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March 02, 2008

Comments

It bears repeating: this war was planned and is being executed as a betrayal of the best of America's military traditions as well as our civilian laws and principles. Leaders like Bush and McCain who keep pushing it are, if not traitors, at least certainly in chosen enmity to the essence of America; those who support them are giving their witting or unwitting endorsement to this betrayal. Likewise, the Democrats who aid and abet this are giving their sanction to fundamentally un-American as well as unwise and immoral conduct.

The patriots of the moment are those insisting on honesty and accountability, both of which are anathema to Bush and war fans like McCain. Anyone can talk a good game, but there's been plenty of time to see who just likes war and who prefers that America conduct itself honestly, legally, and competently. The Republican Party machine and too much of the Democratic Party establishment are all on the first side of the line.

All Americans should be ashamed of the people serving in the military. As Dick Durbin said, they are no better than Nazis! John Kerry tried to demonstrate this by throwing somebody else's medals away, except he threw away his ribbons, except he kept his medals, which have a place of great honor in his office. If Al Qaeda in Iraq ever set up a base in Iraq, I'm sure that smart people would oppose this and ask the U.N. to do something about this after they are done chastising Israel for retaliating for rocket attacks on ordinary people's houses.

DaveC: Did I say, or have I ever said, that I am ashamed of people serving in the military?

Read the article. The ex-Marine is the one who is trying to get his terp to safety. I am proud of him. It's the people who keep throwing bureaucratic obstacles in his path that I'm ashamed of. I don't believe they are in the military.

Please don't put words in my mouth or thoughts in my head.

DaveC,

My, that was more non-sequiturish than usual. Did some liberal hurt your feelings at church today? I understand that when liberals at church make you feel inadequate, you like to visit OW, put words in the mouths of other people, and berate them for saying things they never even said. That's really too bad. Have you considered taking an assertiveness class?

DaveC, just to expand a bit: you had no way of knowing that I had just been forwarding another message related to Andy's death, and that doing that had hit me fairly hard, when I read this. Sometimes, though, I wonder whether you realize that some of us are actual people, not just caricatures. Caricatures are never still dealing with the details that follow in the wake of someone's death, and caricature liberals, of course, have no friends who get killed in Iraq. Real people, however, sometimes do.

DaveC: the people serving in the military. As Dick Durbin said, they are no better than Nazis!

Dick Durbin, with specific reference to the conditions of certain detainees at Guantanamo: If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime - Pol Pot or others - that had no concern for human beings.

Right, Dave. Durbin condemned all "people serving in the military."

Sure.

That only works iff you believe that all people serving in the military behaved like that. I, for one, don't.

Sheesh.

Another exciting episode in the long-running series, "DaveC Gets Exactly What He Wants". At your blogstand now!

It bears repeating: this war was planned and is being executed as a betrayal of the best of America's military traditions as well as our civilian laws and principles.

Or maybe not. Clearly our civilian laws and enforcement systems are quite...flexible when it comes to reshaping so as to ensure that more brown people die. I don't know whether it is a betrayal of the best that America can offer, but it increasingly seems to represent the average that America can offer.

Maybe we need to get off our high horse and just accept the fact that this is who we are: we are the people who allow our mighty codpiece leader to engage in all manner of lawlessness, to bring about the deaths of a million Iraqis with scarcely a yawn, and to wage wars with less planning than the average gardener uses before a new growing season.

This is who we are. I don't know if we were better in the past or if we just had scarier enemies then or better PR then or really awesome rose colored glasses now. The self concept of nations is rarely well founded upon empirical evidence.

TIO is open for business, if your cup of non safe for ObWi language overfloweth, go here.

I don't know why you think people who were aiding in this war should be given special treatment. The US created a clusterfuck in Iraq and out of all the people who are harmed, including a million or so dead, the people who are hleping fight the occupation should be put at the front of the line?

People in the US military have an excuse that they were following orders the political figures and body politic made. But Iraqis supproting it too?

yoyo: because they were trying to help us out, at the risk of their own lives.

I agree with you that we owe the Iraqis generally a debt that we can never repay. But I don't think that alters what we owe those who put their own lives on the line to try to help us out.

Congrats, Hilzoy. You've just been trolled.

I understand that you value civility here, but you may want to consider just telling DaveC what a stupid so-and-so he is in clear, unambiguous, uncivil language.

And then ban his sorry butt.

It still seems like you're identifying with the neocons to prioritize the claims of people who were betraying their country. I can see why it might be in teh US interest to help them, but what is the moral claim if you aren't in favor of conquering?

this seem part and parcel with the valorisation of all things military in the US, such that even someone who works for the military is somehow deserves special favors.

"Sometimes, though, I wonder whether you realize that some of us are actual people, not just caricatures."

I don't wonder.

DaveC knows what he's doing.

People have explained it to him countless times, for years.

He knows exactly how malicious he's being, and he does it over and over again, knowing that it's real people he's making his vile and vicious lying slurs about.

I'd say that doesn't give a flying [noun], but that's wrong: he's explained that his goal is to provoke upset reactions. He enjoys it.

That's why he does it. Because it makes him feel good.

That this is not what a decent person does is of no concern to him. Enjoying the reactions he gets from pretending we believe the crap he attributes to us is his only concern.

That's the story we get from his behavior, and his explanations of his behavior.

But he knows we're real people, people who care about soldiers, and what happens to them. He knows.

He just doesn't care. Not enough to stop doing it.

And that's the only kind of "caring" that matters.

Christ.

"I can see why it might be in teh US interest to help them, but what is the moral claim if you aren't in favor of conquering?"

You seriously believe that people who risk their lives to help U.S. troops survive and do their job have no moral claim on help from the United States government, because... why?

I gather you've concluded that people who decided, for whatever reason, be it political idealism, or for pragmatic political reasons, or for cold cash, or reasons of family or cultural or personal preference, or whatever the reason, to work as interpreters for the U.S. in Iraq, are all "people who were betraying their country."

I take it you don't think that generalizing so sweepingly and encompassingly is breathtakingly arrogant, and something you couldn't possibly be in a position to judge?

yoyo: It still seems like you're identifying with the neocons to prioritize the claims of people who were betraying their country.

There are so many wrong things in that sentence that it's hard to know where to start.

First of all, it's fairly evident that "the neocons" - meaning, those currently in power in the US - have no interest at all in prioritizing the claims of the Iraqis who worked for the US military. So helping Iraqis who worked for the US military to get out of the country is evidently "identifying with the neocons".

Second: While some Iraqis may (and evidently do) feel that Iraqis who worked for the US military were "betraying their country" (do not take that as a value judgment: it's just a statement of fact) for an American to make that judgement would be hypocrisy in the extreme: to refuse to act to help those Iraqis because of that judgment would be piling crap on the victims of the US decision to attack, while ignoring those responsible.

Third: Whatever the motivations of the Iraqis who decided to work for the US military as translators, the US military - and, by extension, everyone in the US - owes them a debt, which can be repaid by getting them and their families out of Iraq alive and into a safe harbor.

Fourth: Getting Iraqis who are in particular danger and who want to leave out alive and into a safe harbor is an obligation the US owes to Iraq. This applies to LGBT Iraqis, to translators, to ordinary families like Riverbend's. The notion that this obligation can be abandoned by the US with regard to translators because the translators were "betraying their country" - see Second point.

Everything I have said also applies to the UK, too.

unclosed tag?

The Bush Administration has an implacable hostility to asylum claimants in any way, shape or form. Iraqis are just one example.

There is something called the "material support of terrorism" bar that the Dept. of Homeland Security uses to deny or fight the claims of thousands seeking asylum here, even if they were forced to provide the so-called "material support" under threat of summary execution. In other words, duress, which is a common law concept that has endured for centuries in English and American common law, is inoperative in the Bush Administration.

About this time last year Chertoff, bowing to public pressure, announced that DHS would start reviewing meritorious cases of duress in order to waive the "material support bar." It has proved to be a completely empty promise, since almost nothing has happened since.

This Administration doesn't give a damn about human hights. But, given its pro-torture policies, we already knew that.

BTW, I agree that DavidC is a troll who should be ignored rather than engaged.

As much as I think so much is wrong with our whole approach ti Iraq, I think we need to step back on this particular story.

From what you have quoted, hilzoy, it appears that this Marine is talking about communicating with this translator sometime in January. IOW, probably before the passage and signing of the act.

Hopefully, something has happened to change the situation. (although to be realistic, I am not counting on it.)

If the article states soemthing different, I apologize as I am trying to get off to work and don't have time now to read it.

Some serious attention from the President or the Secretary of State could have prevented this.

Or some serious attention from Edward Kennedy! I used to practice immigration law and know how tough the immigration process can be on a good day. The prior 500 limit simply required a letter from a flag officer or ambassador attesting to their service. Kennedy threw in a requirement that the translator:

"experienced or is experiencing an ongoing serious threat as a consequence" of being employed by the United States.

Why in the world would he throw that in there? Maybe that should only apply to those that cannot get the letter. But applying it to the 551 still waiting was monumentally stupid.

According to the article, Congress, USCIS and PRM are working to get a definition that would presumably SAVE all the 551 (i.e. get a definition broad enough to apply to those already in the system). The delay is not ignoring the translators, but apparently trying to get the new law to apply to all currently in process.

There is also a question about whether the 5,000 applies to the 12,000 goal for bringing in refugees for fiscal year 2008.

And then there is the funding issue. Apparently State was opposed because Congress did not want to properly fund the new classification. I have no way of analyzing that, but apparently there were already problems with processing the "regular refugees" under the current 12,000 goal.

So I throw this out there: why did Kennedy throw the new requirement in there? And why blame Bush for trying to follow that requirement? Sure, Bush could issue an executive order but what does that say of the drafting ability of Kennedy, respect for the separation of powers, etc.?

If the men and women on the ground in Iraq say this needs to happen, then it needs to happen IMHO. It only makes sense.

I just wouldn't limit my blame to the President or SecState.

Sorry, have to disagree. As long as the GOP exists, all the Iraqis we owe aren't going to be rescued. Since we must prioritize, I'd go for the relatives of the people we've killed in Iraq as collateral damage. When we work thru those thousands, then we can start on the guys who should have known they were taking on a suicide mission, no matter what some military told them.

The US/UK does have a moral obligation towards the Iraqi people, but there is no special moral obligation that would elevate the concerns of interpreters above those of the 2-3 million refugees/displaced and the further couple of million civilians too poor to leave, whose lives have been made a living hell. The only factors possibly distinguishing the case of the former from that of the latter two groups are pragmatic ones, namely the immediacy of the threat they face and the feasibility of helping them quickly. In the case of the refugees having fled to neighbouring countries there is no immediate threat for now, but most of them are reduced to live in terrible circumstances and we could easily help them, since we know who and were they are. In the case of those too poor to leave the immediacy of the threat they are facing is similar to those of the interpreters, but we would have problems reaching/helping them, even if we wanted to. Furthermore, taking the long view, it is simply not feasible or desirable to permanently evacuate, say, a quarter of a country's population. Conversely, those arguing for a complete withdrawal have to face the fact that this would mean abandoning millions of people under immediate threat. Maybe a withdrawal is the best of the bad choices and maybe the occupation does more harm than good, but the fact remains that we would simply leave a whole lot of vulnerable people to their own devices and can only hope for the best.

So by all means, since nobody deserves summary justice by death squads, save the interpreters, but don't go around talking about morality while doing so.

Oh come on Dave. You’re not likely to find a bigger supporter of the military than me, or someone more likely to take offense at any perceived slight of the military. If anything I’m reflexively pro-military to the point that I have trouble recognizing and admitting when someone in the military does something wrong. But there is no way you could read this as hilzoy being ashamed of the military.

In response to this George Packer article, almost a year old now, I co-signed a letter with CharleyCarp to our representatives that said in part:


We would leave to your discretion the exact form in which a remedy might lie. It seems to us, though, that at the least Iraqis who have served US interests for a suitable amount of time, directly as employees, and who are at serious risk from insurgents of any stripe, ought to be able to apply for asylum in the United States directly from the Green Zone, and, if their applications are granted, they ought to be resettled in the United States. Experience shows that these are diligent and resourceful people, and it would seem that the risk that they will become public charges is minimal. Obviously, security screening will be necessary to prevent members of insurgent groups from infiltrating the program. At bottom, though, people who have risked their lives for the United States ought to be able to look to the United States, rather than Sweden, for the thanks they deserve.

I guess I’ve got one up on hilzoy for a change because I have been ashamed of this situation for almost a year now, since it came to my attention. I’m doubly ashamed that almost a year later the situation has not improved at all. I wonder how many terps have been killed or had family killed in that year. No, scratch that, I don’t actually want to know.

Novakant refers to "pragmatic" reasons for helping the interpreters, but omits what I would have thought to be the most obvious of these.

If the US does not help those whom we have asked (and paid) to help us in this conflict, what does that do for the likelihood of getting help the next time we are in trouble overseas?

It's not "morality," except insofar as this overlaps with "commonsense people management," but it ought to be a consideration at least.

Another pragmatic consideration is that obviously people who have been helping the Americans in Iraq are less likely to be threats if resettled in the US than people whose relatives have been killed by the Americans are.

Why do any of these people need asylum?

Iraq is now subdued right? The violence has been contained (or so I read on an almost daily basis from certain quarters).


We all know the reason for not allowing asylum to more Iraqis. It's admitting we've failed to secure their own country.

Basically, it's admitting failure, and that's not something this administration (and perhaps the next should Clinton pull off a miracle) is not willing to do.

what Davebo said

If the US does not help those whom we have asked (and paid) to help us in this conflict, what does that do for the likelihood of getting help the next time we are in trouble overseas?

With the current government, this is a feature rather than a bug. I can't really say that a lack of help for another cluster-f**k bothers me all that much.

Another pragmatic consideration is that obviously people who have been helping the Americans in Iraq are less likely to be threats if resettled in the US than people whose relatives have been killed by the Americans are.

I'd say that forcing Americans to come face-to-face with the results of their actions will do much more good, even if they are a slightly bigger security risk.


Hey, DaveC., I know I'm supposed to be ignoring you, but what gives?

I may be wrong, but I suspect when you usually do your troll thing that you have a "parody" hat on made of folded up newspaper and that you mean to be somewhat funny in an "inside joke, crazy uncle" kind of way.

I also know you have a good heart, but this morning methinks your heart somehow got replaced by another piece of folded newspaper.

Let's set aside funny, however, and review how you completely missed the mark, political comedy not being effective without some sort of referent.

See, Hilzoy's post did not criticize the military, which I feel stupid writing, because it's so obvious. Instead, if you think about it, she was criticizing the State Department, and bureaucracy .... gummint, if you will, you know, that horrible entity conservatives love to point out should be privatized, abolished, etc, if we damned liberals really want competence, blah, blah, blah.

In other words she baited the hook with red meat, and you went for the limp lettuce at the salad bar.

In this month's Smithsonian Magazine, there is an article about an officer serving in Iraq who volunteered to head the effort to find the tens of thousands of artifacts (the priceless, historically significant legacy of the human experiment on Earth even Saddam Hussein thought important) looted after we forgot to protect the museum in Baghdad.

He has been incredibly successful, retrieving stuff stolen and carted away by everyday Iraqis, not to mention pieces sold to collectors abroad.

He's military --- who cares of what political party -- and he's a hero.

Compared to what, you may ask. Well, maybe, Donald Rumsfeld, who referred to concern expressed about the museum collection as worry over "a bunch of pots".

See, the military wasn't at fault. It was the shitheads, the damaging, smirking oafs the American people elected who refuse to govern said bureaucracy to do the ... forget right and moral .... that's Hilzoy's job .... the competent thing.

As to our intrepreters, our President could get up from his desk, tell a few aides to get the limo ready, and drive a half mile over to the State Department and find the desk of the guy in charge of getting these interpretors' asses out of harm's way, and chew some butt up and down by way of reading the riot act in a very loud voice.

He doesn't. Because the interpretors are just "a bunch of pots".

Al Qaeda in Iraq. It could be there is an intrepretor who can't get out, who because of his bitterness about that fact is thinking about starting his own little al Qaeda cell out of sheer anger and maybe blowing some American stuff up.

Maybe it is in our self-interest (I thought conservatives had that down pat) to get those people out before they get other ideas or are murdered.

Our stranded interpretor could be given a stipend and be sitting by the pool in Vegas. It's effing easy. But because the dumb thugs inhabiting this husk of the Republican Party don't want to pay for it, and don't want immigrants in the country, and don't have the simple good character God gave my cat, and certainly don't want swarthy Middle Easterners sitting by the pool in Vegas, it doesn't happen.

Look, I did it. I got through an entire comment without being funny. See what you do to me, Dave.

The trouble with the long rant, I find, is that others get in first with shorter and better rants.

Actually, John, it was worth the wait.

I can't really say that a lack of help for another cluster-f**k bothers me all that much.

Those Iraqis foolish enough to believe the Americans were trying to get rid of Saddam and help the Iraqi people deserve what they get, apparently. And clearly people throughout the world deciding whether to help us in the future will be so confident in their ability to judge which of our projects will be seen as CFs that they'll be willing to bet their lives on that.

I'd say that forcing Americans to come face-to-face with the results of their actions will do much more good, even if they are a slightly bigger security risk.

DonQ, is that you?

dr ngo and KCinDC: I think we need to differentiate between "pragmatic" and "self-interested".

My use of "pragmatic" didn't imply self-interest, even though I used the word to distinguish the pragmatic approach from a morally consistent and universal one. Both uses are valid, but need to be distinguished.

Who is this DonQ of which you speak?


Those Iraqis foolish enough to believe the Americans were trying to get rid of Saddam and help the Iraqi people deserve what they get, apparently. And clearly people throughout the world deciding whether to help us in the future will be so confident in their ability to judge which of our projects will be seen as CFs that they'll be willing to bet their lives on that.

As to your first point, we're talking practicalities, remember. If you say to people who regard the whole shebang as immoral from inception to right now, then you can expect pushback if you say that people who helped us are morally more deserving than innocent bystanders. Especially if they were paid.

As to the second point, I'd like to think that others will go with the odds, and if it's a GOP government, it will be a cluster-f**k. No deep analysis required.

But because the dumb thugs inhabiting this husk of the Republican Party don't want to pay for it, and don't want immigrants in the country, and don't have the simple good character God gave my cat, and certainly don't want swarthy Middle Easterners sitting by the pool in Vegas, it doesn't happen.

Shorter, sure. Better, no.

Who is this DonQ of which you speak?

I apologize, Tim. My reference to DonQ was both cliquish and unfair to you. He was a commenter here (under various names) who liked to talk about how all Americans deserved to die for the sins of the country.

I can't tell you how sad this makes me. First, the situation. This is not the first time this has happened. I remember a tv special about those we left behind in Viet Nam. One particular Mong tribesman who eventually got to the states and found the GI who promissed to save him " I knew you would not forget me my brother" he said. But, there were many who were left behind. More died than I can count. Many left behind were children of US servicemen. Many of you to young to remember but you should look up "Operation Babylift". It was a good effort that began in tragedy, I still cry for those children in the first C-5. But, the government had to be shamed into doing something. That brings me to my second point.
With all the brain power on this blog. Couldn't everybody set aside their anger and hate long enough to come up with some kind of solution to advocate. I'm just a guy who kind of watches from the sidelines, trying to learn what I can. I wouldn't nor even could I stifle anyone's free speech. But, some of these folks are in real danger.

Accepted. I'm not really into dying for Bush's sins, myself.

Just as a hypothetical, if the situation is urgent, my half-assed plan would be:

1. Give up on the present government, for reasons Davebo articulated.

2. Find or assemble a large pot of money
(the hard part).

3. Use the fact that Iraq is pretty damn corrupt right now. Get the interpreters and their families on planes to somewhere. Use the money for tickets and bribes. Hopefully the military over there will help.

4. When these Iraqis are in Canada or Mexico they'll be a lot harder to ignore.

It's probably illegal, but I bet it would work.

[...] Since we must prioritize, I'd go for the relatives of the people we've killed in Iraq as collateral damage.

[...]

With the current government, this is a feature rather than a bug. I can't really say that a lack of help for another cluster-f**k bothers me all that much.

[...]

I'd say that forcing Americans to come face-to-face with the results of their actions will do much more good, even if they are a slightly bigger security risk.

[...]

When we work thru those thousands, then we can start on the guys who should have known they were taking on a suicide mission, no matter what some military told them.

These opinions seem disconnected from the human reality of the suffering of the individuals involved, but instead connected only to an abstract and misplaced sense of righteousness divorced from reality.

The fact that few Iraqis whose relatives were killed by Americans would likely be interested in moving to America, for instance, is clearly irrelevant to your decision that they're more deserving of American citizenship or a visa -- why let facts get in the way? -- while your notion that "Americans," who apparently have a group consciousness, and collective guilt, would somehow be "forced [to] come face-to-face with the results of their actions," seems to have no connection to reality whatever.

It's highly reminiscent of the kind of "logic" popular with the Weathermen, and their fans, though. Abstractions always triumphed over mere human pain. Some people have to die for revolutionary justice! And anyone who helps the pigs deserves it!

That sort of thing.

It's the same sort of impulse/non-thought that led people to conclude that because the American decision to fight the Vietnam War was wrong -- which it was -- that therefore the North Vietnamese and the Vietcong must be admirable, and they should be cheered on, rather than to conclude that it's possible for two sides to both be committing great evil, and that the wrongs of one side speak to nothing that justifies the wrongs of the other.

That America was wrong to invade Iraq doesn't magically transform Iraq into a place of Two Sides, one Bad (ours), and One Good (everyone not on our side).

But we have your announced indifference to one set of actual Iraqi people's suffering and deaths, in favor of an abstract preference for "Americans" to be "forced" to "come face-to-face" with your revenge fantasy of compelled moral enlightenment.

On the one hand: several thousand real Iraqi people living in misery and constant fear of death, apt to end in actual torture and death, many of whom we can save, no matter that there are far more we cannot.

On the other hand: a chance to have a nonsensically shallow adolescent revenge fantasy, with added frisson of personal moral superiority and righteousness, that will never happen.

And those Iraqi interpreters? Well, they should just die horribly so Americans can realize what they did. That'll teach Americans!

Because, in the end, Iraqis exist only to be abstract lessons to Americans.

Indeed, why should you be bothered "all that much"? Your indifference to human suffering demonstrates that you truly care more than anyone else about human suffering!

Who wouldn't be convinced?

But we have your announced indifference to one set of actual Iraqi people's suffering and deaths, in favor of an abstract preference for "Americans" to be "forced" to "come face-to-face" with your revenge fantasy of compelled moral enlightenment.

Actually, jackass, I meant more from a practical aspect of "You broke it, you bought it", but don't let me interfere with your obvious incredible mind-reading talents. As far as revenge fantasies, project much?

"Actually, jackass,"

Posting rules.

Suppose some other country invaded the U.S. and a small group of Americans collaborated with the invader by providing translations. Suppose that many so-called interpreters used their influence with the invaders to target Americans with whom they had a political or religious dispute.

Would you think such Americans should be left to face justice at the hands of their countrymen or would you help the invaders get them out of the country?

The whole dispute is based on the idea that the Iraqis are incapable on administering justice in their own country and we can do a better job. I would think the last 7 years would disabuse us of that illusion.

The whole dispute is based on the idea that the Iraqis are incapable on administering justice in their own country and we can do a better job.

Well, actually, no.

"Suppose some other country invaded the U.S. and a small group of Americans collaborated with the invader by providing translations."

Suppose there were enough overwhelming differences between this hypothetical, and the reality of Iraq and America, that the analogy were worthless? What then?

"Suppose that many so-called interpreters used their influence with the invaders to target Americans with whom they had a political or religious dispute."

Suppose that these are people who have worked for years in close quarters, risking their lives, day in and day out, week after week, month after month, for years, with specific U.S. individuals who have been working their asses off to save the lives of these people who they in return owe their lives to, so that they have a clue what they're talking about, and owe a personal debt.

Suppose these people who have gotten to know these other people in such unforgiving circumstances might perhaps have a better idea of the character of these interpreters than you do, for all their likely expertise on Iraqi translaters, and their circumstances, and your ability to speak for Iraqis in general. What then?

"The whole dispute is based on the idea that the Iraqis are incapable on administering justice in their own country and we can do a better job."

This is a wonderfully abstract POV. I can't imagine telling one of these interpreters this to their face, as to why they should just tough it up, and get lost.

You're made of stronger stuff than I am, clearly.

Some might consider that when there's a choice between saving some people's lives, and not saving some people's lives, that even if there's any doubt, the decision to save lives is the way to go.

Others consider the choice, and say "nah."

It's a choice.

Would you think such Americans should be left to face justice at the hands of their countrymen or would you help the invaders get them out of the country?

Help the invaders get them out of the country.

If there was evidence that the translators had in fact committed crimes, they should receive a fair trial. If all the translators who had helped the invaders were about to receive Judge Lynch justice, along with their families, that's not a fair trial.

Suppose these people who have gotten to know these other people in such unforgiving circumstances might perhaps have a better idea of the character of these interpreters than you do, for all their likely expertise on Iraqi translaters, and their circumstances, and your ability to speak for Iraqis in general.

That should be:

Suppose these people who have gotten to know these other people in such unforgiving circumstances might perhaps have a better idea of the character of these interpreters than you do, for all you likely expertise on Iraqi translaters, and their circumstances, and your ability to speak for Iraqis in general.
Damn, we're back to the season where there's an hour or two every afternoon where the sun makes the screen unreadable; this drives me crazy; must figure out a way to finally get cheap drapes, or something. I can't see a goddamn thing I'm typing.

Aaaaah!

"for all your likely expertise"

%[email protected]#@&!!!

Personally, I find the fact that so many people feel that they know the exact motivations of the terps pretty stunning. People might have started working with us because they thought that we might actually help their country. That wouldn't have been a completely nutty thing to think at first. They might have hoped that if some people familiar with Iraq worked with the Americans, the Americans might screw up less. They might have just needed the money.

I don't claim to know, because I have obviously not met these people. What I do know is that they chose to risk their lives to help us, and we should not abandon them to die.

As for the idea that they would die at the hands of "Iraqi justice": that's an interesting term. They would die at the hands of the same militias that have been carrying out ethnic cleansing, kidnapping for money, and any number of atrocities. Were those all just too, or is this just a special little spasm of justice on the part of otherwise thuggish people?

To me, this is a matter of basic decency. It has nothing to do with my views on the war itself, which, obviously, have been anti- since it was first mentioned.

Gary Farber wrote:
"Suppose these people who have gotten to know these other people in such unforgiving circumstances might perhaps have a better idea of the character of these interpreters than you do"
I don't claim to know them very well at all. I think their Iraqi neighbors know them better than I, you, or the American soldiers who worked with them.

I don't claim to know them very well at all. I think their Iraqi neighbors know them better than I, you, or the American soldiers who worked with them.

And I suppose that white Southerners knew their black neighbors better than Northern outsiders in the 1950 and 1960s, as well.

Analogies are useful, but they fail at some point. I believe your analogy failed quite some time ago.

Moreover, the key point is not Iraqui behavior, but OUR behavior.

Hilzoy:

If the terps are owed something for the risk they took, then the reward can not be the elimination of that risk. Their reward for the risk was the pay and power which came with their position. In fact, if we establish the principle that collaboration is a ticket to America, then we ensure that we will get infiltrators and opportunists to work for us, not sincere patriots.

'Iraqi justice' is probably as fair as justice in the midst of civil wars elsewhere. I don't claim it is perfect, just that it will be better without U.S. interference.

"If the terps are owed something for the risk they took, then the reward can not be the elimination of that risk."

I'm pretty sure it can, if by that you mean "give them refugee status in America."

If you look into it, I'll suggest that you'll find out that, yes, it can be.

"I don't claim it is perfect, just that it will be better without U.S. interference."

There are times I have little idea how to respond to a statement, since the differences between my understanding of reality, and another person's, are so stark.

This is one of those times.

gwangung:

So suppose white southerners circa 1963 invited the U.S.S.R. to invade the U.S.A. in order to block civil rights. Then they worked with the Russians to eliminate local civil rights leaders. Would you support letting the Russians bring their supporters back to the U.S.S.R.?

'Iraqi justice' is probably as fair as justice in the midst of civil wars elsewhere. I don't claim it is perfect, just that it will be better without U.S. interference.

My jaw hurts from it hitting the floor.

I think your idea of what's happening in Iraq has little to do with what's being discussed.

RickDFL: is there any reason at all to equate terps with white southerners who invited the USSR to invade? I mean, they didn't invite us; they are not all members of any group at all, let alone one that invited us; there's no reason to think that their motives had anything to do with anything as odious as segregation, and they didn't work with us to eliminate anyone like civil rights leaders ...

I just don't see what your analogy has to do with what we're talking about.

Gary, I guess the idea is that since the US invasion was a bad thing (which it was), then anyone opposed to the Americans must be a good guy (even if some of them, like Al Qaeda, probably view the invasion as a positive development). Still not sure how that implies that death squads have anything to do with justice.

So suppose white southerners circa 1963 invited the U.S.S.R. to invade the U.S.A. in order to block civil rights. Then they worked with the Russians to eliminate local civil rights leaders. Would you support letting the Russians bring their supporters back to the U.S.S.R.?

My jaw still hurts.

Such a binary view of things. One would think that you're from the Religious Right.

Also: what gwangung said.

Still not sure how that implies that death squads have anything to do with justice.

Well, obviously, America is the Great Satan and anybody taking their money or helping them deserves the death sentence.

Hilzoy:

No reason for the analogy other than a response to gwangung's hypothetical. It does help show how nobody would support the principle "all collaborators should be protected". In fact, I think more people would support the general principle "collaborators should be dealt with according to the wishes of their countrymen". If my country were invaded, I would want say on how they were treated and would want to prevent the invader from taking them beyond my reach. If so, then why don't I extend similar treatment to Iraqis.

I am willing to be convinced that there is some reason to violate the general principle in the case of Iraq, but I have not heard one.

Not defending this in any way whatsoever, there is seems to be an underlying notion to the comments of nation-states having total control over their citizens, and that the Iraqi government is somehow expressing its will thru death squads. Perhaps that makes this line of argument more explicable, though none the less disgusting imo

LJ, I don't think that helps, because the Iraqi government, such as it is, is supporting the occupation, so whatever death squads it may be using to express its will probably aren't the ones targeting the interpreters. RickDFL seems to think it's the plain people of Iraq, not the puppet government, who are expressing their will through the death squads of justice.

I am willing to be convinced that there is some reason to violate the general principle in the case of Iraq, but I have not heard one.

What I take away from your argument here is this.

Our invasion of Iraq was wrong.
Iraqis who worked for us as translators share the guilt for our invasion, because they helped us.
Because they share the guilt for our invasion, they should receive no assistance from us, and should be left to die at the hands of their neighbors.

Because that's the right thing to do.

Do I have it right? Please lemme know if I'm missing something.

Thanks -

Gary: Posting rules.

I'm not sure if that particular ad hominem constitutes profanity. However, FWIW, it did seem there was a pronounced attempt to ignore the point Tim was making. I found the post that Tim was responding to at least as offensive as Tim's terse reply.

"In fact, I think more people would support the general principle 'collaborators should be dealt with according to the wishes of their countrymen'."

I wouldn't venture to speak for "most people," myself, but speaking for myself, I'd never agree to such a Procrustean sweeping generality.

The idea that all invasions of all countries result in identical circumstances makes absolutely no sense whatever to me, and bears no relationship to actual history or reality as I know it.

Back in reality, you're explaining that you favor these "colloborators," as you style them, in most cases being hunted down and having power drills used on them, and their heads cut off, while some of their family members are kidnapped and then killed.

And you call this "as fair as justice in the midst of civil wars elsewhere" -- as if we had no actual choices here, and somehow "civil wars elsewhere" were remotely relevant in any way -- and say that it's what must be done, and that these people's lives "can not" be saved.

And you see no reason why they should be.

There's just nothing I can think of to respond to such utter indifference to human suffering. It seems sociopathic. Abstraction over people with faces and names.

I got nothing.

No reason for the analogy other than a response to gwangung's hypothetical.

Which means you totally missed the point--which is, all analogies fail. If you got the point, you wouldn't try to extend it with a contrafactual.

I am willing to be convinced that there is some reason to violate the general principle in the case of Iraq, but I have not heard one.

No, I doubt that.

As I said, what you think is happening in Iraq does not seem to have any relationship to what is actually happening. (Unless, perhaps, I've missed the acts of the Iraqui government to a) make working for the US military illegal, and b) make the penalties for that action to be the death penalty.)

Try discussing something that's actually happening. Might be more fruitful.

Russell:
Nothing I have said relies on any claim about the justice of the U.S. invasion. Nor do I make any substantive claims about what the terps deserve.
I think in the case of all invasions, just and unjust, the fate of collaborators should be mostly up to their countrymen. What they 'deserve' is generally up to their countrymen.

Well, there seems to be this notion of 'democracy' is being played out, and plucking people from the middle of lynch mobs constitutes an unfair violation of something. If it is the government or the plain people of Iraq, I really have no idea, and I don't think that RickDFL knows either. But there is certainly a notion of non-interference here and since everyone is saying the whole line of thought seems inexplicable, I thought that I would try to explic it. I don't think it makes much sense, but it's all I've got.

Rick, why are you prioritizing the Iraqis' interests? Why not ours, or the interpreters? It's not as though all the people of Iraq are going to get a chance to peacefully vote on the best way to treat the interpreters, anyway. The concept of national interests is a convenient fiction at best, but when the nation is in chaos, aren't you for practical purposes just prioritizing the interests of the biggest bully on the block?

Nothing I have said relies on any claim about the justice of the U.S. invasion. Nor do I make any substantive claims about what the terps deserve.

That's another contrafactual statement.

Slouching toward trolling, I'm guessing.

"I think in the case of all invasions, just and unjust, the fate of collaborators should be mostly up to their countrymen."

And what is your basis for assuming and asserting that "their countrymen" object to letting these interpreters leave Iraq for the U.S.?

Moreover, is it your claim, then, that the French and other anti-Nazi Resistance groups during WWII were "colloborators" due to their activities supporting the invasion of Europe? Is it your claim that all invasions are morally identical, and that "colloboration" with them is inherently morally tainted and wrong?

Secondarily, does that work retroactively? (So far as I know, none of the interpreters were working for the U.S. until after the invasion took place.)

Thirdly, I repeat: how is it you favor seeing people killed who need not be? Would you really tell people to their face that you believe this is what should happen to them because they "colloborated" with U.S. soldiers?

Lastly, is it your view that the interpreters should not have "colloborated," and thus many more U.S. troops should have died? Is it your view that all Iraqis should cease to "colloborate" with U.S. forces, and thus more U.S. troops should die, thus encouraging us to leave more rapidly?

Would you favor more killing of U.S. troops so as to more quickly end the occupation?

What they 'deserve' is generally up to their countrymen.

That's sort of an interesting theory in the abstract.

In context and in practice it will mean leaving lots of folks who have put their own lives and the lives of their families in danger in order to help us to fend for themselves, and most likely to be killed, probably not in a very nice way.

There are some interesting questions that could be asked here. What makes someone a "collaborator"? Have our efforts - all of our efforts - in Iraq been wholly unwelcome, and wholly destructive? What will the practical consequences of leaving the interpreters to die be for this country?

But even leaving those aside, I simply can't see satisfying your somewhat abstract universal principle of "justice for collaborators" being worth the sacrifice of those folks' lives.

Just my two cents.

Thanks -

And what is your basis for assuming and asserting that "their countrymen" object to letting these interpreters leave Iraq for the U.S.?

Yes, I think I would like to know that, as well.

trilobite:

Each individuals interest should be treated equally and none prioritized. You can argue that conditions are so chaotic that Iraqis have 'forfeited' their opportunity to deal with collaborators. But suppose it was your country invaded. Suppose circumstances were similarly chaotic in your country. How would you feel about your invader deciding you had given up the right to deal with collaborators? I suppose in some cases I might agree. But no one is making that case. There is just an assumption that if a U.S. soldier says X deserves to get out, than that is the end of the story.

"Each individuals interest should be treated equally and none prioritized. "

Why?

Nothing personal, but I'm going to need more than your say so on this to agree with you. The argument-by-assertion isn't very substantive.

"But suppose it was your country invaded."

Fine. I'm French, and it's 1944. I want "colloborators" with the Americans/British/Free French whose lives are still in danger from Germans and their colloborators to be free to go to America or Britain or wherever they damn well please.

Now you know.

"But no one is making that case."

Everyone is making that case. The idea that All-Invasions-Are-Alike is your unique fixation.

I'll wait until you've responded to the questions I've asked you before responding again. Most particularly, until you've explained why human beings should be power-drilled to death because of your arid abstract theorizing.

But suppose it was your country invaded. Suppose circumstances were similarly chaotic in your country.

Like Japan in 1945?

Gary:

Yes the Free French who worked with the Allies were collaborators. They were perfectly happy to be judged by their countrymen. The usual result was election to high office.

gwangung: same answer re: Japan 1945.

RickDFL, what if the countrymen judging these Free French were a gang of Nazi sympathizers?

Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds, Maliki supporters, Sadrists, Baathists, Al Qaeda members, protection rackets, drug gangs, psycho killers -- as long as they're in Iraq and not Americans, they should be free to work their "justice", which is the will of the Iraqi people.

Yes the Free French who worked with the Allies were collaborators. They were perfectly happy to be judged by their countrymen. The usual result was election to high office.

Now I know you're trolling. Or quite stupid.

1944 France. *sigh*

This is good for you guys- you are experiencing the same frustration felt by those who have disagreed with the political and military and social policies of Bush for the past 7 years and been met with rhetorical rather than intellectual arguments back from the right. What some called trolling- billc - its what the left has been forced to deal with all the time-
I miss Buckley, if you disagreed you could have a lively debate not a depressing

MPK, who are the "you guys" you're talking to? Are you under the impression that Hilzoy and the commenters in this thread are right-wingers?

I apologize, I hadn't read this blog and I assumed from the context of the link I followed that it was a rightwing forum. I see that its not and theres some good stuff- I'll shutup and read for aa while. Still, I stand by my point about the frustrating state of political discourse in the US

If the majority of commenters on this blog had had their way, the US would have cleared the decks in Iraq a year ago or earlier, leaving the interpreters and all the other people under similar threat to the mercy of the lynch mobs. Many have explicitly argued that having the Iraqis sort out their conflicts amongst themselves, which would certainly include summary justice by said mobs and militias, was definitely preferable to a prolonged stay of US forces in the country.

There is an obvious contradiction here people, and I have yet to see anybody fess up to it.

mpk: we try to have people posting and commenting from the left and from the right. If you came here via a link about Andy Olmsted, he was one of our posters, and one of my best friends, and an utterly decent person with incredible intellectual integrity. He was also on the right, while I'm on the left, but that never mattered.

Whatever route you came by, welcome.

If the majority of commenters on this blog had had their way, the US would have cleared the decks in Iraq a year ago or earlier, leaving the interpreters and all the other people under similar threat to the mercy of the lynch mobs.

I would suggest that you're not reading these commenters quite correctly. Certainly, I know hilzoy did not argue such.

And, of course, there are a number of commenters who have argued against abandoning Iraq or the interpreters.

I think you may be arguing something here but it hasn't come out in what you wrote.

If the majority of commenters on this blog had had their way, the US would have cleared the decks in Iraq a year ago or earlier, leaving the interpreters and all the other people under similar threat to the mercy of the lynch mobs.

Uh, what?

I am referring to discussions on this blog in which the vast majority of commenters were arguing that the US should leave Iraq as soon as logistically possible. While I cannot remember the exact time when those discussions took place, it was quite a while ago, probably a year or so. Eric Martin and myself were among the minority of commenters arguing for a prolonged stay of US forces for humanitarian reasons.

I am referring to discussions on this blog in which the vast majority of commenters were arguing that the US should leave Iraq as soon as logistically possible.

Yes? And?

It is quite possible to withdraw as quickly as possible and to bring along Iraqui nationals who wish to come to the US. And, in fact, many people argued to do both. It's not hard to do so--rather like walking and chewing gum at the same time.

What is your point, again?

It is quite possible to withdraw as quickly as possible and to bring along Iraqui nationals who wish to come to the US.

Oh yeah, right, like that's ever going to happen. We currently have around 2 million Iraqis living in dismal circumstances in neighbouring countries and apart from the UNHCR and a few NGOs nobody seems to care much about them, least of all the US government. Add to that the 1 million internally displaced and, say, 2 million more under threat of persecution, who are unable or unwilling to move, and we're talking about 5 million people, a quarter of the Iraqi population. Meanwhile the US is haggling about 5000 visas for select Iraqis, who have helped the occupation forces.

novakant: some of us argued in favor of leaving on the grounds that staying was unlikely to actually prevent a civil war; only to defer it. (That is, we disputed the claim that "humanitarian reasons" favored staying.)

Speaking for myself, I took a couple of years to reach this conclusion, and did not reach it lightly. If there's some part of my view that contradicts wanting to help people out in Iraq, I'm not aware of it.

I am referring to discussions on this blog in which the vast majority of commenters were arguing that the US should leave Iraq as soon as logistically possible.

Yes. And how does this contradict "helping to get out everyone who worked for the US who wants to leave"?

I haven't gone back and checked those discussions, so my memory may be faulty, but my recollection is that I added as an explicit rider to my view that the occupation should withdraw as soon as logistically possible, that people who helped the occupation should be helped to get out if they wanted to go.

I knew even as I said it that this would not happen - - but, if we're supposing an "If I had my way" world, yes, it would.

The key argument against staying in Iraq indefinitely, whether the justification is "humanitarian" or "bringing democracy" or "fighting them in Iraq" is what it always was: can't be done, and better for all concerned if it ends as Dunkirque rather than Thermopylae.

hilzoy, I think I said back then and I'll repeat, that I respect your reasoning and am torn on the issue myself, though I ultimately am inclined to think that just leaving the Iraqis to their own devices while letting the bloodshed play itself out to the bitter end is wrong. You don't know if a civil war is inevitable or preventable, I don't know, nobody knows - it's an ethical dilemma.

I also said, that wanting to help the interpreters is a good thing, but coupled with the willingness to leave a whole lot more Iraqis to a similar fate, I think you will agree that it's ethically problematic, so let's not be all high-minded about it.

You don't know if a civil war is inevitable or preventable, I don't know, nobody knows

Well, you may not know. But the Iraqis currently living in a country in a state of civil war know that it's not preventable any more, and hasn't been for some years. There is a civil war in Iraq; the US occupation is one of the "sides" in that war.

wanting to help the interpreters is a good thing, but coupled with the willingness to leave a whole lot more Iraqis to a similar fate

When a foreign occupation pulls out, one of the fairly certain things that will happen afterwards is that locals who worked for/gave help to the foreign occupation will be targeted. Other groups are already being targeted - LGBT Iraqis, for example - and I'm certainly all in favor of helping them, too.

Perhaps I'm simple-minded, but the notion that one should help save the lives of whomever one can, absent, perhaps, their being convicted war criminals, or the like, seems entirely uncomplicated to me.

That one can't help save the lives of everyone, or a larger set of people, so therefore one should save no one, is not logic with a premise I follow.

Maybe I'm missing something.

I was curious about what novakant was talking about when he mentioned his previous positions, and I think this thread might be a good place to start (though if I am wrong, please correct me)

My own feeling is that a difference in size leads to a difference in kind, and the difference between the what an immediate withdrawal of all US forces entails and the problems of some 500-2000 people who have gotten caught up in events ends up being a big one. I'm struggling to find a good analogy, but it is as if I questioned the application of the death penalty, and my position gets brought up when we talk about a presidential pardon of someone on death row. Again, not the best analogy, but one that I think gets at the difference in scale we are discussing.

Regarding novakant's assertion that folks here holding conflicting (either with themselves or with each other or with reality (all slippery), I'll cop to the following plea:

I've held half a dozen opinions since the invasion about what to do, and if you want to count gradations of those opinions, I'm guilty of having maybe 30 of them, many held simultaneously.

I'll take credit for opposing the invasion of Iraq. All of my subsequent opinions have been of the hair-tearing-out variety.

I waver, I do, as the situation changes.

I don't know where the precise line is between the following: staying in Iraq for the long-term to avoid what I believe would be bad news if we left too soon -- or -- leaving because real politik and national interest give us no choice (including further loss of blood and treasure)

... also between the following: leaving in an orderly fashion with deadlines -- or -- leaving in a disorderly fashion with Iraqi interpretors' families hanging from helicopters as they take off from roof of the officer's disco in the Green Zone.

I am sure we should get our collaborators out to the extent possible. Parenthetically, someone mentioned (Tim?) that this would entail a pot of money being available for such a mission and that the money would be difficult to obtain.

No, it's not difficult. Taxes. Collect more of them. It's what governments do, especially when they dig deep holes. Do it and shut up. Or, pledge never to raise them, in which case (this is directed at the ether and the whining American people in general) kiss my ass.

I would like to insure that the 2 million or so Iraqis either return to their country or I would like to hand any old red state in the USA over to them as reparations, but as with all of my shooting my mouth off here, I doubt anyone would care to listen.

Further, yes, I'm a terrible hypocrite. It came with the pants I put on one leg at a time.

Unlike George W. Bush, who is not a hypocrite, which is the problem frankly. He is the hammer and the world is the same old nail.

I hope his dreams for Iraq succeed, because they kind of have to at this point.

Thing is, if something resembling the worst happens, I'll still be shooting off my mouth here in my hypocritical fashion, weighing possibilities and choices.

George W. Bush will be down at the ranch, smirking over ice cream, and the sky is not doubtful all day, yippieyekio, doggies.

He knows exactly what to do.


Incidentally, I hope any proposal to fund rescuing our collaborators is added to any old bill in Congress as an "earmark".

I wanna see who calls it "pork".

the money would be difficult to obtain.

Why would that be? This is money for the Iraq war. As we've repeatedly seen, such spending is magical and doesn't require any discussion of how much is being spent or where the money will come from. War spending is free.

Now if we wanted to spend a few hundred million on education or infrastructure or helping poor people or medical research, that would require raising taxes or cutting spending. A few hundred billion on a war? No problem.

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