Saddam comparisons

by Henry on January 10, 2005

Jim Henley says it in plain English.

All together now: Saddam was worse! In terms of body count in Iraq this is true, though the man had a big head start on us, so we ought to be allowed a couple of decades to catch up. But what about the world ? Is it better? And are we? We have gone from a time in which the tyrant of an oil patch with a broken army and 23 million inhabitants practiced a tyranny which all decent people abhorred, to a time in which the largest and most powerful country in the history of mankind justifies torture and contemplates assassination teams – we should call them terror squads – as official policy. And the people who most consider our virtue unchallengeable are the quickest to publically avow our need to torture and murder.

{ 59 comments }

1

roger 01.10.05 at 7:49 pm

Happens all the time in the mob. An associate fingers a boss who is declining — the boss is hit — and the law of WHO (the new boss is like the old boss) kicks in.

The joke, of course, was that any project that includes such characters as Rumsfeld and Negroponte (and the ever unctuous Wolfowitz, who has more than reaped the benefit of dissenting from propping up the Marcos dictatorship in its twentieth year, while getting no examination for his unabashed adoration of Suharto) would be all about democracy. As traditional conservatives like to say in other contexts, character counts.

2

Rich Puchalsky 01.10.05 at 8:16 pm

didn’t Saddam kill about 300,000 during his entire regime, according to Human Rights Watch? And haven’t we killed about 100,000 in our invasion so far? On a per-year basis, we’re worse than Saddam.

3

abb1 01.10.05 at 8:43 pm

I think it’s better when it becomes the official policy – it’s honest. It’s clear, no hypocrisy. It forces people to choose the sides.

I would have to give the Bushies credit for coming out of the closet on this – if they actually admitted and defended it, but they’ll probably turn around and start demagoguing again like they did on torture. Too bad.

4

WeSaferThemHealthier 01.10.05 at 8:43 pm

“As traditional conservatives like to say in other contexts, character counts.”

Yup, my main reason for opposing the war, even when that made one a Michael Moore imam. Intentions don’t have intrinsic importance but the intentions of powerful people do have extrinsic importance since they can help one predict what choices they will make. If a project requires at least enlightened self-interest on the part of the managers and the manager is rapacious or stronger priorities, it’s unlikely to work.

5

Dan Simon 01.10.05 at 8:43 pm

Even if Henley’s point had some vague connection with reality, it’d be pretty astoundingly parochial–“sure, Iraqis have been saved from a brutal, murderous dictator, but here in America, we have people in government espousing frightening opinions!”.

As it turns out, though, the connection between Iraq and the US government’s contemplation of the methods Henley decries is a figment of Henley’s imagination. The big steps towards using torture and hit squads have all been prompted by Al Qaeda’s terrorist activities–outside of Iraq.

6

Barry 01.10.05 at 9:12 pm

Dan, you say that just like it was true – definitely Party material.

7

Barry 01.10.05 at 9:14 pm

Dan, you say that just like it was true – definitely Party material.

8

canonist 01.10.05 at 9:18 pm

Puh-leeze!

How long before these misbegotten Bush Groupies are going to stop clinging to the self-serving lie that the WORLD or THE US is safer now? You are pathetic. The conquest of Iraq, whatever its conceptual virtues might have been, is ripening into a catastrophe of the first order for the U.S. And it took a Jesus-besotted, potty mouthed fanatic and his “yes sir, yes sir, three bags full” political party to accomplish. HA! Worse than idiots. Send them to Iraq. Feed them and their families to the IED machine!

9

Giles 01.10.05 at 11:23 pm

“contemplates assassination teams “

clinton used assasination teams (or not) against OBL – so whats new in this policy? The fact that they’re open about it?

10

dsquared 01.10.05 at 11:31 pm

didn’t Saddam kill about 300,000 during his entire regime, according to Human Rights Watch? And haven’t we killed about 100,000 in our invasion so far?

Not a fair comparison really; 300K refers to actual government murders whereas 100K is an “excess deaths” figure.

Giles: When you’re dealing with torture and murder, the scale on which you propose to do it matters.

11

Ajax 01.11.05 at 12:06 am

Virtue is meaningless in the context of a tsunami, no/yes? Also in the context of your house being on fire? Afterward sure there’s lots of room for moral rhapsodies and farragos of blame – like who gave how much aid money and what are those pesky rebels up to now, or who started the blaze – but during it’s all and only about coping with what’s real, and the morality is one of simple utility and competence.
Thus death squads, so-called, though really they’re crack teams of highly-skilled professionals whose task is pacification of threat and the safety of the elect.
Obviously the safety of the people they’re killing isn’t an issue, just as the safety of the common Iraqi civilian hasn’t been an issue during the purportedly unsuccessful invasion and occupation. I say “purportedly” because there are many who now believe the original purpose for this erstwhile quagmire was precisely what’s been accomplished – a destabilized and broken Iraq, easily dominated by a minority of ruthless and inhuman thugs, thugs themselves being laughably easy to control. Mission Accomplished.
Arguing about the details of prosecution of this infamy, trying to draw a precise moral line between Abu Ghraib and death squads a la Negroponte is Quislingist busy-work.
It’s a kind of solvent, to be moralizing about this, certainly it’s evil if anything human ever was, but then has anything really ever been evil? It dissolves the conscience in imprecision and relativism.
Contextual, situational, subjective – sure, it’s evil – but finally, ultimately, uncompromisingly? That’s almost an aesthetic choice now.
Once you make it, though, it’s not possible to see it as anything else. This is not a mistake, these are not errors of judgment and over-zealous military command-and-response – this is evil, pure heartless selfish evil, growing fat on the darkness it causes wherever it goes.
Sounds like hyperbole, huh?
I’d remind you we’re talking publicly about the institution of death squads in a military campaign waged by the United States, currently, right now, today.

12

mw 01.11.05 at 12:51 am

Just as the terrorists seem to be stepping up attacks before elections, the anti-war blogs seem to be doing likewise–the war *must* be declared a clear, irretrievable disaster before elections can be held lest some unfortunate ray of hope emerge…

Cheap shot? OK, I suppose so. Sorry.

But look–there are enormous stakes here. The ‘throw up our hands’ option means a real possibility that the Baathist thugs *will* regain control of Iraq–by re-doubled use of the terror methods they are using now (and, in fact, that they used when they were in power). Or perhaps they’ve been too crippled, after all, by the US invasion and all that will happen is a incredibly bloody civil war won eventually won by the Shia.

Either way–are people really suggesting that the US should leave the Shia and Kurds hanging out to dry yet again?!?

What’s the alternative to throwing up our hands? It’s not that complicated. Elections which–even though they will be marred by violence, even though Sunni triangle turnout will be low–will bring the most representative government to power that Iraq has had. Then, an alliance between that new government and the coalition to fight the Baathist insurgency. More money, more time, more training of Iraqi forces, more fighting–there is no getting around that. But why think that a Shia dominated government supported by US money and US military cannot ultimately prevail against a Sunni minority (even one as efficiently ruthless as this)?

Did you all see this in the Guardian online yesterday (that well known Bush-loving, right wing paper)?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/Columnists/Column/0,5673,1386374,00.html

Money quote:

Last week occured an event which was scarcely reported but which further called into question the notion of a principled liberal-left, let alone one coherent and confident enough to form an elite. Hadi Salih, international officer of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions, was tied and blindfolded and tortured by Baathist ‘insurgents’ loyal to Saddam Hussein before being forced to kneel, strangled by electric cord and shot. I shouldn’t be shocked that there hasn’t been a squeak of protest from the anti-war movement at the killing of a brave socialist, but I am. Two years ago I believed that after the war people who opposed it for good reasons would vow to pursue Blair and Bush for what they had done to their graves, but have the intellectual honesty to accept that Saddam’s regime was fascist in theory and in practice and the good nature to offer fraternal support the Iraqi socialists, democrats and liberals in their deadly struggle. More fool me.

There are fascist terrorist summarily executing trade union leaders, election workers, educated professionals in general (and the latter for no other reason than to drive their collegues out of the country lest they contribute to Iraq’s future development). They are threatening to blow up polling places, to station snipers on the tops of buildings to pick off voters going to the polls–and you all are on the side of the terrorists?!?

Or, no, not actually on their side, that is too strong–but on the side of resignation, of passivity, of being satisfied with the ‘victory’ of being able to claim that you were right all along and the satisfaction that whatever disaster that might befall the people of Iraq after the coalition leaves will be Bush’s legacy.

13

Too Kind By Half 01.11.05 at 12:57 am

the man had a big head start on us

Come again?

We were holding hands with him the whole time!

14

Giles 01.11.05 at 1:29 am

“When you’re dealing with torture and murder, the scale on which you propose to do it matters.”

OK compare the scale of torture going on in Abu Gahrib to that going on in the Prison system. No comparison – the prison system is far worse.

15

George 01.11.05 at 1:47 am

Short answer: yes, the world is better off. And in a decade (knock on wood) the world will be much much better off than it would have been otherwise.

But you all are intelligent folks, and if you don’t already agree, I’m not going to convince you. So I’ll save you my reasoning.

16

Uncle Kvetch 01.11.05 at 1:57 am

More money, more time, more training of Iraqi forces, more fighting—there is no getting around that.

Yeah, it’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it, right? Guess it might as well be somebody besides you. It’s nice that you feel so superior to those “passive” antiwar types who are just throwing up their hands…you’re obviously someone who doesn’t shrink from making tough calls that will result in years of untold misery and thousands of deaths many, many miles away.

Up to this point, more fighting has produced absolutely nothing but more fighting. Why you think there’s some point in the future where that will cease to be the case is beyond me.

17

George 01.11.05 at 2:15 am

But for the record, I’d just like to point out that the Saddam body count was actually in the millions — somewhere between 1.5 and 2.5 million. A fair chunk of these were non-Iraqis, but their blood is (was) still red.

18

Uncle Kvetch 01.11.05 at 2:21 am

“When you’re dealing with torture and murder, the scale on which you propose to do it matters.”
OK compare the scale of torture going on in Abu Gahrib to that going on in the Prison system. No comparison – the prison system is far worse.

I don’t know what “the prison system” refers to, but here’s a comparison that may be useful.

If people seem a bit worked up over the prospect of US-trained, El Salvadore-style “death squads” being deployed to quell the insurgency in Iraq, consider that during 1982 and 1983, approximately 8,000 civilians a year were being killed by government forces in El Salvador.

(Source: http://uscis.gov/graphics/services/asylum/ric/documentation/SLV00002.htm)

El Salvador’s population at the time was 4.7 million. Extrapolated to the current population of Iraq (about 24 million), an equivalent would be 41,000 murdered civilians a year. Truly, freedom on the march.

19

Giles 01.11.05 at 3:21 am

But as I understand it the idea is to target leaders not civilians so how is the comparison apt. this proposal is no different from say SOE operations against the nazi’s during the second world war.

You’d have to be nuts to think that anyone is proposing atttacking villagers – I mean why would they want to do that?

20

bza 01.11.05 at 4:16 am

Giles: clinton used assasination teams (or not) against OBL – so whats new in this policy?

Read the material before sneering, Giles. The contemplated policy here is one that targets Sunni civilians generally: `”The Sunni population is paying no price for the support it is giving to the terrorists,” [a military official] said. “From their point of view, it is cost-free. We have to change that equation.”‘

One would think there’s a bit of a difference between trying to assassinate the members of a pre-identified group of wrongdoers, on the one hand, and inflicting collective punishment on entire communities, on the other.

21

Luc 01.11.05 at 4:38 am

You’d have to be nuts to think that anyone is proposing atttacking villagers – I mean why would they want to do that?

Well, that’s about exactly what is being said. When you think it’s bad, it gets worse. (But not as bad as Saddam, …).

To quote a “military source involved in the Pentagon debate”

“The Sunni population is paying no price for the support it is giving to the terrorists,” he said. “From their point of view, it is cost-free. We have to change that equation.”

You see, the “villager” (villagers in Fallujah, how ’bout that?) has to pay. With his live if neccesary.

Which goes nicely with the following opinion about the “Salvador option”:

Many U.S. conservatives consider the policy to have been a success—despite the deaths of innocent civilians and the subsequent Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scandal.

All from the article in Newsweek

22

roger 01.11.05 at 4:40 am

MW– you can be for the elections (I am) and against the Bush administration’s occupation (I am). In fact, I was for elections when the Bush administration wanted to hold American controlled caucuses.

The elections will, I hope, allow a government with semi-legitimacy in Iraq diplomatically ask the Americans to make up a time table for leaving. That’s the optimistic view. The pessimistic view is that the Americans (who are pretty much, at this point, irrelevant to the real political direction of Iraq) will be used as an instrument to hammer the Sunnis even more (as in the Grozny-fication of Fallujah). Myself, I don’t believe that the Pentagon’s Salvador dreaming will have the same criminal consequences as it did in El Salvador in the eighties because no significant force in Iraq depends on the Americans (except, arguably, Allawi — and if the spotty polls are any clue, Allawi is not going to be very successful in this election), the way Duarte was dependent in the bad old days.
Not that the Americans might not kill another x number of Iraqis before they go, or take another 1,000 plus deaths. But — in my humble opinion — they’ve been history since last May in Iraq. They just don’t know it yet.

23

Mike 01.11.05 at 5:49 am

What really enrages those oppsed to regime change in Iraq isn’t regime change itself, but the fact that the U.S. was responsible for it.

Those who opposed the ousting of Saddam would be all for it if the Iraqis had done the job themselves. And I doubt the anti-regime change folks would have seen any need for a Lancet-like study to count the dead, and they sure as hell wouldn’t have decided to pile heart attack and accident victims into the total to try and discredit those Iraqis trying to overthrow Saddam.

Only problem is, the death toll from an internal overthrow attempt would have dwarfed what we’re seeing in Iraq now. We know now that capturing Saddam and killing his heirs did not end the insurgency, just as it wouldn’t have had the Iraqi people managed to get lucky and do the same. The coalition is now fighting to dismantle and destroy the tribal/clan power structure that was Saddam’s power base. If the Iraqis had to do this on their own, there would be no guarantee of success. Imagine a million Iraqis dead in a civil war, with the end result being a new Sunni Saddam winning out.

Eliminating Saddam’s regime was going to be difficult, deadly work, no matter who attempted it. The forces most capable of accomplishing that outcome (the U.S. military) are the ones engaged in the fight. The alternative was to consign the Iraqi people to indefintie oblivion under Saddam and his sons.

24

David Tiley 01.11.05 at 5:55 am

This discussion is not about Clintonian hit squads going after a known goon.

It is about training the Iraqis to carry out assassinations and terrorise communities.

Supporting bad guys is not a good idea. They have names like Saddam and Osama.

There seems to be a frightening possibility of civil war. At the moment the bad guys are Sunni insurgents (or so we are told) who have set a savage benchmark. Do we really expect the Iraqi graduates of the murder school to behave well?

And do we expect the Americans not to be blamed?

25

Matthew2 01.11.05 at 10:35 am

True, but all the “death squads” horror is based on one report, which might just be a scare-mongerer, so that when next actual policy comes along (flattening a few more cities? Martial law? I don’t know), we all say with relief “at least there are not arming terror squads!”

26

mw 01.11.05 at 1:38 pm

Roger–
Yeah, it’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it, right? Guess it might as well be somebody besides you. It’s nice that you feel so superior to those “passive” antiwar types who are just throwing up their hands…

So citizens who are not in the military (which means, what, about 98 or 99% of Americans) should not have opinions (or should not express them) regarding when is the right time to use US military force because they, themselves, are not serving?

you’re obviously someone who doesn’t shrink from making tough calls that will result in years of untold misery and thousands of deaths many, many miles away.

Do really, *honestly* believe that the ‘throwing up our hands’ option (e.g. quick withdrawal of all forces) would produce *fewer* deaths and less misery?!? That the Baathist insurgency would just magically end? That they would lose their desire to regain power? Or that they would suddenly become squemish about killing their fellow Iraqis (something they’ve never been squeamish about before)? Or do you just want to believe it?

Absurd — this insurgency ends one of two ways. Either it wins and retakes control of Iraq or a large part of it (say the Sunni ‘triangle’ plus Baghdad, Mosul, and Kirkuk) or it suffers enough defeats and is weakened enough that it loses support among the Sunnis as a whole who eventually no longer fear the insurgents and join the political process. But whether the US is in Iraq or not, the insurgency and the fight against it *is* going to continue.

Up to this point, more fighting has produced absolutely nothing but more fighting. Why you think there’s some point in the future where that will cease to be the case is beyond me.

And why you think it *won’t* be the case is beyond me. Wars do end. Every one of them. And in this case, it matters very much which side prevails.

27

mw 01.11.05 at 1:49 pm

Roger — sorry, I attributed ‘Uncle Kvetch’s’ comments to you.

The elections will, I hope, allow a government with semi-legitimacy in Iraq diplomatically ask the Americans to make up a time table for leaving.

Yes, that will be both in the interest of both the US and the new Iraqi government — but it would be very foolish for the new government to demand a fixed timetable as opposed to one based on achieving measurable milestone (size and training of Iraqi NG, army, and police forces, level of violence, etc). It would be suicidal to pick a fixed end date that the insurgency could use to its advantage.

But — in my humble opinion — they’ve been history since last May in Iraq. They just don’t know it yet.

The *goal* for the Americans is to ‘become history’ in Iraq as it has in many other countries where it has fought and then withdrawn when the situation was stable.

28

Uncle Kvetch 01.11.05 at 1:56 pm

True, but all the “death squads” horror is based on one report, which might just be a scare-mongerer

The fact that the architect of US policy in Central America in the 80s, John Negroponte, is now the US ambassador to Iraq suggests that maybe there’s something more than scare-mongering going on here.

I would suggest taking a look at Billmon’s latest entry, which should help put to rest the notion that this is all just liberal hysteria:

http://billmon.org/archives/001645.html

29

Uncle Kvetch 01.11.05 at 2:02 pm

But whether the US is in Iraq or not, the insurgency and the fight against it is going to continue.

Well, at least there’s one thing we agree on.

30

abb1 01.11.05 at 2:57 pm

But whether the US is in Iraq or not, the insurgency and the fight against it is going to continue.

I disagree. Clearly the US presence in Iraq is main cause of resistance. See this, for example:

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) – The United States has rejected a request by Sunni Arab clerics to spell out a timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq in exchange for calling off their boycott of the Jan. 30 elections, the chief U.S. Embassy spokesman in Baghdad said Monday.

They are perfectly able to get along.

31

Badtux 01.11.05 at 6:39 pm

For those who say “the civil war will continue even after U.S. troops are withdrawn”, I have one word in reply:

Lebanon.

The Lebanese civil war went on for *years* during the Israeli occupation. Christian militias and Islamic militias engaged in near-genocidal reprisals against each other

In the aftermath of the Israeli withdrawal, Lebanon has settled down into being a generally safe democracy. A bit of a Syrian puppet state, granted, due to the continued presence of Syrian troops in the Bekaa Valley, but they are no longer killing each other by the bushel-load like they did during the decade of Israeli occupation. And guess what, *everybody* is represented in their Parliment, not just the Islamic extremists.

U.S. troops are in the same position in Iraq that the Israelis were in Lebanon: A detested foreign occupation force propping up one side of a vicious civil war. It is likely that, without the U.S. presence, both sides would fight themselves to exhaustion and then sit down at the peace table and come up with some workable solution to governing their country. That’s what happened in Lebanon, after all, after the Israeli withdrawal removed the props from under one side of the civil war. *WITH* U.S. involvement… why would the neocon-backed faction sit down at the peace table, when they’re getting massive support from the United States and have a chance of winning? And why would the Islamist-backed faction sit down at the peace table, when the U.S. has made it clear that they have no chance of getting any power as long as the U.S. is involved in the country?

– Badtux the Historian Penguin

32

Walt Pohl 01.11.05 at 8:14 pm

MW: There really is the possibility that the presence of US troops is the oxygen that allows the insurgency to breathe. Brutal thugs only interested in power can hide behind the patriotic notion that they are driving out the invaders — our presence may be providing the thugs with the legitimacy necessary to take power once we are gone.

33

mw 01.11.05 at 9:50 pm

Walt Pohl–
There really is the possibility that the presence of US troops is the oxygen that allows the insurgency to breathe. Brutal thugs only interested in power can hide behind the patriotic notion that they are driving out the invaders

No there really isn’t that possibility. The Sunni/Baathist/Queda insurgents have NO allies among the majority Kurds and Shia. If this were a patriotic/nationalistic insurgency, it would cut across religios/ethnic lines, but it simply doesn’t. The majority Shia, especially, are against the insurgency no only because it is targeting and killing them but because it seeks to PREVENT them from voting in a government of their choice. This is why Sistani has issued a fatwa claiming that it is the duty of all Shia to vote. The Shia clearly are not particularly worried that the US won’t leave when the Shia are ready for them to go. You might argue that Moqtada Al Sadr and his supporters are an exception, but they are not. They weren’t fighting because they thought that was the only way to get the US out of the country but because they thought they could seize the leadership of the Iraqi Shia community (and, in time, of Iraq as a whole) by attacking US forces and rallying the Shia as a whole behind them. It plainly did not work. The Shia did not rise up behind al Sadr but rather supported the coalition crackdown on his militia this past summer.

No, it is not a nationalist insurgency, it is clearly a minority Sunni/Baathist insurgency lead by holdovers from Saddam’s regime and Wahabbis who’ve come to fight Americans (and secondarily to fight in support of the Sunnis and against the Shia–who they consider infidels).

34

abb1 01.11.05 at 10:06 pm

Bullshit, mw. It is a patriotic resistance, with some groups going overboard, of course – but what did you expect? People normally get very upset when their country is invaded and occupied.

In any event they’ve killed far fewer bystanders than your bombs and rockets.

Kurds are a special case, and Shiites, of course, are being bribed as Badtux explained earlier. But Shiites have made it quite clear that they aren’t going to put up with it much longer either.

35

Mike 01.11.05 at 11:20 pm

abb1:

The Kurds and Shia comprise 80% of the population of Iraq. How is it a ” patriotic resistance,” if only a portion of the remaining 20 % support the insurgency?

And what proof do you have that the insurgents have ” killed far fewer bystanders than your bombs and rockets.” ? It seems obvious that in the past 6 months, the insurgents have been killing many innocents intentionally and collaterally when attacking the coalition forces.

“People normally get very upset when their country is invaded and occupied.” Since you’ve referred to BadTux’s argument, so will I. According to BadTux, the Lebanese apparently are not ” very upset ” that their country has been occupied by the Syrians for the past 20 some years, since there is no anti-Syrian insurgency going on.

36

roger 01.11.05 at 11:49 pm

Mike, it is true that it is hard to get evidence, especially when the Iraq government and the U.S. government shut the evidence down. But from the government of Iraq’s own figures last summer, the greater part of civilian casualties are due to the American military.

That was before Fallujah, a war crime that dwarf’s that dwarf Zarqawi’s dreams and capabilities. To destroy a city of 200,000 takes a humanitarian freedom loving American force. Rumors spoke of a similar humanitarian intervention planned for Mosul in December. Let’s hope the elected government gets the Americans out before they complete the re-liberation of Mosul.

As it was put in a news story in October by the Independent: Iraq’s interim government has also suppressed casualty figures. Dr Nagham Mohsen, an official at the Iraqi Health Ministry, was compiling data from hospital records last year. In December she was ordered by a superior to stop. The Health Minister denied that the order was inspired by the Coalition Provisional Authority.

37

mw 01.12.05 at 2:07 am

That was before Fallujah, a war crime that dwarf’s that dwarf Zarqawi’s dreams and capabilities. To destroy a city of 200,000 takes a humanitarian freedom loving American force.

Oh, brother. Fallujah was all but emptied of civilians before the fighting began. Were a lot buildings damaged & destroyed in the fighting? Yes they were–intentionally–the idea being that buildings can be rebuilt (thereby providing work and money for the locals who do the work)–soldiers lives are more valuable than bricks and mortar.

But guess what’s holding up US funded reconstruction now? Give up? Naturally, it’s those ‘patriotic’ insurgents who have been threatening contractors (completely consistent with their practice, say, of sabotaging the power grid and threatening and attacking workers who repair it).

Why do you think the rest of Iraq didn’t boil over in anger when the insurgents were routed in Fallujah? From your perspective, it was a ‘war crime’ of enormous proportions, but there were not mass uprisings or demonstrations by Iraqis. Not exactly consistent with your view that most Iraqis view the insurgents as ‘patriots’ is it?

On the other hand, it IS consistent with opinion polls like this one:

http://www.roadstoiraq.com/?p=154

Do you support military action against the terrorists?
Yes = 87.7 %
No = 11.1%
Don’t Know = 1.2%

38

abb1 01.12.05 at 7:15 am

Well, Mw, by ‘terrorists’ they certainly mean Americans. Even in this fake poll from what looks like Kuwait (tyrannical?) government’s official newspaper.

Mike,
The Kurds and Shia comprise 80% of the population of Iraq. How is it a ” patriotic resistance,” if only a portion of the remaining 20 % support the insurgency?

Shiites also support. They just decided to temporarily stop fighting for tactical reasons. Do you remember Mr. Al-Sadr and what happened there? Do you think he and his people just suddenly fell in love with Rumslfeld?

39

mw 01.12.05 at 12:38 pm

abb1–

Well, Mw, by ‘terrorists’ they certainly mean Americans.

Yeah right. That’s ridiculous and you know it.

Shiites also support. They just decided to temporarily stop fighting for tactical reasons. Do you remember Mr. Al-Sadr and what happened there?

No the Shiites do not support the Baathist/Al Queda insurgency. Al Sadr’s uprising in the summer had nothing to do with the Baathist/Queda insurgency. And at the time, Al Sadr’s uprising didn’t even gain the support of a majority of Shia, which is why al Sadr reconsidered and joined the political process.

If there were any alliance or co-ordination between the Sadr and the Baathists, then why did Sadr City and the Shia holy cities remain calm throughout the fighting in Falluja? If the Sunni insurgents were Sadr’s allies then he would have supported them. If they were his enemies, he would have let the Americans deal with them. Which happened?

Do you think he and his people just suddenly fell in love with Rumslfeld?

No, of course not. Stop being so damn simpleminded. Hating the Baathist insurgency does not mean loving the occupation. There is no reason most Iraqis can’t want both the insurgency to be defeated and the Americans to leave–in that order.

40

abb1 01.12.05 at 2:06 pm

There is no reason most Iraqis can’t want both the insurgency to be defeated and the Americans to leave—in that order.

The ‘you stop resisting the occupation and then we’ll leave, honest to God’ promise doesn’t work.

And it’s not surprising – most people are stupid, but not that stupid.

Occupation is the cause of resistance, you can’t remove the effect without removing the cause.

41

mw 01.12.05 at 6:05 pm

Occupation is the cause of resistance, you can’t remove the effect without removing the cause.

No. Loss of control of the country by the former Baathist power structure is the cause of the insurgency.

They are demanding an end to the occupation (or a firm timetable for the same) because that is the way to clear the ground for them to regain power by force.

Why, do you think that the Shia and Kurds are perfectly willing to go to the polls in while Iraq is occupied? Why, in fact, would most Sunnis also be willing to go to the polls if their lives were not being threatened by the insurgents in their midst? It is because the establishment of a legitimate representative government is a first, necessary, major step in ending the occupation.

Why then does the insurgency oppose this? Because the establishment of a legitimate government in which they are not the dominant force is the last thing they want to see.

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Uncle Kvetch 01.12.05 at 6:08 pm

Fallujah was all but emptied of civilians before the fighting began. Were a lot buildings damaged & destroyed in the fighting? Yes they were—intentionally—the idea being that buildings can be rebuilt (thereby providing work and money for the locals who do the work)—soldiers lives are more valuable than bricks and mortar.

MW, in answer to your question above: no, I did not mean to imply that anyone who isn’t in the military has no right to express an opinion about Iraq. What I did mean to suggest was that I found your flippant tone when talking about other people’s sufferings rather distasteful. And with this post, you outdid yourself.

If I read you correctly, your message to the people of Fallujah is essentially: Hey, sorry about your city, but it’s only buildings, and those count for far less than the lives of American soldiers, who have come to liberate you and to whom you should be eternally grateful. You should be grateful to us for providing you with lots of exciting new employment opportunities, rebuilding what used to be your homes. And anyway, if you didn’t want your city flattened, you shouldn’t have allowed it to become a shelter for insurgents who are resisting your liberation.

(This last rationale, of course, amounts to collective punishment, which most civilized people consider a war crime. But I have a feeling you’ll beg to differ.)

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mw 01.12.05 at 6:40 pm

If I read you correctly, your message to the people of Fallujah is essentially: Hey, sorry about your city, but it’s only buildings, and those count for far less than the lives of American soldiers, who have come to liberate you and to whom you should be eternally grateful. You should be grateful to us for providing you with lots of exciting new employment opportunities, rebuilding what used to be your homes. And anyway, if you didn’t want your city flattened, you shouldn’t have allowed it to become a shelter for insurgents who are resisting your liberation.

Uh, no. The message is, “We’re sorry that your city was taken over by armed insurgents who were using it as a base from which to produce bombs, plan and launch attacks, and destabilize the area (not to mention to produce a ‘popular’ series of gruesome snuff films of hostage beheadings).

A great deal of damage to buildings was done in the course of the fighting, but we are willing to pay to repair and rebuild and to compensate you for your losses.”

Look, if ‘collective punishment’ of Fallujans (by destroying their city) was the intent, why on earth pay for reconstruction? The logic of collective punishment would have meant flattening every structure with bombs and bulldozers and forbidding reconstruction (rather than organizing and funding it).

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abb1 01.12.05 at 7:39 pm

Why, do you think that the Shia and Kurds are perfectly willing to go to the polls in while Iraq is occupied? Why, in fact, would most Sunnis also be willing to go to the polls if their lives were not being threatened by the insurgents in their midst?

Going to the polls has nothing to do with it. No one cares about any polls, except for a few machinators.

Read this: Our troops’ life in Basra: smile, shoot, smile….

Dated: 24/12/2004.

Many of the Scots Guard have served in Northern Ireland and find the situation in Basra familiar. “It is smile, smile, shoot, smile, smile,” said one officer. As we left the camp to visit the local market, which has been able to open only in the last month, RSM Mark Cape did his usual checks. He warned of spikes in the road and of improvised explosive devices.

A new mound of earth at the side of the road is suspicious, as is any unfamiliar object. Recently, insurgents have been disguising mines within abandoned tyres. Cape also listed the vehicles known to be owned by insurgents. “They are becoming more sophisticated,” said one officer. “They are definitely adapting.”

This is your precious Shia. It’s exactly the same, only their leaders have been bribed into trying to keep a lid on it. Doesn’t work well, though, does it?

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roger 01.12.05 at 7:50 pm

That is the single most hilarious take on the war crime in Fallujah I’ve read.

Right, terrorists. People who bomb hospitals (America’s first target). People whoset off random explosives in restuarants (Americans targetted the most famous restaurant in Fallujah because they suspected insurgents sometimes ate there). Terrorists herd people out of cities without providing food, shelter, electricity or medicine (see under U.S.A.)

Now, according to the NY Times, Americans admit that putting up the nice little buildings again… oh, it might take a year or two. Sorry if you are in your tent, or if your total wealth was destroyed.

So oh brother — the kind of thinking that diminishes the destruction of a city because it was “taken over” by terrorists was last exemplified by the Soviet Union, in 1980, in Herat. Glad you’ve disvovered the S.U. defense. Funny, at the time, we called that a war crime.

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Uncle Kvetch 01.12.05 at 8:17 pm

So oh brother — the kind of thinking that diminishes the destruction of a city because it was “taken over” by terrorists was last exemplified by the Soviet Union, in 1980, in Herat.

I beg to differ, Roger. Our Dear Leader’s soulmate, Vladimir Putin, has used much the same rationale much more recently to justify leveling Grozny.

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abb1 01.12.05 at 9:04 pm

It’s not a crime if helps bring us one step closer to the Bright Communist Future, Worker’s Paradise… er…, sorry, the Bright Capitalist Future, Worker’s Paradise.

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mw 01.12.05 at 10:02 pm

This is your precious Shia. It’s exactly the same, only their leaders have been bribed into trying to keep a lid on it. Doesn’t work well, though, does it?

If there is a Shia in the south comparable to the one in the north, then one has to conclude those Shia are *spectacularly* bad at it. What? They can’t figure out how to press the button when the British vehicles drive by?

Sistani’s been bribed has he? The idea that Shia leaders find it in their self-interest to hold elections that their preferred candidates stand to win is implausible to you?

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abb1 01.12.05 at 10:21 pm

The idea that Shia leaders find it in their self-interest to hold elections that their preferred candidates stand to win is implausible to you?

Exactly. These leaders expect to rule the country – that’s the bribe. Elections have little to do with it – a bunch of people who have a degree of control over the Shia population made a deal with the Bushies, that’s all.

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abb1 01.12.05 at 10:40 pm

Oh, and this:
If there is a Shia in the south comparable to the one in the north, then one has to conclude those Shia are spectacularly bad at it. What? They can’t figure out how to press the button when the British vehicles drive by?

Of course they suck at it. You can see on TV how they shoot their AK47s – shooting like that you wouldn’t hit a cow 10 meters away. They are Iraqi rednecks, hillbillies. Nothing’s wrong with that, but clearly they can’t fight. If they could, why would they live under hostile government for 30 years – and they were armed all that time too.

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mw 01.12.05 at 10:48 pm

That is the single most hilarious take on the war crime in Fallujah I’ve read.

Right, terrorists. People who bomb hospitals (America’s first target).

So America bombed all the hospitals? Flattened them? Killed everybody inside? Even though they were full of patients and medical staff? Or maybe not:

http://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/meast/11/07/iraq.main/

(Americans targetted the most famous restaurant in Fallujah because they suspected insurgents sometimes ate there).

At night when it was not open:

http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/299E942A-9A0A-4E1F-B046-BF22E45A24FD.htm

Terrorists herd people out of cities without providing food, shelter, electricity or medicine (see under U.S.A.)

Nobody ‘herded’ anybody–civilians left Falluja over the course of several weeks leading up to the battle. Most of whom went to stay with in other cities (many with relatives). But many were in tents, and I am sure it was neither pleasant or comfortable. More should have been done to set up camps beforehand. But even so, I do not believe lives were threatened by hunger, thirst, disease, or exposure to the elements:

“The UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration have been distributing emergency supplies since December such as blankets and cooking stoves to about 36,000 displaced Fallujah residents, Pagonis said.”

36,000 is not a small number, but it is a minority of Fallujans.

Now, according to the NY Times, Americans admit that putting up the nice little buildings again… oh, it might take a year or two. Sorry if you are in your tent, or if your total wealth was destroyed.

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=10000100&sid=aEdFjr1Sp98s&refer=germany

“Fallujah’s general hospital is operating” — miracle of reconstruction, that, given that it was bombed into rubble.

“Water is available only a few hours each day and electricity supply is sporadic”

Not good — but not exactly Grozny-style total devastation. What portion of structures have been flattened here:

http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/iraq/fallujah_poststrike_03.htm

So oh brother — the kind of thinking that diminishes the destruction of a city because it was “taken over” by terrorists was last exemplified by the Soviet Union, in 1980, in Herat. Glad you’ve disvovered the S.U. defense. Funny, at the time, we called that a war crime.

“Many buildings that insurgents turned into strongpoints are now just piles of shattered concrete blocks and bricks. Nearby structures, separated by only a low wall and a few feet of grass, stand untouched.

The office of interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said Monday that only about 200 buildings out of 17,000 in Fallujah had sustained major damage.”

http://www.detnews.com/2004/nation/0411/16/A04-5930.htm

Is Allawi underestimating the damage? Almost certainly. But even if he’s underestimating by an entire order of magnitude (say 2000 instead of 200), that’s still a small fraction of the total.

Of course, the condition of Fallujah (and Fallujans) after the battle is highly politicized and reliable information is hard to come by, but it seems clear the destruction was nothing close to Grozny or the european cities after WWII. That’s just not how the US military fights–the city was full of US armed troops during the battle. Indiscriminate ‘bombing into rubble’ of the entire city was not an option.

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Uncle Kvetch 01.12.05 at 11:10 pm

But many were in tents, and I am sure it was neither pleasant or comfortable.

What do you mean “was”? Most of them still are.

Of course, the condition of Fallujah (and Fallujans) after the battle is highly politicized and reliable information is hard to come by, but it seems clear the destruction was nothing close to Grozny or the european cities after WWII.

If the information is so hard to come by, why does this “seem clear” to you?

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Mike 01.13.05 at 11:00 am

“But from the government of Iraq’s own figures last summer, the greater part of civilian casualties are due to the American military.”

Roger, do you have any reference for this? I wasn’t aware the Iraqi government was distinguishing between civilian deaths caused by the coalition and those by insurgents, homicide, etc.

By the way, the Lancet study data had the number of violent deaths not directly attributed to the coalition (criminal homicides, insurgent murders etc) outnumbering those caused by the coalition by a factor of 4 to 3, with regard to their 100,000 estimate of excess deaths which excluded the Falluja cluster.

Concerning your Mosul claim, this seems a far fetched supposition. The differences between Falluja and Mosul are immense. While Falluja was completely under insurgent control, with no presence within the town by coalition or Iraqi security forces, Mosul was relatively peaceful up until recently. The insurgents launched a massive strike against the police in Mosul when the Americans were fully engaged in retaking Falluja, then melted away when the Americans showed up in force again in Mosul. Mosul will not become another Falluja.

Abb 1:

You were just joking when you said this right?

” Of course they suck at it. You can see on TV how they shoot their AK47s – shooting like that you wouldn’t hit a cow 10 meters away. They are Iraqi rednecks, hillbillies. Nothing’s wrong with that, but clearly they can’t fight. If they could, why would they live under hostile government for 30 years – and they were armed all that time too.”

Even if we take your comment at face value, and the Shia are, to put it crudely, simply shitty insurgents, how do you explain the much lower number of recorded attacks on coalition forces in the non-Sunni areas of Iraq? The Iraqi government and the coalition have repeatedly claimed that 14 of the 18 provinces in Iraq (all non-Sunni) are experiencing little violence. I’ve seen little evidence to contradict this. The Shia and the Kurds are not buying into the insurgency, and Moqtada Al Sadr does not enjoy widespread support among the Shia, as you claim. He has been completely marginalized by Sistani and the other senior clerics. We’ve heard virtually nothing from or about him since his uprising was absolutely crushed by the Americans.

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abb1 01.13.05 at 12:43 pm

Mike,
I thought I already explained it: Shia leaders got bribed, Al Sadr is one of them. Garden variety ‘divide and rule’ approach.

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mw 01.13.05 at 1:47 pm

“The idea that Shia leaders find it in their self-interest to hold elections that their preferred candidates stand to win is implausible to you?”

Exactly. These leaders expect to rule the country – that’s the bribe. Elections have little to do with it – a bunch of people who have a degree of control over the Shia population made a deal with the Bushies, that’s all.

Unbelievable. By your definition every politician everywhere, every political party everywhere has been ‘bribed’ by the prospect of winning an election and gaining power.

The Shia community decides to seek power through the democratic process rather than force of arms — and that constitutes a form of corruption by your reckoning?!?

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abb1 01.13.05 at 3:13 pm

The Shia community raised up against the occupation. Then their leaders got bribed. They are still fighting, but spontaneously, lacking organization, leadership. What’s so complicated? These things happen in every colonial war.

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james 01.13.05 at 7:09 pm

When responding to abb1 please keep in mind that his postings on multiple subjects suggest a belief that a democratic government is, in itself, a bad outcome.

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abb1 01.13.05 at 7:35 pm

What is a ‘democratic government’?

In the US, for example, we have a president who is an object of intense hatred of about one third of the population. And before that we had another president who was also hated by about a third of the population. A third of the US population is 4 times the population of Iraq.

The current US president – who is considered illegitimate usurper by more US citizens than total number of people in Iraq – invades and occupies foreign countries, disappears people, tortures prisoners, breaks social contracts and international treaties.

He has four more years of free reign – no matter what the citizens want.

After the four years the citizens will have a choice again between two very similar persons, two very similar ideologies, two members of the same elite.

Name a government that is ‘democratic’, James, and explain to me why you like it so much. But try to cut down on rhetoric, please.

Thanks.

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sab 01.15.05 at 8:01 pm

its all as well to argue over whether saddam was the lesser evil for the iraqi people, or the US. But arent we forgetting that Bush’s reason for going into war was not for ”saving the iraqi people from the deviant tyrant” but rather to dissuade the US from the ”looming threat of WMDs” from which focus has been shifted conveniently? nothing can justify that attack, that massive killing and that strategy on those grounds.

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