December 10, 2007

After the Battle of Al-Fajr

FALLUJAH, IRAQ – Fallujah is known as the City of Mosques. It is also a city of walls, and of war.

It was a quieter city than most after the initial invasion in 2003. There was less looting than in Baghdad, and the mayor was pro-American. It was tranquil for the most part. But resentment first simmered, then exploded in an orgy of mob violence on March 31, 2004, when four security contractors from the Blackwater corporation were murdered, mutilated, and strung up from a bridge.

Blackwater Bridge.jpg
Photo Copyright Associated Press

The following month U.S. Army soldiers and Marines were sent in to clear the city, then were pulled back for political reasons before the mission was finished. The insurgents won the first round and gained total control of the city. Taliban-style rule had come to Iraq. In November of the same year the Americans went back in and fought the massive epic battle known as Al-Fajr, or Dawn.

I met two Marines who have returned to Fallujah after the fighting in that battle. They belong to the 3rd Battalion 5th Regiment's India Company and are based now at a train station on the northern edge of the city that has been turned into a Forward Operating Base that keeps its part of the city secure.

Train Station Fallujah.jpg
Train Station FOB, India Company

None of the 3/5 Marines – in India Company or any other – have been killed or even wounded since their current tour began in the summer this year.

“What was the fighting like then?” I asked Corporal Brandon Koch.

“In 2004 it was either intense or it was nothing at all,” he said. “We were going from door to door, going in houses. There was always that rush right before you go in the door, but most of the time when you go in there wouldn't be anything there. So you go from a high to a low real quick. Of course if there was somebody there you'd stay at the high. It was definitely different. There wasn't much that we had trained on. We were mostly trained for regular conventional warfare. It was totally different from anything else I've done since then, that's for sure.”

Corporal Koch Fallujah.jpg
Corporal Brandon Koch

Fallujah today is an impoverished ramshackle mess, but it's not a war zone anymore. In 2004 it was by far the worst place in the country. It was still a hotbed of insurgent activity as recently as the first half of 2007.

“The unit we relieved was monitoring the city, watching the city,” Corporal Koch said. “We took that over from them. Then we started our push. It was a couple of months before the regular civilians got back in the city.”

“Months after you came in?” I said.

“We came in in November, on November 6th,” he said. “It took about two or three weeks altogether. The civilians stayed out of the city for another month or month and a half after that. We were still doing operations then, but it wasn't an all out push. It was just cleaning up. It was loose ends. Weapons caches. Just basically getting this place ready for the civilians to come back in. We made sure people weren't going into their homes while they were rigged to blow.”

Civilians were evacuated from the city before Al-Fajr began.

“When the civilians left,” I said, “did you help them leave orderly, or was it a mad scramble to get out of here?”

“They left in an orderly fashion,” he said. “Camps were set up outside the city for people who didn't have family or relatives to go to and for people who couldn't make the journey.”

A few civilians, though, did not make it out.

“There are people everywhere who want to ride out a crisis,” said India Company's Captain Stewart Glenn. “Just like those people in New Orleans who stuck around for Hurricane Katrina. I'm going to ride it out, they said. So a few around here rode it out. There were, I think, six or so families that did that. We painted the word Family on the walls of their houses so they wouldn't be confused with combatants.”

Family Fallujah.jpg
Marines painted “Family” on the walls of houses of the few civilians who remained in the city during Al-Fajr so they would not be confused with combatants.

“Did you screen people for weapons as they left,” I asked Corporal Koch, “or did you let out anybody who wanted out?”

“As far as I know they were screening everybody,” he said. “We didn't have the ID system up and running like we do now. The old IDs were easily faked. But there were people screening them as they came out of the city, looking for high value targets and whatnot, making sure nobody was slipping through the cracks.”

“What was the most intense thing you experienced?” I said.

“Personally?” he said. “It would have to be the initial push. By training I am a mortar man. We have these 60mm mortars, and our section had to carry our gear. We had to carry our tubes. The system weighs about 117 pounds, and we split that out between three guys. And everyone carried rounds that weighed about eight pounds each, and we'd have to carry about eight of those. Plus our combat load. We would wake up at dawn, fire our guns, pack everything up, get on line with the elevens, and just keep pushing through everything. It sucked a lot of times. It seemed like every time you were ready to take a break, it's like they knew, and that's when all the fire fights started. It seemed like it never happened when you were fresh.”

Marine Collapsed Wall Fallujah.jpg

“Was there one fight in particular that was intense or memorable?” I said. “The kind of story you would tell your kids or your friends back home?”

“I don't talk to my friends back home about it,” he said. “We pretty much only talk amongst ourselves.”

“Is it because they don't want to hear about it,” I said, “or you don't want to talk about it?”

“It's because everybody glorifies it so much, I think,” he said softly and a little bit sadly. “Everybody thinks it's cool. You know?”

“You mean American civilians glorify it?”

“Yeah,” he said. “Guys our age. You go home and you always get those stupid questions. Did you shoot anybody? Did you kill anybody? How many people? I just don't personally deal with that. I had a great uncle who was in the Korean War. I talk to people like him about it. As far as regular people, I don't. If they ask I just tell them it was nothing. That's what I hear from everybody else, too. They feel the same way.”

“How do you feel about what happened here?” I said.

“I definitely think it was necessary,” he said. “I don't have any regrets. I'm glad I did it, and I would do it again. It's good to see the city the way it is and to go to the same neighborhoods. They're so much cleaner now. These people are doing things on their own, they're taking care of their own stuff. When I was here three years ago, I never would have imagined this place would ever be like it is now. It reminded me of Tijuana. When we got here it just seemed like everything you could think of that was bad, this city had it going on. Now they have regular families thriving in the city. There are people working neighborhood watch, working together. It has turned around a lot. I didn't even want to come on this deployment, but now seeing the city the way it is, I'm glad I did. It's like a closure on everything.”

Big House Fallujah.jpg
Many houses are damaged or riddled with bullet holes, but most are in okay condition today.

“How do you feel about the people who live here?” I said.

“My opinion of the people here has changed, too,” he said. “Originally, because of the shape the city was in, I didn't have a whole lot of respect for the people. But now, after seeing how much these people have changed, and understanding that they were under a dictatorship...I didn't really understand what a dictatorship was. These people are working hard. They have good family values. Their religious faith is incredible compared to how people are in the States. Even people who think they're religious in the States, they're nothing compared to the people here. They have city-wide prayers every day, you know? Honestly, I have a lot of respect for the people here.”

Man with Keffiyeh and Tire Fallujah.jpg

I hear criticism of Iraqis of some kind almost every day when I'm in Iraq. There is a lot to criticize. Iraq is a broken country. Its infrastructure and economy are shot, its political culture dysfunctional. In my experience, though, contempt for Iraqi culture specifically, and Arabs and Islam more generally, is far more prevalent in the American civilian population, even in liberal coastal cities, than it is among American soldiers and Marines who interact with Iraqis every day, forge sometimes intense personal bonds with Iraqis, eat Iraqi food, and speak at least a little Arabic. Stereotypes about racist and psychotic Marines, as well as fanatical and psychotic Iraqis, can't survive a lengthy trip to Fallujah, at least not to the Fallujah of late 2007.

“How competent were the insurgents?” I said.

“They were pretty competent,” Corporal Koch said. “They're smart...or I guess it would be more like crafty. They definitely have some experience. And they definitely have some street smarts to 'em. They adapt so quickly. They're always coming up with new ways to do stuff, and new ways to fight. When we fight we have traditions almost. We always do things the same way. Even the Marine Corps is like that. Actually I think they're helping us because they're making us change. I think they're a lot smarter than people give them credit for. They have to be, because they're still here. They're still fighting.”

“They're still fighting elsewhere in Iraq, anyway,” I said.

“Yeah,” he said. “I mean, not so much here. The extremists in general have been getting away. We're slowly catching up to them, but they've been putting up a fight for years now. They're pretty smart individuals. Their biggest problem, luckily for us, is a lack of resources.”

“Who were these guys in 2004, exactly?” I said. Most of the Sunni Triangle has been largely pacified lately, but it was a genuine rogues gallery not long ago, bristling with terrorists and guerrilla armies that flew many flags. “Were they Al Qaeda, the 1920s Revolution Brigade, Baathists?” I said.

Bullet Hole Bus Fallujah.jpg

“I think a lot of them, honestly, were looking for work,” he said. “[Lieutenant] Colonel [Patrick] Malay – he was our battalion commander – he used to talk about the Friendlies, the Fence-sitters, and the Fuckos. The fence-sitters would sometimes play off us. I think we had a lot of those, too. It's hard when you first get here if you're not used to being around Middle Eastern people and you're not used to the culture. They all stare at you, you know? Just because they're not used to you. There's was some confusion in general, people not used to each other's cultures. But like I said, I think it was a mixture. There were serious guys, then some less serious guys and people who were pressured into it. We could usually tell the difference when we fought them. Some were really there to fight. Others, halfway through, would sometimes think about it and then take off. They'd run or just give up.”

“Did you get many who surrendered to you?” I said.

“Not so much,” he said. “But there were houses where we would come in, they'd put their guns down, and be like, okay, we don't want to do this. So we would just detain them. There was a detention facility where they would have to be checked. It kind of sucks, it gives you kind of a weird feeling, because they were fighting, but they're not necessarily bad people. People do weird stuff to feed their family. It goes back to the fence-sitter thing. That makes it hard.”

Some of the insurgents reportedly came from places as far from Iraq as Chechnya. They weren't all Iraqis, and they weren't even all Sunni Arabs. In Ramadi around 90 percent of captured insurgents are Iraqis, but around 90 percent of suicide bombers and Al Qaeda in Iraq leaders are from another country. Fallujah, though, is not the same place as Ramadi. It has been meaner and murkier for the duration of the conflict.

“Do you think most of these guys were from here, or from somewhere else?” I said.

“I don't think they were from here,” he said. “I know how these people are and how their culture is. I honestly don't think they would fight anywhere close to their families or anything that they care about, just on the chance that somebody would get hurt. Just like back in the States. If you wanted to fight, you wouldn't start a war in your house. You would want to go somewhere else.”

I think he's right that Iraqis don't want to fight where they live. Fallujah has a hardened perimeter manned by the Iraqi Police. If you don't have a Fallujah resident sticker on the windshield of your car, you are not allowed in. Car bombers and gun runners from the rest of Iraq are effectively banned from Fallujah. The level of violence isn't quite zero, but it's close.

“Do you think the insurgents were from elsewhere in Iraq,” I said, “or elsewhere in the Middle East?”

“I think it was both,” he said. “I don't have a sense if there was more of one or the other. But there was definitely a mixture. You could tell the difference between people from difference places. There were little subtleties. They would dress differently. The way they look.”

One thing that really struck me while reading House to House: An Epic Memoir of War by Staff Sergeant David Bellavia was how the soldiers in his unit during Al-Fajr feared anything that moved that wasn't American. Because the civilians had left, the empty city of Fallujah was like a set-piece battleground at the end of the world.

“What were your rules of engagement when you took the city?” I said.

“Pretty much the same as they are now,” he said.

“There weren't many civilians around,” I said. “Didn't that loosen up the rules of engagement at all?”

“It didn't loosen up the rules of engagement,” he said. “But the guys that were in the city were there to fight. They weren't operating in crowds. Today when somebody goes out on patrol to the marketplace, obviously any insurgents will have to hide and stay low. There wasn't any of that before. There was an understanding: if they were there, they were there to fight. And if you're not there to fight, then don't stay. But the rules of engagement were the same. The difference is that they were more aggressive, so it was an easier decision for us.”

“What's the most important thing about Fallujah that Americans should know that they don't know?” I said.

“Most Americans think Fallujah is such a bad place,” he said. “They've been hearing about it from Day One. It's a holy city. I don't know how many people know that it's a holy city. The extremists, since it is a holy city, were hiding behind it, were using it for the cause. Ramadi is another one that just has a horrible reputation. I haven't been to Ramadi, but the last I heard it's doing better than this city is.”

“It is a bit better,” I said. “I was there a few months ago. Not a lot better, but a little bit.”

“So I think the most important thing for people to know is that it's a city full of normal people. It's not like...I think people get the impression that it's a city where people are walking down the street with AK-47s. Like a bad Rambo movie or something. That's the impression people get, but it's not like that at all.”

Girl in Overalls Fallujah.jpg

“I don't think people really know what to expect from any of this,” he continued. “It's like people say: you only get the bad news on TV. They don't get to hear about how Fallujah is doing good now. I'm sure they'd hear about it if something bad happened. But these people are doing better, the schools are open, businesses are open, people are cleaning up their own city. They're starting their own neighborhood watch. They have their own police force now, their own government. People don't get to hear about that. I think that's important for people to know. You shouldn't focus so much on people who mess up. I mean, people have messed up. Bad stuff has happened. But you should focus on the percentage of people who are doing good as opposed to the percentage who are doing bad. There's a lot of good going on over here. And there's a lot of good people in this city.”

*

Sergeant Charles Smith also fought in Fallujah during Al-Fajr and has returned to the city for another tour.

“So, what was the fighting like?” I said.

“It was crazy,” he said. “We went in on November 8. It was my twenty first birthday. We went in through the northwest part of the city. We pushed east. For the first two weeks it was crazy. You didn't know when you were going to get shot at. But you were going to get shot at. Every day it was something. You didn't know from where. I got in six fire fights. It wasn't that many, not like Kilo Company. They got in a lot more. And they took a lot more casualties than we did in India Company.”

“What was the most intense thing you experienced?” I said.

Sergeant Smith Fallujah.jpg
Sergeant Charles Smith

“December 11,” he said. “The day before, Third Platoon had gotten in a fire fight. Third Platoon had them pinned in. We pulled back, called in air and tanks on the building we thought they were in. The morning of December 11 we were going to continue clearing the northeast part of the city. My fire team was supposed to go first, but for whatever reason the second fire team went. They went to the front door, but they couldn't kick it in. Then they went to the back door, which was open. As soon as they made entry...all the lights were off, so they turned on the Surefire [rifle-mounted flashlight] and it was an ambush. The team leader at the time suppressed so his team could get out. Me and another guy were on the roof to help suppress from the first building. The whole fire team came out, except one guy. So we had to go back in to get him out of the fight. He saved his fire team, but he didn't make it out. It was a bad day.”

Crumpled House Fallujah.jpg

I asked Sergeant Smith some of the same questions I asked Corporal Koch.

“Who were the bad guys, exactly?” I said. No one in Fallujah ever mentioned the Baath Party or the 1920s Revolution Brigade when I asked that question. The answer was always either Al Qaeda, random unaffiliated disgruntled Iraqis, or both.

“Anybody who wanted to stay and fight,” he said. “We dropped leaflets on the city that said we're coming in. If you want to stay, stay. But you're going to be considered hostile. So they had their fair warning. We did see some civilians, but for the most part if they were in the city they were bad. We would raid houses, kick in a door, and there would be a family just sitting there. So we'd load them up and the company gunny would take them to where we took them, to wherever Battalion took them.”

“Who do you suppose these people were,” I said, “the ones who didn't want to leave? Did they have no way out? Were they just stubborn?”

“I'd say they were stubborn,” he said.

“Did you suspect they were up to no good?” I said.

“They had to be up to no good,” he said. “I mean, they had their fair warning to get out of the city. But, I mean, it's not like we just shot at everybody. We always had to have a positive ID. The extremists, the people who thought they could actually take on however many battalions of Marines that were here, it was just suicide for them. They had to know that we were going to kill them.

“Were they good fighters?” I said.

“They're not good fighters,” he said, “but they got a bunch of us. They knew we were clearing every building. And they'd learn from us. Whenever we went to a position we always filled sandbags and stuff like that.”

Sandbags Fallujah.jpg

“And they would do the same thing,” he continued. “They knew that if we couldn't come through the front door, we'd go through the back door. So they would barricade one door and leave one open. And they'd put a bunker and a machine gun down that main hallway. They would sit in the back corner of a room and soon as you kicked open the door they would just keep firing. So maybe they weren't very good fighters, but they were quick to adapt and were actually pretty smart.”

“I've read that some of these guys injected themselves with drugs,” I said.

“Yeah,” he said, “we found syringes, different types of drugs. The corpsman tried to explain to me what they were at the time, but I didn't really pay attention to him. They found a lot of medical stuff like that, but for the most part they were just smart. They basically knew what we were going to do every time. We would clear the house, so all they had to do was wait."

“Do you talk about this stuff with your friends and family?” I said. I was curious if he, like Corporal Koch, kept the war all bottled up inside to himself.

“If they ask, I'll tell them,” he said. “It doesn't really bother me. The more people understand what's really going on over here, the more support they'll give us.”

“What do you think of the media coverage?” I said. “I don't mean generally, I mean specifically about Fallujah. Or did you even see any of it?”

“We had Fox News,” he said. “They were with India Company. We had Max Becherer from Time magazine. He went everywhere with us. He actually saved my life. He pulled me up over a building. I was starting to fall and he grabbed me and pulled me over. During that time the coverage was actually pretty accurate.”

Distressed Girl Fallujah.jpg
Fallujah is only beginning to recover from violent trauma. This girl became extremely distressed when she saw Marines walking toward her. I tried to smile and wave to put her at ease, but she refused to look at any of us.

“What's the most important thing Americans don't know about Fallujah that they should know?” I said.

“Now or then?” he said.

“Either,” I said. “Both.”

“I think for the most part, then, the city was bad,” he said. “We did what we had to do to give the city back to the people. And now the people of Fallujah just want their lives back. They're tired of fighting. They've been fighting for almost five years now. They want stability. They want to be secure and not worry about Al Qaeda, not worry about coming up on a military convoy too fast and getting shot at. They don't want to be stopped in the city. They want to be left alone and just live their lives like we do back in the United States.”

Boy With Broom Fallujah.jpg

“Did you get the sense that people didn't want that back then,” I said, “or that most of them did and that this place was just taken over?”

“It was just taken over,” he said. “It was that bad. There were insurgents everywhere.”

“Did the average person who lived here support you guys, the insurgents, or were they caught in the middle and didn't know which way to jump?” I said.

“They were fence-sitters, as Colonel Malay would say,” he said. “They may not have really trusted Americans, but they knew if they were with the insurgents we were going to come after them and kill them. So they basically just sat in the middle.”

“What changed here?” I said. “Why did it flip?”

“Fallujah is getting a good city government,” he said. “The police force is really good now. They do their own stakeouts, their own intel. They're really good. The Iraqi Police caught a high value target not too long ago, back in October I believe. They're always finding IEDs or weapons caches.”

“Old IEDs or new ones?” I said.

“Both,” he said. “They found a 200-pound Russian warhead the other day. On the north side of the city, in the northwest corner. It was half exposed. I'm not sure how it was exposed. There is some work being done up there, so I don't know if whoever is working there exposed it or what. I just know that they found it and came to us. So we called the EOD [Explosive Ordnance Disposal] team and they came out and disposed of it.”

“How does it feel to be back?” I said. “Are you surprised by what it's like now?”

“Oh, definitely,” he said. “From what I understand, after 3/5 left the first time it became very bad. There were snipers all the time, IEDs all the time. And then – I'm not sure which unit – they came in and the city pretty much changed overnight. The attacks stopped. People are happy to see us out here. From hearing that when we were here it was good, then hearing that it went bad again, and now hardly any attacks on us, it's just amazing.”

“Was it worth it, do you think?” I said.

“Yes,” he said without hesitation.

“Why?” I said.

“We got rid of an insurgency and fought the bad guys,” he said. “That's why people join the Marine Corps, to go and fight.”

Shot Up Marine Station Fallujah.jpg
Marines live and work in the back of this shot up house

I laughed. Marines like to say this sort of thing. They seem slightly more disappointed than Army soldiers when there's nobody to shoot at. Many I've spoken to want to redeploy to Afghanistan where they can still “get some.” At the same time, it seems they're happy to see that the war in Fallujah has been practically won.

“So yeah,” he continued. “It was worth it. We got rid of a tyrant. It sounds bad, but I'd rather fight insurgents over here than have more attacks in the U.S. A lot of people, I think, don't understand that if we weren't over here – maybe not in Iraq, but in the Middle East – I think more attacks would be going on in the United States. Why would they go and fly all the way to the United States when they can just fight us over here? That's just my personal view on it.”

“What do you think of the people who live here?” I said.

Marine and Little Girls Fallujah.jpg

“I think they're normal everyday people who are just trying to get their lives back,” he said. “They're tired of being threatened by Al Qaeda. They're tired of having war in their country. They just want to be left alone. They don't necessarily want to go back to the way things were when Saddam was here. They just want a normal life.”

“We're not here to fight for Iraqis,” Lieutenant Mike Barefoot said to me later. “But we start to feel like we are after a while. During training a lot of Marines said they hated Iraqis. I don't hear that anymore.”

Postscript: Please support independent journalism. Traveling to and working in Iraq is expensive. I can’t publish dispatches on this Web site for free without substantial reader donations, so I'll appreciate it if you pitch in what you can. Blog Patron allows you to make recurring monthly payments, and even small donations will be extraordinarily helpful so I can continue this project.

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Many thanks in advance.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at December 10, 2007 04:29 AM
Comments

"Stereotypes about racist and psychotic Marines, as well as fanatical and psychotic Iraqis, can't survive a lengthy trip to Fallujah, at least not to the Fallujah of late 2007."

Thanks for the honest & in-depth reporting from Fallujah, Michael. It certainly has seemed to be a city of dramatic change in the last year due to the hardwork of coalition forces and the Awakening movement. Of course, the rest of the world hasn't caught on yet as Billy Joel's latest song "Christmas in Fallujah" portrays the troops out in Anbar province as a bunch of blood-thirsty mongrels. Fortunately, the ground truth seems to contradict these ridiculous stereotypes.

Posted by: LT Nixon at December 10, 2007 04:54 AM

'"We're not here to fight for Iraqis,” Lieutenant Mike Barefoot said to me later. “But we start to feel like we are after a while. During training a lot of Marines said they hated Iraqis. I don't hear that anymore.”'

For some reason I found this report to be among my favorites. Made an impact.

Probably for the on-the-ground opinions of the Marines you interviewed. And for the photo-journalism of the Iraqis you provided. As usual you did not sugar-coat the reality as everyone should recognise by your inclusion of that photo of the little girl who was terrified of all Marines. Made me sad.

I don't hear that anymore is a pretty fair summation of this piece.

Thanks again.

Posted by: dougf at December 10, 2007 06:30 AM

Excellent work as always Michael. You are better than all of our newspapers and new channels rolled into one!

Posted by: Keith at December 10, 2007 06:32 AM

Bravo, and thanks for amplifying voices that otherwise would go unheard. I do believe you captured the essence of the spirit of the day - that which we hope can be sustained.

Safe travels Michael, hope our paths cross again somewhere with real beer.

Posted by: Greyhawk at December 10, 2007 07:10 AM

Thanks, all.

And thanks again, Greyhawk, for helping me out in Baghdad this trip. You are terrific, and yes we should drink some real beer sometime.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 10, 2007 08:19 AM

From a fellow Oregonian..Thank You for the honest and well written report. We don't get that honesty in our statewide "Newspaper".

Posted by: Gene at December 10, 2007 08:35 AM

Great Article, Michael. Only now I gotta go read all your others. I feel like I'm getting the straight poop.

Al Rowley, Cdr, USN (Ret.)

Posted by: Al Rowley at December 10, 2007 09:29 AM

“I don't talk to my friends back home about it,” he said. “We pretty much only talk amongst ourselves.”

That comment is right on the mark. My brother came home from Fallujah almost eight months ago, and his comments are usually sparse. But if a few Marine buddies come along, the stories usually increase with the beers. Great writing as always Michael. Is there any chance you will be able to some filming of the area/interviews w/ soldiers that you could stream on to your website?

Posted by: mantis at December 10, 2007 09:41 AM

Nice one Michael. Get your ass home soon. Even Yon is out and resting.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at December 10, 2007 10:02 AM

That photo of the young girl in distress is heart-breaking. I imagine many of these children have seen things that would break many of us adults.

I'm wondering if the younger children - pre-teens perhaps - were shielded from much of the horror while the teenagers were perhaps asked to do things for the family that have scarred them terribly.

SMG

Posted by: SteveMG at December 10, 2007 10:04 AM

test

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 10, 2007 10:43 AM

Nicely done. Coffee/Beer is on me when you get home.

Posted by: Lindsey at December 10, 2007 11:02 AM

God Bless you and our troops. I am glad you're there to tell the world their story. Have a safe holiday. Take care.

Posted by: Greg at December 10, 2007 11:29 AM

this reporting is totally unbalanced. you didn't ask one Iraqi as to how they feel about being slaughtered ( by both sides)on their own land. but i guess their point of view is not welcome, after all you are representing the point of view of the U.S armed forces. its a shame.

Posted by: walter peers at December 10, 2007 11:31 AM

you didn't ask one Iraqi as to how they feel about being slaughtered ( by both sides)on their own land.

This is an article about Marines who returned to Fallujah. They are the subject, not the Iraqis.

This is not the only article I am writing from Fallujah. Iraqis have been quoted elsewhere, and will be quoted elsewhere again.

So you can calm down now. Merry Christmas.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 10, 2007 11:38 AM

By the way, Walter, I will have another article later where I quote only Iraqis. Not a single American will be quoted in that article. Will you accuse me of being unbalanced then, too?

Nevermind, I'll just assume in advance that it will make you angry when, in the future, I entirely neglect the viewpoint of the American Armed Forces. No need for you to even read it or bother responding. Your grievance for categorically neglecting the Americans is noted in advance.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 10, 2007 11:42 AM

Well done Mr. Totten.

CARRY
ON,
R

Posted by: JT Woods at December 10, 2007 11:49 AM

walter: you didn't ask one Iraqi as to how they feel about being slaughtered

Mike, he's right.

The MSM feeds us the standard boilerplate line that Iraqis hate being slaughtered. As if they have a window into Iraqi minds. What bullshit.

I'm not saying the Iraqis like being slaughtered, necessarily, but I doubt it's as black and white as the MSM makes it out to be.

Posted by: Edgar at December 10, 2007 11:50 AM

Yes, I echo that sentiment. For all we know they may relish the idea of being gutted by terrorists, or obliterated by an erant precision munition.

I think it's essential to have Token Iraqi Guy state for the record weather they do or do not like those possibilities.

I will be waiting for that communication. I'm sure it will be as top notch and inspiring as all of your communications to date Mike. I owe you a mocha frapachino with extra whipped cream and cinnamon. On me buddy.

Posted by: JohnDakota at December 10, 2007 11:57 AM

I'm just waiting for today's "They only showed you what they wanted you to see." comment. And I am sure we will be favored with the inevitable 'Any Iraqi MJT is allowed to see or speak to is a US stooge planted in the path of the intrepid reported to spew Pro-US propaganda....' comments.

This should be fun.

Posted by: lindsey at December 10, 2007 12:41 PM

Very good article,the simple truthfulness was there for everyone to see. The pictures of the little kids getting candy from the marines really is the essence of the american fightingman, we really don't fight for conquest. Contrast that with suicide attacks killing both kids and solders giving out candy or toys.

Posted by: tom at December 10, 2007 12:51 PM

Dont understand the complaints here, Mike is doing something only a few do & possibly better then the rest.
The poster that wanted to know if the Iraqis liked "getting slaughtered" is a child in need of a mental health eval.
Why would a person need to be told or even asked if they liked being slaughtered?
why isn't the answer obvious?
Even Iraqis with little schooling understand that shoveling out the barn spreads the bad smell a bit, even they know it's temporary.
The Iraqis have begain to trust the Marines, wonder when the left in America will do the same?

Keep up the GREAT work Mike, Ernie Pyle is looking over your shoulder in pride.

Posted by: pete rivenburg at December 10, 2007 01:08 PM

Edgar,

What?!? Yes, Iraqis love being blown to pieces most everyday, by either extremists or American forces. In fact, they just don't care when their mothers fathers, sons, or daughters are slaughtered. I mean, I'm sure they love it just as much as New Yorkers loved 9/11!

Posted by: JZ at December 10, 2007 01:09 PM

Lindsey,

I thought Michael dealt fairly well with the one guy who thought that in an interview of US Marines, the average Iraqi on the street should be consulted. For reference, I would like it pointed out that in this interview Michael failed to consult the viewpoint of militant asexual hermaphrodite libertarian LiveJournal partisans, a critical demographic in any conversation.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at December 10, 2007 01:09 PM

...proud to be an American.

Posted by: john at December 10, 2007 01:33 PM

JZ: Iraqis love being blown to pieces most everyday, by either extremists or American forces.

I've heard this point of view expressed before. But again, I don't think people like you see the full picture.

Iraqi public opinion is notoriously unreliable; it can fluctuate on a daily basis according to current events, and of course, how the poll questions are phrased.

I don't think it's as simple as saying 'Iraqis like getting killed.'

It's a lot more complicated than that.

In this relativistic world, we can only make certain generalizations. One is that Iraqis don't drink a certain hot beverage [name redacted for security reasons] . Another is that they do like board games like Risk and Pictionary. (Twister is a bit of a different story, mind you).

Posted by: Edgar at December 10, 2007 01:34 PM

Another excellent piece, Michael. If you happen to come through NYC in your travels, please contact me & stop by for a home-cooked meal & lots of beer. I'd be honored to meet you.

Posted by: Stiiv at December 10, 2007 01:42 PM

Michael, thank you so much for another fine article. You are evolving into a very, very fine journalist. Thank you again.

Posted by: Maggie45 at December 10, 2007 02:48 PM

Michael,

It is strange that in this information age it is often so difficult to find the truth.

I always believe that I am getting the truth here.

Posted by: joefrommass at December 10, 2007 03:16 PM

I doubt that, when Iraqis were being slaughtered by Saddam, Walter gave it a second thought. I doubt he lost a minute of sleep worrying about the Kurds, or the Iraqi soccer team, or Uday and Qusay feeding people into wood chippers, or the daily torments and executions in Saddam's prisons.

No surprise. Leftists also didn't care about the mass slaughter by the Communist Khmer Rouge in Cambodia that took place after the American withdrawal from Vietnam. Or at least, they only cared about the slaughter to the extent that they could pin it on American actions in Vietnam. Civilian deaths only matter to the Left when they're caused by American troops or their allies and can be used against America politically. If your death is caused by an Islamic terrorist or an anti-American dictator, don't expect the Left to acknowledge your passing, much less mourn you.

Posted by: Gregg at December 10, 2007 05:24 PM

I'll be sending a check tomorrow. But why can't I email your postings to others?

Posted by: tom gray at December 10, 2007 07:02 PM

Great article Michael as usual. I just finished David Bellavia's book, House to House. If anyone has a chance to read it, do so. The book puts you right in 'there' with the guys and gives you a better understanding of what these men and women go through. Gave me a deeper sense of pride in each and every soldier we have fighting for us. What they go through, they deserve more than what we give them when they come home, dead or alive. Keep each and every soldier in your prayers, they are fighting for you and me. Thanks for the great writing Michael, till the next one.

Posted by: Anna at December 10, 2007 07:08 PM

Michael-

Great writing as always. It is good to see a view of positive happenings in Iraq.

And ignore the trolls. They are just so... trollish...loud and smelly. walter is a cave troll.

Have a Merry Christmas. BTW, I am in your hometown for business and it is COLD tonight. Clear and COLD!

Peace

Posted by: Robohobo at December 10, 2007 07:52 PM

One of the best articles that I have ever read about the Iraq operations. Great work!

Posted by: ltr at December 10, 2007 09:44 PM

Michael, great post. You are indeed getting better, as is your photography - your people shots are getting better. I know it is difficult as an American to become comfortable with taking pics of people you dont know. Thanks again!

When you get back to the PacNW you can trade your dry boots for some rubber galoshes and explore the floods and hurricane damage at Tilamook.

Posted by: Sean at December 10, 2007 11:45 PM

I don't know what inspires you to indure hardships to bring these reports to the world, but I commend you for the excellent, transparent journalism that has earned you so many loyal readers. I look everyday for your newest posts and this one is thought provoking as usual.

Posted by: Kevin China at December 11, 2007 01:03 AM

Great article Mr Totten.
When I first found out about your site, I started reading about a year of your work (2006-2007). (And that took a while)
I realy like the depth of your work. Usually reporters dont "dive" that deep into their stories. You do, so great work and keep it up!
In particular I liked your covering of the war between us and Lebanon in 2006. I even found out that you were even in my city for a brief moment! (Tiberias)
Anyway, since now you're in Fallujah, I realy couldn't resist searching some info about it in Wikipedia.
And since I'm a Jewish Israeli, I was stunned to find out that where is Fallujah now, there was once a Jewish academia called "Pumbedita Academy", one of the two homes of the Babylonian Talmud (Gmara). The other city that made that Talmud was Sura. (It exists no more)
And just so you'll know, religious kids in Israel still learn the Gmara! (and will continue to do so for thousands of years, since the Gmara was written in the third century and was learnt throughout jewish history since then)
So if you hear anything about any ancient jewish presence in Fallujah (buildings or something), give us a shout!
With upmost respect,
-Shavit69.

Posted by: Shavit69 at December 11, 2007 02:29 AM

Interesting read. Your writing reminds me a little of Studs Turkel's "The Good War" - with details of individual accounts and feelings that are glossed over by so many other journalists. Your reports provide a unique perspective into the war. I would like to see more interviews with other people such as contractors, medical staff, humanitarian aid workers, logistics personnel, EOD, etc., for a more diverse perspective.

Posted by: markytom at December 11, 2007 05:24 AM

Michael,

As a person who has lived in the Middle East I loved the following:

"In my experience, though, contempt for Iraqi culture specifically, and Arabs and Islam more generally, is far more prevalent in the American civilian population, even in liberal coastal cities, than it is among American soldiers and Marines who interact with Iraqis every day,"

That is incredible and certainly my experience. The people out there who hate Arabs and Muslims/Islam simply dont have a clue. Spend a year in the area and you will most certainly change your mind.

Even in your postings I have noticed the change in the way you view the people, culture and religion of the area.

Keep up the good work.

Posted by: Marc at December 11, 2007 06:21 AM

I do not mean to highjack this thread. Just feel it is in tune with Marc's post:

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/922719.html

"Arab E. J’lem family gives homeless Jewish family shelter after authorities fail to help Ilanit and her four children were evicted from an apartment they had illegally occupied for lack of any other place to stay.
After the family members found themselves and all their belongings out on the street on a cold Jerusalem night, only one person offered assistance.
Khader Ramadan Dabash of East Jerusalem took the five into his home, where they have been living for the last two weeks."

Posted by: leo at December 11, 2007 06:33 AM

“Who were the bad guys, exactly?” I said. No one in Fallujah ever mentioned the Baath Party or the 1920s Revolution Brigade when I asked that question. The answer was always either Al Qaeda,random unaffiliated disgruntled Iraqis, or both.

A logical question to have asked here would be "why do you believe that?". The quoted soldiers go into some detail in who they believed were just folks looking for work. Even some details on who's Iraqi and who isn't. But there's no evidence or narrative for the question "how did you know if you were fighting AQI or someone else?" So is it always "Al-Queida" because the simplest and most good/evil morality play stories get passed around quickest, or because someone hears someone on CNN use the term interchangably with "bad guys", or because of actual intel briefings, possessions, documents, clothing, or what?
Based on confessions? If so, what are the incentives to pick AQI as your group?

You're still in Iraq, right? You could.. follow up on these questions! that would be neat.

Forgive me if I skip the ritual flattery, you're well supplied.

Posted by: glasnost at December 11, 2007 09:47 AM

Flock of detractors, do not construe the preceding statements as doubt of the existence of AQI. Thank you!

Posted by: glasnost at December 11, 2007 09:48 AM

Great article, Michael. Good work. I found sort of a mirror image to this dispatch over at Sullivan's blog today.

"My son is an officer in the Army and he is part of the ongoing action over there. Here is what he wrote me some time ago.

"No one ever mentions the fact that we have literally built walls around each neighborhood and along every highway as the reason the violence is down here. The place looks like an Orwell novel gone wrong. The people cannot shoot each other through walls and the insurgents cannot move around to plant their bombs. A society cannot function walled off form each other. We pay every bill, manage every facet of governance. The government at every level is a joke. The ministries are controlled by one faction (Shia). They have almost no experience or education. A bunch of guys walk around in suits and look important while they do nothing.

The local governments (to use the term loosely) are a collection of gangsters and strong men concerned with consolidating power and lining their pockets with cash from kickbacks of U.S. construction projects. The people have no work ethic. (I offered two grubby starving men 20 dollars each to unload some grain bags... they asked for fifty and then refused to work for less. I unloaded it myself) They throw their trash in the street until it piles high enough for the kids to play on it, and get sick. So, in short, I don't see a Capitalistic Democracy sprouting along the Tigris. I see the little boy (The U.S. Army) with his finger in the dike. If we remove our hand, it all goes away."

I later had the opportunity to discuss this with my son and he fleshed out the point about the neighborhoods being walled off. He told me that there are 17 feet high cement barriers at the end of every street separating manageable neighborhoods. There are checkpoints to control ingress and egress to each neighborhood. Citizens are not able to lead ordinary lives. The joke among officers over there is that in order to show further "progress" the troops will have to circle EVERY house."

Was anyone in the Fallujah area this pessimistic, or was the cautiously optimistic tone universal for all the soldiers you talked to over there?

Posted by: Astroninja at December 11, 2007 10:50 AM

Astroninja - I don't mean to detract from the Sully reader's son's observations... I just wanted to pursue a line that occurred to me as I read it, based on my own personal experience of recently living overseas..

Arabs often live in domestic compounds with walls 12 feet high. This has both practical (keeping out dust storms and protecting gardens) and security benefits. So, what strikes us as unworkable walled ghettos may not be that bad after all.

Meanwhile, we all live in "unworkable" cul-de-sac suburbs where one cannot even walk to the Safeway grocery just "one block away" due to the layout (or even lack thereof) of sidewalks and public right-of-ways, the 4 lane mini-highways we call suburban thoroughfares, let alone the seas of parking around every store.

When I lived in Denmark I just couldn't understand how those people could live in such regimented lives. Alternately their infrastructure seemed quite outdated. In the end I adapted to their crowded streets, herd-mentality, etc. By the time I got home I felt severe stimuli withdrawal that took about a month to get over.

So, I don't know if that kid soldier was correct that Iraq is only better because we are walling it in and that this is an supportable situation. It may be that we have simply repaired walls that always existed, but physically and culturally.

Saddam's regime worked to keep the sects separated, the old walled homes and cities did the same. And now we are reestablishing both the security apparatus and sometimes the actual concrete walls.

Maybe we wouldn't like, but maybe they do? Perhaps Michael can elaborate?

Posted by: sean at December 11, 2007 12:21 PM

Hi Glasnost,

I forget which of Michael's essays it appeared in, but I recall a soldier growing irritated when Michael asked how he knew it was AQ. It IS AQ, he responded. Only outside Iraq is there doubt. Here, everyone knows it.

He continued, that upon raiding their hideouts U.S. forces found AQ brochures, AQ pamphlets, AQ banners, AQ CD's and AQ DVD's.

I had the same question you did. This cleared much of it up for me. Thereafter I assumed U.S. soldiers who said foes were AQ were using similar criteria.

Posted by: Scott Moshen at December 11, 2007 12:22 PM

[comment removed by moderator]

Posted by: glasnost at December 11, 2007 01:13 PM

glasnost - Given the evidence, I assume this comment...

My point is that the soldiers are probably lying through their teeth and simply spewing propaganda.

...is someone else "Mobying" your identity. Let me know if it is (trollreports at live dot com) and I'll delete the comment

Posted by: moderator_2 at December 11, 2007 02:05 PM

Glasnost',

"My point is that the soldiers are probably lying through their teeth and simply spewing propaganda."

I am not saying it is impossible but I would like to ask. To your opinion, for what purpose?

Posted by: leo at December 11, 2007 02:13 PM

leo, I don't think glasnost actually said that. As far as I can tell, some troll is faking his identity. Just ignore it..

Posted by: moderator_2 at December 11, 2007 02:30 PM

moderator 2,

I did not see your previous post.

You probably right.

Thanks for the warning.

Posted by: leo at December 11, 2007 05:36 PM

Nevermind, I'll just assume in advance that it will make you angry when, in the future, I entirely neglect the viewpoint of the American Armed Forces. No need for you to even read it or bother responding. Your grievance for categorically neglecting the Americans is noted in advance.

Uh, call me a dumb butt, butt aren't the armed forces there because they are fighting Iraqis? Call me a turgid penis, but it molests me as silly that you would try so hard to ignore half the story. I guess the Iraqis are like faceless extras in a big Hollywood production?

Notice also in the photos that the Iraqis are nameless while the American soldiers are all properly captioned.

Yeah, fuck them Eye-raqis!

Posted by: Jack Bauer at December 11, 2007 06:28 PM

Nope, comment is not mine.

Posted by: glasnost at December 11, 2007 06:28 PM

I will go out on a small limb and imagine that one of the more unstable self-appointed Defenders Of King's Honor has imploded from the pressure of all these shades of grey. Must not be what they come here for. Was that you, Gary?

I find it a good rule of thumb not to accuse people of overly malicious motivations unless alternative explanations have been eliminated.
Plus, I know soldiers never lie. Soldiers and Boy Scouts. They stand on their tiptoes and make a pledge. Then Jesus snips the Satanic Cord - our invisible extra vocal cord that makes us lie - shut with a pair of scissors made from the Holy Spirit.

Except Scott Beauchamp. Jesus must've been holding the scissors backwards that day. What with his immortal hands, he'd never notice.

Posted by: glasnost at December 11, 2007 06:36 PM

Uh, call me a dumb butt, butt aren't the armed forces there because they are fighting Iraqis? Call me a turgid penis, but it molests me as silly that you would try so hard to ignore half the story. I guess the Iraqis are like faceless extras in a big Hollywood production?

Jack, you're a dumb butt and a turgid penis.

Posted by: mertel at December 11, 2007 08:22 PM

This, by Scott Moshen, is the correct answer:

I forget which of Michael's essays it appeared in, but I recall a soldier growing irritated when Michael asked how he knew it was AQ. It IS AQ, he responded. Only outside Iraq is there doubt. Here, everyone knows it.He continued, that upon raiding their hideouts U.S. forces found AQ brochures, AQ pamphlets, AQ banners, AQ CD's and AQ DVD's. I had the same question you did. This cleared much of it up for me. Thereafter I assumed U.S. soldiers who said foes were AQ were using similar criteria.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 11, 2007 08:53 PM

Jack Bauer: silly that you would try so hard to ignore half the story.

In a story about Marines who return to Fallujah, yes the Iraqis are superfluous.

In my upcoming story featuring only Iraqis, the Americans will be superfluous.

You would make a terrible story editor. Don't quit your day job to try to become one.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 11, 2007 08:55 PM

I'm happy to hear that things are finally going better in Iraq. I hope they continue to get better so that the boys can come home. However, it has been much more costly in blood and treasure than the Bush Administration predicted. In the future I think we should not invade foreign countries under similar circumstances. Even if our intentions are good intentions, well, we all know the proverb about the road to hell. And the rest of the world doesn't perceive our intentions as good. Like Colin Powell said, "if you break it you own it." I just don't see how all this has been worth it.

Posted by: Tim at December 12, 2007 01:28 AM

"I just don't see how all this has been worth it."--Tim

And I fail to see how you can make such an evaluation at this point in time. This is a long-term project, and although I fully support the effort if not always the process, I agree that at this point in time the most we can say is that it is indeed very good that "things are finally going better in Iraq."

If Iraq goes 'well' then it will very likely turn out to have a great investment in the future. If Iraq goes 'south', then it will have been a complete disaster. And of course, there are many scenarios located somewhere between these two extremes.

Bottom line ---- way too early for cost/benefit considerations. Way way too early.

Posted by: dougf at December 12, 2007 04:52 AM

dougf: Bottom line ---- way too early for cost/benefit considerations. Way way too early.

I'm definitely in favor of staying the course. But what do you mean by "way too early"? It's been almost five years already.

How much longer do we need to gauge the war's success? Another 10 years?

Also, I must admit I was optimistic about this being a great investment at the start. But from what I've seen, at best the Iraqis will become a fairly good anti-terrorism ally like Turkey when the dust settles. Not bad, but the point of the war was to bring democracy to the Arab world (if the various pro-war pundits are to be believed).

I think we're very far away from that. And I doubt the Iraq war will contribute much to that goal anyway. If anything, we're learning the art of how to make deals with all the relevant parties to smooth things over--something that all successful Arab leaders do anyway.

Posted by: Edgar at December 12, 2007 09:00 AM

Was it worth it to go into Iraq? NO!

What has it cost us to invade Iraq? Tens of thousands of Iraqi lives, nearly 4,000 dead US soldiers, and estimates say we will eventually spend 2 trillion dollars! Just imagine our debt situation or the infrastructure we could have built had we not simply thrown that money away! What have we accomplished? Osama bin Laden has become one of the most popular people in the Mid East, America's image abroad has been disgraced and we continually create new terrorists everyday who want to kill Americans. Isn't that wonderful?

Now all of you supporting the war will probably repeat some mantra like "we're keeping ourselves safe and fighting to keep our freedom" or "we're bringing democracy to the Iraqis and freeing them from a brutal dictator." Well all that is crap. Saddam had NO WMDs, NO ties to 9/11, and was NOT a threat to the US! Iraq was never a terrorist haven, but now is an ideal recruiting and training grounds for them. Secondly, do you think our government really cares about Iraqis? We continued to allow our companies to sell him arms and WMDs in the 1980s when we knew he was using WMDs against Iran and his own people. His crimes that we used as an excuse for invading happened under our watchful eye. Rumsfield and Cheney didn't care about Iraqis in the 80s. In fact, we helped put Saddam in power in Iraq. Even in 1990 our ambassador in Iraq told Saddam that we would stay out of any dispute he had with Kuwait, leading him to believe nothing would happen in response to an invasion of Kuwait. During the 1st gulf war the Shia rose up against Saddam after Pres. Bush urged Iraqis to rise up in rebellion. Then we provided them no cover or even funds or weapons. They were crushed. Then we subjected Iraq to harsh sanctions, which only harmed the Iraqi people. In 2002 then we said we were going to invade to help the Iraqi people! Many Iraqis say they don't want any more help or interference from the US and you can see why.

After WWI the British invaded Iraq promising to bring democracy and freedom. Obviously this didn't happen. Someone needs to read history and realize that democracy cannot be imposed by the point of a foreign bayonet. The vast majority of Iraqis want us out of Iraq, but we're not going because this war was about expanding the geopolitical domination of the US. It was about building a base of operations for US forces in the heart of the Middle East. Our politicians use key words like democracy, freedom, and peace to urge Americans to support overseas wars. The rhetoric used during the Vietnam war is the same as the rhetoric used today. "We are bring democracy to the people" or "if we don't fight them there we'll be fighting them here." It's all been said before, but amazingly the propaganda still works today. Iraqis want democracy, but we're not giving it to them. At this point a truly democratic Iraq would probably not be an extremely close ally to the US and would not accept any US bases on Iraqi soil, and would want a bigger cut of oil and reconstruction contracts. These seem to be things we are unwilling to give them. Besides we will never allow true democracy to spread through the Mid East. Democratic leaders would hardly be as responsive to America's demands as the Saudis, Mubarak, Abdullah, and other dictators around the region.

Posted by: JZ at December 12, 2007 10:05 AM

I'm definitely in favor of staying the course. But what do you mean by "way too early"? It's been almost five years already.---Edgar

What part of 'way too early' confuses you? You appear to think that 5 years which were consumed by basically active conflict is a LONG enough period for social restructuring, and that the fat lady should already have taken the stage. The ME problem has been centuries in the making and you propose that 5 years is a LONG time. Too long if I take the point of your argument.

If Iraq ends up as a stable State similar to or better than Turkey, and also happens to be an 'ally' of the US, I think everyone will be very happy indeed. Turkey is not an Arab State. Iraq is arguably THE Arab State because of its central location. And last time I noticed Turkey was in fact a functioning democracy. Not perhaps a perfect one but not to shabby either. Iraq sitting peacefully in the Arab World as a functioning Turkey-like State would be about the apex of any reasonable hopes.

Another Turkey will do quite nicely thanks.

Posted by: dougf at December 12, 2007 10:36 AM

Edgar,

Remember Moses and Jews in the desert? Here comes your too early.

I agree with dougf. Turkey-like democracy in Iraq would've be even better than it could be expected.

You are more optimistic about it than many of us.

For me Iraq represents potential cancer cell in/on the body of ME. I hope it will become actual and will cause irriversible changes for better all over the region.

Posted by: leo at December 12, 2007 12:15 PM

Leo,

Amen to that.

One can only hope for a positive outcome.

As for a timeline to see how this eventually plays out, I would say in about 10 or 20 years we should have a clear indication as to whether or not it was worth it. Until we see the results later, of our actions today, all we are doing is guessing.

Posted by: joefrommass at December 12, 2007 12:53 PM

dougf: Iraq is arguably THE Arab State because of its central location.

Ok, well I'll argue with that, then. I think Egypt is a more important Arab state. And we have a better chance of fostering democratic change there.

But what would happen if Egypt became fully democratic? I doubt much would change, and if anything did, it would probably be the Islamists getting a bigger share of power--the last thing we need.

My point is that Iraq is only a piece of a much large puzzle we won't likely put together.

IMO, if we could easily and cheaply make Arab countries democratic, we should do it. But even after Iraq, we have another 20 or so backward and corrupt countries to turn around. If it takes 15 years and $5 Trillion to do each of them, I'm not sure it's worth it.

Posted by: Edgar at December 12, 2007 01:05 PM

I think 20 at least.

New generation of Iraqis have to grow up for changes to have chance to take an effect.

Posted by: leo at December 12, 2007 01:09 PM

I say 25.. do i hear 30? 25 going once.. twice........

Posted by: JohnDakota at December 12, 2007 01:31 PM

If it takes 15 years and $5 Trillion to do each of them, I'm not sure it's worth it.

More importantly, if it takes between one and three hundred thousand dead Iraqis per country, it's not worth it.

Bottom line ---- way too early for cost/benefit considerations. Way way too early.

I find it hard to imagine a level of human and material benefits that could arise sufficient to justify the above, considering how inappropriate the sole justifying concept of self-defense is to this set of circumstances.

Posted by: glasnost at December 12, 2007 01:40 PM

You may be right. Unfortunately, in our culture, we expect instantaneous results. It is clear that, that isn't going to happen in Iraq.

I'm of the opinion that after 9/11, with regards to the ME, that our Status quo foreign policy was unacceptable. I wanted a new direction because the old direction just wasn't working. I am the first to admit that I thought it would be easier than it has turned out to be. I don't know if invading Iraq will prove to be a good decision or not, but I still have hope that we can see this through to a sucessful conclusion.

Posted by: joefrommass at December 12, 2007 01:51 PM
I think 20 at least.

New generation of Iraqis have to grow up for changes to have chance to take an effect.

You guys are going to be paying so much tax...

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 12, 2007 02:52 PM

Yeah, good way to think about it.

Who here wants to pay an extra 1000$ a year in taxes for every Arab country we democratize?

Since people who supported the war did so out of profound concern for the lives of Iraqi civilians, money should be no object, right?

Posted by: Edgar at December 12, 2007 03:09 PM

"I find it hard to imagine a level of human and material benefits that could arise sufficient to justify the above"--glasnost

Well each to his own, I suppose. We neo-fascist warmongers must have a more advanced imagination capability than some seem to possess. I can easily imagine multiple scenarios that would 'justify' the Iraq Intervention. All based upon a purely utilitarian evaluation of costs vs benefits. And not even including the 'likely' interpretation of an alternate universe in which the Hussein Regime continued to its bitter end without any such intervention.

And I have a really lousy imagination.

Posted by: dougf at December 12, 2007 03:15 PM

Glasnost,

I find it hard to imagine a level of human and material benefits that could arise sufficient to justify the above, considering how inappropriate the sole justifying concept of self-defense is to this set of circumstances.

Try to imagine not doing it over. I am unsure what you mean by self-defense being the sole justifying concept. There are a lot of reasons why going to war is a rational act for a state, while self-defense is one of the strongest and most accepted, it is not the only one.

Since we are not casually lobbing nuclear devices around, the vise-like grip on self defense as the sole justification could stand to be loosened in the future. The reason accepting imminent threat as a sole justification is that it implies perfect intelligence is possible and available. In reality, lack of perfect intelligence means that there is no certainty short of a mushroom cloud that you are fully apprised of your opponent's capabilities and intentions.

The US took a $1.2 trillion hit from 9/11/01, all at once and without control. I'm willing to spend more in a controlled fashion over a longer timeline to prevent the same thing, or worse, happening again.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at December 12, 2007 03:27 PM

Lassy,

That's somewhat ridiculous. Firstly you quote that figure as if it's common knowledge. I'm not debating it, I realize lots of money was lost that day, but you seem to have a bad habbit of citing figures with absolutely no proof at all. Anyway, that's a tangent.

My point is that if 1 tillion dollars was spent to prevent every possible 9/11 attack, forget recession, we're talking bankrupt country. How much good is the US if it's economy has totally collapsed, and whatever social programs and support structure that exists is gone?

There are cost/benifit structures everywhere. Even your beloved Navy has them, and that's why every GI doesn't have Dragonskin body armor as an example.

We all here get the point though, 9/11 was massive. You'd risk everything to prevent it again, as i'm sure everyone here would. But your investment in these topics is so massive that you're willing to risk everything, but I suspect it's not from a desire to do honest, benevolent good, but more so to be right in the end.

Posted by: JohnDakota at December 12, 2007 03:46 PM

It is immoral for the US to impose democracy at gunpoint on any given country. It's immoral for us to decide from on high that some number of foreign casualties, both civilian and military, are an acceptable price to pay for bringing them into compliance with our whims. It's immoral for us to roll the dice with other people's lives.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at December 12, 2007 06:32 PM

"if 1 tillion dollars was spent to prevent every possible 9/11 attack, forget recession, we're talking bankrupt country"

Not really.
Just imagine number of military contracts, domestic and especially abroad, and whole line of industries attached to it and you will quickly realize that instead of raising taxes you will probably be able cut them.

Posted by: leo at December 12, 2007 06:39 PM

Creamy: It is immoral for the US to impose democracy at gunpoint on any given country.

Even if the majority want it? Was democracy imposed on the Kurds at gunpoint? They don't see it that way at all.

Or does what you say only apply to countries that don't want democracy? Do the Arabs of Iraq want democracy or not? Many don't, but most say they do.

Should democracy have not been imposed on the Japanese after they were defeated in World War II? They probably didn't want it at the time, but are obviously happy to have it now.

It's immoral for us to decide from on high that some number of foreign casualties, both civilian and military, are an acceptable price to pay for bringing them into compliance with our whims.

If we were talking about overthrowing Chirac with the Marine Corps and replacing him with Sarkozy, I would agree. That would be whimsical. But anti-totalitarianism isn't a whim for us, and never has been.

Should democracy have been imposed on Afghanistan after September 11?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 12, 2007 08:47 PM

Creamy Goodness,
You sound like a slave owner from the South in the 1860s justifying his lifestyle to the Northern agressors. "Our blacks, at least, have jobs....."

Seriously, what part of the old Saddam-led kleptocracy was so moral? Was it the mass graves? The wars he would start on a whim? What about the lack of representation of the people in the government? The neglected infrastructure? The poverty? Was it moral to let the citizens fester while the rich stole the oil via the Oil-for-Food program? Where was your voice when all this was going on?

I actually am sceptical of the democracy project, but track record is impressive: Germany, Italy, Japan, the US South, India all had democracy imposed on them and prospered because of it.

Let's see the facts that support your rant.

Posted by: Keith at December 12, 2007 09:04 PM

leo,

You're an absolute genius. You must know something that all developed governments do not. You know of a way to spend trillions of dollars on security and drop taxes? It's like the new sliced bread! Gov think tanks better listen up, forget about skimpy budgets, SPEND EVERY PENNY and you'd be super rich, cut taxes and so forth.

So leo, how does this actually work? I'm using my imagination but coming up with care-bears in penguin suits. Do I need more fantasy to get to the level of thought you've attained?

Posted by: JohnDakota at December 12, 2007 09:21 PM

Detractors seem so silly with the squirming emotion and name calling.

Michael opens a window and I like seeing the landscape.

If a detractor has an opposing view and is half-way polite, he is welcome to point to another window where I may take a look and consider what is or is not authentic.

Otherwise, no point in considering the sillyness. Ignore moonbats.= TG

Posted by: TG at December 12, 2007 11:48 PM

Even if the majority want it?

Even if the majority want it.

We can offer aid and comfort to dissidents. We can impose sanctions and trade blockades. We can take limited military action, as in the Kurdish no-fly zones and the Balkans.

What we cannot do without additional justification is make the decision to shatter the existing order.

Should democracy have been imposed on Afghanistan after September 11?

Afghanistan, in effect, attacked us. For our own self-defense, we needed to invade and pacify it. Having occupied it, we then needed to do something. Imposing democracy was the least worst option.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at December 13, 2007 12:34 AM

glasnost - interesting that you're still thinking of me. You should give me more credit - I actually realized that post in the previous thread was not you. Of course you couldn't resist the unfounded accusation, but I'm not bothered, I just consider the source.

Posted by: Gary Rosen at December 13, 2007 01:20 AM

Creamy Goodness,

The foundation of the United States is based on the concept that government exists legitimately only by the consent of the governed.

Even if the majority want it.

For you to say that indicates that you feel there is a legitimacy that surpasses the will of the governed. As an intellectual argument, that might pass muster. As a practical exercise, abandoning the consent of the governed to rule leads to privation, brutality, depredation, violence, tyranny, and war.

What possible moral virtue of sovereignty justifies perpetuating it when it causes the bulk of the misery in the world? (Sorry Goths, existential angst is weak beer compared to somebody who was abused every day for years by Saddam's thugs in Abu Ghraib.) It is hard for me to imagine a state of war worse than peace under Saddam based on what the victims of that abuse told me. Why is it more moral to leave a festering wound untreated?

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at December 13, 2007 01:27 AM

For people who can't do basic research or enter "9/11 $1.2 trillion" into google.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/9/11
By the end of the week, the DJIA had fallen 1369.7 points (14.3%), its largest one-week point drop in history. U.S. stocks lost $1.2 trillion in value for the week.

I consider $1.2 trillion to be a minimum loss impact on the US. The actual hit in productivity losses is probably much higher, especially for people who travel for a living.

Creamy Goodness,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran-iraq_war
Iran-Iraq war 22 September 1980–20 August 1988
Total casualties: 1.1-1.4 million dead
This is what lack of democracy does.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at December 13, 2007 01:40 AM

First off, about Turkey: You people act like some foreign government invaded Istanbul and installed a democratic regime. The (imperfect) democracy that exists in Turkey is the result of an indigenous nationalist movement that sprung up against foreign powers (Italy, Greece, France, Britain). So if you\'d like to shoot for Turkish governance in Iraq, you can\'t expect it to be airlifted from Washington via Qatar and Kuwait.

Second: Michael\'s Japanese analogy is neither here nor there, because 1. Japan attacked the US and 2. it already had decades-long precedent of Western-style institutions and governance, something that Iraq lacks.

Finally: As for the Kurds, had the US toppled one or both of the centres of Kurdish power in Iraq rather than leaving them intact and releasing them from the grip of Baghdad (back in 1991, no less), I\'m sure that the Kurds would look at American largesse in a very different way. As it is, Iraqi Kurdistan is entirely different from the rest of Iraq. The Kurds had 10 years away from Baghdad and weren\'t attacked by American invasion forces. This makes all the difference in the world, and trying to compare Iraqi Kurdistan with the rest of Iraq is like trying to compare apples and oranges.

One last thing: before the war, my friends and I used to drive to Baghdad with an Iraqi friend of ours for vacation every couple of years, and I used to have an Iraqi girlfriend. So I was surprised to see Michael\'s remark that Iraqis don\'t drink coffee. Where is he getting this from? Every single Iraqi I know drinks coffee. Comments like that might sound like an interesting tidbit of information, but it\'s unfortunately just not true.

Posted by: wissam at December 13, 2007 04:11 AM

Wissam: I was surprised to see Michael\'s remark that Iraqis don\'t drink coffee. Where is he getting this from?

I have not known a single Iraqi to drink coffee. Every single one of them, everywhere I have been, in Kurdish and Arabic regions alike, drinks tea (chai) instead. Nor have I been able to find coffee in Iraq except for one coffee shop in Suli that serves foreigners and is owned and run by Ethiopians.

Anyway, military intelligence officers in Fallujah are also well aware that the locals don't drink coffee and found it curious that one local store started selling coffee all of a sudden.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 13, 2007 04:59 AM

So leo, how does this actually work? I'm using my imagination but coming up with care-bears in penguin suits. Do I need more fantasy to get to the level of thought you've attained? --John Dakota

No, just a better education in your American history, cowboy. The US came out of the great depression riding on the back of WWII.

Posted by: Kevin China at December 13, 2007 05:17 AM

JohnDakota at December 12, 2007 09:21 PM,

Yes, I am wrong.

Posted by: leo at December 13, 2007 05:22 AM

"The US came out of the great depression riding on the back of WWII"

Or "Roaring 20s" riding on the back of WWI.

"Defense industries, a base of the economy especially in S California, have declined following the end of the cold war, a serious blow to the state."

Source: http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/us/A0857126.html (5 min google search)

Posted by: leo at December 13, 2007 05:34 AM

Lassy,

I knew of the wikipedia citation, it was the first place I looked assuming it was your source. However, I had hoped after the last adrenaline/atropine discussion that you had finally realized that wikipedia isn't a properly peer reviewed resource, and consequently may have actually learned how to use properly scholarly sources. My bad man, gave you to much credit.

Posted by: JohnDakota at December 13, 2007 06:29 AM

damn it, should read

"proper scholarly sources" =(

Posted by: JohnDakota at December 13, 2007 07:03 AM

JD: I'm using my imagination but coming up with care-bears in penguin suits.

I was conjuring up images of Iraqi insurgents in track suits breakdancing.

Posted by: Edgar at December 13, 2007 08:02 AM

Well, I don\'t know what to tell you except that I personally know plenty of Iraqis who do, so that would seem to contradict your anecdotal evidence that Iraqis don\'t drink coffee. I haven\'t been there since the war, so maybe it\'s harder to find than it was before, but I can assure you that I\'ve have had Turkish coffee with my Iraqi friends many times.

Also: I\'d be a little hesitant to take what \"military intelligence officers\" tell you as the gospel truth about Iraqi culture. After all, if they understood Iraq, its people and its language a little better, I\'m pretty sure America wouldn\'t be having such a hard time.

Posted by: wissam at December 13, 2007 08:07 AM

Wissam,

What you say about military intelligence officers was undoubtedly true a few years ago, maybe even one year ago, but certainly isn't true now. They understand Iraq a LOT better than they did, which is a big part of the reason places like Fallujah are no longer war zones.

Insurgents are the ones have a really tough time right now.

I don't doubt that you had Turkish coffee with some of your friends in Baghdad, but your evidence is as anecdotal as mine. And maybe coffee is more widely drank in Baghdad, which is by far more cosmopolitan and globalized than the rest of the country. Most of my time in Iraq has been spent outside Baghdad.

There are tea shops all over Iraq, but like I said I've only seen one coffee shop and it was run by and for foreigners in Kurdistan. It is a pretty nice place, actually, and looks like the kind of coffee shops you see in hip cities like New York, San Francisco, and Minneapolis.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 13, 2007 08:33 AM

Patrick,

"http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran-iraq_war
Iran-Iraq war 22 September 1980–20 August 1988
Total casualties: 1.1-1.4 million dead
This is what lack of democracy does."

And what does a democracy do? How many people were killed in the Vietnam War and in the current war? Estimates say that 2-5.1 million civilians were killed in Vietnam. And there was a democracy fighting in that war. In fact, our democracy uses our military than any other country in the world.

Second problem with your example is Western countries (US included) supported Hussein and sold him weapons, even chemical and biological weapons. Had this not been going on certainly the level of casualties and the duration of the war would not have been as great.

Certainly living in a democracy is much better, but it is flawed to say if every country becomes democratic that there will be no wars.

Posted by: JZ at December 13, 2007 09:08 AM

No, just a better education in your American history, cowboy. The US came out of the great depression riding on the back of WWII.

The US came out of the depression riding on a massive wave of government spending that redistributed wealth. The US could also have come out of the depression with similar spending sprees on health care, education, and housing, but it's more palatable for some to be spending money blowing things up and rebuilding them. Smacks less of socialism.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 13, 2007 09:31 AM

To everyone who thinks the US is fighting for democracy,

It has never really been the policy of the US to fight for true freedom and democracy. Those are just words political leaders use to gain support for going to war. What we pursue are our national interests. Which, granted is what every country does, but since the US is the most powerful nation it can be a lot more pushy and its actions have much greater repercussions. Sadly, our government does a lot of things that most Americans do not know about and hence do not care about. Our Presidents have realized that as long as they keep people happy at home they can do almost anything they want abroad.

As I said we fight for our national interests. If democracy in a foreign country is aligned with us accomplishing out national interests then great. But if democracy would be contrary to what we wanted to achieve then we just forget about the whole democracy thing. Iran is a prime example of this. In 1953 we overthrew a democratically elected leader because he was not in line with British and American financial interests. After squashing democracy we installed a brutal and oppressive dictator. Iran is just one example, but there are many others all over the world.

In Iraq, our government ran a great theatrical performance when it came to the elections. Watching Iraqis go out and vote and come back with their purple fingers was a very uplifting experience to many I'm sure. What we don't know or care about, is that this was all just a performance to keep up support for the war here in the US. Most Iraqis voted for parties that promised to get the US troops and bases out of Iraq immediately. Our government was having none of that though and has since ignored the Iraqis democratic wishes. Democracy is not just voting, it is allowing the people to guide their country and where it is going. Which is something we have not yet allowed Iraqis to do.

Posted by: JZ at December 13, 2007 09:32 AM

JZ,

Bang on man. The million dead in the Iraq-Iran war can't be entirely attributed to a lack of democracy. If Lassy really wanted to make that point he could have cited the Mao Chinese regime killing 60 million people in less than a decade. But that aswell isn't entirely because of a lack of democracy. It's the perversion of any government by twisted people (like Saddam, like Mao, like Stalin, and Moussilini, Hitler).

Non-democratic states give twisted individuals more chance to act out on their evil tendencies. But you can't blame it all on the lack of democracy.

sits back and awaits the 10k word Lassy Lampoozle

Posted by: JohnDakota at December 13, 2007 09:47 AM

JZ

The Iraqi government has not asked us to leave.

Our past policies of installing a governments to our liking resulted in 9/11 did it not? That is why a new approach was required. Was toppling Saddam the right policy? In the end, will it make things better, worse or the same? Who knows, I don't and neither do you nor anyone else. Now that we have chosen this path I don't really think there is any turning back.

It will be interesting to see what happens in Iraq if a Democrat is elected, my guess is that we will have more or less the same policy as we do now.

Posted by: joefrommass at December 13, 2007 10:01 AM

Iam not as educated as most of your posters but Michael seams to give both sides of the story for bad or good.I have read most of his posts over last few months,going back to his fist writings.I think he has a balanced veiw.

stay safe keep up the great work

Posted by: Scott at December 13, 2007 10:02 AM

JZ,

Our Presidents have realized that as long as they keep people happy at home they can do almost anything they want abroad.

Which explains Jimmy Carter how? Jimmy Carter failed to keep Americans happy at home, but to make up for it, he made us look really stupid abroad. Try not to draw this broad a rule on history, it doesn't really work. Presidents are individuals, just like everybody else. They make decisions on the basis of incomplete knowledge to meet the needs of the moment, just like everybody else.

As I said we fight for our national interests.

Do you have an economics degree? Because this kind of irrational expectation of perfect knowledge on the part of the consumer (of national interest) is the kind of drivel normally spouted by economics experts. Different people perceive our national interests differently. The aforementioned President Carter felt in his bones that it was in the national interest to throw American power and prestige out the window at every possible opportunity. For some reason this interpretation of the national interest did not work out so well.

Based on generally bad results associated with supporting dictators in the past, the current administration has cut back on the number of dictators they choose to support or tolerate. I really wish that we could put the boot to Khadafi and Assad and Kim, but we made different choices based on the perception of urgent needs. This may not meet the criteria of your abstraction, but it is the way things happen in the world.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at December 13, 2007 10:05 AM

Wissam:
You wrote: "Michael\'s Japanese analogy is neither here nor there, because 1. Japan attacked the US and 2. it already had decades-long precedent of Western-style institutions and governance, something that Iraq lacks."

Not exactly, in practice, the pre-war Japanese government was hardly a western-style liberal democracry. By the begining of WWII, the Japanese govermnent and virtually every other important institution had been coopted by the Military. Japanese militarism was also justified to an extent by reference to the non-western principal of Shintoism as well as Nationalism. By the time WWII began, Japan had become, in a very real sense, a expansionist totalitarian military state.

Sadam's Iraq, while claiming to be an Arab Nationalist state (economically socialist with a largely centrally planned economy if you prefer to put a fine point on it), was little more than a kleptocracy run for the benefit of his cronies by 2003. However, in 1980 when Saddam invaded Iran and in 1991 when he invaded Kuwait, Iraq could be fairly described as a expansionist-totalitarian Arab Nationalist state. Thus, in terms of politics and institutions, perhaps the Japan analogy is not as far fetched as you assert.

This also raises the point of what you consider to be "western-style" institutions? Many of the Nordic countries of Europe have mixed socialist/liberal democratic political and economic systems. Are they not "western style" in your view? Isn't socialism the brainchild of leftist European intellectuals?

As to your first point concerning the agressor status of Japan relative to the U.S., Germany did not directly attack the U.S. either, but it was forced to accept liberal democracy (at least in its Western half) and seems to have done quite well. Further, like Japan, by the begining of WWII, its historically weak liberal democratic institutions had been largely gutted by the totalitarian-expansionist Nazi regime. Thus, in terms of policital institutions and aggressor status, Germany would seem to be an even more analogous situation to Iraq.

Posted by: Mark-In-Chi-Town at December 13, 2007 10:25 AM

John Dakota,

You are more than welcome to politely argue all you want with Patrick, me, or whoever else. But you need to stop calling him "Lassy."

Thanks in advance.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 13, 2007 10:35 AM

Mark in chi-town: Thus, in terms of policital institutions and aggressor status, Germany would seem to be an even more analogous situation to Iraq.

I don't think Iraq is comparable at all. If Iraq had been a stable democracy before the late 1970s, when Saddam took over, it would be a lot easier to get them back to it.

As it stands though, they've been a backward, tribal society for centuries. You'd have to go back to pre-Mongol times to compare Iraq to anywhere in Europe.

Posted by: Edgar at December 13, 2007 10:35 AM

MJT: You are more than welcome to politely argue all you want with Patrick, me, or whoever else. But you need to stop calling him "Lassy."

With all due respect, Patrick's own posting style is anything but polite.

If the worst thing he ever did was call John Dakota "Dakoty" we'd all have had a more pleasant experience.

I'm sure DPU is more offended by being called a "pernicious turd" (whatever that means) than Patrick is by the benign "Lassy."

Posted by: Edgar at December 13, 2007 10:45 AM

I'd like you, Patrick, and everyone else to be polite and cool, too.

The comments section here is pretty good compared to most, I think. Help me keep it that way, k? Thanks.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 13, 2007 10:52 AM

John Dakota,

You are more than welcome to politely argue all you want with Patrick, me, or whoever else. But you need to stop calling him "Lassy."

Thanks in advance.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at December 13, 2007 10:35 AM

Ditto. It is getting old. It just seems like snide mockery.

Posted by: lindsey at December 13, 2007 10:57 AM

JZ: "National interest"

Exactly. Rest is just dressing.

joefrommass: "if a Democrat is elected, my guess is that we will have more or less the same policy (in Iraq) as we do now."

Agree. National interests come first.

Patrick S Lasswell: "Which explains Jimmy Carter how?"

Guy lost second term and I am willing to speculate he would've lost even to Democrat should one run.

Patrick S Lasswell: "Different people perceive our national interests differently"

Yes, but regular citizen cannot possibly have enough information to be able to understand it in its fullest and make right choice. Especially when it comes to business abroad. Our personal opinions are only good here. When it comes to 'realpolitik' none of us has a clue.

Posted by: leo at December 13, 2007 11:06 AM

lindsey,

It is snide mockery, but of a sort that's much more polite than the par for the course Lasswell comment.

If you can't bring yourself to even address the mysogeny, bigotry, and so forth previously demonstrated by Lasswell, then don't bother with my "Lassy."

Patrick, as it's been shown on many occasions, has a massively condescending approach to discourse, completely ignores any proper statement of fact if it brings down his position, and labels dissent to his position as ignorant, or unlearned. When the reality is usually quite the opposite.

I'll be more than happy to cease with the Lassy title, if Lassy himself will be more than happy to cease with his pompous, and condescending approach to discourse. And for the love of god end it with the obligatory wikipedia citations. They mean nothing.

Dismissed.

Posted by: JohnDakota at December 13, 2007 11:17 AM

Patrick,

Yes, I was an economics major, along with IR. I do agree with you that you cannot truly assign the same rational choices to every single person. However, making foreign policy decisions is not like trying to decide to buy apples or bananas, it doesn't exactly come down to one person preference. There is a whole big apparatus that is behind foreign policy decisions: State, Defense, Treasury, the CIA, businesses, and Congress. While the president is the one who makes the decisions he can hardly make radical decisions to reflect his own personal preference. For example, LBJ lied to get us into Vietnam, but it wasn't his own personal fantasy to see us entangled in Vietnam. It was something that came from a buildup under Eisenhower and Kennedy before him. He did make the decision to go to war, but that was based on analysis done by various officials in government who were analyzing the decision based on what was in the US national interest. As I said, every country pursues its national interest, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but when you have the power of the US you need to be very responsible.

As for Carter, he didn't keep people happy and thus he wasn't reelected. Nevertheless, Carter's administration continued to support various dictators and during his time the CIA was still involved in covert operations to overthrow governments and the like to ensure American allies were in power. Yes, the US lost a friend in the Shah during Carter's time, but that happened after a widespread and popular revolution against the Shah. Also, it was not Carter who made the Iranians hate us so much, but rather the 1953 overthrow of Mossadegh and the installation of the Shah. Our current president has definitely thrown American prestige out the window.

Oh, and one question how many dictators has this administration decided not to support? We already weren't supporting Saddam. Can you name one other dictator, whom we were friendly towards in 2001, that we have stopped supporting to install democracy in their country? Our next target, Iran, is much more likely to become a democracy without US military involvement. You always here Bush speak of the brutal regime in Iran, but you never hear him mention the brutal regime in Saudi Arabia. That's just one more example of why democracy is not our goal abroad.

Posted by: JZ at December 13, 2007 11:52 AM

Another great piece Michael- I eagerly await your next installment. I also appreciate the relatively civil discourse that takes place here(civil compared to most places online when Iraq is the subject).

One line of reasoning I've seen employed by those who opposed our overthrow of Saddam (or for that matter nearly all U.S. applications of military force post Viet Nam) often includes assertions such as these:
- We fostered Saddam's rise to power in the 1970's
- We sold conventional and chemical weapons to Iraq throughout the 1980's.
- We "green-lighted" Saddam's decision to invade Kuwait in 1990.

I'm not going to spew out here several thousand words to explain why the above cited examples are gross exaggerations or distortions of the historical record. For those who care to look through it, the NSA online archives at GWU have a wealth of official documents and commentary on our experience with Iraq over the past 30 years and provide a lot of answers.

I raise this because those "facts" above along with a photo of Don Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam in 1983 were used by a friend of mine as the core of his argument with me against overthowing the regime.

When he finished his retelling of all the horrible foreign policy misdeeds of the past (I think he finished up with Columbus' discovery of America and what a rotten deal it was for the natives) I asked him this: "So you're saying Saddam was a rotten thug that we essentially helped create and sustain up until recently, right?" He agreed with that.

Then I asked, "Then you think that was the wrong thing for us to do?" He agreed with that.

"Then why" I asked, "Is it wrong today to get rid of him now and fix the mess that you say WE created?"

Posted by: MisterH at December 13, 2007 12:06 PM

JohnDakota,

Please do not be rude to Lindsey. She is a decent person and does not deserve to be treated badly. She asked you a lot more politely than your behavior deserves to do something.

It is one thing to be rude to me with my words, but you chose to be rude to her with my words.

This makes you the jerk.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at December 13, 2007 12:18 PM

MisterH,

US policy in Iraq has been like a clumsy kid in a pottery store. The kid keeps on trying to fix something he broke, but he keeps knocking another piece of pottery off the shelf and breaking it! Now perhaps the kid should get some moral admiration for trying to fix his mistake, but in reality the best thing for him to do is to get out of the store! We and other Western powers before us, keep on trying to do things to "fix" Iraq, but we only end up breaking it even more. Hence, the best thing to do is to get out and leave Iraq alone. The US does too often involve itself in the internal affairs of other countries. Americans wouldn't like it if other countries did this to us and other people don't like it when we do it to them. We and the world would be much better off if we would be non-interventionist and just be an equal and respectable member of the international community.

Posted by: JZ at December 13, 2007 12:31 PM

JZ,

Can you name one other dictator, whom we were friendly towards in 2001, that we have stopped supporting to install democracy in their country?

Chavez? This is a bad example, because he was whoring after Fidel long before 2001.

I'm pretty sure our relations with Mugabe have cooled appreciably in the last seven years of his slide into madness.

We've taken a lot more firm stance with Musharref than we would have thirty years ago.

Between outright support, like we used to give Franco, and deliberate attempts to overthrow there is a pretty big gray area. That gray area is administered by the State Department and their implementation of the direction of the Bush administration has been excruciatingly bad.

In the main I agree with you that invasion of Iran would be a very bad idea. Based on discussions I've had with a number of Iranian revolutionaries from a variety of backgrounds, outright invasion would be strongly resisted and generally counter-productive. Only the most radical resisted the idea of US military assistance, though. Nobody I talked to intended to shed a single tear if the Revolutionary Guard took the high drop, even the ardent Marxists. I suspect that about 5-10% of all ethnic Persians would be outraged if the Qods Force met with a sticky end, the remainder would be overjoyed.

Taking out the evil bastards who provide the mullahs a bullying force would do a lot to help Iran on the road to democracy.

Funding democratically inclined revolutionary groups makes a lot of sense for not a lot of money. Regrettably, there are a lot of Iranian revolutionary groups out there, and many of them get positive notice for unsustainable actions. Backing the right horse in Iran is not something the CIA has shown a lot of talent for, and it is their tasking.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at December 13, 2007 12:36 PM

JZ,

True story from the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine. A bunch of ethnic Russian miners were getting trained down from the hills to break up the protests in Independence Square in Kieve. Some British and US spooks got word of this and took care of matters in the following manner. The bought cases and cases of vodka and supplied an all-you-can-drink party on the train for the miners. By the time the miners arrived, they couldn't stand up, let alone break up a large protest.

This was a rare opportunity to perform diplomatic judo with grace and elan. The rest of the time, we like an elephant in a china shop because we are so big and the world is so delicate. Things are going to get broken if we move at all, and we have to move. A lot of the time we end up breaking things because we are trying to avoid breaking more important things.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at December 13, 2007 12:47 PM

Chavez? This is a bad example, because he was whoring after Fidel long before 2001.

And because he isn't a dictator. Unless you think dictators are elected.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 13, 2007 01:16 PM

"True story from the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine. A bunch of ethnic Russian miners were getting trained down from the hills to break up the protests in Independence Square in Kieve. Some British and US spooks got word of this and took care of matters in the following manner. The bought cases and cases of vodka and supplied an all-you-can-drink party on the train for the miners. By the time the miners arrived, they couldn't stand up, let alone break up a large protest."

I did not hear about this story but I believe it to be true with one exception. It was probably just miners as opposed to ethnic miners.

At the time of Orange revolution in Ukrane (and now) country was pretty much divided on pro-Russia and pro-West camps. Mining regions are pro-Russian.

Posted by: leo at December 13, 2007 01:32 PM

DPU,

Unless you think dictators are elected.

At the risk if offending the Godwin's Rule fetishists, Adolf Hitler was elected. Q.E.D.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at December 13, 2007 01:34 PM

DPU,

Sure, dictators can be elected. Why not? If people vote themselves into a dictatorship, that doesn't mean they don't still have a dictatorship. Most dictatorships are unpopular, but some are not.

Chavez is trying to be a dictator. Fortunately his success if pretty half-assed so far.

Augusto Pinochet was the dictator of Chile even after he won the first referendum on his rule. And the fact that he left when he later lost a second referendum didn't make him retroactively a non-dictator. He was just a bit less extreme than some of the others in that region.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 13, 2007 01:36 PM

Lassy,

I wasn't rude to her. I was simply suggesting if she's going to wag her finger, she may as well wag her finger at all parties that have not played nice. In the manner that Michael did. Notice MJT asked me to stop, and I didn't say anything? That's because he did it with respect, and addressed everything.

I disagree that I used your words against her. Just to be clear, if I wanted to use your words against her I would have reminded her of "her right to get naked in strip bars." If you'd like the date, and thread of that beauty, I will be more than happy to provide it.

And you're right, it may make me a jerk to you. But it still leaves you a bigot, a mysogenist, and a homophobe that prefers to use adhominem attacks rather than debating the issues at hand.

Would you like to continue Lassy? Or would you like to just end it here? I'm willing to end it.. your call.

Posted by: JohnDakota at December 13, 2007 02:09 PM

Sure, dictators can be elected. Why not? If people vote themselves into a dictatorship, that doesn't mean they don't still have a dictatorship. Most dictatorships are unpopular, but some are not.

Chavez was elected, and has abided by the constitution. So what makes him a dictator?

Chavez is trying to be a dictator. Fortunately his success if pretty half-assed so far.

In what way has he tried?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 13, 2007 02:21 PM

Adolf Hitler was elected. Q.E.D.

And he wasn't a dictator when he was elected. What made him a dictato that Chavez hasn't done? Think really really hard, Patrick.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 13, 2007 02:22 PM

DPU,

And he wasn't a dictator when he was elected. What made him a dictato that Chavez hasn't done?

Got in front of a better class of brownshirts? Appealed to the German General Staff to promote the goals of the Prussian military class? Lived before the Holocaust? Burned the Reichstag to the ground and blamed it on the US? Gotten massively screwed by the Allied powers in the treaty of Versailles? I'm pretty sure the lower classes of Venezuela really don't care all that deeply about the governance of the Alsace or the borders of Poland.

I can think of all kinds of places where the parallels break down. Your point probably is that he hasn't succeeded in gaining full dictatorship through a vote. My point is that he hasn't succeeded yet. He certainly tried and came too close.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at December 13, 2007 02:41 PM

Got in front of a better class of brownshirts? Appealed to the German General Staff to promote the goals of the Prussian military class? Lived before the Holocaust? Burned the Reichstag to the ground and blamed it on the US? Gotten massively screwed by the Allied powers in the treaty of Versailles?

No. Ban all opposition parties and labor unions, and end elections.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 13, 2007 02:45 PM

My point is that he hasn't succeeded yet. He certainly tried and came too close.

When? What exactly are you talking about? The recent referendum? How was that an attempt to end elections?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 13, 2007 02:46 PM

It's interesting to note the savage denouncations of Chavez as a dictator when, although loony, isn't anything close to a dictator, yet the relative silence on Musharraf, an actual WMD-possessing dictator.

Why is that?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 13, 2007 02:57 PM

I'm not sure comparing Chavez to Hitler is entirely valid. Sure he wants absolute power, and would forgo general elections if possible, on the other hand he has never advocated the obliteration of an entire group of people. That, I would think, is one of the major qualities of Hitler. If you're missing that, well you're not quite Hitler.

People make "So and So" = Hitler equations so often now it's lost all meaning. I hear Bush = Hitler more than I can count, and that truely means nothing. Sure he's unpopular, but he's no friggin Hitler, just like Chavez is no Hitler. Although I am concerned about Chavez' intentions.

Posted by: JohnDakota at December 13, 2007 03:05 PM

DPU-

The way that a representative government devolves into a dictatorship is through concentration of power that is diffuse in a well structured government and society. This includes eliminating opposition parties, restricting freedom of the press, reducing the power of legislatures and the independence of the judiciary, and ending term limits (which is what this last referendum was about.) If George Bush had taken any of the steps the Chavez has, you'd probably be screaming "DICTATOR!".

Posted by: MartyH at December 13, 2007 03:28 PM

John Dakota,

I apologize for calling you cowboy. It was meant as a derogartory slur; as such, it was inappropriate.

Posted by: Kevin China at December 13, 2007 03:34 PM

The way that a representative government devolves into a dictatorship is through concentration of power that is diffuse in a well structured government and society.

Sure, but that has not occurred. If it does, then he may be called a dictator.

If George Bush had taken any of the steps the Chavez has, you'd probably be screaming "DICTATOR!".

You would do well to confining your criticisms of my arguments that have actually occurred rather than what you imagine they might be in other circumstances.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 13, 2007 03:36 PM

DPU-

The fact that Chavez has not succeeded in becoming a dictator does not mean that he is not trying.

Reporters without Borders rates Venezuala at 114th out of 169 countries for freedom of speech-down from 90th in 2005.

The parliament granted Chavez the ability to rule by decree in 2000 and again this year.

The recent referendum was an attempt to allow Chavez to stay in power longer so that he can continue to consolidate power. Its failure is a major roadblock to Chavez becoming a dictator. I predict that Chavez will try to overcome that roadblock and attempt to maintain the Presidency beyond the constitutionally mandated two terms.

Posted by: MartyH at December 13, 2007 04:02 PM

Kevin,

To be honest, I didn't even read that. Either way, I would have never taken being called a cowboy as an insult. I love the west, and I have family in the west. And damn, bull riders are friggin tough. I'd never want to do what they do, but you have to admire the guts it takes to jump on a 3000 lb, pissed off bull.

Posted by: JohnDakota at December 13, 2007 04:16 PM

The recent referendum was an attempt to allow Chavez to stay in power longer so that he can continue to consolidate power.

No it wasn't. It was a legal and contitutional vote on whether to abolish term limits. If Chavez had won, he would have been allowed to seek re-election in 2012. That is considerably different than guaranteeing him staying in power longer.

The fact that Chavez has not succeeded in becoming a dictator does not mean that he is not trying.

Look, I'm not arguing that he might find democracy an inconvenient hindrance to his own agenda, so please retire those debates. I am saying that he is currently elected, has abided by the constitution, and has not banned election. By anyone's definition, he does not a dictator make.

There is a lot that can be criticized about the man without resorting to misinformation.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 13, 2007 04:21 PM

Now that everyone is being all apologetic, I figure I'll join in.

Guys, I'm sorry for being awesome.

Posted by: Edgar at December 13, 2007 04:26 PM

Well, let's add Castro to the discussion. Chavez openly says he wants to be another Fidel. Dictator or not?

Posted by: Kevin China at December 13, 2007 04:46 PM

DPU-

All I'm saying is that there is a blueprint for transforming a democracy into a dictatorship. Chavez' actions are consistent with that blueprint. We will see if Chavez is still President in 2013. I predict that, by hook or by crook or by playing it straight he will be. That's his goal, and he'll figure out a way to get there.

Posted by: MartyH at December 13, 2007 05:19 PM

I had read that Chavez had every intention of stealing the referendum vote but was stopped by the military. In the end he caved and settled for a bogus, face saving, thin margin loss and conceded to appear magnanimous and democratic to the world.

Posted by: joefrommass at December 13, 2007 06:41 PM

Edgar: "Guys, I'm sorry for being awesome."

Do not bother apologizing, you cannot help it.

Posted by: leo at December 13, 2007 07:51 PM

All I'm saying is that there is a blueprint for transforming a democracy into a dictatorship. Chavez' actions are consistent with that blueprint. We will see if Chavez is still President in 2013. I predict that, by hook or by crook or by playing it straight he will be. That's his goal, and he'll figure out a way to get there.

Again, this is beside the point. He may well be a dictator at that time, or he might not. But he isn't one right now.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 13, 2007 09:34 PM

Mark:

One: Three days after the US declared war on Japan, both Germany and Italy declared war on the US, which is what resulted in the American declaration of war. The last time I checked, Iraq never declared war on the US.

Two: After Japan was \"opened\" in the mid 19th century, it adopted many European and American institutions. The early 20th century was known as the Taisho democracy period in Japanese history. Before WWII, Japan had adopted western institutions in the judicial, military and political realms.

Michael: The difference between my anecdotal evidence and yours is that I am not making universal declarations. When you say that Iraqis do not drink coffee, all it takes is one counterexample to prove that wrong. There is a reason why a café is called a qahwa: because that is one of the things you can drink there.

As for Chavez, I think he\'s a thug, but he\'s certainly not a dictator. Dictators don\'t lose referendums. If he were on more friendly terms with the US, you can guarantee that there would be no talk here about him being a dictator. Why don\'t you guys talk about Mubarak or Abdullah? Now those are dictators.

Posted by: wissam at December 13, 2007 10:13 PM

wissam: Why don't you guys talk about Mubarak or Abdullah?

Sure. As long as you promise to stop arguing about whether Iraqis prefer coffee or tea.

I'll discuss Abdullah, Mubarak, Achmed, Leonard Cohen, Roy Scheider--anyone you want.

Just stop with the coffee. It's classified info anyway.

Posted by: Edgar at December 13, 2007 10:25 PM

DPU-

I catch a shifty acting guy sliding a Slim Jim down a car window and I'm not going to wait until he pops the lock, gets in, and drives off before I think, "That guy's a car thief." Because the time do something is before he drives off.

And sometimes he isn't a car thief-maybe he's a repoman, or a locksmith, or there's a pet stifling inside the car. Still, you should yell at the guy.

The Venezualans did this-over half voted against the referendum, many of them fearing that Chavez is trying to steal their country. Chavez may not be a dictator yet (although if the reports of his trying to steal the election are true, it seals the case for me.) As has been pointed out, there are already enough dictators in the world-we don't need another one.

Posted by: MartyH at December 13, 2007 10:48 PM

Wissam: The difference between my anecdotal evidence and yours is that I am not making universal declarations.

Well, I wasn't the one who made the declaration. Lt Col Dowling did. What he said matches my experience exactly, so I said so. Maybe some people in Baghdad drink coffee, but in Fallujah they don't, and that's what I was writing about.

The only people I saw drinking coffee in Fallujah were Americans. Every Iraqi I saw and met drank tea instead.

Your contrary data point is intersting and instructive, but I don't see why you're so bent out of shape about it and why you must hammer the point for days and days as if I don't know what I'm talking about.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 13, 2007 11:45 PM

Everyone here knows that Chavez tried to seize power in a failed military coup against the elected government before he was elected, right?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 13, 2007 11:48 PM

"Sure. As long as you promise to stop arguing about whether Iraqis prefer coffee or tea.
I'll discuss Abdullah, Mubarak, Achmed, Leonard Cohen, Roy Scheider--anyone you want.
Just stop with the coffee. It's classified info anyway"
---Edgar

LOL.

Yeah ---- something we can all agree on. Well, mostly all I guess would be most accurate in this case.

By the by, Leonard Cohen is a musical genius and I don't care what he drinks.

Posted by: dougf at December 14, 2007 06:41 AM

Everyone here knows that Chavez tried to seize power in a failed military coup against the elected government before he was elected, right?

Yup. And everyone here knows that he failed, was imprisoned, later pardoned, and then won an election, right?

If his coup attempt had succeeded, then he would be a dictator.

Why is this so difficult? If we can call people things based on what they might be rather than what they are, there's a few names I'd like to call Bush.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 14, 2007 07:35 AM

What would you call Bush if his track-record matched that of Chavez? I'd sure as hell call him a wanna-be dictator, especially if he said someone like Francisco Franco (to find a right-wing counterpart to Fidel Castro) was his role model and hero.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 14, 2007 08:02 AM

I'd sure as hell call him a wanna-be dictator...

That wasn't what Patrick called him, and not what I was objecting to. Patrick called an elected leader who continues to hold elections a dictator, not a wanna-be dictator. Regardless of what he might want to be, he is not currently a dictator.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 14, 2007 08:11 AM

Ok. I say he's a wanna-be dictator. If he were a real one, he wouldn't have lost his referendum.

Either way, he is a menace to Venezuela. It's a shame than Venezuela managed to avoid Latin Americanism (for lack of a better word) in politics during the Cold War, only to suffer it now after the fact while other countries in the region (minus Cuba and Colombia) are moving beyond it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 14, 2007 08:16 AM

Far better to become a dictator when the people allow you to be, lot less potential for coup attempts. I can hear the eyes roll as I type this, but here I go anyway. His method is almost an exact match to how Hitler came into power. Coup attempt, failed. Win in election, done. Move to silence all opposition, in progress. That is where the similarities stop. If Chavez could garner military support to finish his goal, he would, however his chief ally in the military saw the light and is now an opponent. Just because he has used the current system doesn't make him any less a dictator. After all, this last vote to change the constitution would have given him what he wanted, he just didn't count on people voting their stomaches, what with the milk shortages and all.

Posted by: Kevin Schurig at December 14, 2007 08:23 AM

I have no idea why DPU persists in this lonely crusade to 'defend' Hugo. Surely there are more important things than a campaign for terminological exactitude. Hugo is really not worth the effort is he ?

Now personally I would like to propose 'classless thug' as a viable description of Hugo if it would help to solve the impasse. Dictator ,would-be-dictator --- pretty much mere semantics when reviewing the values of Hugo-like people. He will be what he can get away with. If he is not precisely a 'dictator' now it isn't because he has reservations, or moral qualms about the concept.

Posted by: dougf@unitz.ca at December 14, 2007 08:39 AM

DPU,

You're straining at gnats. I've been to Venezuela and it is a country of grand contradictions. The things that made it great are the things that Chavez is destroying. The reason you have so many petroleum engineers who speak Spanish up there in Canada is that Chavez applied dictatorial power to put his political cronies to work in the oil industry in Venezuela. That is a risk endemic to state owned oil companies, and Canada is certainly benefiting from the situation, but that doesn't make his actions good governance.

Pretending that there is some kind of quantum shift in the title of a despot is ludicrous. I also lived in Spain during the reign of Franco, and it was more free than Egypt is under Mubarak.

Dictatorship doesn't require a coup for creation, which is the central point of your argument. Whining about Chavez's current status is a distraction. You were wrong, dictators can be and are elected.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at December 14, 2007 09:00 AM

After all, this last vote to change the constitution would have given him what he wanted, he just didn't count on people voting their stomaches, what with the milk shortages and all.

I'm bemused by the notion of a dictator thwarted by and abiding by a popular vote that is not in his favor.

Check the dictionary, people.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 14, 2007 09:23 AM

Whining about Chavez's current status is a distraction.

Calling you on your usual nonsense and hyperbole is hardly whining, Patrick. Although I'm sure that that's the tone that you apply to it in your imagination. But if it comforts you, feel free to do so.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 14, 2007 09:26 AM

You were wrong, dictators can be and are elected.

And, according to you, dictators continue to hold elections and referendums which they can lose. Which makes me wonder what exactly the term means in your mind.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 14, 2007 09:29 AM

Well instead of doing this circular dance, how about we just go to the dictionary. That silly book we all learned about in elementary school, and where you probably learned how to spell "the" for the first time.

Websters Dictionary
Dictator:
a: a person granted absolute emergency power; especially : one appointed by the senate of ancient Rome
b: one holding complete autocratic control c: one ruling absolutely and often oppressively

I"m going to with since we're not discussing ancient Rome, A doesn't apply. Since Chavez doesn't occupy an autocratic style of government, B as well doesn't apply. That leaves C, and this recent referendum loss kinda knocks C off the blocks too.

What definition of Dictator are you using Lasswell?

I wont argue that Chavez isn't the most democratic of rulers, and would probably, if given the chance, enjoy a dictatorship or two. That doesn't make him a current dictator though.

Posted by: JohnDakota at December 14, 2007 09:44 AM

What definition of Dictator are you using Lasswell?</i.

I'd suspect:

Lasswell's Big Book O' Meanings

Dictator:
Pronunciation:
\ˈdik-ˌtā-tər, dik-ˈ\
Function:
noun
Etymology:
Latin, from dictare
Date:
14th century

Meaning:
a. Hugo Chavez
b. Anyone else that I wish to apply the term to

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 14, 2007 09:51 AM

DPU,

Ok, thanks for the clarification. I have not read the "Lasswell Big Book O'Meanings". I figured there was going to be some obscure wikipedia citation. I'll have to check out this new source.

Posted by: JohnDakota at December 14, 2007 10:12 AM

Even if the majority want it? Was democracy imposed on the Kurds at gunpoint? They don't see it that way at all.

Or does what you say only apply to countries that don't want democracy? Do the Arabs of Iraq want democracy or not? Many don't, but most say they do.

Should democracy have not been imposed on the Japanese after they were defeated in World War II? They probably didn't want it at the time, but are obviously happy to have it now.

Should democracy have been imposed on Afghanistan after September 11?

I expect better from you than this sort of muddled pablum, Mike. Afghanistan, Japan, Iraq. Two of these wars were preceded by acts of war against the American mainland. One was not. Obviously - like I said in my original comment - the requirement for national self-defense requires, to one extent or another, the punishment of countries that physically attack the American mainland, and if that happens to be pursued to a complete surrender/regime change, then making sure the new regime is a democracy is a painless act of altruism, as well as smart policy.

If you can't see the difference between that and a grand plan to convert ugly dictatorships into democracies over the stadium-sized piles of dead people created by local resistance, then your brain has failed you, or you're being demagogic.

The Kurds were de facto liberated before Saddamn was collapsed anyway, and even if they hadn't been, no, I don't consider the hundreds of thousands of dead sunni and shiite iraqis to be worth their liberation, since the same thing could have been done without the elaborate all-Iraq regime change plan, if someone wanted to be altruistic. But it wasn't a politically beneficial enough plan without the smackdown of the Bad Guy.

Posted by: glasnost at December 14, 2007 10:32 AM

I wish someone would fix the feature of this blog that makes it impossible to use a single set of italics tags to italicize a set of text blocks with line breaks between them.

Also, scratch "then your brain has failed you", replace with "then you're not trying very hard", lest I be uncivil.

Posted by: glasnost at December 14, 2007 10:43 AM

"Also, scratch "then your brain has failed you", replace with "then you're not trying very hard", lest I be uncivil."

Actually, you already said that. If you believe it to be a mistake and you wish to correct it, apology is the only viable option remaining.

Posted by: leo at December 14, 2007 12:16 PM

DPU and glasnost are tools (trolls?). There, I said what an overwhelming majority of readers are thinking. Not that it matters to them... or me really. Kind of like scratching an itch or squashing a mosquito or fly, it just feels good to do it.....Now back to your regularly scheduled droning negativity.

Posted by: john at December 14, 2007 05:10 PM

Glasnost, you need to stop chasing grasshoppers and focus. It is acceptable to use parallels to help understand new situations even when all the details are not identical; just keep in mind the differences along with the similarities and move on.

1. What reasons were there for an invasion of Iraq? Of these, which, if any, were compelling?

2. What compelling reasons were there to not invade Iraq?

3. For those reasons that support invasion, were any of them unethical, immoral or illegal?

4. For those reasons that support not invading, were any of them unethical, immoral or illegal?

5. What do you do with a grasshopper once you have caught it?

Posted by: Kevin China at December 14, 2007 05:46 PM

Glasnost

The liberation of Iraq was not preceded by an attack on the US? Errr, where you you on 9/11.

The WTC attacks were done by SAUDIS (not Afghans) trained to use their WMD in the UNITED STATES (not Afghanistan). How then was the removal of the terrorist supporting/sheltering Taliban justified but the removal of the terrorist supporting/sheltering Baath dictatorship not justified. The PAN NATIONAL AQ organization itself has admitted that Iraq is the central front in the war on terror and given its massive investment in Iraq its impending defeat there is a crucial win in the Global War on Terror.

The above is aside from the fact that on purely humanitarian grounds 27 million people have been freed from a brutal dictatorship and given a chance at entering the community of functional, modern states.

Additionally, Afghanistan never had the ability to make nuclear, biologiacl and chemical weapons, Iraq with its industrial base did, had done so in the past and it was Saddams desire to do so in the future.

Posted by: MikeE at December 14, 2007 08:49 PM

Just out of curiosity, Patrick, how old were you when you lived in Francoist Spain?

Michael: Well, I wasn\'t the one who made the declaration. Lt Col Dowling did.

This is what you wrote:

\"Iraqis don\'t normally drink coffee,\" he said. \"But we\'re told there\'s a guy now selling coffee. So we\'re going to find out why he\'s selling coffee and who is drinking the coffee.\"

Lots of Arabs drink coffee, but he\'s right that Iraqis do not. They have a tea culture here.

It looks like that\'s exactly what you\'re doing here, doesn\'t it? You say that your source is \"right that Iraqis do not\" normally drink coffee. And I\'m saying that that\'s just not true.

Other people here seem to think that this is quibbling, but you seemed to think that the point was important enough to devote two paragraphs to it in your report. As it turns out, your and his assertion is just plain wrong. Iraqis do drink a lot of tea, but that doesn\'t mean that they don\'t also drink coffee.

Posted by: wissam at December 15, 2007 02:09 AM

Wissam,

I, for one, don't understand the point of your argument about coffee. You seem to be saying that because you personally know that some Iraqi people will drink coffee that therefore, culturally, the Iraqi people drink coffee. You are controverting over a generalized remark with an absolutist position and, honestly, it is silly. Here are a few other generalizations that might make one hyperventilate...Americans are fat, Italians are hot lovers, Irish are fighters, Japanese like raw fish, Chavez is a dictator....

The point that I got from the article wasn't about the beverage preferences of Iraqis but rather, that something that the layman might see as innocuous can, in fact, be a potential danger.

Posted by: Kevin China at December 15, 2007 05:31 AM

MikeE,

I have no clue what your last post means. Was it written with the intention of saying that 9/11 is an excuse to attack any country that has a leader that may have the potential/intention of doing bad things? Because that's what it appears to be with your justification of the Iraq invasion referencing 9/11. There has never been, and never will be a link between the 9/11 attacks and Iraq. There is, on the other hand, a link between 9/11 and Afganistan insofar that the Taliban provided training and sanctuary to the individuals who organized the attacks.

Posted by: JohnDakota at December 15, 2007 07:41 AM

Hi John Dakota,

I am not writing to be provocative. I'm not much of a debater, so I usually stay out of the fray here. But I didn't understand your note to MikeE. First, why do you suggest his contribution was a poem? Second, I'm unsure why you come with such passion from the perspective you do in your response to him.

I too was frustrated in 2003 that the U.S. invaded Iraq. But by 2005 after having read Bernard Trainor & Michael Gordon, Kanan Makiya, Paul Berman, Azar Nafisi, George Packer, Peter W. Galbraith, Syed Qutb, Terry McDermott, Robert D. Kaplan, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Fouad Ajami, Bernard Lewis and still subscribing to The Nation I found I could not, in good conscience, make the argument you’re making.

With all that's happened since 2003, and especially since the surge in 2007, why continue focusing on your point? What good does it do? Better put, how are you helping by overstressing that argument?

I don’t recall your tone or vantage point in the rest of your posts and sometimes people in here just play devil's advocate so forgive me if I’m doing you a disservice. It's just that your argument seems to be one that was only appropriate up till about the end of 2004.

Posted by: Scott Moshen at December 15, 2007 03:06 PM

JohnDakota,

Ha. Forgive me. I misread the opening of your post. It seems another good question might be why I thought you said his 'post' was a 'poem.' I clearly misread the first time.

Posted by: Scott Moshen at December 15, 2007 03:12 PM

Scott,

My point was valid in 2004, and remains valid to this day. That's exactly why I posted it. The issue that 9/11 is constantly used as an excuse for various foreign policies is fine, as long as 9/11 was caused directly, or at least in part, by whoever the foreign policy is directed towards. To take the position of; well we're already in Iraq, forget about why we are there, i'ts irrelivant, is itself faulty. The reasons are of huge importance so we don't make the same mistakes in the future. Does that mean I support withdrawl? Definitely not. Does that mean I'd prefer to see better judgement used in the future? Absolutely.

Posted by: JohnDakota at December 15, 2007 03:23 PM

http://www.truthandpolitics.org/military-relative-size.php

Double Plus Ungood...

I am going to respond to your flip/glib jab that "you guys are going to be paying SO much tax" only because many Americans also have your miscoception.

Prior to WWII the US spent less than 2% of our GDP on defense. During WWII we spent about 38%. Directly afterwards we tried to drop back to pre-war spending... about 3.5% in 1948.

But the Cold War forced us to ramp back up to a high of 14% in 1953. We stayed at about 9% until 1971 and then dopped to about 5% until we "won" the Cold War. After the fall of the USSR we cut back to about 3% and held study until 2003.

I dont actually have a stat for our current spending... but I can hazard a guess of about 5% again.

With an economy of over $13 trillion I think we can afford to spend a few hundred billion to intervene in the ME. In fact, I think we cannot afford not to.

And yes, I would expect any occupation of Iraq to take a US presense for at LEAST as long as say, in the Phillipines - about 10 years of active military and 30+ of "presense".

The real question to me, and probably many Americans, is that now that the EU has a larger population than ours, a larger GDP, and a more powerful Euro... why cant you people do more than a 30% presense in Afghanistan and a <10A% presense in Iraq? How come we had to push y'all to get involved in the Balkans?

You are far closer to these danger points than us. The missiles of Iran can reach Denmark, but not NY. So, how come, 50 after WWII, we are STILL doing all the heavy lifting?

Just wondering.

Posted by: sean at December 15, 2007 08:36 PM

Kevin China, I feel spnappy tonight, so I will play along... BTW, I have no idea what your direction (bias) is on these questions...

1. What reasons were there for an invasion of Iraq? Of these, which, if any, were compelling?

1) failure to satisfy conditions of Gulf War cease fire.
2) attempted assasination of US head of state, propable culpability in first WTC bombing.
3) failure to conform to UN resolutions demanding proof of destruction of WMD stockpiles verified to exist after Iran/Iraq War UN-led inspections.
4) proven support for ME terrorism, payments to Palestinian suicide bombers, providing safe haven to Jordinian terrorists involved in international hijackings and bombings, feelers and offers of support (rejected) to AQ and OBL.
5) acts of genocide against two major ethnic groups within Iraq that had regional spillover into neighboring states - attacks on Shia in the south (Iran impacted) and attacks on Kurds in the north (Turkey, Iran, and Syrian impacted).
6) the idea, hope, plan that removing the dictator of Iraq could enable the development of a democratic government, or at least one that paid more lip service to human rights, and maybe one that would be pro-Western and a counterbalance to Iran.
7) the worry that between Iran and Iraq much of the world's oil supply was in the hands of proven despots and blackmailers, and that with SA perhaps falling to extremists such as OBL (a former Saudi), nearly ALL the world's oil (yes, that means you too EU and China) coudl fall into hostile hands.

2. What compelling reasons were there to not invade Iraq?

1) the possible loss of life and treasure to Americans.
2) the possible loss of life and treasure to Iraqis.
3) the possible use/"spill" of WMD.
4) the fear that the invasion of Iraq would be "incentive" to terrorists to attack the US and allies at home.
5) the possible outcome that Iraq is taken over by terrorists, another dictator, or a foreign power (how would that be much different than under Saddam?).

3. For those reasons that support invasion, were any of them unethical, immoral or illegal?

- Perhaps securing one's energy source, a resource of another "soveriegn" nation, could be considered "immoral" or "illegal".

However, there is no global government or set of laws. There is the UN, but it is not a "sovereign" government and its resolutions are not "laws". There are schools of international "law" studies, but these deal with treaties, not actual laws.

There is no world police force, military, court, or prisons... so the idea of international relations, even/especially of warfare being "illegal" is kinda silly.

Is it "immoral" to protect the lifeblood of one's own nation and people when doing so involves the violation of another people's territory or laws? Well, what if that other "people" is really one man, a dictator, who has murdered hundreds of thousands of his own people?

What if securing your own lifeblood may bring secondary benefits of freeing this other people from their dictator? What if these two goals can both be met, but at the cost of lives on both sides? Is there a school of moral calculus for this, or just bumper stickers?

It still strikes me as a valid question to weigh the defense of one nations's security, economy, and/or health against another's. Of course, this also calls into question the entire history of every European nation and Japan (WWII anyone?). But it is still a valid question.

4. For those reasons that support not invading, were any of them unethical, immoral or illegal?

Cowardice? Racism? Class warfare?

1) invasion may be dangerous over there and may prompt attacks over here - cowardice.

2) Arabs can have democracy, they are not ready/smart/good enough to make it work, they dont have a history of it... or Arabs are just violent and crazy people - racism.

3) "I hope we cant secure our oil". or "I hope their terrorist attacks do bring our capitalist economy to its knees". I have heard both comments from American leftists. Simply put these people do not value or "way of life" and so do not want to defend it - class warfare/social warfare.

I can sympathize with all three points. Wars are dangerous, deadly, bloody, and terrible. However, much good has also come from some wars... while international borders have shifted and people have died both in the wars and in the aftermath of foreign rule. However, new medicial techniques and understandings grew directly from wars and from military needs... sterilization of medical equipment, understanding of malaria and other disease vectors, blood transfusions, etc.

New laws and government systems were developed ... the Napoleonic Code was spread in Europe and Asia and Latin America was released from Spanish rule.

And when it comes to racial or national characteristics and history...

In fact Americans had no history of democracy before 1776 either... we had local town councils and colonial legislatures, but they were limited by race, sex, and economic status and ultimately subject to Royal power from England.

Most Americans were agrarian, illiterate, and uneducated in the 18th century. And the colonies were a general location of refuge/punishment for criminals and heretics.

Democracy is not a panacea... Islamic extremists may indeed sweep to power in early ME democracies (how long has religion been important to US politics, when has it stopped?). But the moral justifications for all other systems of government simply do not measure up to those of Democracy... it might not be perfect, but it is certainly the best. Meanwhile, it has been proved that Democracies can work better with other democracies (the old addage that no two democracies have gone to war is much more debatable).

5. What do you do with a grasshopper once you have caught it?

Feed it to your Toad?

Posted by: sean at December 15, 2007 09:16 PM

JohnDakota,

I'm glad you don't favor an impulsive withdrawal from Iraq.

I am curious, have you been to Iraq or Afghanistan? What source material, books, etc. do you read to arrive at the position you maintain?

Posted by: Scott Moshen at December 16, 2007 12:53 AM

sean:

What if securing your own lifeblood may bring secondary benefits of freeing this other people from their dictator?

What if imposing democracy at the point of a gun is such an incredibly difficult problem that for all our resources, we can't help but look like bumbling incompetents?

What if these two goals can both be met, but at the cost of lives on both sides?

What if some Americans are so impenetrably cavalier about the lives of non-Americans that they don't even grasp that it isn't their god-given right to violently rearrange other societies?

(PS to anti-anti-war zealots: Save it -- I supported the invasion, based on the WMD rationale.)

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at December 16, 2007 06:28 AM

No I have not been to either country. I'm a graduate student. Meaning I don't have very much money to travel =P

Since both conflicts are ongoing events, I don't trust many of the publications (books) as they're very politicized. Although the ones that I do read I obviously keep that context in mind. What I mostly read are the histories of those countries. For instance, to assume the conflict in Afganistan started only after 9/11 is far too reductionist. You have to consider that American influences in the region during the cold war at least in part enabled 9/11. Does that mean American "asked for it?" like so many people suggest? No, not at all.

But in terms of what I said in that last post, there are no big name books that I read. It's just common sense. I don't need a book to tell me what to think, just like I don't need the MSM to tell me what to think. To be able to rationalize that pulling out of Iraq when there appears to be some good finally happening is the wrong thing, is simply common sense to me. To be able to rationalize that going into Iraq with the overt pretext that there's WMDs there, and it turns out there were none, makes me hope that better judgement will be used in future conflicts. If we give all the people who voted Yes to invade Iraq a pass, when it turned out their pretexts were false, that sets up a bad slippery slope for the future.

Posted by: JohnDakota at December 16, 2007 07:13 AM

"(PS to anti-anti-war zealots: Save it -- I supported the invasion, based on the WMD rationale.)"--CG

So you don't have any problem with rearranging the 'other's' lives, and in fact terminating with extreme prejudice those lives, as long as there is no nasty 'social engineering' involved?

Good to know.

Posted by: dougf at December 16, 2007 08:10 AM

JohnDakota,

Best of luck with your grad work. I wonder what you are studying/where.

"There are no big name books that I read. It's just common sense. I don't need a book to tell me what to think." -JD.

Ooh, I won’t be snide and ask whether your grad program suggests that you read books or if your professors just pass along common sense. ;)

What we’re discussing is terribly complex. Gut reactions and common sense have their places but even our host here, who has read more books about Iraq than I, and who has clearly been there repeatedly, admits at times that it's too multifaceted and shifting for him to comprehend and was hesitant to weigh in earlier this summer on recent events (the surge); though later, in autumn, he did.

I agree with you that reading histories of Iraq / Afghanistan is enlightening, but I am unsure why that doesn't count as reading books. And I'm glad you don't think U.S. involvement in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion was a direct cause of 9/11.

But I don’t think I believe one’s opinion about (our involvement in) either country can have terribly much integrity (meaning durability) without reading books or visiting. If you had responded to my last query with particular books / authors, rest assured, I would have checked them out.

Per my initial post, I've scant confidence in my debating skills and I put little stock in trying to convert people, but I’ll say this. I can't help but wonder where your passion for these critical topics, which you seem worthily invested in, might be should you read, in full, some of the authors I mentioned. Makiya is a great place to start. I found I couldn’t stop after that.

Posted by: Scott Moshen at December 16, 2007 09:07 AM

Scott,

Like I said, I don't find these issues highly complex after reviewing history. Sure it's very interesting, and I agree you could read endlessly about the subject, but when determining weather the US should or should not stay in Iraq I find myself consistently saying stay no matter what I read. If you want a string of author names just so you can feel confident in what I'm posting, sorry you're not going to get it. You'll get that string of author names if we were discussing drug biosynthesis, medicinal chemistry, phamaracology and so forth. That's where I spend the vast majority of my time reading.

And I don't think I"m highly invested in what I say here. I believe that what I say for the most part is common sense. Just sometimes people, in bits of rage or whatever, forget common sense and become far too partisan. I'm not sure what you're refering to in terms of what i've posted, and how invested I am. If that's with reference to my criticism of Lasswell, then unfortunatley you missed the points of those posts. If you're referencing a single post i've made regarding 9/11 use and applications to Afganistan and Iraq. Then in this case you've read far to much into a single post I made.

Posted by: JohnDakota at December 16, 2007 09:55 AM

JohnDakota,

Fair enough.

By invested all I meant was that you seem impassioned about the topics. You post a lot. That's all. :)

Posted by: Scott Moshen at December 16, 2007 10:02 AM

heh ok. Well I read this site for about 3 months before I even started posting around 1.5 months ago. For the most part my posts have been criticisms of things I know to be completely false (like the Adrenaline/atropine discussion... and from what I cited as my field of study you can see why =P). Aswell just things of common sense, like debating on if Chavez is a dictator or not. Definitions can fix these issues quite easily. THese round about arguments get people nowhere, thats why I tend to just go straight at the issue if I know how.

What I'm mostly passionate about is logical thinking. Maybe that's because I like arguments (in terms of philosophy) or maybe that's because I'm a scientist by trade. That's what I'm mostly critical of here.

Posted by: JohnDakota at December 16, 2007 11:46 AM

JohnDakota,

Stop abusing my name. It is an honorable name and your continued abuse of it is not funny and it is not acceptable behavior. Nobody would allow you to stay at a social gathering in person if you acted this way.

Why do you expect to be allowed to stay here if you continue acting this way?

If your arguments do not carry enough ridicule to make your point without being abusive, you have lost and are just being unpleasant.

This is the last time I will bring the point up pleasantly.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at December 16, 2007 12:27 PM

Lasswell,

I wasn't aware that referencing you was abusive. Lasswell is your name isn't it? It's not some derivative of your name of any sort. So how is that abusive? I'm not saying it in any sort of sarcastic tone (if text has tone.. then it's a tone I'm unaware of).

Seriously, get over yourself. I was referencing you because it's a statement of fact. I was critical of you, that's all. It's not like I was bringing that up to rub salt in any wounds. Truth is truth, and I was crtical of you, so get over it.

If anyone just stoked the fire, it was you. So again.. I'm willing to end this.. are you?

Posted by: JohnDakota at December 16, 2007 12:37 PM

Lasswell,

And I'm unsure of what you're meaning when you say I've lost. Are you saying I've lost in your mind in whatever half dozen debates we've had? If that's the case please explain why and maybe I'll have to further clarify my position (although I believe I've been infinitely clear.. just you tend to ignore factual, non-wikipedia evidence).

If by "lost and unpleasent" you mean won and you can't admit defeat, fine. To each his own.

Posted by: JohnDakota at December 16, 2007 12:45 PM

JohnDakota,

If I were a betting man, I'd say Patrick is upset by your omission of the "L" which begins his last name. I noticed it in your post to me. The word created by the omission of that "L" certainly sounds derogatory.

Posted by: Scott Moshen at December 16, 2007 12:59 PM

Scott,

I just checked my posts and I don’t see that. The only thing I can see that would appear to be an omission of the "L" in is in the sentence;

"Aswell just things of common sense, like debating on if Chavez is a dictator or not."

Now that is an omission of a space (even though common slang these days will type it as a single word). It should read "As well". To think that’s an omission of the "L" in Lasswell is ridiculous. The sentence itself would not even make sense if the subject was in that position. That's just basic grammar. I think this situation stems from Lasswell's completely obsession lately.

So Lasswell, if my omission of a space in "as well" lead you to believe I was spelling your name "Asswell" (even though the word written was Aswell), then I'm sorry. Does that make you feel better? For a guy who's supposed to be super navy tough you get sensitive over a lot of childish things. Things that don’t even pertain to you. Again man, get over yourself; you’re not that important that I’d spend even a fraction of my waking hours on you.

I believe you're just obsessed at this point and hell bent on getting me kicked from this site. You seem to make allusions to that quite often now Lasswell.

Posted by: JohnDakota at December 16, 2007 01:44 PM

Dude, why don't you just refer to him as Patrick?

Posted by: joefrommass at December 16, 2007 03:40 PM

Because, I dont' feel I'm familiar enough. And I don't want to. Does it really matter? I didn't call him "asswell" like he thought, so there is no problem. The only problem is the one other people are making right now. So can we just drop it?

Posted by: JohnDakota at December 16, 2007 04:48 PM

Nobody would allow you to stay at a social gathering in person if you acted this way.

Patrick, do you attend social gatherings where it's acceptable to call people turds?

Why do you expect to be allowed to stay here if you continue acting this way?

Is there a new policy that allows Patrick to decide who comments here? I must have missed the memo.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 16, 2007 05:16 PM

DPU,

Thanks, but the funniest part of this is that I didn't even call him "asswell". Heck I had never even thought of that derivation of his name (even though I guess it seems so obvious a 6 year old could). This is entirely brought upon by Lasswell. The guy has a serious confidence issue or something where upon he must impose himself upon everyone no matter the place or time.

I'm curious to know if in his social gatherings it's acceptable to suggest to women "their right to get naked in strip clubs," or to people he's had disagreements with that if this were Doublin they'd be treated to a beating. I suppose his majesty, Sir. Lasswell will only be able to answer those questions.

Posted by: JohnDakota at December 16, 2007 06:07 PM

JohnDakota,

I think I can help you put this "Adrenaline/atropine" debate to rest.

It is possible that both you and Patrick are right.

Consider placebo effect.

Posted by: leo at December 16, 2007 08:14 PM

Just in case, you didn't see the question above: How old were you when you lived in Spain under Franco, Patrick?

Posted by: wissam at December 16, 2007 10:19 PM

JohnDakota,

"Aswell just things of common sense, like debating on if Chavez is a dictator or not," isn't the most scrutable sentence going. Even separating Aswell into two words, the phrasing is a little tough to decipher. Given that spat you'd had with him (which I believe touched on the subject of Hugo Chavez) I couldn't help but think you were referencing him here.

It was an honest mistake.

Posted by: Scott Moshen at December 16, 2007 11:57 PM

wissam,

What's your social security number and mother's maiden name?

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at December 17, 2007 12:16 AM

Lasswell:

You talked about living under Franco, but I was under the impression that you were in your thirties, which would make that comment strange since Franco died in 1975. Obviously, you're older than I assumed you were.

It's a simple question; why are you so defensive? But for the record, I don't have a social security number, and my mother's maiden name is el-Hajj.

Posted by: wissam at December 17, 2007 03:00 AM

Leo,

Give me a break. What are we, 6 years old and everyone has to be right so nobody gets their feelings hurt? Placebo effect is such a retarded thing to bring up at this point because it's not even an effect of the drug (hence why it's called placebo). We were debating if the drugs could do what the book said they were doing. All the factual evidence I discussed said no, and these weren't wikipedia sources. THey were academic citations from peer reviewed journals or databases.

If you're going to play the "everyone is a winner" card could you please bring out the extra blue chair for musical chairs? That way we can all sit down.

Posted by: JohnDakota at December 17, 2007 05:10 AM

wissam,

I don't know if you'll get that out of him, it's obviously top secret. The CIA probably instructed him on how to question evade, he's clearly a professional.

Anyway, I don't know if it matters so much, unless you're just interested in establishing the age of Lasswell. He played the Franco card so it's a "ya, see, I LIVED there, therefore I know what I'm talking about" condition. The reason I never ask him to prove where he lived can be explained well by this comparison;

I've taught many biology classes. There were student's physically in these biology classes, and since these were 3rd year classes they probably have been in many biology classes. Does this mean they really know anything about biology? Not necessairly, and some of their test scores suggest they knew nothing about biology. So being in Franco Spain means nothing in terms of knowing what anything is like there. It just means he was there (if he was even there).

Posted by: JohnDakota at December 17, 2007 05:17 AM

"Placebo: A pharmacologically inert substance that may elicit a significant reaction entirely because of the mental set of the patient or the physical setting in which the drug is taken."

Source: http://SuicideAndMentalHealthAssociationInternational.org/alcdruggloss.html

It is probably totally different use of placebo than what you are used to as scientist in the field of pharmacology.

I cannot say anything about validity of the source but it is being referenced a lot by many others. Of cause, feel free to doubt. This is what real scientists do anyway.

PS. I could not care less which of you is right or wrong. You just seem not to be able to let it go and this is tiresome. Does not give you extra points either.

Posted by: leo at December 17, 2007 05:51 AM

Leo,

That would be all fine and good if Adrenaline or Atropine were placebo's. Unfortunately they're not and they elicit specific phamarmacological effects, that were well definied in that previous discussion. If you'd like you're more than welcome to go revisit it there. This debate was finished 2 threads back. Thanks.

Posted by: JohnDakota at December 17, 2007 05:54 AM

just to add, a placebo is a placebo. There is no difference between pharmacology, and medicine. That would be because pharmacology is an arm of medicine.

So for example, if I were to give someone saline water, and they thought they were getting high because I told them I had a hallucinogen in what I injected him with, then that's a placebo effect both as a Medical Doctor, and as a scientist.

Leo, dont try to twist this into a "well maybe there was nothing in what they were injecting," debate. That was tried in the other thread. What Edgar, Lasswell, I and Co. were debating was what was written in the book. THe book says adrenalin/atropine directly into the heart makes super jihadi's. The book is wrong, end of story. Let's just leave it at that.

Posted by: JohnDakota at December 17, 2007 06:02 AM

JD: He played the Franco card so it's a "ya, see, I LIVED there, therefore I know what I'm talking about"

I'm constantly amazed that Patrick thinks he can pull this kind of nonsense without getting busted.

He mentioned in a previous post that he was in his early 40s. That means he was a pre-teen or younger during Franco's reign.

But he's right, you know. I'm sure he was able to play cowboys and indians without much interference from the authorities.

Posted by: Edgar at December 17, 2007 06:04 AM

"Let's just leave it at that."

OK

Posted by: leo at December 17, 2007 06:38 AM

JohnDakota: I hate to bring up that whole drug debate again, but just because a drug does something doesn't mean it can't have a placebo effect as well. This seems to be what you are saying to Leo. Also, for the record, how much of PCP's effects stem from the adrenaline rush it induces? I've had trouble finding any literature on the subject, but you say you read a lot in that area so you might know.

Moving on...you say Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11. Fair enough. But he DID have something to do with AQ, before and afterwards:
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1738670/posts

So going after Saddam for harboring the dudes responsible for 9/11 would be a valid reason for invasion. And that's just about as bad as Saddam having ties to 9/11 himself.

Creamy Goodness:
What if imposing democracy at the point of a gun is such an incredibly difficult problem that for all our resources, we can't help but look like bumbling incompetents?

If imposing democracy at the point of a gun is so incredibly difficult, why expect it to work out better than it has in 4 years with 4,000 American troops lost? After all, the real trouble is not establishing democracy, it's the insurgency. Japan is now a flourishing democracy; Vietnam is a mess. Guess which one had the whole "democracy-at-gunpoint" thing and which one had the insurgency/guerrilla warfare.

What if some Americans are so impenetrably cavalier about the lives of non-Americans that they don't even grasp that it isn't their god-given right to violently rearrange other societies?

This is certainly true of some Americans, but don't paint the whole pro-war movement with that brush. That's like Abraham (the troll who got comments closed before) painting the actions of the "deviant and extreme" Ash'har Company in Israel as representative of Zionists in general.

And after all, we rearrange other societies merely by existing. The trouble is finding a balance in how far we can go.

Posted by: Math_Mage at December 18, 2007 12:33 AM
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