why that is a "good" thing makes no sense.

That it is why it is 100% ludicrous for Petraeus or others in assessing the Stay the Course/Surge to delink alleged "military progress" and political progress. Translated, the lack of political progress means the chaos and civil war continue unabated. The "Surge" becomes just another aspect of ongoing civil war -- not a cure for it.

It burns more than I can say that I agree with Jay Jerome's analysis. Such a feckless, feeble, godawful waste.

Also, cleek, have you read the original short story? I think the punchline there is far superior to the movie's...

Anarch, we can get out of iraq easily.

All we have to do is let the iraqi parliament vote to ask us to get out. With a timetable, like say 6 months.

As soon as we let them do that we have a perfect excuse to pack up and leave.

So, say the democrat's VP candidate secretly meets with iraqi leaders in france, and makes the deal. They rather insultingly ask Bush to get out, say in October 2008. We could be out by March, or maybe April 2009.

A pale shadow of the 1980 election, where it was GHW Bush. Only, what if the democrat got killed in france, and the Bush administration put out the word that he was killed while privately negotiating with iraqi terrorists, or maybe AQ....

Maybe better not to follow that script too closely.

Novakant, you continue to post in the apparent belief that there's something we could do to make the Iraqi people decide that five years of cruelty, incompetence, and rank injustice are now suddenly history. You want the families of murdered children, the friends and colleagues of torture victims, the millions displaced by death threats and mass violence to believe that this time we mean it...even as Democrats commit themselves to continuing the very occupation that is responsible for unleashing this chaos. You refuse to offer any explanation at all as to how this could happen. Believing very much that it should is not a substitute for practicalities.

There will not be impeachments over any of this. There will not, we may assume therefore, be war crime trials. There will be no general purge of military ranks, or of the Justice Department. That's not guesswork on my part, that's declared policy on the part of all the major Democratic candidates and prominent Congressional Democrats. Essentially, those responsible for the atrocities will get away with it, and even if some are dismissed, the overall institutions will remain as they are. There will be no Nuremberg, no general accounting for the great evils inflicted on the Iraqi people. You tell us, then, why the Iraqis should trust your good intentions - no matter how much you'd like them to - when your hands are tied in advance on practical demonstrations of justice.

If you think that's unfair terms, then go take it up with the Clinton, Barack, and Edwards staffs, and the Congressional committees. They're the ones who've committed us to a policy of no justice, not me. I'm just pointing out what seems to me the crucial reality: we'll keep on doing the evils we're doing in Iraq because nobody in a position to push for real change wants to. And that's the death of any "but now we've changed" effort right there.

(I think what you want would probably be doomed anyway, but this drives some extra bolts into the coffin and wraps it in rebar.)

This awful mess is in very large measure the result of decisions made by people who refused to consider practicalities. They thought that all they had to do was want something a bunch and it would happen. The altar of their ambition has so far been fueled with hundreds of thousands of dead victims and millions of still-living ones. Step right up - how many are you willing to accept before confronting the awful reality that intentions have to be implemented, and other people can't be forced to do anything at all you might wish them to do? How many deaths, woundings, and flights are you prepared to accept in the cause of convincing Iraqis that we're nice guys now, when they still want us to just stop ruining them and their land anymore?

Bruce, have you even read my posts?

Yes, I have, Novakant.

You feel a great responsibility to Iraq and its people for the harm we've unleashed. That's a creditable impulse - I'm not knocking it. It's just that I see it as absolutely unattainable, both in light of the particular policies that the US is committed to for the foreseeable future by everyone with a shot at shaping them and in light of the general human experience of occupation and reaction to it. I'm bugged because I see you saying things that boil down to "but because it's important and good, it needs to work". It is important, and if there were people in or new power who wanted it to work that way, it'd be good. But there aren't. And at that point, I think you need to reassess whether it's worth hanging any hopes on.

I hate to leave a whole string of posts just by me, but I should (I think) expand on a semi-stated set of assumptions.

One of the biggest causes of this ongoing calamity in Iraq was decision-making by people who didn't acknolwedge the limits of reality on the possible, or on the feasible. And while moderate to leftist supporters of the war didn't make it happen, they gave their support founded on similar denials of reality.

So I see the beginnings of any possible hope of actual recovery or even just of bringing the continuing misery, fear, and death to end as resting on, above all, an acceptance of reality: treating other people's internal lives as real, acknowledging the fact of perception and judgment, and also understanding and accepting what actual policies are and are likely to become. It's okay to wish and daydream - in fact it's a crucial factor in the evolution of a sane morality and politics - but when it comes to deciding what we can do and what of that we should do, it's important to look very, very squarely at the realities.

It is, in my view, foolish at first to advocate for policies that simply won't happen, and immoral to persist in them with sufficient determination in the face of reality's opposition. Liberal war supporters were foolish at best in 2002; now they are acting immorally. We should be trying to change the framework of the possible - it's desperately needed - but in the meantime, when something will be done, we should see what we can support that will do as much good and as little harm as may be within the constraints of current reality.

All we have to do is let the iraqi parliament vote to ask us to get out. With a timetable, like say 6 months.

I think you missed the realpolitik aspect of Jay Jerome's post.

I apologize for breaking the posting rules. A small amount of profanity happens to be in my personal style. I stand by what I wrote and I agree with Bruce Baugh's posts. I don't think the rest of theworld find's "History boring." Perhaps if americans hadn't thought so we wouldn't be having this absurd argument about how best to extricate our hand from the whirring blender of IRaq.

Although Vietnam may, at great cost and with great pain, have forgiven us our little adventure there I don't think Iraq will. I don't think its in the Iraqi historical lexicon. But even if it were I don't think Americans should be so eager to forgive themselves. Bush's "judgement of history" dodge seems to me to be as immoral as Novakant or Alphie's "maybe we'll get really lucky and Iraq will eventually be our best friend, like Germany and Japan." I'd like to point out that both Germany and Japan *declared war on us* and actually *waged war on us.* The Iraqis were just sitting there when we started bombing them. I wouldn't forgive an enemy who did that and I'm not particularly war like. I fail to see that the Iraqis, especially the Shi'a who are still holding grudges for *the death of Ali* will either. But even if they do, so what? When a criminal commits a crime it is up to his victims to forgive him, not up to the criminal to blithely assure the world that "I did feel bad about all that raping and shooting but I've achieved closure and I feel pretty good about it all now."

And Novakant, of course the humanitarian relief efforts are another matter. I don't accuse the very groups I support of being childish and that ought to be clear from my post. I do say, with very good reason, that insisting that good intentions, even the good intentions of our (and I mean that sincerely) wonderful soldiers, marines, and national guards can not avert a civil war and mass murder and death. A civil war, especially an urban one including civilians, can't be stopped by magic. It could (perhaps) be stopped with overwhelming force, total interdiction of weaponry, and serious diplomatic maneuvering accompanied by the restoration of electrical power (so people could stay home in comfort while the powers that be worked things out), the resoration of the economy so people had jobs, the restoration of the educational system (so people had somewhere safe to go during the day), partition (which is its own kind of violence). Wich of these things can be accompanied *now* by 150,000-160,000 exhausted troops who have mislaid 200,000 weapons (that we know of) in a state nested among enemies bent on tearing it apart.

Don't tell me that someone, magically, will make it happen tell me how in history this happens? A civil war has to be fought out until all parties are exhausted and the individual parties give up. IT has to burn itself out.

I'm afraid that we are about to learn the harsh lesson of the irreversibility of time and bad decisions in Iraq. Its strange to me that so many adults have yet to learn that wishing hard won't make things run backwards and a child that has been murdered be reborn. But there it is.


Aimai, you nailed down something that'd been circling a bit out of my reach: A lot of what we're hearing are proposals that begin with Americans forgiving themselves and each other for their excesses. That may or may not be all well and good, but it's basically irrelevant. What matters for Iraq is what the Iraqis feel. It's their place, not ours, to decide how much slack to cut for the country that reduced theirs to such ruin.

I've seen the South African truth-and-reconciliation approach cited sometimes as a possible example for a way out of our morass, but it wouldn't do the job without a drastic change of heart among prominent Democrats. Perpetrators of state violence under the apartheid regime could earn amnesty in exchange for their testimony to the commission, on the grounds that a full understanding is worth giving up individual vengeances for. (I agree with that principle, too.) But the commission can and did prosecute testifiers who failed to give the very fullest and most complete answers - they couldn't get amnesty and then try to hide anything. But we don't have an opposition political party with a leadership serious about holding the Republicans (or their Democratic collaborators) really truly accountable. Trying that in America without first getting a critical mass of Democrats willing to actually enforce the law against the leaders of this administration would just be a ticket to cover-up land.

The comments to this entry are closed.