Thursday, May 25, 2006

Preaching to the choir

I've come across this essay several times in the past couple of days - I think Instapundit had it, and I know Jeff Goldstein over at PW did, and I just saw that Pejman at the mellifluous A Chequer-Board of Nights and Days does as well. The terrible misfortune of it all is that not a mind will be changed. Those whose minds are made up won't even read it, much less be influenced by it, because Opinion Journal is after all a mouthpiece for the Administration. But still...

Iraqis can participate in three historic elections, pass the most liberal constitution in the Arab world, and form a unity government despite terrorist attacks and provocations. Yet for some critics of the president, these are minor matters. Like swallows to Capistrano, they keep returning to the same allegations--the president misled the country in order to justify the Iraq war; his administration pressured intelligence agencies to bias their judgments; Saddam Hussein turned out to be no threat since he didn't possess weapons of mass destruction; and helping democracy take root in the Middle East was a postwar rationalization. The problem with these charges is that they are false and can be shown to be so--and yet people continue to believe, and spread, them.

Of course Mr. Wehner proceeds to demonstrate the falseness of the charges, so that all of us who do read OJ can nod our heads vigorously. But in a week in which a skinny wide-eyed kid claims to be a Ranger (and Special Forces to boot) and proceeds to "admit" to military atrocities rivalling WWII propaganda (on both sides!) about what the enemy would do to "our" women and children if they could, it's got to be worth something to stand up for the verifiable.

In case any benighted soul reading this thinks Jesse MacBeth has a shred of credibility left after his pathetic impersonation attempt, click the link, click the link; he's at best delusional, and at worst malevolent.


Cobra said...

You might want to check out reports on the Haditha Incident before totally throwing Jesse McBeth under the bus.

Could this be My Lai 2005

Let's also realize what's being done here. I work with a woman who's 19 year old son recently returned from an Iraq tour where he was guarding prisoners. He brought back pictures of what some of his "job" entailed, which was cataloging dead Iraqis, some horribly dismembered--internal organs and tissue exposed. He also went through counseling here stateside, to try to deal with some of the horror.
Yet, in the effort to "stay the course" with a volunteer millitary is sending back troops for two, three or more tours. What's the psycological damage being done by this? This is a war with objectives that our soldiers are INCAPABLE of accomplishing. You can't "shoot" or "bomb" fueding sectarians into cooperation.
Furthermore, we have armed contractors (mercenaries) roaming the countryside by the tens of thousands with no authority or code of conduct. Who polices their activities? Who did background checks on them? Did you realize that they may not be subject to any stiffer punishment for attrocities than potentially losing a paycheck?

This war is a QUAGMIRE. I know we disagree on this one, but what besides building permanent bases the size of Sacramento, and the largest foreign embassy in the world (the size of the Vatican, with non-Iraqi labor albeit) are we accomplishing?


Jamie said...

Cobra -

Nice to hear from you, in spite of our perpetual disagreement on this matter! Have a good long weekend.

I'll check out the Haditha Incident as you suggest (unlike Truthout, I'm way behind the news cycle at present!), and I deplore the recent accounts of not just indiscriminate killing of civilians by some Marines but also the possibility that people up the ladder tried to sweep those killings under the rug... but, like Ivory Soap, we appear to be running a 99 44/100% pure war here. (Obviously I haven't worked the percentages, but you get my drift.)

Concerning MacBeth, you're using an end-vs.-means argument, or, if you prefer, a fake-but-accurate argument. He deserves nothing better than a philosophical "throwing under the bus" (I hate that phrase!); it's not copacetic to try to make a case by dint of bald-faced lies that accuse not just yourself but others of horrors, even if other horrors may have taken place. Go with the true ones - or your point is meaningless.

As for the quagmire. I'm going to post on it next - but it's Victor David Hansen, so I don't imagine he'll change your mind! I only hope that someday you and the many who believe what you do about what our actions in Iraq have wrought will be willing to admit that Iraq is better off now than it was before, that the world is better off with Saddam behind bars, Syria out of Lebanon, Qaddafi renouncing nuclear ambitions, Iran out in the open, ditto Hamas, and democratic protests in the Arab world actually taking place in an atmosphere of something other than desperation and hopelessness. Surely that admission won't cost you all too much... just wait until you've catalogued enough gaffes and losses in the present day to make the against-the-odds victories of what is now the past lose their luster. (I think many believe that day has already arrived; hence the continued throwing around of "quagmire" in spite of Iraqis' continuing successes in the face of both sectarian violence and a world community that seems bent on their failure. Goalposts ought always to be built on wheels; it makes the game so much more interesting!)

Cobra said...

Have a great weekend yourself!
I'm not going to personally vouch for Jesse MacBeth, but I know what the Taguba report said about Abu Ghraib.
Taguba spells Trouble with a Capital T

I know the accounts of mercenaries (contractors) shooting Iraqi civilians at random from cars.
Murderous Mercenaries

I know that the US military used WHITE PHOSPHORUS
, deemed in the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1997 to be an OUTLAWED CHEMICAL WEAPON, especially in civilian areas.
I know that the US military used this "outlawed chemical weapon" because they admitted such:

>>>"US troops used white phosphorus as a weapon in last year's offensive in the Iraqi city of Falluja, the US has said.
"It was used as an incendiary weapon against enemy combatants," spokesman Lt Col Barry Venable told the BBC - though not against civilians, he said.

The US had earlier said the substance - which can cause burning of the flesh - had been used only for illumination.

BBC defence correspondent Paul Wood says having to retract its denial is a public relations disaster for the US.

Col Venable denied that white phosphorous constituted a banned chemical weapon.

"White phosphorus is an incendiary weapon, not a chemical weapon"

--Col Barry Venable
Pentagon spokesman
US military interview

Washington is not a signatory to an international treaty restricting the use of the substance against civilians."

A chemical used as a weapon is NOT a chemical weapon because we say so

Contrary to what the good Colonel may believe, Fallujah is a CITY where civilians live. Hundreds of civilian casualties have been reported during the various assaults on the city. And remember, this is all taking place AFTER the fall of the Hussein regime.
Now, I'll admit that Fox News or the Wall Street Journal isn't going to EVER lead with these FACTS, but I'm not going to ignore what my own eyes and ears are telling me, which is that this is an unmitigated disaster.

If you just watched your mother, father or children being burned alive with white phosphorous,watched your friends shot by coalition snipers during those "shoot on sight night curfews", or witnessed beatings, sexual abominations, rape and prison torture-- is your first thought going to be, "God bless America for liberating us?" I would believe that if somebody's loved ones were killed by a foreign occupying force that FIGHTING BACK would be on their agenda, if not aiding and abetting those in the insurgency.
Apparently, that is hard for those still in favor of this effort to see. It's as though some (not all) believe that Iraqis aren't people like us...that they don't have a sense of justice, fairness, nationalism or dignity.
Some actually believe that the Iraqi people are stupid...that they'll accept services and infrastructure far worse than under Saddam; that they'll accept Madi Militia death squads under Shia clerics instead of legitimate police; that they'll buy this nonsense about rebuilt schools when threats of kidnapping means kids have to stay locked up inside, during 120 degree summer heat, with no air conditioning, 2 hours of electricity and water that may or may not have been contaminated by our depleted uranium assaults.

Maybe this kind of logic works in right winged circles. It doesn't work in mine. You have legitimate arguments in favor of this war, however right now, the equation that Iraqis are somehow better off now doesn't add up for me.


Kirbside said...

CObra -

I currently have an Iraqi working for me. He was forced to serve in the Iraqi army at age 9. He served in the first Gulf War Against the United States. He did his best to keep his head down and he made it out. He doesnt hate the United States, he wishes this happened sooner.

Accross the street from me is a German woman who was Bombed by allied forces. Where was she? Hamburg. does she Hate the Allies? No, she knew it was war, and that her leadders were wrong. Imagine her horror as a child watching Hamburg burn, along with over 16000 women and 8000 children?

Murder is murder, if that happened in Haditha the Marines involved should be punished.

Yet we walk so softly in this war...

My Lai was over 500 people murdered... This investigation is about 2 dozen...

Why is everyone looking to see Vietnam? My lai, quagmire, etc.

Strange, I don't see it.

Cobra said...

Kirbside writes:

>>>"I currently have an Iraqi working for me. He was forced to serve in the Iraqi army at age 9. He served in the first Gulf War Against the United States. He did his best to keep his head down and he made it out. He doesnt hate the United States, he wishes this happened sooner."

Kirbside, let me first say that I believe everything you're saying is true. I really do. There are Iraqi-ex patriots in America who petitioned and rallied alongside the neo-cons to get this war going. Most of the ex-pats are law abiding, decent people who wanted to see their homeland changed. Some, like Ahmed Chalabi are not so benevolent.
I was against this war from the beginning because I don't believe in the neo-conservative Project for the New American Century initiative. I believe most of America is still in the dark about how nefarious these guys are, and what their true intentions are. Bernard Weiner, Co-editor of "The Crisis Papers" sheds light in his PNAC PRIMER

>>>"In 1992, then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney had a strategy report drafted for the Department of Defense, written by Paul Wolfowitz, then Under-Secretary of Defense for Policy. In it, the U.S. government was urged, as the world's sole remaining Superpower, to move aggressively and militarily around the globe. The report called for pre-emptive attacks and ad hoc coalitions, but said that the U.S. should be ready to act alone when "collective action cannot be orchestrated." The central strategy was to "establish and protect a new order" that accounts "sufficiently for the interests of the advanced industrial nations to discourage them from challenging our leadership," while at the same time maintaining a military dominance capable of "deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role." Wolfowitz outlined plans for military intervention in Iraq as an action necessary to assure "access to vital raw material, primarily Persian Gulf oil" and to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and threats from terrorism."

As you can see, the fix was in. Pre-emptive war was inevitable. It didn't matter whether the reasons were valid.
Some more PNAC fright:

>>>"Various HardRight intellectuals outside the government were spelling out the new PNAC policy in books and influential journals. Zalmay M. Khalilzad (formerly associated with big oil companies, currently U.S. Special Envoy to Afghanistan & Iraq ) wrote an important volume in 1995, "From Containment to Global Leadership: America & the World After the Cold War," the import of which was identifying a way for the U.S. to move aggressively in the world and thus to exercise effective control over the planet's natural resources. A year later, in 1996, neo-conservative leaders Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan, in their Foreign Affairs article "Towards a Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy," came right out and said the goal for the U.S. had to be nothing less than "benevolent global hegemony," a euphemism for total U.S. domination, but "benevolently" exercised, of course."

So the Neo-cons want to do exactly what Cold War Conservatives warned that the evil empire of the Soviet Union wanted to do...

Take over the world.

Actually, I really CAN pictue Dick Cheney in a grey jump-suit with a pinky in his sneering mouth.

You want some more?

>>>"Feeling confident that all plans were on track for moving aggressively in the world, the Bush Administration in September of 2002 published the "National Security Strategy of the United States of America." The official policy of the U.S. government, as proudly proclaimed in this major document, is virtually identical to the policy proposals in the various white papers of the Project for the New American Century and others like it over the past decade.

Chief among them are: 1) the policy of "pre-emptive" war -- i.e., whenever the U.S. thinks a country may be amassing too much power and/or could provide some sort of competition in the "benevolent hegemony" region, it can be attacked, without provocation. (A later corollary would rethink the country's atomic policy: nuclear weapons would no longer be considered defensive, but could be used offensively in support of political/economic ends; so-called "mini-nukes" could be employed in these regional wars.) 2) international treaties and opinion will be ignored whenever they are not seen to serve U.S. imperial goals. 3) The new policies "will require bases and stations within and beyond Western Europe and Northeast Asia."

In short, the Bush Administration seems to see the U.S., admiringly, as a New Rome, an empire with its foreign legions (and threat of "shock & awe" attacks, including with nuclear weapons) keeping the outlying colonies, and potential competitors, in line. Those who aren't fully in accord with these goals better get out of the way; "you're either with us or against us."

Scary stuff. You'd think it was a bad Hollywood movie script.


Jamie said...

Cobra, PNAC is such a bogeyman... yet it's the same thing we were doing when the Soviet Union stood across the globe from us - and they were bent on the same thing but without the civil liberties we take for granted. American hegemony? Bring it on, I say... because the U.N. is toothless, gutless, utterly free from any sense of irony (check out who's on the Human Rights Council during this cycle, for instance), dithering, corrupt, and worse than useless because its existence implies that we, the law-abiding nations of the world, should defer to it - but the Security Council veto, which seemed like a good idea at the time, has become an easy out for the higest bidder, to grossly mix metaphors.

Deep breath. All that is from a former staunch supporter of the U.N. and, in fact, actual world government in the sense that, now, in my middle years, I'm suspecting may only be possible in science fiction. If the U.N. were doing its job, the U.S. wouldn't have to.

But they're not, and unless we want to (try to!) withdraw to our continental borders, pull in our skirts, militarize the entire border and kiss our freedom of movement goodbye, somebody has to - and we're the only somebody who can. Far better that we retain our willingness to use our might in conjunction with our national commitment to the Rights of Man than that we abdicate our place as the sole remaining superpower and leave the rest of the world to fight it out like Kilkenny cats. Can we ride to the rescue of every victim? Nope. Would we if we could? A moot question, because it's patently impossible: there are too many bad actors, too many victims, and only one U.S. with one volunteer military and finite other resources. So we prioritize and act on the basis of our national interest - which is what nations do. Even little ones. One just doesn't notice their doing it so much, because when Sri Lanka boycotts Chinese goods or French Guiana sends whatever military it has to patrol its border with Brazil, it's a "statement" rather than a hammer.

We have a hammer. Hell, we have the whole workbench - or arsenal, if you prefer. We have shown incredible restraint in deploying it, and when we have used it, we've bent over backwards as a nation, every time, to use it with continued restraint. So the Haditha story (about which all details are not known - by anyone -but for the sake of this discussion I'll stipulate terrible wrongdoing) is the super-outlier. The fact that this story, 24 dead and recovered bullets indicating maybe only two guns fired, a "coverup" that couldn't last out a year and, if it occurred, is a clear indication that the crimes committed are crimes and not "a pattern of wartime atrocities," is the most damning one to emerge - that fact alone indicates how carefully we wield this hammer of ours. After all, if My Lais were thick on the ground, it's not as if there aren't a whoooole lot of people hoping to win Pulitzers by bringing them to light, now, is it?

Mark Steyn put Haditha, and Abu Ghraib for that matter, into perspective:

"And all I want to say about this is that there are good reasons for going to war, and there are respectable reasons for opposing the war with Iraq. But if you supported the war with Iraq, then this doesn't change anything. [I might add that if you didn't support the war, and your reasons for not supporting it were anything other than "Because the American military machine is out of control! A bunch of apes with guns!" then it shouldn't change anything for you, either. Whether that's true for you personally, Cobra, is a question I can't answer.] Bad things happen in every war. Your compatriots, my compatriots, Americans, Canadians, Britons, Australians, New Zealanders have all done terrible, horrible things in war. And that doesn't deny the rightness and the justice of their cause, and the merit of those wars, and the value of those victories. There are 150,000 coalition troops in Iraq. Even if 1,500 of them behaved terribly, that would still mean that 99% of coalition forces behave perfectly, and behave impeccably. And people are very stupid and lazy if they think this changes the rationale and the morality of the war."

I've got to get dinner on the table here - but the prospect of American hegemony is far more attractive to me than, say, the prospect of Chinese hegemony, or (like it could ever happen) Sudanese hegemony. You know? American hegemony is a fact of life, by dint of our economic influence alone, to which our cultural influence is an accompaniment. We could nuke North Korea tomorrow - but we won't. We could invade France and take all the wine - but instead we grow our own grapes, make our own wine, and win French wine competitions. We could force the U.N. out of existence - I think - but instead we dither right alongside the hand-wringers there, preferring to use diplomacy in nearly every instance. But when we choose force over diplomacy after a decade of dither and in the face of apparent asymmetric threat (which can't be effectively defended against - that's why "asymmetric"), we're an evil imperialist(?!) bully and PNAC is the Antichrist. Forgive me if I fail to hide my face in shame.

Cobra said...


I'm off to Maryland as soon as I finish typing but I'll be brief. You make many valid points, many of which I disagree with, but I respect, as always, your opinion.

I think that sometimes, maybe unintentionally, but sometimes, you project your altruistic viewpoints onto the foreign policy of the Bush Administration, the neo-cons (one in the same, if you ask me) and the industrio-military complex, which happens to be one of the greatest profit generating instruments known to man.

I don't share your altruism about all of this. I don't share your enthusiasm to create an American Empire, because at the heart of any such venture is greed. Corporate privitization and exploitation of the natural resources (or low wage/slave labor) of other countries not powerful enough to defend themselves.
I've got to run, but ponder this...exactly what argument could we make against China if they decide that Taiwan poses "an imminent threat" to them?