« The Corner's Shameful Day | Main | No ZANU Card, No Mealie Meal »

March 19, 2008

Comments

This intersects at several points. Pletka and Rose for example.

Should have said, the redoubtable Scott Horton with his ‘six questions’ about a new book on Chalabi.

There aren't any heroes, period.

Nell: I think there are plenty of heroes. Anyone who saved another person's life at the risk of his or her own, for starters. I just wish there hadn't had to be, or perhaps that these people could have gone on being heroes in their daily lives, in much quieter ways.

Obviously, I also think there are plenty of non-heroes, on all sides. There are always both.

Thank you for this. I've just now read it and I'm too animated with its thoughts to reply with anything more than my gratitude.

"I can only hope that somehow, some way, we can begin to redeem our honor. "

George Bush and his acolytes and a too willing population spiked the punch and our republic is poisoned. We are torturers. We have torn out the single most precious part of our humanity and allowed that creep to dance it across his sordid fantasies.

No this damage is beyond our puny honor. It is our souls that need redemption.

You're right, hilzoy. I shouldn't even get on this thread right now. I really am too disgusted and angry to say anything intelligent about the occupation and war.

But I have to object to the idea that being killed in Iraq makes anyone a hero. The dead are victims -- many innocent, some not -- of a conflict unleashed by an illegal, long-planned war of aggression based on lies and guided in its execution by on the shallowest principles of narrow partisan political advantage and greed.

Nell: updated.

Iraqis needed to set up a society virtually from scratch.

Excellent post, hilzoy, but I would take issue with your statement, above. I think the point of criticism should not be that "Iraqis needed to set up a society" - they already had one: and, by all account a functioning and reasonably (by the standards of the Arab world) modern one, at that.

What they needed to set up from scratch was a government - i.e., something that was not the fascistic dictatorship which they had had under Ba'ath rule. And this is where the US failed most thoroughly and miserably, IMHO. In its insane haste to "re-make" Iraq in its own image (or at least the image the Bush Administration's zealots wanted) in time for the 2004 elections, we oversaw a near-complete dismantling of Iraqi governmental structures - and their inadequate replacement by regional or sectarian (armed) groups concerned primarily with bolstering their own power and influence. And when the government fractured, the society followed.

I am too angry about the war in Iraq to say anything intelligent about it.

Ok, now you've made me violently disagree with you. Still, I blame myself.

A rather large and powerful faction is invested in making sure that the myths of the war are what are remembered, as exemplified by the remarks of Bush, et al. on this anniversary date.

Make sure you direct your anger at those who would perpetuate the lying myths of this war, and who are busy working on behalf of that warmonger McCain to make sure America stays on that same deranged path.

Shorter Pletka: I didn't have one bleeping clue, and that makes me better than the dirty bleeping hippies.

it's sort of amazing that it's been five years. impeachment and bush v. gore stirred me, but iraq was single-handedly responsible for my political re-awakening. the anger was so raw in 2002-03 that it essentially propelled me into the blogosphere, and made me a more "radicalized partisan".

this is probably obscenely narcissistic, but iraq is very much part of me and my political outlook. so much of my various frustrations with republicans, weenie Democrats, and the media stem from the various issues surrounding the war. even if i'm unaware that i'm doing so, i'm still fighting the forces that led us to war when i, say, attack social security privatization.

i of course agree with this well-written post. i share these feelings -- and it's hard to express just how angry i was circa November 2002.

but one fear i'm increasingly having is whether iraq is going to color my political outlook for the rest of my life. i feel like i interpret everything through that lens. if russert is being a wanker, i'm mad b/c it makes me remember iraq. if lieberman is doing something stupid, i'm really mad about iraq.

i guess there are two ways of looking at this. first, it's good to be this mad and affected b/c iraq was an enormous tragedy. but then again, maybe i've let the anger harden in me. i just don't want to be an old man muttering about iraq and hear some kid say "what was iraq" the way some kids don't know what vietnam is.

i'm not sure what my point is - i'm fully aware i've sacrificed nothing and lost nothing compared to the people who live there and fought in it. but it bothers me that it's also so permanently affected my view of the american public.

and of course that it's been a disaster that has killed thousands and exiled millions

Re: ‘Freedom Genes’

One of my favorite movies is Mr. Roberts with Henry Fonda. Every time we try and fail to get the Iraqis to stand up a representative government I think of one scene with Ensign Pulver.

Pulver is sitting on his bunk and the Doc is explaining innate reflexes to him. To provide an example, the Doc taps Pulver’s kneecap, to cause a reflexive kick, and nothing happens. Doc tries a couple more times and nothing happens. And then they just look at each other in a confused way.

The war isn't the only destruction going on, you know. People are hurting here at home, too:

Mr. Alan D. Schwartz, Bear’s chief executive, looking pale, summed it up. “We here are a collective victim of violence,” he said, his voice cracking.

Some of these victims of violence have seen their fortunes plummet from the hundreds of millions of dollars to mere millions. Couldn't we set up a fund to take care of their children, too?

I mean, if you take the compensation of $500,000 paid to the family of a soldier killed in Iraq, and multiply it by the number of soldiers killed so far, you will see that the losses of shareholders in Bear far, far exceed that amount. Shall we keep a sense of proportion here?

Another option for donations: a Medecins Sans Frontieres program in Amman, Jordan to provide surgery to Iraqi kids with facial disfigurement and other serious problems. They're getting about 40 kids a month.

Info here.

Donate here.

Is it possible to have honorably disagreed with you about the invasion in 2003?

Is it possible to have honorably changed your mind since then?

My sense from this post and this thread is that converts are not welcome.

There isn't much to say. It was an evil war, planned and begun while our president insisted he was still looking to avoid fighting. It is an evil occupation. A whole lot of people like Andy are doing what they can to bring good out of it, but the fundamentals are all wrong. It was folly to accept the lies rolled out to justify the thing in the first place; it is now cultivated denial of the truth to defend them. There is no "but on the other hand" for this - it's a violation of our law, international agreements we initiated and championed, and basic moral decency. Otherwise good people who try to do anything but end it as soon as possible and bring the perpetrators to full justice make themselves part of the problem - foolish if ignorant, wicked if informed.

RaeF, it is certainly possible to have been a well-meaning dupe of a thorough propaganda effort, mounted by the White House and supported far too much in the mass media. And it is very desirable to have shaken free of that since then.

I doubt Hilzoy would disagree with either part of that.

Argh. Hilzoy, I see where you're coming from with this post.

But you omit to point out that many of the problems you list were created by the US invasion and occupation.

Iraqis did not have to set up a society from scratch, any more than the US would have to set up a health care system from scratch. There was a functioning society in Iraq before the US invaded. It was damaged by the previous Gulf Wars, but it was there.

What Iraqis would have had to do was set up a functioning democratic system of government from scratch. And they wanted very much to do that*. and there were obvious ways in which to do it**: the clog on the line was not popular hostility to Ba'athists or Sunni/Shiia hostility it was the US opposition to permitting Iraqis to elect their own government and take control of the country while the US had not yet sold off all Iraqi industries or established how it was going to take control of Iraqi oil.***

Yes, Sunni and Shiia hostility has been a long-term issue in Iraq ever since it was created. And might still have been. But many Iraqis say that in the cities at least, for years, it had not mattered whether an individual or a family was Sunni or Shiia - it simply did not come up.

US responsibility for destroying Iraq includes acknowledging that, prior to the invasion, Iraq had a functioning society in which it was possible to get along if you didn't come to the attention of Saddam Hussein in a bad way, or otherwise cross the Ba'athists. It wasn't a good society - I am making no claims for that: but it functioned.

*The first Iraqis killed by American soldiers in Fallujah were shot as they participated in a pro-democracy demonstration. The city had been surrendered to the US without a fight because the mayor of Fallujah had believed in the goodwill of the US. Fallujah - what is left of it - is a monument to what happens when Iraqi goodwill and enthusiasm for democracy meets armed Americans.

**Ostensibly, the opposition to Iraqis getting to elect an interim government in 2003 were all to do with there being no reliable electoral roll. Supporters for early elections pointed out that the rationing roll was as reliable as anything that could be done right then - a complete listing of families throughout Iraq with their ages. In early 2005, nearly two years after the first Iraqis died for democracy in Fallujah, the US finally permitted Iraqis to go to the polls... using the pre-invasion rationing roll as an electoral roll.

***No, not exaggerating. This was in the news at the time in 2003.

It wasn't a good society - I am making no claims for that: but it functioned.

Jes has a very good point here. A functioning, but bad, society is much better than no society at all. In particular, the correct way to build a new society is not to fire all office-holders from primary school teachers and janitors upwards. That leads to two main things: total collapse of a significant portion of the middle class and total collapse of all organized native government. No, the correct way to purge a bureaucracy is to do it little by little, although it will inevitably mean accepting leftovers from the past.

In post-war Germany, Americans and Britons built up a society from near-scratch. However, they did not fire school teachers, mayors, judges or even police officers. They just kicked out the Gauleiters and other NSDAP staff. Of course, this meant that many people who had been affiliated with nazis survived in the government structures, but it left the Western powers a basic structure which could then be molded into a successful democratic nation.

Lurker and Jes make good points. I'll just add that Japan is an even closer example. A lot of actual war criminals got off lightly or altogether scot-free after the war, because of US desire to have Japan be a bulwark against the Soviet Union as quickly as possible. The more I learn about the history of the transitional era the messier it gets. Certainly there was justice consciously denied - it's not a matter of US officials failing to realize that they were letting people responsible for war policy and practice get away with it. But at least there was a civil society still functioning, and people's present needs for work, shelter, education, health care, and the like attended to.

*pause to check dates*

Okay, the US occupation of Japan formally ended in 1952. But by 1950 reconstruction was well underway, and in particular there was more than enough stability and local infrastructure working that the US could afford to divert much of its military presence from the occupation to Korea. One can't imagine anything of the sort of Iraq.

Germany's first post-war chancellor even got a law through parliament that for every new Beamte (state servant with certain privileges) an old PG (Parteigenosse = ex NSDAP member)had to be reinstated (provided he was formally "denazified"). The political climate in post-war West Germany was anything but liberal but it worked and the danger of an actual Nazi revival was negligible. If the US had tried something like in Iraq the results might have been quite different (the Soviet threat clearly helped too though). On the other hand the country walked into real trouble when (under a left chancellorship!) the "Radicals Decree" threw people out of public service (including postmen) for just alleged "radical" (=communist) views. That led to further radicalization and real violence.
---
I was born in 1973 but ironically I had to sign papers occasionally (to get a job) stating that I did not commit nazi/war crimes in the period 1933-1945. Now those are slowly replaced by questions about being an informer for the East German secret police.

My sense from this post and this thread is that converts are not welcome.

I think you read too much into the aggrieved tone of this particular thread.

There are a number of folks here who fit the description you offer (paging OCSteve...).

There are others who may entertain doubts about the goodness of the war in principle, but who remain committed to our effort there for other reasons.

In at least one notable and sorely missed case, that commitment was hands-on and total.

And, there are a few folks who participate here who probably still support the invasion in principle.

Assuming your question is not academic, you might not be in the majority, but you would certainly not be unwelcome.

Thanks -

RaeF: Is it possible to have honorably disagreed with you about the invasion in 2003?

Yes.

Plenty of people did have honorable reasons for supporting the invasion in 2003: it is not a crime to presume that your government will not lie to you about their reasons for taking the country to war. And plenty more believed that, bad as the invasion was, the occupation was an opportunity to do something worthwhile: it was not clearly understood in early 2003 by most members of the general public exactly how appalling the occupation was going to be.

A couple of thoughts on the fifth anniversary itself.

I find it hard to read Pletka's piece without wanting to smash some crockery, or throw some furniture out the window.

The invasion of Iraq was a blunder. Or, rather, a rich and various collection of blunders, pressed down, shaken together, and running over.

It was a blunder driven by the ambition and imagination of a collection of clever folks with Very Big Plans For Everyone. Through an unrelated tragedy, the opportunity to try out one of their very favorite big plans fell into their laps like a plum, and they would not be denied.

And here we are.

I don't know what the best thing to do is at this point. I don't think anyone knows. We'll all just continue to stumble forward, and it will play itself out one way or another. It has cost us plenty, and will cost us plenty more, in every possible kind of coin, but it will not be a patch on what the Iraqi people have paid and will continue to pay.

If past experience is any indicator, it will take a very, very long time to heal the very sore place that is Iraq, and the Iraq war. It might never happen completely.

It would be great if, at this point, we could all, sadder and wiser, simply resolve to move forward and try to find the best possible outcome, both for us and for Iraq.

Unfortunately, we're going to be distracted from that end by the incessant, self-justifying bleating of professional opinion makers like Pletka, as they insist, over and over again, that they really weren't wrong, and if they were it wasn't really their fault, and even if it was it was better to be wrong the way they were wrong than to be right the way folks who opposed the war were right.

I wish, really really wish, that they would, finally, just shut up about it.

It's like somebody at a wake explaining why it really, really is not their fault that they ran the dead guy over with the truck, and if you don't understand that, you must be stupid. It's unseemly.

I just can't listen to those people anymore. I can't stand the sound of their strident, self-pitying voices. It makes me so angry I could hit something.

As it turns out, in the end, Bush actually did lie, and people actually did die.

Thanks -

My sense from this post and this thread is that converts are not welcome.

there are at least two things Yglesias, Kevin Drum, Sullivan and John Cole all have in common:

1. they all supported the war, to one degree or another, at the beginning.

2. they're all on my must-read list today.

converts are fine with me.

and even if it was it was better to be wrong the way they were wrong than to be right the way folks who opposed the war were right

as a hopeful Jerri Blank once said: "I'm still doing the wrong things, but at least I'm doing them for the right reasons." yay!

being right about the Iraq war was trivially easy, for a cynic like me: after a month or so, it became clear that Bush wasn't going to back up any of his claims with anything like solid evidence, so i just assumed everything he was saying about Iraq was a lie. and that's exactly how it turned out.

i'm still amazed at how well that algorithm worked. we don't often see 100% mendacity in a President - there's usually some kernel of conscience in there. but Bush is exceptional. and Cheney is worse - actively evil, i think.

hyperbolic? sure. so what - at least my hyperbole isn't killing anyone.

...it is not a crime to presume that your government will not lie to you about their reasons for taking the country to war.

On September 6, 2002, asked in a NYTimes interview why Administration spokespeople had gone into a full-court press on the Iraqi threat ("smoking gun, mushroom cloud" etc.) over the previous few days, chief of staff Andrew Card said: "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August."

Was it criminal to interpret that as "Good old Andy is just cracking wise with a reporter" rather than what it was: the little man behind the curtain just drew it aside and shouted "looky here!"

Maybe not -- but it certainly suggests a profound willingness to be deceived.

Rae F: yes, it is possible. To be clear: the people I am chiefly angry at are those whose job it is to know these things. I do not expect that they will be infallible, but I do expect that they will get certain basic things right.

By "the people whose job it is to know these things", I mean not just policy makers in and outside of government, but those columnists, etc., who saw fit to opine on the case for war in print/on TV/etc.,, and who thereby (imho) assumed a responsibility for knowing what they were talking about that goes beyond that of ordinary citizens.

I think it's great that all of us do our best to work this stuff out on our own. I mean, I'm a blogger; of course I think that. However, I also think that things work better if there are people whose job it is to know this stuff, and if those people do not make basic mistakes.

The Japanese occupation was pretty amazing from the standpoint of how we got away with what we did and still have things turn out relatively well. A small example. The US educational mission to Japan came in March of 1946 and stayed for a grand total of 1 month. The first week, they received briefings, second week meetings with Japanese education officials, third week, visits to schools, fourth week, write the report that was the guideline for Post war Japanese educational reform. The 27 members had zero Japan related experience, and were chosen not for expertise but to balance various constituencies. George Stoddart headed the missions after the first suggested candidate, James Bryant Conant, president of Harvard, was rejected by MacArthur because of talk that Conant was a potential presidential candidate, which would have threatened MacArthur. There are a large number of these sorts of moments that really conflict with the notion that the US had its stuff together. Perhaps our intentions were purer than, or perhaps we just lucked out, but the more I study of that time, the more I am amazed.

Russell- Usually I agree with you, but in this case I don't. I wish Pletka and everyone like her should talk about how they were really right to be wrong about Iraq at every opportunity. If these people are ever going to get the tarring and feathering they deserve then they need to alienate everyone in hearing.

Monte Davis, if you were skeptical (as I certainly was) about the Bush administration's honesty and motivations, and had reasonably good google-fu (which I like to think I do) it wasn't hard to discover, prior to the invasion, that Bush and Co were telling lies.

One can disagree over how long it ought to have taken before interested people - even those who didn't start out skeptical of the Bush administration, and who weren't particularly googlepert - figured out that Bush & Co were lying their asses off, and the mainstream media and the right-wing blogosphere were for the most part ignoring, covering up, or simply accepting on faith the lies.

But starting out trusting your government not to lie to you about something as major as the necessity of making an aggressive war on another country? Not a crime.

LJ: Certainly luck was there in large quantity, but so were circumstances it's worth considering. There was a larger pool of talented people for the education mission because this was before Nixon et al at the House Un-American Activities Commission (and then, a few years later, McCarthy et al in the Senate) blasted so many careers of "eggheads" and other undesirables. There was slop space, basically, so that the authorities could indulge in a bit of idiocy and still have good candidates. But then they and their colleagues set about fixing that.

The Loneliness of the Military Historian

Confess: it's my profession
that alarms you
This is why few people ask me to dinner,
though Lord knows I don't go out of my way to
be scary.
I wear dresses of sensible cut
and unalarming shades of beige,
I smell of lavender and go to the hairdresser's:
no prophetess mane of mine
complete with snakes, will frighten the
youngsters.
If my eyes roll and I mutter,
if my arms are gloved in blood right up to the
elbow,
if I clutch at my heart and scream in horror
like a third-rate actress chewing up a mad scene,
I do it in private and nobody sees
but the bathroom mirror.

In general I might agree with you:
women should not contemplate war,
should not weigh tactics impartially,
or evade the word _enemy_,
or view both sides and denounce nothing.
Women should march for peace,
or hand out white feathers to inspire bravery,
spit themselves on bayonets
to protect their babies,
whose skulls will be split anyway,
or, having been raped repeatedly,
hang themselves with their own hair.
These are the functions that inspire general
comfort,
That, and the knitting of socks for the troops
and a sort of moral cheerleading.
Also: mourning the dead.
Sons, lovers, and so forth.
All the killed children.

Instead of this, I tell
what I hope will pass as truth.
A blunt thing, not lovely.
The truth is seldom welcome,
especially at dinner,
though I am good at what I do.
My trade is in courage and atrocities.
I look at them and do not condemn.
I write things down the way they happened,
as near as can be remembered.
I don't ask _why_ because it is mostly the same,
Wars happen because the ones who start them
think they can win.

In my dreams there is a glamour.


The Vikings leave their fields
each year for a few months of killing and
plunder,
much as the boys go hunting.
In real life they were farmers.
They come back loaded with splendor.
The Arabs ride against Crusaders
with scimitars that could sever
silk in the air.
A swift cut to the horse's neck
and a hunk of armor crashes down
like a tower. Fire against metal.
A poet might say: romance against banality.
When awake, I know better.

Despite the propaganda, there are no monsters,
or none that can be finally buried.
Finish one off and circumstances
and the radio create another.
Believe me: whole armies have prayed fervently
to God all night and meant it,
and been slaughtered anyway.
Brutality wins frequently,
and large outcomes have turned on the
invention
of a mechanical device, viz. radar.

True, sometimes valor counts for something,
as at Thermopylae. Sometimes being right,
though ultimate virtue by agreed tradition
is decided by the winner.
Sometimes men throw themselves on grenades
and burst like paper bags of guts
to save their comrades.
I can admire that.
But rats and cholera have won many wars.
Those, and potatoes
or the absence of them.
It's no use pinning all those medals
across the chests of the dead.
Impressive, but I know too much.
Grand exploits merely depress me.

In the interests of research
I have walked on many battlefields
that once were liquid with pulped
men's bodies and spangled with burst
shells and splayed bone.
All of them have been green again
by the time I got there.
Each has inspired a few good quotes in its day.
Sad marble angels brood like hens
over the grassy nests where nothing hatches.
(The angels could just as well be described as
_vulgar_,
or _pitiless_, depending on camera angle.)

The word _glory_ figures a lot on gateways.
Of course I pick a flower or two
from each, and press it in the hotel
Bible, for a souvenir.
I'm just as human as you.

But it's no use asking me for a final statement.
As I say, I deal in tactics.
Also statistics:
for every year of peace there have been four
hundred
years of war.

Margaret Atwood

A reflection I've thought before;

One of the nastiest aspects of this administration (like the movement conservative machine in general) is how much it encourages cynicism as a response to evil folly. "Oh, well, what can you expect of them?" But cynicism is a corrosive poison in the body politic of a society where representative government and human rights should matter. Cynicism breeds apathy and disengagement - it is, after all, dumb to struggle without a reason to believe it's worth the effort.

Anger is better than cynicism, because anger can impel us to action, but you can't live a healthy, sane life being angry all the time, either. And when the outrages pile on and on and on, it's hard to reclaim any mental/emotional/spiritual space from the anger without just disengaging. So the guilty get away with it partly by sheer overload on the part of everyone else's sense and sensibilities.

(Camus takes up the problem in the first part of The Rebel, and I recommend it. I don't know of a better treatment of the root philosophical issues in explaining exactly why the law shouldn't be sanctioning either individual or mass murder.)

Remaining alert without losing one's humanity is very hard sometimes, and this is such a time. I've been reading comments at another weblog I won't name right now because I'm not out to start a blog fight, where Katherine and some others have been defending their hopes for political improvement in the face of some really cynical counter-argument. The people they're arguing with have given up the struggle, it seems - having gotten burned badly enough trusting in one set of promises for a better policy, they no longer believe there's any prospect of not getting burned again, and a whole swath of the human experience recedes. It's often tempting to join their ranks, and work not to sometimes.

But disengagement only gives the real bad guys a freer hand. There's no way past them without actually doing something, and acting requires being willing to hope for better and to work with others even in the thick of it all.

The saddest part is that the Cohen's, Pletka's, Kristol's; how far do I go, will be in McCain's ear day one advocating a Now we know how to do this strategy in Iran. And people who thought Bush/Iraq to be a failure will still vote McCain. The chanters weren't kidding when they said Four more Wars. And they say Rev Wright should have know better. End the war, draft Republicans.

I can only hope that somehow, some way, we can begin to redeem our honor. The only way I can think of is by doing an awful lot of good in the world

I agree.

We could start doing good by freeing people from their cruel and oppressive governments.

We could rid the world of dictators that have used WMD against their own people.

We could rid the world of governments that execute gays.

We could rid the world of governments that stone women.

We could literally fight to protect muslims where they are being killed.

I'm just throwing out some ideas... anyone else have some?

Grey: How about...we could abide by the laws we profess, and punish those who push for war on knowingly false grounds, and welcome in people fleeing chaos and tyranny they didn't have to suffer? How about promoting the general welfare and domestic tranquillity at home, and working to deal peaceably with the rest of the world wherever possible? How about encouraging competency and honesty in government, and punishing criminal conspiracies to obstruct justice that happened to be inconvenient to a ruling junta? How about making verifiable truthfulness a priority in what we say to ourselves, our neighbors, and the world?

That all seems very honorable and in the best American tradition to me, and doesn't start by glorifying fighting. Sometimes it's necessary to fight, but Sun Tzu knew better and so should we.

grey: I'm just throwing out some ideas... anyone else have some?

Thanks for the invite!

Reading your list of goals, I find that you are curiously unwilling to begin by changing your own country: surely the best place to start?

We could start doing good by freeing people from their cruel and oppressive governments.

Guantanamo Bay, Bagram Airbase, CIA black holes, prisons across the US where people are held in conditions that Amnesty International finds unacceptable. Grey, where is your concern for freeing people to whom the US government is being cruel and oppressive?

We could rid the world of dictators that have used WMD against their own people.

But not those who have used WMD against children and adult civilians in other countries?

We could rid the world of governments that execute gays.

Or you could start closer to home and rid your own country of governments that deny basic human rights to LGBT people: and of representatives who call gays "cancers" and claim that a gay person is a worse threat than a terrorist.

We could rid the world of governments that stone women.

And you could also start closer to home and rid your own country of governments that deny women their right to choose a safe legal abortion. Nearly 70 000 women die each year due to complications following an unsafe/illegal abortion. Changing the world so that men no longer consider it their right to kill women for being sexually active is a big, big part of the feminist revolution: you too can be part of it, but the part closest to home for you is the global gag rule. I welcome your participation in this fight.

We could literally fight to protect muslims where they are being killed.

And you could literally vote in November to protect Muslims where they are being tortured and imprisoned unjustly: Guantanamo Bay, Bagram Airbase, CIA black holes. You could also literally write to your Representative and your Senator and your Immigration Department to argue that Iraqi asylum seekers should be helped to enter the US, which would literally protect Muslims where they are being killed. Specifically, the US could declare that America accepts sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender, as protected groups, and will return no asylum seeker to any country where they can be shown to be at risk of persecution on those grounds: and could begin a special campaign to help all LGBT Iraqis leave Iraq safely, since the one thing all factions in Iraq can agree on is that LGBT people should die.

Jon H's post up above makes me laugh:

Is it possible to have honorably disagreed with you about the invasion in 2003?

Is it possible to have honorably changed your mind since then?
My sense from this post and this thread is that converts are not welcome.


The notion that there is a "cause" or a "side" to the question of whether we should have invaded Iraq is part of the reason we so foolishly went ahead and invaded. Sure, its possible to have "honorably" supported the invasion if by that you mean that you were so pants pissingly scared of the saddam/al quaeda bogeyman that you suspended all normal rationality and thought, looking at bush and cheney and rumsfeld, that they were the men to wisely run a huge and complex war and miraculously pay for it out of savings bonds. And sure you could have "honorably" changed your mind, I suppose, by suddenly finding yourself as sick of losing as a child after eating too much sugar and vomiting at the fair. But in what sense is that a "conversion" that needs to be recognized by other people? I mean really, when you spend five years telling the rest of us that the sun doesn't rise in the morning, and locking yourself in your house for fear of dogs that you mistake for wolves, are we to congratulate you for "converting" "honorably" to the general view that its sunny out today and those wolves are just your neighbors pekinese?

Frankly I think the right thing to do with people who "honorably" came to their senses because they could no longer stick their head in the sand is to politely turn my back on them and pretend that they have permanently come out of their fugue state and will never go off their meds again--even as I know that they have proven themselves immune to normal logic and will probably fall for the next war mongering swaggerer who promises them glory without death and war without taxes.

aimai

And as for Russell's point

"its not a crime to believe your government won't lie to you..."

No, its not a crime, its

"worse than a crime, its a blunder."

All government's lie. The more important the matter, the more they lie. The government's interest is never identical to the interest of all of its citizens. War always costs the government materiel, and the citizens actual lives.

aimai

Is grey going to take point in the liberation of Tibet?

I remember the heady days when there were calls for airstrikes because the Chinese had had the temerity to ask the crew of a P-3 some questions.

Grey: Do you have any ideas that don't involve traveling long distances to kill foreigners at great expense?

DNFTT.

DNFTT.

Not smart enough to be a troll. But not self reflective enough to consider he may be wrong. Yet.

Not smart enough to be a troll. But not self reflective enough to consider he may be wrong. Yet.

This pushes the posting rules, IMO. Not picking on you in particular, gwangung, but grey may just be new to this sort of thing. Firm yet reasonably polite discussion may be more effective than the troll-labeling.

Or, not. I think it's an experiment worth conducting, though.

This pushes the posting rules, IMO. Not picking on you in particular, gwangung, but grey may just be new to this sort of thing. Firm yet reasonably polite discussion may be more effective than the troll-labeling.

Point taken. More clearly, I think grey honestly feels and thinks what he writes about--to troll with that particular stance I think takes a lot more skill and cynicism than 95% of the people out there.

Lurker:

In post-war Germany, Americans and Britons built up a society from near-scratch. However, they did not fire school teachers, mayors, judges or even police officers. They just kicked out the Gauleiters and other NSDAP staff.

Actually, no. The history of de-Nazification is interesting, varied, and (obviously) one that the Bush administration totally ignored.

At first, especially in the US zone, we actually did fire almost anybody with even the vaguest connection to the Nazi administration. That imposed huge costs, however, and over time we streamlined the process considerably (with the upthread mentioned problems).

What is tragic in our current circumstances is the comparison to the German situation from sixty years ago. The Roosevelt administration had prepared for the occupation of Germany since 1943. They still made a lot of mistakes, and Truman had to adjust course repeatedly.

All of this could have been studied. The State Department prepared an exhaustive survey of what to expect after the invasion of Iraq, and it included some of the post-1945 insights. Rumsfeld forbade people to even read that book.

aimai, would you have said that to Rae F face to face using your full name?

I didn't buy Bush's lies -- but I study history for fun. It isn't fun for most people, and our schools don't give them any clue why or how to study it. So of course they repeat obvious mistakes. There is no need to lambaste them for ignorance. Instead, rejoice that they learned something. It's not much of a silver lining, but it's something. Consider how much better they are than the 31% who STILL think Bush is a good Preznit. I know two of those and I have a hard time talking to them civilly.

Firm yet reasonably polite discussion may be more effective than the troll-labeling.

Your point about the posting rules seems fair, but in all honesty I think grey has received a pretty generous share of firm yet reasonably polite discussion.

A couple of folks have given him a bit of a hard time, but overall I'd say the amount of good faith consideration he's received is quite a bit larger than what he's offered.

It's not a quid pro quo thing, and we all go off the rails now and then. It's fine with me if he sticks around.

But I really don't think he's being unfairly targeted for criticism.

Just my two cents, FWIW.

Thanks -

can we ban bril again please?

This pushes the posting rules, IMO. Not picking on you in particular, gwangung, but grey may just be new to this sort of thing. Firm yet reasonably polite discussion may be more effective than the troll-labeling.

Actually, I'm just repeating Hil's instructions from the Obama speech thread, Slart.

And what Ugh said (*ahem*).

grey, I appreciate your desire to nobly spend all my money and my children's and grandchildren's money to help gays and women in other countries. It's nice of you, really. But if you don't mind, I'd like to make sure we keep enough money here that we don't have a collapse and end up with our own dictatorship or anarchy. Also, war turns out to be a crappy way to improve the world. Besides the drain on your own country (besides the money & lives, civil liberties of all kinds ALWAYS get reined in during wartime for what seem like good reasons at the time), you end up killing and torturing a lot of innocent people and you get millions of people even more anxious to kill you (thus requiring an even bigger army, more wars, higher taxes, etc.). Plus, you don't necessarily improve the country you invade.

Does any of this sound familiar?

For an analogy, consider your personal life. You could spend all your cash, and mortgage your home, to raise money for a small arsenal of crime-fighting tools (preferably shaped like bats), go out at nights and beat the hell out of wife-abusers, accused sex offenders (there are lists of their addresses! Easy targets!), and other criminals. Outside of comic books, this does not turn out to be a successful strategy for making your neighborhood and you better off.

Instead, I have this wild, crazy idea that nobody except the entire civilized world has endorsed: let's go to war only because we absolutely have to in self-defense.

But if you feel otherwise, please go ahead and embark on your selfless vigilante career. As a personal favor, please don't do it in my city. I hear Gotham has an opening.

I responded to someone named "russel" and someone named "jon H" not to "rae f" but of course I would have said what I said face to face. And I have, to people who hold such pernicious views of their role of citizen as to be still fighting a rearguard action to be retroactively forgiven for poor decisions as citizens.

aimai

excuse me, I beg Jon H's pardon and probably Russel's, too, I misread the attribution line and assigned the comment above Rae F's handle to Jon H. whose name appears at the top of my screen as I was reading the post. I don't post here very often because of the tedious and pointless accusations of incivility in a discussion really no different from many that take place face to face. But I certainly did not intend to missasign my complaint. My apologies to Jon H. and russel, please read my comment as applying to the persons named below your own posts.

aimai

i was getting a bit of deja vu vibe, too. i was thinking Charlie, but bril makes sense. it's that same "why won't anyone discuss things with me while i bullheadedly ignore what you're saying?" shtick.

cleek: see HOCB.

;-)

Thanks, aimai. No worries.

Your point about the posting rules seems fair, but in all honesty I think grey has received a pretty generous share of firm yet reasonably polite discussion.

You mean, there's some limit to reasonable politeness? I mean, it's not as if I've necessarily passed my limit, but...good to know.

8)

You mean, there's some limit to reasonable politeness?

No, I just meant he'd received plenty already. I think he's been treated pretty fairly, and I think gwangung's restatement of his own point was appropriate and sufficient.

I don't really have a dog in the fight, so with that I will retire from this particular field.

I do, sincerely, appreciate your interest in keeping things civil.

My apologies to Jon H. and russel

No worries aimai.

Thanks -

"If the surge has been as successful as it purports to be, this is an ideal time to start the drawdown," said the officer who has advised the Joint Chiefs.

Per">http://snipurl.com/228um">Per Scott Horton a breakthrough in MSM reportng.

Just wanted to say, awesome post, hilzoy, very well said as well as well reasoned. Posted it on a couple of other blogs, with attribution.

L.A. Times article analyzing Adm. Fallon's sudden resignation/dismissal as a dispute over Iraq policy. (to fix link in felixculpa's post)

Thanks. I've used the amputation metaphor myself — it's the best one I've yet thought of.

As for Richard Cohen and those last lines — Isn't he inversing Judt's usage of the line? Isn't he once again (for the love of god please stop) saying that he and his ilk were wrong for the right reasons while all of us who understood that war requires a higher threshold of necessity than was ever justified were right for the wrong reasons? I wrote a post not long ago about Cohen pushing the same idea, but, as you say, Hilzoy, he was wrong for the wrong reasons. I just want to scream at these people. They still don't get it. And while (there's no polite way to put it) Richard Cohen is not a smart man, and many pundits are far from intellectually honest, I'm pretty convinced it's mostly personal vanity to blame that they still can't admit error. More dangerously, because they can't, they'll do it all over again.

Thanks, Nell.

Batocchio: I'm pretty convinced it's mostly personal vanity to blame that they still can't admit error. More dangerously, because they can't, they'll do it all over again. seems right on to me.

My parents taught us that it's a basic responsibility to, when you find you've made a mistake, understand why, and see what you can do to repeat it. As it is, unfortunately, we have an entire social class that can't even begin to look at the fact that they believed easily disproved lies from bigots and ideologues bent on justifying war by any means handy. I know from bitter experience that it's not any fun to say "I fell for someone else's lie that I should have seen through then." But when it's true, nothing else is going to open up for a real recovery.

I’m not sure how to respond to all the vitriol and snide remarks. I am a bit overwhelmed. I don’t think I have made any posts that have attacked someone for being ignorant, stupid, obtuse* … the list is just too long to mention for such a short time posting.

*I used obtuse to sum up some comments. I would hope that no one accuses me of being a liar for doing so. It is true to say that no one has actually used the word obtuse, just the intent of it.

If I state my opinion, I get personally attacked. I also get attacked for what I don’t discuss. I know you all read Hilzoy’s post about American redemption. I stated some ways that I think we have done and can do good in the world. I get criticized for what I don’t say and for what I do say.

This is the first response I get.

How about...we could abide by the laws we profess, and punish those who push for war on knowingly false grounds, and welcome in people fleeing chaos and tyranny they didn't have to suffer? How about promoting the general welfare and domestic tranquillity at home, and working to deal peaceably with the rest of the world wherever possible? How about encouraging competency and honesty in government, and punishing criminal conspiracies to obstruct justice that happened to be inconvenient to a ruling junta?

Going to war on false grounds? Did every major intelligence agency in the world not think Hussein had WMD? Is that not an accurate statement on my part?

Promoting the general welfare and domestic tranquility at home? Have there been major uprisings that I have missed?

Working peaceably with the rest of the world wherever possible? Need I mention Libya and Pakistan? Even with Hussein we tried to work with him for years. Does Hussein have no culpability in the war?

A ruling junta? Bush won the electoral college. I can understand you might not like having an electoral college, but it is the system we have chosen.

Are the things I listed not good things? Are they evil or are they another perspective of our actions these last 5 years and for the future?

We could start doing good by freeing people from their cruel and oppressive governments.

We could rid the world of dictators that have used WMD against their own people.

We could rid the world of governments that execute gays.

We could rid the world of governments that stone women.

We could literally fight to protect muslims where they are being killed.

Maybe the price has been high, but all of these are good things* to do for the world and its citizens. Does anyone disagree?

*Just because I think these are good things we could do for the world doesn’t mean that I believe we do not have to calculate the cost. Just because I make one comment does not mean I exclude all other possibilities or circumstances. So please try to avoid the comments about how I want to bomb the world to hell.

Why so much anger at what I didn’t mention? Am I to be criticized because I didn’t mention every single thing we could do that you might agree with? Who could ever live up to that standard?

That all seems very honorable and in the best American tradition to me, and doesn't start by glorifying fighting. Sometimes it's necessary to fight, but Sun Tzu knew better and so should we

Notice I am the one glorifying fighting while commenting in a post entitled 5 years and counting. For some crazy reason I thought the post was somehow related to fighting. I would add that Sun Tzu also knew there was a time to fight. And after 9/11 leaving a dictator that supposedly had WMD and hated your country and had known relationships with terrorists is a good time in my opinion.

And then this post:

Reading your list of goals, I find that you are curiously unwilling to begin by changing your own country: surely the best place to start?

I hope you didn’t post anything like that in the Obama threads. Good God! If you did you would have been crucified for such a rational thought.

Did I post anywhere that I was unwilling do begin by changing my own country? I don’t feel like I did. Hilzoy listed some ways to change that started with our own country. Should I only echo her voice? Would it make me a good poster if I gave Hilzoy a big Amen? Is that the kind of discussion that people want? Is that even a discussion?

Grey, where is your concern for freeing people to whom the US government is being cruel and oppressive?

People have been released from Guantanamo. Some appear to have given up their destructive ways and others have been released only to murder again.

But not those who have used WMD against children and adult civilians in other countries?

Do you have proof that the US has intentionally tried to harm innocent bystanders?

Or you could start closer to home and rid your own country of governments that deny basic human rights to LGBT people: and of representatives who call gays "cancers" and claim that a gay person is a worse threat than a terrorist.

Okay, sounds reasonable to me. I don’t know of basic human rights that have been denied to gays in America, but I support the sentiment. If I was gay and my human rights were being violated as you describe I would either work to change or move to Canada. I don't know that many gay people who feel their rights are being so violated that they have left the country.*

Just because I use the term "that many" does not mean that there have not been any. By not "that many" I mean few, as in "not that many".

Are you talking about gay marriage? Is that a basic human right to receive a marriage certificate from the government? LGBT are free to work to pass laws that recognize gay marriage if they want. They are free to vote. They are free to move to states that legalize gay marriage. They are free to do business with insurance companies that recognize their union. More power to them.

I feel comfortable stating that gay people are not cancers and aren’t worse than terrorist. I say get rid of the guy. I do not doubt you that someone said that, but I sure did miss it in the news cycle. My bad, I guess.

I have hatred for no one. In my real life I love just about everyone I meet. It might surprise you to know that just about everyone loves* me too.

*Love may be an exaggeration… like is probably more accurate about how they feel about me. But I love people both like me and very different from me. My wife finds that difficult. Most people prefer to live in their comfort zone. I also love other cultures and love discovering the differences with my own.


And you could also start closer to home and rid your own country of governments that deny women their right to choose a safe legal abortion.

Did I miss something? Can you not get an abortion in America anymore? I know some states have different laws, but I thought you still could get one. Is it unreasonable to desire to protect the life that is inside the mother? Is that truly just an unreasonable perspective? I get the fact that it is in her body. I get the fact that the baby needs the mother (and the father.) I also get the fact that it is a separate life inside the mother. Do you disagree with that? Is it the "fetus" the same life as the mother? I find abortion like many other issues a grey area. Now you have just learned a little bit more about me than I intended.

And you could literally vote in November to protect Muslims where they are being tortured and imprisoned unjustly

Maybe you can explain to me why some countries are unwilling to take these prisoners.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/28/AR2007042801145_pf.html> Washington Post
Just a few quotes from the article:

In many cases, the prisoners' countries do not want them back. Yemen, for instance, has balked at accepting some of the 106 Yemeni nationals at Guantanamo by challenging the legality of their citizenship.

Another major obstacle: U.S. laws that prevent the deportation of people to countries where they could face torture or other human rights abuses, as in the case of 17 Chinese Muslim separatists who have been cleared for release but fear they could be executed for political reasons if returned to China.

On Feb. 22, without explanation, the Pentagon notified Belbacha's lawyers in London that he had been approved to leave Guantanamo. Despite entreaties from the State Department, however, the British government has refused to accept Belbacha and five other immigrants who had lived in the country, because they lack British citizenship.

This month, Clint Williamson, the State Department's ambassador for war crimes, visited Algiers to discuss possible arrangements for the return of two dozen Algerians who remain at Guantanamo, including Belbacha, but no breakthroughs were reported. That country has been slow to accept its citizens

And this comment:

Grey: Do you have any ideas that don't involve traveling long distances to kill foreigners at great expense?

I didn’t post any, but Hilzoy did. Am I to be discounted because I chose not to post something that Hilzoy and others already posted about?

I would argue that one of the failings of the Bush administration was the lack of a call to civil service. What do you guys think of requiring high school graduates to serve in the Peace Corp? Maybe a unique college loan just for them? Like a GI bill. I think that would be a great contribution to the world. I could only hope they would perform with the same dignity, honor, determination and compassion as our military. I believe in my heart they would.

grey, I appreciate your desire to nobly spend all my money and my children's and grandchildren's money to help gays and women in other countries.

No, I don’t desire that. Did I post that somewhere or are you making it up?

And Russell,

No, I just meant he'd received plenty already. I think he's been treated pretty fairly, and I think gwangung's restatement of his own point was appropriate and sufficient.

I think you are stupid and ignorant. I think you lack the ability to be self-reflective. You ignore the reasonable comments that I have made. You are deaf. You only see what you want to see. You are extremely uninformed.*

Now does that feel fair to you?

*I do not actually believe that Russell is stupid and ignorant. I do not think he lacks the ability to be self-reflective. I’m not sure he would ignore a reasonable argument. I doubt he is deaf. I don’t know if he only see’s what he wants to. I don’t think of him as extremely uniformed. I posted that just to see if he thinks those comments are fair? I just posted that comment to see if he thinks that is how to have a civil discourse. I posted that to see if he thinks those kinds of comments unite us or divide us.

If it gives anyone comfort there is no possible way I can keep this level of posting up. I can’t possibly take the time to respond to all of the things people claim I say that I did not or are upset because of what I didn’t say. I can’t take the time to deal with negative inferences about my person. I a high than average IQ. I have been told on multiple times by other than I am smart. I've always been flattered by comments like that. I know that might be difficult for many of you to believe, but no one who knows me would call me stupid. Just because I offer a different perspective doesn’t mean I am ignorant or blind.

The difference that I can see in how I am treated versus Obama; I said things and many here made up things I didn’t say because they disagree with the content of what I said. Obama said things but many of you here ignored part of the content because you agreed with what he said.

The rule is it is okay to make up things about what a person says if you disagree with them and it is okay to ignore part of what a person says if you agree with them.

That’s not how I live my life.

I recently got into a car accident. Another driver hit me. The other drive got a ticket for running a stop sign. My first thought after I realized I was okay, “Dammit I know people run that stop sign. I should have been more careful.” It was not, “You f*ck*ng b*st*rd you shouldn’t have run that stop sign.”

That’s how I live my life. And that’s the type of speech that I wish Obama would have given. He did not!

He divided us into black and white, but I am the one accused of doing it. He told the whites what they needed to do, but I am bad because I’m not jumping onboard with him. He asked for more from the white community, but I am bad because I think that is the wrong focus for him.

Now all that has something to do with a double standard, but god knows I am too tired to even try and post in that thread.

Definition: Troll – someone who has a different perspective than you do

I a high than average IQ. I have been told on multiple times by other than I am smart.

Granted an unintelligible sentence about being intelligent is not the best way to make a point. At one point, I was trying to modify so that sentence so it would be taken the wrong way. I forgot I was going to change it.

I botched those two sentences rather spectaculary.

In my defense it was a long post and I also made a few blockquote errors. I meant to hit the preview button and hit the post. Then I decided I was too tired to go back and make any changes. I regret that now. ; - )

I can only imagine the delicious irony many take in such a bungled sentence regarding a higher than average IQ.

I can laugh at myself, too. It's a healthy thing to do. I highly recommend it. ; - )

I doubt he is deaf.

Actually, my hearing is not that great. Combination of inherited defect, age, and drumming.

That, and that New Years Eve Gang of Four show at the East Side club in Philly in '81. God, they were loud.

I just got some hearing aids, though, which are pretty helpful.

If you really are interested in participating here, maybe you might try laying out for a bit. Check out the typical posting style, get to know who some of the folks are and what they actually think about things. See how folks go about presenting their point of view, and how they go about responding to what others have to say.

It's a pretty nice community of people, and actually a pretty friendly one. Maybe you just got off to a bad start.

Thanks -

I was trying to modify so that sentence so it would be taken the wrong way

Wow! That wasn't much better.

I have spent too much time posting already and I am in a hurry to get to sleep.

Of course, that should have been, "I was trying to modify that sentence so that it would NOT be taken the wrong way."

Obviously, an impossible task for me at this hour.

Last post... swear... for the night that is...

"but Bush is exceptional. and Cheney is worse - actively evil, i think."

Everyone is a good guy in their version, one way or another.

aimai: "...but of course I would have said what I said face to face. And I have, to people who hold such pernicious views of their role of citizen as to be still fighting a rearguard action to be retroactively forgiven for poor decisions as citizens."

I take it you're a lumper, not a splitter.

grey, some people have attacked you, and some people have disagreed with you. Being able to tell the difference is a useful skill.

Again, the longterm effects of the war on the Army itself.

grey: In my defense it was a long post and I also made a few blockquote errors. I meant to hit the preview button and hit the post. Then I decided I was too tired to go back and make any changes. I regret that now. ; - )

Yeah. Been there, done that. Exactly that, and they tell me I a high than average IQ too... Don't sweat it: people on this blog tend not to do the annoying thing about pull out obvious typos/typing errors to make fun of them rather than responding to the substance of the comment. Assuming the comment has substance, which yours does.

Moving on: Maybe the price has been high, but all of these are good things* to do for the world and its citizens.

For "all of those things" the high price has been paid by "the world's citizens" - not by Americans. The peculiar irony, especially, of claiming you want to "literally fight to protect muslims where they are being killed" - is that the war in Iraq has killed more than a million Muslims already. "We had to destroy the village in order to save it" logic. It was the downfall of Saddam Hussein's government, and the indifference of the US occupation, that turned Iraq into a country where gays are killed. Yet you don't appear to be aware of this. If you are genuinely concerned about countries where LGBT people are persecuted to death, how could you not be aware that the US turned Iraq into such a country?

Going to war on false grounds? Did every major intelligence agency in the world not think Hussein had WMD? Is that not an accurate statement on my part?

No, it's not. No major intelligence agency - including the US intelligence agencies - considered Iraq/Saddam Hussein to be a threat justifying aggressive war. Bush and Cheney et al claimed otherwise, but thye were lying. The US went to war on false grounds.

People have been released from Guantanamo. Some appear to have given up their destructive ways and others have been released only to murder again.

You really don't know a lot about Guantanamo Bay, do you? The latter sentence suggests you are vaguely under the impression that people who have been released from Guantanamo Bay were actually guilty of something. Which suggests in turn that your ignorance of the issues involved in the US's extrajudicial prisoners is so extreme that a single comment is not the place to begin. Which suggests in turn that you may be willing to begin by changing your own country, but you have over the past six years avoided informing yourself of what is wrong with your own country.

Did I miss something? Can you not get an abortion in America anymore? I know some states have different laws, but I thought you still could get one.

Round the world - those "world's citizens" that you were so concerned about - the US denies funding to any health clinics or sexual health programmes which provide either assistance or even advice to women who need to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. This is the global gag rule. It was instituted by Reagan, repealed by Clinton, and re-instituted by Bush - the first act of his Presidency. 70 000 women die each year - those world's citizens - because they cannot get access to safe legal abortion. That's what you missed. I did provide a link for you to click: the global gag rule.

But if you're concerned about American women: US military bases do not permit women to get abortions on base. Serving soldiers who get pregnant and want to terminate must go offbase to a civilian clinic. This is merely an obstructive, petty nastiness by the US government towards soldiers serving at home or in countries where abortion is legal and finding a civilian clinic that will treat them is not a problem: it is a serious problem for soldiers who are serving in countries where abortion is illegal or where - as in Iraq - it would be unwise for an American soldier to ask for healthcare from a local clinic.

Are you talking about gay marriage? Is that a basic human right to receive a marriage certificate from the government?

Yes; see Loving vs Virginia. It is now accepted that it is a basic human right to marry the person you choose, not be denied marriage because the government has religious/bigoted prejudices against your marrying the partner of your choice.. The US government, egged on by religious fanatics whose evil ways you appear to be absolutely bloody indifferent to, says to same-sex couples in the US: "We don't permit you to marry the partner of your choice - we won't recognise that marriage as lawful." Further, the US military will not accept military service from LGBT people serving openly: not a "human right", perhaps, but surely a basic legal equality denied.

Just a quick note: I really don't think the US' and Germany's de-nazification policy was a success. The psychological toll the inadequate and prematurely aborted de-nazification took on German society as a whole has been documented extensively by historians, writers and psychoanalysts. It's been one of the major reasons for the eruption of 1968 and served as a justification for the terrorism of the 70s. And it's been even worse in Austria, because it was for a long time official policy to not even acknowledge the guilt and to turn the historical truth on its head.

Transforming a totalitarian society into a democratic one always involves trade-offs for pragmatic reasons, Germany and Iraq are apples and oranges and the decision to dissolve the Iraqi army was a blunder, but we shouldn't be too quick to dismiss the importance of 'truth and reconciliation' and the dangers of just carrying on as if nothing had happened. The sins of the past will metastasize forever if they're not dealt with, and in this regard Iraq is like any other society.

we have an entire social class that can't even begin to look at the fact that they believed easily disproved lies from bigots and ideologues bent on justifying war by any means handy...
Posted by: Bruce Baugh | March 20, 2008 at 09:09 PM

Thanks, I agree. Often personal character (or lack thereor) doesn't have a bearing on someone's policy positions, but in this case, I'd say it does. The Beltway social norm is one which values appearing knowledgable and certain over accuracy, thoughtfulness and admitting error. Sadly, I think there's a great deal of social snobbery, too - some of them will never admit that the "Dirty Friggin' Hippies" (which in this case would include retired generals and diplomats) were right. Almost every position most pundits have seem to filter through a conventional wisdom that is often wrong and demands little to no research nor reflection.

"Just a quick note: I really don't think the US' and Germany's de-nazification policy was a success."

I have numerous-books-length agreement, as regards both Germany and Japan, in short.

For Japan, cf. pretty much the overwhelming majority of books on the topic in the past 40 years. Or, at the least, I find the more critical ones most persuasive, of the few dozen I've read.

(Let's grant that, say, David Bergamini is on the over-wrought and over-stated side, whereas Herbert Bix and John W. Dower seem highly reliable, as regards the occupation of Japan.)

I have perhaps even less objective opinions about denazification.

That is, I wouldn't disagree that if one had to pick a one-word description, "success" is far more accurate than "failure."

But they were highly flawed successes, particularly if viewed through the lens of justice, and perhaps from the eyes of the victims of the regimes.

At creating stable governments that eventually became reasonably democratic -- although the degree to which neo-fascism lurks behind the curtains in Japan seems to me considerably underestimated by most Americans -- the effort was more or less successful.

"Just a quick note: I really don't think the US' and Germany's de-nazification policy was a success."

As a quick counter-note: the German historians I know would disagree.

To expand slightly: they would qualify the degree to which it was a success (viz. novakant above), but they would also -- and have also, this isn't a hypothetical -- said that, by and large, de-nazification worked.

John Cole is a mensch.

Not that I didn't already know that.

Truly, and for-hey-nonny-nonny-sooth.

"To expand slightly: they would qualify the degree to which it was a success (viz. novakant above), but they would also -- and have also, this isn't a hypothetical -- said that, by and large, de-nazification worked."

Sure, over the long run.

And if you don't mind that almost no war criminals or Nazis stayed in jail for more than a few years, and almost everyone lived to a rich and merry old age, it was quite the success, I agree.

Not to mention all the Nazis we imported to America, or paid to work against the Soviets. Worked out great for them, too.

Their deceased victims of war crimes, or crimes against Germans, not so much.

I'm late to this thread (as usual), and hope that what I have to say is not merely repetition or - worse - "piling on." But if one assumes, arguendo, that "grey" is making a sincere effort to engage, and not just trolling, then I can see one specific response that has not been articulated in so many words above.

Back to his comments, above, after repeating Hilzoy's original "I can only hope that somehow, some way, we can begin to redeem our honor. The only way I can think of is by doing an awful lot of good in the world."

grey: I agree.

We could start doing good by freeing people from their cruel and oppressive governments.

We could rid the world of dictators that have used WMD against their own people.

We could rid the world of governments that execute gays.

We could rid the world of governments that stone women.

We could literally fight to protect muslims where they are being killed.

I'm just throwing out some ideas... anyone else have some?


I can certainly see why the question of how we might do "an awful lot of good in the world" does not commence with how we might improve American society (pace Jesurgislac here), even though it might be thought by some that the best way to spread virtue is by Setting A Good Example.

But why do ALL of your "ideas" involve, or at least strongly imply, overthrowing or changing other people's governments by violence?

Is this the only possibility? Is America's role in the world restricted to being the world's unofficial (and unappointed) policeman, with our strength being entirely a superiority in force, a near-monopoly of the use of violence?

Are you not placing us in a position in which, having a hammer - indeed The Hammer - we see all problems as looking like nails?

Even if we assume that We are generally right, and therefore They (if they do things differently) are generally wrong, is our only choice between strict isolation - do nothing - and forcing them to change, which is what your "ideas" imply?

Where is it written that we ought to, or even have a general right to, "rid the world of governments" that we don't like? I didn't like Saddam Hussein. Don't know anyone who did. I've been around a while, and over the past fifty years or so there have been a LOT of governments that I didn't like, but damn few - none, I suspect - that were so bad that I felt "we" ought to go to war to remove. (And if I ever had made such a list, Iraq would certainly not have been at the top of it; maybe not even in the top ten.)

Admittedly, it's much harder to envisage how to "do good" to the world if we eliminate, or tightly restrict, the possibility of getting rid of unfriendly/nasty foreign governments. But try.

Diplomacy? Awful, icky stuff, dealing with double-dealing foreigners who don't assume the wisdom and virtue of our views. (I'd personally be terrible at it.) And yet there are people who are actually good at it, and do good through it.

Economic assistance? Expensive, and much of it is wasted, and we have troubles enough at home, and again we have to work through double-dealing foreigners (see above) . . . And yet. And yet. There are many specific problems in the world whose solution requires - although it is not limited to - a significant amount of funding, and we are potentially among the best sources of such funding in the world.

Facilitating cultural and non-governmental exchanges, education, travel, other means of learning more about the world and letting the world learn more about us (the real America, not government propaganda)? Soft and woolly, expensive (well, not so much, actually), open to abuse, especially by boondoggling academics and other experts . . . Sure. But it doesn't cost all that much, and heaven knows we could do with a lot more first-hand knowledge of what the rest of the world experiences and believes.

Fuzzy, yes, "grey," but all non-coercive, with regard to the rest of the world. Compare these with your short list of "ideas" of how to compel the world to live up to our standards, and perhaps you can see where some of the criticism is coming from.

I hope this helps.

For a right-wing, conservative, was-Republican-but-the-party-left-him blogger's take on the Iraq war: John Cole.

I hope my comment above did not sound as if I thought tthat denazification was a complete success. I simply meant it in comparision to a hypothetical situation where the occupying forces had treated everyone with any nazi contacts as a criminal and banned from a return to "civil" life. A lot could have been done much better (and I do not approve of the Huckepack law I mentioned at all). I totally agree about Austria (they have an age-old tradition of causing mischief and then playing the innocent victim and getting away with it).
The "success" was that the country got on its feet again pretty quickly due to the decision to be pragmatic and overlook a nazi past in people that were needed. 1968 was a belated and necessary ideological cleaning-up (in my view Austria did not follow in that) but I doubt that the country would have been better of, if the sequence had been reversed.
I still think that the incomplete denazification had a part in preventing a true nazi revival. Btw, some historians think that a successful coup against Hitler during the war (e.g. 20th July 1944) would have resulted in a strong post-war nazi movement ("We would not have lost, if those traitors had not killed the Führer")*. That doesn't change the honorable motives of at least parts of the resistance against Hitler**.

*The same would have likely been true, if Hitler had died (of natural causes) shortly after Munich (or directly after the victory over France).
**no intention of a threadjack, don't get distracted.

And Jim Henley on How Did I Get It Right?

War is a big deal. It isn’t normal. It’s not something to take up casually. Any war you can describe as “a war of choice” is a crime.

From Jim Henley's post, linked to upthread by Jes (thanks Jes).

Bolds mine.

Thanks -

I want to elaborate on dr. ngo's point.

If we view Iraq as an experiment in the application of force to rid the world of evil, it seems to me there's one thing it proves conclusively: we cannot afford to take on the world.

We are on the road to bankruptcy (financial as well as moral) just from our actions in Iraq, a country with a population of approximately 25 million. Iraq was supposed to be a pushover -- they had lost the first Gulf War, had been under sanctions for the years since, they had no air force and not much of an army left. Indeed, the Iraqi army collapsed weeks after we invaded. Yet five years in we had to have the the "surge", which has reduced violence only to a dull roar.

Governments are the way we authorize the legitimate use of violence. We grant the government a monopoly. Without that monopoly there is anarchy. It is only the threat of violence that empowers a government to secure the rights to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

How do we grant this monopoly? The words of the Declaration of Independence are clear: "... Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed..."

We do not have the consent of the rest of the world to govern them. We will not get that consent by unilateral military action. The Declaration also prescribes a remedy for governments that abuse their power and lack such consent: "... That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government..."

We are skating on very thin ice. We do not have the resources to remake the world and we are giving the world a justification, based on our own founding document, to abolish us.

The world faces real threats, though I dispute that any threat from terrorism is as great as that of the cold war, where we faced an adversary with an arsenal of nuclear weapons aimed at our cities. (That arsenal still exists, by the way.) We need to find a way to address these threats with the cooperation of the rest of the world. So far, we have failed.

We do not have the consent of the rest of the world to govern them.

There it is, in one simple sentence. The key to understanding the failure of our foreign policy this past seven years, in all of its stupidity, hubris, and folly, boiled down to 15 words.

Thanks for this ral.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad