More on the Iraqi employees

by Daniel on August 13, 2007

The Iraqi employees of the British Army story has continued to roll on, with some amount of mainstream media attention (particularly in the Times) and the first wave of responses from MPs. Any CT readers with a UK MP who didn’t write to their MPs last week, you still have time to do so, but potentially not very much time. For one thing, the British Army is withdrawing from Basra town, meaning that it is going to be much more difficult for the employees to be protected. For another, the government (an uncharitable man would say “the New Labour spin machine”) is trying to suggest that the problem can be solved by giving visas only to the 91 individuals who had been employed as translators by the British Army. This is clearly inadequate – the way Des Browne is quoted, it doesn’t even sound as if protection is being extended to families – and I’d be grateful if our readers could mention this.

By the way, the last comments thread on this subject was a bit of a disgrace. Can I make it very clear that anyone using the word “harki” is going to get themselves banned immediately and without appeal. The very idea that people who read this blog might think that the massacres in 1960s Algeria represent a model for an anti-imperialist struggle frankly gives me the creeps. I will charitably assume that the term was used out of ignorance by people who’d only heard it in the context of Zinedine Zidane, for the time being, but any evidence to the contrary and you are banned my son (the commenters in question know who they are). Ditto “quislings”, “collaborators” and any other terms which say or imply that the massacre of civilians by self-styled “resistance” movements isn’t mass murder or isn’t a war crime (as Conor Foley notes in the comments to this trainwreck, there is a decent case for saying that, along the lines of the Rwandan radio trials, advocating a war crime is a war crime itself).

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08.14.07 at 6:11 pm

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1

Hidari 08.13.07 at 8:45 am

I promise not to state, or even hint, that these people are ‘collaborators’ or whatever. What annoys me about the response to this issue from the ‘Decents’ (i.e. at Harry’s Place) is not just the outrage (which is fair enough) but the shock. It’s as if they genuinely persuaded themselves that the British (or the Americans) cared deeply about the Iraqi people and would take every step possible to protect the Iraqis who helped with their ‘project’. I mean, come on people, smell the coffee. This is part of a larger story about the non-relaxation of immigration from Iraq. If ‘we’ cared deeply about the fate of individuals from Iraq we would let them come to Britain (or the States) now we have annihilated their country. We don’t, therefore, we don’t. QED.

(Which is NOT to state that the treatment of the Iraqi translators is not particularly horrendous, but, again, what did anyone expect? Compassion?)

2

Daniel 08.13.07 at 8:47 am

I do actually think that the pro-war blogs in this campaign are being a bit hypocritical since they were prepared to see the same atrocities and worse committed on Fallujah, but we are being “big tent” people at the moment because this campaign needs all the friends it can get.

3

abb1 08.13.07 at 10:03 am

‘Collaborator’ seems like a perfectly normal term to me, so I guess I deserve to be banned. [that will very much depend on whether you attempt, as you did on the last thread, to pretend that there was nothing wrong with the treatment of collaborators in postwar France. And also whether that email is genuine or not – dd]

Anyway, here’s AI press release: Iraq: International support urgently needed to address spiralling refugee crisis.

…Amnesty International called also for the US, UK and other states contributing troops to the Multi-National Force (MNF) in Iraq to follow the lead of the Danish government and provide for the resettlement of Iraqis whose lives are now at risk because they are seen to have assisted the foreign forces, as interpreters, drivers and in other roles.

Last Friday, the Danish government admitted to having secretly airlifted about 200 translators and other Iraqi employees of its troops out of Iraq. Most are expected to seek asylum in Denmark. The US ambassador in Iraq has also called for all Iraqis working in support of the US government to be offered refugee status.

“Those who have worked with foreign forces are not the only people at risk,” said [Malcolm] Smart [, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme]. “The US, UK, EU and other states that have the capacity should provide generous resettlement programmes for the refugees who are most vulnerable and at greatest risk, including survivors of torture and others who urgently need medical care.”

4

minneapolitan 08.13.07 at 11:29 am

Well, if you’re going to engage in prior restraint on subjects where it is clearly possible (as seen in that other thread) to have a reasoned disagreement, then I’m hardly in a position to do anything about that. (“What? You’re questioning the motivations of the government and its supporters? Stop trolling and good day, sir!”)

Sure, bring all the Iraqis you want over. Living, as I do, in a community that has long been welcoming of refugees from US imperial adventures, I would be the last person to doubt the value of getting as many folx over as possible.

I will say, however, that this post, and the previous one (plus some of the comments left at that time), are very telling in their lack of intellectual honesty, and refusal to approach this subject in terms of rational debate. But then I am not a liberal, nor a troll, and perhaps we will just have to chalk this one up to my basic philosophical differences with those who are and leave it at that.

In memory of all the partisans,
minneapolitan

5

Marc Mulholland 08.13.07 at 11:47 am

Hmm, I’m not sure that a translator attached to a military raiding party or interrogation unit could really be considered as outside the category of legit target.

I’d rather emphasise that there is no warrant for torture / extra-judicial execution of enemy agents once in your power. This fate is a real prospect for a wide category that might be defined as collaborators, and they should be offered refuge. If it will save lives to advocate a special moral category for civilian employees of British armed forces, then I suppose this departure from universal norms is just.

6

SG 08.13.07 at 11:53 am

daniel – wouldn`t being in a “big tent” suggest one should be advocating a general and very large expansion of the refugee program for all Iraqis? Rather than just the lucky/unlucky (depending on the success of this campaign) few who worked for the US?

dquared – I was at Summersonic music festival in Osaka on Saturday, and for some reason lots of people were running around wearing tshirts with your nick (handle? alias?) written on them. Didn`t know you were so big in Japan.

7

dsquared 08.13.07 at 12:04 pm

Well, if you’re going to engage in prior restraint on subjects where it is clearly possible (as seen in that other thread) to have a reasoned disagreement, then I’m hardly in a position to do anything about that.

yup.

Hmm, I’m not sure that a translator attached to a military raiding party or interrogation unit could really be considered as outside the category of legit target.

I think that’s probably correct, but the translators (mechanics, cooks etc) specifically aren’t attached to military parties any more – while they were, we weren’t campagning about them because the assumption was that they were being protected by the British military. Now they’re being left behind and are likely to be massacred. I think I agree with Marc on the general principle – I know there are some people involved with the campaign who regard it as a special reciprocal duty of the British, but I’m more moved by the argument that this is a group which is particularly at risk.

SG: there’s a (I think) Canadian fashion label called “Dsquared”. We constantly vy for google top spot. As I said to Marc, a generous all-encompassing refugee program would be first best but the ex-employees a) are probably the highest priority because they’re in most danger and b) unlike most Iraqis, aren’t even safe in the refugee camps either.

8

stuart 08.13.07 at 12:09 pm

Dsquared is also a fashion label created by a couple of Canadians, I only know this because they were commissioned to do the Juventus team strip.

9

Matt McGrattan 08.13.07 at 12:28 pm

I’m certainly for a generous refugee program, and also for particular attention being paid to people who’ve worked with or for the British as a particularly vulnerable category. It does seem a reciprocal duty of the British to protect those who have provided the British army with particular assistance.

However, I can certainly understand why members of the Iraqi resistance would view these people as collaborators. If you view the invasion as an illegal act, and a lot of people think we should, then these people are, arguably, themselves complicit in war crimes.

The key point, obviously, being that massacres of civilians are never acceptable; even those who have collaborated with an invading army. However, if some future Iraqi government, however unlikely that may look right now, were to consider placing ‘collaborators’ on trial, it wouldn’t seem obviously wrong for them to do so.

10

Freddie 08.13.07 at 12:33 pm

So out of curiosity, Daniel, do you intend to ban anyone who advocates any political violence that could kill civilians, or people who speak approvingly of the people who conducted that action? If so, will you include the French partisans from World War II? The IRA? The Viet Cong? The Black Panthers? John Brown? The members of the American Revolution who killed Tories? Every anti-imperialist revolutionary force in the 20th century? (Which includes the Indian, by the way, the Mahatma notwithstanding.)

11

dsquared 08.13.07 at 12:42 pm

Maybe or maybe not, on a relatively capricious basis. It all depends on whether the thread gets bogged down again into a two minute hate against people whose worst crime was to believe my government when they said they were here to help and/or to earn a crust for themselves. In general I would advise commenters to err on the side of not cheering for murder.

By the way, for the most part the Iraqi employees in Basra are being slaughtered by sectarian death squads who are attached to political parties within the Iraqi government – ie other collaborators.

The answers to your string of rhetorical questions, btw, are that in all cases I agree with the drafters of the Geneva conventions who put a special paragraph into their conventions to protect so-called “collaborators” from mob justice. All cases to be judged on their merits, but let’s be very clear here that apologetics for war crimes (and the extent to which I will tolerate same) is the game that we’re getting into here.

12

Donald Johnson 08.13.07 at 12:52 pm

“advocating a war crime is a war crime itself”

So trials for all those who favored the invasion of Iraq, then. This could get interesting.

I don’t think I read all of the other thread, but I agree with dsquared that leftist romanticizing of revolutionary violence is repugnant. It isn’t any more repugnant than the mainstream pretense that Western violence isn’t meant to kill civilians and is therefore perfectly okay.

13

Freddie 08.13.07 at 12:52 pm

Sure. The game that you are also getting into here, of course, is complicity in every oppressive regime in the history of revolutionary change, and opposition to anyone outside of the power structure. You can rest assured in your righteousness, that’s fine, but I insist that you recognize that the actual consequences of your views are that people who live under truly horrid regimes have no practical recourse. Every time a people have rid themselves of an oppressive government, civilians have died. It’s terrible and cruel and unfortunate. The questions of whether it’s so terrible and cruel and unfortunate that everyone laboring along with revolutionary dreams should just drop them and get with the pogrom are, I would say, very murky moral waters. Luckily you’re around to clear it all up for us, and to eliminate from the conversation anyone who doesn’t have the incredible moral clarity and righteous vision that you do.

Hope that doesn’t get me banned! When you start taking out the censoring stick, it can be hard to put it away….

14

dsquared 08.13.07 at 12:58 pm

Hmmm, perhaps I should have stuck with my original draft of #11 which read in its entirety “Depends whether you’re planning on being an ass about it”.

15

abb1 08.13.07 at 1:06 pm

I would like to see some evidence that there is indeed a danger of a mass-slaughter of former British employees there – as opposed to, say, mere harassment.

The Times article confirms that these employees have always lived among the general population, without any special protection:

James Milton, a former captain in the Adjutant General’s Corps, who served in Iraq, wrote: “I watched these unarmed individuals working side by side with our forces, facing the same dangers as our troops and then going home to live amongst those individuals who had been targeting them hours earlier.”

16

Donald Johnson 08.13.07 at 1:07 pm

Well, there is a consistency problem here, dsquared. I don’t like it when fellow lefties gloss over war crimes in the name of revolution, but if you’re going to ban this behavior then you should also ban righties who advocate this or that act of inexcusable Western violence and then what will you have? A comment section full of bourgeois Amnesty International supporters.

Works for me, but it might get dull.

17

Freddie 08.13.07 at 1:10 pm

I’m glad you’re giving the questions of censorship, violence against oppressive government, violence against civilians, collateral damage, intentionality, governmental versus nongovernmental violence, and acceptable risk to non-participants in times of revolutionary change the seriousness they deserve.

There are important issues at hand here, of course, and your refusal to accept that– or to demonstrate that you understand their importance by confronting them– lends credence to my suspicion that you are censoring because you don’t like what others have to say. It’s the first rule of censorship, after all. What we censor isn’t stuff we disagree with. It’s illegitimate. Funny how hard it can be to tell the difference, though. I mean, look, what I am saying has argumentative content, as much as you may find it incorrect or asinine. And as revolting as you, and I, find some of the comments from the other thread, they also have content, which can be defeated by better content, but not by censorship. When you can only confront these arguments, as absurd as they may be, by calling the other side an ass, or pulling out the big eraser, well, I’m not impressed.

On the other hand, sliding so effortlessly from righteous indignation to “don’t be an ass”, utilizing both flippancy and moralizing– that’s grade A message board rhetoric. Nicely done.

18

dsquared 08.13.07 at 1:17 pm

I think there’s a clear distinction between discussions of war crimes and violence in general and discussion of a specific imminent humanitarian disaster.

19

John Emerson 08.13.07 at 1:24 pm

My impression is that in the US, at the popular level many of the most vehement supporters of the war are also strong opponents of letting any Iraqis in at all. This is a xenophobic war.

Around 1980 in Portland, OR, there were two types of people involved in supporting SE Asian refugees: bleeding heart liberals, and Vietnam Vets who had had personal contact with pro-American Hmong or Vietnamese. Probably more of the former. I suspect that the same is true in Minneapolis.

20

James Joyner 08.13.07 at 1:27 pm

I’m not sure that “collaborator” is anything but a >neutral term. Indeed, and I both used the term in the headline and body of essays this weekend that were highly sympathetic to the plight of Iraqis who worked with the Coalition.

21

James Joyner 08.13.07 at 1:28 pm

22

Glenn 08.13.07 at 1:30 pm

There is some incredibly bizarre theoretical maximalism going on here. Look, we know, pretty much for a fact, that the insurgents are not laudable folks. This isn’t a case of revolutionaries breaking some eggs to make an omelet. They are breaking eggs to, among other reasons, ethnically cleanse their neighborhoods, terrorize opponents of their political gang, serve as Iranian catspaws, etc etc. It is perfectly consistent to, one the one hand, allow for revolutionary violence in certain cases, and on the other, realize that nothing approaching a legitimate cause or goal is being pursued here and thus condemn the violence unilaterally. Doing so doesn’t foreclose us from supporting/allowing other causes in the future.

This really is the mirror image of right-wing torture fetishism. The valorization of violence, visions of its cathartic potential, the odd enthusiasm for the necessity of the immoral act. You even have the citing of worst-case scenario’s as justification for its application in more murky circumstances.

23

Freddie 08.13.07 at 1:43 pm

I agree. But you’re ignoring what to me is the important aspect of this, the threats of censorship. Censorship is always a big deal, for any reason, in any context. Threats of censorship invite maximalism. And when they are made along with pious sermonizing, they are particularly galling. But for the threats of censorship, I wouldn’t have weighed in at all. But when someone insists that not only are his opponents making a repugnant argument, that their arguments are so repugnant as to remove them from the conversation altogether, we’ve moved into an entirely different arena. If supporting insurgents who murder translators is an argument that, in dsquareds position, simply must not be made, then I feel compelled to ask him where precisely he thinks this line exists. It’s an an empty construct. There is no bright line division between legitimate and illegitimate discourse. Whoever tries to draw one is simply engaging in censorship of argument he disagrees with.

24

dsquared 08.13.07 at 1:44 pm

Glenn is entirely right by the way – I wrote almost two years ago that I didn’t see that the insurgents (and I reiterate – most of the drillers and torturers are not in fact insurgents – they’re sectarian militia who are taking it out on the British Iraqi employees for helping the forces of not-killing and not-torturing) were achieving anything at all, which is why they ought to give up.

25

ajay 08.13.07 at 1:47 pm

#10: freddie, if you’re trying to overawe a Brit with your mad rhetorical skillz, citing the IRA in your list of politically acceptable resistance groups really isn’t the best way to do it. Your ignorance of history extends to saying silly things like “Every time a people have rid themselves of an oppressive government, civilians have died” which basically is just not true.

Also interesting that no one has made the practical point: leave aside the question of whether the Iraq was is legal and moral or not. In the future, it is likely that at some point the British Army will be operating – entirely legally and morally – in someone else’s country and will be recruiting local interpreters and other staff. They did in Bosnia, after all, which was a bona fide UN-backed peacekeeping op. Also in Sierra Leone.

Now, it’s probable that there will be factions there who want the army out; and it’s possible that they will threaten the interpreters. (I don’t know if this actually happened in Bosnia, but it’s plausible.) In that case, it’s going to make the army’s job a lot easier if they can point to a long and honourable record of looking after the locals they employ, and this in turn will make the (ex hypothesi moral and legal) operation on which they are employed more likely to succeed.

26

Matt McGrattan 08.13.07 at 1:48 pm

Ajay is right, also.

27

Sk 08.13.07 at 1:51 pm

If it is so bad in Iraq that you have to let Iraqi citizens into Britain in order to avoid their being massacred, why don’t you just stay in Iraq and defeat the bad guys?

Its just a creepy level of cowardice and moral relativism here; you simultaneously believe that the West are the bad guys for being in Iraq, and the West are the bad guys for not letting decent Iraqis move to the West in order to avoid being massacred.

Presumably, if decent Iraqis have to move to Britain in order to avoid being massacred, Britain isn’t so bad after all? Presumably, if decent Iraqis fear being massacred when the British leave, perhaps the British aren’t the bad guys in the first place?- the potential massacre-ers are?).

Sk

28

Freddie 08.13.07 at 1:57 pm

citing the IRA in your list of politically acceptable resistance groups really isn’t the best way to do it.

When did I say they were acceptable? Read carefully, please. I have never suggested that the Iraqi insurgents (or terrorists, if you all prefer) are in any way justified for any of the violence that they are committing. Of course, it’s natural for you to suggest that I am, because it’s easy to argue with a straw man. I don’t condone or excuse any violence against civilians. I only insist that you see that it is a) a complicated question, and not one given to sweeping moralizing and self-righteousness and b) that engaging in censorship against people who think a) is true , or threatening them with censorship, is an act of incredible intellectual violence and dishonesty. And I notice that you and others supporting dsquared have nothing in particular to say about the threats of censorship, which is the salient point all along.

Your ignorance of history extends to saying silly things like “Every time a people have rid themselves of an oppressive government, civilians have died” which basically is just not true.

Evidence, please.

Finally I’m still looking for an answer to the previous commenters (very important) point:

I will say, however, that this post, and the previous one (plus some of the comments left at that time), are very telling in their lack of intellectual honesty, and refusal to approach this subject in terms of rational debate.

This is either an honest discussion, or it isn’t, you are all going to engage it with an shred of intellectual rigor, or you’re not. But don’t keep moving the goalposts. You can’t be righteous and acerbic at the same time.

29

Donald Johnson 08.13.07 at 2:04 pm

I don’t think “the insurgents” are a wonderful group and am pretty much free of the tendency to valorize anyone with a gun. But I thought the statistics showed that most insurgent violence was directed at the occupation forces, with the minority aimed at civilians responsible for most of the deaths, because, I suppose, civilians are a softer target.

Having made that point, I don’t actually have any faith in any statistical data that comes from Iraq regarding violence. But it’s not clear to me what the politics of the various Sunni and Shiite insurgent factions are–once in a while you see some article quoting an insurgent leader expressing opposition to the killing of civilians. Also, this is something that could change from year to year–perhaps by this point everyone involved in violence is a sectarian, but it may not have started out that way. I vaguely recall that during the first siege of Fallujah in the spring of 2004, many Iraqis, Sunni and Shiite, sympathized with the Fallujans. By the time of the second siege this wasn’t the case, because there had been many attacks on Shiite civilians in the intervening time period.

On dsquared’s original point, of course the British and American governments should provide refuge for the people they employ, but I also agree with the Amnesty International link (abb1’s post 2) which said this is only part of what we owe.

30

ajay 08.13.07 at 2:09 pm

Freddie, that’s a little disingenuous.

You didn’t say that the Iraqi resistance were justified, and I never said you did. What you did was to list the Provos among a number of other groups in a context which suggested you found them worthy of support.

You said:
do you intend to ban anyone who advocates any political violence that could kill civilians, or people who speak approvingly of the people who conducted that action? If so, will you include the French partisans from World War II? The IRA? The Viet Cong? The Black Panthers?

On your other point, you really should be pretty embarrassed not to be able to answer this one yourself. Oppressive governments removed without civilian deaths? The Marcos regime, in the Philippines in 1986. The Communists in Czechoslovakia in 1989. The East German and Hungarian Communists in the same year. The Orange Revolution in Ukraine in 2004.

31

Freddie 08.13.07 at 2:17 pm

You’re right, it was a little disingenuous. I should have been clearer in my original post, I apologize. What I mean, and what my point is, is that these are complicated matters, and they don’t seem to me to invite the kind of certainty Daniel/dsquared has. If the discourse can function when it engages with Nazis, racists, eugenicists, Stalinists, and all other manner of reprehensible people, I don’t understand why it can’t handle apologists for Iraqi murderers. Doesn’t make sense to me. Like I said, censorship is a big deal.

As for the historical record, I don’t think you and I are likely to agree on what precisely constitutes moments of revolution, but you’re right, the examples you cited are hard to argue with. The Orange Revolution, though, is looking less and less like a real change at all.

Time to go to work…

32

Glenn 08.13.07 at 2:26 pm

“I don’t think “the insurgents” are a wonderful group and am pretty much free of the tendency to valorize anyone with a gun. But I thought the statistics showed that most insurgent violence was directed at the occupation forces, with the minority aimed at civilians responsible for most of the deaths, because, I suppose, civilians are a softer target.”

Speaking entirely out of my ass, I suspect reporting bias here. Pretty much by definition, any interaction between the occupation forces and the insurgents/terrorists/whathaveyou is going to be recorded as an attack because we can shoot back. On the civilian side, only the big shit, car bombs and the like, are going to count as an attack. What happens when your scary new neighbors show up at the door with a power drill and some plastic sheeting, well, thats just another body at the morgue.

33

abb1 08.13.07 at 2:32 pm

If the discourse can function when it engages with Nazis, racists, eugenicists, Stalinists, and all other manner of reprehensible people, I don’t understand why it can’t handle apologists for Iraqi murderers.

I don’t remember any apologists for any murderers in the previous thread. The crux of the discussion is the question of whether the British Iraqi employees constitute a special, more privileged category of Iraqi refugees.

The last paragraph of the Times article:

…personal appeals from senior Army officers in Basra to relax asylum regulations and make special arrangements for 91 Iraqi interpreters…

That is the issue here and nothing else.

34

Donald Johnson 08.13.07 at 2:38 pm

You’re probably right about reporting bias, Glenn. That’s part of why I backed away from the very statistic I cited . (Or alluded to, since I didn’t actually cite anything.)

It still leaves me wondering what fraction of the insurgents (of any sect) are mostly anti-occupation vs. the fraction that is more interested in killing other Iraqis. And how the fractions have changed over time. I wonder if anyone knows?

35

The Witch from Next Door 08.13.07 at 2:45 pm

But for the threats of censorship, I wouldn’t have weighed in at all.

Censorship? Seriously? Is Daniel actually far more powerful than I had realised? I take it from your use of this term that he is threatening to prevent you from publishing your views anywhere else on the internet, or in any other context, thereby closing down any discussion on this subject at all. Rather than, for example, threatening to delete trollish comments from one thread on this (privately owned) website, in a valiant and entirely worthwhile attempt to keep the discussion on-topic and non-arseholish.

Given his mighty power, I guess I’d better burn my copy of Freakonomics before the DSquared Gestapo start knocking on my door…

36

ajay 08.13.07 at 3:03 pm

32: I would be really surprised if the majority of the violence were directed at coalition troops. Certainly they aren’t suffering more than a tiny fraction of the total casualties.

37

novakant 08.13.07 at 3:19 pm

I didn’t see that the insurgents (…) were achieving anything at all, which is why they ought to give up.

and they didn’t listen to dsquared in his infinite wisdom – bummer, someone call the police

seriously, with that level of understanding of what’s going on in Iraq, it’ll be impossible to make any kind of headway towards a political solution – the insurgents are doing just fine

meanwhile, the Bush administration itself is arming insurgents – please dsquared let us hear your take on this

38

J Thomas 08.13.07 at 4:04 pm

Is this supposed to be an argument about whether it’s moral for insurgencies to kill civilians? Except nobody’s supposed to be the devil’s advocate?

We shouldn’t be arguing this with wimpy liberals. We should be discussing it with the leaders of each iraqi insurgent group. Except, if the US military finds out who they are, it will kill them. Makes it hard to have that discussion.

If iraq had a democratic government where people trusted the elections, insurgents could elect their own representatives. If they get 5% of the vote then it’s likely they’ll only have 5% of the armed civilians, and they’ll have an incentive to make deals and find allies. Do politics. But that hasn’t happened.

If we let iraqis vote on whether to let us stay, they’d vote for us to go away and we’d have a perfect excuse to leave. But we don’t do that. Maybe we’re a little bit oppressive?

We kill iraqi civilians whenever they look dangerous. Approach a checkpoint too quick. Drive too close to a US vehicle, or get out of the way too slow. Look like you’re picking up a grenade. Be there when an insurgent attacks them. Sit in a high place looking like you have binoculars. Would it make sense for an insurgent group to kill civilians that look dangerous to them? Yes. Would it make sense for insurgents to kill civilians at random? No, that would leave lots of survivors who were against them.

39

Doctor Slack 08.13.07 at 4:16 pm

I’m basically in sympathy with Dsquared’s objectives here and I understand his feelings about the last thread, but it has to be said it’s a little bit odd to be talking about banning people for “advocating war crimes” on a blog that regularly tolerates no-end-but-victory trolls like SK. (I’m also a little amazed at the placidity with which some people feel comfortable dismissing the insurgency given the evident nature of the occupation, but whatever.)

40

Donald Johnson 08.13.07 at 4:41 pm

Iraqis themselves seem to favor attacks on coalition forces by a slight majority, according to the poll conducted for the BBC, ABC, USA Today and some other group last March. (I’ll link to it below.)With that kind of civilian support it would surprise me if there weren’t at least some insurgent groups that have formed to carry out their wishes by focusing their attacks on coalition forces.

The poll has other interesting answers to questions. When they asked about the occurrence of various forms of violence in their neighborhood, unnecessary violence by coalition forces leads the list in frequency. (Or rather, 44 percent said that had happened in their neighborhood, which was a higher percentage than for any other form of violence.) When asked which form of violence they feared the most, 38 percent said suicide bombs and car bombs, followed at number two by 16 percent who said coalition violence.

So Iraqis hate car bombs, but they also seem to hate coalition violence, and it wouldn’t be surprising to me if there aren’t insurgent factions which reflect both attitudes. But I don’t know, beyond reading those occasional stories about insurgent leaders who claim to abhor attacks on civilians.

The pdf link

41

derek 08.13.07 at 5:39 pm

By invading their country for no reason, we owe all Iraqis, big time. We may owe those Iraqis who are at risk of massacre a safe asylum in our own country. I don’t think we owe a special debt to that minority of the latter class who actually got jobs working for the occupation forces, over and above the one we owe all the at-risk Iraqis.

I guess since we’re going to cut loose most of the at-risk Iraqis anyway, then letting the Coalition’s employees alone in is one way of doing arbitrary triage. But it’s not the moral alternative to paying our debt to the entire country; just the slightly less immoral alternative to locking even them out.

42

roger 08.13.07 at 5:47 pm

Reporting I’ve read from Iraq puts into question any offhand notion that one can tell who the Iraqi translators and helpers are collaborating with – sometimes the occupiers, sometimes the local paramilitaries, sometimes, it seems, with local gangs so that places can be scoped out. It is hard to tell outside of the arena.

But, Daniel, I think the larger issue is not taking in a handful of Iraqis, which might be the honorable thing to do, but responding to the million point four Iraqis in Syria, the 800,000 in Jordan, etc. And how about the 2 million displaced internally? Surely massive amounts of aid should be going to Syria and Jordan, at the very least, to cope with this crisis. Yet I have still not read one prominent pro-invasion person call for this. Although after five years of the prowar side’s cynical hypocrisy, one should be inured to more of it, that the humanitarians have moved on to Darfur, wiping their hands of Iraq, is incredible. A real aid program would, actually, save many more lives in Iraq. I’m talking about one that was not designed to line the pockets of British mercenaries and American engineering firms. The current discourse about whether there will be a bloodbath after the withdrawal in Iraq has a certain depressing comedy to it – it is as if Americans and the British think that Iraq is on the pause button while they go get popcorn and wait for the exciting end of the movie: Iraq: beyond the Thunderdome.

There is nothing being done, at the moment, to alleviate the destitution of around a third of the Iraqi population; there’s nothing being done about the unemployment; there is a total lack of discussion about the effects of energy blackouts and the collapse of the medical infrastructure. A bloodbath – a massive infant dieoff, for instance – is happening right now, under the American occupation, with the occupying powers having, at the very least, enough of a connection to the Iraqi government that they could use it to combat these things.

I would think that anyone who at any time advocated the invasion for “moral” reasons would feel compelled to advocate aid for Syria at the moment, for instance. But I am beginning to suspect that even those who I thought, in 2003, were sincerely, if wrongly, motivated by moral reasons were simply much bloodier hypocrites than I ever imagined.

43

Roy Belmont 08.13.07 at 5:58 pm

Expecting the shlubs who barked and yelped for the invasion/occupation until it was a done deal to do something tangible and effective for the co-operating preterite now that the tide has turned irrevocably away from anything like quick victory, or victory of any kind for the invaders, is like expecting them to take the actors home with them at the end of an especially violent action film.
It was just a movie, for God’s sake. Get real.

44

Nabakov 08.13.07 at 7:06 pm

“you simultaneously believe that the West are the bad guys for being in Iraq, and the West are the bad guys for not letting decent Iraqis move to the West in order to avoid being massacred.”

“First you didn’t want me to get a pony. Now you want me to send it back. Make up your mind!”

Holding two seperate concepts in your head at once is not your strong suite is it sk?

I reckon that on a sheerly realpoltik level if nothing else, ajay nails one massive issue here.

45

Nabakov 08.13.07 at 7:08 pm

“ajay nails one massive issue here.”

Hmm, the html should have kicked in here to take you to there:
http://crookedtimber.org/2007/08/13/more-on-the-iraqi-employees/#comment-207287

46

lemuel pitkin 08.13.07 at 7:15 pm

it’s going to make the army’s job a lot easier if they can point to a long and honourable record of looking after the locals they employ, and this in turn will make the (ex hypothesi moral and legal) operation on which they are employed more likely to succeed.

Probably better to avoid this argument. For many of us, if a policy will make it easier for the US or Britain to invade more countries in the future, that’s a reason to oppose that policy.

There are good reasons to think the US and UK have special obligations to their Iraqi employees, but this isn’t one.

47

lemuel pitkin 08.13.07 at 7:25 pm

Dsquared-

What’s your basis for thinking that Iraqi employees of the British army are the most endangered group in Iraq? I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that the process by which this campaign started was not, “let’s identify the most endangered population in Iraq and help them get out.” The duty to former Iraqi employees is real, but it’s based on our relationship to them, not this kind of utilitarian reasoning.

48

J Thomas 08.13.07 at 7:49 pm

Roy Belmont, I doubt you have anything to do with the blog “Belmont Club”. Not just because from what I’ve seen you say here I figure you’d get banned in about 5 minutes. But also because when I googled “roy belmont” and “Belmont club” together I got no hits at all.

49

abb1 08.13.07 at 7:56 pm

I’m basically in sympathy with Dsquared’s objectives here and I understand his feelings about the last thread…

Hey, there’s a reason for that, for the last thread. Read that post, rhetoric there sounds like a red-guard leaflet or something: “time to do the right thing”, “our Iraqi friends”, “this country will be shamed”, “throw themselves on the mercy”…

The post set the tone, comments followed the genre; what’s fair is fair.

50

leederick 08.13.07 at 9:41 pm

I wish people would be more honest about the political agenda behind this, rather that going on about what humanitarians they are. It a obvious attempt to force a humiliating public admission, from the people who started the war, that Iraq is being handed over to thugs and that war is such a failure that the only way they can stop people who aided them from being rubbed out is to spirit them out the country.

That admission would be a complete reversal of the official line that the job’s done, and we can hand over to the Iraqi army and government confident that they can take our place in providing security. That public front is complete bollocks, but for some reason the people selling it are having a very easy ride at the moment. Having it exposed as nonsense and forcing their bullshit down their throats is an entirely admirable cause, so why not be upfront about it?

51

Sredni Vashtar 08.13.07 at 11:03 pm

23 is bogglesome. If I understand the comment correctly, the aftermath of war, the protection of refugees, and leaving people to be torn apart by mob violence are not the “important aspect of this”, so much as the possible deletion of some blog comments?

Check your goddamn privilege.

52

Donald Johnson 08.14.07 at 2:12 am

51–I don’t think you understand the comment correctly.

53

Roy Belmont 08.14.07 at 6:16 am

J Thomas at #48.
I doubt that you are related to Henry Thomas, a Cornishman who died sometime in the I believe 18th c.
He was buried in a churchyard outside Polperro within which I spent a little time in a winter’s evening’s contemplation quite a good many years ago.
He was buried alongside three women, each one having been his wife, as well as some of his children. All three of the women had died in childbirth, consecutively, with only a little time between their marriages and their passing, as evidenced by the correspondence between their dates of death and those of the children.
It was a sad thing that crept up on me, as my mind did the calculations in the background, while I took in the cold gray beauty of the stone and the trees and the low dark sky.
At first it was just another set of long since passed on folk, a near-anonymous few among many others whose names were engraved there. But then the numbers began to align and I realized what I was looking at – the narrative of his life, that Henry Thomas, as it were.
Like I said, I doubt if you’re related, though of course one never knows.

54

Mrs Tilton 08.14.07 at 10:29 am

And, with that, Roy Belmont wins the thread.

Not surprising that this is a thread best won by something OT and surreal.

55

ajay 08.14.07 at 10:34 am

46: Probably better to avoid this argument. For many of us, if a policy will make it easier for the US or Britain to invade more countries in the future, that’s a reason to oppose that policy.

Yes, but I was talking about legitimate UN-backed operations such as Bosnia, not invasions, as you can see if you read my entire comment.

56

Doug 08.16.07 at 1:38 am

I do actually think that the pro-war blogs in this campaign are being a bit hypocritical since they were prepared to see the same atrocities and worse committed on Fallujah, but we are being “big tent” people at the moment because this campaign needs all the friends it can get.

But there was no “massacre” commited on Falluja. There was absolutely no alternative to take back that city for the national government or the country would have gone to full scale civil at that point. Please, don’t make such silly comments.

57

Doug 08.16.07 at 1:42 am

Hidari,

the British government has taken in hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees for decades and continues to do so. It’s completely facile to pretend they don’t care about anybody; running an asylum system is very complicated business. Though I disagreed with their original decision, I can perfectly see why they would be very reluctant to give the green light to the 16,000 or so Iraqis that have worked for the international community in the British sector.

58

Exile 08.16.07 at 8:01 am

Hello, lads, and I’m not going to be here long. This is just to let you know that the save the stills campaign has suffered its first split.

Not bad going in less than a month.

59

roy belmont 08.17.07 at 2:51 am

Doug #57:
“But there was no “massacre” commited on Falluja. There was absolutely no alternative”
Where are you from, Doug?
It’s only a massacre if it’s unnecessary?
It’s only a massacre if it fails as strategy?
It’s only a massacre if somebody does it us, that’s it, right?
Every reputable account I’ve seen has Fallujah as an atrocity of staggering dimension. Massacre’s almost too immediate, too local and small for what evidently happened there.
This morality thing, this ethics thing, where it’s always only about whether or not it works, this is not human, Doug. Which in a real distant sort of autistic way is cool. I mean we don’t have to be human, right? If it gets in the way of our survival. We can become a hive of buzzing insects.
Though I think what a lot of us were seeing is the attitudes that make some of our ancestors noble and worth imitating was that very thing – the refusal to compromise principles for expediency. “Give me liberty or give me death” kind of attitude.
Whereas somehow we are currently overrun with the “sacrificing liberty and honor to avoid death is one of life’s minor but often necessary compromises” type of folks. Doug.

60

Phoenician in a time of Romans 08.17.07 at 5:30 am

However, I can certainly understand why members of the Iraqi resistance would view these people as collaborators. If you view the invasion as an illegal act, and a lot of people think we should, then these people are, arguably, themselves complicit in war crimes.

Well, they are collaborators by the common usage of the word. Extending this to “quislings” or “traitors” is considerably more difficult (since it assumes a legitimate government waiting in the wings), but from the perspective of the Iraqi resistance it’s not a huge stretch.

Ideally, they’d be considered on a case-by-case basis by whatever government arises when the Americans leave, with only those taking part in the tortures or other actual American abuses actually being charged – but this is pie-in-the-sky thinking. They’re going to be the scapegoats for a traumatised and rabidly resentful population, and it is going to be sickening.

And there’s a serious problem with painting the insurgents as terrorists based on the brutal terrorism attacks on civilians – about three quarters of all attacks are aimed squarely at the occupying forces. There is terrorism going on; it is not so clear that the people engaging in it to any real extent are the same or even a substantial subset of those taking potshots at the US troops.

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