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Four years on

March 19th, 2007

The Iraq war began on March 20, 2003. I’ve run out of things to say on this tragedy, but feel free to discuss it in the comments thread.

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  1. Jill Rush
    March 19th, 2007 at 19:29 | #1

    The PM on ABC says that there is a glimmer of hope in Iraq – the eternal optimist. He also quotes a poll that says that the Iraqis prefer the current situation to the previous regime although most are fearful. It seems that we need new personnel to get some traction – new personnel at the top to change tactics is what is required.

  2. SJ
    March 19th, 2007 at 20:11 | #2

    He also quotes a poll that says that the Iraqis prefer the current situation to the previous regime although most are fearful.

    He lied.

  3. March 19th, 2007 at 22:58 | #3

    If the the US is ‘surging’ in Iraq, does this make US troops ‘insurgents’?

  4. fatfingers
    March 19th, 2007 at 23:50 | #4

    The Iraq war was well underway before March 20, 2003. Under the guise of no-fly zones, the US had been stripping Iraq of air defence for years. Dual-use sanctions were trying to disarm the Iraq military in preparation for possible attack. Commandos were carrying out missions before the official start of large-scale hostilities.

  5. David Allen
    March 20th, 2007 at 08:31 | #5

    John Howard’s optimism on Iraq is like the guy wandering around the race track looking on the ground for discarded winning tickets after he’s already lost the family home on race 8.

  6. March 20th, 2007 at 08:57 | #6

    Wazzup, JQ? Nothing left to say on Iraq? Really?

    Maybe you are too busy writing up your essay in praise of Howard? If so, lemme give you a little help…

    Many people are slowly wasting their lives in jails around Australia today after being found guilty of violent crimes. To his credit, John Howard has not (as far as I am aware) ever personally resorted to violence. He may have committed Australian soldiers to acts of deadly violence in an illegal war of aggression against a sovereign nation, in contravention of international law and basic ethical principles, based on lies to which he was almost certainly privvy, but he did not personally lead his troops into battle…

    PS: wait till you get every last cent that was pledged before you publish.

  7. Fred Argy
    March 20th, 2007 at 09:14 | #7

    John the big question on Iraq is whether and to what extent Howard lied to the Australian people.

    Clearly he did not deliberately lie in saying that Saddam had WMD’s. Most people agreed with that assessment – including Rudd – at the time.

    But did he lie on three other arguments he used to go to war? These were:

    First, that the WMD’s were supported by chemical and biological weapons.

    Second that these weapons posed an imminent danger and needed an immediate unilateral response as there was no time to allow the UN to finish its job.

    And thirdly that Saddam had close links to Al Quada (however that is spelt).

    I would like to know what you, John, and others think about these three alleged ‘lies’.

  8. Hal9000
    March 20th, 2007 at 09:53 | #8

    “Clearly he did not deliberately lie in saying that Saddam had WMD’s.”

    Strange use of the word ‘clearly’, Fred. Most people weren’t the government, with its sources of intelligence. Most people had to take them on trust – they knew it and they abused it with malice aforethought. The UN weapons inspectors who were actually there on the ground weren’t by any means sure about the WMDs. Most of the Powell speech to the UNSC has been since demonstrated to have been known to be fabricated at the time it was made – eg the aluminium tubes, the Niger yellowcake and the mobile weapons laboratories. Most of the rest was exploded as bunkum when the UN inspectors went to the indicated locations and found nothing. Nup. They lied in saying Saddam had WMDs. The correct version is that Rudd was fooled along with many others.

  9. March 20th, 2007 at 10:28 | #9

    “Clearly he did not deliberately lie in saying that Saddam had WMD’s.�

    Don’t forget that Howard had pre-war meeting with Bush and Blair too. Given what we know from the Downing Street Memos about intelligence bing fixed around the predetermined policy of invasion, Howard either:

    (a) Knew the WMD lies were bogus, or
    (b) Was not in on the scam.

    If (b) is true, then a gullible Howard was duped into committing Australian troops into an illegal war on the basis of deliberately falsified information (Google “WHIG” or “Office of Special Plans” if you don’t believe me). What does that say about our much-vaunted intelligence-sharing relationship with the Big Boys?

    If (a) is true, well…!

  10. Bill O’Slatter
    March 20th, 2007 at 11:07 | #10

    “KERRY O’BRIEN: blah, blah blah , talking to the wall.
    JOHN HOWARD: Well, I’ve pondered two things about Afghanistan. I pondered, firstly, why is it important to defeat the terrorists in Afghanistan, but it doesn’t matter in Iraq?”
    That Howard still repeats this canard must raise questions about his sanity.

  11. wilful
    March 20th, 2007 at 11:41 | #11

    Howard deliberately stripped out all of the qualifications and uncertainties that the ONA provided in it’s assessments. He came as close to lying as he ever does (being a man who’s always sure of his deniability in matters such as AWB, children overboard,etc)

  12. March 20th, 2007 at 14:24 | #12

    “Howard deliberately stripped out all of the qualifications and uncertainties that the ONA provided in it’s assessments. ”

    Just like Cheney, Perle, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld and Co. (Google “WHIG� or “Office of Special Plans� if you don’t believe me).

    Howard is a War Criminal.

    Australia is under the leadership of a known War Criminal.

    Australians re-elected Howard knowing he was a War Criminal, because he promised us cheap mortgages on our homes. What does that make us?

    There will come a time for reparations. There will come a time for payback. There will come a time for accountability.

    Look what we have helped do to the people of Iraq. Look what we have helped do to International Law. Look what we have done to our own country:

    KERRY O’BRIEN: Well, then, doesn’t that mean he’s lied to you?

    JOHN HOWARD: I haven’t come here to debate that. What I’ve come here to do is to answer your questions; to say very frankly, and I’m being very frank with you, how I feel about what has happened. I do feel let down.

    Oh, John, John, Johnny boy! Let’s forget about the half million dead! Let’s talk about HOW YOU FEEL! Let down? Disappointed? You poor man! After the fine example you have set, how could anyone have failed to fall into line? Errr… have you ever read Confucius?

    Chi K’ang asked Confucius about government, saying, “What do you say to killing the unprincipled for the good of the principled?” Confucius replied, “Sir, in carrying on your government, why should you use killing at all? Let your evinced desires be for what is good, and the people will be good. The relation between superiors and inferiors is like that between the wind and the grass. The grass must bend, when the wind blows across it.”

  13. observa
    March 21st, 2007 at 08:14 | #13

    Personally I like to think this is why we’re still there and in Afghanistan http://www.news.com.au/story/0,10117,21420243-401,00.html?from=public_rss

  14. observa
    March 21st, 2007 at 08:36 | #14
  15. Muskiemp
    March 21st, 2007 at 09:33 | #15

    Obs, I heard the same type of propaganda used in the Vietnam war. All BS.

  16. observa
    March 21st, 2007 at 09:40 | #16

    Although I can understand why many say we should concentrate on problems closer to home
    http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,21411910-2702,00.html
    http://www.news.com.au/story/0,10117,21403909-2,00.html?from=public_rss
    or why bother at all.

  17. March 21st, 2007 at 14:44 | #17

    Karma warning for John Howard and supporters:

    Former Spanish PM Jose Maria Aznar, an energetic participant in the Iraq War and now on the board of Rupert Murdoch’s News Ltd, is facing a War Crimes investigation from the judge who pursued the Pinochet case.

  18. March 22nd, 2007 at 00:13 | #18

    It’s good to see that the leadership of the Democratic Party realize that there is no other option except to continue providing military support to the legitimate government in Bagdad . Hilary Clinton is locked in. See her New York Times interview

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/14/washington/15clintontext.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

    As you can imagine, the rank and file of the party who want to adandon the Iraqi people and impeach Bush are not very happy with their leaders.

    http://www.pdamerica.org/

  19. observa
    March 22nd, 2007 at 07:44 | #19

    More propaganda muskiemp?
    http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,21426189-401,00.html
    This is no longer about Iraq or Afghanistan, although they just happen to be the front line at present. This is about the Religion of Peace and all those who sail with it, most notably many of the followers of the Doctrine of Peace. At least Hilary Clinton understands that.

  20. observa
    March 22nd, 2007 at 07:51 | #20
  21. stoptherubbish
    March 22nd, 2007 at 10:54 | #21

    So obs, it’s war against 1.2 billion muslims or death is it? I trust you have ensured you and yours sign up for this latest clash of ‘civilisation’ v the unbaptised barbarians. If you haven’t you are of course, a coward, an appeaser and a hypocrite. if you have, it must surely be time for you to hop off and do your bit for our way of life.

  22. observa
    March 22nd, 2007 at 14:06 | #22

    Apparently I need to concentrate on more important things like making sure our kiddies aren’t being exposed to junk food ads on TV str
    http://pmw.org.il/bulletins_mar2007.htm#b210307
    God and the morally concerned forbid that they should be eh?

  23. March 22nd, 2007 at 14:44 | #23

    Interesting you bring up the Vietnam war, muskiemp – pulling out of there was a good move. It lead to years of sweetness and light from the victors, no refugees, no partisan massacres, and no nastiness at all.
    We really can learn from history.

  24. sdfc
    March 23rd, 2007 at 13:55 | #24

    So the aftermath of Vietnam was worse than the war itself Andrew. Can you please point me to the ground breaking research that led you to that conclusion?

  25. March 23rd, 2007 at 14:29 | #25

    sdfc,
    Quick pop quiz, sdfc.
    1. Name the country immediately west of Vietnam that had a revolution funded by China to try to contain the Russian backed government of Vietnam.
    Additional bonus points for correctly guessing the numbers killed in that revolution and its aftermath.
    2. Identify several other proxy wars going on in the area that reached a crescendo immediately after the US withdrawal – not before it.
    3. Give a number for the quantity of refugees leaving Vietnam both before and after the end of the war. If it did go up, why was that?
    This little quiz could be extended indefinitely, but I think you get the point.
    What I am not saying is that the question is cut and dried either way – but that the simplistic idea that a withdrawal will calm the whole thing down and therefore we must do it has some serious problems.
    The problems may get worse, they may get better – but to repeat the mistake made at the start of not planning properly and just executing well should not be repeated.

  26. Hal9000
    March 23rd, 2007 at 15:54 | #26

    AR – hypothetical history is a fatuous pursuit, but I’d like to see the cogent argument you’d mount against the following proposition: if the US hadn’t torpedoed the Geneva accords in 1954, there would have been no 2 million killed in the countries of former French Indochina by the US. Arguably, there would have been no Khmer Rouge takeover in Cambodia – a rise fuelled by the secret bombing, you’ll recall – and there would have been no Pol Pot regime.

    In Iraq, without the US invasion there would have been no 4 million refugees, no 600,000 civilian dead, no car bomb massacres, no Abu Ghraib, no bombed-out ruins where cities once stood, and better electricity, clean water and hospitals than currently exist. And, unarguably, what atrocities there were under whatever regime held sway in Baghdad would not have been part of our collective responsibility as Australians.

  27. Roger
    March 23rd, 2007 at 16:01 | #27

    Diversity of views is important – we should listen to and respect the ideas and opinions of everyone posting this thread. Having said that, there were many reasons for the war – one of the most indefensible is that – according to someone who has analysed the data (Frank Rich)- it was concocted by Rove to boost the polls for the Republicans and Bush at a time when they/he needed it. Can anyone remember Bush raving about being a war President? Does he do that now? I know that most of us don’t want to believe that an American President would stoop so low – this does appear to be something that *actually* happened – why else would they not have a plan for Iraq – post invasion? They were going to bomb the bejesus out of the place and then *cut and run*. It’s only after the event that they became trapped – not during it. And trapped they will be until we can find someone who will deal with the mess. It’s only those who don’t learn from history (or read it – or understand it) that are doomed to repeat it – Bush, Blair and Howard never read history.

  28. March 23rd, 2007 at 16:49 | #28

    Hal9000,
    The point is not over whether we should go in to Iraq or not – that is truly hypothetical history. The question is over whether we pull out or not. Your question is hypothetical and therefore, as you said, “fatuous”.
    Mine is, IMHO, far from hypothetical. If we pull out, US soldiers will stop dying in Iraq. Will others die elsewhere? Will civilian deaths drop or increase? Asking “fatuous” questions will not assist in this analysis.

  29. Hal9000
    March 23rd, 2007 at 17:19 | #29

    AR – you are being disingenuous. Your questions about post-1975 Indochina are clearly intended as rhetorical devices to support continued engagement in Iraq. The obvious conclusion is in the form – if only we hadn’t withdrawn from Vietnam… and we still have this choice in Iraq. Leaving aside the issues of whether the US indeed had the military capacity to remain in Vietnam – remember the mutinous state of the US military in 1973 – the issue I raised in regard to Iraq is surely worthy of some response. No doubt people will die in violent deaths in Iraq regardless of whether Australia stays or goes or indeed whether the US stays or leaves. However, the deaths resulting from Australia and the US staying are deaths directly down to us. That’s what armies train for, AR, killing people.

    You’re asking everybody to trust that the same crew who brought us the ongoing disaster that is Iraq today through a nauseating combination of mendacity and bullying will turn into a force for good. Why on earth should anyone believe that? Why do you believe that? I’m reminded of a situation I was involved with a few years ago where ASIC managed to save about 70 cents in the dollar invested with a con artist who’d fled the country for Argentina. Some of the investors were so thoroughly conned they tried to injunct ASIC to prevent them from freezing the money they were being fleeced of. Even though the conman had taken up residence in Buenos Aires they were convinced that he was going to make them rich. Trust Bush and Cheney…

  30. Jim Birch
    March 23rd, 2007 at 21:13 | #30

    Correct, Hal. The leaders who argued for going into Iraq have been proven wrong on every significant point. You can’t argue that things have gone wrong due to unforeseen factors when the every major failure of the invasion was predicted by critics before the event. It is the refusal to consider these arguments as any more than a ideological or PR battle that makes Howard (etc) a war criminal. The fact that Rudd agreed (or more accurately was wedged into agreement) is neither here nor there – Howard was in command.

    When you are talking about what colour shirt you’ll wear, you have the choice of any belief system you like; when you make decisions that impact – seriously or fatally – on the lives of others, you are expected to use a reliable systems of beliefs, and culpable if you don’t. This applies whether you are driving a car, managing a swimming pool or presiding over a foreign invasion.

  31. sdfc
    March 23rd, 2007 at 23:17 | #31

    How many Vietnamese died during the period of heavy US involvement in the war?

    How many US soldiers died or were made invalid during the war?

    How many Australian soldiers died or were made invalid during the war?

    How many other coalition soldiers died or were made invalid during the war?

    Was it getting better before the US decided to pull out?

    What tonnage of bombs did the US drop during the war and how many civilians were killed by US bombs?

    How many landmines remain in Vietnam? (zero would be good)

    How much did it cost? Bretton Woods anyone.

    To still support the Iraq fiasco even after four years of disaster is one thing but to believe that the US should not have left Vietnam is bizarre.

  32. March 24th, 2007 at 00:37 | #32

    Well guys – those are your opinions. I would agree that, in deciding to go in, a mistake was made. That much is pretty clear – but to analyze it we would have to indulge in hal9000′s “fatuous” hypothetical history. Maybe leaving Saddam to systematically starve the country to build palaces for himself would have been better.
    However, having gone in we are now responsible for what happens afterwards. That includes any decision to now evacuate. The deaths that happen after we leave, in any mess left behind, are just as much down to those who made the decision as if they had pulled the trigger. I just hope that, when and if that decision is made it is made for the right reasons, not a simple desire to get “our people” out of harm’s way, but a genuine belief, backed up by proper analysis, that this is the best course of action for all involved, including most importantly the Iraqi people. I am yet to be convinced that this is the case.
    .
    sdfc – where have I said they should not have left Vietnam? It may well have been better, as Hal said, that the Geneva Accords had not been “torpedoed”. It may have been better in this instance that the US had not supported Hussein through the Iran / Iraq war and it may have been better for the planet if we had not come down from the trees – but, again, this is all “fatuous”. We do need to learn from history – we just have to hope it is not the wrong lesson.
    On one, minor, point though – I regard the collapse of Bretton Woods as one of the (few) good things to come out of the massive deficits run to fund the Vietnam war and the space program. You may believe otherwise. Up to you.

  33. Hal9000
    March 24th, 2007 at 12:34 | #33

    OK AR, what evidence do you have that the occupation is doing Iraq and the Iraqis any good? There is evidence aplenty it’s doing them harm, not the least of which is that it deprives them of sovereignty and self-respect – something I imagine would be uppermost in the minds of Australians if our nation was occupied by a bunch of trigger-happy teenagers with zero cultural sensitivity. When you say things will be worse if the occupation is terminated, it is you who are engaging in hypothesizing. So, evidence for benefits to Iraq from the occupation, please.

    “The deaths that happen after we leave, in any mess left behind, are just as much down to those who made the decision as if they had pulled the trigger.” On what moral grounds is that based? Let’s examine a much more clear-cut case of catastrophe on pullout than your Vietnam case – the British departure from partitioned India. Certainly the British bear some of the odium for the communal frenzy attending their pullout – it could and should have been better planned, and taken place a decade earlier. But noone I’m aware of, certainly not among the liberated Indians (and Pakistanis) seriously argues they should have remained as imperial masters and occupiers, or that their culpability would have been diminished if they had.

    In summary, the occupation has been, and will remain for so long as it continues, a disaster for Iraq and a primary source of the violence afflicting that society. The Iraqis may well have to endure much violence following a US withdrawal, but at least they’ll be masters of their own destiny – as the oldest civilised nation on the planet, something they’re surely entitled to. The only way for the US to mitigate the crimes it has committed would be to ensure that significant capital is made available for post-withdrawal rebuilding. The Vietnam example demonstrates the US track record is, rather, one of ongoing sulking malice and this will likely be the case in Iraq.

    Last, this whole discussion is based on rather fanciful premises in that the continuation of the occupation has never been about what is good for the Iraqis, just as the invasion was never about WMD or liberating an oppressed population. The occupation is primarily a device to maintain a number of huge military bases from which the US can project its military power across the oil-rich countries surrounding the Persian Gulf. As Uri Avnery used to say about Ariel Sharon, pay no attention at all to what the US says, look only at what it is doing. And what it is doing is constructing a string of gigantic self-contained military bases with their own public transport systems and Main St, USA social services. Just one of these bases, Balad, is now the world’s second busiest airport. And do you really think that the billion-dollar ‘embassy’ compound in Baghdad, the only construction project actually being built right to schedule in that disintegrating city and designed to house and provide bomb-proof shelter for a staff of over a thousand, is there so the American consul can make representations to the Iraqi authorities regarding tourists imprisoned for traffic violations, or promote the sale of Harley-Davidson motorcycles? The Soviet embassy in former East Berlin was on a far smaller scale.

  34. March 25th, 2007 at 02:32 | #34

    Hal,
    It is a long time since the Iraqi people had any sovereignty – if the people have ever really had it. Or do you believe that having a despotic leader who happens to come from one of the many ethnic groups in Iraq means that the people of Iraq had sovereignty before the invasion?
    One of the (few) benefits has been to increase the people’s sovereignty in that they have had, for the first time, reasonably free elections, however flawed. The government there now more accurately reflects the wishes of the people of Iraq than perhaps any preceding it.
    On India – perhaps if we now ask survivors of the withdrawal whether it was worth it I would have little doubt they would say yes – but perhaps this introduces substantial survivor bias into the analysis. Would the Indian people have made the same decision for rapid withdrawal if they had known, in advance, the cost in lives, destruction and, ultimately, recurrent war? This may be a “fatuous” question, but it is, IMHO, one pertinent to the current situation. Given his stance on what happened I think even Gandhi may have had second thoughts on whether the correct course was followed. While colonialism had to finish, for all sorts of (mostly correct) reasons, could it have been done with a better long term effect and with less lives lost? I believe so.
    Before you get upset with the idea I am arguing for some form of colony to be set up in Iraq as well – I am not. Nor do I believe the US action was initiated with the intention of setting up a colony as you seem to be implying with your reference to the size of the US embassy and bases and comparing them to the Soviet colonisation of Eastern Europe after WWII. To me, the main problem with the whole war process was the lack of planning, not the presence of a plan. To extend your point on East Germany to look at West Germany – the US embassy and bases in West Germany after WWII were of a similar scale as the ones now being built in Iraq, yet there would be few who argue that West Germany became an independent nation subsequently – with good results both economically and democratically. A gradual handover of power, with good trading links and some aid delivered as the country developed the institutions to absorb it had the right result. Would getting out before this have delivered the right result? Again, I doubt it, no matter how “fatuous” the question may be. To me the likeliest outcome would have been the establishment of the Iron Curtain much closer to the Rhine – a very poor outcome indeed.
    You may be right that the clique that led the invasion should not be trusted to manage the withdrawal. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that, by the end of the Bush presidency, Iraq will be even close to stable or secure. It is also unlikely that Bush will pull out before then. The next lot, which will almost certainly be led by a present or former supporter of the war, will have that particular burden. I sincerely hope they get it right.
    Learning from the mistakes made in previous such hand overs would be a critical part of that.

  35. Hal9000
    March 25th, 2007 at 08:58 | #35

    AR, you’re wrong about the Indians. They wanted the British out, full stop. You’re also wrong on my analysis about the US intention in Iraq. It’s not to be a colony, merely a vassal state, or in the jargon of an earlier era, a protectorate. Its function is primarily to be the real estate on which military bases sit. If US companies can make a buck out of exploiting its oil or its people, so much the better, but that’s not the primary goal.

    You talk about the lack of planning as though this was an oversight. In fact, the war’s millions of opponents saw clearly what was about to happen, so it’s doubtful the war’s planners were blind. The reality was that the Iraq invasion was a criminal experiment, intended to demonstrate how military power could be projected without the need for mass mobilisation. Remember the war’s marketing campaign – ‘shock and awe’ – the image of benighted natives cowering before the military technology of the imperial power was fully intended.

    The parallel you seek to draw with the occupation of Germany in 1945 is false: the intention in 1945 was to reconstruct Germany as an industrial giant, not to reconfigure it as an airfield. Infrastructure in the devastated German cities was restored within weeks: 4 years into the Iraq occupation infrastructure is in a worse state than it was on the day Bush declared ‘mission accomplished’. Germans were accorded a humanity in the minds of the western occupiers that Iraqis have been completely denied. Try to picture US forces in 1945 firing willy-nilly into crowds of unarmed civilians with complete impunity.

    Your description of the green zone regime as a ‘government’ is touching. Your conflation of a voting process with ‘democracy’ is similarly poignant. Your attempted conflation of that voting with ‘sovereignty’ is however odd. Presumably China is not sovereign by your definition. Meanwhile, you’ll recall that the green zone administration was only allowed to take office after its personnel were vetted and approved by the US proconsul Khalizad. To spell it out for you, whomever the Iraqis voted for counted for nothing. The actual decisions were taken in Washington. To paraphrase Star Trek’s Bones, it’s sovereignty, Jim, but not as we know it.

  36. March 25th, 2007 at 11:31 | #36

    Hal,
    China, as a nation, is sovereign – its people are not. You implied that the Iraqi people had some sovereignty before – clearly they had none. Can you point to a period in Iraq’s past where there were a series of elections with a better exercise of democracy than the recent elections? It was a heck of a lot better than the way Saddam , for example, was “elected”.
    The rest comes down to your view of the intentions of the US government. If you choose to paint horns and a tail on G W Bush, so be it. One saying I like about governments is to never ascribe evil motives where simple incompetence will do.
    Just a quick note on the reconstruction – it is a lot easier and cheaper to reconstruct when you are doing in without being shot at.

  37. sdfc
    March 26th, 2007 at 14:59 | #37

    Andrew

    Your comment 23 gave me that impression.

    The lesson we should learn is that should always be a last resort.

    As for leaving Saddam to starve the country, lifting the sanctions would have been a better option they don’t work.

    While I thought the invasion was stupid in the extreme and always likely to end in chaos, I too thought we had an obligation to stay and clean up the mess. As has been apparent for some time however our presence is only prolonging the conflict, the catastrophe I’m afraid is already underway and has been caused by the invasion itself.

    Bretton Woods is looking more attractive every day. I don’t believe in free lunches.

  38. March 27th, 2007 at 18:51 | #38

    On Vietnam, perhaps I should have said “…the way we pulled out from there…”. What happened in the region after that was (possibly) more tragic than the consequences of putting in a “surge” before leaving. Impossible to know.

    As for what action should have been taken other than invading – personally, I am still at a loss. I believed at the time that we had got to the last resort and that invasion was better than giving up and leaving a fascist dictator in place in one of the most volatile regions of the world. Other than simply giving up I still do not know – and I did not regard that as an acceptable option.

  39. Hal9000
    March 28th, 2007 at 11:05 | #39

    “a fascist dictator in place in one of the most volatile regions of the world”

    I look forward to your acceptable options for dealing with the regimes of Egypt, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Algeria, and, should the repulsive Lieberman emerge victorious, Israel (although of course from the Palestinian point of view there is little to distinguish between a fascist dictatorship and democratic governance in the Israeli treatment of the Occupied Terrritories). Hussein had been ‘in place’ for decades and was militarily toothless. It was precisely because the Hussein regime posed no threat, AR, that one had to be invented. Had the threat been genuine, the historical circumstances o attending the invasion – ie near unanimous international opposition – would have been quite different.

    The half a million dead and 2 million refugees that are the product of that invasion were entirely foreseeable consequences for those who planned and supported it. That, AR, is why millions protested around the globe to prevent it. You need to argue why that was a reasonable price to pay. I await your arguments with interest.

  40. March 29th, 2007 at 02:00 | #40

    Hal,
    I equally look forward with interest to evidence that you predicted this. I also look forward with interest to where anyone predicted “half a million dead and 2 million refugees”. As they were “entirely foreseeable” I expect you will have plenty of references. One or two will hardly do.
    Perhaps I should have added “…and would again be a danger to his neighbors if and when the sanctions were lifted…” – or did you believe he became all sunshine and light while building massive palaces for himself while the people he governed starved?
    Yes, it has been stuffed up, but I (also) await with interest your view on what other option(s) should, or even could, have been taken.
    As for Israel and the rest of them, if you have a look around here the views I have expressed may surprise you. OTOH, they may not.

  41. Hal9000
    March 29th, 2007 at 11:11 | #41

    AR – the hundreds of thousands demonstrating against the then avoidable war in early 2003 were convinced, as you seem not to be, that the inevitable result of war is death and destruction – a view shared by the Nuremburg judges and the founders of the United Nations. What, I ask, did you think would be the result of militarily invading Iraq – increased production of cut flowers, perhaps?

    As for sources, go to http://www.counterpunch.org, click search and enter “fisk iraq” in the box. There you’ll find a consistent set of hundreds of predictions of exactly what has happened, published in the UK Independent. A selection from before and in the early days of the occupation should suffice – eg. http://www.counterpunch.org/fisk05062003.html from the week after the ‘Mission Accomplished’ speech – noting that it was implicit in Rumsfeld’s own words that major combat operations were anticipated and that resistance would be violent, effective, and would grow.

    “would again be a danger to his neighbors if and when the sanctions were lifted” Since Iraq’s neighbours – those you allege were endangered – were uniformly opposed to the invasion, this seems an empty justification, AR. No doubt their opposition, since none was a friend to the Hussein regime, was based on the very same accurate assessments of likely consequences you seem to believe did not exist.

  42. March 29th, 2007 at 13:29 | #42

    Not uniformly, Hal – Kuwait was fairly clear on the matter as I recall, as were the states not ruled by other oppresive dictators. Qatar, Bahrain and a few others provided material support. The reason many of the dictators were opposed had little to do with an appreciation of the likely risks to the Iraqi population and much more to do with the principle that those who violently abuse the rights of the people should be left in peace to do so, even if they regularly invade their neighbours. China and Russia are equally clear on this.
    The immediate results of war, as you correctly note, is violence and destruction. Peace, however, should not be bought at any cost. Remember “Peace in our Time”? Should the world simply stand by and acquiesce in this sort of behaviour? Hussain was actively supporting having young children wearing bomb-belts and walking into civilian areas. Should it simply have been ignored?
    I note you have not yet suggested another course of action.

  43. Hal9000
    March 29th, 2007 at 16:55 | #43

    AR, I’m reminded over on Road to Surfdom of why Bush’s dad didn’t go into Iraq…

    “Had we gone the invasion route, the U.S. could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land. It would have been a dramatically different–and perhaps barren–outcome.â€? — George Herbert Walker Bush, A World Transformed, 1998″

    But according to GW, John Howard, and perhaps your good self, ‘no-one could have anticipated’…

    Meanwhile you repeat the old canard about Hussein’s cash grants to the families of suicide bombers in Israel. This policy was instituted in response to the criminal Israeli policy of collective punishment by demolition of the houses of suicide bombers’ families in Palestine and included cash grants to other Palestinian families suffering violent deaths and house demolitions. Doubtless it was instituted as a cheap way for Hussein to big-note himself as a friend of the Palestinians, thus boosting his own bloated image as a champion of the Arab world. BTW, even the Israeli intelligence services see punitive house demolitions as counterproductive, yet they continue. Anywaty, if you reckon this constitutes ‘active support’ in the sense of, say, the US’s active support for Israel’s war machine through provision of arms, cash and training for making war on civilians, then perhaps we should try for some different terminology. Still, it does suggest you believe that children donned the belts in eager anticipation of their bereaved families maybe getting a cheque from Baghdad, so I suppose you believe the Palestinians are a subhuman race, deserving their miserable fate.

    But back on topic, this and all the other casi belli you’ve produced were specifically rejected as such by John Howard and his betters, in recognition that they would not stand any scrutiny as the rationale for starting a war of aggression. No, the only thing that would do was the WMD fiction, since it alone pretended that the aggressors were in fact acting in self defence. No, you don’t go off and invade another country because of what that country might to at some unspecified time in the future. That’s a crime, you see. That’s why Blair was so worried about the BBC exposing his lies and fabrication. The interesting thing is, since you defend the invasion on the grounds so publicly rejected by its perpetrators, whether you also believe the lies developed for the purposes of deceiving the public into acquiescing to the war were thereby also justified. If so, I’d be interested to learn what understanding you have of the terms ‘democracy’ and ‘responsible government’.

  44. March 30th, 2007 at 14:46 | #44

    Hal,
    If you want to discuss Israel, I suggest you inform yourself of my views on the topic. Have a look around this site and get back to me with what you disagree with.
    In any case, in terrorism terms Hussain was providing far more than just money to Palestinians, as I hope you well know. If, OTOH, you are claiming that he was faultless in this regard then I just question your reading ability. I know, and I pointed out at the time, that the Al-Queda link was simply wrong, but the rest of his support is public record.
    On the causes of the war – the thing I find incredible is that the people who claim that Bush or the other members of the current administration don’t think the argument through. If it was known in the administration that the WMD had been eliminated in the mid-1990s, as seems to be the case, then why was Bill Clinton a supporter of the invasion, along with Hillary? They would have had much to gain, either by remaining quiet on the war or at best offering muted support while publicly casting doubt on the reasons given? Or are you claiming that there were neo-cons in the Clinton administration in deep cover feeding false information to Bill as President? I just find this argument not credible.
    Do not forget that Clinton engaged in aggression in Iraq too – and used the same rationale. To me, while the intel was clearly wrong, the current administration may have hyped it but I cannot see that they falsified it.

  45. Ian Gould
    March 30th, 2007 at 18:34 | #45

    Andrew Reynolds: “Not uniformly, Hal – Kuwait was fairly clear on the matter as I recall, as were the states not ruled by other oppresive dictators.”

    Which of Iraq’s neighbours, other than Turkey (which actively opposed the invasion as you may recall0 aren’t ruled by dictators?

  46. Hal9000
    April 1st, 2007 at 10:29 | #46

    AR – I’m in the dark about where the Clinton argument came from or is going. As Bones McCoy would have said – there’s logic there, Jim, but not as we know it. On the issue of ‘far more than just money’, I’m genuinely intrigued. Since they have no weapons, it can’t have been those. Moral support? From Hussein? However, here I think we can take the Israelis and their US backers at their word. If the money charge headed up their list, afaic that’s the best they had on him.

  47. April 1st, 2007 at 22:21 | #47

    Hal9000,
    It came from your comment on the origins of the war. I would have thought the logic was clear – the Clinton White House clearly believed (or also lied) that there were WMD in Iraq – they also initiated offensive action on that basis, just (much) more limited in scope that that under the current administration. This presents several options, not all exclusive:
    1. WMD were there at that stage but were later removed / destroyed.
    2. Intel was faulty back then as well
    3. Clinton lied about it too.
    I do not find any of these really credible. If (1) were the case, and the US administration knew it, why did Bill Clinton (and Hillary) support the invasion? If (2) were the case then the case the Bush was lying about WMD is substantially weakened. If (3) is the case then the neo-con cabal (who usually get the blame for the “lying”) must have been working for Clinton as well.
    To me at least, logic alone says that Bush was not lying on this – even if wrong. Politics and common sense shows it.
    .
    “…they have no weapons…” ???? Really, Hal – what about that AK47 that Saddam was fond of firing from the balcony of the Presidential palace in central Baghdad? Or was that the only gun in the whole of Iraq? Oh, of course – it was a fake, firing blanks only. Must of made the Iraqi army feel a touch impotent. Hold on – I am sure I saw some heavier weapons smoking beside the US tanks as they rolled into the desert.
    Support can be far beyond the provision of money – or even weapons. Afghanistan had no WMD and little money, but managed to harbour some of the most destructive (non-governmental) terrorists in history. Give up on that point, Hal and move on. You easily lose there.
    .
    Ian,
    For all their faults, I would not classify the governments of Kuwait, Jordan, Bahrain, the states of the UAE, Oman, Qatar or Bahrain as oppressive dictators. Some are dictators, but they are, by comparison to Saudi or Iran for example, not oppressive. I have visited several of them. Israel is, for at least many of its inhabitants, a functional democracy. Lebanon, which has its problems, also cannot be called an oppressive dictatorship. While not all of these supported the invasion, some were quiet about it or expressed only token opposition, some supported with words and others offered practical support. There was not, as Hal claimed, uniform opposition. I would appreciate it if Hal withdrew that point as well.
    Turkey opposed it for their own purposes, as you must know. The Turkish military did not want the Kurdish minority they have been oppressing for much of the last century to have free reign in Northern Iraq.

  48. Hal9000
    April 3rd, 2007 at 16:12 | #48

    AR – ‘they have no weapons’… you were saying that Hussein provided ‘far more than money to the Palestinians’. My comment was clearly in that context, not about Hussein. Lest there be any doubt about the issue, I’m referring to weapons they could actually use to defend themselves – rocks and AK47s don’t qualify against F16s, main battle tanks and armoured D9s. I see no reason to give up on the issue. As is not uncommon among your pro-war co-religionists, you hint at somthing vague and sinister and imply that Hussein was supporting the 9/11 perpetrators. This is, as you would know, false. Sine you’ve failed to produce evidence that Hussein supplied the Palestians with ‘far more than money’, I assume you don’t actually have any.

    Meanwhile, why you find it incredible that Clinton lied about this issue, as so much else? This is the man who, you might recall, did not have s*xual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky. It suited Clinton’s agenda to demonise Iraq – Bush merely adopted the existing narrative and pumped it up. Clinton possessed exactly the same information as Scott Ritter on the non-existence of the WMD. After all, it was provided by – Scott Ritter! The attempts to subvert the UNSCOM mission, well documented, occurred on Clinton’s watch. You’ll also recall the air strike on the Sudanese pharmaceutical plant also occurred on Clinton’s watch – another event where any needle of truth was concealed by a haystack of lies.

    I’m happy to retract my gneralisation that Iraq’s neighbours were ‘uniformly’ opposed to the war. It is however correct to say that among Iraq’s neighbours only (US client micro-state) Kuwait was a supporter of the invasion. Jordan, which you imply was a supporter, in fact vehemently opposed it. And as for Turkey opposing it ‘for their own purposes’, so what? I suggest it takes some naivete to imagine self-interest is not a preeminent factor determining what nation states do. In fact it took some courage for Turkey and others to reject the mixed bullying and bribery of the US on this issue, something that stands to its credit. But to return to the original point – your argument was that Iraq needed invading because of the future threat it might pose to its Turkneighbours. Surely it’s up to those neighbours to determine if there is a threat, not the United States of America.

  49. April 4th, 2007 at 01:53 | #49

    Hal,
    OK – your errors in the above or was the above “logic, Jim, but not as we know it?”.
    1. Firstly, let me disabuse you (yet again) of one notion. I do not, and have never, believed that Saddam was stupid enough to support a group that wanted him dead. Look above and you will see my point of understanding on any link between Saddam and Al-Queda. Is that clear enough? Just checking. Right. Moving on. Unfortunately, there are more terrorists around than just Osama and his mates.
    2. Terrorists do not generally need to defend themselves against F-16s – the attempt will generally render them dead. An AK-47, a roadside IED or bomb belts will do nicely, thanks – and such devices have been their stock in trade for generations.
    3. Terrorists also operate outside the declared borders of Israel. Were you aware of this? Your references to the things they fight clearly point only to Israeli weapons.
    4. You (incorrectly) seem to regard “Palestinian” as synonymous with “terrorist”. I said he supported terrorism and gave an example. You have now turned that from “supported terrorism” to “supplied the Palestians”. I reject the conflation as offensive to some good friends of mine. For further examples of terrorist groups supported by Saddam, try looking at the history of the Abu Nidal Organisation, the Arab Liberation Front, the 15 May Organisation, the Palestine Liberation Front and the People’s Mujahedin of Iran. That was from just a quick browse through Wikipedia. If you still do not think he provided support for terrorism, well…
    5. I did not, anywhere, imply Jordan was a supporter. I made it quite clear the list had representatives of all positions. If you choose not to read and try to understand I cannot be held responsible.
    6. I do not find it incredible that Clinton lied. I have little doubt that he did, on many occasions. What I do find incredible is that people blame Bush for “lying” about this as if he, or his administration, came up with this – see one of Gandhi’s comments above for a good example. I feel confident that I could find an example of you making the same error – but if not, I apologise and withdraw. If the US government has lied on this, it was lying through at least two and probably three administrations. Further, if Hillary knew it was a lie (I assume Bill and Hillary talk), why did she support the war actively when she knew there were no weapons and it was all a lie? Short of claiming a huge conspiracy, the logical conclusion is that they were not lying, just wrong.
    7. To start this one with a question – do you define “neighbour” only as one sharing a border? Does this mean Australia has no “neighbours”? If you expand the list to include the sorts of “neighbours” included in a conventional definition of “neighbour” I think you will find it is much more than Kuwait that supported action.
    .
    Oh and I am still waiting on any alternative solution, Hal – blustering on about how bad the invasion has proven does not give voice to an alternative. Still waiting……..

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