July 06, 2005

From the First Gulf War to the Second

I was 20 years old during the first Gulf War to eject Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. I knew precious little about history, war, the Middle East, or foreign policy. My views of the world at the time were almost entirely shaped by the stuck-in-the-60s college town of Eugene, Oregon where I lived and went to school. So I opposed the war for all the usual dumb reasons: no war for oil, war never solves any problems, etc. (Needless to say, I changed my mind retroactively.)

Considering that the first Gulf War had a broader base of support than the second, there can’t be too many people like me who opposed the first and supported the second. Most of those who did switch as I did are probably roughly my age and only opposed the first out of sheer youthful ignorance.

Not everyone who opposed the war was a naïve college student, though. (That’s obviously true today, too.) There were at least half-way intelligent arguments against the 1991 Gulf War, just as there were truly depraved arguments for it – the worst being James Baker’s infamous “jobs, jobs, jobs.”

Take Christopher Hitchens, for example. He opposed the first and supported the second. And the events that forged his change of mind are pretty compelling. Here he is in an interview with The Common Review:
Hitchens: I argue with people whom I suspect of being more keen on landing a blow against George W. Bush than caring about the realities of the Middle East. I know them when I see them. I know them when I hear them. I can smell them, actually. It's the idea that Bush is the main enemy, and the rest of it is all contingent. One reason I know how to tell them is I used to feel that way about his father. I thought it was disgraceful that George Bush Sr. got away with the Iran-Contra racket. He lied his way out of this extraordinary conspiracy to enrich both the ayatollahs and the contras, and to trade American hostages, to raise money for one bunch of theocratic thugs to give money to another bunch of clerical fascist thugs in Central America, and to bypass the U.S. Constitution with a secret government. I thought everyone involved in that should have gone straight to jail, particularly George Bush the elder, who was one of the originators. So I didn't believe a word he said about it. I did not believe a word he said. Also, I hated the way he won the 1988 elections—the Willie Horton business, Lee Atwater.

How the party of Lincoln could use this Klansman in this way is beyond me. So, you know, I really actually wanted to see the guy pummeled. And it was perfectly obvious to me that they had told Saddam Hussein he was entitled to at least a chunk of Kuwait. The whole thing had the look to me of a put-up job. I went on Air Force One with Bush to Saudi Arabia and that didn't change my mind. There was something phony about it. The truth was not being told. When the war was all nearly over, I ended up in northern Iraq, where Saddam had made a final attempt to exterminate the Kurds. Eventually Bush and the British had sent in forces to say we'll stop that happening. We'll patrol the air space. We'll draw a line beyond which the Baath Party can't come.

TCR: The no-fly zones.

Hitchens: Yes. And I knew that this was the result of public opinion. People said, we can't end the war against Saddam Hussein seeing him massacre these people and drive the survivors over the border. We can't. And clearly they couldn't. With great reluctance, this policy was imposed. I was bouncing around in a jeep with some Kurdish guerillas at that point. And on my side of the windshield, there was a big laminated picture of George H. W. Bush. And I said to them, "Look, comrades, do you have to do this? For one thing, I can't see out of my side of the windshield. But for another, I know quite a few reporters in this area and might run into one of them at any moment. And I don't want them seeing me in a jeep that has this guy's image on it. So do you have to?" And they said, quite soberly and solemnly to me, "No, we think we should have this picture because we think, without him, we would all be dead, and all our families would be dead, too." And from what I'd seen by then in that region, I thought, that's basically morally true. I don't have a reply to that. I don't have a glib one and I don't have a sound one. It's true. So at that point my criticism of the war became this: that it had not been a regime-change war, that the slogans of liberty and justice that had been used to mobilize it had not been honored. But if they had been, I would have been in favor of it. It's a narrow but deep crevasse to cross, and once you've crossed it, I'll tell you this, you can't go back over it again. You can't find yourself on the other side of it. Some of you may be in transition across this crevasse yourselves or be thinking about it. I warn you: don't cross over if you have any intention of going back, because you can't. You're stuck with it then. You're a prisoner of the knowledge of genocide and fascism, and you'll never break free of it—of that awareness. You will have made friends you can't desert. And that, in simple terms, is what happened to me.
Posted by Michael J. Totten at July 6, 2005 11:14 AM
Comments

Michael,

I crossed that line reading about Anne Frank, and futher about the Holocaust, when I was 10. Graduated high school to the Air Force Academy and 24 years in uniform. Once you cross the line you truly can't go back. And our left-wing would still send those people and their kids back to the paper-shredders and rape rooms of Saddam's Iraq. The cry about Sudan but I do not hear a call from them, or from the UN, to regime change Sudan. Or Syria. Or Suadi Arabia. They stand tall against bringing freedom that they enjoy so much to others.

What I find most ironic is that they would be the first against the wall if the revolution they want comes.

Posted by: buffpilot at July 6, 2005 11:53 AM

What I find most ironic is that they would be the first against the wall if the revolution they want comes.

Oh to be a fly upon that wall, so to speak.

Posted by: dougf at July 6, 2005 12:10 PM

It was Orwell's book did it for me.

History will probably view the two Iraq conflicts as one war, poorly conceived and executed in 1991 but thankfully cleaned up 12 years later.

Posted by: TallDave at July 6, 2005 12:11 PM

MJT,
I wish more of those on the left had your willingness to examine the reality of the situation, and not just reflexively react against what a Republican administration wants to do.

Posted by: exhelodrvr at July 6, 2005 12:16 PM

Completely off-topic, but amusing in a sad kind of way.

A quote from the PM of New Zealand 'spinning' a comment from one of her Party members who needless to say is of a certain religious persuasion.

"I will try to clarify it. Clearly Ashraf is a devout Muslim and he will have his own views. But for the record let me spell out the Labour Party does not support capital punishment. It does not support flogging. It does not support stoning. We have very strong views about that."

Good to know that the Labour Party has very strong views on this subject. Guess that means it has probably lost the pro-stoning vote in the next election.

Geez !!!

Posted by: dougf at July 6, 2005 12:30 PM

exhelodrvr: I wish more of those on the left had your willingness to examine the reality of the situation

I am no longer on the left. Neither is Christopher Hitchens.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 6, 2005 12:38 PM

MJT,
The reason you're not on the left anymore is because you are looking at the reality of the situation, not just who the President is.

Posted by: exhelodrvr at July 6, 2005 12:56 PM

Neither is Christopher Hitchens.

You mean he no longer supports, believes in, or endorses the ideology of Troskyism?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at July 6, 2005 01:05 PM

DPU,

Hitchens stopped calling himself a socialist quite a long time ago. He says he feels its loss as if it were a missing limb, but that doesn't change the fact that he has rejected it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 6, 2005 01:29 PM

Hitchens stopped calling himself a socialist quite a long time ago.

Any idea which political and economic theory he now endorses? Wikipedia says that he retains a fondness for Marxism, but that doesn't say much. And as most of his recent writing focus on American foreign policy and those critical of it, his political leanings aren't on display.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at July 6, 2005 01:32 PM

By the way, it's probably more accurate to refer to his former ideology as "communist", or more accurately "Marxist-Leninist" rather than socialist.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at July 6, 2005 01:37 PM

Hitchens is only really definable in terms of british, not american, politics. He seems pretty much a Blairite - moderate left, with an understanding of, and some sympathy for, the soft right.

http://slate.msn.com/id/2117328/

soru

Posted by: soru at July 6, 2005 02:06 PM

For all you neocons out there, or whatever you like to call yourselves, one of your Founding Fathers, Francis Fukuyama, is on Charlie Rose tonight 7/6/05. He's interesting, because he considers himself a neo-con and yet, is capable of dealing realistically with the cold empirical facts of the Iraq war. Krauthammer fans, this isn't for you.

Posted by: John Mc at July 6, 2005 02:24 PM

Hitchens is only really definable in terms of british, not american, politics.

IMO, American politics seem to be defined in terms other than what the rest of the world use, with less emphisis on economics and more on degrees of individual freedom.

He seems pretty much a Blairite - moderate left, with an understanding of, and some sympathy for, the soft right.

That would make his still a socialist.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at July 6, 2005 03:16 PM

DPU,

Here is an interview with Hitchens in Reason where he explains why he is no longer a socialist.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 6, 2005 03:23 PM

theres a long article from vanity fair posted on the hitchens website, in which he travels around iran, talking with ayotolah khomeini's grandson, for instance, who believes in traditional shi'ite separation of church and state.

it struck me as very much to the point because, given that the new iranian prez may have been one of the hostage takers in 1979 things seem to have come full circle... and so i wonder what will happen when if and when iran announces its nuclear bomb.

i can even understand young educated iranians who on the one hand despise the mullahs but on the other hand say "if pakistan has a bomb then why shouldnt we?"

some mullahs have already said they will blow israel into the sea... and that islam can withstand ten million casualties but that the west cannot.

which brings one back to the chechen in the russian theatre who famously said: "they love life while we love death."

Posted by: Todd Grimson at July 6, 2005 03:40 PM

You know, it's interesting: the ideals and rhetoric of the old left have become what the new right is actually better at accomplishing now that it's their goal. Universal freedom and prosperity for mankind will come about through free markets and free minds (to steal a catchphrase), not handouts and socialism.

Conservative means to a liberal end, someone (Mort Kondracke, maybe?) put it.

Posted by: TallDave at July 6, 2005 03:47 PM

For what it's worth, I heard the First Gulf War referred to several times as "The Liberation" here in Kuwait today.

With luck, in ten years time that will be common usage in Iraq, too. (Who knows, maybe it is and we just don't hear it. There's a distinct possibility I'll be going to Iraq in the near future on a project related to my current trip. If I do, I'll let you know what I hear there. I'll even take pictures for the guy who was so disappointed that Hitchens actually wrote about his experiences in Iraq. )

I'd post more on my site, but it's 1:41 and I just finished my workday. Sometimes business travel sucks.

Posted by: Mark Poling at July 6, 2005 03:48 PM

Thanks for linking the interview Michael; good stuff. Didn't realize he was writing a book on Orwell, I'll have to get that one. I ordered his Jefferson book for the 4th.

Posted by: TallDave at July 6, 2005 03:50 PM

Tall Dave,

His Orwell book was published a while ago. It's great. Get it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 6, 2005 03:53 PM

Thanks for that link, Michael. He hedges a lot, and the final two paragraphs reveal that, for an ex-Marxist (or for someone who would not positively state that he was a socialist), he sure still adores Marx.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at July 6, 2005 04:02 PM

John Kerry opposed the Gulf War but voted in favor of invasion of Iraq in 2002 if Saddam didn't come to heel.

So it was very very funny to hear Kerry then say on the campaign trail that we need to pass the famous "global test" with many allies (i.e., France) to help and defray costs and the approval of the UN Security Council. We had all that in 1991, and he opposed going in, invoking Vietnam, as usual.

Posted by: Moonbat_One at July 6, 2005 04:22 PM

OK....?
What does all that have to do with justifications of the current Iraq debacle? The two wars are nothing alike. And at least Hitchens has what appears to be a continuing slide into alcoholism as an excuse.

Posted by: torridjoe at July 6, 2005 04:27 PM

Torridjoe: at least Hitchens has what appears to be a continuing slide into alcoholism as an excuse.

Ah yes, as if his experience with the Kurds had nothing to do with it. You really know how to plug your eyes, don't you?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 6, 2005 04:29 PM

We sold out the Kurds--stipulated. What does that have to do with invading a country that did not threaten us, under false pretenses? How does it inform the necessity or desirabilty to depose Saddam and occupy Iraq into the future?

Posted by: torridjoe at July 6, 2005 04:36 PM

The pretenses weren't false, torridjoe. Being wrong and intentionally deceiving people are different things. Who in his right mind would order the invasion knowing full well once we got there, there wouldn't be WMDs there? Clinton seemed pretty convinced Saddam was hiding both WMDs and the means to produce them. The whole world did.

As for invading a country that had never attacked us (but did try to assassinate a US president), I dont recall Yugoslavia/Serbia ever posing a threat to the US or attacking us. Yet we invaded it without the permission of the UN Security Council. Hell, Clinton didn't even go through the trouble of getting a vote from Congress like Bush did. Were you all worked up about that, too?

Posted by: Moonbat_One at July 6, 2005 04:44 PM

since it's abundantly clear and well documented that it was known that the rationales were not supported by the evidence, I'm not sure how you reach the conclusion that pretenses were not false. It was known that no yellowcake was acquired. False. It was known Iraq had no nuclear capability. False. It was known there was no relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda. False. It was known the tubes were not for centrifuges. False. All of these things were known to the administration, and all were contradicted in public speeches and utterances by the President, the Vice President, and the NSA. Clinton was president in 1998, not 2002 once we had solid information from the ground. And in any case, what Clinton "knew" they had, he also knew to be decade old stockpiles of unusable munitions.

Kosovo was (correctly IMO) regarded as an active genocide in progress. As a theater within the scope of NATO, using NATO forces made perfect sense, with or without the UN. And whatever was done, was done without a single US combat fatality to my knowledge.

And in any case, even if I grant the premise--how does that "wrong war" justify another one?

Posted by: torridjoe at July 6, 2005 04:50 PM

"What does that have to do with invading a country that did not threaten us, under false pretenses?"

Nothing - but that wasn't the case. Iraq refused to adhere to the terms of cease-fire, and was gaming the oil-for-food system to its finish; sanctions would have been lifted anyway, and they would've been able to continue their search for an illegal arsenal. There were no false pretenses, only rotten intel. But that rotten intel was only made possible by Saddam's obfuscation (see above).

Posted by: tsmonk at July 6, 2005 04:54 PM

Marx gets a bit of a bad rap. Though a lot of his ideas were deeply flawed, he was a very insightful thinker who did recognize some truths and a humanist who would have been horrified by the way people like Castro and Pol Pot cynically exploited the appeal of his ideas, to say nothing of monsters like Stalin and Mao.

Posted by: TallDave at July 6, 2005 04:57 PM

tsmonk,

A noble effort, but I fear you're trying to reason him out of a position he was never reasoned into.

Posted by: TallDave at July 6, 2005 05:01 PM

People like torridjoe make me sad. They used to make me angry, but nowadays it's just devastatingly disappointing.

Let's be candid: George W. Bush made one huge mistake, one that bids fair to bring the whole enterprise crashing down, and doesn't seem to be able to do anything about it.

That mistake?

Expecting the "liberals" to be, you know, liberal. You know, preferring democracy and freedom of expression to tyranny and restricted speech, and the rest of that garbage. What they've turned out to be is reactionary fascists, anxious to support any tyrant or dictator who's willing to, at minimum, murmur bad things about the United States.

So here's torridjoe, seeing himself as a liberal pacifist, arguing passionately for... the restoration and perpetuation of a regime that killed more people annually than the U.S.'s traffic death statistics, made a serious attempt to destroy a whole subenvironment in order to wipe out its inhabitants, and served as a beacon and banner for those with ill intent toward us. Absolutely unable to see justification in any response to hurt other than a binary choice between capitulation and bloody red revenge, and thinking that we should accept him as a "patriot" because he chooses the second alternative.

Weep for the end of liberalism, people. All we've got left is Reds and Pinks with swastikas hidden under their lapels.

Regards,
Ric

Posted by: Ric Locke at July 6, 2005 05:46 PM

"All we've got left is Reds and Pinks with swastikas hidden under their lapels"

And perhaps a few people who agree with Pope JPII on the Iraq war issue. Where does he fit in your rogues gallery Ric?

Posted by: Karl Jr. at July 6, 2005 05:52 PM

How ironic. The Left is now claiming Pope John Paul II.

Posted by: Ben at July 6, 2005 06:22 PM

Obviously, it is possible for people to disagree in good faith about whether the Iraq War was a good thing. Prior to the War, one could reasonably argue that going to war might make a bad situation worse.

It just seems patently hypocritical for people who loudly proclaim their concern for the underprivileged to continue to rail against this war, which has demonstrably improved the lot of most of the people of Iraq. It is apparent that much of the Left could care less about the people of Iraq.

Posted by: Ben at July 6, 2005 06:27 PM

"Obviously, it is possible for people to disagree in good faith about whether the Iraq War was a good thing."

Well knock me over with a feather.
Careful Ben, you gonna lose your card.

"It just seems patently hypocritical for people who loudly proclaim their concern for the underprivileged to continue to rail against this war"

Very few people proclaim only one concern. We all have many concerns - and most real-world situations make conflicting claims on our various principals and concerns. Concern for the underprivileged is certainly a liberal concern. Avoiding the use of war except when really necessary is another long-standing concern.

"It is apparent that much of the Left could care less about the people of Iraq"

I guess you meant "could NOT care less...", but I prefer it the way you wrote it.

Posted by: Karl Jr. at July 6, 2005 06:40 PM

Mike,

Another great one. I think your evolution in thinking, as well as Hitch's, basically encapsulates the burden of the emrging liberal hawks. I supported both wars (well sort of, I was 12 during the First Gulf War, so it wasn't really a mature intellectual support), but there were a lot of intelligent arguments against then. I think the main problem the anti-war Left has with supporting the war is their mistrust and oftentimes comtempt for Bush. A lot of the heat Bush has earned, with his haphazard planning, and inability to be clear on the case for war. However, if one is always fixated on anti-Bush, or anti-Republican opposition, you'll ignore the fact that were it not for Bush, Saddam would still be in power.

There is a liberal saying this, BTW.

Posted by: Rafique Tucker at July 6, 2005 06:53 PM

Those last five or six sentences hit you right in the gut. Wow!

Posted by: Steve in Nashville at July 6, 2005 07:11 PM

I can smell them, actually

That's his upper lip.

Posted by: kc at July 6, 2005 07:36 PM

I know that this war has brought a few liberals like Hitchens and you MJT out of the liberal camp and into the pro-war camp. But don't pretend like it is a zero-sum choice between supporting the war and supporting freedom and opposing the war and opposing freedom. I and most democrats oppose the war but still strongly support the war on terrorism, the spread of freedom, human rights, democracy, etc. We just have different methods. This war was a unilateral intervention that distracted us from the real war on terrorism. It has radicalized the rest of the Arab world against us, it creates more terrorists everday than we kill or capture, and it has cost the lives of over 1700 americans and 22000 Iraqi civilians in a war against a country that posed no threat whatsoever to us. Occupations like this one are the single biggest cause of terrorist suicide bombing worldwide - http://danieldrezner.com/research/guest/Pape1.pdf.

There are many alternatives to this camp that still vigorously promote the spread of freedom, rights, and democracy. You should check out Madelaine Albright's new book, "Madame Secretary," which discusses her foreign policy of "assertive multilateralism." And you can't call her an opponent of freedom - she lived through both the NAZI occupation and the communist occupation of her home country of the Czech Republic. Assertive multilateralism works - just look at its successes in the Bosnia and Albania conflicts.

Posted by: mike at July 6, 2005 07:53 PM

This is one of the most interesting interviews with Hitchens that I've seen in a while. However, Dennis Perrin raises some questions regarding Hitchens' account of the 1991 turning point in his view of the first Gulf War.
http://redstateson.blogspot.com/2005/06/punchy.html
I would be interested to know if anybody can point to anything Hitchens wrote or said between 1991 and, say, 2000, that is consistent with his current remarks.

One of the things I like about this interview is that finally somebody asks Hitchens about the difference between his own hopes for Iraq and the
goals of those actually planning the war and associated policies, particularly the "economic architecture of the occupation". It seems to me this is often not done, and those supporting the war talk in terms of "we". For example, you (Totten) once said:

"And as long as Iraqis aren't our enemy, I don't care what they do. It's none of my business. I certainly don't want to rule over you or
anyone else." http://www.michaeltotten.com/archives/000730.html

However, it is irrelevant what you, or Hitchens, or Paul Berman, or Norm Geras, or Nick Cohen, etc., want for the people of Iraq. You are not the ones planning the war, or the "economic architecture of the occupation".

It is possible to argue that despite the differing goals of the prowar leftists/centrists/whatever and the Bush Administration, it was correct to support the war. But for this argument to go through, there has to be an honest acknowledgement of those differences, and especially where administration policy runs counter to the goals of democracy and sovereignty, and where such policies actually run counter to the goal of defeating the insurgency.

Unfortunately, Hitchens basically punts on the entire question, and his comments on privatization do not even begin to seriously address the sorts
of issues that Naomi Klein and others have been writing about. To take just one example, Klein has been talking up Jubliee Iraq as a group that should be supported. Turning to their pages, Saad Salih Jabr, Chairman of the Iraqi National Assembly's Economic Committee, is quoted as saying
regarding the Paris Club agreement that

"You heard yesterday's news. The world media is marketing this as the deal of a lifetime. It is not. This is yet another crime committed against the Iraqi people."
http://www.jubileeiraq.org/files/Paris%20Club%20problems%20article.htm

As far as I know, Hitchens had nothing to say about this. I couldn't find that you (Totten) had anything to say about this, although back on 10/19/03 you had a few comments regarding debt.

An exception among the prowar leftist/centrists is Johann Hari, who has written some good columns regarding the the economic aspects of the occupation - e.g., http://www.johannhari.com/archive/article.php?id=555
about the debts and the IMF plan, and in particular how "all the economic tools to tackle the insurgents have been taken away; they will be left with nothing but raw force, which aggravate the situation in most instances."

Hitchens does make a comment about how he was "very opposed to the appointment of Paul Bremer as the colonial governor of Iraq". That's nice, but he spends far more time attacking the left than he does describing his disagreements with Bremer. Actually, for someone "very opposed", I don't recall seeing much of anything describing such disagreements. This is unfortunate, since he could do some good by writing about such issues.
(as one other example, perhaps something about how the 1987 law to prohibit unions in the public sector is still being used?
http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=7600
And for some more on this regarding Hitchens,
http://redstateson.blogspot.com/2005/05/alliances.html )

So in the end, the Hitchens interview just reinforces the view that a large and important aspect of the occupation will continue to be ignored by those who support the war for "humanitarian" reasons.

Posted by: Seth Kulick at July 6, 2005 08:30 PM

Mike,
I don't know why you are doing it, but you are spreading lies here.

"This war was a unilateral intervention that distracted us from the real war on terrorism."

How can you pretend that 40+ nations being involved in something is unilateral? That is just plain, DNC bullshit!

Posted by: exhelodrvr at July 6, 2005 08:49 PM

I'm glad Hitch is on the right side here, but sometimes the combination of his ego and intellect creates blind spots in his analysis.

Posted by: bob at July 6, 2005 09:09 PM

Mike's comments are indicative of the usual Leftist delusion: if we are just nice to people, give them enough money or throw Israel over the side they won't kill us.

Leftists/Liberals/Dems categorically reject war in all instances by the United States because it is only justified by their views when the US is perfect, and perfectly moral. Since perfection will never come, the "soft power" of moralizing and writing speeches is preferred. It also is seen as risk free and is the real reason Leftists/Liberals/Dems (same thing really) oppose any military action anywhere anytime by the US.

RISK.

As if we needed to do anything to make Muslims hate us. They already hated us because our nation is rich and successful while theirs are poor, violent, and failures. Why? Easier to blame us and "the jews" than confront their own societies failures. We are their convenient scapegoat.

So what next? Not doing anything even remotely risky is JUST what Bill Clinton did. While he pressed Barak to make concession after concession, bin Laden bombed the Cole and planned 9/11. NOT TAKING A RISK is risky in itself.

If you never get off the couch you'll die of a heart attack. Which is exactly the strategy Leftists endorse.

Posted by: Jim Rockford at July 6, 2005 09:20 PM

It's one of the best interviews of someone's post-9/11 road to damascus transformation. It's validating and honest.

I was at work when Bush I stopped the march to Baghdad. We were scared, all keyed up, we thought we were winning. We couldn't understand why he stopped!

Then we promptly went to back sleep until 9/11.

I thought I was crazy when I found I agreed with Bush on war. I had read much about European terrorism in the 60s for a paper I was writing, and what Bush said about the nature of terrorism and its sponsor nations was spot on historically correct. The burden would be on Saddam to prove he was NOT aiding terrorism. Then I read the Iraq bloggers, then Paul Berman...and so it goes. It is true, I can never go back. But this is where we are supposed to be. In the world, awake at last.

Posted by: Patricia at July 6, 2005 09:21 PM

This war was a unilateral intervention that distracted us from the real war on terrorism. It has radicalized the rest of the Arab world against us, it creates more terrorists everday than we kill or capture, and it has cost the lives of over 1700 americans and 22000 Iraqi civilians in a war against a country that posed no threat whatsoever to us. Occupations like this one are the single biggest cause of terrorist suicide bombing worldwide - http://danieldrezner.com/research/guest/Pape1.pdf.

Y'know, reading that makes it clear what your criteria are -- if it's complimentary in any way toward G. Bush and the war it's not credible; if it's derogatory it's TRVTH. The facts of the matter seem a great deal more mixed than that to me, but to arrive at such an attitude it's necessary to, e.g., read Iraqi bloggers other than Riverbend.

And even if true, IMO it beats the situation we would be in absent the war: a smaller but highly dedicated group with powerful motives to damage us, and the confidence that they could do so at will, with impunity and the enthusiastic (if covert) support of State actors, with absolutely no chance of suffering effective retribution, and with the confident expectation of joyous approbation from every leftist and Democrat not actually caught in the flying debris.

That last remains true, of course. It would almost be worth suffering another attack just to watch Nancy Pelosi dancing on the table to exultant chants of "Bush failed to protect you, Bush failed to protect you." I said, almost. The dead and dying would no doubt fail to appreciate the irony.

Regards,
Ric

Posted by: Ric Locke at July 6, 2005 09:30 PM

The fact that this invasion was 'Unilateral', or at least not multilateral in the sense of involving the U.N., is a positive aspect of the invasion.

The phoniness that Hitchens detected on Air Force 1 in 1991 was a result of the whole phony nature of having to erect an agreeable facade over the U.N. coalition whose reality was much more sorid. The ending to Part I which Hitchen's detests is also the logical extension of multilateral approach and Bush I's biggest fault was to buy into that ideology.

The disaster of the ensuing decade of containment is also an extension of the old U.N.-style multilateralism and unfortunately, very few people in the U.S. and the world are paying attention to the Oil-For-Food scadal, perhaps because the implications are too dire and it means crossing Hitchens's metaphorical chasm of no-return into Wolfowitz territory.

I am not a Clinton-Albright hater. (I especially deplore the way Albright was previously villified by the left for her policies toward Iraq, by way of a distorted quote from a trashy, gotcha-journalism interview in a piece that resembled Baath party propaganda. Those readers who know what I'm talking about will remember that it was Leslie Stahl from CBS's 60 Minutes too - natch.) But Albight's approach is no longer tenable in the post 9/11 era. Containing Saddam and treating terrorism like as a law enforcement issue is no longer a choice.

Iraq is not a distraction from the war on terror. It is central to it.

Posted by: John in Tokyo at July 6, 2005 09:46 PM

Incidentally, what is Hitchens talking about when he said that it was clear in 1990 that Bush 1 had okayed Saddam to take a chunk of Kuwait? Is that a reference to the old April Gillaspie canard? Is he saying that that was his thinking at the time or that he still believes it?

Anyway, I'm not going to get upset. I know that Hitchens is speaking to the Left and these are some of the assumptions they have and he is trying to demonstrate that logically, one can still be Left and support regime change in Iraq.

Posted by: John in Tokyo at July 6, 2005 09:53 PM

"You should check out Madelaine Albright's new book, "Madame Secretary," which discusses her foreign policy of "assertive multilateralism." And you can't call her an opponent of freedom - she lived through both the NAZI occupation and the communist occupation of her home country of the Czech Republic. Assertive multilateralism works - just look at its successes in the Bosnia and Albania conflicts."

No thanks. You can keep your assertive multilateralism.

Foreign policy and effective diplomacy begins and ends with a credible threat of force.

Albright and the Clinton administration had UBL between the cross-hairs in Sudan and failed to execute, years after UBL first tried to topple the twin towers in New York. The unwillingness to seriously deal with the the forces that brought us 9/11 is the primary legacy of Clinton and Albright's foreign policy.

Posted by: bob at July 6, 2005 10:05 PM

What a pack of chickenhawks! A good war? PHUI! Ain't life grand when an entire country is being dusted with depleted uranium with a half life of 4.5 billion years. Has anyone seen the web photos of the mutations occuring in new born babes in Iraq? Why was the airport and parts of Fallujah stripped of soil to a depth of 2 metres? Well gosh, WMD's explicitly banned by that charmingly quaint geneva Convention! The war crimes of the USA WILL NOT BE forgotten, except in the States, the rest of the world doesn't have a no child left alive-oops-I mean behind policy.

Posted by: Grinna at July 6, 2005 10:20 PM

Incidentally Michael, "May you live in interesting times" is an ancient Chinese curse! Regards.

Posted by: Grinna at July 6, 2005 10:23 PM

Grinna: The war crimes of the USA WILL NOT BE forgotten

And the war crimes of Saddam Hussein have already been forgotten. At least they have been forgotten by you. That's what this post of mine was all about, after all.

Fortunately you're a political minority in your country (Australia) and it looks like you'll stay that way for a while.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 6, 2005 11:32 PM

Fair enough Mike, point taken! Howsomever, what Inteligence (sic) Agency had Saddam as an asset for 30-40 years? What western countries sold him the poison gas and weaponry? Hmm, the same with old Osama! Who paid this guy and supported him? Gosh, The US of A & Britain (and probably France). I AM in the minority here in Oz BUT only by a couple of percentage points! From what I can gather Monsewer (sic) Bush Ill Yong's approval ratings are headed south, One can only hope. Saddam is a mongrel, sure, but this invasion ain't legal, ain't working and ain't helping. I have been to the States, it is an amazing place, I can not help but feel that Bush SULLIES your reputation around the world. A great shame that a beacon of hope has mestatized into a bonfire! Regards.

Posted by: Grinna at July 7, 2005 12:13 AM

"I was taught very early on that the state can be, and is, a liar and a murderer."

Hitch says this: it is VERY important.

Vietnam in 1968, or 1972, was looking at two types of states: one dominated by a little US lying and a little US murdering, or one dominated by a commie supported LOTS of lying and murdering.

Hitch seems to think "the Vietnam atrocity" was worse under LBJ (D) and Nixon ®. For me, the evil commie gov't murderers were a LOT worse than then the imperfect My Lai massacring US soldiers -- and the US punished Lt. Calley. I don't think the Vietnamese commies punished their murderers of 800 000 or so, though they did replace Cambodia's Pol Pot with a pro-Vietnam commie.

Similarly, Saddam's policy of murdering is worse than Bush's policy of liberation, including fighting & killing.

The Unreal Perfection or "Higher standards" of the US, expecting to have none of Nixon's lies (bombing Cambodia) nor any My Lai (or Abu Ghraib), means the anti-war folk would rather accept genocide then the reality of a war.

Like Amnesty, and the UN are accepting, today, in Sudan (it's "not genocide" -- no regime change needed).

Finally, there IS a kind of socialism that I think can work -- voluntary socialism. Sharing. Sharing info, CDs, DVDs, everything digital. The immorality of socialism was not in its ideal of sharing, but in its willingness to use gov't force to take from some to give to others.

The power of capitalism is that it is based on voluntary contracts. (All too often corrupted in practice in favor of the rich.)

The purpose of gov't is to use FORCE, when, and only when, voluntary methods are so unacceptable that not using force is worse.

Your Libertarian Paternalist.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at July 7, 2005 02:48 AM

Early reports indicate a minimum of six explosions in London either in the subway or on buses during rush-hour. 90 casualties is first report.

Posted by: Todd Grimson at July 7, 2005 03:48 AM

Europeans are accustomed to terrorist attacks. London has had many bombings. It takes more than a few bloody bombers to upset a Brit.

Posted by: Duns Placer at July 7, 2005 04:21 AM

Not sure what your point is, Miss Placed.

Posted by: Todd Grimson at July 7, 2005 04:27 AM

Grinna :

The 'USA armed Saddam' canard.

The peace research institute of Stockholm did a study on who sold weapons and what quantities. They made a nearly unreadable PDF on it, but here is a site which has both a simplified version of the report and a link to the original.
The bottom line: USA was the 11th biggest arms exporter and the US share was 0.46%.

Posted by: Rune from Oslo Norway at July 7, 2005 04:30 AM

It's meant to be another Madrid.

Posted by: Todd Grimson at July 7, 2005 04:52 AM

Thanks for sharng that link Rune. That's one to keep around.

I agree 100% Tom. In conditions of abundance socialism may work, but in the scarce reality we inhabit forcibly seizing the wealth of the productive for purposes of redistribution is not a recipe for utopia but rather creates a permanent underclass of dependence and subsidized irresponsibility. Also, one of the great ironies of Vietnam is that more Americans know about the My Lai massacre than know the communists massacred hundreds of thousands when we abandoned the Vietnamese.

Posted by: TallDave at July 7, 2005 06:50 AM

pulls her head out of the sand

I'm glad we have all that flypaper in Iraq. Those terrorists are all going there so that none of us in the West will be attacked. Hurrah! I am so relieved that we're not in danger of bombings or anything crazy like that.

This flypaper idea is just fantastic! Those hoardes of sleeper cells that have been integrated in the West for years, perhaps decades all got on planes to go fight our Brave Marines and Air Force and Army and Reserves and National Guard in Iraq. I mean its not like we need them here, all the terrorists are there!

What a relief.

Michael, I love your blog! It's sooo informative, I don't read those silly newspapers or watch that crazy news on TV anymore. That stuff is for non-progressive people.

Olga the Ostrich

Posted by: Olga the Ostrich at July 7, 2005 07:00 AM

Greetings from Kuwait, Olga!

Glad you're enjoying the show. I can't say I'm surprised when terrorists kill innocent people, but I'm always amazed by the innocent glee some innocent bystanders take in the spectacle.

Hope you have a much closer view next time.

Posted by: Mark Poling at July 7, 2005 08:00 AM

"I mean its not like we need them here, all the terrorists are there!"

The "Brave Marines and Air Force and Army and Reserves and National Guard in Iraq" are patrolling the streets, manning checkpoints, conducting raids, and arresting and killing those who are opposing the popularly elected government. So Olga, when you say that "we need them here", you're advocating that they return to the US to do the same thing?

Careful...if Pres. Bush were to do such a thing, I don't thing many of your lefty friends would appreciate your approval of those actions. You may find yourself on the receiving end of some "Nazi!" and "fascists!" taunts.

Posted by: rvastar at July 7, 2005 08:00 AM

I never realized it...but I guess I'm another American Blair-ite. Thanks to all the discussion on the subject. You have truly helped clarify my political stance.
Great blog, great info, good discussion.

Posted by: DaKruser at July 7, 2005 08:00 AM

rvastar, why do you say we need them here? All the terrorists are there, not here. That's why Iraq is the frontline of the War on Terror. We want all the terrorists over there so that they won't hurt us. I'm glad it's working.

Mark, of course I'm gleeful. Mr. Bush has obviously got the terrorists on the run and Iraq is doing great, just like he planned. Why do you want the evil terrorists to hurt me?

Olga the Ostrich

Posted by: Olga the Ostrich at July 7, 2005 08:20 AM

Olga -

You are an idiot. If you have useful suggestions, make them. Otherwise, STFU. Snide comments are not cute -- they are childish. For the record, the so-called "flypaper" theory does appear to be working: there is a huge influx of bad guys into Iraq, and our soldiers and marines are dealing with them. It is to be expected that terrorist attacks will still occur elsewhere.

Liberals always accuse conservatives of oversimplifying, but that's exactly what you are doing here: If a proposed solution does not work perfectly, it is a bad solution. Well, here's some news for you: part of being a grown up is accepting the fact that sometimes there are no perfect solutions. President Bush is making an effort to deal with the problem, and he has developed logical solutions that are proving successful. Positive alternatives and suggestions are welcome, childish petulance is not.

Posted by: Ben at July 7, 2005 08:58 AM

But, thats what I said, Mr. Bush is being successful. There is a sharp decline in attacks in Iraq. Terrorists are afraid to attack the west, now that they know how we will respond. I think Mr. Bush was perfectly logical in assuming that a terrorist group which always relied on a non-hieracrhial, non-millitary strategy to flock to a central battlefield where we could wipe them out. It's not like it might just attract the local jihadist wannabes, instead of the hardcore terrorists who are trained and already planted. If Bin Laden is a smart leader, he'd tell all those people to come and fight in Iraq.

Obviously.

Posted by: Olga the Ostrich at July 7, 2005 09:11 AM

Olga --

Q.E.D.

Posted by: Ben at July 7, 2005 09:16 AM

rvastar, why do you say we need them here?

I didn't say that...you did. And yes, I got the sarcasm bit...I found sarcasm highly amusing when I was about 12, too. Congratulations...you're very adept at being childish, which is precisely the reason your party is out of power and your ideology is in decline. That's hilarious, isn't it?

Question: were you "glad" when your/Clinton/Left's strategy of doing absolutely nothing in the face of terrorist attacks was "working" after the WTC '93? The African Embassy bombings? The USS Cole?

Please...remind us idiots of the great successes that marked your side's method of confronting terrorism. Please remind us of the big accomplishments of the Left in the past 30 years.

Oh...I forgot. Live8.

You should be proud of your success.

Posted by: rvastar at July 7, 2005 09:26 AM

"It's not like it might just attract the local jihadist wannabes, instead of the hardcore terrorists who are trained and already planted."

Gotta love it. What'cha gonna do, Olga? Bring those 100k troops to NYC, London, etc. to do door-to-doors for your hypothetical planted troops.

Oooh yeah, that makes my civil libertarian heart swell with joy.

Obviously the war is on our doorstep (not, by the way, something that the Wingnuts ever denied, come to think of it....) Let's start a draft and burn up the Bill of Rights. I'm willing to have my papers checked at every subway stop if it means no more terrorist attacks, aren't you?

And of course why should one want to look at actual data when instead you could rely on snarky logic?

So let's use the powers of our superior intellect, stick flowers in our hair and fingers in our ears, close our eyes and sing again "Give Peace a Chance" and all those Great Satan Hatas will realize the war is over, and they've won (oops, sorry, been in the wrong all along), and go away.

Posted by: Mark Poling at July 7, 2005 09:30 AM

rvastar, I did not say that they should be here. Shame on you for lying. As for Bill Clinton. I didn't vote for the man. I am not in his party and I had nothing to do with live-8. Next thing you know, you'll accuse me of buying nigerian yellowcake and hiding weapons of mass destruction in my feathers. Did you get your information from Curveball?

Posted by: Olga the Ostrich at July 7, 2005 09:32 AM

mark polling, wwhy do you say such meanspirited things to me? I would give up any freedom for the protection against these evil men. Its better to be alive than free, don't you agree?

Posted by: Olga the Ostrich at July 7, 2005 09:48 AM

Typical response from a leftist:

Nanny-nanny, boo-boo!!!

I know you are but what am I?

Goo-goo! Gaa-gaa!

The adults will continue running things, protecting you and the people you care about - well, that may be a bit of a stretch since narcissist generally only care about themselves - from the savages whom you think it's funny to joke about. It must be extremely gratifying to be a poster child for bin Laden's view of the West as weak and ridiculous.

Have a nice life running from fights, farting under the covers, and borrowing money from your parents.

Posted by: rvastar at July 7, 2005 09:52 AM

I begin to understand why giant puppets always appear at these Progressive Protests; they represent the platonic ideal of an entire generation of activists, being outsized cartoonish monstrosities devoid of grace or subtlety.

Thanks Olga for a moment of clarity.

Posted by: Mark Poling at July 7, 2005 10:00 AM

mark polling. remember that insanity is a viable alternative.

rvastar. why do you keep insisting I'm a leftist? I've told you I didn't vote for clinton (or kerry for that matter), i am not a democrat and i haven't joined one protest against this war. why do you insist on such namecalling and well, lies?

Posted by: Olga the Ostrich at July 7, 2005 10:10 AM

Actually, I'm starting to think Neo/Post/Whatever got a sex-and-species change.

Whatever works for you, darlin'.

Posted by: Mark Poling at July 7, 2005 10:23 AM

Please do not feed the trolls.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 7, 2005 11:29 AM

So let's use the powers of our superior intellect, stick flowers in our hair and fingers in our ears, close our eyes and sing again "Give Peace a Chance" and all those Great Satan Hatas will realize the war is over, and they've won (oops, sorry, been in the wrong all along), and go away.

Sounds like an eye-dee-ology of love and compassion.

Posted by: kc at July 7, 2005 07:09 PM

Rune from Oslo! Gobsmacked! Fair enough, another furphy exposed, mea culpa. I still stand by the asset of CIA statement. Strange that the US CREATES it's own monsters, no? Olga " I would give up any freedom for protection against these evil men" You make me ill, Benjamin Franklin said, "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety," .

Posted by: Grinna at July 7, 2005 08:23 PM
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Terror and Liberalism
Paul Berman, The American Prospect

The Men Who Would Be Orwell
Ron Rosenbaum, The New York Observer

Looking the World in the Eye
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

In the Eigth Circle of Thieves
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