Home > World Events > Lowering the bar

Lowering the bar

March 20th, 2006

Miranda Devine’s latest piece has a friend in Iraq reporting from his bunker inside the Green Zone that everything is going fine there, or at least that things are not nearly as bad as “the French Reign of Terror, or the Russian and Chinese revolutions, not to mention the disasters that were Vietnam and Cambodia.” I was going to do more, but, as usual, Tim Dunlop has beaten me to it

Categories: World Events Tags:
  1. Katz
    March 20th, 2006 at 15:43 | #1

    Miranda, Miranda, Miranda. Have you ever considered a career in stand-up comedy?

    This line almost gave me a hernia:

    “Also regarded as a positive development was Iran’s announcement on Thursday it was ready to open talks with the US over its influence in Iraq.”

    Mercy, Miranda. Mercy!

    Remember when the Chimp’s Awfully Big Adventure in Mesopotamia was supposed to be “the central front in the War on Terror” and/or a brave stand against Islamofascism?

    Gee, if this was true, why is the US talking to Iran, who the last I heard was Headquarters of Terror Central and the Pontiff of Islamofascism.

    Now if this wasn’t true, why didn’t the Chimp cut to the chase and invite Iran to be a member of the Coalition of the Willing? (Can’t you imagine the Rodent shaking hands with his good mate President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad while at the same time grimacing slightly at his neglect to wear a necktie?)

    So what gives Miranda? Does the US expect Iran to make the US an offer to buy out the US interest in the War? BTW, what price is the US might put on “good will”?

    Or do you actually think that the US is going to say to Iran, “Stop meddling in Iraq or we’ll … we’ll .. we’ll …”

    We’ll what, Miranda?

    Precisely what is “positive” about this “development”?

    One big difference between a journalist and a comedian is that comedians shouldn’t have to explain their punch lines.

  2. MB
    March 20th, 2006 at 20:00 | #2

    It’s been interesting to see the divisions opening up within American conservatism recently over the war. As neo-conservative a figure as Francis Fukuyama has been prepared, not just to take his fellow neo-cons to task for their inability to actually see what a balls-up Iraq has become, but for why they ever believed they could do it at all (he made an interesting point that how conservatives, who are deeply skeptical about social engineering–”governments don’t solve problems, they subsidize them”–could ever think they could undertake a nation-building job like Iraq).

    Others within the American right have joined the opposition (paleoconservatives who are isolationist in outlook, foreign policy realists who don’t believe in regime change, libertarians and fiscal conservatives who despair at the growing Iraq budget). Even an establishment figure like William F. Buckley is having doubts about the ability to democratize a country like Iraq.

    Murmurings from within the Republican Party are that if they lose the next election, it could have major implications for the party’s relationship with the neo-cons. And already William Kristol is threatening war if the GOP moves against them, even if it means they will have to forge an alliance with the “hawkish liberals”. It seems the traditionalist, isolationist, nativist, fiscally-conservative Republican Party is on the march…

  3. Hal9000
    March 20th, 2006 at 21:15 | #3

    I wonder how the sales of GW Bush dolls resplendent in ‘mission accomplished’ flight suits are going? http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/3184709.stm

    I notice there are other, less adulatory versions on the market… here’s a flatulent one…

    http://www.prankplace.com/fbush.htm

  4. Harry Clarke
    March 20th, 2006 at 22:31 | #4

    I am pleased that a few in this sad world gain comfort from the collapse of Iraq into civil strife. ‘We told ya’ it was a ‘disaster from the start’. In the midst of terrible suffering there is joy – good. Let’s bring back Uncle Saddam with his palaces and devastated economy and his torture of innocents and killings of Kurds.

    Oh no! We don’t mean that – we mean we….well…don’t like John Howard or George Bush and we, eh,…we’re not pacifists but, well, war is difficult (write aparticularly when you have to defend it in the face of 20-20 ex post vision.

  5. Harry Clarke
    March 20th, 2006 at 22:33 | #5

    I got cut off in the midst of the last post and didn’t get time to edit….can’t be bothered rewriting.

  6. Doug
    March 20th, 2006 at 23:18 | #6

    Could Miranda (and her Dad), as card-carrying Catholics how they square their pro-war views with both the late JPII and the current Benedict XVI roundly condemning the Iraq invasion from day 1?

  7. brian
    March 21st, 2006 at 01:50 | #7

    Recently a US writer called the USA ” A Dead Man walking” because as even Miranda Devine must know,NONE of Bush and Von Rumsfeld threats against Iran matter a damm anymore.
    The US,or its ally Isreal, could bomb Iran but Iran will retailaiate by closing the Straits of Hormuz,and then oil goes to a $150 a barrel…and the US economy collapses. Big threat !!So the Bush Regime is stymied by their disaster in Iraq..How they must regret it ,and even the ludicrious efforts of Miranda Devine and her ilk are no longer able to excite anything more than ridicule.!! How sweet it is to see them all stewing in their own poisonous juices !

  8. Katz
    March 21st, 2006 at 05:57 | #8

    “Oh no! We don’t mean that – we mean we….well…don’t like John Howard or George Bush and we, eh,…we’re not pacifists but, well, war is difficult (write aparticularly when you have to defend it in the face of 20-20 ex post vision.”

    Harry, why take refuge in moral arguments when the overriding question is one of competence? Is your mindset on this issue consistent with your avocation as an academic?

    I don’t wish to seem immodest, but it is easy to establish my credentials as a dispassionate analyst of the disastrous policies of the Bush Clique. I am on record on this very blog for predicting (absolutely accurately as it turned out) that Bush’s Iraq misadventure would be a fiasco at the very time that Bush was bragging about “mission accomplished”. I believe that I achieved that accurate insight by dispassionate analysis. You should try it some time.

    Some people have adopted 20/20 hindsight. This annoys you. But remember Harry, there is no more fervent convert than a recent convert. Recent converts usually get over get over their triumphalism.

    And you’ve gotta admit, from the point of view of living in the “reality based” world, even triumphalism is preferable to denial.

  9. jquiggin
    March 21st, 2006 at 07:53 | #9

    Harry, it was wishful thinking that led us into this debacle. Until you and other war supporters accept the fact that the current position is a disaster, we’re unlikely to get a realistic assessment of our options. They’re all highly unattractive, but withdrawal is the least bad.

    Trying to censor the discussion by claiming that it’s wrong to point out how bad things are is a recipe for further disasters.

  10. Uncle Milton
    March 21st, 2006 at 08:24 | #10

    Harry, it is no doubt difficult for you to accept that you were just plain wrong about Iraq, but that doesn’t change the fact that you were just plain wrong.

    But your petulant criticism of those people who were right about Iraq, who were not just right in hindsight, but who predicted exactly the terrible situation we see today, does you no credit.

    Sooner or later you’re just going to have accept that the war was a huge error, because that is objectively true.

  11. Hal9000
    March 21st, 2006 at 09:20 | #11

    It’s hardly the case that those warning against the war were voices in the wilderness – the pre-war protests here in Australia were the biggest in history. The self-proclaimed champions of democracy Bush, Blair and Howard simply ignored what their people were telling them. Perhaps Harry has also forgotten the nauseating triumphalism of the right wing commentariat that accompanied ‘mission accomplished’?

    The faux concern for the Iraqi people that war boosters evince is unpleasantly odiferous. Torture, death squads, random violence on the streets, use of cluster bombs and phosphorous in urban areas, monumental corruption, Geneva convention-banned destruction of and then failure to rebuild civilian power and water infrastructure – these have been the hallmarks of the US occupation. It would take a monumentally bad occupation to make Hussein’s misrule look like a golden age, but Bush. Blair and Howard seem to have made it their mission.

    Last, let’s not forget why Hussein was able to preside over his starving country for his last fourteen years in office: strategic decisions by the Bush pere regime that then as now had zero to do with the welfare of the Iraqi people.

  12. derrida derider
    March 21st, 2006 at 10:17 | #12

    What the last 5 posters said.

    But I am still really angry about Iraq. Honest mistakes I can forgive, and many of the war’s supporters should be forgiven on these grounds (though it’d be nice if in future they allow for the tribal instincts in all of us that makes war seem so sexy, and make resolutions to not call those who point out obvious facts “objectively pro-Saddam”, “traitors”, “idiotarians”, “useful idiots”, etc).

    But the truly *wilful* ignorance and cold-blooded dishonesty which characterised the war’s architects is unforgivable. Their mistakes weren’t honest ones, and they belong in the dock in the Hague.

  13. Razor
    March 21st, 2006 at 11:10 | #13

    If you can comfort yourselves that you forecast a difficult war and therefore Hussein should have been left to his murdering and torturing then good luck too you.

    It is not an original question, but one that is unable to be adequately answered by those who are against the Coalition of the Willing’s actions in Iraq – If things are so bad in Iraq then where are the floods of refugees? They used to be itching to get out when Hussein was in power, yet now they don’t want to leave and in fact many have returned? Why? Perhaps because they can see the better future now than under Hussein.

  14. Katz
    March 21st, 2006 at 11:31 | #14

    Howzabout this one for starters Raz:

    Dateline March 19 2006

    http://www.capecodonline.com/cctimes/iraqisflee19.htm

    an extract:

    “Iraq’s violence, tough living conditions and uncertain future have caused many Iraqis – estimated at hundreds of thousands – to flee their country for refuge in Jordan, Syria and Egypt.”

    Now this is a very special group of folks. They are the Sunni or secularist elite. The very people the COW believed would be the most enthusiastic wavers of flowers and donors of chocolates. They’re jumping ship Razor.

    As for the rest, at present there is a lot of regional ethnic cleansing going on as sectarians pick on each other.

    But the Shiite majority aren’t running away from the country any more.

    Why?

    because they know they’re going to win.

    This point is just too unpalatable for Bush. He’s still talking as if al Qaeda were the most potent military force in Iraq. They never were.

    And pretty soon now the most potent military force in Iraq will be listening carefully to suggestions from Teheran.

    Meanwhile, as Miranda has breathlessly reminded us, the US and Iran are soon to have a nice little chat about the future of Iraq.

    I wonder what shape the conference table will be.

  15. Razor
    March 21st, 2006 at 12:07 | #15

    That is crap that the Sunni were expected to be the most happy about the removal of Hussein. He was a Sunni – the Sunni were the dominant minority, so they weren’t ever going to be happy about losing power.

    It is interesting that those who have left appear to only be going to neighbouring countries and not, from the story you link to, looking to leave permanently. It is reasonable to assume that they expect to be able to return in the near future, unlike those that left in Hussein’s rule with no hope that he would be toppled from within or outside help.

    Another interesting question – during Husseins time their wasn’t the public sectarian violence, except in episodes such as against the Marsh Arabs or the Kurds, because there was continuous institutionalised sectarian violence. Now that is is more public and less refined, why does this make it suddenly less acceptable than it was before when nobody, particularly the antiwar-left and UN, cared? The No-Fly zones were enforced for years in order to limit the sectarian violence, but becaus ehtere were few Western casualties, there was no news story so no-one gave a damn, despite the fact that US and UK pilots wre putting there lives on the line everyday for it.

    It is clear from day one that Iran has been trying to gain influence in the Shia. Does this mean it was a mistake to remove Hussein? Does this mean that we should stop training the Iraqi security forces to defeat the insurgents? If the democratic outcome ends up with a Shia majority that is friendly with Iran, so what? That is their choice. This is same as the Palestinians – they have a form of democracy and have voted Hammas into power. Now they are upset because their financiers are saying that they won’t give money to terrorists committed to the elimination of Israel. I don’t see the problem. If that is their choice then they made their bed and they can lie in it. When they work out they have made a bad choice for themselves, maybe they’ll change there decision and vote for someone more moderate. As long as the people get to make a vote in a fair election I don’t give a crap who gets into power, as long as those in poower maintain the rule of law and allow free and fair elections.

    Bottom line – if the insurgents didn’t keep blowing up Iraqis and the occaisonal COW target, the vast majority of troops wouldn’t be there now would they!

    Australian troops were committed in East Timor for about six years after chasing off three men and a dog. There are Aussie Peace Keepers in the Golan Heights and has been for over thirty years. We’ve been sending AFP to Cyprus for decades. Anybody who expected less than a five year commitment in Iraq were dreaming. I always thought a decade would be optimistic.

  16. Katz
    March 21st, 2006 at 14:05 | #16

    “Bottom line – if the insurgents didn’t keep blowing up Iraqis and the occaisonal COW target, the vast majority of troops wouldn’t be there now would they!”

    Your point being … ?

    Ever heard the story about the Tar Baby Razor? It’s a famous American folk tale. I guess Americans don’t tell each other folk tales so much nowadays, more’s the pity.

    There are small numbers of Islamists who love blowing up Americans. They don’t want the Americans to leave just yet. They’re having too much fun!

    As to your rather elementary misconception about the Sunni Razor, can I highly recommend the latest episode of Riverbend’s blog?

    http://riverbendblog.blogspot.com/

    She is a secular Sunni, which under the Ba’athist regime was more or less the equivalent of being C of E in Australia. She hated the Ba’athist regime but as time has gone on has grown nostalgic for some of its benefits. Her family and loved ones are bugging out of iraq.

    An extract:

    “The thing most worrisome about the situation now, is that discrimination based on sect has become so commonplace. For the average educated Iraqi in Baghdad, there is still scorn for all the Sunni/Shia talk. Sadly though, people are being pushed into claiming to be this or that because political parties are promoting it with every speech and every newspaper- the whole ‘us’ / ‘them’. We read constantly about how ‘We Sunnis should unite with our Shia brothers…’ or how ‘We Shia should forgive our Sunni brothers…’ (note how us Sunni and Shia sisters don’t really fit into either equation at this point). Politicians and religious figures seem to forget at the end of the day that we’re all simply Iraqis.”

    Wishful thinking got the COW into this mess. Wishful thinking isn’t going to get them out.

  17. Razor
    March 21st, 2006 at 14:28 | #17

    What’s my point – my point is that those who are killing innocent civilians and targetting the COW troops are doing so, not because they want to defeat the COW because they are Invaders, but because they know that a democracy that upholds t erule of law is an anathema to their aims – whether they are thugs or theocrats. This being the case, they shouldn’t be allowed to win and Iraqi people must be given a chance to get an operating democracy and the rule of law into place. Those who oppose the continued operations of the COW in Iraq are playing the tune of the thugs and theocrats – just the same as the Anti-War supporters did during Vietnam – and look what happened there once the communists won – some workers paradise!!

    I actually do know the story of the Tar Baby and Brer Rabbit and the Briar Patch (I’ll admit to checking beause it is awhile since my Mother read the stories to me) but what on earth has it got to do with this situation?

    You have failed to answer any of the questions I raised that go to the heart of the matter of why Hussein was deposed and why the Iraqi people must be supported in efforts to get a democracy and the rule of law established in Iraq.

  18. Katz
    March 21st, 2006 at 15:00 | #18

    Razor,

    “Failure” had nothing to do with my decision not to go over again the moral imperative that hides behind the word “must”. We’ve danced that dance before. My previous arguments still stand and they still trump yours. But for the present purpose I can do no better than to refer you to your own recent argument in anther thread, viz:

    “The fact is that the conduct of war is rarely a moral issue.”

    (Unusually succinct Razor.)

    Just one question Razor: just how much blood and treasure are you prepared to invest in achieving your moral imperative?

    Now story time:

    Brer Rabbit is the insurgents, don’t you see. Look how that wily Brer Rabbit made Brer Fox do exactly the wrong thing by contrasuggestion.

    An’ Ol’ Brer Fox, didn’t he just get mad enough to bust?

  19. Steve Munn
    March 21st, 2006 at 15:41 | #19

    Razor says: ““The fact is that the conduct of war is rarely a moral issue.â€?

    I think Hitler said the same thing in “Mein Kampf”.

    If that was true Australians would have no business bitching about the Japs’ treatment of Aussie POWs in WWII, the Chinese would have no business whining about the Rape of Nanking and the Jews should be told to shut up about the Final Solution.

    Then we could tear up the Geneva Convention and the various treaties that prohibit biological and chemical warfare.

    Razor, are you as immoral and dim as a one watt light-bulb or are you trying to entertain us with a dumb and dumber type act? You sir, disgust me.

  20. March 21st, 2006 at 16:33 | #20

    jquiggin Says: March 21st, 2006 at 7:53 am

    Harry, it was wishful thinking that led us into this debacle. Until you and other war supporters accept the fact that the current position is a disaster, we’re unlikely to get a realistic assessment of our options. They’re all highly unattractive, but withdrawal is the least bad.

    The War is a debacle but not a complete disaster, yet. Iran would have to invade and occupy Southern Iraq and Saudi Arabia would have to fall the the Bin Ladenists before we could give it absolute zero (0) degrees (Kelvin) score on the scale of warm and fuzzy events.

    But most everything else has gone badly wrong. Iraq’s declining security and buted economy, oil output down, terrorist provovation, Islamists in government, WMD proliferation etc.

    There are a couple of glimmers of hope. Its nice for the Shiites that they have democratic control of the Iraqi state. They can now persecute their hated Suuni enemies with full democratic legitimacy. Such are the joys of multiculturalism in a multinational democracy. And the US has its enduring bases in Iraq, so it is well positioned to be surrounded by Islamic enemies.

    We should quit the urban areas of Iraq ASAP. Garrison the oil installations to stop terrorist sabotage. Put regional powers on notice to stop military expansionists. Arm our allies, seal the borders and let the Iraqis duke it out amongst themselves, as they have been dying to do so for centuries.

    Trying to censor the discussion by claiming that it’s wrong to point out how bad things are is a recipe for further disasters.

    Stove-piped disinformation and blue-skies forecasts got us into this mess, made it worse and are keeping us there. Its well past time for the bears to take matters into hand.

    For those interested in the problems of journalists trying to cover Iraq have a look at Orville Schell on Journalism under Siege in Baghdad. He nicely captures the unpleasantness of journalists trapped in a pincer between spin-doctoring Coalition authorities and head-chopping Iraqi insurgents. The conclusion:

    It may well be that the besieged American press in Iraq will find that the main story is not about Americans fighting Iraqi insurgents, but Americans standing powerlessly aside in their armed compounds, Green Zone, and military bases, watching as Iraqis kill other Iraqis and the country disintegrates. It would be all too ironic if this were the result of the invasion of March 2003, which was promoted as a critical step in bringing peace to the Middle East.

    The ME is a bad place. We are not wanted there. Everything we do only makes it worse. Why are we in Iraq?

  21. Razor
    March 21st, 2006 at 16:34 | #21

    Katz – so taking your analogy, the correct thing to do is to withdraw all foriegn troops from Iraq and let them settle it amongst themselves – Afghanistan too?

    As for what is an acceptable cost – I don’t have the answer because there never is one. How much should have been spent on WWII? How much on the Falklands? That is a question for the Government of the day to decide. Why don’t we have a Policeman on every corner stopping all crimes?

    Steve Munn – I’ll leave your snide little Nazi analogy alone. You debase yourself by using it.

    As for the Law of War, I never said anything about not applying them – I was just pointing out to the idealsitic “Moral War” poster the facts. I spent over a decade in the ADF and was trained in applying those laws. I currently have good friends in both Iraq and Afghanistan putting their lives on the line. Unless you’ve been on the two way rifle range I don’t think you can go getting all high and mighty to me about how moral war is.

  22. Katz
    March 21st, 2006 at 16:48 | #22

    “Why don’t we have a Policeman on every corner stopping all crimes?”

    Because we can’t afford it.

    The same reason that the Bush Clique has cut off funding for Iraq reconstruction.

    So, assuming in the face of all evidence that the Bush clique isn’t at this very moment constructing a pretext for withdrawal, and they in fact cause their troops to stay in Iraq, what then? “You want infrastructure? Sorry, not in the budget.”

    Moral: never make a promise you can’t keep.

    PS: I wouldn’t stand in the way of alarmists who’d be prepared to go to Iraq to fight for their ideals. Kills two birds with one stone. Trouble is, chicken hawks just don’t seem to thrive beyond home borders.

  23. Katz
    March 21st, 2006 at 17:07 | #23

    When are Iraq war apologists going to face facts?

    The only reasons for the continuation for the military debacle in Iraq exist in Washington DC.

    1. Bush’s refusal to have his historical record smirched with a tick in the loss column.

    2. The fear of military strategists at being forced to admit to the fact that the most expensive conventional armed force in history STILL hasn’t found a way to beat an insurgency equipped with AK-47s.

    3. Turf wars inside the US Administration between neo-cons and realists.

    4. Sincere but stupid adherence to the proposition that ordinance can defeat an idea.

    5. Misunderstanding of the nature of the enemy, as if there is a “Western Front” in Iraq that serves as a physical barrier to prevent the spread of terrorists elsewhere.

    6. Pandering to the Republicans’ chauvinistic, xenophobic, fundamentalist, Red State base.

    7. Crony capitalism. Bush’s pals are raking it in servicing the US military adventure.

  24. smiths
    March 21st, 2006 at 17:17 | #24

    i think its time we all started ignoring miranda,
    dont quote, refence or attack her, or that muppet gerard henderson,
    its a sick state of affairs when someone of their incredibly low calibre has the position they have
    if everyone just ignores them we will rob them of the response they so despereately desire

  25. avaroo
    March 21st, 2006 at 19:27 | #25

    I can’t say that I know of anyone who is actually pro-war. But certainly there are people who feel this effort in Iraq was both necessary and likely to be successful. I agree with Razor, we should give the Iraqi people the chance they deserve no less than the rest of us, the chance to determine their own future. The terrorists targeting civilians in Iraq are not freedom fighters, they are against freedom for the Iraqi people.

    Razor is also right that there is never an acceptable cost for any war. Certainly US loss of life in WWII was not acceptable. Yet how many would argue that US participation in WWII was not necessary? There are worse things than fighting a war, capitulating to tyrants is certainly worse.

    As to how the war has gone and is currently going, well, like all wars, terribly. Can anyone name a war that DIDN’T go terribly? It’s the nature of war to go terribly. Some Americans would argue that we should be less careful about civilian deaths, as we were probably less careful in WWII than we are now. All to end the war more quickly and get Iraq on the way to democracy. While the loss of life would be much more along the lines of WWII than it currently is, I don’t know that I agree with this. I think we should be as careful as possible about civilian life, balancing that care with protecting the lives of our own people in Iraq.

    Islamism is an idea, just as naziism was. And ideas can be defeated, although usually at great cost. What we have to recognize is that if we don’t halt the spread of radical islamism, we’re all in danger all the time. We cannot depend on simply not being in the wrong place at the wrong time, such as a train station in Spain or a bus station in London.

  26. avaroo
    March 21st, 2006 at 19:30 | #26

    “Why don’t we have a Policeman on every corner stopping all crimes?�

    Because we can’t afford it.”

    Not really. We (Americans at least) probably can afford it, if we were to so choose. The reason we don’t have a policman on every corner is actually that we don’t want to live in a police state. I’d guess the same applies to Australia.

  27. SJ
    March 21st, 2006 at 19:59 | #27

    “We (Americans at least) probably can afford it, if we were to so choose. “ Ah yes. Americans can afford anything. As long as the Chinese government believes this, it might actually be true.

    “…we don’t want to live in a police state.” Warantless wiretaps, warantless physical searches, illegal surveillance of places of worship and religious meetings (Quakers ferchrissake). Yep, that’s a credible point avaroo – maybe in some alternate universe.

  28. avaroo
    March 21st, 2006 at 20:24 | #28

    Razor, another reason we don’t have a policeman on every corner, aside from the fact that we don’t want to live in a police state, is that a society, and society, cannot and doesn’t have to stop ALL crimes to function. And no society does stop all crime. It just has to stop enough crime for citizens to feel relatively safe.

  29. avaroo
    March 21st, 2006 at 20:46 | #29

    February 7, 2006
    NSA Adds Alert and Choices on Tapped Calls
    by Scott Ott

    (2006-02-07) — After a day in which Attorney General Alberto Gonzales faced tough questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee about the legality of America’s best-known secret terrorist surveillance program, the National Security Agency (NSA) said it would alter its wiretap protocol to reduce the threat to civil rights.

    Under the new procedures for intercepting a telephone call from an al Qaeda operative to a U.S. resident, the two parties engaged in conversation will hear a brief alarm bell every 30 seconds, followed by a recorded announcement that says: “In order to better protect the United States from devastating terror attacks, this call may be monitored.�

    According to covert NSA spokesman Louis Slipps, “the new measures carry the assumption that some Americans may be unaware that they’re talking with terrorists, or do not realize that their casual chatter with an al Qaeda buddy may aide and abet the enemy.�

    Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-VT, who yesterday told the Attorney General that he’s concerned about “peaceful Quakers who are being spied upon. and other law-abiding Americans and babies and nuns who are placed on terrorist watch lists“, today welcomed the new ‘liberty-enhanced’ secret wiretap program that the NSA dubbed “Operation Let Freedom Ring.�

    “Thanks to these changes, the Quakers can stop quaking from fear and return to their regularly-scheduled quaking in response to divine revelation,� said Sen. Leahy. “And law-abiding Americans who just happen to have friends in al Qaeda, can rest easier tonight.�

    In addition to the monitoring alert, Mr. Slipps said U.S. residents on NSA-intercepted calls will soon be offered a menu of options, including the following:

    – To continue in Arabic press ‘one’ or say wâhid
    – To hear a complete listing of the steps required to obtain a wiretap warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, press, or say, two
    – If you’re a law-abiding American, press, or say, three
    – If you’re a Quaker, a baby or a nun and feel you have reached this recording in error, please hang up the phone and dial a number that’s not associated with al Qaeda.
    – To speak with an NSA representative, remain on the line until we complete the trace. You may hear a brief series of clicks, followed by a knock at your door.
    – To call in a CIA predator-drone attack on the party to whom you are speaking, press the ‘pound’ key

  30. SJ
    March 21st, 2006 at 21:19 | #30

    I realise that you think that’s kinda funny, avaroo. I also realise that you’re kinda dumb.

    The US security organisations have almost nobody who understands arabic. If they intercepted all of Osama’s calls, it’d be completely useless because they can’t understand what he’s saying.

    But they can understand English, so they monitor the Quakers, and probably you too, instead. They’ll probably nail you for posting at a foreign leftie site. Send me a postcard from the Bay. :)

  31. SJ
    March 21st, 2006 at 22:08 | #31

    Razor says: “I spent over a decade in the ADF and was trained in applying those laws. “

    Can you clarify this a bit, Razor? Army, Navy, Cadets, pencil pushers, perpetual KP duty? Were you ever on the “two way rifle range”? Where?

  32. Razor
    March 21st, 2006 at 23:27 | #32

    SJ – I’m not going to go over my military CV in detail. I will disclose that I was an Army Officer in a Combat Arms Corps. I never deployed on operations. I have lost friends including one of my best mates in training accidents including the Blackhawk disaster and have enough friends with combat and peacekeeping service from Vietnam onwards to understand the personal costs of those experiences.

    Recognizing those costs I fully support the continuing operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and other theaters – freedom is a precious gift and the best thing the Western world can do for the future of our children is to bring freedom, democracy and the rule of law to people who live under tyranny and in poverty.

  33. Doug
    March 22nd, 2006 at 00:49 | #33

    “The US security organisations have almost nobody who understands arabic. If they intercepted all of Osama’s calls, it’d be completely useless because they can’t understand what he’s saying.”

    I understand that one US security did have 6 Arabic-speakers, but as 4 of them were gay, they were sacked, for no other reason than their sexual-orientation. I’m sorry I can’t source the story now, as it was about 4 years ago.

  34. Hal9000
    March 22nd, 2006 at 09:20 | #34

    “bring freedom, democracy and the rule of law to people who live under tyranny and in poverty.”

    What, by recruiting, training and arming death squads? news.independent.co.uk/ world/middle_east/article347806.ece

    We read this very morning that US forces murder (or would you prefer ‘execute’?) 11 members of an extended family – bound and shot at close range – and then blow up the building to conceal the crime. If this is freedom, democracy and the rule of law then those words have lost all meaning. And if you have no pity for Arabs, can’t you see at least what damage this is doing to the mental health of these youngsters in uniform forced to fight this dirty war?

    BTW, has anyone noticed how al-Zarqawi no longer features in the Pentagon/media voiceover? Like OBL, he’s no longer a useful bogey man, it seems.

  35. avaroo
    March 22nd, 2006 at 10:07 | #35

    There are a lot of arabic speakers living in the US. I find it hard to believe that that fact wouldn’t be common knowledge.

    “Recognizing those costs I fully support the continuing operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and other theaters – freedom is a precious gift and the best thing the Western world can do for the future of our children is to bring freedom, democracy and the rule of law to people who live under tyranny and in poverty. ”

    well said, razor. And now it’s time for my weekly warrantless physical search…….honestly, it’s amazing how little some people, apparently educated, know about the US. It’s not like there isn’t plenty written about us.

  36. avaroo
    March 22nd, 2006 at 10:12 | #36

    “WASHINGTON — Arabic speakers, including hundreds of Arab-Americans, have flooded the FBI with applications for jobs as translators since Sept. 11, according to officials who say that some of those hired already are playing key roles in terrorism probes.”

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2002/04/25/us-arabs-fbi.htm

    Arabic speakers are relatively peaceful here in the US too. Not like in Europe.

  37. Steve Munn
    March 22nd, 2006 at 11:39 | #37

    Razor says: “I’m not going to go over my military CV in detail. I will disclose that I was an Army Officer in a Combat Arms Corps.”

    I worked for 10 years in Military Compensation and dealt regularly with your sort. Nancy Boys who cry Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Gulf War Syndrome or some other bloody thing at the drop of a hat.

    I’m sorry if it sounds unpatriotic but I feel more sorry for the “liberated” kiddies with ampuated legs and arms, napalm burns and dead mommies as a result of “collateral damage”.

  38. Razor
    March 22nd, 2006 at 11:53 | #38

    Steve – I only had my claims for knee, back and shoulder recognised. So you’re responsible for rejecting the rest!!

    Nancy Boy!! Oh the pain. Shouldn’t have put on my purple tie this morning! It gives me away, obviously.

    Talking about PTS etc. – I have anecdotally observed that males are more severely effected by relationship breakdowns than participating in combat operations. And I am yet to be convinced about Gulf War Syndrome.

  39. March 22nd, 2006 at 12:19 | #39

    Hal9000,
    Maybe they just realised that they were giving him so much free publicity and driving the “jihad” that way.

  40. Ian Gould
    March 22nd, 2006 at 18:08 | #40

    “things are not nearly as bad as “the French Reign of Terror, or the Russian and Chinese revolutions, not to mention the disasters that were Vietnam and Cambodia.â€? ”

    Yes Margaret and the miltiary position of the US forces is nowhere near as bad as that of the British during the retreat from Kabul or the Battle of Khartoum.

  41. Ian Gould
    March 22nd, 2006 at 18:11 | #41

    >As neo-conservative a figure as Francis Fukuyama has been prepared, not just to take his fellow neo-cons …

    I think Fukyama was always more of a non-hyphenated conservative.

  42. Ian Gould
    March 22nd, 2006 at 18:13 | #42

    >I am pleased that a few in this sad world gain comfort from the collapse of Iraq into civil strife. ‘We told ya’ it was a ‘disaster from the start’. In the midst of terrible suffering there is joy – good. Let’s bring back Uncle Saddam with his palaces and devastated economy and his torture of innocents and killings of Kurds.

    It’s equally heartwarming to see the people who supported the invasion accepting their share of the responsibility for the ensuing disaster.

  43. Ian Gould
    March 22nd, 2006 at 18:14 | #43

    Furthermore, as a non-Kurd I’m puzzled by Harry’s apparent belief that Kurds killing Sunnis marks a major improvement on Sunnis killing Kurds.

  44. Ian Gould
    March 22nd, 2006 at 18:17 | #44

    >Bottom line – if the insurgents didn’t keep blowing up Iraqis and the occaisonal COW target, the vast majority of troops wouldn’t be there now would they!

    Yes, most wars would end a lot faster if the other side didn’t shoot back.

    Damned unsporting of them.

  45. Ian Gould
    March 22nd, 2006 at 18:19 | #45

    >I can’t say that I know of anyone who is actually pro-war. But certainly there are people who feel this effort in Iraq was both necessary and likely to be successful.

    I know a guy who believes his plan to block out the CIA mind-control lasers with tinfoil is “both necessary and likely to be successful”.

  46. SJ
    March 22nd, 2006 at 19:31 | #46

    avaroo Says: “And now it’s time for my weekly warrantless physical search…….honestly, it’s amazing how little some people, apparently educated, know about the US.

    Not really. What’s amazing is how little some people who purport to live there know.

    The White House says spying on terror suspects without court approval is ok. What about physical searches?

    But in a little-noticed white paper submitted by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to Congress on January 19 justifying the legality of the NSA eavesdropping, Justice Department lawyers made a tacit case that President Bush also has the inherent authority to order such physical searches. In order to fulfill his duties as commander in chief, the 42-page white paper says, “a consistent understanding has developed that the president has inherent constitutional authority to conduct warrantless searches and surveillance within the United States for foreign intelligence purposes.”

    Shortage of Arabic speakers threatens U.S. security.

    Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Arabic translators have been critical players in the battle against terrorism, sifting through what a U.S. intelligence official called “warehouses” of documents and tapes that could help thwart attacks.

    Yet more than two years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the U.S. government still faces a big shortage of Arabic linguists — which officials from the CIA to the Pentagon say is a serious national security concern.

    Officials and linguists say there is no short-term solution, thanks to tough U.S. security checks and uncompetitive government pay, coupled with a distaste for U.S. policies among some Arabists.

    “Our ability to find Osama bin Laden is compromised more by our paucity of language ability” than any shortfall in military training, Rep. Rush Holt, a New Jersey Democrat, said at a recent U.S. House of Representatives hearing.

    Greater language skills could also help Washington win the “battle of ideas” in the Middle East, where many Arabs are highly suspicious of U.S. motives. Many Muslims are convinced the war on terror is really just a crusade against Islam.

  47. March 23rd, 2006 at 12:17 | #47

    Ian Gould,
    I have also heard of people who said that the way to end war is to give up weapons unilaterally. Sort of similar to the tinfoil, isn’t it?

  48. Ian Gould
    March 23rd, 2006 at 17:47 | #48

    Andrew, quite similar.

    Which is why, for abotu the 50th time, I supported the Gulf War, the Kosovo War and the invasion of Afghanistan.

    My opposition ot the invasion of Iraq was based neither on abstract principle or on reflex anti-americanism, it was based on a belief that Iraq was not a credible threat to the west and the likely casualties inflicted would exceed the death toll caused by leaving Saddam in power.

    I really, really wish I had been mistaken.

  49. William
    March 24th, 2006 at 14:11 | #49

    Razor: “I will disclose that I was an Army Officer in a Combat Arms Corps.”

    The Australian Army doesn’t have a Combat Arms Corps (the US Marines do).
    http://www.defence.gov.au/army/traditions/corps.htm

  50. avaroo
    March 25th, 2006 at 12:04 | #50

    Ian, if Iraq was not a credible threat to anyone, why did the UN keep saying for 12 years, that it was?

    Saddam was going to continue to kill had he been left in power and then his sons were going to continue to do so after Saddam. I find the theory that going to war based on how many casualties would occur as opposed to how many would occur if one didn’t go to war a very strange way of making such a decision. Certainly more Americans died because we entered WWII than would have died had we not entered the war and left Saddam in power.

    I’d add more but unfortunately, we Americans have lost all of our rights and no longer have the right to free speech. Just ask some of the tin foil brigades hanging around this thread.

  51. avaroo
    March 25th, 2006 at 12:07 | #51

    As for being pro-war, I guess everyone is, at some level of provocation. We just all have different points of provocation.

  52. avaroo
    March 25th, 2006 at 12:09 | #52

    ooops, make that “more Americans died because we entered WWII than would have died had we not entered the war and left HITLER in power” not Saddam in my post as 12:04pm.

  53. March 25th, 2006 at 12:42 | #53

    “Ian, if Iraq was not a credible threat to anyone, why did the UN keep saying for 12 years, that it was?”

    Well, it didn’t say so in so many words. It came up with a compromise form of words, yielding to US pressure, that the USA subsequently interpreted in the way it wanted to. So all it really was was a repeat of existing US views, not independent confirmation of them.

  54. avaroo
    March 25th, 2006 at 13:09 | #54

    It said exactly that in 17 UNSC resolutions.

  55. Harry Clarke
    March 25th, 2006 at 14:48 | #55

    Ian

    Its not clear that the US have caused more deaths with their invasion policy than Saddam would have.

    See the Davis et al. study:

    http://gsbwww.uchicago.edu/fac/steven.davis/research/War%20in%20Iraq%20versus%20Containment%20%20(15%20February%202006).pdf.

    Apart from torture and repression Saddam killed or caused the deaths of 500,000 of his own citizens. He killed 200,000 Kurds and forcibly relocated 1.5 million of them.

    Davis et al estimate that, under the containment policy introduced after 1991, Saddam killed another 200,000. They estimate 10,000-30,000 Iraqis would have continued to die annually had containment continued.

    This suggests a higher death toll than has occurred with the US invasion.

    Davis et al. acknowledge that this might not continue to be true if full-scale civil war does break out as a consequence of the invasion but, in any event, one cannot assume that the alternative to the US invasion would have been low loss of life.

    The US invasion might not have worked out as plasnned but it is entirely wrong to suppose the situation in Iraq would have been a bed of roses had the US not invaded.

  56. Ian Gould
    March 25th, 2006 at 14:53 | #56

    “They estimate 10,000-30,000 Iraqis would have continued to die annually had containment continued.”

    Actually Harry that does not exceed the likely deaths that have resulted from the US invasion.

    I suggest you visit tim Lambert’s “Deltoid” blog at http://www.scienceblogs.com for further discussion on this issue.

  57. avaroo
    March 25th, 2006 at 15:03 | #57

    Ian, you must be counting every death in Iraq as caused by the US invasion. Civilians deaths caused by insurgents are not on the US’ tab as far as I’m concerned. They are on the tab of the insurgents themselves.

  58. Harry Clarke
    March 25th, 2006 at 15:45 | #58

    I think the Lambert figure of 200,000 is based on a doubling of the Lancet figures which I think most believe are exaggerated. Iraq Body Count (an anti-war group) reckon about 35,000 over the 3 years which is at the low end of the range 30,000-90,000 forecast by Davis et al.

    But I wouldn’t want this to turn on an inequality even if I am right.

    The point is that the ongoing cost of keeping Saddam in power was horrific. If you want to attribute blame to the US for casualties as a consequence of intervention it is reasonable to talk about the counterfactual – what would the killings have been had Saddam remained in power.

    Avaroo I think the majority of the killings are caused by the insurgency not US forces but in so far as the Insurgency is a consequence of US intervention these deaths must be included as a cost of the US intervention.

  59. jquiggin
    March 25th, 2006 at 16:03 | #59

    Harry, since you don’t want the argument to turn on an inequality you should start by accepting the facts

    (1) Iraq body count derives their number from published media reports, and refers solely to direct casualties from violence. It is an absolute lower bound.

    (2) No serious statistical challenge to the Lancet study has ever been made. The “most” who s it overestimated excess deaths are the same “most” who argued vociferously for the existence of WMDs even after the invasion. You are well enough qualified to check the debate on this one. Visit Tim Lambert’s site and you’ll see that the critics are a bunch of amateur (at best) statisticians starting from a predetermined conclusion

    (3) The Lancet study answers your question exactly. It measures excess deaths relative to the baseline of Saddam continuing in power

    (4) Of course, I agree with you that those who start to choose a war are responsible for all the consequences, including those that result directly from the actions of the other side(s).

  60. jquiggin
    March 25th, 2006 at 16:04 | #60

    On (4), of course, that doesn’t excuse the insurgents. More than one party can be responsible for the same crime.

  61. Katz
    March 25th, 2006 at 16:38 | #61

    These death-rates-based moralising debating points both for and against COW bellicosity in Iraq are based on gossamer-like counterfactual foundations.

    More seriously, they are irrelevant in explaining the invasion of Iraq.

    The salient factual issues are:

    1. The COW didn’t seize upon the humanitarian issue until after the repudiation of the WMD pretext. By that time, Iraq had already been occupied. Therefore, the humanitarian issue was never formally asseted as a cassus belli.

    2. Saddam’s atrocities were very serious but they were by no means orders of magnitude worse than contemporaneous events in the Congo, Uganda, Sudan, Burma, Aceh, North Korea. Only the most ingenuous naif would claim that humanitarian motives inspired COW intervention.

    More important now than the historians’ debate over motives for the Iraq misadventure is what comes next.

    I predict that humanitarian concern for Iraqis will play no part in COW disengagement. After the fast-approaching extinction of political support for the Bush administration in the Congress, any COW commitment that could remotely be interpreted as protective of Iraqi life and civil society will evaporate.

    Perhaps, US military will withdraw to secure bases in Iraq in the hope of being dealt back into the power game.

    Certainly a sizeable US force will remain in Iraq until the unlamented demise of Bush misrule in early 2009. But soon thereafter, during the honeymoon period of the new administration they’ll be withdrawn without major complaint.

    The parallel here is the October 1993 withdrawal of US troops from Somalia after the “Black Hawk Down” incident. Bill Clinton was happy to accede to popular demands to terminate a commitment to Somalia that had been made by his predecessor, the first Bush. Clinton suffered no long term political damage from this decision.

    Neither will the GWB’s successor suffer any political damage from Americans demanding that US troops be kept in Iraq after 2009 to protect humanitarian principles.

  62. Hal9000
    March 25th, 2006 at 16:41 | #62

    So, after three years and enough treasure to establish a viable colony of humans on Mars while curing malaria, world hunger and the third world debt, the very best argument war spruikers can come up with is that maybe, with a bit (well, all right, a lot) of creative accounting, a slightly smaller number of Iraqis are dying violent deaths than would have if Hussein had remained in office. What a ripper of an argument that is. Makes you want to go and pump George W Bush’shand, doesn’t it? I’m betting allthose amputee beterans in US military hospitals are weeping with gratitude.

  63. Ian Gould
    March 26th, 2006 at 02:37 | #63

    Let us assuem for the moment that Harry’s claims of of a possible reduction in mortality of up to 60,000 people has occurred.

    As Hal9000 points out that represents a pretty appalling return on an invest of over $500 billion (the exact figure is hard to determine but the allies have expended significant amounts in addition to the US expenditure).

    It works out to around $8 million per life saved.

    For a fraction of that amount we could have written of all thrid world debt, vaccinated every child on the planet and provided clean water to everyone on the planet.

    Harry, go read Tim Lambert’s posts before telling me what you “believe” his position is.

    Avaroo, I hesitate to inflict you on Tim but if you read his blog you will see that he is talking about the increase in fatalities since the invasion not “every death in Iraq”.

  64. Ian Gould
    March 26th, 2006 at 03:30 | #64

    The argument that the US is not responsible for the civil war their actions started is roughly equivalent to “I just busted the homicidial maniacs out of the maximum security prison for the criminally insance and gave them the automatic weapons, I’m not responsible for what thye chose to do with them.” or the bartender who serves someone five whiskeys and watches him drive off.

    We are all of us, responsible for the reasonably foreseeable consequences of our actions.

  65. Harry Clarke
    March 26th, 2006 at 03:58 | #65

    Well Ian I did follow your link to Tim Lambert and this is what I got:

    “Note for visitors from Daily Kos: 120,000 is an estimate of the number of violent deaths. The total number of extra deaths as a result of the war is very roughly 200,000 once you include the increase in disease and accidents since the invasion. This number is more likely to be too low than too high since it comes from doubling the 100,000 estimate from the Lancet study (which just covered the first eighteen months) and violence has worsened since then”

    My statement:

    “I think the Lambert figure of 200,000 is based on a doubling of the Lancet figures ”

    Sorry, where did I get it wrong?

    Of course as part of the Davis et al study are other counterfactuals relating to the cost of the war. The policy of containment which was widely viewed as an alternative to invasion (including I think by many who read John’s blog) was found to yield costs that were comparable to the costs of the war at $350-$700 billion (inclusive of costs of failures in the policy, possibility of limited war with the policy etc). Thus the opportunity cost of the war to Iraq is not high given this alternative.

    They also consider other counterfactuals such as the fact that Saddam drove the Iraq economy to 25% of its output.

    I tried to spell out the Davis et al arguments here:

    http://kalimna.blogspot.com/2006/03/invading-iraq-versus-containment.html

    And why the narky tone, Ian? Is it because someone dares question your priors? The claims I made in what concerned an issue of assessing the costs of the war were not strong. Again I quote in relation to the mortality costs:

    “Davis et al. acknowledge that this might not continue to be true if full-scale civil war does break out as a consequence of the invasion but, in any event, one cannot assume that the alternative to the US invasion would have been low loss of life.

    The US invasion might not have worked out as plasnned but it is entirely wrong to suppose the situation in Iraq would have been a bed of roses had the US not invaded”.

    By the way checking on the original Lancet study the estimated deaths had a confidence limit in total from under 10,000 to 194,000. One commentator described them as ‘dartboard’ estimates.

    I am not sure the Lancet figures do account for the killings by Saddam or just background mortality of the general population. These were then subtracted from an estimate based on a sample survey of deaths after the invasion. After spending some time looking at the various figures (including UN data which provides estimates close to Iraq Body Count and to Davis et al.) my feeling is that the true figure is somewhere between 10,000 and 200,000!

    Supporters of the invasion seem to go for a figure at about 3Xbottom of this range while opponents go for the top. My guess is that we really don’t have a clue what the actual death figures, post invasion are. Certainly not from the Lancet study.

    Ian if you are going to tell me to check out sources why don’t you do it yourself?

  66. Katz
    March 26th, 2006 at 09:10 | #66

    Harry,

    You support the conceptual model adopted by the Davis, Murphy, Topol (DMT) study:

    “DMT criticize the notion that the invasion can be rejected as a mistake because of its ‘high’ costs. They argue it is opportunity cost that matter – the cost of invasion compared to the cost of the next most plausible policy option, containment.”

    However, very correctly, and in my opinion somewhat understatedly, withhold support for the way in which DMT limit inputs on the cost side of the cost-benefit analysis:

    “… But I am unsure about specific assumptions attached to events that DMT envisage as possible and which they attach costs too.”

    1. How would a proponent of such counter-factual analysis go about setting realistic limits to the domain of costs resulting from pursuit of a particular course of action?

    2. Having established those limits, how would this proponent then arrive at justifiable estimates of the costs of these consequences of a particular course of action?

    To be specific:

    Is any damage that the Iraq adventure has imposed on the diplomatic credibility of the US within the domain of opportunity costs?

    If so, then how does one justify an estimate of actual costs that may be weighed against any hypothesised benefits that may eventually accrue?

    Necessarily, whenever human beings make any plans this seat-of-the pants thinking about costs and benefits must inform any decision.

    But there are so many imponderables and the units of measurement are so imprecise that one can perceive only the most indistinct outlines of what may lie ahead.

    Therefore, to rely on this methodology as a critical tool for implementation of policy, it seems, is rash.

    Interestingly, however, this methodology does have its uses for historical analysis. Historians can rake through the debris of failed ventures and ask themselves the questions:

    1. What consequences were unforeseen?

    2. What resources were overvalued?

    3. What barriers were underestimated?

    Historians then ask themselves the question: “How did the actors fail to learn from previous mistakes?” (Which has been my refrain during the entire Iraq misadventure.)

    And you are correct in assuming that Bush administration policy makers are contemplating the opportunity costs of different courses of action. The problem is that up to now they have proven to be particularly inept.

    Which brings us to the central point about counter-factual analysis: if it has proven so difficult for policy makers to learn from experience, how on earth can we trust their cost-benefit analysis of events that haven’t even happened yet?

  67. Ian Gould
    March 26th, 2006 at 11:28 | #67

    “Sorry, where did I get it wrong?”

    Whyen you went on to claim that “most believe the Lancet figures} are exaggerated”.

  68. Ian Gould
    March 26th, 2006 at 11:30 | #68

    “And why the narky tone, Ian? Is it because someone dares question your priors? ”

    I don’t know, people who cheer-lead for mass murder just irritate me.

    Obviously an irrational character flaw on my part.

  69. avaroo
    March 26th, 2006 at 12:56 | #69

    “Avaroo I think the majority of the killings are caused by the insurgency not US forces but in so far as the Insurgency is a consequence of US intervention these deaths must be included as a cost of the US intervention. ”

    Actually, the insurgency would exist even if the coalition left, since the goal of the insurgents is to rule Iraq. They cannot permit a democratic government to be established in Iraq. You’ll notice that the insurgents kill far more Iraqis than they kill coalition troops. If their goal was to eliminate the coalition, why would they purposely target Iraqis? And they do. The deaths at the hands of insurgents are no more on the coalition’s tab than the deaths of German civilians at the hands of Nazis were in WWII.

  70. avaroo
    March 26th, 2006 at 13:08 | #70

    Does anyone have an explanation for how it could be the coalition’s fault if an insurgent targets and kills an Iraqi civilian? Simply because the coalition is IN Iraq? Is that it?

    Let’s think about this. Say you kill an innocent person, someone you don’t know, just pick someone out of a crowd and slaughter them. When you get your day in court, your excuse is “I targeted and killed this person because some other person did something that made me angry.” Does anyone seriously believe that defense would fly?

  71. Hal9000
    March 26th, 2006 at 18:33 | #71

    Avaroo, when you invade and occupy someone else’s country you are responsible for what happens, including what the resistance gets up to. The resistance to the German occupation was pretty good at soft targets – collaborators, civilian transport etc too. I don’t think the ‘they did it, so we aren’t responsible’ defence worked too well for Goering, Doenitz and the rest of the lads in the dock at Nuremburg. I seem to recall it was the waging aggressive war rap that trumped all the others.

    Do you remember the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia to overthrow the Pol Pot regime? Now, despite the fact that the Viets had all manner of provocation as causus belli they were sent to the international sin bin for a decade by Saints Ronnie (with Bush pere at his side) and Maggie and all the rest. Now let me see, no provocation, no Security Council imprimatur, laughably bogus pretexts, – who’s responsible for turning Iraq from merely one of many sad middle eastern tyrannies into a facsimile of Somalia, then? Mightn’t it be the people who invaded the place, torture and bomb its inhabitants and continue to behave like the US cavalry in injun country circa 1875? No wonder George W is so down on international tribunals…

  72. Harry Clarke
    March 26th, 2006 at 21:25 | #72

    Katz, I think drawing the boundaries on this type of inquiry is difficult – yes and the further you push the more pure guesswork becomes part of the analysis. I think trying to attach numbers to things can teach the analyst something even if you don’t believe very specific conclusions.

    And yes I am sure you can learn from things you have overlooked.

    On costs of current policy for future credibility, Stiglitz and Bilmes mention this but don’t do any empirics. Obviously at the time of the invasion the US was trying to teach ‘rogue states’ a lesson but, as it turned out, the difficulties experienced mean the US is cramped in terms of dealing with Iran. Its an issue.

    Ian I showed both the claims you made were wrong – your claim that I hadn’t read the Lambert piece and your claim that the death statistics were irrelevant because of the costs – Davis et al considered counterfactuals both w.r.t. deaths and costs. Your response – an incredible piece of abuse that labels me and/or the authors I was considering cheerleaders for mass murder. My feelings about your statement, if expressed, would probably have me banned from this blog forever – so I’ll just remark that your views are inaccurate and foolish.

  73. avaroo
    March 27th, 2006 at 00:59 | #73

    “Avaroo, when you invade and occupy someone else’s country you are responsible for what happens, including what the resistance gets up to. ”

    No, I don’t think so. People are responsible for their own actions. If you target and kill women and children shopping in a market in Baghdad or riding a bus in Baghdad, you do so because you are capable of such action, not because of anything anyone else has done. I know the concept of personal responsibility is not popular in all quarters.

  74. avaroo
    March 27th, 2006 at 01:13 | #74

    “who’s responsible for turning Iraq from merely one of many sad middle eastern tyrannies into a facsimile of Somalia, then?”

    Saddam Hussein

  75. Hal9000
    March 27th, 2006 at 10:04 | #75

    Funny, Avaroo, I thought when the statue came down and the ‘mission accomplished’ banner went up the old Saddam’s capacity to inflict ruin ended. Seems if he’s still giving the orders the American prison authorities have a lot to answer for.

    ‘you target and kill women and children shopping in a market in Baghdad or riding a bus in Baghdad’. Or maybe a wedding party, or a family at home in Isahaqi, or an entire city bombed back to the stone age? Saddam responsible for all those deaths too? I take it you’d be sympathetic to those prisoners in the dock who argue that their parents, or school, or bad friends – indeed anyone but themselves – are responsible for their life of crime. Every army of occupation in history has referrred to resistance as bandits and terrorists – the Brits said it about the American revolutionaries and their cowardly guerilla tactics. Me, I fail to see the moral distinction between dropping bombs from aircraft and other more intimate forms of ‘targeting’. Same predictable result.

  76. avaroo
    March 27th, 2006 at 10:44 | #76

    “Funny, Avaroo, I thought when the statue came down and the ‘mission accomplished’ banner went up the old Saddam’s capacity to inflict ruin ended.”

    Saddam’s personal capacity to inflict ruin ended pretty much the day of the invasion.

    “Seems if he’s still giving the orders the American prison authorities have a lot to answer for.”

    Giving orders?

    “Or maybe a wedding party, or a family at home in Isahaqi”

    Neither of those were actually targets.

    “or an entire city bombed back to the stone age”

    like Dresden?

    “Saddam responsible for all those deaths too?”

    Saddam is fully responsible for the invasion and subsequent deaths just as Hitler was totally responsible for the allied invasion and subsequent European and American deaths. What is so difficult for you to understand about this?

    “I take it you’d be sympathetic to those prisoners in the dock who argue that their parents, or school, or bad friends – indeed anyone but themselves – are responsible for their life of crime. ”

    Actually, I’m FOR personal responsibility, you are the one arguing against it.

    “Every army of occupation in history has referrred to resistance as bandits and terrorists – the Brits said it about the American revolutionaries and their cowardly guerilla tactics. ”

    To my knowledge American revolutionaries didn’t target children. Do you really not understand that people who target children are different from other people?

    “Me, I fail to see the moral distinction between dropping bombs from aircraft and other more intimate forms of ‘targeting’. ”

    I know. It’s a huge failing on your part. It’s also why you and people like you will never be entrusted with making decisions about national security.

    “Same predictable result.”

    So the nazis killing jews was the same thing as allied troops killing nazis?

  77. Hal9000
    March 28th, 2006 at 10:56 | #77

    “Saddam is fully responsible for the invasion and subsequent deaths”

    What? By having WMD and threatening to nuke New York? I fail to see how even Hussein is responsible for something he did not do. In fact, he was telling the truth. Someone was, however, telling monumental porkies. The President and government of the United States of America. A lying pretext for aggressive war and invasion of a country that did not threaten them. So Saddam’s responsible for that?

    “It’s also why you and people like you will never be entrusted with making decisions about national security.” Tsk tsk. Touchy! Pangs of guilt perhaps? At any event, it is clear that we are all the less secure because people like you have unfortuately been entrusted with making decisions about national security.

  78. avaroo
    March 31st, 2006 at 10:06 | #78

    “What? By having WMD and threatening to nuke New York?”

    No, by refusing to comply with his ceasefire obligations to the UN.

    “Tsk tsk. Touchy! Pangs of guilt perhaps?”

    Yes, you know ust how devastated I am that Saddam is gone.
    :)

    “At any event, it is clear that we are all the less secure because people like you have unfortuately been entrusted with making decisions about national security. ”

    I’m not. You may be. Tough shit for you.

Comments are closed.