August 21, 2003

Blaming America First

Jessica Stern in the New York Times says every problem in Iraq is our fault.

Yesterday's bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad was the latest evidence that America has taken a country that was not a terrorist threat and turned it into one.
Ah, yes. Here we go again. Baathist or Islamist terrorists kill UN humanitarian workers, and it’s America’s fault. We made them do it. Everything is our fault, from hot weather in France to terrorism in the Middle East. Sigh. Big sigh.

Not to mention the fact that Saddam Hussein was the patron and armorer of international terrorists long before we got there. And the fact that he is no longer means Iraq is less of a terrorist threat than it was. At least the threat is different. It certainly isn’t brand new.

Also, for the most part, terrorists in Iraq and those who sneak in from elsewhere now resort to impaling themselves on American soldiers rather than on civilians. That is exactly what we should want.

Of course, we should be glad that the Iraq war was swifter than even its proponents had expected, and that a vicious tyrant was removed from power.
At least she gets that much right.
But
There is always a “but”
the aftermath has been another story. America has created — not through malevolence but through negligence — precisely the situation the Bush administration has described as a breeding ground for terrorists: a state unable to control its borders or provide for its citizens' rudimentary needs.
See. Again. We created the miserable state of Iraq. Not Saddam. Not the Baath Party. We did that. Says she.
As the administration made clear in its national security strategy released last September, weak states are as threatening to American security as strong ones.
True enough, again.
Yet its inability to get basic services and legitimate governments up and running in post-war Afghanistan and Iraq — and its pursuant reluctance to see a connection between those failures and escalating anti-American violence — leave one wondering if it read its own report.
Obviously there is a connection between anti-American violence and the failure to get services up and running. The Baathists keep cutting the power lines. And, not coincidentally, they are the same people who kill American soldiers. Anyone who watches the news or reads the paper knows this, but she thinks the Administration doesn’t know it? Please.
For example, the American commander in Iraq, Gen. John Abizaid, has described the almost daily attacks on his troops as guerrilla campaigns carried out by Baathist remnants with little public support. Yet an increasing number of Iraqis disagree: they believe that the attacks are being carried out by organized forces — motivated by nationalism, Islam and revenge — that feed off public unhappiness.

According to a survey this month by the Iraq Center for Research and Strategic Studies, nearly half of the Iraqis polled attribute the violence to provocation by American forces or resistance to the occupation (even more worrisome, the Arabic word for "resistance" used in the poll implies a certain amount of sympathy for the perpetrators). In the towns of Ramadi and Falluja, where many of the recent attacks have taken place, nearly 90 percent of respondents attributed the attacks to these causes.

A quick Google search reveals that the towns of Ramadi and Falluja are in the small Sunni triangle, the hotbed region of Baath Party support. A poll from these towns does not in any way represent Iraqi opinion. It took me literally fifteen seconds of Internet research to figure this out. Readers of the New York Times deserve better thinking and reporting than this.

It is noteworthy that writers who like to dwell on America’s supposed failures do not mention public opinion in northern Iraqi Kurdistan where the vast majority of the population supports America to the hilt.

Why would ordinary Iraqis not rush to condemn violence against the soldiers who liberated them from Saddam Hussein? Mustapha Alani, an Iraqi scholar with the Royal United Services Institute in London, gave me a possible explanation: even in the darkest days of the Iran-Iraq war, most Iraqis (other than Kurds and Marsh Arabs) did not have to worry about personal security. They could not speak their minds, but they could count on electricity, water and telephone service for at least part of the day. Today they fear being attacked in their bedrooms; power, water and telephones are routinely unavailable. As Mr. Alani put it, Iraqis today could could care less about democracy, they just want assurance that their daughters won't be raped or their sons kidnapped en route to the grocery store.
The Iraqi regime had an official job description called “Violator of Women’s Honor.” That title no longer exists. And the regime no longer kidnaps anyone on the way to the grocery store. Those who posed the primary threat to the well-being of the Iraqi citizenry have been dramatically weakened by regime-removal. Iraqis may still live in fear, but they live in fear of the very same people who tortured and imprisoned them for decades in the first place. It is not American soldiers who kidnap and rape; it is other Iraqis.

And the reason that ordinary Iraqis do not rush to condemn the terrorist violence is because they fear Saddam will come back, and because “collaborators” have been killed by the Baath Party remnants.

Instead of mentioning any of this, she quotes a person in London who says Iraqis (other than those who were the victims of genocide, as if that’s only a footnote) were previously kept safe and sound by the regime. As if it looked out for their welfare. As if we do not.

Blaming the violence on isolated Baath loyalists was perhaps more plausible when the violence was centered in the Sunni heartland. But the recent riots in the southern Shiite city of Basra, and the sabotage of a major oil pipeline in the Kurdish north, make clear that other regions may not be peaceable indefinitely.
The violence is still centered in the Sunni triangle. Rioting in Basra apparently had little to do with the Baath Party, but it certainly isn’t terrorism. Every country experiences rioting, even the United States.

And so what if a pipeline in the Kurdish north has been sabotoged? If the act was committed by Kurds, it was almost certainly committed by the almost universally loathed Ansar Al Islam, Al Qaeda’s arm in Iraq. It does not mean that we suck. It means there are still enemies, the hated enemies of the people of Iraq, that we need to root out.

Shiites widely supported the operation to remove Saddam Hussein, but they are furious about what they see as American incompetence since the war.
Let them be furious. That does not make them terrorists. They have every right to be furious, and I mean that in both senses of the word “right.” There are problems, and there is cause to be angry. More importantly, they now have a right to be mad. We won’t run steamrollers over them or make them drink gasoline because they’re upset. Nor will we put them in meat grinders or cut out their tongues. Don’t think the Iraqis don’t welcome the right to be angry for once in their lives.
This set the stage for religious extremists.
Come off it. Iraq is an overwhelmingly Muslim country. In the 21st century, that sets the stage for religious extremists. We have plenty of our own religious extremists, and we certainly did not create that impulse from scratch in a Middle Eastern country.

(Skipping ahead, the article is a long one…)

As bad as the situation inside Iraq may be, the effect that the war has had on terrorist recruitment around the globe may be even more worrisome. Even before the coalition troops invaded, a senior [unnamed, -ed.] United States counterterrorism official told reporters that "an American invasion of Iraq is already being used as a recruitment tool by Al Qaeda and other groups.”
Of course this is true, but so what? A primary feature of Al Qaeda’s propaganda before September 11 was that the United States was a paper tiger, that we were weak and would not fight back as the Soviets did in Afghanistan, that defeating us would be easy. You won’t hear that in the recruitment tapes anymore. I'll gladly make that trade.

Her conclusion is more reasonable.

The goal of creating a better Iraq is a noble one, but a first step will be making sure that ordinary Iraqis find America's ideals and assistance more appealing than Al Qaeda's.
But the shoddy thinking throughout is unfortunate. Terrorism is blamed on America. Religious extremism is blamed on America. Sabotage is blamed on America. Every problem is blamed on America.

The same sort of thinking during World War II would have blamed Nazism and Japanese Imperialism on America, and probably on Winston Churchill to boot. Nazi atrocities would have been blamed on America because taking them on made them mad.

Her resume is impressive. She has studied this subject much more than I have.

Therefore she has no excuse.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at August 21, 2003 12:37 AM
Comments

Bravo!

Posted by: Alex Knapp at August 21, 2003 01:47 AM

But we were responsible for Pearl Harbor and WWII. Don't you know about our humiliation of the Japanese at Versailles? The Naval treaties? Our support for Israel, oh sorry - I mean China? Roosevelt's Oil for Food, sorry - I mean Oil Embargo. Our troops in Saudi Arabia, sorry - I mean the Phillipeans?

When are you going to accept that all problems are our creation and everything is our fault?

These analysts - Stern's ideas are a dime a dozen - are appalling in their utter lack of critical thinking and the careless approach to cause and effect. But what should we expect, she's an academic afterall. In that respect, the few drops of commons sense are a pleasant surprise.

Posted by: Tokyo Taro at August 21, 2003 02:28 AM

Michael:

I added your blog to my reading list because I needed a "Moderately leftist" blog for balance. You're really screwing up the system here with these "Moderately rightist" posts!

I agree with what you're saying but since you are an American, it is all your fault.

Semper Fi

Posted by: RickM at August 21, 2003 04:17 AM

The latest from Kofi Annan is that even if the U.N. did turn down the offer of extra security from the U.S. for their Headquarters, the U.S. should have provided it anyway.

Excuse me? If we had we would have been castigated for drawing the terrorists to the building.

It's the Americans fault? But of course.

Semper Fi

Posted by: RickM at August 21, 2003 04:26 AM

"Dime a dozen" is right. This reminds me of the shoddy thinking I exhibited myself in the 70's. But then I grew up. Apparently the shock of 9/11 was not sufficient (Or "Did we have it coming to us, Jessica?") to jar her out of the deep ruts of her intellectual torpor. I saw her on television last night, whoring the results. Ashleigh Banfield glasses and all. Somebody get this woman a stylist.

Posted by: Rebecca at August 21, 2003 04:29 AM

Thanks Micheal. I read the op/ed piece and with no intellectual analysis at all, said, "ewweee," the NYT does not hide it's bias. The point by point, "you're saying what, now?" points the way to more careful analysis.

Rebecca, in the comment above one question? Is the reason for begging for a stylist that the woman's views are only worth TV time because she is TV attractive? Trash her ideas, trash her style, but could we possibly separate them?

Posted by: D'Loye at August 21, 2003 08:21 AM

I love polls. They allow intolerant dogmatic intellectual bigots like Dr Stern to make lies like these:

According to a survey this month by the Iraq Center for Research and Strategic Studies, nearly half of the Iraqis polled attribute the violence to provocation by American forces or resistance to the occupation (even more worrisome, the Arabic word for "resistance" used in the poll implies a certain amount of sympathy for the perpetrators). In the towns of Ramadi and Falluja, where many of the recent attacks have taken place, nearly 90 percent of respondents attributed the attacks to these causes.

The term "nearly half" is meaningless. It might mean 49%, or it might mean 39%. Even if we give her the benefit of the doubt, the rest of her assertion is still preposterous, like saying "nearly half the residents of West Virginia and Kentucky attribute the violence to either the Hatfields or the McCoys." This is not only intellectually dishonest, it's morally bankrupt.

Forgive me Michael, but I stopped reading your post after I read that paragraph of hers. Hers was not an opinion column, it was a disgraceful and dishonest piece of bald propaganda.

And here's something she didn't report. The "Iraq Center for Research and Strategic Studies" is a local organization which conducted a poll in June, and was hired by our own USAID to conduct three more, in Aug, Sep and Oct. Here's what they said after their first one:

CBS reported in June that the first-ever opinion poll of liberated Iraq (conducted by the Iraq Center for Research and Strategic Studies) found that 65 percent of Bagdad residents want U.S. troops to stay until Iraq is stable, and only 17 percent want them to leave now.

"Nearly half" indeed.

Posted by: Hovig John Heghinian at August 21, 2003 08:24 AM

That was beautiful. Bravo, indeed.

Posted by: linden at August 21, 2003 08:45 AM

Yet another example of why the New York Times' credibility is declining. Perhaps the elites in Manhattan buy, and perhaps applaud, the "blame America first" line, but the majority of Americans do not.

Thank you, Michael, for your critical analysis of this piece of tripe.

Posted by: Jamie Jacoby at August 21, 2003 08:57 AM

Jamie,

I wonder about the Manhatten elites sometimes. The New Yorker is just as liberal as the Times and even more elitist. But it is also much smarter than the tripe I fisked above.

The difference is in the editor, not the target audience. The New Yorker is edited by David Remnick, who won the Pultizer Prize for Lenin's Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire. That book is the most riveting piece of history I have ever read in my life.

The liberal elitist Manhatten audience loves Remnick's work, as do I. The Times is not pandering so much as just sucking.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 21, 2003 09:12 AM

I don't get it -- why does saying that we did something which had an inevitable result of more terrorism or Islamic extremism mean that we're irrationally blaming America first?

An extreme analogy:
The mayor of Cleveland fires the entire police department in a fit of pique. The crime rate skyrockets. Now, is the mayor personally responsible for the crimes? Of course not; the individual criminals are still responsible for their actions. But would it be sensible to say that the mayor is responsible for the crime wave? Yes. It is perfectly reasonable to assign blame to (or call for changes in policy of) someone who makes the actions of another more or less inevitable.

Posted by: Kimmitt at August 21, 2003 09:42 AM

{I don't get it -- why does saying that we did something which had an inevitable result of more terrorism or Islamic extremism mean that we're irrationally blaming America first?} What did we do? Confront the terrorists and make them mad? Oh, I get it--murdering is only a right of oppressed poor terrorists. We're just unworthy infidels who deserve to die.
US wanted more security--UN did not want it. Period.

Posted by: Kat at August 21, 2003 10:08 AM

Kimmit,

With all due respect, I'd have to say you are right, you don't get it. Look at Stern's first sentence:
Yesterday's bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad was the latest evidence that America has taken a country that was not a terrorist threat and turned it into one. As Michael points out, Iraq already was a terrorist threat before we got there. What we're dealing with now is the remnants of what was there before we invaded, not something that sprang up spontaeously in response to our occupation.
Posted by: David Hogberg at August 21, 2003 10:09 AM

The war on terror is worldwide. Iraq was a threat as are other muslim states. All some people want to do is turn the other cheek, appease the poor oppressed terrorists, and allow them to keep killing and blame ourselves for 911, Bali, Israel, Nigeria, Sudan. Put the frigging blame where it belongs--on bloodthirsty, barbaric islamists. The ones killing in Iraq are those afraid of Iraq's becoming a democracy.
http://www.canoe.ca/Columnists/mansur_toronto.html

Posted by: Kat at August 21, 2003 10:16 AM

MJ,
It seems like you're refusing to admit things are not as well as they should be in Iraq. We're tangled up in this thing because we decided to be. Nothing necessarily drew us in to Iraq.

As Mel Lastman, mayor of Toronto recently said, "Have you ever heard the United States take blame for anything?" There is certainly a middle between "Everything's America's Fault!" and that.

Kevin Drum recently asked where the goalposts are and this was your response:

"Kevin,

I supported the war, and for the most part I like your first list. I should add, though, that some of those list items are long-term goals and cannot be expected to materialize immedietly. I don't care about the weapons so much because I think that was the least significant reason to invade, and I said so before the war started. WMD was never a serious issue. It was a legalistic sideshow. Saddam was a threat because he was an evil genocidal fascist dictator, not because he was armed.

Your second list is a bit iffy, though, because anything on that list could happen with or without an invasion, and it would not be right to blame America for the evil actions of others."

Need I actually point out that there are quite a few evil genocidal facist dictators and we don't scurry about the world cleaning it all up? We expect more out of ourselves and our country. Or at least we should.

Stern's article isn't great, but it leaves me feeling like we can do better and I think you're being a bit sensitive.

As for most of the comments at the top of the screen, it makes me think of Winston Wolf's comment: "Nice work, but let's not start sucking each others' dicks quite yet."

brandon garcia (remember me mj?)

Posted by: bg at August 21, 2003 10:18 AM

Here's what I don't get:

Why does everyone get so heated over what gets printed in the New York Times? If you don't like it, go read the New York Post, the paper for people who think reading's for sissies. Adult life has no required curriculum. Nobody is forced to read the New York Times. Clearly (since their readership is pretty vast), a lot of people either agree with what's said in their pages, or don't care one way or another. Folks who read it just to torture themselves and fuel the day's bilious blog entry should maybe get a new hobby.

I'm not saying the points raised are invalid ones; I'm just saying, who the hell cares? There are a panoply of viewpoints available on every issue in the country or the world. Find the one you agree with, and bliss out in your cocoon.

Posted by: Phil Freeman at August 21, 2003 10:23 AM

Yes, Brandon, I agree--what right did the US have to ruin the fun of fanatics. Now they can't have their daily dose of torturing. No wonder they are mad as hell. They must be scared shitless at the prospect of Iraq's being democratized. Poor terrorists!
The following were routine in Iraq before US took out Saddam:
* Medical experimentation
* Beatings
* Crucifixion
* Hammering nails into the fingers and hands
* Amputating sex organs or breasts with an electric carving knife
* Spraying insecticides into a victim's eyes
* Branding with a hot iron
* Committing rape while the victim's spouse is forced to watch
* Pouring boiling water into the victim's rectum
* Nailing the tongue to a wooden board
* Extracting teeth with pliers
* Using bees and scorpions to sting naked children in front of their parents
ETC. Ughay and Quesay had other fun tortures.

Posted by: Kat at August 21, 2003 10:25 AM

There was a piece in todays National Post quoting the ex leader of Canada's NDP (socialist) party as saying that if she was still at her old job she would be saying "blame Bush", "blame America" etc. but she is involved in some NGO program over in Iraq for several months now and is quoted as saying that "she hasn't met anybody over here that doesn't like the Americans and what they are doing". If one of Canada's most notorious lefties can come around to seeing the truth then I have a small hope that others will too. (obviously not Jessica Stern and the New York Times though)

Posted by: BAM at August 21, 2003 10:27 AM

It is Audrey McLaughlin and she now completely supports the war on Iraq--she was extremely anti-war until she talked to Iraqis.
This is the group she was with.
http://www.ndi.org/front_page/pressrelease_072803.asp

Posted by: Kat at August 21, 2003 10:44 AM

Ah Kat, strawman, strawman, strawman. I'm not even playing this cufking game with you.

Posted by: bg at August 21, 2003 10:44 AM

No,bullshitgrinder--it is your ilk that empowers these freaks--your fifth column assembly of idiots.

Posted by: Kat at August 21, 2003 10:55 AM

Need I actually point out that there are quite a few evil genocidal facist dictators and we don't scurry about the world cleaning it all up? We expect more out of ourselves and our country.

What does this mean? That we should invade a long list of countries? Or that we should never intervene unless we declare war on half the planet all at once?

We can't intervene everywhere, but when we can we should. We have to pick our battles, and Saddam is obviously a bigger problem for us than, say, the dictatorship in Belarus.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 21, 2003 11:05 AM

Phil: There are a panoply of viewpoints available on every issue in the country or the world. Find the one you agree with, and bliss out in your cocoon.

If that's your point of view, then why bother leaving a comment on my blog if you don't agree with me?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 21, 2003 11:07 AM

Bravo for the well-deserved autopsy of this terrible and tendentious piece of writing. "They could not speak their minds, but at least they count on electricity for part of the day"--What?! Here's an alternate version: "They couldn't tell a joke about Saddam Hussein without getting their tongues amputated by doctors terrorized into perverting the Hippocratic oath, but at least if you sucked up to Saddam you could get air conditioning as long as you lived in Baghdad or Tikrit and weren't a Kurd or Shia, in which case you deserved to be tortured and buried in a mass grave" This argument borders on incoherence.

I think the current meme about terrortists being forced to hit "soft" targets and "foul their own nests" is broadly accurate. More interesting, perhaps, I think, is a less-noted effect of the many terror attacks in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Indonesia--the marginalization of suicide bombing and terrorism among Muslims and others who might have been sympathetic, or at least marginally tolerant, of it in the past.

If Ansar Al-Islam keeps killing U.N. workers and Jordanians and targeting Iraqi pipelines, the fiction that they give a tinker's damn about the Umma or the Iraqi people will only be demonstrated to be the transparent sham that it is. Even among Palestinians, I think the most recent bus bombing in Jerusalem was not greeting with red-eyed exultance but a recognition that this is imperiling the tentative gains they have made under the road map to this point. Iraqs may be pissed at the Americans, but they're just as pissed at the Arab rulers who gave Saddam a free pass to brutalize his people for 30 years. The sheer volume of cognitive dissonance which the Iraq War has produced is collossal in scale--but just as surely, many people (Iraqis, Americans, even Kofi Annan and the BBC) may think things through and come to the conclusion that their formerly held beliefs simply don't stand up to the altered reality.

The more this happens in the Arab world, the more the papier-mache mask of all Arab suffering being due to evil Americans and Jews is torn away, the healthier the world will be, espcially the Arab world. For those who say that nothing has changed, they ought to read Al-Hayat or the Memri website and see how many interesting viewpoints events in Iraq have stirred in the Arab world.

Posted by: Daniel Calto at August 21, 2003 11:19 AM

We have to pick our battles, and Saddam is obviously a bigger problem for us than, say, the dictatorship in Belarus.

I have to disagree for two reasons:

1) When overthrowing a dictator, we have to have some idea of what comes after. If the result is another dictatorship (even a somewhat more benevolent one), then the cost in American lives and resources may simply not be worth the gain.

2) Since it is now fairly clear that Saddam did not have significant stocks of chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons and was contained, I do not understand the view that Saddam was a threat to the United States. The only threat he posed was through his bank account -- he cleverly bankrolled the Palestinian suicide bombers and other mideast terror organizations. There's a fairly simple way to approach this problem, and it rhymes with "geez my stacky grass pets."

Posted by: Kimmitt at August 21, 2003 11:29 AM

I had a hard time believing what RickM said about Annan until I googled it up myself:

Mr. Annan rejected, however, Washington's reasoning that UN officials in Baghdad had refused offers by U.S. forces in Iraq to protect the compound.

"Nobody (asks) you if you want the police to patrol your neighbourhood," he said as he returned to UN headquarters after cutting short his holiday in Europe. "They make the assessment that patrol and protection is needed, and then they start, and that's what should be done in Iraq."

UN officials say the U.S., as an "occupying power," is responsible for providing security.

But they also admit they did not want to frighten ordinary Iraqis by having their compound heavily fortified.

"Security around our location was not as secure as you might find at the U.S. compound, and that was a decision we made so the offices were available to the people," said chief UN spokesman Fred Eckhard, in comments that appeared to confirm the UN had refused U.S. help. "We did not think at the time we were taking an unnecessary risk."

Incredible. Just incredible.

Posted by: Christopher Luebcke at August 21, 2003 11:35 AM

Kimmitt,

This Saddam was not so bad, he was not really a threat refrain reveals a serious lack of understanding and imagination.

First, he was an ongoing mortal threat to Iraqis, Kuwaitis, and Israelis.

Second, what if Saddam were to buy a nuclear weapon from North Korea six months from now? Ever think of that?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 21, 2003 11:38 AM

Beautiful, beautiful job ripping that piece to shreds, Michael.

Posted by: mike at August 21, 2003 11:40 AM

Michael, that was a great piece.

Re: blaming America & Britain for WWII, I know some revisionist knuckleheads who do exactly that.

Posted by: x at August 21, 2003 11:45 AM

First, he was an ongoing mortal threat to Iraqis, Kuwaitis, and Israelis.

Right, but your argument was that Saddam was more of a problem for us than the dictatorship in Belarus. So this statement is irrelevant to your argument -- we are not the Israelis, Kuwaitis, or Iraqis. If you're willing to concede that Iraq was not a greater problem for us than Belarus, then I'm delighted to go on to your new point.

Second, what if Saddam were to buy a nuclear weapon from North Korea six months from now? Ever think of that?

I have a couple of responses to this:

1) Good point. The Bush Administration is so hideously incompetent that it might in fact allow NK to develop nuclear weapons, then allow them to find an Iraqi buyer, than allow the Iraqis to transfer money to NK, then allow the North Koreans to transport a large radioactive device to Iraq. Of course, the whole "Freeze Iraqi Assets" plan completely shuts this down as well.

2) We're invading and conquering countries now because they maybe someday might conceivably present a significant threat? Pakistan has nukes and its current government is holding on by a thread; should we take over because the extremists might gain access to the levers of government and thereby get nuclear weapons which could be sold to Al Qaeda?*

*Well, crap. Now I just frightened myself.

Posted by: Kimmitt at August 21, 2003 11:51 AM

Sure Kimmitt, freeze the assets via sanctions, and crooked sleeze in Germany and France are only to happy to do business with a sadistic creep. Germany is busy helping North Korea in its nuclear program. People like you make me puke--get your head out of the camel's ass. Sorta like saying Hitler was not attacking America so we should not have gone to war against him. Idiot!!

Posted by: Kat at August 21, 2003 11:57 AM

Well, here's my ideological transformation in a nutshell: I don't believe the case was ever successfully made that Iraq was a near-term (much less imminent) threat to us before the war, and it hasn't been made since. I think we were led to war under false pretenses. And I think that it just doesn't #$*!ing matter, because we're there now, we're in a unique position to either do something really positive in the Middle East or make a complete disaster of it, and the one option that we absolutely no longer have available to us is to pack up and go home.

Kimmit, we all know (well, most of us know) that Iraq's ability to threaten us was never the reason that we got into this war, as much as the Administration and its supporters claimed it was. The whole line of argument about prioritizing which state we should go after next based on a projection of their capability to be a threat sometime down the road is pointless, because that's not why we invaded Afghanistan, it's not why we invaded Iraq, and it's not why we're going to invade whatever country winds up next on the list (which, btw, there ought to be a betting pool on).

Posted by: Christopher Luebcke at August 21, 2003 12:19 PM

Kat,

Haliburton also made quite a bit of money in Iraq during the sanctions. Sleaze knows no borders.

Posted by: Christopher Luebcke at August 21, 2003 12:20 PM

I doubt Kimmet or even John Kerry could really believe that Saddam’s regime had no plan to preserve or restart its long-standing WMD scheme. How long could we have just kept the inspectors snooping under every rose bush? If there were videotapes of Saddam making anthrax in his pajamas, they still would say there wasn’t enough evidence.

Posted by: Dave at August 21, 2003 12:23 PM

The leftist fifth column is as guilty as the terrorists--they are their supporters. They allowed years and years of terrorism and either lied to us by covering up--Flight TWA800, Saddam's part in OKC, WTC1, etc. etc. We ass kissed and they got braver and 3000 paid the price.

http://www.canoe.ca/TorontoSun/editorial.html

Posted by: Kat at August 21, 2003 12:58 PM

Christopher,

If Al Gore was president, Haliburton would still be involved. Why? Because Haliburton not only built up the 'oil grid' so to say in America, they are the foremost experts in the world.

One problem I see domestically is some liberals think only in scandal tinted lens. Everything they see is a scandal. Haliburton is involved because it is the best and only alternative to building back Iraq's oil production (the only alternative is a company in France, and we know why we don't deal with France.) But no, to these people, Haliburton is GIANT corporation that gobbles up any profit nearby like an amoeba.

Or take the one that Bush 'lied' to get us into war. Or take that all this battling is just to help the 'military-industrial complex' of the US. On and on and on.

What if it is just as simple that there exists a threat to America, to people in general, and our current executives are moving the military to stop it?

In some places, even 9/11 was a 'scandal' that the administration planned.

Why can't you people accept that evil does exist in the world?

Posted by: Jonathan at August 21, 2003 01:14 PM

I'm willing to bet a couple of bucks that Kimmit would think attacking Iraq was a great idea if Clinton were the President doing it. The argument that Hussein is not the only evil and corrupt dictator in the world is childish. We all know that, but if the goal is to spread democracy then they must be picked off one at a time. Before you jump me, I'm not necessarily saying that I agree with that policy, but I believe it is the current policy of this administration.

Posted by: Jamie Jacoby at August 21, 2003 01:23 PM

The argument that Saddam wasn't the only bad dictator has got to be the silliest reason not to go to war that I've heard yet.

That's like saying we shouldn't have fought Hitler because Juan Peron was also being an asshole down in Argentina.

And it's like saying the cops shouldn't arrest a serial killer because someone in another city is breaking into houses.

Please find a new argument!

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 21, 2003 01:40 PM

Jonathan,

My mention of Haliburton referred to Kat's very typically one-sided attack on Germany and France for having done business with Iraq during the nineties, not the business that Haliburton is now contracted for in Iraq.

For whatever it's worth, I think that both of these statements:

Haliburton is involved because it is the best and only alternative to building back Iraq's oil production

Haliburton is GIANT corporation that gobbles up any profit nearby like an amoeba

are plausible and not exclusive.

Posted by: Christopher Luebcke at August 21, 2003 02:05 PM

Jamie Jacoby writes:

I'm willing to bet a couple of bucks that Kimmit would think attacking Iraq was a great idea if Clinton were the President doing it.

Not a very compelling argument for a lot of reasons, one of which is that when Clinton did attack Iraq in 98, the cries of "wag the dog" went up to the rafters.

Posted by: Christopher Luebcke at August 21, 2003 02:07 PM

That's like saying we shouldn't have fought Hitler because Juan Peron was also being an asshole down in Argentina.

Right, except that Hitler actually declared war on the US and had the most powerful and technologically advanced military in the world in 1942. In other words, not at all.

And it's like saying the cops shouldn't arrest a serial killer because someone in another city is breaking into houses.

Right, except that no one is worried about what happens to an entire nation's governance and stability when a random serial killer is captured.

Finally, the cops' lack of resolve in chasing down other serial killers implies that the cops weren't really all that interested in catching serial killers, but were more looking for headlines, which gives one pause as to how the aftermath is going to work out.

Note for the metaphor-perplexed:
cops = Bush Administration
other serial killers = Osama bin Laden, Afghanistan, Burma, Sudan, Zimbabwe
headlines = headlines

Posted by: Kimmitt at August 21, 2003 02:35 PM

Michael,

don't get overwrought. I'm so despairing of all that goes on on that side of the world after this bombing that 'blame' hardly enters into my personal equation. Sure, the Iraqis hated Saddam, now they hate Americans; of this I'm sure....after hearing this. The point is that hate and dissatisfaction seem a natural state of affairs, no matter who's in power.

So, what does blame have to do with it? As long as there's something to attack, that's all that matters. Perhaps we have to look at the possibility that these cultures are not capable of appreciating freedom, at least the way we understand it.........or at least not yet.

Isn't there a reason why a Saddam survives so long in this country despite his unbelievable record of atrocities? Or an Arafat among the Palestinians? See here and here

Posted by: Dan at August 21, 2003 02:52 PM

Oh, but we can't go into Sudan and stop those nice muslims' fun, can we? People like you will piss yourselves. And you leftists love what is going on in Zimbabwe--those white bastards are dying and their land being stolen and the country is being completely islamized. Mugabe is a nice leftist dictator. All infidels must be murdered . How the hell can we have a world under allah if the fifth column fails? Hell, you even object to profiling terrorists in America--so they plan terror from their mosques. The real killers are leftists like Clinton who allowed terrorists to set up a network worldwide--whille Hillary and Chelsea wore burkas and kissed terrorist ass. Like you do.

Posted by: Kat at August 21, 2003 03:06 PM

Kat, chill out, man. Mugabe isn't a Muslim and he isn't Islamizing Zimbabwe. And I recall Clinton getting rafts of shit from the GOP for "wagging the dog" when he half-heartedly went after Saddam and bin Laden.

It was not politically acceptable at the time for Clinton to declare total war on Saddam or the Taliban. He would have after 9.11, but not before. Liberals might have let him get away with it, but the Republicans would have peeled his skin off.

Also, Clinton isn't a "leftist," and he certainly isn't "the real killer" here or anywhere else.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 21, 2003 03:19 PM

Kat,

Put down the crack pipe, and slowly back away.

Posted by: Christopher Luebcke at August 21, 2003 03:20 PM

Michael,

For Kimmit to trot out the "Saddam wasn't the only bad guy" argument is odd. I thought that argument was tossed into the dustbin even before the war started. If I may just tweek your argument, if you catch a serial killer, why would you let him go just because you can't catch them all? Kimmit furthers contorts his/her argument with an implausible acting police force. Police have priorities also, serial killers are high and jaywalkers are low.

Kimmit also trots out the "Saddam was contained" argument, one of the more morally bankrupt arguments. Sure, Saddam, keep gouging eyes out and wood chipping people, as long you leave me alone. What are the costs of containment? Like we contained USSR during the cold war? Russians went from cradle to grave knowing nothing but misery. Yea, no skin off your nose, Kimmit. How did our parents put on such a brave smile for us while comtemplating at the same time building a bomb shelter in the backyard? What does that do to a nations psyche to be a button push from annilation? Russia was contained, the costs were enormous and there were no alternatives. With Iraq there were alternatives and we used the best one. North Korea has fewer options still, but we have good men and women working on it.

Posted by: glenmore at August 21, 2003 04:06 PM

The guilty ones are the first to point the finger. Now the same Democrats who for eight years slashed the military, crippled the CIA, blamed America for the enemies it made, opposed the projection of American power (missiles and smart bombs excepted) into terrorist regions like Afghanistan and Iraq, dismissed acts of war as individual misdeeds, rejected airport security on "racial profiling" grounds, defended a commander-in-chief who put his libido above the security of his citizens, and still oppose essential defense measures like holding suspects and imposing immigration controls – these same obstructers and appeasers are now in full war cry against the President and are hoping to pin him with responsibility for the September 11 attack.{Horowitz} That's in a nutshell--I'd have to write a book to explain how Clinton did nothing to prevent 911 from happening, but emboldened terrorists with coverups or looked the other way or pretended to fire an errant missile at an aspirin factory. He was too busy getting sucked.
Mugabe may not be a muslim--I think he is into some tribal witchcraft shit(Hitler type crap), but he is allowing the islamization of Zimbabwe--as a favor to his buddy Khadafi and he is funded and loved by the Nation of Islam creeps. Mugabe sees Christianity as synonymous with the west so he is happy to see them murdered. Khadafi has deep pockets and all Mugabe has to allow is the land to become a muslim sewer.

Posted by: Kat at August 21, 2003 04:55 PM

Both the British and U.S. Government are guilty of misrepresenting the threat that Saddam posed, although they were forced into this unfortunate WMD rigamorole by the realities of domestic and international politics.

But the idea that Saddam posed no threat to us is completely incredible and I'm bewildered to see so many embrace it. Kimmit and many others of his ideological allies are confused by the fact that other countries like Pakistan, Iran and N. Korea (and maybe Saudi Arabia and a few others too) theoritically pose greater threats. They don't acknowledge the possibility that deposing Saddam could be directly related to the chosen (non-military) approach to the other threats. They also conveniently forget that while, for example, Pakistan, with its military dictatorship, terrorist connections, pro-Taliban factions, Wahabbi Madrassas and its nukes is a huge problem; Musharraf is not our sworn enemy with a 30-year record of general madness and mayhem. Next to Saddam, Perv looks like the Dalai Llama. They ignore most of the costs of containment of Saddam and obsure the fact that we were actually already stuck in a long 12 year conflict with an utterly recalcitrant and unpredictable regime that was our sworn enemy, that alternately promised to avenge the defeats we had inflicted on them or publicly claimed triumph and glory for the defeat it had inflicted on us (no joke). Lastly, Kimmit et al react hysterically to each event with selective analysis and tortured logic, desperately seeking ideological confirmation and vindication - which is why I loved MJ's fisking of Ms. Stern's drivel.

Posted by: Tokyo Taro at August 21, 2003 05:42 PM

If the fundamental justification for the war was that Saddam, despite the fact that he did not present a major threat to US interests, was so awful that he simply had to go, I cannot argue well against a position which I find compelling -- the only question in that case is, "is what comes after better enough to be worth the expenditures and deaths of US soldiers?" Once you've established that it's the US military's job to go into other countries and right wrongs, you have to justify any given intervention by weighing it against the lost opportunities elsewhere.

In addition, I humbly submit that by allowing Afghanistan to decay (and bin Laden to continue to defy justice), we are very much allowing a serial killer to escape while looking elsewhere.

I'm not sure you'd do a good job of convincing the American public that it is appropriate for us to invade any country which massively offends our sensibilities. You'll get me behind you, but then I'm the kind of guy who thinks the UN needs a 50,000-person rapid reaction force.

Posted by: Kimmitt at August 21, 2003 06:09 PM

If the fundamental justification for the second world war was that Hitler, despite the fact that he did not present a major threat to US interests, was so awful that he simply had to go, I cannot argue well against a position which I find compelling -- the only question in that case is, "is what comes after better enough to be worth the expenditures and deaths of US soldiers?" Once you've established that it's the US military's job to go into other countries and right wrongs, you have to justify any given intervention by weighing it against the lost opportunities elsewhere. What right did anyone have to go into Europe and implement the Marshall Plan--look at the shit and upheaval that ensued after the war ended. Why did US soldiers give their lives in Bosnia--to save a bunch of fricking muslims. Same as Kuwait, Somalia. Screw those people--just let the fuckers die like those hundred thousands that ended up in Saddam's mass graves.

In addition, I humbly submit that by allowing Afghanistan to decay (and bin Laden to continue to defy justice), we are very much allowing a serial killer to escape while looking elsewhere. Problem is, we could be arresting 200 muslim serial killers right in Los Angeles as they did today. Only a complete moron thinks the capture of bin laden will stop the other 150,000,000 terrorists. The war on terror did nort begin with 911--it began over 20 years ago--we just looked away and the attacks got bigger and better. All Saddam may have done is nuked Israel or something like that--just jews, right?

I'm not sure you'd do a good job of convincing the American public that it is appropriate for us to invade any country which massively offends our sensibilities. Who the hell are we to say Hitler can't gas and cook Jews in ovens? You'll get me behind you, but then I'm the kind of guy who thinks the UN needs a 50,000-person rapid reaction force that isn't made up of a bunch of pro-Arab assholes hell bent on turning the world into a communist unit with the UN in control.

Posted by: Kat at August 21, 2003 07:26 PM

Great Fisking !

I wonder if she has the courtesy to reply or defend her nonsense.

Posted by: Jono at August 21, 2003 07:26 PM

Jessica Stern is at the Kennedy School at Harvard. Al Franken is at the Kennedy School at Harvard. Maybe this is just Harvard's attempt to branch into comedy.

Posted by: Fred Boness at August 21, 2003 10:48 PM

Er, Kat, I think I saw an icon of a black helicopter crawl across your post. They're on to you.

Posted by: Kimmitt at August 22, 2003 07:20 AM

Christopher:

Yes, the cries of "wag the dog" went up for Clinton as well. They were stupid, dishonest, and motivated purely by domestic political power considerations then, as well. The only thing that repeating that sort of imbecilic tripe tells me about the current crop of purveyors is that they are not one whit better than Tom DeLay.

Posted by: Phil Smith at August 22, 2003 07:57 AM

Great piece. I read the op-ed when it came out and it infuriated. The idea that only Kurds and Marsh Arabs had anything to fear from Saddam is pure crap. You should have mentioned the mass graves that are currently being uncovered ALL OVER the country.

One of the real reasons we don't get more overt support from the Iraqi people is because Bush I encouraged them to rebel and then left them to Saddam's tender mercies. Something like 90000 Shiites were killed. They can honestly doubt our committment and staying power. In fact, alot of the current violence is about exactly that. Both our friends and foes in Iraq are skeptical of our committment.

There have been several polls taken by reputable organization, of Iraqi public opinion and they show support for the removal of Saddam and the presence of American troops right now.

There are plenty of valid critisms of our handling of the post-war Iraq, but this is about trashing America not improving it.

Posted by: Steven Dzik at August 22, 2003 10:48 AM

Kimmitt-
Who is "allowing Afghanistan to decay?" That implies there's a worsening of conditions happening on our watch, when in fact things are getting measurably better. Not as fast as any of us would like, but better still.

Here are Afganistan's notable characteristics before we invaded:

1) utter dearth of natural resources
2) warlords controlling much of the population
3) sectarian massacres
4) virtually no humanitarian aid from overseas
5) fanatical, tyrranical, regime
6) ongoing civil war
7) completely safe haven for international terrorists and their hangers-on
8) Virtually no diplomatic identity

Now, strike items three through eight, and you have a pretty good picture of how things are right now. If this is "decay," then let's have more of it.

The criticism that war in Iraq diverts resources and attention from Afghanistan is a popular one- critics of the war against Saddam must feel like hard-nosed realists when they use it. But the idea that we should wait until we've stabilized Afghanistan is absurd- the country will never be cohesive or entirely free from global banditry.

Same with the argument that "if Saddam's weapons were a threat, then Pakistan and North Korea are much greater threats because they are already armed." Somehow this piece of cant picked up momentum among the "containment" crowd, even though to the rest of us it implies its own counter-argument: better to fight Saddam now while his weapons program is mothballed than a decade from now when he's the next Pakistan or North Korea.

Posted by: Matt Frost at August 22, 2003 11:27 AM

It's not necessary to even consider the Stern's political arguments to reveal the bias involved in her thinking. She says that under Saddam, "they could count on electricity, water and telephone service for at least part of the day." But, "Today ..power, water and telephones are routinely unavailable. " Why is the but there? The two statements are simply positively and negatively colored expressions of the same information.

Posted by: RR Ryan at August 22, 2003 01:37 PM

http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/international/international-mideast.html
Israel Kills Two Palestinian Militants in West Bank Hospital
By REUTERS

Israel always clearly identified, Palestinian groups never identified in the titles. Go back and read about the bombing. CAMERA has 20 links in an email showing this.

NABLUS, West Bank (Reuters) - Israeli troops killed three Palestinian militants inside a West Bank hospital on Friday, extending a new spiral of violence that has smashed a cease-fire vital to a U.S.-backed ``road map'' peace plan.

NOTE - Israeli troop kolled and inside a hospital. No word on who they are and what they are responsible for though?

Extending a "new spiral of violence"???? Israelis are bludgeoned yesterday? 2 suicide bombs a few days ago? Stabbings, roadside shootings? 40-50 attempts thwarted? those don't start cycles of violence, they are just minor events in an otherwise relative cessation of violence

Shortly before, tens of thousands of angry Palestinians calling for revenge marched in the Gaza City funeral of Ismail Abu Shanab, a **U.S.-educated Hamas leader who was assassinated by an Israeli helicopter missile strike on Thursday.

Did you catch that one!!** Hamas man but US educated! Kind of like Sami Al-Arian!!

Islamist militant groups called off a seven-week-old cease-fire after Israel killed Abu Shanab in an attack that followed a Hamas suicide bombing -- a relapse into tit-for-tat bloodshed that doomed previous peacemaking.

When did they call it off AGAIN!! ARE YOU FING KIDDING ME!!************** When did it START?????
What was the Suicide Bombing yesterday?
WHAT WAS THE FAILED SUICIDE BOMBING IN HAIFA (Israel prevented it) before Israel took this scumbag out!

``We love martyrdom and we seek martyrdom,'' Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi, another senior Hamas political leader who survived an Israeli assassination attempt in June, told the crowd as it chanted, ``Revenge, revenge!''

WORD TO TRUTH

Israeli troops and tanks massed along the boundary with northern Gaza later on Friday in what security sources said was preparation for a possible incursion after Hamas fired Qassam rockets into Israel following Abu Shanab's killing.

Wait, they've been firing rockets only after the killing of Abu Shanab?? Can you believe these cocksuckers!!!! The blood is still fresh on the Jerusalem street!!! FIN COCKSUCKERS! And they've been shooting rockets in intermittently throughout the Hudna, which was only to enable them to update to more accurate rockets anyway!

..................
Asked if Washington was going to urge restraint, he said: ``We have always said that Israel has the right to defend itself but we have also always pointed out that the parties, including Israel, need to keep in mind the consequences of the actions they take...the effect of those actions on the peace process.

AGAIN, ISRAEL IS GOING TO SHOW RESTRAINT AGAIN AND AGAIN THE BROKEN FING RECORD, NO MATTER HOW MANY ARE MURDERED NO MATTER HOW FING OLD THE BLUDGEONED ARE IT DOES NOT MATTER!! Get it?

``(But) if we are going to move forward in the peace process, terror must end and people must act to dismantle terrorist organizations,'' he told journalists traveling with Bush en route to Washington state.

ONLY TRUE STATEMENT HIDDEN 10 PAR'S DOWN!

An army statement said the three were wanted for involvement in a suicide bombing in Israel on August 12 and some ambush shootings in the West Bank.

Notice, an "Army Statement" said it, must clarify when its Israel stating something!

The Brigades claimed responsibility for the bombing, which killed one Israeli, and said it was retribution for army raids for wanted militants that continued sporadically after armed factions declared a unilateral three-month cease-fire on June 29.

Israel renewed search-and-arrest operations in Nablus and other occupied West Bank cities shortly after a Hamas suicide bomber killed 20 people on a Jerusalem bus on Tuesday, an attack that Hamas said avenged recent army killings of Palestinians.

The ``road map'' aims at ending a 34-month-old Palestinian uprising with reciprocal steps, including an end to militant attacks and Israeli army withdrawals, toward a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza by 2005.

Egyptian envoy Osama el-Baz visited Arafat at his West Bank compound to deliver what the emissary said was a message warning of impending catastrophe. ``All sides have to take steps to avoid escalation and to implement the road map,'' Baz told reporters.

He met Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom later and told him Israel needs to give Palestinians time to pressure Hamas and militant ally Islamic Jihad to stop attacks, a Shalom aide said.

Posted by: Mike at August 22, 2003 02:00 PM

Steven Dzik,

Could you point to some of the polls of Iraqi public opinion? I've looked and I have a hard time finding anything that isn't at best third hand.

Posted by: Christopher Luebcke at August 22, 2003 02:19 PM

BBC/NY TIMES/GUARDIAN/(INSERT NAME OF LEFT-WING RAG, HERE) NEWS FLASH (circa 1861):

Rebel elements of the newly formed breakaway republic of the Confederate States of America today fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. The attack was led by separatist militant P.T. Beauregard, who declared an end to the rebel ceasefire due to the "intolerable provocations of the Northern states, led by Pres. A. Lincoln, who sought to dishonor Southern heritage through the abolition of African slavery."

Posted by: Rex-Pat at August 22, 2003 03:57 PM

Brandon Garcia:

Why should America "take blame", when so many, like the Hon. Mr. Lastman and Dr. Stern are there to apportion it to us?

And the old "what about the other dictators?" chestnut? That's been de-bunked so many times, but here goes again just for your:

By your logic, if we can't depose all dictatorships, we shouldn't depose any. And we have no leeway in choosing our battles, either, do we?

That's as imbecilic as saying if the FBI can't arrest ALL Mafia clans RIGHT NOW, they shouldn't attempt to shut down ANY, EVER.

Just for arguments' sake, let's stipulate that we should depose ALL dictators who have...

1>invaded their neighbors. repeatedly.
2>commit war crimes wartime enemies and own civilians. REAL warcrimes, not fake Nuremberg-wannabe Belgian court ones.
3>harbor, arm, and train terrorists.

Lessee...Milosevic -- CHECK! Taylor -- CHECK! Hussein -- CHECK! Aidid -- CHECK! Mullah Omar -- CHECK!

Looks pretty consistent to me.

furious

Posted by: furious at August 22, 2003 05:33 PM

If you study American WW2 history there were Republican Isolationists DURING THE WAR who blamed Roosevelt for getting us into the war.

They represented 10% of the population. They never rose much above that because there were battles and losses every day.

Look at how Bush support rises during fighting and declines after.

So far the American people get it with the support for the war above 50% still. The frequent attacks in Israel and other countries help (sad to say).

Posted by: M. Simon at August 25, 2003 05:40 PM



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