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June 15, 2008

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As far as I can tell, Iraq Body Count only counts those deaths that make it into the English language papers, which makes them even more surely an underestimate.

It's not killing or slaughtering when he does it.

Apparently, morality is relative to culture.

to know that George Bush has easily surpassed his father when it comes to getting Iraqis killed.
My only quibble with this is that the father didn't start his war vs. the son's war of choice, and the father knew when to quit.

The son's one-upmanship with his father is the most nauseating aspect of all the factors the drove the son to start his war of choice. It shows that the President is still a truculent, rebellious adolescent who never should have been given the authority to commit America's fathers and sons, mothers and daughters to the horrors of armed conflict: something he never experienced himself.

I despise George W. Bush for his invasion of Iraq with every ounce of my being. The lives that have been lost or otherwise ruined in this war of choice are the worst, and most disgraceful, legacy of this vicious and jejune "Boy-King."

The only thing I suppose we can be thankful for is the resilence of our government institutions even in the face of W's illegal power grabs. His tryanny will end no matter what in 2009. If we were in ancient Rome the horrors would infinitely worse, on a scale comparable to Caligula or Nero, and the only remedy would be poison or a praetorian's sword.


Redhand: His tyranny will end no matter what in 2009.

I don't see any reason to believe that McCain will be any significant improvement, though. Nor any reason to suppose the US will not end up with McCain in the White House regardless of election results.

Two separate assessments of number of Iraqis killed have both come back with over a million dead. The people who embrace Iraqi Body Count results are the same people who loathed Marc Herold's use of the "deaths reported by two separate media sources" method. Attacks on the the Lancet and the Opinion Research Business results are political, not plausible: they have to do with attacking the highest numbers, with wanting to believe that when Americans make war on other countries, somehow this is war like the movies, where the only foreign dead are the villains.

But it doesn't actually matter whether Bush is among the naive idiots who think war is like the movies, or among the calculating politicals who are deliberately attacking the true facts to obscure the disaster: because neither one has anything to do with why Bush won't withdraw from Iraq.

Bush won't withdraw because of the oil - if the US occupation left, and Iraq could finally begin to recover, then Iraq's oil would eventually become accessible again - and without US military occupation to back a pro-US government, the US will not have access to that oil. That's why when McCain gets the White House, the US occupation will remain - and one reason why the political powers that got Bush in and kept Bush in will strive very hard to make sure Obama doesn't.

And on a personal level, Bush won't withdraw because if he withdraws, the humiliating defeat of the US in the Iraq war will always be inside his Presidency. If he can push that job off, in at least some American history books he may be listed only as the man who began the second war with Iraq, not the man who led the US to humiliating defeat in Iraq.

In short: he's lying. But we knew that. His mouth is moving.

Oh, he's in my country right now. So there is a large no-go area in London, because where Bush goes, freedom dies and withers.

In "Why We Didn't Remove Saddam", Time (2 March 1998), George H. W. Bush and Brent Scowcroft wrote:

. . . We were concerned about the long-term balance of power at the head of the Gulf. Trying to eliminate Saddam, extending the ground war into an occupation of Iraq, would have violated our guideline about not changing objectives in midstream, engaging in "mission creep," and would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. Apprehending him was probably impossible. We had been unable to find Noriega in Panama, which we knew intimately. We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. The coalition would instantly have collapsed, the Arabs deserting it in anger and other allies pulling out as well. Under those circumstances, furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-cold war world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the U.N.'s mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the U.S. could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land. It would have been a dramatically different--and perhaps barren--outcome.

If only Poppy had taught his eldest son to read!!

Maybe Bush, keen reader that he is, saw the http://crookedtimber.org/2007/07/27/alice-in-wonderland-and-the-lancet-study/>suggestion from some Harvard Researcher that, because so many people died in the Fallujah data set that it was discarded from the analysis as a grisly outlier, if you restore it to the data set you introduce so much variation that the resulting 95% confidence interval for the number of extra deaths in Iraq, if you assume a normal distribution, includes the possibility that the Iraq War brought the dead to life?

Oh, how I wish I were making that one up. Someone actually made that argument to dispute the Lancet study, and a bunch of truly ignorant warbloggers exulted. Maybe Bush believed them. http://www.iq.harvard.edu/people/david_kane>And the originator of that notion has apparently still got his Harvard gig.

Here's the thing: Sure, they died, but he didn't *desert* them.

Remember, this is a pathological cult of masculinity we're dealing with here, not a bunch of rational utilitarians.

this is a pathological cult of masculinity we're dealing with here, not a bunch of rational utilitarians.

While I loathe Bush, it is not clear to me how a rational utilitarian position automatically mandates immediate withdrawal. Also, people arguing a middle ground position in this matter are not necessarily followers of pathological cult of masculinity.

I suppose Bush draws some distinction between people slaughtered because you abandoned them, and people slaughtered by the other side in a war you haven't yet abandoned.

There is almost 7 years of hindsight and criticism about the way the War on Terror and against despots in the Middle East has been conducted. So the question is, going back to 2001 and 2002, what would you do if you had to make the decisions on how to proceed after 9/11?

You are neither stupid nor racist nor in the pockets of oil companies. You have the advantage of observing the courses of action that didn't work and those that have worked. Generally everybody is sympathetic and are not going to hold giant rallies against you or call you names. You do not have any political considerations to keep in mind. So what is the course of action to take? You do know that Al Qaeda believes that they can defeat America in Afghanistan like the Soviet Union, and have to take this under consideration. Tell me what you would do.

DaveC: At the time, I favored: going into Afghanistan, committing adequate resources to rebuilding the country and restoring security, taking care that the reconstruction projects employed as many Afghans as possible, and doing whatever I could to restore civil government and the rule of law there, and focussing on that. Then, once Afghanistan was on its feet again, simply leaving, without asking for anything or expecting gratitude.

I remain convinced that this would have done more to upend the stories jihadists were telling people about us than anything else. Certainly it would have been better, in this regard, than doing exactly what they said we would do. I thought it was an immense strategic opportunity, which we squandered. Also, it would have been right.

Simultaneously, I would have scrapped whatever response we had planned to the recession that had already begun, in favor of a very serious program to make our infrastructure more secure, and focussing like a laser on securing Russian loose nukes and tightening up financial institutions to deprive terrorists, and others, of the possibility of being able to move money through it without oversight.

Those were my views at the time, and I stick by them. Iraq made no sense then, and it makes no sense in retrospect.

Also: I assume that Bush wasn't referring to his Dad's entire war, just to not going in to help the Shi'a. I think GHWBush's mistake was suggesting that they rise up, which gave them reason to think he might support them. Once he had done that and they rose, there were no good options (though possibly grounding Saddam's helicopters, without in any other way invading, would have helped; I don't know enough about that.)

Grounding helicopters just puts us squarely into Pottery Barn territory.

I suppose Bush draws some distinction between people slaughtered because you abandoned them, and people slaughtered by the other side in a war you haven't yet abandoned.

probably. but the people are dead in either case - and the only difference is Bush's state of mind.

I ought to clarify that my question was not just to hilzoy, but to everybody in general. But I have to point out that the foreign Islamist fighters in Iraq would be in Afghanistan, fighting our reconstruction efforts. It's not a given that the civilian and US military casualties in Afghanistan would be the same if the US wasn't in Iraq.

And on a personal level, Bush won't withdraw because if he withdraws, the humiliating defeat of the US in the Iraq war will always be inside his Presidency. If he can push that job off, in at least some American history books he may be listed only as the man who began the second war with Iraq, not the man who led the US to humiliating defeat in Iraq.
Well, perhaps another way of looking at it is that our "mission" in Iraq was indeed "Iraqi Freedom," not setting up a client state in the region giving us easy access to oil.

Admittedly, this is tongue-in-cheek, but if the al-Maleki Gogernment fails to establish a long-term status-of-forces agreement with us, we have every public reason for declaring "victory" (or at least saying that our time there has logically ended) and pulling out.

Let the Saudis and Sunni world worry about Iran and the Shites. I'm sure "our friends the Saudis" have plenty of dollars to hire mercenaries, rather than playing us for fools.

You are neither stupid nor racist nor in the pockets of oil companies. You have the advantage of observing the courses of action that didn't work and those that have worked. Generally everybody is sympathetic and are not going to hold giant rallies against you or call you names. You do not have any political considerations to keep in mind. So what is the course of action to take? You do know that Al Qaeda believes that they can defeat America in Afghanistan like the Soviet Union, and have to take this under consideration. Tell me what you would do.

Invade another country, so as to take resources away from Afghanistan, divide our country, and lose the support and sympathy of our allies. Duh.

DaveC:

I'd have given a Presidential Address from the Oval Office wearing Jimmy Carter's cartigan sweater, earmuffs, and a beanie with a replica of a wind power generator spinning away on top of it and let the American people know that I was ordering an immediate across the board 50% cut in energy use in the United States.

I'd have sent bipartisan legislation to Congress requesting an expensive national program to develop and implement alternative energy sources, excluding ethanol, while reaching out to the other side of the aisle regarding drilling in various sensitive places, including ANWAR, with strict provisos that environmental degradation would not be tolerated.

I'd have hooked up Michelle Malkin' mouth to a Rube Goldberg energy conversion device which would have had the twin upsides of lighting up several small cities for free and shutting her up.

Inevitably, there would be a hue and a cry and a cry and a hue and I would be called names and gigantic crowds would gather in Washington asking for my head, which probably should be examined for taking the lousy job in the first place.

At that moment, I would appear on the front lawn of the White House, like Michael Rennie in the "The Day The Earth Stood Still", dressed in a silver body stocking, and I would declare all foreign oil embargoed from the United States, just to see what happened.

When the United States of America came to a full stop -- stalled automobiles clogging the nation's useless highways, malls empty, sporting venues silenced, the Indianapolis 500 canceled, airports converted into storage areas and wildlife refuges -- I would hold my hands forth to the Nation -- in the left hand a dove and in the right hand the scepter of war -- and the assembled mobs would tear the scepter from my hands and hold it aloft and then burn me at the stake, using the natural fuel of my body as a heat source to roast the dove and a few marshmallows.

Then, we'd invade Iraq anyway and probably screw it up exactly as we have.

But I have to point out that the foreign Islamist fighters in Iraq would be in Afghanistan, fighting our reconstruction efforts.

Afghanistan is not an Arab country and the "birthplace" of civilization. It does not share wide open borders with other Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, and Syria. It's about as desolate place in the Middle East as you can get, as opposed to Iraq which was a fairly modern, mostly secular nation before the war with many major population centers.

Would there be foreign fighters? Of course, heck bin Laden was/is a foreign fighter in Afghanistan/Pakistan. But many as have streamed into Iraq? Not. Even. Close.

Brett: I suppose Bush draws some distinction between people slaughtered because you abandoned them, and people slaughtered by your military and by the other side in a war you haven't yet abandoned.

Fixed that for you.

The people being killed in Iraq are being killed by the US as well as by the resistance. And even if you're a firm believer in the faith of "but if you take care (a) not to fight back against the US (b) not to live next door to a family where someone is fighting the US (c) not to go out on the street when/where the US is fighting the Iraqi resistance (d) not to be living anywhere near where US soldiers get attacked by the resistance (e) not to look too much like or have a name too similiar to someone who is fighting the US and above all (f) not to frighten an armed US soldier - if you have faith that if an Iraqi manages to live correctly as (a) to (f) then the US won't kill you on purpose" - the people killed as "collateral damage" are just as dead.

So the question is, going back to 2001 and 2002, what would you do if you had to make the decisions on how to proceed after 9/11?

I don't want to conclude my hindsight is perfect, but I can't say that I didn't see these things coming. I resignedly concluded that we would (badly) invade Afghanistan by around 16:30 GMT 11/09/01 (disclosure: I did not wake up until 16:00 that day). Our invasion (initially) went better than I expected, and took longer than I expected to happen, but I was against it from around 17:00 11/09/01 on. Military action is not a good substitute for law enforcement action. Likewise, I was grimly foreseeing an invasion of Iraq starting around 01/02, tho' again it happened after (about 9-10 months after) I expected it to, and initially went better than expected (for us, anyway, not so clearly for the people who count here, the Iraqi people). What has happened was easily foreseeable, even back in aught-one, even back before I became quite so cynically politicized, or convinced of this regime's corruption, narrow-mindedness, lack of foresight, and hubris.

So what would I do? I'd have proceeded with law enforcement solutions to large-scale criminal acts. Period, full stop. If they took years to run their imperfect course, so be it. Better that than the (predictable) hell we've unleashed. Better always that instinctive, reactive blood lust go unslaked.

Okay, in retrospect the Thullenesque response sounds good too.

We wouldn't be fighting the current Iraqi resistance if Bush hadn't invaded Iraq. About 95% of them are Iraqi locals unaffiliated with Al Qaeda, and all they want is for us to leave. About 5% are affiliated with Al Qaeda, or at least wish they were. However, many are there only due to the outrage at an unprovoked attack on an uninvolved country. Most are Arab and would have a hard time getting to Afghanistan; even if they did they wouldn't speak the language. So we'd be fighting about 1/30 as many opponents, and they wouldn't be able to hide in the population easily. It would be literally 2 orders of magnitude better.

DaveC: So the question is, going back to 2001 and 2002, what would you do if you had to make the decisions on how to proceed after 9/11?

Why the heck are you asking us? We were the ones who got it right; we didn't need the hindsight. The relevant question is: what would you have done differently?

Anarch asks: Why the heck are you asking us?

Because it takes a special kind of character, backbone, and class, to admit you were spectacularly wrong and people whom you attacked and decried for their views - turned out to be completely correct.

Much easier to do the thing.

Conventional wisdom today says that I was correct way back in 2001 when I stood up in opposition to the invasion of Iraq. I took a lot of flack for my views back then as conventional wisdom then said I was naive, sorely mistaken and borderline traitous for my views. But I stand by them. The invasion of Iraq was a dreadful mistake.

But today the conventional wisdom is once again wrong. Todays conventional wisdom is best expressed by people like Hilzoy and others who cannot or will not update their opinions based upon current facts and the historical truths evident even before Bush launched this war.

The main truth we have to face is that islamic extremism is a real deadly danger to all of western liberalism and it MUST be confronted and defeated. This was true before Bush invaded Iraq and it remains true today.

And secondly the invasion changed everthing. We live in a different world today than we did eight years ago and it is time to take that into account.

We cannot and should not retreat from Iraq without accomplishing what Bush mistakenly set out to do: establish a liberal pro western democracy in Iraq. We have prowestern monarchies in Saudia Arabia, the Emerites and elswhere. That is not good enough. We need pro western democracies, besides Isreal, in the middle east.

Bush committed us to a course of action that I believe now must be seen through to 'victory'.

Islamic extremism, like communism before it, must be defeated. For our sake as well as the sake of the people in the middle east subjected to it's ideology. I would have chosen a more 'diplomatic' method of dealing with it than Bush did but now that the die has been cast I see the best choice is to make the best of it and see it through to the end.

I think the US can provide the leadership necessary to other western powers to join in this effort and see it through to success. Bush was never able to do that primarily because he is such an a**hole.

Bush committed us to a course of action that I believe now must be seen through to 'victory'.

Even The Underpants Gnomes are embarrassed by your Al Davis like invocation of "just win, baby." I mean sure, nice sentiment. Now how do we do it? I guess we could, mcCain like, sit the factions down and tell them to knock that s*** off. I'm sure that would work.

We cannot and should not retreat from Iraq without accomplishing what Bush mistakenly set out to do: establish a liberal pro western democracy in Iraq.

Great idea! All that will take is replacing all the Iraqis with some species other than homo sapiens.

Pooh,

Aparantly it is working. Iraq is much closer to a pro western democracy now than any other country in the middle east. If I had to guess, I would estimate that we have over 80% of the population on the side of democracy with only a small fraction actually desirous of an islamic extremist state. That is on the way to a win baby.

One strategy, the one that looks most likely to succeed, is to stay involved in Iraq until the democratic process becomes embedded in the culture. It may take a generation to accomplish this.

You guys have to forget how right you were eight years ago and look at the situation as it is today.

I have, you can do it to.

If I had to guess...

...you would guess wrong.

ken: "Iraq is much closer to a pro western democracy now than any other country in the middle east."

Since I assume you mean Muslim countries, I won't bring up Israel, but surely Turkey is a whole lot closer.

For what it's worth, I am looking at the situation as it is today.

"The main truth we have to face is that islamic extremism is a real deadly danger to all of western liberalism and it MUST be confronted and defeated. "

Not so. Islamic extremism has the same chance of destroying western liberal democracy as I have of running an under 4 minute mile. Zero, zip, nada.

"Iraq is much closer to a pro western democracy now than any other country in the middle east." If that was true, which as hilzoy points out it isn't, then that would be a verey sad commentary on the state of democracy. When the main party in charge uses military action to weaken and/or destroy its biggest rival, that is hardly democracy.

When the government and others in Iraq are more closely aligned to Iran and Syria than they are to the US, that is hardly pro-Western.

"Iraq is much closer to a pro western democracy now than any other country in the middle east."

What?

I guess if you squinted your eyes, you could posit that since there isn't really a functional government, they are closer to a pro-western democracy because there is no existent government to overcome.

If I had to guess, I would estimate that we have over 80% of the population on the side of democracy with only a small fraction actually desirous of an islamic extremist state.

I feel better knowing this. I'd feel even better if it were somehow correct.

About 95% of them are Iraqi locals unaffiliated with Al Qaeda, and all they want is for us to leave.

Not as simple as that.

Really.

Basra is a little less like Iran these days.

We cannot and should not retreat from Iraq without accomplishing what Bush mistakenly set out to do: establish a liberal pro western democracy in Iraq.

Er. You realize that "pro-Western" and "democracy" are mutually exclusive when the people involved in the democracy are not "pro-Western" to begin with, right? Recall the free and democratic election in Palestine that brought Hamas to power :) And tell me, how long will American troops have to stay in Iraq killing people before the people start to love us?

If I had to guess, I would estimate that we have over 80% of the population on the side of democracy with only a small fraction actually desirous of an islamic extremist state.

If I had to guess, I'd mention that an Islamist democracy is hardly a contradiction in terms - in fact, I'd bet that more Iraqis would vote for Islamist candidates than "pro-Western" ones :)

While I loathe Bush, it is not clear to me how a rational utilitarian position automatically mandates immediate withdrawal.

I'm afraid you are misinterpreting my remarks. I wasn't addressing the question of immediate withdrawal at all.

It seems to me, from the quotes above, that it matters to Bush that he has not abandoned them-- that is, that his actions have been in accordance with his ethos of machismo-- more than how many of them actually die (a more utilitarian ethic). In his analysis of his father's misdeeds, the dead are almost besides the point.

We have prowestern monarchies in Saudia Arabia [...]

I guess this might be true for certain values of "pro-western". It helps that SA is an autocratic, anti-democratic state, I suppose. The "pro-western" would be a lot harder to sell if the populace at large had a say in it.

ken: If I had to guess, I would estimate that we have over 80% of the population on the side of democracy with only a small fraction actually desirous of an islamic extremist state. That is on the way to a win baby.

Well, not if "on the way to a win" means "a pro-Western democracy". I agree with you that the vast majority of Iraqis are on the side of democracy. In Fallujah, early in the occupation, they marched for democracy - until the US army shot them down. All over the country Iraqis turned out enthusiastically to vote in elections early in 2005 that they hoped would result in a government that could end the US occupation.

They believe in democracy. What they'll get, if the occupation continues, is a second Saddam Hussein.

Around the world, the US prefers dictators and monarchs to democracies: easier to bribe and bully individual rulers than to intimidate whole countries.

I know I shouldn't feed the trolls but sometimes it is hard to resist.

Ken (sounds like Ken White) You would have to be crazy to believe "We cannot and should not retreat from Iraq without accomplishing what Bush mistakenly set out to do: establish a liberal pro western democracy in Iraq."

Just in case there are some really slow children reading this; the longer US troops troops have been in Iraq the fewer liberal and pro western Iraqis there are. War supporters keep acting like these long established trends are going to suddenly reverse directions based on sheer willpower and optimism.

Dave C- Personally I wanted to skip Iraq and just run a raid on Afganistan, just kill as many people as we could over the course of a year or so then sow the ground with radioactive salts before we leave. Now I recognize that I was overcome with rage, but I still think it doesn't make sense to make a long term commitment to Afganistan.

I still think it doesn't make sense to make a long term commitment to Afganistan.

Yeah, because it's not as if it will ever again happen that a small group of terrorists will make use of its geography and its lack of central government to create training camps and bases in the mountains of Afghanistan, aided by the fact that the Afghans themselves know that no government in the West cares if they live or die, but by preference, would rather they died. After all, what harm can a small group of terrorists do to real people living in real cities on the other side of the world?

And it's not as if the international drug industry makes use of Afghanistan's geography and its lack of central government to pay starving farmers to grow opium poppies. No indeed. Massive increases in street heroin are nothing to worry about, and it makes no sense to make a long term commitment to help Afghan's starving farmers against the illegal drug industry. None at all, Frank, you're quite right.

Plus, you know: there's the straightforward history of the US and USSR destruction of Afghanistan - the last battlefield of the Cold War. The US owes Afghanistan - a debt of money and blood that there's been no effort to repay. (The USSR owes Afghanistan too, but the USSR doesn't exist any more...)

I didn't remember you as being so imperialistic Jes.

So to clarify. As long as they are over there not attacking us I say leave them alone. When they do attack is soon enough to fight back. I don't believe in preemptive war, maybe you do.

I am against the criminalization of addiction, so I have no objection to cheap smack. In fact as I get older and sicker I hope for cheap effective and easy to buy painkillers.

I also think it is crazy for us to try to dictate what crops poor farmers can grow from the other side of the world.

I remember the history well, and at the time I thought it didn't make sense to abandon the people of Afghanistan. I don't see how that means we owe them though. If we owe them for giving them money, weapons, and advisers during the Soviet occupation, then what will we owe them 20 years from now for supporting the Karzi regime?

It never ends. I say we should make more of an effort to mind our own business.

what would you do if you had to make the decisions on how to proceed after 9/11?

Give the Taliban a reasonable amount of time to surrender Bin Laden and the principals of Al Qaeda, destroy the training camps, and throw the rest of the jihadis out. For the record, I think we did this.

If they fail to do this (as they did), take military action against Afghanistan. Kill or capture as many Al Qaeda and related jihadis as possible and overthrow the Taliban government. So far so good.

Now history and "what I would have done" part ways.

Disarm the warlords and put enough US and coalition troops in place to establish a reasonably secure environment. In context, the bar for "reasonably secure" was not very high, this should have been a layup.

Rebuild basic infrastructure. Build or bring into the country whatever basic materials -- shelter, food, water, clothing, fuel for heating, cooking materials -- are needed to keep the wheels on for a couple of years. Allow local institutions and the local economy to begin to revive.

Get the landmines and cluster bombs out of the countryside so people can go about their business safely.

When everyone's fed, has a place to sleep, and no longer needs to carry an AK47 or check for land mines when they go to the store or to work their fields, foster local institutions that allow for a responsive, transparent, representative government. Those traditions actually exist in Afghanistan, they didn't need to be invented there.

Plan on maintaining a robust security presence for 5-10 years.

Continue to pursue and eliminate the now disbanded Al Qaeda through intelligence and criminal channels.

The Afghans get their country back, the Taliban lose their dominance of the area, Pakistan and Iran both have to back off a bit. We get to play the good guys, because we would, in fact, have been the good guys.

Sounds like a dream, doesn't it? Could have been real. We pissed it away.

Much as it pains me to disagree with Mr. Thullen, I don't believe an invasion of Iraq was inevitable.

Interesting question, thanks for asking.

Islamic extremism, like communism before it, must be defeated.

The problem with this argument is that Islamic extremism is not at all like communism. Flawed premise, flawed results.

They're not alike.

Thanks -

russell @ 9:55 = right on.

and the fact that we didn't do this in Afghansitan was all the evidence i needed to know that W's invasion of Iraq was going to end badly.

I didn't remember you as being so imperialistic Jes.

I've somehow never thought of Oxfam and similiar international charities as "imperialistic", Frank.

As long as they are over there not attacking us I say leave them alone. When they do attack is soon enough to fight back.

Well, that's an imperialistic attitude, sure - to the savages beyond the borders of Empire.

I am against the criminalization of addiction, so I have no objection to cheap smack.

I think you miss the point, Frank. If you're against addicts being in thrall to criminals (I am too) then you need to oppose the massive increase in income and resource to the international illegal drugs trade which the US have facilitated.

Ialso think it is crazy for us to try to dictate what crops poor farmers can grow from the other side of the world.

I don't think it's crazy to try and make sure farmers are growing food for themselves and their families, and not cash crops that fund crime through the world.

I don't see how that means we owe them though.

If Jimmy Carter's CIA hadn't decided to fund the mojaheddin to overthrow the Afghan government (it had to be the Islamic extremists: no other large group of Afghans cared that there was now a Communist government that wanted to do unIslamic things like educate women), the USSR might not have invaded. (And if Jimmy Carter's CIA hadn't, Ronald Reagan's CIA almost certainly would.)

This may all be ancient history to most Americans. But the war that the US started in Afghanistan destroyed their country. Then the US lost interest and "left them alone" - in a country where the only "government" was that of local warlords, where the mojaheddin had arms and military training, left the rise of the Taliban as a national government for Afghanistan inevitable.

Feminists and other nutters who believe that human rights trump ideology were arguing in the early 1980s, as the effects of American support for Islamic extremists became evident, that the last thing the West should be doing was giving arms and financial help to the mojaheddin - but by that time the Soviets had invaded and the long catastrophe was unstoppable. (Wars are always easier to start than easier to stop.)

There's a reasonable argument to be made that the costs to the USSR of fighting a land war in Afghanistan were such that their invasion of Afghanistan was a major part of the downfall of the Soviet Union.

So, yeah: the US owes Afghanistan. Bigtime.

I say we should make more of an effort to mind our own business.

First, you pay them what you owe them. Then, you can walk off and say "we'll mind our own business"...

russel: Give the Taliban a reasonable amount of time to surrender Bin Laden and the principals of Al Qaeda, destroy the training camps, and throw the rest of the jihadis out. For the record, I think we did this.

28 days after September 11, the US bombed Kabul, Kandahar, and Herat. And preparations for the attack began less than 10 days after September 11: I remember quite vividly reading the news that the US planned to kill thousands or more civilians in Afghanistan by bombing raids if the Taliban didn't "hand over" Osama bin Laden: and the bloodthirsty glee that with which this news was greeted by Americans all over the Internet.

It was clear at the time that the only way the US would get the Taliban to deliver Osama bin Laden was by extreme diplomacy and extensive persuasion: and it was also clear that the US had no intention of practicing any diplomacy with the Taliban, because Americans wanted to take bloody revenge for September 11 and didn't greatly care that most of the people they would kill probably couldn't have found New York on a map, nor had any idea what al-Qaeda were planning.

It's true, though, that once the revenge on Afghanistan was over, the thousands of innocent people killed (from what we know now, we can make a fair guess that Marc Herold's figures of over 3000 Afghans killed represented maybe 10% of the real casualties) - the US could have done work in Afghanistan that would, in the long run, have improved the lives of the survivors.

But if Bush had been at all interested in the kind of intensive effort that makes things better for ordinary people, well: he wouldn't have been the first choice for the Republican party as the handpuppet President, would he?

Most humanitarians have better sense than to demand soldiers remain in place until things get better. You liberal hawks have been pretty thoroughly discredited at this point.

it was also clear that the US had no intention of practicing any diplomacy with the Taliban

I, personally, think that waiting four weeks for the Taliban to do something concrete and effective -- surrender Bin Laden, close down the camps -- is long enough. Beginning to prepare for military action immediately, likewise OK with me.

That's just my opinion, YMMV. The "YMMV" is not offered dismissively, I just mean other legitimate opinions certainly exist.

All of that said, I think you're right to say that the Bush administration was likely not negotiating in good faith with the Taliban. I feel comfortable saying that because I can't think of a single thing they've done in almost eight years that demonstrated good faith.

So, I withdraw this:

For the record, I think we did this.

I also think you are correct that many, many Americans were out for blood.

Frank:

Most humanitarians have better sense than to demand soldiers remain in place until things get better

If you're addressing me, I'm happy to make a reply.

Unless your purpose is pure annihilation for its own sake, if you invade a country, kill a lot of its people, demolish its infrastructure, and overthrow its government, it behooves you to stay in place in order to maintain a basic level of security long enough for the basic elements of society to rebuild themselves.

So, odd thought it may seem to you, leaving your soldiers in country until things get better may well be precisely the humanitarian thing to do.

Thanks -

Russell - I agree. With everything you said, including your comment to Frank.

Though having US soldiers remain in place in Afghanistan would only help if they were trained as a peacekeeping/policing force and had a sufficiency of translators. We've seen what an untrained/ignorant occupation does in Iraq: soldiers, no matter how full of goodwill *cannot* accomplish great things if they neither speak the language nor understand the local customs.

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