August 09, 2004

Kill Moqtada al-Sadr

It's long past time to remove the gun from Iraqi politics. The irony is that you have to use guns to do it. If Iraqi liberals (ie, those who wish to replace bullets with ballots) are not willing to kill those who take up arms against them, Iraq will be ruled once again by the ruthless.

Moqtada al-Sadr cranked up his "revolution" and says he wants to fight to his "last drop of blood." Fine, then. Give the man what he wants.

It's one thing to let him throw a gigantic fit and then cut him a deal. It's another thing altogether to let him get away with it twice. Once is excusable. Twice is a pattern. If he gets away with this every crank with a grievance will be encouraged to kill people, too. Hey, if it works it works. Civil society cannot be built if the law of the jungle prevails.

Moqtada al-Sadr is an enemy of the United States and an enemy of the Iraqi government. He and his goons make peace, stability, and democracy impossible. Today's non-violent Iraqis will be a lot more encouraged to pick up guns of their own if al-Sadr and his Mahdi militia run rampant.

I say we go to the infinitely more reasonable Ayatollah Sistani and tell him what time it is. Either Sistani and the other Shi'ite clerics find a way to reign in the insurgency or Moqtada al-Sadr gets toe-tagged.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at August 9, 2004 06:37 PM
Comments

There's every reason to think we've been trying to kill Moqtada for the last three months and just haven't ever quite managed it.

Of course we'll kill him at the first opportunity, and Alladi will go along. Sadr has been hiding. We can't find him in Sadr City, we can barely get into Sadr City, when we try we wind up killing a bunch of people and taking a few casualties every time.

But note that we told Sadr he could have a political party, and then we changed our minds (or it was a lie all along). The first time he agreed to stop fighting they said he could participate in the government and we'd drop the trumped-up charges against him. (Do we actually have evidence he was involved in a murder? I guess it wouldn't matter unless he lived to see trial, now would it?)

Notice that sovereignty has theoretically come and american soldiers are still trying to arrest Sadr on the murder charge he was told would be dropped. If american soldiers arrested him and he survived, he'd go, what, to Abu Ghraib? Anybody wonder that he doesn't trust us? We keep detaining his closest associates....

If we just promised in public that the Sadrists could have a political party on the ballot that anybody could vote for who wanted to, that would probably do it. But we've been careful not to do that. We implied something like that to iraqi go-betweens and after he backed down we announced it wasn't so.

Anyway, do you figure it would help us much to kill him? He's all set to be a martyer, he talks like he's been preparing his people for it. If they aren't ready there will be some confusion while they sort out who's leading. That could buy us some time, maybe weeks or months. Beyond that how would it help?

Posted by: J Thomas at August 9, 2004 07:02 PM

J Thomas,

If we kill Osama bin Laden he'll be a "martyr," too. Oh well. That's no reason not to do it. Of course Al Qaeda and the Mahdi miliia (whatever's left of it) will get a new leader. If he's cool he lives, and if not he dies. We can go several rounds if that's what it takes. But you can only annihilate your enemies so many times before they're actually finished. Frequently repeating job openings tend to lose their appeal.

Any Iraqi who wants to form a Religious Right political party is free to do so. Those who kill our boys will be killed right back. That's just what happens in war. There is no point treating a milia like a political party unless it chooses to behave like one. I don't care if Sadr's followers form a Religious Right party. Somebody has to do it. But as far as I'm concerned, Sadr himself is no longer welcome to do so. He's blown it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 9, 2004 07:36 PM

Didn't al Sadr violate a cease fire? and then call for another the minute he realized he was going to get his head handed back on a platter?

Why negotiate with thugs? We don't negotiate with our street gangs, why should we expect the Iraqis to negotiate with theirs?

Wrap yourself in religion and claim martyrdom! What a crock. These people are nits and need to be removed before they become lice.

Posted by: J.R. at August 9, 2004 07:55 PM

Kill Moqtada al-Sadr

MJT, how's it feel to issue a fatwa?

(or at least one of the non-radical religious variety, if there is such a thing...)

Posted by: SoCalJustice at August 9, 2004 07:58 PM

SoCalJustice: MJT, how's it feel to issue a fatwa?

I'll let you know as soon as Important People start to do what I say.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 9, 2004 08:06 PM

" I say we go to the infinitely more reasonable Ayatollah Sistani and tell him what time it is. Either Sistani and the other Shi'ite clerics find a way to reign in the insurgency or Moqtada al-Sadr will die."--- MJT

No fear Michael.Sadr has ranted his last rant and murdered his last opponent.Without succumbing to a conspiracy view of the world,I do not consider it a coincidence that Ayatollah Sistani just happened to choose this time to go to London for a non life threatening medical visit.I think he was told that Al-Sadr was a dead man walking and he had a choice to make.Stay in Najaf and be forced to say SOMETHING when the 'infidels' attacked or be out of the country and 'sick'when Al-Sadr and his thugs went down for the count.
I could be 100% wrong but many informed commentators have said that this has all the feel of the end game.
GOOD.
Al-Sadr is a low rent ignoramous and the last remnant of a great but VERY backward looking family.
--- Kill Moqtada al-Sadr ----
Faster please !!!!

Posted by: dougf at August 9, 2004 08:15 PM

Maybe I'm just too big an Ayatollah Sistani fan, but that last line seems to make the most sense to me. Sistani is a real friend to the Iraqi people. Maybe not so much a friend to the United States, but hardly an enemy. Infinitely more reasonable is an understatement.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at August 9, 2004 08:28 PM

Grant

Maybe I'm just too big an Ayatollah Sistani fan

Then again maybe not. Life is for the most part choices between the lessor of two evils. I mean for all of Iraq's resentment of Bush and the US occupation isn't it also a choice of the lessor of two evils for them as well?

--

MJT

Of course you are right, Sadr must die and soon. Of course it is the Iraqi's who need to call for this and publically support it as well, even if our Marines do the actual killing.

I also have a gut feeling that either soon or after the election (probably after) President Bush is going to reassert himself in the WOT for the purpose of reminding the world (us included) that we are still in a Global War. Either way it won't be soon enough for me.

Posted by: Samuel at August 9, 2004 08:51 PM

It seems that the more deals we cut with him the more he comes to take the place of a Yassir Arafat. He becomes known for the slight chance he embodies of getting everyone to live peacefully if he says so, but in reality that chance is far too unlikely to ever be practicable. The longer we play these cease-fire games with him the more he becomes a legitimate force to negotiate with or whatever. If people like Sadr are to be taken out they should be taken out before they develop a cult following not after they have a well regulated militia. I fear it's now too late to do much about him, just as is the case with Arafat.

Posted by: Kris at August 9, 2004 10:02 PM

KRIS...

Hmm...if the child throws a tantrum and the parent gives in to the child's wishes because of it, the child learns to manipulate the parent into giving the child what the child wants in the future. The child, therefore, repeats past behaviors. Bad behaviors are positively reinforced and rewarded in this scenario. The child gains power. The child gains the upperhand.

Parenting 101, right? The child, indeed, becomes Yassir Arafat.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at August 9, 2004 10:18 PM

Arabs understand only strength. The Israelis have been trying to tell us this for years. When are we going to listen?

Posted by: David at August 9, 2004 10:24 PM

Michael, Michael, Michael. You've become such a warmongering, conservative, neocon. What happened to your liberal caring for the rights of others? Where is your disgust for the trampling of Sadr's civil rights? Soon you will be banned from the campfire and you won't get to sing the Kum Ba Ya song or play the tamborine.

Welcome to the light.

Semper Fi

Posted by: RickM at August 10, 2004 04:02 AM

If Al Qaeda killed George Bush, do you think it would make Americans more, or less sympathetic towards Al Qaeda?

Just asking.

Posted by: Mork at August 10, 2004 04:38 AM

Either Sistani and the other Shi'ite clerics find a way to reign in the insurgency or Moqtada al-Sadr gets toe-tagged.

Only an American (or a fundamentalist) could write such a sentence. There are, of course, others (on the other side) who bay for blood, like Totten regularly does.

Its always the same - one final push, one more round of bloodletting, and the earth will be cleansed. Democracy and the rule of law will reign! Mmmmm. We shall see. As far as tactics go, Totten screaming from the touchline will not make a jot of difference anyway, especially in country that now has its "soveriegnity" (yeah, its a joke, I know...)

I realise that Totten is no libertarian, and as a leftist (the pious type) he's all too happy to give the ultimate power to the state; the right to kill people. That's why he supports the death penalty in Iraq (although apparently not in the USA.)

Of course, especially in a country such as Iraq, the death penalty is likely to be just as bad as in any other country - the basic principles remain the same. Oh well, just more collateral damage I guess.

Posted by: Benjamin at August 10, 2004 04:42 AM

Its always makes me kinda squirm the spectacle of rich Americans from thousands of miles away pronouncing their wish to kill more people in foreign lands.

Of course, al-Sadr may or may not deserve to die, but I think the Iraqi people may want a say. The sooner the Americans exit the battlefield and leave what's left of it to the Iraqi people the better.

At some point the Americans may want to, instead, address the serious problems with their own country, like a fundamentally unbalanced economy, and rescue that smouldering document called the Constitution from the fire, for starters.

Posted by: Benjamin at August 10, 2004 04:50 AM

Don't know how you made your coffee this morning Michael but make it the same way tomorrow!

Posted by: Hacksaw at August 10, 2004 06:56 AM

Michael, wouldn't it be much better for al Sadr to be taken into custody, tried for murder, convicted if warranted, and subjected to whatever penalty was appropriate and legal? Despite the "to the last drop of blood" rhetoric I suspect he means the last drop of someone else's blood and has about the same level of personal courage as Saddam Hussein. Better for him to dragged from his hole and subjected to legal proceedings.

Posted by: Dave Schuler at August 10, 2004 07:01 AM

Grant McEntire

Interesting use of the parenting analogy there. Drunk on hubris, the British thought the same way about the people of the Empire. They were just kids too. History simply repeats itself.

Posted by: Benjamin at August 10, 2004 07:33 AM

I say we go to the infinitely more reasonable Ayatollah Sistani and tell him what time it is.

You know that Sistani seems to have suffered a severe heart attack, and has been flown out of the country, right?

Moqtada al-Sadr cranked up his "revolution" and says he wants to fight to his "last drop of blood." Fine, then. Give the man what he wants.

Let me predict that is he is killed, then the country will go apeshit. More apeshit, I mean.

Michael, saying things like "Kill Moqtada al-Sadr" may give one a bit of a rush, but it's more of the same kind of thinking that's resulted in the current chaos. A bullet or a bomb isn't the solution to every political problem.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 10, 2004 07:54 AM

Dave Schuler -

This is a war. Not a police action.

Al Sadr isn't a mafia kingpin hiding behind lawyers trying to avoid charges he extorted money from the carpet bazaar. He's actively engaged in opposing the Iraqi government from establishing representative civil government across multiple towns in Iraq. He's funded by Iran. And he isn't running a gang of shadowy leg breakers. His foot troops are armed bands of paramilitaries dedicated to jihad.

War on Terror. Not Spirited Prosecution of Terror.

I remember those halcyon days of...what, six months ago?...when the press trembled at the mere thought that the Ali Mosque might be get an inadvertant round and plunge the Arab Street into madness.

Silly people. The muslims that hate us don't have any qualms about where they attack us. As I type this I'm listening to news coverage of Apache's and A-10's working over the cemetery in Najaf. No shelter, no sanctuary. I can hear the single-tap thumps of aimed rifle fire, too. That's the sound of fascism being effectively dealt with. We didn't try to send the FBI to arrest Hitler. Granted, back then there was a lot less confusion on how to fight a war and win, too.

Posted by: TmjUtah at August 10, 2004 08:17 AM

I remember those halcyon days of...what, six months ago?...when the press trembled at the mere thought that the Ali Mosque might be get an inadvertant round and plunge the Arab Street into madness.

And so you think things are going well now, do you?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 10, 2004 08:37 AM

So let's say we don't kill Sadr. What do we do, then?

Remember: this whole thing got started with an arrest warrant for Sadr. In other words, we tried regular jurisprudence already. How many more innocent Iraqis must be sacrificed on that altar?

I suppose we could send him to Guantanamo.

Posted by: Jeff Licquia at August 10, 2004 08:39 AM

>>>"If Al Qaeda killed George Bush, do you think it would make Americans more, or less sympathetic towards Al Qaeda?"

Mork,

a valid point; but sometimes a dead martyr is less harmful than a live revolutionary.

We've taken the cautious approach, and it hasn't worked. Al-Sadr should be retired.

Posted by: David at August 10, 2004 08:46 AM

TmjUtah

More confusion. So its war, not a police action? I thought the Iraqis had soveriegnity? Its Allawi's decision is it not? And I thought the invasion was supposed to make the world, especially the Mid East, safer not less so? I can't remember Sadr being such a big man a few years ago.

Its Boys Own stuff; you are so turned on by all that firepower, I am sure Totten agrees with you. Not a thought that they might actually be missing their targets, and that whom they kill may not actually be "fascists".

Don't worry, its actually American policy not to count the Iraqi dead. At best, if alive, they are seen as children by their new masters. The dead are simply invisible - innocent or not. So no need for the average American - sitting pretty behind terminals thousands of miles away, behind banks of nuclear weaponry - to worry about the piles of Iraqi corpses rotting in the Mid East summer heat, and just who these people are. That's right, they are all just "fascists", and that's right, good old Uncle Sam has perfect weaponry and perfect soldiers. Dream on, buddy.

As for your predictable and lazy mention of Hitler and the Nazis (its Godwin time again, always likely with the pro-war left), its simply deluded. Hitler chose to commit suicide, but many other Nazis were brought to trial and faced the full penalty of law.

Posted by: Benjamin at August 10, 2004 08:51 AM

>>>"Let me predict that is he is killed, then the country will go apeshit. More apeshit, I mean."

Yassin and Rantissi of Hamas were counting on yellow-bellied naysayers like you in the Israeli Left to save them. But it didn't. Look at them now. Pushing up daisies. And where is the pandoras box that the Israeli Left was warning about? Nowhere.

People may whine and seethe if Muqtadar is killed, and there may even be a spike of violence, but this will never end until he's dead.

Posted by: David at August 10, 2004 08:54 AM

DPU -

As a matter of fact I think they are going amazingly well. We entered into a country with zero cultural tradition of democracy and suffering from the results of thirty years of brutal dictatorship and the physical fallout of two lost wars. We have helped establish the framework of a representative democracy. We have rebuilt or constructed physical infrastructure from roads to power plants to water plants.

And there are over a hundred Iraqi owned newspapers, TV stations, and radio stations operating across the country.

Compare the timeline here with Europe after the guns fell silent. Wide areas of the continent had been bombed flat. Millions of dislocated people with no homes to return to. Millions of the best and brightest from Warsaw to London dead. It took how many years for elections to take place in Germany? And we STILL have troops stationed there?

True, the Soviets weren't sending intelligence officers, armed troops, money, and supplies across to actively destabilize the rebuilding western euro nations. Iran will be dealt with in due time, which was a critical consideration in removing Hussein when we did.

Conflict does NOT equal failure. Sorry. All jobs take time, and varying amounts of treasure and blood, but we have leadership in place that declines to manage a threat but instead to remove it. It isn't easy and it isn't without pain, but it must be done.

History isn't over yet. Not by a long shot.

Posted by: TmjUtah at August 10, 2004 08:55 AM

Benjamin -

"As for your predictable and lazy mention of Hitler and the Nazis (its Godwin time again, always likely with the pro-war left), its simply deluded. Hitler chose to commit suicide, but many other Nazis were brought to trial and faced the full penalty of law."

...after the armies laid down their arms. You had a point to make?

MJT -

Unless I'm mistaken, I've just been labelled a war liberal. Your blog is a never-ending source of surprises.

Will wonders NEVER cease???

Posted by: TmjUtah at August 10, 2004 08:59 AM

History isn't over yet. Not by a long shot.

Bet you wish it was over. That way you could quit re-writing it. Winston got tired of shoving things down the memory hole, and yearned for peace.

The peace that we are all promised, but never arrives.

In its place: perpetual war.

We have rebuilt or constructed physical infrastructure from roads to power plants to water plants.

Ah yes, you mean the power plant in Baghdad where you tell how many hours electricity you gonna get by how many chimneys are smoking? The power plant the Americans bombed in 1991?

Yeah, that one. So kind of the Americans to send in contractors to repair it 13 years on, and charge the victims for the privilege. All in good day's business.

Posted by: Benjamin at August 10, 2004 09:16 AM

Benjamin: That's why he supports the death penalty in Iraq (although apparently not in the USA.)

Um, no. I do not support the death penalty in Iraq. Only against Saddam Hussein himself. I also retroactively support the Nuremberg trials for pretty much the same reason. I'm already on the record as having said this, so let's not invent new "opinions" for me so you can then "criticize" them and score "points."

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 10, 2004 09:19 AM

DPU: A bullet or a bomb isn't the solution to every political problem.

Tell that to Al Sadr. He's killing our soldiers. He isn't a political problem, he's a self-declared military problem.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 10, 2004 09:21 AM

>>>"I do not support the death penalty in Iraq. Only against Saddam Hussein himself."

This is almost as principled a position as John Kerry's opposition to the death penalty, except for Osama Bin Laden.

Post-modern moral rootlessness.

Posted by: David at August 10, 2004 09:23 AM

David: Post-modern moral rootlessness.

It doesn't even occur to you that my opposition to the death penalty is a moral one?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 10, 2004 09:27 AM

tmju As a matter of fact I think they are going amazingly well.

That statement brings to mind the battle the admirably optimistic state of mind of the Black Knight:

ARTHUR: You are indeed brave, Sir Knight, but the fight is mine.
BLACK KNIGHT: Oh, had enough, eh?
ARTHUR: Look, you stupid bastard. You've got no arms left.
BLACK KNIGHT: Yes, I have.
ARTHUR: Look!
BLACK KNIGHT: Just a flesh wound. [kick]

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 10, 2004 09:29 AM

...after the armies laid down their arms. You had a point to make?

You are advocating assassination, rather than the WW2 scenario where the enemy is defeated militarily, and then justice was pursued in the courts. Hence you don't advocate justice and the eventual rule of law, but simply a perpetual military option which is simply concerned with killing alone, a mirror image of the people you are fighting (like you, they would laugh at talks of courts and the rule of law.)

Justice, some would say, may involve killing, but it does involve the rule of law too, trials etc, not just military killing. It's boring I know, having lawyers and stuff, but a necessary part of nation building, a process in which Iraq wouldn't just become another police/militaristic state. Just a thought.

Posted by: Benjamin at August 10, 2004 09:30 AM

Benjamin, this is for you -

"The death of public discourse over the War on Terror was at least partly the result of the self-lobotomization of the Leftist mind. That operation was necessary to prevent an admission of the obvious: the basic Leftist tenets were bankrupt and sustained only by ever more tedious extensions to the original discredited theory; a latter day replay of the downfall of geocentrism which held back the Copernican revolution only by introducing artificial and complicated epicycles."

Belmot Club. Read all of it. This is the world we live in.

Posted by: TmjUtah at August 10, 2004 09:40 AM

>>>"It doesn't even occur to you that my opposition to the death penalty is a moral one?"

Michael,

I'm assuming it's moral. But your exception for Saddam is what makes it rootless. You can spare serial killers, but not mass murderers. You need to make up your mind about why you oppose the death penalty, or why you support it. It's not something you need to do on this blog by the way. It's something you do in the privacy of your mind and heart. But please share if you care to do so.

Posted by: David at August 10, 2004 09:40 AM

Michael Totten:

Um, no. I do not support the death penalty in Iraq. Only against Saddam Hussein himself.

Which is an unrealistic position because the Iraqi govt, as it's just done, was always much more likely to re-instate the death penalty across the board, rather than just for Saddam.

That's simply going by the basic principle that govts will always take a mile rather than an inch, given the opportunity, and draw as much power to themselves as they can. The power of life and death is a handy one.

Glad to hear that you don't support the death penalty in Iraq, even though, logically, in the real world, it would mean that Saddam would escape death.

I have no problems with Saddam escaping death because I see no utility in his death, and I do not support the death penalty for anyone, including such awful people as Hitler, Stalin, Beria, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein etc.

Posted by: Benjamin at August 10, 2004 09:41 AM

David:

I agree. Michael's position is deeply inconsistent on the DP, if his objections are deep - both moral and practical. I have always opposed the death penalty on both moral and practical grounds, without exception.

Whether the criminal is responsible for the deaths of 5 people or 10,000 makes no difference. This is because the moral argument for the DP, in both these cases, is based on the same crap.

Posted by: Benjamin at August 10, 2004 09:48 AM

>>>"Whether the criminal is responsible for the deaths of 5 people or 10,000 makes no difference. This is because the moral argument for the DP, in both these cases, is based on the same crap."

Benjamin,

what crap is that? My only opposition to the DP is it's unfair administration, not to the merits of it.

I'd gladly sign the papers myself if Saddam got a fair trial.

Posted by: David at August 10, 2004 09:52 AM

I wrote an article called "Kill Saddam." You can find it on the left panel under my photo. In that article I explain why Saddam is a unique case and why there is a more compelling reason to execute him than any other common criminal. It is not a moral argument, it is a logical argument. Read it if you're interested, but I don't want to get into the details again.

Also, Benjamin, Al Sadr is not a criminal but a military leader. You don't fight wars with lawyers, you fight them with soldiers. Since he is the leader of a militia rather than a country, he has no sovereignty. Killing him is not assasination. It's what those of us who actually fight wars refer to as "fighting back."

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 10, 2004 09:55 AM

Michael Totten

Well, thats all fine and dandy, but as I say, my opposition to the death penalty is more fundamental that that. Its both moral and practical. There can be no exceptions for me.

You misunderstand my position on Sadr. If the US army think its militarily correct to target him now, well that's their decision in a conflict.

But the aim must be to win the war and then make sure that the rule of law, which does include lawyers and police, trials, and importantly the aquittal of the innocent, is established.

But I suspect that this is already getting lost somewhere. The US record in that regard is hardly shining so far. After all, the assumption at Abu Ghraib was that all were guilty of "terrorism" (however defined) resulting in widespread abuse, the breaking of international law, with the rule of law non-existent.

I argue with my pro-war family quite often about this stuff. But whatever we disagree on, we all agree that certain American actions up to now can be described, above all else, by one word:

Stupidity.

Posted by: Benjamin at August 10, 2004 10:11 AM

>>>"I wrote an article called "Kill Saddam." You can find it on the left panel under my photo. In that article I explain why Saddam is a unique case"

Michael,

an excellent article. But none of your reasoning couldn't also be made for executing Jeffrey Dahmer, etc.

I don't think you really object to the death penalty. You appear to object to it only on the basis of its unfair administration; Not once did you mention the sanctity of human life (for example). You aren't morally opposed to capital punishment itself, but to it's impracticability, unfairness, etc.

Your objections are pragmatic, not moral.

Posted by: David at August 10, 2004 10:19 AM

David

I'd gladly sign the papers myself if Saddam got a fair trial.

Very well. But there has to be a moral justification for talking a man's life.

In Saddam's case, the justification is that he was responsible for others death. I can understand this argument on certain religious grounds, but I utterly reject it.

I cannot justify it on rational grounds. His death seves no clear purpose whatsoever.

Posted by: Benjamin at August 10, 2004 10:22 AM

David

I agree on the analysis of Michael. His position clearly points to him logically supporting the DP in other cases, if his objections are purely practical, which I suspect they are too.

Posted by: Benjamin at August 10, 2004 10:26 AM

>>>"I cannot justify it on rational grounds. His death seves no clear purpose whatsoever."

Benjamin,

let me make a quick case to execute Saddam on rational grounds:

Saddam must die so that Iraq can move forward. I think that statement speaks for itself, and you have the political acuity to grasp its meaning.

Re moral reasons to execute them, you understand them already, but reject them. I'll spare you the rehash.

The Al-Sadr case is separate. He isn't a prisoner, so the DP is irrelevant here. Al-Sadr is a combatant and is therefore deserving of a well placed J-dam. It will save lives in the long run.

Posted by: David at August 10, 2004 10:30 AM

David

Saddam must die so that Iraq can move forward.

Highly suspect. This is some sort of psychobabble, surely. Iraq is a country, and will move on whatever happens to Saddam. That's simply an inevitability. It is not dependent at all on Saddam's execution.

Posted by: Benjamin at August 10, 2004 10:41 AM

David: Your objections are pragmatic, not moral.

In that article, perhaps. I haven't re-read it in a while now. I do have moral objections to the death pentalty (See "Dead Man Walking" and "The Green Mile"), but they are overridden in the case of Saddam Hussein for the reasons I mentioned in the piece.

I would not kill someone like Jeffery Dahmer if he is locked up in a cage and can never get out. If he were the leader of a mass-murdering political cult and his followers were still loose in the streets and still killing people, that would make me change my mind. The reason I would change my mind is because he would still be dangerous even while locked in that cage.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 10, 2004 10:43 AM

>>>"Iraq is a country, and will move on whatever happens to Saddam."

Benjamin,

you make this assumption with remarkable assuredness; as if progress is a default setting. Your whirled peas view of the world sounds nice, but it's probably deadly. Afghanistan has not progressed in 20 years since the fall of Najibulah. We can't afford 20 years of chaos in Iraq.

Saddam still has a following, and they are armed and violent. Also, many Iraqis still fear a baathist resurgence. Democratic Iraq doesn't need that hanging over its head. The road ahead will be hard enough without having to deal with additional problems caused by the whirled peas set.

I suspect this was the basis of the Nuremberg trials and executions as well. Germany turned out pretty good, don't you think?

Posted by: David at August 10, 2004 10:54 AM

Michael,

you have given reasons why you approve of the DP under certain conditions (to prevent additional murders for example).

But so far, your objections to it remain practical and emotional (see Green Mile, Dead Man Walking).

Posted by: David at August 10, 2004 11:05 AM

Yes. Kill him. But you knew I would say that.

Usage point: it's "rein in", not "reign in". This is a common (and often amusing) mistake. Consider the literal meaning of "reign in the insurgency" or "reign in the violence". It's completely opposed to what the writer means to say.

Posted by: dipnut at August 10, 2004 11:46 AM

David

No one wants another twenty years of chaos anywhere. My argument is that whether Saddam is executed or not makes no material difference. You claim it does. I don't give much credence to your Ba'athist argument. The insurgency has an internal dynamic of its own, and it will make little difference whether Saddam is alive or dead. You cannot really believe in such a weak argument.

Oh, the Nazi thing again. No, the fact that some of the Nazis were executed did not lay the basis for Germany's stability and prosperity. It would have happened anyway. Not much worth dwelling on that incredibly weak argument.

Posted by: Benjamin at August 10, 2004 11:47 AM

david ...yellow-bellied naysayers like you...

What a pleasant fellow you are, david. Any chance of a comment from you that doesn't indulge in cheap name-calling?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 10, 2004 11:58 AM

double,

LOL.

pleasant indeed. "Yellow-bellied" is the diplomatic term for it. And I usually include a good reason for my name calling ;-)

Posted by: David at August 10, 2004 01:01 PM

Benjamin,

just curious. What is the philosophical/religious basis for your objections to the DP ?

Posted by: David at August 10, 2004 01:02 PM

david And I usually include a good reason for my name calling.

Well, as long as the rules clearly state that we need a reason to call someone a name, you pathetic douchebag.

:-} <---- please note

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 10, 2004 01:15 PM

On a more serious note...

What criteria are people using to determine the rate of success or failure in Iraq?

There are some fairly sobering figures coming out of Iraq recently regarding the growth in the insurgency, and my sense is that democracy will not be possible at this time or in the forseeable future. Democracy requires a degree of process, stability, and mutual co-operation that doesn't seem likely to appear given the fighting and the growing number of opponents to the occupation.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 10, 2004 01:19 PM

I believe that the reason that Moqtada al-Sadr is still alive is that we were respecting the desires of the Shiite clergy to not kill him. I hope that is no longer true, but I would be that it is. That doesn't stop us from killing the remnants of his militia, however.

Much of the explanation for why the insurgency is still going is that we have been reluctant to offend the Sunni and Shiite elders. That is why we didn't clean out Falluja and why we didn't finish off Sadr.

We are fighting a "sensitive war on terror" such as John Kerry suggested he would do. The problem is that it doesn't work.

Thankfully, we have had a freer hand against Sadr, and have written off much of his militia.

Regards,

Jim Bender

http://anglo-dutch-wars.blogspot.com/

http://17th-centurynavwargaming.blogspot.com/

http://kentishknock.com/

http://anglodutchwarsblog.com/

http://dreadnought-cruisers.blogspot.com/

Posted by: Jim Bender at August 10, 2004 01:29 PM

++UG,

Please cite these fairly sobering figures you mention, as well as the compelling reason why we should rely primarily on these "terrorist census" numbers. In the meantime, I'll ponder how likely it is that that the average Joe Iraqi would answer a poll question honestly when insurgents target sympathizers.

And I'm not trying to flip. I'm cognizant of the idea that if Iraqi popular sentiment turns strongly against us, our situation may well become untenable. But for the average joe Iraqi, I think there are still pragmatic reasons to support our continued involvement even if they wouldn't sayso publicly. And I'm not suggesting that there's any certainty that this is true, only pointing out that any numbers purporting to gauge popular support may well be suspect. To get a better gauge, surely a constellation of indicators is necessary.

Perhaps sentiment is turning widely and strongly against us. Or perhaps in a chaotic environment, opportunists are thriving. But what are your cites, and your reasoning?

Posted by: bk at August 10, 2004 01:33 PM

"You are advocating assassination, rather than the WW2 scenario where the enemy is defeated militarily, and then justice was pursued in the courts."

It seems to me that the problem is many in this country pretend that this conflict may be ended with neither war nor assassination.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at August 10, 2004 02:07 PM

Benjamin -

Since you saw fit to decline response, let me just clear the air for all involved.

Referring back to Wretchard's essay - "That operation was necessary to prevent an admission of the obvious: the basic Leftist tenets were bankrupt and sustained only by ever more tedious extensions to the original discredited theory; a latter day replay of the downfall of geocentrism which held back the Copernican revolution only by introducing artificial and complicated epicycles."

In a nutshell, Ben, the world is what it is and not what you wish it was. I'm a U.S. citizen, so I acknowledge your right to hold whatever opinions you want and applaud your public statements of the same.

"This is some sort of psychobabble, surely. Iraq is a country, and will move on whatever happens to Saddam. That's simply an inevitability."

The sun will surely come up tomorrow, yes, yes...but what kind of tomorrow? Actions today to support a nascent democracy will determine what that tomorrow will be for every CITIZEN in Iraq. Bringing justice to Saddam Hussein will quite possibly be the most surreal experience for Iraqis (especially for Saddam personally) in the last century. I bet you cannot walk into a single public place in Iraq and find someone who has not either experienced the attention of Hussein's thugs personally or isn't related to somebody killed or imprisoned by him. Mussolini ended up on a lamp post at the hands of a mob. Hussein will get the benefit of due process.

"Oh, the Nazi thing again. No, the fact that some of the Nazis were executed did not lay the basis for Germany's stability and prosperity. It would have happened anyway. Not much worth dwelling on that incredibly weak argument."

You disagree. So the argument is invalid. Read the above quote from Wretchard closely, Ben. The people of Germany were able to return to the community of nations because the monsters at the top of the chain were held accountable. The people who ran the camps answered for their crimes. A civilized society is based on the majority of citizens believing that government will act to defend the rights of individuals, which means enforcing standards and prosecuting criminal acts. Nuremberg was an atonement, and a point from which the long walk back to community could begin.

But you seem to think that that exercise in justice was neither here nor there.

There's an awful lot of inevitability in your world. If America had never taken up arms against England, I guess we'd all still be right here just doing our thing, right?

" After all, the assumption at Abu Ghraib was that all were guilty of "terrorism" (however defined) resulting in widespread abuse, the breaking of international law, with the rule of law non-existent."

And that's just flat dishonest, regardless of the lens you choose to view your world through. The detainees at Abu Grhaib were apprehended during operations ranging from counterinsurgency to law enforcement. Their incarceration was not a matter of guilt so much as a matter of custody pending disposition. I could hear your tail slapping the floor from here at the opportunity to type "Abu Ghraib" on Michael's blog, since the incidents committed there by a group of ill-disciplined, abysmally led thugs are YOUR accepted template for the actions and motivation for our entire effort in Iraq.

I fully support the death penalty because I believe that some crimes cannot be penalized enough via incarceration. I also support the contention that the penalty (in criminal proceedings) is perfectly valid after due process under the rules agreed upon by the community of jurisdiction.

Posted by: TmjUtah at August 10, 2004 02:09 PM

DPU -

As far as a meme for victory, I'll stick with the President's stated objective: A functional sovereign nation with an elected government.

I don't think you can find a meme from the Left since they've never gotten past conflict = failure.

Remember the Afghanistan quagmire? The Baghdad Stalingrad? The hundreds of thousands of deaths to be suffered when Saddam used the WMD's he didn't have?

Left opposition to this administration and the war we are involved in is not based on rational thought. It's a scrabbling, pathetic effort to accept the reality that their paradigm of human behaviour is a fantasy.

Faster, please.

Posted by: TmjUtah at August 10, 2004 02:14 PM

Preview, Preview, PREVIEW...

"...to NOT accept the reality that their paradigm of human behaviour is a fantasy."

Posted by: TmjUtah at August 10, 2004 02:16 PM

>>>"I do not support the death penalty in Iraq. Only against Saddam Hussein himself."

This is almost as principled a position as John Kerry's opposition to the death penalty, except for Osama Bin Laden.

Post-modern moral rootlessness.

Posted by David at August 10, 2004 09:23 AM
**************************************************
LOL sounds like wanting to be a virgin except for one particular guy.
Sorry you are a virgin or not a virgin period.

You reject the death penalty or you don't period.

If you don't then you allow the Law and the Courts to decide who, when, where, how and why it is applied. period.

Posted by: Dan Kauffman at August 10, 2004 03:15 PM

bk Please cite these fairly sobering figures you mention, as well as the compelling reason why we should rely primarily on these "terrorist census" numbers.

I'm not sure what you mean by the "terrorist census", but the Brookings Institution posted some stats today, as reported by Kevin Drum. The estimated number of insurgents has increased from about 5,000 in April to 20,000 by July, despite a pretty steady body count of 1,000 insurgents per month. And the number of foreign Jihadists involved remains low and constant (around 500).

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 10, 2004 03:35 PM

tmju As far as a meme for victory, I'll stick with the President's stated objective: A functional sovereign nation with an elected government.

That's your measurement for victory. What are your indicators of progress or lack of progress?

We all expected a tough time, and we all know that confict != failure. According to my own milestones, things are getting worse, not better.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 10, 2004 03:51 PM

DPU --

How can you possibly say things are getting worse not better? What is the source of your information? What makes you confident that information is accurate?

Assuming you have accurate information, history suggests that the progress of conflicts is not linear; in the context of WWII, the Allies position in 1943 did not necessarily look better than it did in 1942, but we now know that they clearly were winning at that point. You can't judge something a failure simply because it doesn't appear to be getting dramatically better immediately. Progress does not tend to be obviously visible: e.g., in late 1944 Hitler launched a massive offensive against the Western Allies (the Battle of the Bulge) which pushed the Allies back a significant distance -- viewing that through your lens, the fact that he launched that offensive in itself would be a disaster, yet we now know it was the last gasp of a dying regime. Similarly, in the Fall of 1864, it did not necessarily appear that the Confederacy was on its last legs -- we now know that it was.

In short, you are way to confident in your opinions. You don't have the information necessary to support your statements (such information is not available), and you are simply allowing your prejudices to determine your opinions.

Posted by: Ben at August 10, 2004 06:01 PM

DPU -

We'll have to agree to disagree. Functional interim government, scheduled elections, organized insurgency limited to a few major population centers (and those areas now being largely administered by locals), functioning schools, hundreds of joint training efforts under way for democratization, transition to local security, and transfer to local administration of infrastructure recovery and management.

Every day that goes by brings full sovereignty under an elected government that much closer. Imagine that. It took the act of knocking Hussein out of his palace to convince Khaddafi to go legit. What will the effect be on Iran, Syria, and Saudi when they have no further to look than to their neighbor to see freedom?

Bush is right. Democracies don't attack their neighbors in wars of aggression.

My least-scientific measure of success is body counts. Ours, not theirs. The enemy has not been able to sustain the tempo they came out of the gate with beginning in April - either against us or the Iraqis. On the tactical level, how effective their attacks are can be reasonably accepted as an indicator of their capability. It has been knocked back quite a bit by any measure. If al Zarqawi is found inside Iraq it will most likely be the result of locals turning him in. I think the lack of his name appearing in the MSM stream the last few weeks is indicative of his declining ability to execute attacks beyond kidnappings and IED's. I could well be wrong; he may be marshalling resources for attacks timed to affect our election cycle for all I know.

What I do know is that the ratio of local-to-foreign fighter KIA/captured is way down. The administration hasn't yet made more than cursory reference to foreign fighters or intelligence agents beyond acknowledging their existence when media asks about them. I wonder what kind of a database we've accumulated on Syrian, Saudi, and especially Iranian activities over the last year?

Grab your hat come November. I think things will move pretty fast out the gate. Just a guess.

Posted by: TmjUtah at August 10, 2004 07:41 PM

The thing is, this discussion mostly isn't about iraq.

We get people who want to prove how tough they are. They're tough enough to make the decision to kill as many people as it takes to get true freedom. They prove it by talking tough.

And then we get people who want to prove they're wise. They say you don't get good results from evil methods, etc.

So of course they talk past each other. The wise guys don't understand that the tough guys are saying they're tough enough to live with evil results. The tough guys don't understand that the wise guys are right. And anyway, the tough guys on the other side started it, our tough guys have no honorable choice but to kill them all.

I will try not to argue about it with people who've made up their minds. The obvious counter to anybody who's trying to be wise is "If you got all this wisdom, how come you're arguing with a stupid mean guy like me? Don't you know better?"

Posted by: J Thomas at August 10, 2004 08:40 PM

J Thomas -

After several careful readings of your post, I can't find any content.

Want to fly that by us again?

Posted by: TmjUtah at August 10, 2004 08:52 PM

TMJ, no. It was a meta-discussion that I couldn't expect you to understand, that I doubt you would have any interest in anyway. If I did manage to explain it to you I expect you'd only get offended. Let's just agree to ignore each other.

Posted by: J Thomas at August 10, 2004 10:14 PM

Cool.

Posted by: TmjUtah at August 10, 2004 11:20 PM

what's a meta-discussion. Is that a sci-fi thing?

Posted by: David at August 10, 2004 11:50 PM

Mork,

If Al Qaeda killed George Bush, do you think it would make Americans more, or less sympathetic towards Al Qaeda?

It depends which Americans you are referring to. I am sure that a significant number would have the same reaction that Daily Kos had to the lynching of American contractors in Fallujah. The "enemy of my enemy" response would be expected from some.

Posted by: HA at August 11, 2004 03:13 AM

J Thomas --

Your last 2 posts were among the most condescending that I have ever seen. Do you allow ANY possibility that just maybe YOU are the one who is wrong?

You have obviously concluded that everyone who doesn't agree with you is a knuckle-dragging moron. You then accuse your opponents of being narrow minded and of having already made up their minds. Pot . . . meet kettle.

Posted by: Ben at August 11, 2004 07:00 AM

David, a meta-discussion is a discussion about discussion.

I was suggesting that people who argue with guys who've already made up their mind, ought to look carefully at their goals.

I guessed that for most people the primary goal is to publicly define who they are, to define it for themselves and for others.

I guessed further that the ones who advocate violence tend to be defining themselves as "tough guys". They're proving they're beyond mamby-pamby christian-good-guy vacuous niceness. They can make the tough choices that get people killed. This is a proud pose.

I guessed that the ones who advocate moderation tend to be defining themselves as "wise". Some of them are doing the nice-guy stuff that the tough guys are beyond. Others are proving to themselves and others that they're beyond the silly teenage tough guys, they're willing to be even tougher and do whatever it takes to achieve national objectives, even if that means doing things that tough guys can't stand like make negotiated agreements.

Since the guys on both sides have already made up their minds what poses they want to act out, the whole point of the "discussion" is for them to act out their poses in opposition to each other. No further result is plausible or desired.

Finally, I suggested that this is an inferior pose for a "wise" guy. Somebody who wanted to pretend he was wise should at least take the next step and notice when he's arguing with people who've already made up their minds. Superficially this is an unwise thing to do, so he invalidates his pose simply by doing the posing.

I found it amusing and it didn't take long to write.

Posted by: J Thomas at August 11, 2004 07:26 AM

Ben, thank you! Yes, it was a lot of fun to be so condescending and I enjoyed it a lot. I pulled out about half the stops. I think I could be a whole lot more condescending than that, but I didn't want to overdo it.

I don't feel that I have any opponents here. We have been discussing what president Bush should do, or what president Kerry should do, or what corporal Joe Swinson in Najaf should do. This is a lot like discussing the weather. It mostly hasn't devolved into what I should do or what you should do.

I suggest that there's a hierarchy here, of how wide we're willing to look for ideas about what Bush etc should do. The narrowest focus allows only one choice.

"There's only one moral thing to do and we have to do that."

"There's only one honorable thing to do and we have to do that."

"There's only one strategy that works against these fanatics and we have to follow that."

Then there are the people who can consider two alternatives, or three alternatives, etc.

I would tend to put myself near the top of the hierarchy, I'm willing to consider lots of choices, and I particularly like choices that we can try out and back away if we later decide they aren't working. I like choices that might work out and have no particular risk or downside if they don't. (And I like democracy.)

I can't expect people to agree with me when they're stuck in traps that leave them with only one alternative. And I don't look down on them for that, it can happen to anybody.

I guess it might seem condescending. But if you're walking down the road and you find Brer Rabbit stuck to the tarbaby, it's hard to avoid seeming a little condescending when he's stuck and
you aren't. There's no way to be completely equal in that circumstance, short of getting stuck yourself or getting him unstuck.

Posted by: J Thomas at August 11, 2004 07:41 AM

J Thomas,

re your meta-discussion, you mention the wiseguy and the tough guy. But you forgot to mention the condescending son of a bitch. What would he say, and what motivates him? Just curious to see if your incredible powers of analysis/observation have ever been turned inward.

Posted by: David at August 11, 2004 07:47 AM

David, I've thought about that. I should point out that people who analyse themselves don't necessarily do it any better than when they analyse others. They have somewhat more data to go on but they don't necessarily use it well.

I'm first interested in the meta-discussion. My natural tendency is to be a wise guy, who tries to find policies that would show some wisdom. The natural thing then is to argue with people who come up with idiotic ideas, and the arguments tend to confirm them in their opinions. (Psychological studies have confirmed the ancient wisdom that people believe their positions more strongly after they've defended those positions against attack -- regardless how competently they do at it.)

And the arguments wind up confirming the wise guy in his own opinions as well, when it would be better to keep looking for new info and new points of view.

Sometimes people break those chains when they notice them. Gregory Bateson claimed that people caught in double binds are required to believe in two contradictory things -- and are not allowed to discuss the contradiction. Some of them wind up with psychiatric symptoms and when they can say what the problem is, the symptoms may lessen.

So, should I sneakily encourage people to look at their motivations? Or is it better to just ask them to? Or use the time-honored Usenet approach of saying something stupid and then letting everybody correct me?

Tricking people into doing stuff is more condescending than just saying what you think. But it can look better if they get tricked.

Here, I'll do one more. What about bin Laden's motivations? He sees a cultural war between something in the West and Islam. But it looks to me like he'd get along just fine with 1950's christians. There's the doctrinal problems of christianity versus islam, but apart from that they're like peas in a pod. No nudity, no premarital sex, no drugs, no alcohol, no pornography, strong family values, etc.

The wastern civilisation he objects to so strongly is pretty new. It's, well, liberal. Bin Laden doesn't want arab young people watching western R-rated movies and eating bacon cheeseburgers, having premarital sex, going to topless beaches, etc. He's at war with Hollywood, with Michael Moore, with Larry Flynt. Culturally he could respect conservatives. But he has the same cultural problem with liberals that the conservatives do. They are his natural allies, if he could only get along with them.

Posted by: J Thomas at August 11, 2004 11:35 AM

David -

Poke the cage again. This is better than uncut Bugs Bunny cartoons.

Posted by: TmjUtah at August 11, 2004 11:50 AM

It was a meta-discussion that I couldn't expect you to understand, that I doubt you would have any interest in anyway. If I did manage to explain it to you I expect you'd only get offended.

Duuhhhh, what he talk about?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 11, 2004 12:30 PM

DPU -

We are almost always in disagreement. It's also rational, honest, and civil. Glad to post with you, sir.

Pardon me - I'm late for my conservative cell meeting. Today we are going to learn about truck bombs and hack into the design computers of several french design houses to make sure they don't use transparent materials or hike hemlines to an unacceptable height.

Posted by: TmjUtah at August 11, 2004 12:40 PM

Pardon me - I'm late for my conservative cell meeting. Today we are going to learn about truck bombs and hack into the design computers of several french design houses to make sure they don't use transparent materials or hike hemlines to an unacceptable height.

S'okay, I have a giant puppet workshop to attend, and then I'm attending my "Wikken Womyn Against Bush" Male Support Group. We're covering crying without shame today.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 11, 2004 12:53 PM

Speak truth to power, DPU.

What I'm actually doing is refilling my water barrels, then it's off to pick up the three-month supply of the last of my wife's four required meds. And my request for eight atropine injectors is getting a second hearing. We'll see.

It is good to be able to break up the day with a laugh or two.

Posted by: TmjUtah at August 11, 2004 01:09 PM

It is good to be able to break up the day with a laugh or two.

Agreed! I hope no one has been too offended at my jokes.

Posted by: J Thomas at August 11, 2004 03:59 PM

J Thomas --

If you think bin Laden would get along just fine with 1950's Christians, you have a grave misunderstanding both of bin Laden and of 1950's Christians. At the very least, bin Laden wants everyone else to live under sharia. I think it's very clear that 1950's Christians would be opposed to that.

Posted by: Ben at August 12, 2004 06:27 AM

Ben, where did you get your information about what bin Ladin wants?

Posted by: J Thomas at August 12, 2004 10:02 AM
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