Reparations

by John Quiggin on November 3, 2006

The catastrophe in Iraq has passed the point where there’s much useful to be said about military options, such as immediate withdrawal, phased withdrawal, stickign with the current failed policies or introducing a draft and ramping up the numbers. They’re all bad, and no one can say for sure which will be worse (for the record, I think withdrawal is inevitable and better sooner than later). But having launched this disastrous war on the basis of false premises the US and its allies are morally obliged to make reparations. It’s even possible that paid on an appropriate scale, reparations might do something to improve the situation.

Over the fold is a piece I wrote for the Australian Financial Review.

Iraq exit will also be costly

The costs of the Iraq war have been huge, but some have received more attention, and been estimated more precisely, than others. The number of US troops who have died in Iraq (2784 as of 24 October) is precisely documented. By contrast, there is very little evidence on how many Iraqis have died.

Analysis of media reports gives documented evidence for nearly 50 000 civilian deaths since the war began, but with journalists unable to reach large parts of Iraq, this is obviously a minimum estimate. A recent survey, based on methods used in other war zones, has yielded an estimate of between 300 000 and 900 000 excess deaths. This estimate has been hotly disputed, but no-one has been able to produce a soundly-based alternative number.

There is a similar disparity in the analysis of the economic effects of the war. The cost to to the United States has been much debated, with estimates of the ultimate bill ranging between 1 trillion and 2 trillion. However, the direct costs to the budget so far can be measured reasonably precisely at around $500 billion, and the range of estimates largely reflects uncertainty about the future.

By contrast, even basic data on the Iraqi economy is hard to obtain, and often of dubious quality. Even information on something as directly measurable as electricity supply has become a political football. The now-defunct ‘Good News from Iraq’ website reported at least a dozen announcements during 2004 and 2005 that supplies had surpassed the prewar level and that new additions to the grid were imminent. Similar claims continued into 2006, with President Bush saying that

According to the State Department’s latest weekly, power supply over the last few weeks has been close to the pre-war level (sometimes above, sometimes below). Availability in Baghdad averages six hours per day.

If data on electricity supply is problematic, analysis of the impact of the war on economic activity as a whole is even more so. The first attempt has recently been made by Colin Rowat, a specialist on the Iraqi economy at the University of Birmingham in Britain. He estimates that the war has reduced Iraq’s national income by 40 per cent, or between $25 billion and $30 billion per year.

The big cost arises from the failure to bring oil output back to prewar levels. Thus Iraq has effectively missed out on the boom enjoyed by other oil exporting countries, which could have been expected to increase GDP by around 50 per cent.

Of course, the war itself contributed to the runup in oil prices, so this number may be an overestimate. And while most of the benefit of higher prices would have flowed to the Iraqi people through the Oil-for-Food program, Saddam Hussein would undoubtedly have continued to cream off a significant proportion, with the aid of international collaborators like Australia’s AWB.

But the change in gross income is only part of the story. While available income has diminished, the cost of doing almost anything has been increased by war, corruption and mismanagement. According to a report from the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, overhead costs chewed up as much as half of the $18 billion of US aid before anything was done on the ground.

The current position of the US Administration is that having spent $18 billion, it has no more to give. Yet, there is a clear moral obligation arising from having chosen to start this war. More relevantly, perhaps, financial reparations for the damage done by the war might improve the chances of an exit strategy.

One of the biggest problems with proposals for more regional autonomy is that the Sunni regions have little or no oil. Thus, there is likely to be bitter fighting over access to oil-rich areas like Kirkuk. If the US committed itself to a continuing stream of aid of say, $20 billion a year for the next decade, it might find the Sunnis and others keener to support local authorities who could receive and distribute that aid. Given the inevitability of corruption and graft, it’s not a perfect option, but at this point there are no good options, only more or less bad ones.

Finally, what about Australia? We were among the first countries to join the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ and have been among the most steadfast backers of ‘staying the course’. If a change of direction requires a financial contribution, we will no doubt be called upon to pay our share of the bill.

Note: Comments appreciated, but I don’t want to debate the casualty estimates yet again, and will delete comments on this topic.

{ 52 comments }

1

jon 11.03.06 at 6:05 pm

Isn’t it a little early to decide it’s a success or failure?

Four years after US independence, the US economy was in the toilet. It stayed there for decades. The death rate rather likely followed a similar curve, given the inverse correlations between wealth and death. Four years after WWII was over, obviously, same story.

How many Americans, Germans, or Japanese want to swap for their former regimes? No lines to the courthouse to sue us on those accounts.

But many Japanese might’ve been happy to swap right up to about the early ’60s. Democracy takes a damned long time to take hold; it takes 25-50 years before the resulting prosperity really sets in.

2

Martin James 11.03.06 at 6:13 pm

John,

Your post has given me a clear benchmark for when the US has REALLY lost the war: when they pay reparations.

3

BadTux 11.03.06 at 7:46 pm

Erm, four years after the Revolutionary War was over, there were not feuding militias, ethnic cleansings, thousands of dead bodies on the streets, yada yada yada in the United States. Same deal with post-WWII Japan or Germany. The economy sucked because of the lack of a stable currency (U.S. under the Articles of Confederation) or because the infrastructure had been totally destroyed (Germany and Japan), but the important thing is that, in the absense of violence, it was possible to rebuild.

The insurgency in Iraq has proven that, no matter what steps we take, they are capable of maintaining a level of violence that makes a stable and prosperous democratic nation impossible in Iraq. Over the past three months troop levels in Iraq were pumped up by an additional 30,000 troops, and a major effort was put into pacifying Baghdad. The result: the insurgency racked up even more victims, including around 300 U.S. soldiers during that time.

I’m failing to see how anything that qualifies as “victory” can arise out of that fact. As long as there is violence, there cannot be a functioning Iraqi economy. Withouta functioning Iraqi economy, there cannot be a free and democratic Iraq, because democracy requires an economy that functions well enough that people are not required to pledge allegiance to tyrannical forces in order to get their daily bread. Military force applied by U.S. soldiers has proven unable to end the violence. Ergo, other methods need to be examined.

4

aaron 11.03.06 at 8:06 pm

It’s way too early to call it a failure.

It’s also way too subjective to measure.

5

bob mcmanus 11.03.06 at 8:42 pm

25 per cent of the gross wealth of every American Republican + 25 of gross income for 25 years sounds fair.

Plus Texas for any Arab Sunnis who care to emigrate;but it wouldn’t be emigration, since I would cede it to Iraq.

America should suffer at least 5-10 times as much as the Iraqis. I would only call for deaths at the very top of the Republican Party.

6

luci 11.03.06 at 9:44 pm

The numbers are only to get a sense of the magnitudes involved, but like I said a few threads back, giving every Iraqi family $100,000 USD, would be a good start. It would cost about $350 billion, about what’s been officially appropriated by Congress so far for the war and cleanup. That’s 1/4 the total expected cost, from the low side of the estimates. And in a country with GDP/capita $3,500, it should make a dent.

More could be made available for aggrieved parties, innocent victims, and to bribe the Sunnis to buy into a highly federalized three-state solution.

7

Dan Kervick 11.03.06 at 9:53 pm

John,

It’s not at all too early to call the Iraq war a failure, but I have to say that an academic discussion of reperations at this point in time strikes me as having a surreal whistling-past-the-graveyard quality. Such a discussion conveys the impression that the chaos in Iraq is nearing its close, and we can begin planning for the postwar reconstruction, when it is just as likely that the carnage has only just begun and will soon spread to other countries in the region. My impression is that you’re skipping ahead to the end of a very long book, most of which hasn’t been written yet, and leaping over a few dozen incident-rich and blood-soaked chapters.

Perhaps, if we are lucky, there will be some organized political entity in Mesopotamia ten years from now, or fifteen years from now, or twenty years from now that the US can even pay reperations to.

In the meantime, perhaps you may have noticed that there is no functioning Iraqi state. There is no real government worth the name that could collect reperations payments and deliver them and administer for them for the public good. And outside some parts of the Kurdish north, perhaps, there are not even secure and stable regional governments. There are rival parties and militias jostling for control.

So what form are these reperations to take? Do we just drop bundles of cash out of airplanes onto the scorched earth below?

8

Lamont Cranston 11.03.06 at 10:33 pm

“having launched this disastrous war on the basis of false premises the US and its allies are morally obliged to make reparations.” – That is standard for any invading force. Also standard are trials – followed by executions if Nuremberg has any meaning – of the civilian government(s) responsible for the aggression & invasion, the supreme international crime which encompasses all of the evil that follows.

9

John Quiggin 11.03.06 at 10:34 pm

“So what form are these reperations to take? Do we just drop bundles of cash out of airplanes onto the scorched earth below?”

Not quite, but I’m not suggesting waiting for the establishment of a stable government or anything remotely like it. As long as there is some sort of way in which money can be distributed to the population at large or to any kind of local authority that isn’t obviously Al Qaida, it should be paid. It could scarcely do worse than the $300 billion or so that’s been spent thus far.

10

bob mcmanus 11.03.06 at 10:49 pm

Reparations are not, and never will be a political possibility. It would absolutely necessitate the destruction of the Republican Party, which goes to my comment above. There is no international forum capable and willing to even threaten sanctions. Even after the attack on Iran. 535 Democratic congressmen plus a Democratic President would not authorize fair sanctions.

On an international level, the best that could be done is war crimes trials for the leadership, since the rank-and-file Republican could feel absolved by the sacrifice. This is very unlikely, but still the most likely and useful endeavor by any friends of the Post-War Consensus and Conventions overseas who have the courage and honor.

If engaged in early and strenuously enough, war crimes indictments might even prevent the attack on Iran.

11

Donald Johnson 11.03.06 at 11:03 pm

One would have to sell this as a national security necessity to Americans–by and large, I think this country (the US) would probably balk at the notion that we owe Iraq reparations “after all we’ve done for them”. We’re the good guys and they should be thanking us, would be the general idea and if they fall into chaos, it’s all their fault. Normal decent Americans would turn into raving narcissists at the thought that our country might actually owe reparations. I bet one reason some people are turning against the war is that they think we’re spending too much money helping those Iraqis rather than helping people here at home.

12

BruceR 11.04.06 at 12:24 am

This whole post is almost as delusional as those who believe Americans are still going to give up their new Iraqi military bases. But please, do go on with your reveries. In a better world, they might have more utility.

13

abb1 11.04.06 at 3:03 am

Incidentally, Iraq is still paying reparations for their 1991 Kuwait invaision. This has been a huge effort (and the unique one, I think) to meticulously identify and process every individual claim from every government organization, from every business, and from every individual – 2.6 million claims seeking a total of approximately US$368 billion in compensation.

So, there you go. By comparing the scales you should be able to estimate the amount.

But of course Iraq did lose the military campaign in 1991 while the US government is not going to lose militarily, nor can it be forced economically or politically – so how do you make it pay? There is no way.

14

John Quiggin 11.04.06 at 3:58 am

As the post points out, reparations are both morally obligatory and a sensible strategic move for the Bush Administration and for the US political class more generally.

I’m puzzled as to why so many commentators think I’m predicting that such a policy would actually be adopted.

15

bob mcmanus 11.04.06 at 5:41 am

“I’m puzzled as to why so many commentators think I’m predicting that such a policy would actually be adopted.”

You are Australian. Maybe we think you are better than us. Maybe we would like to think so. It would be nice if there were more fools and less cynics. Even the cynics think so.

16

Sk 11.04.06 at 7:05 am

Reparations aren’t enough. Republicans should be arrested, and their property confiscated and sent to Iraq. They should then be placed in concentration camps in Utah where they will be worked and starved to death, the results of their labor also being sent to Iraq. Once dead, they should be boiled and turned into soap and lampshades, which will make up the final shipment of reparations to Iraq. Once they are gone, extremely liberal immigrants from extremely liberal countries, who will be guaranteed of having the proper ideological outlook, will be invited into the country to repopulate the midwest, south, and rural regions of the country. Only then will justice be done.

Are I an academic now?

Sk

17

Slocum 11.04.06 at 9:03 am

As the post points out, reparations are both morally obligatory and a sensible strategic move for the Bush Administration and for the US political class more generally.

The moral question debatable, I suppose, but a “sensible move”? C’mon — there is absolutely no chance of any payments called reparations by either the Bush administration or a future Republican or Democratic administration. Zero. None. There is a good chance of continuing U.S. aid to an Iraq, but certainly not in the form of reparations.

I would go further to say that if the left in the U.S. picks up the ‘war reparations’ meme, that could only serve to hurt Democratic electoral chances.

18

Uncle Kvetch 11.04.06 at 9:35 am

I think this country (the US) would probably balk at the notion that we owe Iraq reparations “after all we’ve done for them”.

Sometime in the last week I read about some airhead on cable news–a right-wing commentator or a Congresswoman, I’m not sure which–flatly stating that allowing us to have permanent military bases in their country was the least the Iraqis could do to thank us for all our sacrifices on their behalf.

19

Barry 11.04.06 at 11:35 am

Posted by aaron : “It’s way too early to call it a failure.”

Lie – compare the projections in 2003 with the reality on the ground now. Look at the state of the US Army now. Watch even the neo-con elite scum who supported the war ramp up their ‘it’s not our fault’ spin; many of them are already assuming failure.

“It’s also way too subjective to measure.”

Lie number two. Proof – take a walk through Baghdad. See how many hours you survive on the streets of the capital.

20

Uncle Kvetch 11.04.06 at 11:57 am

Barry, you’re showing a profound lack of imagination here.

Don’t think of the war in Iraq in terms of policy decisions that might fail or succeed; think of it as a work of art. Like any work of art, it can only come to fruition at its own pace. I mean, if Iraq is stable and prosperous in 300 years, aren’t you going to feel a bit silly?

Besides, as aaron rightly points out, there are no clear criteria on which to judge something like a work of art: it’s all subjective! De gustibus non disputandum, right?

21

Alex Higgins 11.04.06 at 12:16 pm

The word “reparations” will be politically difficult in a culture in which accepting responsibility on the part of the US government for anything is considered a kind of personality flaw – as in the super-ugly rhetoric of those who denounce “the blame America crowd”.

However, much the same policy could be suggested in different ways and even US national interests could be cited.

Most people in the US and Britain would probably be sympathetic to money being earmarked for Iraqi healthcare, the clearing of unexploded ordinance, sewage treatment, rebuilding homes etc. with contracts handed to companies or agencies with a good record and in a transparent fashion (which is semi-conceivable if the Republicans lose control of the Congress).

The total costs of funds to make a substantial difference need not be greater than that of a few months of continuing the war.

It is not in anybody’s interest expect those of the Bin Ladenists for the US to leave Iraq with a greater legacy of bitterness and hatred than there already is.

Reparations could be presented as a rescue package. Such a rescue package is not only a moral obligation on the part of Coalition countries, it is also a practical necessity for a well-handled withdrawal and perhaps one of the few levers left to prevent Iraq disintergrating into still bloodier chaos.

It is possible, as someone here argued, that the situation in Iraq is so far gone that such funds will make no difference, but it is worth trying to do the right thing, for once.

As for those suggesting that US policy in Iraq is not yet a failure – what needs to get worse? An insurgency that attacks Coalition soldiers every ten minutes instead of every quarter of an hour? A sectarian killing spree as bloody as Rwanda, rather than merely Bosnia? The complete collapse of the US army in Iraq instead of a mere inability to control large tracts of the country for years on end? The failure of another military offensive like ‘Operation Forward Together’ which failed to secure the CAPITAL CITY?

The trends in violence in Iraq have been pretty consistent for three and a half years and their projection into the future is anticipated by the US Army and even the Bush administration as the public has recently learned only through journalistic leaks. What are you having difficulty following?

22

Steve LaBonne 11.04.06 at 2:26 pm

As for those suggesting that US policy in Iraq is not yet a failure – what needs to get worse?

It’s no use asking normal, sensible, empirical questions like that. We’re dealing with an article of faith here. (Which is why you can spot the Dolchstosslegende coming from a mile off.)

23

Dan Simon 11.04.06 at 2:41 pm

Let’s see if I’ve understood you, John: after several years of vigorously attempting to quell various foreign-supported terrorist insurgencies in Iraq, American troops still have not succeeded, and the deaths continue to mount. Therefore the US is culpable, and owes reparations to the Iraqi people for the damage done to the country by the terrorist insurgents they’ve been trying to suppress. Is that what you’re arguing?

If so, I look forward to your recommendation that Canada pay reparations to the Rwandan people, and that the Netherlands pay reparations to the Bosnian people.

Mind you, at least you’re consistent–if you oppose all military interventions to prevent slaughter, then why not hold the intervening forces culpable for the slaughter itself? That way, you can ensure that the world’s worst butchers can go about their work unimpeded, and you can sleep with a clear conscience, at least until the butchers show up at the door of someone you actually care about.

Comments appreciated

Yeah, right–unless they, you know, challenge Crooked Timberites’ warm, comfy delusions. Then we’ll just see how long the comment lasts before it’s deleted…

24

John Quiggin 11.04.06 at 4:16 pm

Dan, it’s an interesting, if not impressive, trick to try to write a comment so offensive as to ensure deletion, upon which you can convince yourself you’re being oppressed.

However, this comment is so spectactularly dishonest and stupid that it deserves to stand as your last.

So, it stays, but anything more from you on any post of mine will be deleted regardless of content.

25

abb1 11.04.06 at 4:48 pm

That was intervention to prevent slaughter? Interesting.

26

roger 11.04.06 at 4:55 pm

#1′s comment is interesting. Like him, I am for staying until victory. My impression is that really, the U.S. wasn’t a wholly democratic nation until the civil rights movement of the 1960s – which gives us about a 150 year horizon of occupation. I think this is definitely what we have to shoot for, if we aren’t cut n runners, or, as Mr. Simon might put it, if we aren’t the kind of people who give our grandmothers to be gangrapped by Islamofascists just for the sick thrill of it (which, of course, is the descriptive of the whole East Coast Liberal-Terrorist infindibulum.)

The problem, as I see it, is that at the present rate, the last Iraqi will be killed oh about 100 years into our triumphant occupation. And he or she will be damned grateful, too! But the problem is this: can we call the experiment in democracy over after the population liberated is extinct – and what will that do to our fine defense contractors who, after all, shouldn’t be penalized for a mere demographic contingency?

Myself, I am sure that it is far too early to say that this problem is insoluble. But it should be looked at by some of the finest minds in the country (Gene Reynolds, the people at Tech Central, etc.) so we can get some answers now.

27

John Quiggin 11.04.06 at 5:48 pm

I know it’s fun, and I’m tempted to join in, but no more fish-in-a-barrel shots at Dan Simon, please.

I’m still hoping for some more discussion of the actual topic.

28

Stefan van der Wel 11.04.06 at 10:21 pm

Personally, I believe substantial economic reparations to any Iraqi organisation currently in existence will only lead to inflationary pressure, given the state of Iraq’s economic infrastructure and political stability.

A bit off topic:
Is it fair to say that the only way stability can be re-established in Iraq is with another ‘strong-man’ regime, similar to Saddam’s? (or regimes, under federalisation – however I don’t think this would be in America’s best interests, given the influence Iran has over the oil rich Shia).

I would think the eventual establishment of pro-US strongman is probably the most US strategists are hoping for.

29

bob mcmanus 11.04.06 at 10:38 pm

I of course really like the idea, and would actually prefer that it be forced on Americans than done as voluntarily aid, but don’t know the possible means and venues.

Besides making it impossible for the Bush regime to ever travel overseas, are there possible civil actions, and courts willing to entertain such motions? Some help from the nuclear powers in seizing American assets overseas, both personal and corporate, would be helpful.

30

Alex 11.05.06 at 1:08 am

John,

Does the proposition that a nation undertaking military action under false premises is morally obligated to pay reparations to the target society for damages caused by the action imply that a nation undertaking military action under just conditions is morally entitled to receive payments from the target society when the military action produces large net benefits for the target society?

Try to consider this in a situation in which the nation using military force stands to gain nothing from the intervention. (For example, imagine The Netherlands intervening altruistically to stop Jonas Savimbi in Angola or spare Sierra Leone the brutality of Foday Sankoh.)

31

jon 11.05.06 at 1:44 am

> … compare the projections in 2003 with the reality on the ground now.

OK. In 2003, I was thinking that we still had feet on the ground in Germany and Japan, and lots of money went in, and that it could take decades for the economy to get under real steam as a free economy, and an authentically free Iraqi culture appear.

So far, so good.

Oh, and yes, I’d be willing to walk in Baghdad. I think it’d be pretty interesting, even though security does appear to worsening there. I’d certainly pay constant attention, and try and stay away from the questionable situations, as I do here in bad spots.

> Is it fair to say that the only way stability can be re-established in Iraq is with another ‘strong-man’ regime, similar to Saddam’s?

No. FDR-haters said that in Germany, too, since they clearly wanted a dictator (Hitler probably would’ve lost a fair election anytime during his rule except after his annexation of Austria and before he took on the Soviets). Oh, maybe not. Democracy is questionable in countries too poor for sizeable elites (like Afghanistan), but Iraq doesn’t fall under that classification.

I think it’s sad how anti-democratic media commentary has proliferated since Bush went for Wilsonian democracy promotion abroad. Deeply sad. I don’t agree with many things Bush has done, like torture, but isn’t support of democracies abroad a basic American value?

32

abb1 11.05.06 at 3:06 am

…FDR-haters said that in Germany, too…

Jon, even the people who invented the whole thing quit defending it a couple of days ago. These talking points have been withdrawn from circulation; sounds like you didn’t get the memo.

33

John Quiggin 11.05.06 at 3:09 am

Alex, it’s fairly obvious that in ordinary relationships that you can’t expect payment for a free gift, while you can expect compensation for wilful or reckless damage.

34

abb1 11.05.06 at 4:09 am

…several years of vigorously attempting to quell various foreign-supported terrorist insurgencies…

Hey Dan, Terry Jones wrote a column for you: Julius Caesar had Gaul; Bush just has gall.

35

Alex 11.05.06 at 5:25 am

John, it may be true than one does not admit to expecting repayment for a gift, but an unreturned gift often engenders resentment, demonstrating that repaying gifts is an element of ordinary relationships.

I point this out only because a policy lacking internal consistency is less likely to be adopted (and more open to demagoguery by its opponents), and the policy of reparations in only one direction would have the unintended consequence of discouraging actions to prevent injustice when there exists a possibility that events may cause damage without ending the injustice.

36

Scott Martens 11.05.06 at 5:45 am

“Given the inevitability of corruption and graft, it’s not a perfect option…”

No, given the inevitability of corruption and graft, it’s the perfect option. Nothing gets the local leadership to sit down and shut up so well as a continuing source of free money. As long as there’s free-flowing cash, revolutionary forces are better off grabbing their fair share and stashing it away to finance a future revolution, rather than trying their hand at overthrowing the system now. If that future rebellion can be put off long enough, folks in the end just might not be so interested in seeing it happen.

37

greensmile 11.05.06 at 11:15 am

I am one of the taxpayers who is getting stuck with the bill for this abortion of a war. Reparations may or may not be cheaper but at least we would cease the american’s shedding blood and having their blood shed. I don’t think throwing guilty money at this mess will help by itself, even if Haliburton is no longer taking its cut of the deal. I think the buy-off attempt would put us in a more credible position to claim that we mean to do good, a claim that seems laughable at this point.

38

jon 11.05.06 at 2:27 pm

> Jon, even the people who invented the whole thing quit defending it a couple of days ago. These talking points have been withdrawn from circulation; sounds like you didn’t get the memo.

A fact is a fact, and a falsehood a falsehood, no matter what conspiracies or behaviors you invent to back or attack them. If you want to convince any unconvinced of anything, you must address the facts.

That’s the last imaginary point I’m going to respond to in this thread.

39

abb1 11.05.06 at 4:45 pm

A fact is a fact, and a falsehood a falsehood, no matter what conspiracies or behaviors you invent to back or attack them.

Could you elaborate on this, please. What are these facts and falsehoods that are backed or attacked here by invented conspiracies? I want to know.

Thanks.

40

agm 11.05.06 at 7:10 pm

Quiggin, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. In your own way you are as mad as the people who got us into this f’ing mess.

41

aaron 11.06.06 at 11:13 am

A better argument would be that flooding the Iraqi populus with American cash would make it almost impossible for terrorist to pay people to carry out attacks.

42

aaron 11.06.06 at 11:23 am

And yes, we are not responsible for the actions of Iraqis. Things look bad there, but that’s a mess of their own making. And is it really worse than before (and are there less prospects of things getting better)? I seriously doubt it. Reconstruction is a tedious process and supporting it with a wellfare program is going to bring about the problems of wellfare (lack of appreciation, dependancy, etc., loss of value). 3 years is an increadibly short timeframe for looking at a reconstruction. Especially one implemented by the largest, slowest, most bureaurocratic instituion in the world. There are going to be ups and downs, and we don’t know how it will turn out. It is a tedious process.

43

Uncle Kvetch 11.06.06 at 12:39 pm

we are not responsible for the actions of Iraqis

A police force isn’t responsible for the actions of criminals–it is, however, responsible for doing everything it reasonably can to protect the public. Similarly, as an occupying military force, we are responsible for ensuring law and order in Iraq. We have failed miserably.

that’s a mess of their own making

Quite right. I’m sure if we hadn’t invaded their country they would have spontaneously combusted into civil war anyway; it was just a matter of time.

And is it really worse than before

For the several hundred thousand people who are dead as a result, undoubtedly yes. I cling to the quaint and archaic belief that those people didn’t suddenly stop mattering in the equation just because they died.

(and are there less prospects of things getting better)?

Yes.

3 years is an increadibly short timeframe for looking at a reconstruction.

Then propose a more realistic one, with concrete criteria.

There are going to be ups and downs, and we don’t know how it will turn out.

Sure. As I said above, aaron, if Iraq turns out to be stable in prosperous in 300 years, I’ll be happy to buy you a beer. No hard feelings.

44

abb1 11.06.06 at 1:07 pm

…we are not responsible for the actions of Iraqis…

Not so fast, please.

Perhaps I have unreasonably long memory, but I seem to remember US occupation forces recruiting, organizing and training Shia death squads a couple of years ago, back when no one was talking about any civil war. Remember: John Negroponte, formerly on similar mission in Honduras?

I also remember quite recently WaPo reporting about ‘Zarqawi’ psyop; remember – wildly exaggerating his significance to split Sunni and Shia insurgency?

45

Ragout 11.06.06 at 9:31 pm

Apparently, Quiggin feels the case for US/Coalition guilt is so overwhelming that he doesn’t have to make a serious argument to establish it (or be troubled to rebut the dissenting views of well-know novelists).

As best I can make out, Quiggin’s case is based on intentions (we “willfully” and “recklessly” went to war “under false pretenses.”). But I think our intentions were basically good (spread democracy) or neutral (maintain a steady flow of oil from the mideast).

Certainly, we didn’t intend to slaughter 100s of thousands. And we haven’t. The vast majority of Iraqi deaths have been due to sectarian violence or the collapse of health infrastructure. You might say that we’re responsible for these deaths too, but there’s a large moral difference between premeditated murder and negligent homicide.

Presumably Quiggin and most on Crooked Timber disagree with my claim that coalition intentions were good. So just did the US, UK, Australia, etc., intend to do in Iraq that was so horrible?

46

engels 11.06.06 at 10:51 pm

So just did the US, UK, Australia, etc., intend to do in Iraq that was so horrible?

“To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

Robert H. Jackson, American Chief Prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials

47

engels 11.07.06 at 3:25 am

Or perhaps #45, like #42, is intended to be satyrical. I hope it is.

48

engels 11.07.06 at 5:58 am

But I think our intentions were basically good (spread democracy) or neutral (maintain a steady flow of oil from the mideast).

This is bizarre, isn’t it? Doing violence to others for the sake of self-interest is a morally neutral act? Do you also feel this way about robbery, for example?

Presumably Quiggin and most on Crooked Timber disagree with my claim that coalition intentions were good. So just did the US, UK, Australia, etc., intend to do in Iraq that was so horrible?

Curiously enough, Ragout, I remember you yourself saying on a previous thread that it was obvious to you that Bush’s intentions were not good.

I consider myself on the “pro-war left,” and of course I think Bush was acting in bad faith, like going to war to build up his “political capital.” But I’m happy if he does good for bad reasons. (Ragout)

Anyway, in the context of the issue at hand, the intentions of Bush and the other architects of this catastrophe is irrelevant. In order to establish that America and its allies owe reparations to the parties injured by their actions, it is not necessary to establish that anyone intended to do harm. All that is necessary is to show that they acted wrongfully, that others suffered and that they are responsible.

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Ragout 11.07.06 at 10:30 am

Well, sure Bush’s motives weren’t pure, and he lied about things like an Iraq/al Queda connection, but I don’t think his intentions towards Iraqis were malign. Quiggin’s argument seems to be based on intentions and intentions are usually relevant in addressing moral culpability.

So, if you want to say that the crime was simply waging war, then fine, I can’t deny war was waged. But I note that you haven’t provided any evidence of evil intent, or even stated what the evil intent might have been.

And I don’t think the Nuremberg judges were being just or fair in treating “aggressive war” as a crime. The Nuremberg judges should have stuck to charging the Nazis with genocide and atrocities. It hardly seems like justice for a Soviet judge to jail Nazis for invading Poland.

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engels 11.07.06 at 12:02 pm

Well, Ragout, as I said, I don’t think anyone needs to establish anything about Bush’s or anyone else’s intentions in order to argue that the Iraqis are owed reparations. All that is needed, on Bush’s side, is that Bush committed particular crime – waging an unjust war – whether or not he intended to do evil.

But in my view Bush’s intentions and those of others in the administration were not good. Strategic interests are not a legitimate motivation for waging aggressive war and neither is the desire to promote democracy in a particular country or region. But, as I said, I think this is all beside the point.

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aaron 11.07.06 at 4:43 pm

I want to see the computer models compared including and excluding post invasion data on births and deaths. And the economic models.

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Lopakhin 11.08.06 at 8:51 am

Lamont Cranston: “having launched this disastrous war on the basis of false premises the US and its allies are morally obliged to make reparations.” – That is standard for any invading force. Also standard are trials – followed by executions if Nuremberg has any meaning – of the civilian government(s) responsible for the aggression & invasion, the supreme international crime which encompasses all of the evil that follows.

I believe that also standard for invasions is a restoration to the situation which prevailed before the invasion, i.e. the restoration to power of Saddam Hussein. Could you possibly say if you favour this course of action? It’s still not (quite) too late.

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