Historical revisionism

by Henry on July 17, 2003

Two strikingly similar mischaracterizations of opposition to the war today, from different sources. The NYT quotes an unnamed British official as saying of Iraq and Afghanistan:

There is this myth that these countries don’t want freedom, and that Saddam or the Taliban are popular, but then it becomes apparent that they were not at all popular after they fall.

And Instapundit quotes at length from a New York Post article that says:

This chorus [a mixture of Arab and Western newspapers, and Time magazine] wants us to believe that most Iraqis regret the ancien regime, and are ready to kill and die to expel their liberators. Sorry, guys, this is not the case. … ONE fact is that a visitor to Iraq these days never finds anyone who wants Saddam back.

Now I don’t know whether this is a flash in the pan, or a new talking-point in the making, but either way it’s bogus. It implies that opponents of the war believed that Iraqis were happy with Saddam, and that Afghans liked the Taliban – thus, their criticisms of what’s happening now can safely be ignored. The fact that no-one outside the lunatic fringe (and perhaps a couple of Arab newspapers) actually makes this claim is irrelevant. When your opponents have arguments that you can’t answer, you don’t try to answer them – instead you construct a straw man and start clobbering the bejesus out of that, in the hope of confusing innocent bystanders.

Critics aren’t arguing that the Iraqi people are begging Saddam to return, at least not the ones that I’m reading. They’re dissecting the deceptive claims that were made by Bush et al. in the run-up to the war. They’re looking closely at the lurching disaster that is post-war Iraq – a far cry from the smooth and easy transition to democracy that the administration seemed to be promising. They’re asking about the lasting damage that the US has done to its relationship with its allies. And I’m not hearing much in the way of a convincing response from the pro-war crowd.

{ 35 comments }

1

kokomo 07.17.03 at 7:52 pm

True, no one is making the case that the Iraqi’s were happy with Saddam and are anxiously awaiting his return.

But someone should be making the case that some Iraqis were unquestionably better off under Saddam and that they are working feverishly for his return. Not unlike George Washington, Saddam is playing a game of hide and seek with the occupying forces waiting for an opportune moment to score a decisive psychological victory.

Moreover, someone should be making the case that the US is arguably better off with an appropriately leashed Ba’ath party than with a Shia dominated Democracy or Dictatorship.

2

dsquared 07.17.03 at 8:11 pm

I’d note that the Catholic population of Northern Ireland didn’t want the B-Specials back, but that didn’t stop them in the end getting thoroughly sick of the British Army.

3

Henry 07.17.03 at 8:20 pm

Indeed – I blogged this back when everyone was getting excited about the footage of the statue being pulled down. Had a nice photo too, of a Catholic mum in Belfast giving a cup of tea to a British squaddie just after the Army came into the North. Needless to say, the boyos of the British Army weren’t getting cuppas from the locals for very long.

4

Jack Murray 07.17.03 at 8:21 pm

And I’m not hearing much in the way of a convincing response from the pro-war crowd.

Maybe that’s because you are not listening. The “Pro-War Crowd,” or in my view the realists who understand Sadaam Hussein was a menace to his country, threat to his neighbors, and a possible threat to homeland security(Sadaam would’ve loved to inflict more chaos, fear, and death of innocents to our country, that must not be disputed). Yes, his complicity in 9-11 never surfaced, and probably won’t. The mutual hatred the Baathists and Rogue terrorist states(i.e. Al Qaeda) were bound to intersect at some point in the (previous) forseeable future and many in this continent wanted to head that horror off at the pass. I am personally not concerned with anyone’s political affiliation or points of view on the current administration. He said, she said won’t bring our men and women home any sooner. However I must admit that the current administration was not alone in suggesting Sadaam’s regime possessed WMD(See: 12/16/98). Actually they happen to be only the most recent in a long line of Sadaam finger-wavers, both home and abroad(See: UN). It also must be said that Iraq was a perennial front-runner in the list of countries that sponser terrorism, prior to the current administration’s arrival onto the scene.

“a far cry from the smooth and easy transition to democracy that the administration seemed to be promising.”
Who in the heck said that? Iraq is a power-vacuum. The Fedajeen, Republican guard, Sunni, Baathists, hard-line militant Islamists are ever-lurking. Let’s face it the race to Baghdad was not the most daunting of tasks a superpower could’ve engaged in. Desparate armed people who are disguised within the populace are not going to make winning the peace easy. But read the comments of anyone in Iraq right now and they will tell you the VAST majority of the citizens of Iraq are anxious about the uncertainty but no longer reticent. It will take time and we will face opposition, these truths should not deter us from doing the most efficient job of restoring Iraqi citizen’s control over their country.

5

zippy 07.17.03 at 8:45 pm

Jack: exactly.

Read Salam Pax, or one of the other bloggers from Iraq; they are all overjoyed that Saddam is gone. The fact that so much attention gets paid to a single casualty (two days for one shot soldier?) is evidence that Iraq is NOT in a state of permanent armed rebellion – the comparisons with Viet Nam make the people who remember Viet Nam laugh… albeit, with much black humor.

Rather than this endless cycle of ‘who said what they said when they meant what they should have said they meant’ etc. etc., I would like to see some serious discussion on the apparent and extreme lack of preparation on the part of the Administration for anything beyond the conclusion of the war effort. Once the fighting was over, there should have been a plan of some sort – instead, there was only chaos. The most critical two weeks of reconstruction should have been spent locating interim leaders; instead, it turned into a giant battle between the ninnyhammers at State and their counterparts in the Pentagon. As a consequence nothing got done, and there is STILL a lack of action and planning on the part of our government. This should be addressed.

Just my .02.

6

PG 07.17.03 at 8:51 pm

Yes, his complicity in 9-11 never surfaced, and probably won’t.

Jesus wept. If there’s no evidence of the complicity, perhaps one ought not talk about it as though it were a fact just waiting to be definitively ascertained.

One doesn’t go about saying “Yes, the BJP’s complicity in the Gujarat train attack never surfaced, and probably won’t.” Indirect accusation is irresponsible rhetoric.

“a far cry from the smooth and easy transition to democracy that the administration seemed to be promising.”
Who in the heck said that?

The word “seemed” was used because no one in the administration ever explicitly said, “This is going to be a smooth and easy transition to democracy.”

But the poll numbers over time on how long Americans who support the war and reconstruction think the latter will take indicate a strong correlation between supporting Bush and thinking that the reconstruction will not be long and costly.
I think that the majority of the support for the action in Iraq is founded on the misconception that it wouldn’t be much more time or trouble than the first Gulf War.

7

Jack Murray 07.17.03 at 9:08 pm

I think that the majority of the support for the action in Iraq is founded on the misconception that it wouldn’t be much more time or trouble than the first Gulf War.

Support for action based on its difficulty level is rather juvenile, and I should hope an opinion for or against military action was based on close following of the debate leading up to such an incursion.

Oh, PG where do I start? I promise I will never use 9-11 and Iraq in the same paragraph again if it upsets you. I know that a terror-sponsoring regime(see rankings through out the 90s) is still innocent until proven guilty, and that Muhammed Atta never met with an Iraqi official in east Europe no matter what Czeck Republic asserts. If it makes you happy Iraq and 9-11 will never get so dangerously close to eachother as to maybe imply that the war in Iraq was in any way a result of the United States wanting to be more secure by removing a terror sponsoring democratically elected(100% of the popular vote) Baathist(modeled in late 40s to be Middle Eastern National Socalists(Nazis, pg)

8

Russell L. Carter 07.17.03 at 9:32 pm

“Support for action based on its difficulty level is rather juvenile, and I should hope an opinion for or against military action was based on close following of the debate leading up to such an incursion.”

Um, that’s the problem, there wasn’t a debate, at least where it mattered. And you’re right. The majority of those 9/11 miscreants were Iraqi. Most Americans know that for a fact.

9

Nick 07.17.03 at 9:37 pm

Jack: You’re dodging the point here.

Anyone with half a brain would agree that Saddam was a bad guy and that his regime could only spell trouble. What kind of trouble is highly debatable, but trouble nonetheless. Assuming that things improve in Iraq (which is not a bold assumption, although it could take a while), then it would be difficult to say that the war was a “bad thing.”

However, the reasons we went to war are important. The administration implied – and sometimes outright said – things that weren’t true. While the outcome of the war will most likely end up being good, that’s just dumb luck.

What if the administration had used deceitful tactics to get us into a situation that didn’t turn out for the better? Would you still defend them? I would much rather live in a country that stated as much fact as possible, even at the cost of delay in action, than one that convinces the populace through deception in order to act rashly.

Also, while it may be juvenile to judge the merit of action based on its difficulty (WW2 was certainly no easy task), it is just as juvenile to assume that popular opinion for anything is “based on close following of the debate.” Seeing Bowling for Columbine or reading Coulter’s new book is about the closest most Americans come to following a debate; more typically, it consists of watching FoxNews or CNN.

10

Jack (not Murray) 07.17.03 at 9:57 pm

If worrying about the difficulty of an action is juvenile, why haven’t Burma, Congo and North Korea been sorted out?

11

peet 07.17.03 at 10:56 pm

There is also a huge myth that chemical and biological weapons are in the same class as nuclear when they are at most they are on an indifference curve with traditional explosives and weaponary. The american people still don’t understand that if we were to find a huge cache of mustard gas shells that this is virtually meaningless because of huge quantities necessary to be effective and whole armies to deliver them. Its time for military analyst to start coming forward and telling the truth about this it is the one area where Bush can continue to pull the wool over the eyes of the american people.

12

Jason 07.17.03 at 11:38 pm

Jack (Murray) implies that either one supported this war on Iraq on this timetable, or one wanted defer war infinitely.

That’s a straw man: The administration repeatedly argued that Iraq was an imminent threat, whose smoking gun would be a mushroom cloud if we didn’t act now.

Now it turns out that Iraq was certainly a murderous, lawless regime, but that the threat of WMD was hardly imminent (as Peet points out re: chemical weapons, and as everyone now seems to agree re: nuclear).

As NPR reported today, the only complaint filed with the CIA ombudsman about politicized intelligence in the runup to the war was about the Iraq-Al Queda link. (In other words, as bad as the yellowcake story is, people in the CIA thought the Iraq-Al Queda link was worse.) They also emphasized the difference between an Al-Queda “associate” who may have met with Atta, and an Al Queda “leader” or “operative.” The former is a more tenuous–and therefore plausible–connection; the latter is what Bush said repeatedly.

No amount of sarcasm by Jack will make that story any better. In hindsight, though, the position of those conservatives and liberals who argued that war would only be legitimate after serious inspections looks pretty good.

13

Phillip J. Birmingham 07.18.03 at 2:29 am

Support for action based on its difficulty level is rather juvenile

Funny — I think of it as the blood-and-treasure analog to price-shopping.

14

ibyx 07.18.03 at 2:52 am

From my post today on this exact issue:

“The uproar about whether or not Bush purposefully and knowingly manipulated the “facts,” or mislead the public and Congress, while making the case for war is NOT about whether or not the war was in fact a good idea or even a justified pre-emptive strike. Intention matters a whole hell of a lot in this case. Even if Bush was factually correct as well as “technically accurate,” if he and/or others in the administration knowingly presented false or even questionable intelligence to the public and Congress in order to garner support for the war — it is still a big deal. It is still very very wrong. It is still worthy of investigation and censure and serious repercussions. It is the action of a totalitarian regime and it is not consistent with democratic principles.”

15

rea 07.18.03 at 3:51 am

“Support for action based on its difficulty level is rather juvenile”

Well, even a child knows that how many candy bars you buy depends on how much you want to spend. You evidently supported taking out Saddam. If you knew in advance that doing it would take a million casualties, would you have supported it? I doubt it–on the contrary, I suspect you supported it precisely because you thought taking him out would be relatively cheap, and the benefits of that would outweigh its costs.

16

PG 07.18.03 at 4:04 am

Middle Eastern National Socalists (Nazis, pg)

:-) Oh, are we going to patronize each other now? How delightful.

All the attempts to connect Saddam Hussein to 9/11, tenuous and repeatedly debunked as they have been, remind me of that godawful country song: “You say we shouldn’t worry ’bout bin Laden / Have you forgotten?”
We know who’s responsible for 9/11, and we’re still trying to catch him. Saddam is a sufficient shithead without needing to put 9/11 on his shoulders as well.

I think the previous commenters have effectively made the argument that we do make a cost/benefit analysis on many wars, particularly a war like Iraq that we chose to fought. The same would be true for wars I supported or would have supported, including the actions in the Balkans and if we had intervened in Rwanda.

If the alternative is the loss of the nation, one has to fight and damn the cost; this would be wars like the Civil War or WWII. But Saddam Hussein couldn’t end the USA as we know it, and he never attacked us on our soil.

And if you ask how many American lives are worth removing a random evil dictator from power, I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed by how little the average American is willing to sacrifice for the freedom of Iraqis.
This may make us selfish and Rawls probably would disapprove, but it’s wrong to tell the nation that they are fighting a war for their own security when they are fighting it for the freedom of another people.

17

Nick 07.18.03 at 7:17 am

that Muhammed Atta never met with an Iraqi official in east Europe no matter what Czeck Republic asserts.

The CIA says that the Africa uranium evidence is dubious but, hey, British intelligence supports it!

The CIA says the Atta-Iraq connection is bogus but, hey, Czech intelligence supports it!

Conservatives might not think much of the UN, but it looks like we’ve found one area where they’re die-hard multilateralists.

18

Jimmy Doyle 07.18.03 at 10:29 am

“Now I don’t know whether this is a flash in the pan, or a new talking-point in the making, but either way it’s bogus. It implies that opponents of the war believed that Iraqis were happy with Saddam, and that Afghans liked the Taliban – thus, their criticisms of what’s happening now can safely be ignored. The fact that no-one outside the lunatic fringe (and perhaps a couple of Arab newspapers) actually makes this claim is irrelevant.”

This is not true, Henry. The point of emphasising that Iraqis are happy that Saddam is gone, and that most of them do not want the coalition forces to leave yet, is not to imply that opponents of the war claimed that the Iraqis were happy with Saddam, or Afghans with the Taliban. The point is to help support the general position that the war was justified. It is not the construciton of a straw man or an engagement with the lunatic fringe to point out that the Iraqis are happy that Saddam is gone to such heroes of the left as John Pilger and George Galloway, who recently said, with a disgusting air of satisfaction, that the coalition were “entering the gates of hell”. Furthermore, the commenters above are absolutely right to point out that the US administration never promised a “smooth and easy transition to democracy”, and your suggestion that they did is incomprehensible. And your description of “the lurching disaster that is post-war Iraq” betrays a lamentable lack of perspective. I haven’t seen any reports lately of large numbers of children being buried alive. Remember also that we are still within the maximum duration of the *war* as estimated by the coalition (never mind the far lengthier estimates given, and in many cases secretly hoped for, by the anti-war left). The current ‘low-intensity’ sniping is certainly nasty, but far prefereable to all-out war. In this sense the coalition is actually exceeding its own predictions of success, by a large margin. So get real.

19

Dave F 07.18.03 at 11:04 am

The Guardian comes up with this interesting poll report:
Most Iraqis want troops to stay, says poll

Michael Howard, Baghdad
Thursday July 17, 2003

A majority of Baghdad residents feel US and British troops should stay in Iraq for at least a year, according to the first attempt at an opinion poll.

The You.Gov poll results were released as news emerged that a ground-to-air missile was fired at a US military plane near Baghdad airport.

The poll said 31% wanted troops to stay “a few years”, while 25% said “about a year.”

Only 13% said they should leave now, while 20% said they should go “within 12 months”.

The survey also found that half thought the US-led coalition was right to invade.

You.Gov said there was no certainty that the 798 respondents were a representative sample and that several interviews were conducted with gunfire in the background.

Even despite the cautionary coda, it should be noted this poll was conducted in Baghdad, an area Saddam fairly lavished spending on; and one of the hotspots of “resistance” (I think of these resisters as being the Baathist equivalent of sacked American employees who go back to the office with a semiautomatic rifle).

Were such a poll possible nationwide, I suspect the current majorities in favour of longer-term US administration and of the original invasion might be much larger. Of course, I cannot actually substantiate that except to point out that the majority Shia and Kurds have far more invested in the present Saddam-free state.

Given the immediate post-war chaos and privations, Iraq is surprisingly unturbulent for an occupied country –– especially when you consider the place is awash in cheap armaments.

20

Jack Murray 07.18.03 at 2:33 pm

First, you all missed my point, which was merely to discredit pg’s assertion that many supported the war b/c they thought it was going to be an easier task than Gulf I. Given that Gulf I had the clear objective of driving Iraq out of Kuwait, not invading Baghdad, taking out the power structure, and occupying an entire country. These are clearly two totally different objectives layed out more than a decade apart from eachother.

“Conservatives might not think much of the UN, but it looks like we’ve found one area where they’re die-hard multilateralists.”
Nick, I realize your main objective is to label and discredit me, and I accept and respect that. However, my lack of support for a socialist anti-American entity such as the UN in no way means I am an isolationist. Simply because China, Syria, Cuba, Guana, and the like(could go on for hours) should not dictate the policies of the United States. To insinuate that would be ludacris. Ask a Serb what they think of UN intentions, and how the rebuilding efforts are going in that country(Hint: Iraq has more electricity already). I love multi-lateralism and I support NATO, and any other countries that share the interests of the United States. If the UN continues to put Libya & Cuba in positions such as head of UN Human Rights, they don’t need the American Conservatives to discredit them, they accomplish that on their own. The name has a great ring to it, The United Nations, but unfortunately it’s not particularly useful, no one heeds their resolutions(United States, Israel, Cuba, Iraq, Iran, North Korea all share that characteristic). Put a search in for the article “Oil For Food, Money For Kofi” and others detailing its corruption. I like my corruption from democrats and republicans in America, not imported UN diplomatic corruption which is stale and chewy and hard to swallow. :)

21

Mark 07.18.03 at 2:48 pm

One significant bit of evidence that the Bush Administration assumed a smooth transition to “democracy” in Iraq is the following:

The Pentagon acknowledges that they had planned on bringing home many more troops than they have thus far brought home, and that the continuing war is costing more than twice as much as they anticipated: 3.9 billion a month.

Further evidence is available in the way Cheney and others talked, pre-war, about how the Iraqi people would “doubtless” respond to their American “liberators.” The parades and celebrations never occurred on anything like the scale they predicted.

22

Tristero 07.18.03 at 4:14 pm

” the commenters above are absolutely right to point out that the US administration never promised a “smooth and easy transition to democracy”, and your suggestion that they did is incomprehensible.”

Wha? I heard a lot of talk about cakewalks and embracing their liberators and “cities on the hill” up until the very eve of war.

” And your description of “the lurching disaster that is post-war Iraq” betrays a lamentable lack of perspective. I haven’t seen any reports lately of large numbers of children being buried alive.”

That’s right. There are no reports of large numbers of children being buried alive. What a standard upon which to measure success for an invasion that has already killed untold Iraqis and some 200 plus coalition solders. Strikes me that could have easily been stopped, if Saddam was still doing that recently, in a far less tragic fashion.

“Remember also that we are still within the maximum duration of the war as estimated by the coalition (never mind the far lengthier estimates given, and in many cases secretly hoped for, by the anti-war left).”

No one I know who is anti-war is “pro” a long war. That is just a projection of your own desire to prolong the bang bang ’cause it looks so cool (just like a movie!) when you’re far away from the action.

23

Daragh McDowell 07.18.03 at 4:21 pm

I’m surprised no-one here has taken a swipe at Jack Murray’s spectacularly uninformed notion that Iraq was the number one state-sponsor of terrorism throughout the 90’s. Even my Hawkish, NeoCon National Security Policy Lecturer at UCD informed us all that Hussein was, at best, a lacklustre semi-competent sponsor, and the big dog in that particular pound were the US’s closest ally in the region Saudi Arabia, followed by Syria and Iran. Spurious 9/11/Saddam links that the Bush administration has done its best to subliminally implant in the minds of the populace ignore completely that Osama bin Laden had a hatred for Saddam’s secular regime almost as burning as his one for the United States. He offered to use his Mujaheddin army to drive the Iraqi’s out of Kuwait in 1990, and even before the war released a tape calling for the Iraqi people to rise up and overthrow Saddam (a section shown on MSNBC during the live translation, and subsequently edited out of every rebroadcast.)

Furthermore:
The UN is a socialist anti-American institution? Really Jack grow up. The UN doesn’t work because evevery time the US decides it doesn’t like whats going on, it effectively picks up its ball and goes home, refusing to play. The astonishing hypocrisy of the Bush Administrations demands that it will only sign up to a new International Criminal Court if American’s are automatically granted immunity from prosecution is evidence of this. International Law is all well and good for puny loser countries, but not the mighty United States of America. Yes, I wouldn’t put a veto in China’s hands either, and Libya heading the HR committee is a little rich, but equally poor is the US demanding the rules be changed so it could get back on the committee after it was voted off. Are we not forgetting that the US has the highest per capita prison population on Earth, still practices the Death Penalty, and only last month declared laws that openly persecute Homosexual couples unconstitutional, to an accompanying uproar from the religious right? Socially, America is increasingly light years behind the rest of the world, and the blood lust and war mongering displayed by many of its people, the blind willingness to believe in even the most transparent lies to justify a war of imperial conquest, calls into question the assertion long held by many, (even me) that the United States is the best country to be currently leading the planet.

24

Daragh McDowell 07.18.03 at 4:22 pm

Oh and by the way, the word is spel ‘ludicrous.’ ‘Ludacris’ is a rapper.

25

apostropher 07.18.03 at 4:53 pm

Jack sarcastically says, “Muhammed Atta never met with an Iraqi official in east Europe no matter what Czeck Republic asserts.”

You’re right, we should listen to what the Czech Republic asserts:

What we know was certainly not true, despite US insistence to the contrary, was that Mohammed Atta met an Iraqi agent several times in Prague before Atta’s participation in the September 11 attacks . British intelligence sources who leaked the report also dismissed US claims of the meeting. Czech security chiefs have now concluded they made a mistake in their earlier reports of such a rendezvous. Indeed President Vaclav Havel said that there was no evidence that Atta had met with an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague.

26

Henry 07.18.03 at 4:54 pm

Jimmy

Think you’re engaging in some straw horse creation of your own here. George Galloway and John Pilger, “heroes of the left?” Nope. Useful whipping boys for the conservatives, more like it. Tristero takes care of your other substantive points better than I could. On the lurching disaster, check out this Times article courtesy of Patrick Nielsen Hayden, one of whose commenters aptly suggests, ‘at this rate, the US motto in Iraq will soon be ‘Not as brutal as the last guy.’

27

Jack Murray 07.18.03 at 6:58 pm

“I’m surprised no-one here has taken a swipe at Jack Murray’s spectacularly uninformed notion that Iraq was the number one state-sponsor of terrorism throughout the 90’s”

No one listens, do they? When did I say they were the #1 state sponsor of terrorism? This follows the whole point of this link’s title, Historical Revisionism. I want you to check the list of state sponsors of terror in the 1990s. A list comes out every year. I said: “It also must be said that Iraq was a perennial front-runner in the list of countries that sponser terrorism, prior to the current administration’s arrival onto the scene.” How many countries are there in this World? Okay now if Iraq is a consistent top 5 throughout the 1990s, of which 8 years were led by a Democratic Administration, would I be wrong with the assertion of “perrenial frontrunner?” How about consistent wildcard contender, and always a couple of games back from the division title? As for the UN and International courts, you can adhere to whatever laws you desire, but as an American I am bound by the constitution and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I know you’re quick to blame America for the World’s ills, and if something is flawed within the “United Nations” it has to be our fault, but that just doesn’t fly with me. I will spell-check my next post if you are distracted by misspelllinggs. :) Half a pheasant weakend!

28

MattS 07.18.03 at 7:14 pm

You can debate the logical nitpicking of decision-making deceptiveness, but you haven’t addressed the basic assumption of the Bush worldview: LYING DOESN’T MATTER.

In a big bad world full of meanies who want to kill you, what do you get by telling the truth or international legitimacy? If you accept that the neighborhood is dangerous, then quibbling with logic is the equivalent of inaction and letting those who suffer continue suffering.

Attack the worldview, not the logic. It should be obvious by now that these guys aren’t interested in logic and have defined the political terrain so that it doesn’t really matter.

29

Daragh McDowell 07.18.03 at 7:43 pm

Alright I’ll give you that perrenial frontrunner, is substantially different than #1 (much as Weapons of Mass Destruction is substantially different than WMD Program) but what I’m talking about is the actual effectiveness of Saddam’s dabblings in International Terrorism. Saudi Arabia has helped claim more US lives through terrorist actions than Saddam Hussein has during either Gulf War, or due to whatever dalliances in IT he has made (The ’93 WTC bombing strikes me as the only significant evident Saddam has ACTUALLY FACTUALLY been linked to.)

30

Laura 07.18.03 at 8:18 pm

This is going back a ways — sorry for that — but Zippy wrote:

“The fact that so much attention gets paid to a single casualty (two days for one shot soldier?) is evidence that Iraq is NOT in a state of permanent armed rebellion – the comparisons with Viet Nam make the people who remember Viet Nam laugh… albeit, with much black humor.”

But Viet Nam wasn’t Viet Nam right away, was it? Their guerrilla strategies took years to develop and the U.S. wasn’t even in on all of the formative years of that.

Plus, comparing press coverage now to press coverage then is a pretty weak argument. Coverage of Viet Nam, and perhaps the war itself, would have looked a little different if there had been several all-news channels back then.

31

Jimmy Doyle 07.20.03 at 2:38 pm

Henry,

You presumably hang with a more sophisticated leftist crowd, but that should not blind you to the fact that People like Galloway, Pilger and Pinter are very widely regarded among antiwar types as valiant standard-bearers for truth. (They were stars of the antiwar demonstrations, for example.) Galloway had a (vile) column in the Guardian last week; I’ve yet to see the Guardian publish David Icke. Pilger’s regular gig is with the New Statesman, where he functions as a pawn in the anti-Blair campaign fought by jilted ex- cabinet member and now fervent Brown ally Geoffrey Robinson. Robinson is an extremely canny person and his campaign would make no sense if Pilger were generally regarded as a crank. This is on top of the fact that the NS is still *the* mainstream organ of the British Left; I’m afraid that your claim that pointing out where people like Pilger go wrong amounts to attacking a straw man is still a non-starter.

I was amazed that you wrote “Tristero takes care of your other substantive points better than I could”. False modesty, surely?! I wouldn’t have thought you capable of descending to the level of Tristero’s absurd screed, which I considered not to merit a response, since it sufficiently discredits itself in its final paragraph:

“No one I know who is anti-war is “pro” a long war. That is just a projection of your own desire to prolong the bang bang ‘cause it looks so cool (just like a movie!) when you’re far away from the action.”

Uh, right, Tristero, I guess you’ve really got my number. And presumably Galloway & co are just *pretending* to relish the prospect of a ‘Vietnam-style quagmire’.

As for his other points:

“I heard a lot of talk about cakewalks and embracing their liberators and “cities on the hill” up until the very eve of war.” Show me a public utterance by Bush or any of his people in which it was claimed that the campaign would be a cakewalk. Then we’ll talk. I hate to repeat myself, so please pay attention: we are still within the official estimate of how long the *invasion* might take.

“There are no reports of large numbers of children being buried alive. What a standard upon which to measure success for an invasion that has already killed untold Iraqis and some 200 plus coalition solders.”

This is obtuse. Given that an important stated aim of the coalition was to put an end to the unimaginable barbarism of Saddam’s regime, the question of whether conditions are better than they were under that regime is *patently a relevant one*. Nor did I say or imply that the current situation counts as disastrous by any more stringent criteria. Iraq is obviously a horribly traumatised country. There are going to be serious problems for quite a while. I don’t really know how the ‘lurching disaster’ school manage to work up the energy required to pretend to be surprised. They should really conserve their powers of amazed expression for more deserving candidates, such as the YouGov/ Spectator poll which shows that a majority of Iraqis approve of the invasion, and do not yet want the coalition forces to leave. (http://www.spectator.co.uk/article.php3?table=old&section=current&issue=2003-07-19&id=3315). On their assumptions, this really is inexplicable.

32

Chris Bertram 07.21.03 at 3:48 pm

Jimmy, I hate to correct a friend and colleague, but you might want to look at

http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A1996-2002Feb12

for an literal instance of the cakewalk claim from someone in the loop.

C

33

Jimmy Doyle 07.21.03 at 4:37 pm

Dear Chris,

You already know my response, but for the record:

(1) Adelman was “assistant to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld from 1975 to 1977”; this does not make him one of “Bush’s people”, by which I meant (roughly) members of the administration.

(2) I should have distinguished more clearly between the invasion proper and dealing with the situation since. Adelman is pretty clearly referring to the former when he says, “I believe demolishing Hussein’s military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk”. People routinely spoke of the invasion itself as the liberation of Iraq (which, in a straightforward sense, it was), Adelman’s reasons apply only to the invasion, he says “it was a cakewalk last time” even though there
was no dealing with the post-invasion situation last time, etc. But what is the criticism of people who claimed that the invasion itself would be a cakewalk? After all, it was a cakewalk! If it had been any harder it wouldn’t have counted as an invasion at all! So even if Adelman did count as one of Bush’s people (which he does not, by any stretch of the imagination), what he said (a) is true and (b) has exactly no bearing on the original issue between me and Henry, namely whether Bush or any of his people ever said that the transition to democracy would be a cakewalk, or even ‘smooth’. I believe that no such person ever made such a prediction, and I believe that the reason is obvious, viz, that it would have been a very stupid prediction to make. So when Henry refers to “the smooth and easy transition to democracy that the administration seemed to be promising”, he’s just wrong. And the fact that someone who was an assistant to Rumsfeld in the seventies predicted, with perfect accuracy, that the invasion would be militarily easy doesn’t make him any less wrong. (Tristero’s point, on the other hand, concerned the invasion proper, and so is merely irrelevant.)

34

Jimmy Doyle 07.21.03 at 6:10 pm

(Sorry; that should be “if it had been any *easier* it wouldn’t have counted as an invasion at all”.)

35

Henry 07.22.03 at 1:01 am

Jimmy

As one of the commentators has already mentioned, I at no point said that the administration had explicitly promised a “cakewalk.” Instead, I was referring to a host of ancillary claims by administration officials keen to downplay the problems of post-war reconstruction. And the record bears me out on this. To quote a few administration sources.

“I don’t think it has to be expensive, and I don’t think it has to be lengthy,” a senior administration official said of the postwar plan. “Americans do everything fairly quickly.”

(Office of Management and Budget report to Congress)”The United States is committed to helping Iraq recover from the conflict, but Iraq will not require sustained aid.”

(quote from Rumsfeld) “There are even some who doubt that democracy could ever take root in the Arab world. Here’s my response to the critics:
Look to the people of northern Iraq. Beyond the reach of Saddam Hussein and his regime for a decade, they’ve shown an impressive ability to manage longstanding differences and develop relatively free and prospering societies. Look to the Iraqi-Americans here today and throughout this country and see how quickly they have adapted to a democratic system.And, finally, I would say to these doubters, look to the Iraqi people’s long yearning for representative government and their long suffering under one of the most oppressive dictatorships the world has known. Perhaps more than any people, they have been inoculated against tyranny.

(also from Rumsfeld)”It’s not logical to me,” he said, that it would take as many forces in the aftermath of a war “as it would to win the war”.
“Any idea that it’s several hundred thousand for any sustained period is simply not the case.”

That’s from 5 minutes googling; I’m sure that there’s plenty of other similar quotes where those came from.

Comments on this entry are closed.