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February 23, 2009

Comments

I think, in all honesty, that I would be able to stand being a prostitute for the sake of children, but I am a very liberal feminist who wouldn't dream of getting all judgey on the prostitutes. And, I sure wouldn't be proud of being a prostitute.

How much worse must it be for these women, raised in an extremely repressive society that considers showing one's legs to be outrageous?

Those poor women. Even if we airlifted them all to Cleveland and gave them nice houses and a lifetime supply of everything, they would still be broken and hurting.

I wish I could force every idiot in favor of this war to look- really look- at what we've done.

But the world is a better place because Saddam Hussein is gone, which makes it all worthwhile. Just ask Cheney.

Eric,
You don't give a damn about any Iraqis. You only use their suffering so you can bleat on about the terrible problems that they are facing and will continue to face. I don't think anyone, anywhere, has claimed that Iraq is now problem free. They have claimed that its gotten a lot better. And it has. It may never be like surburbia, but then again, it never was.

Jim,

I care enough about Iraqis to not want to bombard them with our gifts of shock and awe - and then make some of their cities resemble Stalingrad - to use Kagan's words.

I care enough about Iraqis to realize that wars lead to immense destruction, carnage and suffering, and thus I did not want to bring war to Iraq.

I care enough about Iraqis to realize that the situation has definitely NOT gotten a lot better for the hundreds of thousands of widows created as a result of the invasion. And the hundreds of thousands that are dead. And their families and friends.

And I will not pretend otherwise. But then, I don't have to salve my conscience through such willful blindness.

And Jim, please, tell us all: did you love the Iraqi people so much that you urged on our decision to invade their country, kill thousands of your beloved and unleash forces that led to the deaths of countless others?

If so, perhaps you should reconsider how much you "care" about the Iraqi people, and whether or not they would have been better off without your affections.

"It may never be like surburbia, but then again, it never was."

Well, truer words were never spoken, that's for sure. Nevertheless, my guess is that your average Iraqi would be happy with more clean water and less violent death while walking down the street. I'm sure you'd agree, Jim.

Now, the question that Eric raised is one that Americans should have been thinking about ever since, oh, 2003. And that is, Is it morally acceptible for Country A to base its security strategy on making Country B ground zero for all the world's terrorists in order for the citizens of Country A to consider themselves "safe"?

Extra credit for any thoughts you may have on how the statement "We kept America safe since nine-eleven" might fit into this equation. Double-extra credit for rational speculations on what might have happened if one of Mr. al-Zaidi's shoes had actually hit our "war president", Mr. Bush, especially in the face, which is where I'm sure al-Zaidi was aiming.

You don't give a damn about any Iraqis. You only use their suffering so you can bleat on about the terrible problems that they are facing and will continue to face.

So...the fact that Eric spends his time writing about the suffering of Iraqis is proof positive that he doesn't give a damn about the Iraqis.

I do so love the Internet sometimes.

Iraq’s estimated 740,000 widows

The article acknowledges that the estimate is pretty much of a guess. But assume that it's correct, and that it refers to widows living in Iraq, aside from the number who are refugees/exiles in Syria, Jordan, or Lebanon.

The war with Iran from 1980-88 created 30,000-60,000 widows, based on total casualties of 250-500K killed & wounded combined. (My assumptions: a 1:5 ratio of killed to wounded and three-quarters of the men killed were married.) Twenty years have passed, and some of those widows are now dead. Not a large proportion, because we're talking about the wives of military-age men, of whom a distinct minority would have been as old as 50 by the end of the war. So let's say 25,000-50,000 survive today.

Using the same assumptions, there would be 12,000-16,000 more surviving widows from the 1991 war. (Based on Project on Defense Alternatives estimate of 20,000-25,000 Iraqis killed in combat, 3600 civilians killed.)

Some number of widows are created by the simple passage of time in a country where most men marry women younger than themselves and in which women outlive men. But these natural widows are at the older end of the age spectrum, and would have a correspondingly lower survival rate to today. So the size of the non-war-widow contribution to today's population might be...? 200,000?

That makes it appear that close to half a million women have become widows since the U.S. invasion. Given that some percentage of the men killed were not married, that women themselves and children have been a significant percentage but a minority among Iraqis killed, and that additional occupation-era widows are among those abroad, a number anywhere close to half a million reinforces the Lancet estimates.

So it clearly can't be allowed to stand by people who want to minimize the human cost of the Serious People's optional war.

So...the fact that Eric spends his time writing about the suffering of Iraqis is proof positive that he doesn't give a damn about the Iraqis.

I think I’m coming down on Jim’s side here. I readily admit that I may have missed Eric’s posts where he didn’t just look for some sign, any sign of failure and then use it like an “I told you so” cudgel. You already won that argument – I get it. Anything positive is spun as due to anything except our actions. Everything awful is our fault. I agree with you on that – no matter how dysfunctional the society was to begin with, making war on them is not going to improve things.

Yes, if this is all true this is awful. It’s awful if it’s one-half or one-quarter of the number, or 10 even. It’s awful.

Eric – it does not change the fact (IMO) that every one of your Iraq posts are, “I told you so” cudgels. Hey – you were right. If posting that one more time is good for you then cool. But maybe slip in something I can do to ease my war-monger consciousness. Maybe a donation, maybe to these folks? I’ve donated this year – have you?


Make it a tiny bit subtler – write the post as a call for donations to help these folks. You can slip in enough bashing and responsibility fixing as you go. Then hey – I can hit a triple – agree with you (mainly), make a donation to a worthy cause, and regret my support of the war. All in one convenient package… It’s like carbon offsets – I get to acknowledge my misdeeds, pay for my indulgence, and then walk away whistling.

I feel obliged to post snark tags here before I get totally jumped on. I was 85% serious though.

OCSteve,

Keep in mind: I write these posts in response to cited pieces in which major pundits and politicians - from John McCain and Joe Lieberman to Fred Kagan, Mike O'Hanlon and Peter Beinart - claim that we've achieved a victory in Iraq. And that Bush's decision could be vindicated.

These people want to do this again, in another country. They're urging for military confrontation with Iran - quite strenuously.

I reserve the right to set the record straight, and fight against this real-time historical revisionism. It is crucial that we take a full account of what we've wrought because the drums of war will beat again soon. They're already beating actually.

This is so even if you find it overkill. Not everyone agrees with you on that.

But that's not all I do, contra what you alleged.

Here are some posts that - according to you - I didn't write:

Just last month, a post on the refugee plight with links to a charity that - yes - I donated to. Did you?

Guarded optimism on the elections, concluding:

Let us hope that these elections go off without any more violence, and that they can mark yet one more small step in the direction of reconciliation and a return to normalcy in Iraq. The Iraqi people deserve that and so much more after all they've endured. I'm probably somewhere between cautious optimism and pessimistic resignation in terms of the prospects.

I'm sorry that I can't muster much more enthusiasm than cautious optimism, but reality provides a harsh light that tends to pierce rose-tinted glasses.

I call em as I see em, and optimism has a terrible track record in Iraq.

But no, that doesn't mean that I don't care about the Iraqi people. Quite the opposite. I care so much about what we did to them, that I don't want to see us do it to any other people.

Your suggestion otherwise is pretty insulting and, to be honest, I expected more out of you of all people. I have never doubted your good faith or sincerity. For some reason, I assumed you would reciprocate.

Although I disagree that Eric doesn’t give a damn about Iraqis, I also tend to think that OCSteve has a point. Those that are convincible that the war was a mistake have already been convinced. I don’t think there are that many new converts to be had.

So, yes, situations such as this can be brought up, discussed, whatever. But the subtle snideness can be dropped and let us instead discuss what can be done for these women, or others in similar situations.

Oh, and I don’t think that OCSteve, in saying he was coming down on Jim’s side was necessarily agreeing with the “Eric doesn’t give a damn about Iraqis” sentiment.

OCSteve, perhaps you could have been clearer in pointing that out.

OCSteve, a minute's google on Iraq Charities got me this useful link: the best way to help with crises in Iraq and neighboring countries.

Of all the charities listed, the one I can personally recommend is Oxfam, which has a strong track record globally of working against poverty and building long-term solutions, but I'm sure all of them are worthy/worthwhile.

In the UK, there is the Iraqi Charities Forum but it's always worth donating locally so the charity can claim the maximum back in tax. You could probably find an equivalent in the US, if you really wanted to and were willing to hold your nose and donate to a charity that quoted verses from the Qu'ran about helping widows and orphans... the kind of thing that would get any imam kicked off a flight in the US if he started saying it out loud.

I don't know, Eric has spent a lot of time trying to detail the ins and outs of Iraq, the tribes, the power struggles. In that regard, 'I told you so' is just a 'let me repeat the point that...'

This post is a bit different, because when jerks like Kagen and Peters come with this crap about how the cultural differences mean that Iraqi suffering is not the same as ours, they are just playing rhetorical games to cover their own asses. Eric's fighting the good fight, and anything that can help make sure that these folks advice never ever gets taken seriously again is spot on. It's not 'I told you so', it's 'look at what these guys are saying and decide if you want to take them seriously'

OCS,

You can find apologias for the Iraq war all over the place. If Eric needs to keep saying "I told you so" it's because somebody has to counterbalance the Limbaughs and Hannitys of the world.

I have long held that the invasion of Iraq was always less about who wins over there than about who wins over here. There are plenty of people over here who are still trying to scratch out a win for their demented world-view. Let them make their own case. Don't chide Eric for refusing to make it for them.

--TP

"... when jerks like Kagen and Peters come with this crap about how the cultural differences mean that Iraqi suffering is not the same as ours...."

I don't see that in the cited Peters' column.

For one thing, he was talking about Afghanistan. For another, there wasn't anything there about how people suffer or not.

You know, I'm sorry me and my friends smashed into your house, killed your husband, half your kids, and your dogs, and then burned down to top two floors and the garage and left your broken sh1t all over the place, not to mention then letting your neighbors steal most of your non-broken stuff and murder half your remaining kids; and all because we though there was a scary mouse hiding in here (oops, sorry). But look now, here, I fixed this lamp we broke, and plus in the last few days lots fewer of your kids have been killed. Isn't it worth it? Why aren't you thanking me for fixing the lamp?

For another, there wasn't anything there about how people suffer or not.

Not explicitly, but there were direct references to the fact that "they" don't really care about improving the lives of their children. About how their callousness to their childrens' lives "confounds our values system" and "defies biological reason."

I think it would be safe to imply from this - and the repeated references to their inhuman, alien composition - that they don't "suffer" the same way we do.

Eric,
Your care for the Iraqis matches my care for the Munchkins oppressed by the wicked witch of the East. Your tone and intent does not match your rhetoric. Its easy to see through. Be honest with your readers. The suffering of Iraqis makes a good tool to bash Republicans and those who support the war.

I understand your assumption that I supported the war, but I opposed it from the get-go. And I am pretty conservative. But I've lived in the Mideast for an extended time. As a result, I did not think that we would achieve what Bush hoped for. Further, I felt that the cost of American life, limb, and dollars would not be worth it even if we could.

I opposed it not for the suffering of Iraqis, which really isn't that tangible to us here, but for the suffering of Americans which is.

I also was against the first gulf war. It was nothing more than an oil-proxy war fought on behalf of the various oil interests. I'm glad that we lost so few men. But even knowing that in advance, I would have opposed it. Too many good Pennsylvanian's died for that dark cause.

But back to the point. You're a political polemicist Eric. The bloggers on this board cry crocodile tears about the suffering an loss of America and Iraqi lives, but you don't really give a damn. They're just tools to use to further your political cause. Just like some Republican polemicists are now using Obama's dufus nominations and stimulus package for their gain. They don't care about the jobs lost, they only care about being able to get back in power. And, if things continue like they are, give em two years, and they'll be back in.

By the way, the Sunni, Shia, and Kurds have been fighting for a long time before we showed up, and they'll continue after we're long gone. Their culture is messed up. But that's another topic.

So Eric,
Do we pull our troops out of Iraq right away, or leave em in for a while? How many more Americans are you willing to sacrifice on behalf of your beloved Iraqis? Or is it okay now to do so, because Obama says so?

Dear Eric - now that you've amassed all this political power through fulcruming dead Iraqis and Americans via polemical blog posts, would you mind doing me a favor and getting the IRS off my back?

Thanks in advance.

Ugh.

Jim1234: "Eric,
You don't give a damn about any Iraqis. You only use their suffering so you can bleat on about the terrible problems that they are facing and will continue to face."

You have no evidence for this statement. What Eric chooses to write about is evidence that he cares about, but nothing other than expressly stated callousness could license the conclusion that he does not care about the Iraqis. At least, not for most people. If you are different, please tell us how you can know these things by reading what someone writes on the internet, or what other means (telepathy?) you use to divine someone else's concerns.

If some stranger were to walk up to you on the street and announce that she knew exactly how you felt about, say, the homeless, or hydroponic vegetables, or reality TV shows, you'd be baffled. What you said to Eric seems pretty similar to me, except for the speciaql extra bit of attributing to him a view that's insulting.

The suffering of Iraqis makes a good tool to bash Republicans and those who support the war.

And they need to be beaten around the head a LOT more, because they STILL don't get any of it.

It's not just partisan politics (though, to be sure, there's a measure of that), but also the very real need to get a more complete picture into the debate. Along partisan lines, there is very little knowledge of basic realities on the ground (and I don't say "either side"--that's just false "even-handedness."). I see very little acknowledgements of basic, ugly truths; I see more denial than anything else.

Denial is not useful. For anyone.

By the way, the Sunni, Shia, and Kurds have been fighting for a long time before we showed up, and they'll continue after we're long gone. Their culture is messed up. But that's another topic.

That's a bit of an exaggeration when it comes to Iraq - at least in terms of Sunni/Shiite fighting. Those groups have co-existed peacefully for much longer than not, and were not in a hot conflict when we arrived. And they are each, generally, more interested in nationalism than sectarianism. As Reidar Visser observed:

[T]o dismiss Iraq’s civil strife as “chronic”, as Democratic commentators increasingly do, requires blind ignorance of centuries of Iraqi coexistence – as seen for instance during the monarchy (1921–1958), during Ottoman rule in the nineteenth century (when Shiites and Sunnis coexisted in the two mixed provinces of Basra and Baghdad), and during the reign of the Baghdad-based Georgian mamluks, who ruled from Mosul to the Gulf between 1747 and 1831. And to diagnose a state of “irreconcilable sectarian conflict” in contemporary Iraq would be to overlook the fact that it is the post-2003 Iraqi elites of returned exiles, rather than the Iraqi population at large, that are behind many of today’s most outrageous sectarian maximalist demands. In historical perspective, it is the current heightened sectarian tension – particularly acute since 2006 – that is the “artificial” aspect of the Iraq situation, and it should be an American responsibility to try to reverse this situation as part of a withdrawal strategy.

http://historiae.org/democratic.asp

More here:

http://historiae.org/vilayet.asp

But then, I'd expect someone who lived in the Middle East to have a better grasp on that.

Which leads me to believe you're full of it. Why don't you come clean on a few things Jim: You've never lived in the Middle East, and you didn't oppose either war. You're making it all up for the sake of a specious argument in the comments thread. It's obvious.

Do we pull our troops out of Iraq right away, or leave em in for a while? How many more Americans are you willing to sacrifice on behalf of your beloved Iraqis? Or is it okay now to do so, because Obama says so?

You can look it up in the archives, it's all there and then some.

Or, you could simply not read this site or this author again. We will greatly miss your insights if you choose the latter.

Sorry, I got this post and the Space Oddities post confused.

Not explicitly, but there were direct references to the fact that "they" don't really care about improving the lives of their children. About how their callousness to their childrens' lives "confounds our values system" and "defies biological reason."
I don't really want to defend Ralph Peters, Eric, since as a rule, I despise him, and I agree that your criticisms of him are a fair description of how he typically writes, and I join you in generally condemning him.

I do feel that that particular column of his, despite providing lots of superficial reason to look to it as an example of dehumanizing of "the enemy" -- a point I've gone on about the evil of for more than thirty-five years, to the point of arguing with my elderly relatives about when I was in my late teen years and early twenties -- isn't the best column as an example.

I realize this really should be on the other thread, but we're here, so:

On the specific point about children, he writes: "When girls and women are denied education or even health care and are executed by their own kin for minor infractions against the cult, how does that square with our insistence that all men want greater opportunities for the kids? "

And that doesn't seem an entirely invalid point.

But my main feeling is that while he starts off with sentences that are perfectly reasonable to construe as highly offensive, and supportive of your general critique, that when he gets to further explanation of his point, that he is making a different point than simple dehumanization of the enemy, specifically this:

[...] In junior high, I matured past the French Existentialists and started reading science fiction. The prose was often ragged, but the speculative frameworks offered a useful approach to analysis.

Begin with the view that all opponents are aliens from another cultural planet. Build your assessment from a blank slate. What do the alien collectives desire or fear? How do they perceive the galaxy? What are their unique weaknesses?

This is still viewable, and criticizable, as contributing to dehumanization, without doubt, and I don't disagree with that, but I'm also utterly familiar with actually using "consider this as a situation with aliens" analysis that doesn't have that implication at all, so I'm a little uncomfortable with the implication that all such analysis is part and parcel of a dehumanizing "it's okay to regard them as subhuman" approach. Since Peters specifically brings this all up in terms of his familiarity with science fiction, I'm willing to engage in a certain amount of taking him at his word there, and I'm not really clear if you're at all familiar with this bog-standard sf-type approach, in which the concept isn't at all that aliens are in any way subhuman.

"I think it would be safe to imply from this - and the repeated references to their inhuman, alien composition - that they don't "suffer" the same way we do."

I'm more comfortable condemning people for what they write, rather than somewhat tenuous implications we believe we detect, particularly when there are more charitable interpretations available.

"Your care for the Iraqis matches my care for the Munchkins oppressed by the wicked witch of the East."

Jim1234 isn't in a position to know how much Eric does or doesn't care about anything, any more than any of us know what's in Jim1234's heart or mind. This is classic mind-reading, an attempt to claim an utterly unjustified privilege of knowledge, and is, as always, bullpuckey.

Not to mention that it's condescending and insulting.

This is not to slag off science fiction in any way, shape or form, but I'd observe anyone who writes

In junior high, I matured past the French Existentialists and started reading science fiction.

has got to be a total poseur who probably couldn't have gotten thru Le Petite Prince without Cliff Notes.

From the post: //Among Iraqi women aged 15 to 80, 1 in 11 are estimated to be widows, though officials admit that figure is hardly more than a guess, given the continuing violence and the displacement of millions of people.//

1 divided by 11 is 9.1%.

From: http://www.deathreference.com/Vi-Z/Widows.html

//According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 199.7 million persons aged 18 and over in the United States in 1999 ... 95.9 million were men and 103.9 were women ... only 8.9 percent of the men and 10.5 percent of the women were widowed.//

Seems like there is a higher proportion of (female) widows in the USA than Iraq.

Given that the life expectancy of women in the US is 79 years and that of men is 72, and the 40% of the Iraqi population is under 14, this is a pretty stupid attempt at a troll, even for you.

LJ

The fact that //40% of the Iraqi population is under 14,// is irrelevant to an analysis that looks at // Iraqi women aged 15 to 80//.

The facts that //life expectancy of women in the US is 79 years and that of men is 72// and iraqi women have a higher life expectancy than iraqi men do not seem to debunk what I wrote.

You seem to be using a non sequitur fallacy in your attempt to point out how stupid I am. Perhaps you should point the gun away from your foot before you pull the trigger.

I think the post writer (and writer of the linked article) would be better off saying war is bad, people have suffered in iraq, and there are probably more widows there now than before. The 1 in 11 stat that the writer pointed at is not helpful to his argument. He's making an emotional argument anyway - why does he need stats to support the emotional argument?

"I opposed it not for the suffering of Iraqis, which really isn't that tangible to us here, but for the suffering of Americans which is."

That was Jim1234, who was apparently projecting his own feelings onto Eric when he accused him of not caring about Iraqis

"The fact that //40% of the Iraqi population is under 14,// is irrelevant to an analysis that looks at // Iraqi women aged 15 to 80//."

If 40 percent are under 14, then it suggests that the number of Iraqi women aged 15 to 80 is heavily weighted at the bottom end.

I sense a thread about to spiral down the toilet.

I forgot to add that only 3% of the Iraqi population is over 60. The point is that Iraqi society is severely disrupted. You attempted to counter that by suggesting that we have more widows in the US. The non-sequitur is yours. I suspect you live in a world of book learning rather than of experience and maybe if you talk enough no one will consider the real world numbers and their impact. What happened to your plan to go to Singapore and cash your rent checks?

// What happened to your plan to go to Singapore and cash your rent checks?//

What makes you think I'm not in Singapore now? We have internet here in Singapore.

Because you didn't keep your promise to leave us in peace.

nobody knows
nobody sees
nobody knows,
but
me

very apt citation.

MHB: For the record, I was referring to the Johnny Cash version, but would give partial credit for The Band's rendition.

I think the post writer (and writer of the linked article) would be better off saying war is bad, people have suffered in iraq, and there are probably more widows there now than before.

Allow me.

War is bad, people have suffered in Iraq, and there are undoubtedly more widows there now than before.

I sense a thread about to spiral down the toilet.

It really doesn't have to. DNFTT.

Saw a video on this the other day. It was interesting, they quoted a government official as saying that they "often offer financial help to women willing to submit to “temporary marriages”."

This really makes me annoyed. Sounds just like a Politically Correct way of referring to prostitution!

Here's the link: http://www.newsy.com/videos/iraqi_war_widows_plight/

Eric,
I'm not going to belabor the "does he care or not" point. I've said my piece.

I'm disappointed that you ran away from my question. I don't want to waste time scrolling through your archives hoping to find where you stand. A simple sentence or two from you here would suffice.

And yes, the Shia and Sunni have been in conflict with each other for hundreds (about 1400 roughly) of years. From the early days of Islam until now blood has been spilt. Hence this week's bombing of Shia in Pakistan. Surely you're not ignorant of the Shia / Sunni death squads in Iraq that have created many of the widows that you supposedly lament. The conflict between Shia and Sunni has even spread to American soil. That's not to say that they have not gotten along for periods of time. They marry each other, support each other, and at times defend each other. I am saying that their conflict, partly rooted in their branches of faith, will continue indefinately, sometimes hot, sometimes cold, depending on their religious fervor. Long after we're gone, Hussain will be mourned and accusations leveled.

So let me ask the question again Eric. Do we stay in, or come home right away?

I'm not going to belabor the "does he care or not" point. I've said my piece.

And, in turn, I won't belabor my point about your obviously fraudulent claims as to your own past support for both wars.

And yes, the Shia and Sunni have been in conflict with each other for hundreds (about 1400 roughly) of years. From the early days of Islam until now blood has been spilt. Hence this week's bombing of Shia in Pakistan. Surely you're not ignorant of the Shia / Sunni death squads in Iraq that have created many of the widows that you supposedly lament. The conflict between Shia and Sunni has even spread to American soil. That's not to say that they have not gotten along for periods of time. They marry each other, support each other, and at times defend each other.

This was largely unresponsive to my point, which was about Iraq's history. As to Iraq's post-invasion history - the death squads you cited - Visser's excerpt directly referenced them. So ignorance is a curious charge to make given the direct reference.

I am saying that their conflict, partly rooted in their branches of faith, will continue indefinately, sometimes hot, sometimes cold, depending on their religious fervor. Long after we're gone, Hussain will be mourned and accusations leveled.

Yes, but this does too much to exonerate our part in the narrative, and to misconstrue the aftermath of our departure. Iraq's history has been filled with much longer periods of peaceful coexistence than sectarian conflict. The parties that we brought in, and that came in from Iran, were some of the worst offenders in terms of death squad activity. SCIRI, now ISCI, in particular. And the sectarian quota system that we established exacerbated divisions.

So let me ask the question again Eric. Do we stay in, or come home right away?

Come home right away is not an option. It's not logistically possible. No one is even discussing that.

We come home within the time frame of the SOFA as negotiated by the Iraqi government and US government. Subject to the caveats and and analyses that are available in my many writings on the subject. But, absent some very significant incidences, we stick to that timetable - if not quicker.

My position, contra your dubious accusations, has not changed since Obama has been elected. Nor would it.

Again, contra your claims that I am some sort of Democratic Party stooge, I have already criticized Obama on certain issues, have many times criticized Democrats in the past and will continue to do so when they act in an unprincipled manner - or a less than optimal manner. I've done so on this blog repeatedly. But then, you didn't really base your piercing "insight" on actual evidence so much as your gut.

I have also supported - and voted for - Repubhlican candidates in the past and (for the moment) plan to do so again during the next mayoral election in my city. Again, as I have written on this blog. Curious behavior for such a dedicated Party apparatchik, huh?

To repeat: you didn't really base your piercing "insight" on actual evidence so much as your gut. Which you might want to check. Or compare against plenty of written words.

OCSteve: I readily admit that I may have missed Eric’s posts where he didn’t just look for some sign, any sign of failure and then use it like an “I told you so” cudgel.

OCS, you'll need more than retroactive snark tags to make that fly. I grant that some of Eric's past posts qualify for your complaint, but it's also the case that the "success in Iraq" nonsense pervaded media coverage of the Jan. 31 elections and has been the dominant theme of recent Iraq punditry -- partly because most people who acknowledge that it's a debacle don't want to talk or hear about Iraq at all.

As lj notes, Eric has written more than a few posts that are primarily analyses of where things stand inside Iraq and where things are heading -- aimed at people who haven't completely lost interest in hearing about Iraq, not "I told you so" cudgels.

Just in the last month:

The Election Biden Lost, Feb. 6 Analysis of Iraqi election results in terms of support for nationalism vs. federalism.

Yes, But Can They?, Jan. 30. Pre-election analysis, ending with this distinctly un-cudgelly passage:

Let us hope that these elections go off without any more violence, and that they can mark yet one more small step in the direction of reconciliation and a return to normalcy in Iraq. The Iraqi people deserve that and so much more after all they've endured. I'm probably somewhere between cautious optimism and pessimistic resignation in terms of the prospects.

Not to mention a boatload of posts throught the summer and fall on the security/status of forces agreement between the Maliki government and the Bush administration, most without a drop of I-told-you-so-ism ('I Wanna Be Your Backdoor Plan', Nov. 26, 2008, is typical.)

Eric's posts on Iraq, for which I'm quite grateful because so many bloggers just want the subject to go away, are a minority among his posts at ObWi. His "failure not success" posts are a minority among that minority.

So if it bothers you that much, please just don't read them.

Eric: "For the record, I was referring to the Johnny Cash version, but would give partial credit for The Band's rendition."

I'm partial to the Hazel & Alice version. Any credit for that?

Yeah, that's at least partial credit.

I never get the music references... so just for the novelty of it and since you're giving partial credit, what about http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kLPgju2LLrE>the Chieftains with Mick Jagger on vocals? It gives me the chills....

Yeah, I had never heard that one before so you get extra credit ;) Good stuff...

"Sounds just like a Politically Correct way of referring to prostitution!"

Nikah mut‘ah is "politically correct"? That's a new one on me.


“And, in turn, I won't belabor my point about your obviously fraudulent claims as to your own past support for both wars.”

Shrug.

“This was largely unresponsive to my point, which was about Iraq's history. As to Iraq's post-invasion history - the death squads you cited - Visser's excerpt directly referenced them. So ignorance is a curious charge to make given the direct reference.”

I didn’t see any “death squad” quote in the excerpt you pasted, did it mysteriously get deleted? And if it wasn’t there, why do you say Visser’s excerpt references them? Further, try comprehending what I write before your fingers hit the keyboard. I said, “surely you’re not ignorant”, i.e. meaning I expect you to be well aware of the death squads. Not so hard to understand is it?

Your response about Iraq’s Shia / Sunni history, did not address my point. Visser’s, and your point by extension, is that Iraqi’s Shia Sunni history has not been all that violent. Okay. My point is that Shia and Sunni have been at war, to one degree or another since early Islam. And my point, the more important of the two, is the over-arching aspect of the theological, and political struggle between the two groups will continue to take its toll in Iraq. Especially since the foot of Saddam’s regime has been removed and Iran has a direct interest in the success of the Shia there. That is why I mentioned the situation in Pakistan – that the Shia have been suffering there for a long time. As Islamic fervor grows, the tension between the two groups increases. But, I disagree with Visser, and you, in that I don’t want Americans to stay in Iraq to fix their problem. We can’t fix it, and it isn’t our responsibility.

“Yes, but this does too much to exonerate our part in the narrative, and to misconstrue the aftermath of our departure. Iraq's history has been filled with much longer periods of peaceful coexistence than sectarian conflict. The parties that we brought in, and that came in from Iran, were some of the worst offenders in terms of death squad activity. SCIRI, now ISCI, in particular. And the sectarian quota system that we established exacerbated divisions.”

First of all, I made no attempt to exonerate our actions. This is another one of your faulty assumptions. By removing Saddam, we opened up a new Pandora’s box. How many Shia had he murdered over the years? Now the religious and political tensions that are organic to the two faiths are blooming. Religious leaders on both sides are urging action against the other. One Sunni school of theology, and a handful of Sunni clerics declare that Shia are apostates. It’s an unstable, simmering pot. A few months may be calm and hopeful, a few months later it will boil over. I truly hope I am wrong, but I think it is going to be messy for a long time.

And I think you agree with me don’t you Eric? You don’t harbor an illusion that Iraq is going to be one big happy family after we leave do you? A few months ago you wrote, “What of the Iranian-backed political parties (ISCI, Dawa) that are getting stronger?” And, “One of the biggest issues looming on Iraq's horizon, and most important in terms of bearing out the KK & K claim that the sectarian war has in fact "ended," isn't even included as one of the 18 benchmarks.”

And today,
“First, we agree that the Iraq was is not over. US soldiers are still being killed at a rate of one every other day - which is an improvement as experienced over the past eight months or so.” And, “ Similarly, Iraqi civilian and security forces deaths from political violence have dropped to the still horrific average of about 300 a month over the same eight month period (with even steeper drops in January and, thus far, February). So, no, the war is not over as much as it's been brought to a lower level of intensity in many regions of the country (less so in the increasingly volatile north).”

The intensity of the clash ebbs and flows, but it ain’t over (we agree!). If the warrior-class factions are getting stronger, and the sectarian war hasn’t ended, what kind of aftermath do you expect? Aren’t the many widows that you mentioned primarily a result of the sectarian violence? You think the widows will forget? Shia women have gone out and targeted Sunni women! You think the 3 SOFA years are going to make it all go away? You think the Iranian political interests are going to disappear? You think the Sunni clerics are going to back off of their rhetoric about the Shia? I don’t. I remember attending a class in a Sunni English speaking mosque and heard accusations leveled against the Shia by the Muslims there attending the class! The Shia and Sunni are not going to hug and kiss and make up once the last America leaves. There is too much religious and political power at stake. And unlike you, I don’t want America to be their referee or nanny.

I’m saying that the sectarian violence is going to continue for a long time after we’re gone. Do you disagree?

So, I do not exonerate our actions, but unlike you, I put the majority of blame on the Iraqis, and others, who are committing the murders, not on the Americans. Sure we went in when we shouldn’t have, and our bombs and bullets have killed civilians, but nobody is forcing the death squads or suicide bombers into action.

“Come home right away is not an option. It's not logistically possible. No one is even discussing that.
We come home within the time frame of the SOFA as negotiated by the Iraqi government and US government. Subject to the caveats and and analyses that are available in my many writings on the subject. But, absent some very significant incidences, we stick to that timetable - if not quicker.”

Let me say “thank you” for answering the question.

Logistically we could be out of there by in large in 6 months.
So, even though you don’t think the surge has worked, (or do you think it has it worked? Even Obama has flip-flopped on this) you’re willing to sacrifice American lives for the next 3 years? How many more billions are we going to burn? Isn’t our economy bad enough? SOFA’s three years is 2 and a half years too long. Today an Iraqi policeman killed 4 American soldiers! No sir, it is not worth the cost of American life and dollars. It only weakens us. Even though we agree that we should get out of Iraq quickly, unlike you, I am not willing to have Americans pay in blood and dollars for the next 3 years.

But, I disagree with Visser, and you, in that I don’t want Americans to stay in Iraq to fix their problem. We can’t fix it, and it isn’t our responsibility.

Um, neither Visser nor myself think this. I've been calling for withdrawal for years now. Which you would now if you actually read me instead of assuming all this bad faith. Largely on the basis that we "can't fix it." Though on issues of responsibility, we may differ a bit.

Obama says most of the 140,000 troops out by August 2010 (18 months from now). The rest (30,00-40,000) home by Dec 2011 as per the SOFA.

I would prefer a quicker timeline, so in this I disagree with Obama (again!, I'm such a bad Party apparatchik!). And in this I agree with you.

But, again, I've been calling for withdrawal for some time now. I think 6 months is a stretch, but somewhere between 12-16 could be achieved without excess hardship. Unfortunately, Bush didn't give Obama a head start. Quite the opposite.

On sectarianism: of course violence will continue. My objections to the invocation of sectarian history are in the contexts of people arguing two points: that we are not culpable for what we've unleashed and we can't leave because there will be violence in the aftermath. Also, I think that we ignore large strands of Iraqi society that are nationalistic, and not sectarian. Often because nationalists are, by virtue, hostile to foreign occupiers.

After all, it was Bill Kristol and Paul Wolfowitz arguing before the invasion that there was no history of sectarian violence in Iraq, so nothing to worry about there.

And, even then, I do think that Iraq will stabilize to a level of peaceful coexistence because it has always done so in the past. It's history is marked more by such coexistence than by violence.

Even Saddam's Shiite crackdowns were a more recent phenomenon - and in some ways explainable by other conditions.

As his political/economic power waned in post-Iran war era, and then the era of the sanctions, and Shiite religious groups became politically active, Saddam withdrew into an ever tighter circle first of sect, then of tribe, then of city (Tikrit). In that defensive crouch, he was intolerant of dissenting Shiite voices - and, obviously, crushed armed Shiite separatist revolts.

But before that time, the Baath was much more inclusive. Iraqi society will be again, even if violent spasms await in the near future.

Sorry you guys, mea culpa for not having read ALL the comments here before posting.
If I did that, I think that I would spend my day in my bathrobe...
Thank you, Eric, for what I consider to be very interesting and responsible journalism, on a topic that I would probably not have thought about in my all so BUSY daily life.
I thought that you all might like to get a glimpse of what this kind of article can do (to me, at least).
At some point in time, I like to take the figures, and with my imagination, GIVE A FACE to all of these women. Try to imagine all of their necessarily DIFFERENT situations.
Pulling up the faces from behind the numbers, and the WORDS, too, while we're at it, can be pretty mind-boggling, if you try it.
Also, if you try to imagine that all of those people are REALLY your neighbors, in the words of someone very famous who I don't need to identify here, I think.
And that all of this COULD be happening to you, if you had the ill luck to be born in a different country, for example.
When it doesn't make me weep, it makes me hold my tongue about my country's (but rest assured, it could be ANY powerful country doing this, not just the U.S.) insistence on defending hollow and abstract words (even if I suppose, in a rather cynical manner, that my country is defending all too concrete access to oil).
You really have to leave the U.S. to understand just exactly why our country is not idealized abroad. Not at all.

Thanks Debra. Agree completely with your sentiments.

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