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Guess what, the bombing worked like a charm.
November 15, 2001 9:33 AM   Subscribe

Guess what, the bombing worked like a charm. Chris Hitchens weighs in with "I told you so" in 1000 words or less. Now if only we had a Chomsky response.
posted by lizs (103 comments total)

 
Valid Point.

However, I don't think it's over yet, not even close.
posted by trioperative at 9:38 AM on November 15, 2001


What a raging knob. Even if he is right.

But he's not, or at least has no reason to say that he is. The bombing campaign has not ended terrorism, or even taken out the Al Quaeda in Afghanistan. Bin Laden has stayed three steps ahead of us since the beginning. The Taliban rule has been disrupted, but the only official problem we had with them is that they were keeping Bin Laden from us, and in effect they still are. So.. what the hell does he have to laugh about? That we've created a power vacuum in the capital city that will now be replaced by the lesser of two evils? Hot dog!
posted by Hildago at 9:49 AM on November 15, 2001


He is right. The question now is, when will we start bombing Saudi Arabia?
posted by magullo at 9:51 AM on November 15, 2001


Much as I love Hitchens' writing, I think he's overplaying it. Yes, the bombing was successful at routing the Taliban, which wasn't our original goal, but for now will suffice for propaganda purposes. I think we should have routed the Taliban five years ago instead of propping up their regime with U.S. tax dollars, but I digress.

It's important to note that the public relations aspect of our bombing campaign, at least in the Middle East, has been disastrous, and I fear we'll see the effects of this in the near future.
posted by Ty Webb at 9:52 AM on November 15, 2001


I'm just waiting for them to find a way to sever the entire Middle East from the Earth and send it into space. You know if they knew how, they'd do it.
posted by trioperative at 9:52 AM on November 15, 2001


Oh, my, doesn't he strike a cocky pose. Sounds like he was overanxious, dribbling on the chin, waiting for this to happen so he could dash off this article with such profound gems as "Well, ha ha." He just couldn't wait. I hope for his professional reputation's sake that the outcome remains more or less the same, because it's very early in the post-game to tell what is going to happen.
posted by mmarcos at 9:56 AM on November 15, 2001


Bin Laden has stayed three steps ahead of us since the beginning.

I wish people would let go of the notion that Osama Bin Laden is a comic book supervillain. I don't see how it takes a genius to spend inherited millions to train terrorists, sponsor governments, and persuade weak people to kill innocents.

When you consider that our grandparents were tasked with liberating Europe from Hitler while simulatenously fighting Japan, dealing with one terrorist nutjob and a force of a few thousand supporters is hardly an insurmoutable task.
posted by rcade at 9:57 AM on November 15, 2001


I'm used to reading Hitchen's Vanity Fair articles and they're typically much better written and far less vindictive than this. Maybe Salon just brings out the worst in writers?
posted by MrBaliHai at 10:05 AM on November 15, 2001


trioperative, your idea reminds me of the plot of one of Jose Saramago's novels which has the Iberian peninsula breaking off from continental Europe and floats off in the Atlantic.
posted by mmarcos at 10:08 AM on November 15, 2001


wow; they're just giving everyone a column these days.

i want one. i'd write about butterflies and honey. little adorable puppy dogs and happy goldfish. autumn leaves and summer cliches. also: tacos.
posted by fishfucker at 10:09 AM on November 15, 2001


Wow. That was like The Sun Says but with bigger words - The same number of words, they were just bigger. Like "secularism" and "auxilliary". Definitely in a different league.
posted by dlewis at 10:16 AM on November 15, 2001


Guess what, the bombing worked like a charm.

I suspect someone will shortly be eating their words...

But, as stated above by others, just what has the bombing achieved? An end to terrorism? Not remotely. Proof that the US has big bombs and that if enough of them are dropped on a country, that country's government will soon falter? Sure. Coulda told ya that a month ago.

Now what?
posted by mapalm at 10:37 AM on November 15, 2001


Yeah, it's worked great: all Bush's stated aims have been achieved. World terrorism has been ended, the Al Qaeda network is destroyed and bin Laden has been "smoked out" of his hole and brought to justice. Oh, and of course... the Taliban have been completely wiped out and haven't effected a tactical retreat in which they maintain a grasp over several major cities.

The bombing worked a charm, if killing hundreds of civilians is what you mean by 'worked a charm'.
posted by skylar at 10:38 AM on November 15, 2001


Now what?

Now Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda have a lot less of Afghanistan in which to train terrorists and evade attack. More Al Qaeda terrorists will be captured or killed, and it's more likely that Bin Laden himself will be brought to justice.

And the people of all those liberated Afghanistan cities are free from Taliban oppression. And many more refugees will be able to receive humanitarian aid during a harsh winter, saving many lives.

Other than that, though, the U.S. and its allies accomplished nothing.
posted by rcade at 10:56 AM on November 15, 2001


We'll see in a few months what was really accomplished this week. The Americans are going to spin this as a success, but they know better than anyone that there could be another terror attack at anytime, and that even if all the Taliban were killed and bin Laden captured, the conflict wouldn't be over.
posted by tranquileye at 11:13 AM on November 15, 2001


rcade, excellent point about WWII and comparisons to today's menace. The real accomplishments will be to minimize terrorism world wide by a combination of containment and eradication of the most dangerous known groups, and substantial foreign policy and diplomatic initiatives in order to ensure that other groups do not spring up and use our freedom against us to press their political points.
posted by cell divide at 11:21 AM on November 15, 2001


Hitch simply has shifted to the Right and now, like Andrew Sullivan, he takes every opportunity he has to make fun of those he used to write for (his audience). In fact, the Nay sayers claimed bombing would not work; now they are saying Norhthern alliance just as bad; next, anarchy runs the show. Fact is: only the Taliban allowed the terror training camps in the country. Now they are gone.
The Nay sayers simply unable to accept the fact that just perhaps things were done thus far as they should have been done. As for killing civilians, more were killed in NY City, and Dresden, and in London, and in Hieroshima than thus far in Afghanistan. You fight a tough opponet in a war0-like condition and you are bound to kill people...but I prefer that to having more and more terrorist trained to come to the US to do further damage.
Easy enough to sit back and say this and that not done right. But then how ought it be done?
posted by Postroad at 11:29 AM on November 15, 2001


Now what?

Now we've driven them into the hills and caves where the real fighting begins, Afghani style...

PS - rcade, the story is a touch different when your enemies clearly demark themselves with those little emblems called national flags.
posted by badstone at 11:32 AM on November 15, 2001


I have no doubt that we will be victorious and end this brand of terrorism. But, to think that the Taliban fleeing Afghan cities is endgame is delusional. Yes, it is a step, but it is only a battle, not the war. Unlike Germany and Japan whose power and forces were associated with a territory, Al Quaeda is a parasite that exists within many lands that will not be so easy to 'smoke out.' It will be done, but I fear that we will have to face more attacks at home...
posted by andrewraff at 11:35 AM on November 15, 2001


Now what?

Now there are even more people in the Middle East willing to join any fight (right or wrong) against America.

Osama bin Laden is almost irrelevant - there is no good evidence to prove he was behind the attack in NY, and even if he was behind it, it is disingenuous to believe that bombing the Afganis, bringing him to justice, wiping out the Taliban & Al Qaeda means it'll be the last...
posted by omar at 11:37 AM on November 15, 2001


One of the primary things which was just accomplished was to shatter the power of the Taliban.

The reason that is important is because it serves as an object lesson to other nations who have been sheltering terrorist activities: if an attack is launched on the US from your territory, we're going to destroy your government. This will tend to make those nations suddenly become much more cooperative about trying to keep that from happening.

This was a battle, not the war. There is much more to do. But to say that the bombing accomplished nothing at all is to prove that you are blind.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 11:39 AM on November 15, 2001


The question now is, when will we start bombing Saudi Arabia?

As soon as oil prices are of little consequence to the American economy. (um, never.)
posted by glenwood at 11:41 AM on November 15, 2001


Osama bin Laden is almost irrelevant - there is no good evidence to prove he was behind the attack in NY, and even if he was behind it, it is disingenuous to believe that bombing the Afganis, bringing him to justice, wiping out the Taliban & Al Qaeda means it'll be the last...

You have enough foresight to see that bin Laden is almost irrelevant in this, why can't you see that no one is saying that this is going to wipe out terrorism? Destroy the communication and financial networks of terrorists completely, and they can still buy a rifle at wal mart and pick people off from a belltower. The point is that we're starting to put a dent in the problem.
posted by glenwood at 11:44 AM on November 15, 2001


The history of guerilla warfare shows support of the general populace is the key to success. Evidently, the Taliban is lacking that-or can someone point me to a link on the Anti-American demonstrations in Kabul demanding the restoration of Taliban rule? I missed it. Isolated loonies stuck in the mountains aren't going to cause any major problems. The next phase is going to be Okinawa not Vietnam, i.e. a mop up operation of shooting flames down bunkers and caves to torch fanatics.
posted by quercus at 11:45 AM on November 15, 2001


Kabul is the capital of Afghanistan, not the center of Taliban power. If they happen, the demonstrations and demands for the restoration of Taliban rule won't be anti-American, they'll be anti-Northern Alliance, a la 1992.

If the UN does what they're supposed to do, and if Indonesia and Turkey are willing to ante up some security, Kabul has a chance. Otherwise, Afghanis will go back to choosing burkhas and beards, to raping and looting.
posted by badstone at 11:51 AM on November 15, 2001


I don't think the war on terrorism is going to be any more successful than the war on drugs. They're both new kinds of wars that required new strategies, against evil, shadowy and tenuous entities. There will be battles won and battles lost, but the war on terrorism cannot be won this way.

Don't let the naysayers stop you though, by all means, proceed...

Well I've only been here a while but I've already been accused of being 'blind' for stating my opinion. :) This is a highly subjective matter, my views are almost diametrically opposed to those of the general populace, but I stop short of saying they are 'blind'. In this context, that word implies a lack of objectivity that is offensive, to say the least.

The death of the Taliban has been greatly exaggerated - they pulled out of most areas in order to save themselves and fight another day. And even a complete and total annihilation of the Taliban and Al Qaeda will not achieve what you seek - an end to attacks against America.

To say that it teaches a lesson implies that others will now hesitate before committing terrorist attacks against America or American interests or satellite states/colonies. I don't think this is the case at all - recruiters will have a much easier time finding volunteers as anti-American sentiment grows stronger. Let's just wait and see, shall we? And refrain from slandering one another? I know I am capable of that...
posted by omar at 11:53 AM on November 15, 2001


Oh yeah, ask the Russians about the effectiveness of isolated loonies stuck in the mountains; especially when they've now had a couple extra decades to practice their isolated looniness.
posted by badstone at 11:53 AM on November 15, 2001


... the story is a touch different when your enemies clearly demark themselves with those little emblems called national flags.

Acknowledged, but if the Taliban can't find someone to supply them with arms, it's going to be difficult to accomplish much. People who expect this to be another Vietnam seem to be overlooking the fact that there's no superpower supporting the guerrillas.
posted by rcade at 11:55 AM on November 15, 2001


there's no superpower supporting the guerrillas.

Again, you need to get away from the nation-centric thinking. There's no monolithic superpower behind this, but there is a network of folks, many of whom are fairly wealthy, whether by oil or by opium, who can quietly funnel millions into this operation for quite some time. Bin Laden's fortune alone is on par with the amount of money the CIA spent to fund these guerillas against the Russians.
posted by badstone at 11:58 AM on November 15, 2001


Osama bin Laden is almost irrelevant - there is no good evidence to prove he was behind the attack in NY, and even if he was behind it, it is disingenuous to believe that bombing the Afganis, bringing him to justice, wiping out the Taliban & Al Qaeda means it'll be the last...

And owillis was jumped on over the weekend for saying people still doubted bin Laden's guilt? Talk about disingenuous.
posted by raysmj at 12:04 PM on November 15, 2001


To say that it teaches a lesson implies that others will now hesitate before committing terrorist attacks against America or American interests or satellite states/colonies. I don't think this is the case at all - recruiters will have a much easier time finding volunteers as anti-American sentiment grows stronger.

I don't think it makes much sense to judge this effort based on whether we have made it harder or easier for the Osama Bin Ladens of the world to recruit new members.

It took at least a quarter-century to reach the current level of anti-American hysteria in the Arab world. Whether we invaded Afghanistan or appeased it after Sept. 11, there would still be a large enough pool of nuts from which to recruit new suicide bombers.

The real yardstick of success should be whether the governments of other countries are more or less eager to offer support and shelter to groups like Al Qaeda.

There's no monolithic superpower behind this, but there is a network of folks, many of whom are fairly wealthy, whether by oil or by opium, who can quietly funnel millions into this operation for quite some time.

What reason to you have to think that a "network of folks" is comparable to the military and financial support of a superpower? Who are they going to buy arms from, and how are they going to receive them?
posted by rcade at 12:09 PM on November 15, 2001


You have enough foresight to see that bin Laden is almost irrelevant in this, why can't you see that no one is saying that this is going to wipe out terrorism? Destroy the communication and financial networks of terrorists completely, and they can still buy a rifle at wal mart and pick people off from a belltower. The point is that we're starting to put a dent in the problem.

That is what I'm disputing - the 'dent' in terrorism. I humbly submit that you will not even be able to put a dent in terrorism this way - it is being encouraged.

The war on terrorism relies heavily on support from the government's of the Middle East. The govts. whose support is critical (Turkey, Syria, Iran. Lebanon, Arabia, Pakistan, etc.) to this war are generally reviled by the people they rule and viewed as tools of the west, and many of these govts in fact rely on American support to keep themselves in power. There is a limit to how much these govts. can crackdown on their people. The Saudis are barely hanging on - if any of these govts. crackdown any harder than they already are, they risk civil war and open, bloody rebellion. The govts. may be sympathetic and willing participants in a 'war on terrorism' - maybe, because it serves their best interests. But the general public will not support it and they will hold anti-US demonstrations (just as they already do), and maybe even do more than just chant 'death to America' in the streets.
posted by omar at 12:10 PM on November 15, 2001


Who are they going to buy arms from?
are you kidding? they've got a veritable supermarket to the north in the form of China and former USSR nations. and again, they didn't need direct military support against the Russians, just CIA funding and training - now they don't even need training any more.

how are they going to receive them?
I don't get the question - are you implying Afghanistan has tightly sealed borders or something? That Al Quaeda isn't capable of smuggling and black market dealing?
posted by badstone at 12:16 PM on November 15, 2001


Now there are even more people in the Middle East willing to join any fight (right or wrong) against America.

really? what kind of evidence is that claim based on? if anything, support for American action has gotten higher in the last week as the entire world sees Afghans cheering the Taliban's defeat.

i must have missed the sudden global anti-U.S. uprising you're referring to. people that hate Americans still hate Americans, of course, but I don't think Hitch is totally off base in insinuating that there are probably a few people that were on the fence or felt some reservations about the bombing that are now deciding it might not have been a bad tactic.
posted by lizs at 12:19 PM on November 15, 2001


Define "worked like a charm".
posted by baudboy at 12:24 PM on November 15, 2001


really? what kind of evidence is that claim based on? if anything, support for American action has gotten higher in the last week as the entire world sees Afghans cheering the Taliban's defeat.

It's based on my first hand knowledge of the people of that region, and the sentiments of the people from those regions who live in the west. :) Support for America may have increased amongst those who were already behind her. The images of cheering and happy Afghanis will certainly serve America's interests. Obviously the Taliban were repressive and the people were relieved to see them go. Let's see if the 'Alliance' picks up where they left off and starts killing and raping or if they'll be better behaved this time around.

i must have missed the sudden global anti-U.S. uprising you're referring to. people that hate Americans still hate Americans, of course, but I don't think Hitch is totally off base in insinuating that there are probably a few people that were on the fence or felt some reservations about the bombing that are now deciding it might not have been a bad tactic.

It's not sudden, it's been around for a long time, and it grew to the point where it unleashed itself in a furious crescendo on NY. I know that you meant to say that some people might now think it might have been a bad tactic, but you unwittingly said what I fear to be true. They will think it might *not* have been a bad tactic. ;)

If the aim of the terrorists was to kill Americans, they achieved it. If the aim of the terrorists was to humiliate America, they achieved it. If the aim of the terrorists was to further vilify the West in the eyes of the masses of the Middle East, they achieved it. If the aim of the terrorists was to draw more Americans into areas where they can be killed, they achieved it. If the aim of the terrorists was to frighten Americans, they achieved it. If the aim of the terrorists was to damage the American economy, they achieved it.

There are bound to be some pretty twisted people out there who are going to look at the attack in NY as a 'success' - this 'war on terrorism' will only make them stronger and increase their ranks.
posted by omar at 12:37 PM on November 15, 2001


Unsightly rash? A little bombing will clear that right up!

Feeling blue? How about a bombing pick-me-up?

Really, there's no situation a good ol' fashioned bombing won't fix, is there?
posted by speicus at 1:03 PM on November 15, 2001


what is your prescription then omar?
posted by quercus at 1:32 PM on November 15, 2001


Hitch is still not the reincarnation of his beloved George Orwell, and the War On Some Terrorists is still not the reincarnation of the Spanish Civil War.
posted by holgate at 1:32 PM on November 15, 2001


i guess it depends on your sources, omar. i also have several friends that are middle eastern, most here on student visas.

I was taking both Arabic and Middle Eastern history in college when the African embassies were bombed. Most of my classmates in both courses were from the region and there was a lot of discussion about the roots anti-Western sentiment. The sentiments expressed then aren't materially different from the sentiments i hear now. I haven't seen any big escalation in hostility since this started. (More anxiety, yes, but not more hostility.) If anything, i saw a lot more sympathy for the American military response to 9/11 than i expected. i don't think this has inspired very many moderates to suddenly "take up arms" against the West.

To address another point - I think deterrence is a necessary part of defense and i disagree with your assertion that the "war on terrorism" (which is different from the war on drugs on a number of fundamental levels) will be a catalyst in creating more and worse terrorists. There are very few black and white lines in international security policy (or any form of public policy for that matter) but there is a definite threshold beyond which certain forms of aggression are completely unacceptable and 9/11 was well past that threshold. we may not be able to prevent every attack that happens, but aggressively responding in *the most egregious cases* will certainly have a deterrent effect in signaling that certain things will not be tolerated and perpetrating such actions will result in certain destruction of the perpetrators.

And I did mean to say that now people may think it might *not* have been a bad tactic. a lot of the arguments against bombing were posited on the basis that it simply wasn't effective. i think too many people confuse tactical objectives with overall aims. the tactical objective of the bombing was to intimidate the Taliban and destroy key parts of their physical infrastructure, which it apparently did. This does not mean that bombing achieved or was expected to achieve the overall aims of the military action in the country (the ultimate destruction of the Taliban regime) or the overall aims of the "war on terrorism" (which, realistically, is to mitigate it and eliminate the worst elements; not to totally end it. Bush definitely needs to tone down the rhetoric on this point.)
posted by lizs at 1:34 PM on November 15, 2001


quercus: I would suggest that we track down the ones responsible for the attacks and bring them to justice.

However, there has to be an end to hypocrisy and an end to US foreign policy which has nothing to do with human rights and everything to do with oil and Israel. Regimes like the Saudis and Turkeys are propped up, governments are installed and toppled in S. America and elsewhere, American weapons are *knowingly* sold to countries that use them against civilians. US foreign policy has to change.

And really I think ultimately the Middle East has itself to blame - they should band together, stop killing each other, stop oppressing people and stand up for their rights. America only does what she does over there because so far, the cost of doing business in that fashion was worth it. The lives of over a million Iraqi children is a price worth paying for US foreign policy - how many American lives is it worth...?

Either US foreign policy is going to change, and the people of the Middle East will work to improve their lot, or the current situation is going to continue to deteriorate. Don't forget that this is not a new issue - the attacks in NY simply marked a new level in an anti-American/Israeli struggle that has been raging in the Middle East for quite some time.

lizs: I'm sorry - I totally misunderstood you. When you said "there are probably a few people that were on the fence or felt some reservations about the bombing that are now deciding it might not have been a bad tactic." I thought you were referring to people who thought the attacks on NY were 'good'. If you re-read my response in that light and see what I wrote about what the terrorists achieved via the attack on NY, it should make more sense. I was saying the attack on NY and the subsequent US response will quite likely embolden those who wish to attack her.

You see, now in your later post you say: "aggressively responding in *the most egregious cases* will certainly have a deterrent effect in signaling that certain things will not be tolerated and perpetrating such actions will result in certain destruction of the perpetrators." This is *precisely* what I mean -that's what the Israelis think too, and so far it hasn't allowed them to live without fear.

How are you going to deter a perpetrator that doesn't mind being destroyed!? A perpetrator that might even want to be destroyed so he can escape from a hellish existence that he blames the West for? The Israelis have been incredibly brutal, heavy handed and indiscriminate in an attempt to send a signal to potential perpetrators that attacks against Israel will lead to their destruction. It hasn't worked one bit - it only gets worse and worse. America, I fear, is going to be drawn in deeper and deeper into this spiral. These people don't mind being destroyed - how do you deter someone that determined?
posted by omar at 2:27 PM on November 15, 2001


The lives of over a million Iraqi children is a price worth paying for US foreign policy - how many American lives is it worth...?

A million Iraqi children? Normally, when people are throwing around accusations about the Iraqi sanctions killing kids, the number is 300,000 or 500,000. Even then, I think it's ludicrously inflated, based entirely on figures from Saddam Hussein's health department, and completely ignorant of the fact that Hussein could have reduced infant mortality to pre-Gulf War levels by directing some of Iraq's oil revenue towards health needs.
posted by rcade at 2:35 PM on November 15, 2001


Nay sayers claimed bombing would not work

As one of those "nay-sayers," I still maintain that bombing won't work to achieve the stated goals of Bush, et al., namely, the eradication of terrorism.

Sure, perhaps the Talibandoes fall (and the Bush admin. has the gall to congratulate itself on such a feat of humanitarianism, when, in fact, prior to 9/11, the US couldn't give a shit about the average Afghani); sure, maybe bin Laden will be captured and summarily executed; maybe the US will even shut down some of the Al-Qaeda operations (in spite of the fact that many Republicans oppose new legislation that would halp clamp down on the organization's fundraising and access to cash); but assuming all that happens, it still begs the question: now what? And the answer is...more bombing (of whomever the admin. thinks should be on the list), more restrictions on our civil liberties at home, and on and on it goes, no end in sight: perpetual war...that is, until the American people realize the absurdity and wastefulness of such a policy, and begin to oppose it.
posted by mapalm at 2:49 PM on November 15, 2001


I think a main problem that many people have had is confusing different types of terrorism.

Anyone who's studied political terrorism knows that force does not stop it. The textbook example is Israel, where draconian measures have only increased terror and not prevented it. The most prescient example I can think of this is the fact that many suicide bombs made by Hamas were made by scraping land-mines left over from 1948 anf 1967, as exposives are very difficult to acquire.

But this is not political terrorism. These terrorist have made no formal demands. They are not Palestinians thirsting for a state, nor Basques desiring autonomy, or Turks protesting prison conditions. Their only real goal is death and destruction of their imagined enemy. The fact that many others might also have some anger towards this enemy is incidental.

The only way to deal with this kind of apolitical terrorism is to destroy it. If, as Omar posits, this destruction leads more to hate the United States, where will they go? Who will they join? Who will direct them?

I am the first person to endorse negotiation and diplomacy when it comes to people using unreasonable and immoral tactics to advance a potentially reasonable cause. However when the cause is subserviant to the destruction, or in this case isdestruction, the only response is to destroy.
posted by cell divide at 2:52 PM on November 15, 2001


rcade: see the CNN link below to see where the million figure comes form - half a million is the number widely reported here in the west, true. But does anyone think half a million deaths is more acceptable than a million...?

Look, the West is *entirely* responsible for post Gulf War genocide in Iraq - if you want all the gory details, see for yourself what the former U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Denis Halliday has to say on who is to blame - he has answers to all the questions I've ever heard about responsibility for the atrocious situation there:

who is responsible for the deaths of half a million Iraqi children: Uncle Saddam, or Uncle Sam?

cell divide: much is made of the fact that these terrorist have made no demands in the press. Perhaps in order to mislead the public... Because if the terrorists did have demands, some people might consider them....

And this is just silly: does the Israeli govt. sit around after an attack and say: "We are the defenders of truth and light and democracy. We have been attacked by evil doers who are evil. They hate us because we live in a free democratic society. They hate us because our women walk around uncovered." It's laughable - the Israelis don't ask why they were attacked, and the attackers don't make demands - each side *knows* the position of their enemy intimately - there's no need to state the obvious, so to speak.

As to the demands of those who attacked NY, to myself, and others, the demands are clear:

- get US troops out of so-called 'Islamic' countries
- stop supporting regimes like the Saudis (don't forget while we're on the subject that America installed a govt. in Iran that served US oil interests, it was overthrown in the revolution which leads us to present day Iran which is looked at as an evil, evil state. The US supported Saddam, helped his bloody rise to power, and armed him in a terrible war against Iran that was instigated by Iraq. No one cared about gassed Kurds until the oil in Kuwait was threatened.)
- enforce *all* UN resolutions re: Israel and Kashmir
- truly support international human rights instead of paying lip service to them
- do whatever the hell you want in America, let everyone else do pretty much whatever the hell they want in their countries
posted by omar at 3:21 PM on November 15, 2001


Omar, I don't doubt that yourself and others (and I would include myself in the others) have these demands, but I have not seen anything other than lipservice paid to them by bin Laden or anyone associated with him.

Contrary to what you say, Hamas and Islamic Jihad (not to mention ETA or the IRA) publish position papers, hold public rallies, and give interviews regarding their goals and beliefs. Not that this makes their tactics any less barbaric, but at least one can approach a solution through negotiation.

In the case of bin Laden and his group, the message is-- you have pissed us off for a long time, and now you will be punished. There is no end game, there is no diplomatic solution, and there is no negotiation.

You're missing my point that the specific incidents that are referenced stand on their own and resonate with much of the world but are not the driving force of bin Laden's organization.
posted by cell divide at 3:32 PM on November 15, 2001


"The death of the Taliban has been greatly exaggerated - they pulled out of most areas in order to save themselves and fight another day."

Sometimes getting your ass kicked and running away is just that.

And they can probably just stay in their caves forever. Who cares? The US still gains in the long run if Al Quaeda is forced to hide in caves for years. It was government support and training camps out in the open that gave Al Quaeda most of it's strength. Try doing the same thing from a cave surrounded by Marines.

We can't stop terrorism because we can't stop individuals with a gripe and a gun. But the organization that planned and carried out the WTC attacks is quickly fading into history. What Bush & crew have done so far? It's working.
posted by y6y6y6 at 3:38 PM on November 15, 2001


much is made of the fact that these terrorist have made no demands in the press. Perhaps in order to mislead the public... Because if the terrorists did have demands, some people might consider them....

What the hell is that supposed to mean? That there was a list of demands, but it was destroyed and kept hidden from the public because if we, the public, knew what the big bad wolf wanted, then we, the public, would give it to him? Ha! Not by the hair of your chinny chin chin, my naive little friend. Here's something you may have forgotten: The United States does not negotiate with terrorists. Period. So take your list back to your friends and tell them it was rejected.
posted by David Dark at 3:41 PM on November 15, 2001


The United States does not negotiate with terrorists.

"Apart from when training contracts are concerned."
posted by holgate at 3:43 PM on November 15, 2001


I wish people would let go of the notion that Osama Bin Laden is a comic book supervillain. I don't see how it takes a genius to spend inherited millions to train terrorists, sponsor governments, and persuade weak people to kill innocents.

Rcade - To clarify, I did not want to imply that Bin Laden was any sort of strategic genius when I said that he had stayed three steps ahead of us. It doesn't take a genius to escape getting killed. Pheasants do it all the time. What I was trying to say was that every place we've looked for him has had cobwebs growing on it. We have no idea where he is. The combined militaries of our 'coalition' are out for his head, and to our knowledge nobody has even grazed him. Call it genius, wiliness, blind luck, whatever; in that respect, our single most important target has been way ahead of us since the beginning.

Which was only an example for my point that the bombing campaign has not been as successful as Hitchens claims, without any judgment about who can take credit for that.
posted by Hildago at 4:14 PM on November 15, 2001


cell divide: I'm perfectly willing to acknowledge the possibility that I'm mistaken. :) But....

I have seen Osama *directly* address US troop withdrawal from Arabia (I refuse to call it 'Saudi' Arabia ;), rail against the situation in Kashmir (remember he's in Afghanistan, a lot of his sympathizers and supporters are Pakistani - their concerns are one), and rail against the Israelis. There are lots of videotapes out there in which he makes these three points *at least*. I've seen Americans talk on CNN, on Oprah, all over TV about how he views the troops in Arabia as 'infidels in the holy land', so I don't see how anyone else could miss this.

Ok here you go :) Now here's a BBC transcript of a speech in which he covers a lot of his grievances in case there's still any doubt. In fact his list is far more extensive than the one I presented. He goes on about East Timor, Chechnya, Somalia. And you'll see he mentions Kasmir and Palestine specifically. Now since he didn't mention US troop withdrawal from Arabia specifically in his speech (guess he forgot ;) I did a quick search and had no problems finding evidence of that demand of his:
Osama Wants U.S. out of Saudi Arabia (scroll down a bit ;)

That should clear it up cell divide and show you once and for all what his demands are. :)
posted by omar at 6:25 PM on November 15, 2001


"Sometimes getting your ass kicked and running away is just that."

y6y6y6: Of course. If the Taliban didn't *know* they would get their ass kicked if they stuck around, they would have held their ground and fought it out. The Americans/English/'Alliance' have *not* encountered heavy resistance, though. It's not as if there was a fierce battle for control of Kabul, the Alliance pretty much drove in for the most part as the Taliban withdrew. It's obvious the Taliban can't stand up to the American aerial onslaught - who could? But they didn't try to stand up to it, get crushed, and then run for the hills. They just pulled out - we'll have to see where it goes from here. On the subject of ass kickings, we're all well aware of how the Rangers had their asses handed to them in Somalia 18 dead, 84 wounded, and the ghost of the operation still haunts the US military. (according to PBS anyway ;)

I'll kill two birds with one stone here:
"The United States does not negotiate with terrorists. Period. So take your list back to your friends and tell them it was rejected."

David: First of all 'they' are not my friends - they're not my enemies either, though. They're just people - that's pretty much how I think of you as well. (Let me tell you though, from what I do know about these guys, they're not the kind to take rejection well... ;)

The US has a long history of dealing with terrorists. What about Saddam? (Prior to the Gulf War of course ;) What about Iran Contra? And what about the terrorist in Somalia that the rangers were after: Aidid. It's America negotiating with terrorists at its best. :) Check it out on PBS:

Sep. '93: Carter negotiating with Aidid
What was that about not negotiating with terrorists?

Oct 3-4 '93: 18 US soldiers are killed and 84 are wounded

Oct 7 '93: The hunt for Aidid is abandoned, and US representatives are sent to resume negotiations with the warlord (Oooh, more negotiating with terrorists - naughty America. ;)

So there you have it. y6y6y6: America knows all about ass kickings and running away.

And David: America does negotiate with terrorists. (And what about harbouring terrorists? Don't even get me started on the US-based Cuban terrorist groups that have been running joint operations with the US for years.)

Quod Erat Demonstratum. :)
posted by omar at 7:02 PM on November 15, 2001


the Rangers had their asses handed to them in Somalia...

more sarcasm, i see. Man, you're good at that. ;)

'they' are not my friends - they're not my enemies either, though.

"You're either with us... or you're with the terrorists."

(warning: sarcasm coming)
Good points, though... I'd forgotten the time that Aidid came over here and killed all those Americans on American soil. (sarcasm ending)

It has been explicitly stated that we will not negotiate with OBL or the Taleban, and so far they've had to find that out the hard way. (Oct. 2001: Taleban unsuccessfully tries to negotiate with the U.S.) Like cell divide said above, you are confusing different types of terrorism. And you know just as well as the rest of us that OBL's "demands" are nothing but bullshit anyway. Or do you honestly believe that he's got a quantifiable list that can be satisfied? I guess my question is are you that dumb, or do you think that we're that dumb?
posted by David Dark at 7:58 PM on November 15, 2001


Like cell divide said above, you are confusing different types of terrorism.

So it's the War On A Different Type Of Terrorism now?
posted by holgate at 8:25 PM on November 15, 2001


Holgate, it's always been about terrorism which is a threat to the US and its allies, or which threatens the world economic and political order.

Never more and never less.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 8:38 PM on November 15, 2001


How are you going to deter a perpetrator that doesn't mind being destroyed!? A perpetrator that might even want to be destroyed so he can escape from a hellish existence that he blames the West for? wasn't referring to deterring Al-Qaeda. I was referring to deterring terrorists that have strictly political agendas and ultimately want and need legitimacy. Most terrorists *do* mind being destroyed. it's a very dangerous precedent to respond to a terrorist attack with only diplomacy because it signals to other groups that terrorist actions are the most effective and efficient to get to the top of the U.S. foreign policy agenda. Everyone that has a problem with the U.S. will be planting bombs and claiming responsibility.

re; Omar's suggestion that the U.S. "truly support international human rights instead of paying lip service to them"

Unfortunately, there are no *internationally recognized* human rights. the origin of the concept of a "human right" is largely a derivation of the Judeo-Christian notion that humans are endowed with inalienable rights by a "Creator", the premises of which are completely foreign or contrary to many Eastern philosophies. As a result, it's considered a Western ideal in many Eastern cultures. Many Americans take it for granted that the entire world agrees that people have "rights" at all and there are many cultures that categorically reject the idea that human beings have any intrinsic value.

There's a book by Henry Shue titled "Basic Rights: Subsistence, Affluence & U.S. Foreign Policy" (Princeton University Press) that details some of the basic premises underlying human rights theory. Very good read. Most people don't explore the concept beyond their personal notions of what they think "everyone is entitled to," which differ greatly in this country and even more so globally. Until you explore the underlying premises, you don't realize how much you have to assume is universal to even acknowledge the mere validity of the concept.
posted by lizs at 8:45 PM on November 15, 2001


lizs: Unfortunately, there are no *internationally recognized* human rights.

Over 130 countries sounds pretty international to me.
posted by signal at 9:16 PM on November 15, 2001


And how many of those nations actually live up to those principles internally?
posted by Steven Den Beste at 9:19 PM on November 15, 2001


The only reason America's human rights debacles are so well known is because it is a free society and a world leader. People outside the States need to realize that America's transgressions are well-documented, often lead to changes in policy, and are generally reviled by the populace when they are revealed.

People inside the States need to realize that even if you didn't mean to do something, it still hurts, and needs to be addressed head on-- and not denied.
posted by chaz at 9:29 PM on November 15, 2001


...or which threatens the world economic and political order Which, though expanded in scope (the world as opposed to a specific government or economy) is the whole point of any terrorism, not just this "different kind" being talked about.

Also, to get on topic a little, I (and many others) said that the bombs were wrong, not that they wouldn't work. A baseball bat will kill a man if applied forcefully to his head, but I think that's wrong too, and evidence that he is dead will not magically invalidate my argument. I do dispute that there is any evidence as of yet that the bombs have indeed worked, but that is tangential to my stance.
posted by Nothing at 11:14 PM on November 15, 2001


Omar, no offense, but you sound like an apologist for the Taliban and OBL. You are making arguments for the Taliban that the Taliban were making after they got their asses kicked (i.e. , we're not defeated, we're regrouping to fight the better fight). That is pure bull shit. And as far as American policy in the middle east and elsewhere: America does what it does out of it's own self--and national--interest. If that grates some countries the wrong way, the solution is not -- and I don't care how you justify it -- to fly planes into tall buildings and kill innocent people. And if you do, you should be prepared for some serious ass kicking (especially if it's the only superpower who you're fucking with).

America supports Israel for many reasons, one of them being that nobody supported the Jews during WWII, and 6 million Jews were killed as a result. IMHO, that's reason enough. And as far as propping up Saudi Arabia and other middle eastern dictatorship: how about the citizens of those countries take action (i.e. a coup) for a change? What guarantees can you give that the new government won't be more harsh and more repressive than the previous one? As long as those governments are not Talibanizing their populace, why should the US get involved?
posted by Rastafari at 11:33 PM on November 15, 2001


Omar: About OBL's concerns, this is from the BBC link you provided:

This criminal, Kofi Annan, was speaking publicly and putting pressure on the Indonesian government, telling it: You have 24 hours to divide and separate East Timor from Indonesia.

Otherwise, we will be forced to send in military forces to separate it by force.

The crusader Australian forces were on Indonesian shores, and in fact they landed to separate East Timor, which is part of the Islamic world.


A greater bunch of bullshit has never been amassed in one interview. E.Timor was occupied by Indonesia, with the implicit and explicit support of the US and Australia. Read all about it here. Oh and E.Timor is predominantly Catholic.
So yes, I tend to agree with Hitchens that OBL and the Taliban are indeed instances of the Islamic World's equivalent of Fascism. Good riddance if they are indeed out of the way, but I do not expect a significant improvement with the NA in charge.
But no this war wasn't about the Taliban's human rights record, or OBL astuteness as a political commentator. It was and is supposedly about "ending terrorism". Current developments seem irrelevant as per said goal. Plus Hitchens seems totally indifferent to the fact of Afghan civilian casualties, as if these people count in some way less than Western victims. I now understand how annoying Hitchens might seem to those that disagree with him. Still when he actually reacts logically instead of emotionally he is superb- sadly this is an example of the latter.
posted by talos at 3:23 AM on November 16, 2001


see the CNN link below to see where the million figure comes form - half a million is the number widely reported here in the west, true. But does anyone think half a million deaths is more acceptable than a million...?

Reread the CNN link -- the UN official says that "possibly" one million people have died as a result of the sanctions over 10 years. You said one million children.

I think even the one million people claim is unsourced B.S. coming primarily from Saddam Hussein's government, which is undoubtedly inflating the figures for propaganda purposes.

Regardless of the figure, loss of life there is regrettable. However, throwing around dubious numbers doesn't help your argument, and I think Hussein bears a lot of the blame for refusing to redirect some oil revenue to health needs.

First of all 'they' are not my friends - they're not my enemies either, though. They're just people - that's pretty much how I think of you as well.

omar: If the murderers of 4,600 people are no different to you than the people here on MetaFilter, you're not in any position to lecture anyone on the values of the U.S.
posted by rcade at 5:50 AM on November 16, 2001


rcade: An interesting article pointing the finger for the Iraq crisis to both Sanctions and Saddam can be found in the Nation. It estimates 350.000 children dead by 2000, because of the sanctions acording to a Yale study.
posted by talos at 6:37 AM on November 16, 2001


It seems al Qaeda had the formula for a poison called Ricin. It's twice as deadly as cobra venom, and considered one of the three most deadly toxins known. It can be powdered and administered to the victim by breathing. The fatal dose is exceedingly small (milligrams), and it kills slowly over the course of about a week, with the victim dying in extreme pain. It could have been delivered by crop dusters, or in any of a number of other ways (i.e. contaminated mail). It makes anthrax look like a walk in the park, because anthrax can be treated with antibiotics, whereas there is no known treatment for ricin.

If we had not fought al Qaeda now, it's very likely they would have created the stuff and used it against us. And unlike nukes, the raw materials required for this stuff are readily available, and the process of creating it doesn't require immense amounts of expensive equipment.

And this proves that we must annihilate al Qaeda now, because if we don't and they regroup, they will create this stuff in future and use it against us. Negotiations with al Qaeda now would mean a horrible death for many of us later. There can be no compromises here.

The bombing must continue. (And it will, thank goodness.)
posted by Steven Den Beste at 6:40 AM on November 16, 2001


The process of death from ricin:

vomiting, stomach cramps, extreme thirst, bloody diarrhea, throat irritation and respiratory collapse.

Death takes from 4 to 14 days. The fatal dose is a function of body weight, so children are particularly susceptible.

Does anyone here want to see a crop duster distribute this shit over one of our schools? Because that's what negotiations or a cessation of the bombing will get you.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 6:44 AM on November 16, 2001


Never more and never less.

So, it's transvestite realpolitik. And you wonder why I have a problem with that?

Oh, and don't do a Google search for "ricin formula", otherwise by that principle, the B-52s will be paying you all a visit.
posted by holgate at 7:01 AM on November 16, 2001


Steven: I too have the formula for ricin. Actually I don't because it's useless (yeah they can manufacture a functioning protein ab initio... right...), but it is very easy to acquire, if you have castor seeds. This is a good report on ricin (PDF file), and this emedicine link explains why ricin ain't that hot:
A large amount of ricin is necessary to produce the desired effect of a WMD. For example, the amount of ricin necessary to cover a 100-km2 area and cause 50% lethality, assuming aerosol toxicity of 3 mcg/kg and optimum dispersal conditions, is approximately 4 metric tons, whereas only 1 kg of Bacillus anthracis is required. .
Also, using your logic, based on the following (same emedicine page linked to above), one should have expected the bombing of Minessota and Alaska:
In 1991 in Minnesota, 4 members of the Patriots Council, an extremist group that held antigovernment and antitax ideals and advocated the overthrow of the US government, were arrested for plotting to kill a US marshal with ricin. The ricin was produced in a home laboratory. They planned to mix the ricin with the solvent dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) and then smear it on the door handles of the marshal's vehicle. The plan was discovered, and the 4 men were convicted. In 1995, a man entered Canada from Alaska on his way to North Carolina. Canadian custom officials stopped the man and found him in possession of several guns, $98,000, and a container of white powder, which was identified as ricin. Lastly, in 1997, a man shot his stepson in the face. Investigators discovered a makeshift laboratory in his basement and found agents such as ricin and nicotine sulfate.
posted by talos at 7:23 AM on November 16, 2001


First of all, the Hitchens article is a TROLL. That is his style. Like most PWARGs he has an extremely selective memory for the anti-war arguments, which he dwells on myopically. I shall not waste my time with his blabberings here.
Only state terrorism needs to be 'destroyed', then a more stable world will follow. Terrorism is often the last resort of the politcally disenfranchised. It should also be the last resort of the enfranchised, not the first. Violence begets freedom is not a familiar saying.
How we got here. Also see the section on propaganda.
nice to have you on board, omar.
you seem to have a farly accurate understanding of the situation, IMHO. Very civil as well
posted by asok at 7:23 AM on November 16, 2001


Over 130 countries sounds pretty international to me.

Not when multilateral agreements between this many parties are rarely, if ever, enforced and there is no single authoritative power capable of enforcement. (Agreements that have been enforced have been enforced by the strongest state powers - namely the U.S. and various Western European states.) Look at how many of those 130 countries are in current violation of the Declaration.

A right isn't guaranteed until a party with a duty to enforce that right is capable and willing to do it automatically. there is no such mechanism in place, despite the rhetoric that everyone would pitch in and help if someone violates the agreement. This has always been a problem with multilateral agreements. History tells us that a number of countries (including our own) have repeatedly signed arms control agreements then immediately called their respective defense contracters and ordered a few more warheads.
posted by lizs at 7:40 AM on November 16, 2001


David:
Oh I see, there are different kinds of terrorism - my bad. It's ok to negotiate with Aidid-type terrorists, but not the kinds of terrorists behind the September attacks . So the 'war on terrorism' is limited to the kinds of terrorists we can't negotiate with... hmmmm.

"You're either with us... or you're with the terrorists."

Ahh, the sage words of Bush II - everything is so clear now: US:good, 'them':bad.

Whatever happened to freedom of choice? Isn't it possible to just be against terrorism in all its forms and be critical of US policies? Isn't being against all terrorism the truly just position? It seems the US has a bit of a credibility problem when it comes to terrorism. If US terrorism and the US harbouring of terrorists ends, I'll have no problems standing by the US.

Until then, I'm opposed to terrorism in all its forms. I don't care if the terrorists come from Mazar-e-Sharif, Tel Aviv, Cairo, Washington DC, or the planet K'plen - I'm opposed to terrorism. If that's not good enough, too bad.
posted by omar at 8:56 AM on November 16, 2001


Rastafari: None taken. :)
I said the Taliban couldn't stand up to an American aerial onslaught didn't I? Who could? If you want to call what happened in Afghanistan, a defeat for the Taliban fine. I agree with you on a certain level - they're not in Kabul anymore, right? They're only embassy was shutdown, they've suffered casualties, and they've had to abandon territory they held. I can see all of this just as well anyone else. I could be entirely wrong here - all I'm saying (or trying to say ;) is that I don't think the Taliban have been crushed and defeated in the sense that they are no longer a 'threat'. They don't even have to call themselves the Taliban, it's not like it's tattooed on them so you can tell. If they choose to, they can re-group, take up the fight against the Alliance and the West the way they fought against the Soviets.
This would be a near impossible endeavour without a stable and guaranteed supply of arms, though. I suppose they'd have to rely on sympathizers in other countries, but that's not quite the same thing as having a so-called 'superpower' in your pocket.

America does what it does out of it's own self--and national--interest
I know that - the whole world knows that, but most Americans don't. I was watching a live canadian panel discussion called 'Counterspin', I think. It was a few days or a week or two after the attacks. One of the panelists, a representative from the White House said the world saw the US as a 'beacon of light'. The host of the show turned to the audience and asked them if they thought of America as a 'beacon of light'. The question was met with a peal of laughter... And these are Canadians - America has no right to act in her self interests (oil and Israel) at the expense of the lives of people in other countries - this is the root of the problem here.

America supports Israel for many reasons, one of them being that nobody supported the Jews during WWII, and 6 million Jews were killed as a result. IMHO, that's reason enough
It's too bad if the N. Americans and Europeans have a guilt complex because they didn't prevent or at least minimize the Holocaust when they easily could have - that's the West's problem. The Zionist Organization founded in 1897 had as its goal the creation of a Zionist state in Palestine. The holocaust happened much later. It's not that 6 million Jews were slaughtered, they had nowhere to go and so the West, out of the goodness of their heart and love for the Jewish people, gave them a place to hang their hat. The Zionists had their goal set formally in 1897 (informally far before that even.)
How does 6million Jews dying in Germany mean that land can be taken from Palestinians who had nothing to do with that and be given to European survivors? If anyone's land should have been divided, it should have been Germany's - but even that would have been wrong, though more appropriate and perhaps a more fitting punishment for the Germans of that era. This whole Israeli issue is a mess. The British had control of the mandate of Palestine, they decided to allow more Jewish refugees in - fine. Only problem is, these weren't Jews who just wanted to live there, they were Zionists who wanted to create a Jews-only state there. The indigenous Palestinian Arabs felt threatened and ticked off - fighting broke out, but the Brits retained (some) order. The Brits continued to allowed more Zionists to flood in - tensions rose further. When the English have had enough, they split, betray the Arabs, and cut a Jewish state out of the British mandate of Palestine. All hell breaks loose - there have been many Jewish, Christian, and Muslim deaths, in that region over Balfour's blunder, with no end in sight.
Sorry, but in my humble opinion, the death of six million Jews doesn't mean that they have the right to oppress others and uproot them from their land.
posted by omar at 8:57 AM on November 16, 2001


talos: I didn't get the East Timor thing OBL was talking about, either.
His other points on Kashmir, Chechnya, and Palestine etc. were clear and those were the ones I was interested in.

Surely you don't think I agree with 100% of everything OBL says... I certainly hope no one agrees with 100% of everything Bush II says. Both OBL and Bush II are capable of providing good points in speeches, and bs. Here's some great bullshit from the erudite Bush II I found particularly galling - apparently we should help out huge corporations in order to fight terrorism:

"We need to counter the shock wave of the evildoer by having individual rate cuts accelerated and by thinking about tax rebates.

Secondly, in order to make sure our economy grows within the $60 billion to $75 billion that we've - the parameters of which we outlined, we need to make sure we have investment incentives for U.S. businesses, both large and small."

Yaay! More tax cuts for big business - in your face terrorists! Now is that bullshit or what? ;)
posted by omar at 8:57 AM on November 16, 2001


rcade: You asked me where I got the million from and I showed you. You are correct - it refers to 1.000,000 'people', so that figure is not just children. It was a simple mistake on my part, but it doesn't change the fact that ~500,000 Iraqi children have been killed. You were the one that was in the half a million range yourself and now you claim that even this number is an 'ludicrously inflated'?

Here's just one example that I like to use:

We have heard that half a million children have died [as a result of sanctions against Iraq]. I mean, that is more children than died in Hiroshima...Is the price worth it?" Albright replied: "I think this is a very hard choice, but the price - we think the price is worth it." (60 Minutes, May 12, 1996)

500,00 Iraqi children dead - ok? Anyone can go on google or to the library and search newspapers and look it up for themselves - this is not an 'Iraqi figure' - that's the figure and that's it. If it was exaggerated as you claim, Albright would have said "That's ridiculous! Only x children, etc, etc," and ending with the 'price being worth it' bit. If anyone suggests Zionists inflate the numbers of Jews that died in Germany, they’re crucified (btw I'm not suggesting the six mil. is inflated ;). It's ok to quibble about whether half a million, or only 400,00 or 300,00 Iraqi children died, though, eh rcade?

rcade you said:
Hussein could have reduced infant mortality to pre-Gulf War levels by directing some of Iraq's oil revenue towards health needs.

and in response I posted a CNN link that answers all common north american misconceptions concerning the sanctions in Iraq. You have not provided anything in response. here's *one* quote from the article which shows that Hussein cannot reduce infant mortality to pre-War levels as you believe:

"Since the oil-for-food program began at the end of '96, Iraq has pumped and sold some 35 billion dollars worth of oil. Of that money, the U.N. has taken 35 percent off the gross amount. To date, Iraq has received food and medicines equivalent to some 10 billion dollars over the four-year period.
You might ask: Where is the rest of the money? Ten billion dollars over four years divided by 22 million people, believe me, is not adequate funding to feed and provide medical care for the Iraqi people. In addition, it falls very much short in dealing with the damage of the Gulf War bombing by the U.S. and with other sectors of Iraq which were damaged by the war, such as agriculture, health care and education.
One of the reasons the U.S. is blamed for the humanitarian crisis is because politics have been used within the Security Council to block expenditure of oil revenues to meet the basic needs of the Iraqi people. The Iraqis rejected the first offers for oil-for-food until 1995, when calorific intake had fallen below 1,000 calories per day. They did so acknowledging that they were giving up their sovereignty over oil resources, but they did so in the best interests of the Iraqi people."


rcade you said:
If the murderers of 4,600 people are no different to you than the people here on MetaFilter, you're not in any position to lecture anyone on the values of the U.S.

So you're saying that I am not sorry for the loss of human life in NY and therefore I am a hypocrite since I don't place the same value on their lives as I do on Iraqi ones. If I have understood you correctly, that's a very serious and entirely unfounded accusation. I haven't said anything to indicate I'm happy about the people that were killed. A lot of people died there you know, Americans, foreigners, Jews, Christians, Muslims, other denominations... Must everyone who is critical of US foreign policy qualify their criticism with a testament to the tragedy in NY? Perhaps we should make it part of the swearing in ceremony for all new citizens that they swear they believe the attack was bad. Maybe we should establish a federal body that does nothing but go around and ensure every citizen can prove they think the attack in NY was a tragedy. If you want me to say it, I have no problems doing so: the attacks of Sep. 11 2001 were a tragedy.

Another tragedy in a long series of tragedies that inflict people around the world. America may feel hurt now, but a lot of other countries have been dealing with this kind of trauma for a long time. And a lot of the people in those countries hold the US responsible for their suffering.

I am not the one who's been raising doubts about the numbers of people killed in tragedies rcade - you are. The attacks in NY would be just as tragic if 1.000 had died as opposed to ~5,000, and the US sanctions against Iraq are just as wrong if they 'only' kill 300,000 children as opposed to ~500,000.

asok: thanks for the welcome. :) As far as being civil goes, it's just the least one can do in a civilized society. ;)
posted by omar at 8:58 AM on November 16, 2001


asok compliments omar on his "grasp of the situation".

Best laugh I've had all day.
posted by dhartung at 9:03 AM on November 16, 2001


dhartung: I've had many the chuckle at your expense. I'm glad if I was somehow involved in providing you with some merriment in return. :)
posted by omar at 9:18 AM on November 16, 2001


Rather than dive into this and repeat ourselves yet again, I present a link to the same conversation we had last month about UN sanctions and Hussein.
posted by ljromanoff at 9:29 AM on November 16, 2001


500,00 Iraqi children dead - ok? Anyone can go on google or to the library and search newspapers and look it up for themselves - this is not an 'Iraqi figure' - that's the figure and that's it.

Newspapers (and Albright) are wrong about that figure. It's quoted all the time, but if you research the claim, you'll see that it is based on numbers provided solely by the Iraq Ministry of Health. The numbers are inflated by Hussein to reduce popular support for the sanctions.

It's ok to quibble about whether half a million, or only 400,00 or 300,00 Iraqi children died, though, eh rcade?

If the factuality of these numbers doesn't matter to you, why not tell people 5 million Iraqi children are dead because of sanctions? After all, that would be five times as effective.
posted by rcade at 9:58 AM on November 16, 2001


thanks ljromanoff for linking that. i didn't want to beat that horse again either. I can't believe people are now asserting the figure is a million-all the links pro and con are in that thread for anyone really interested.
posted by quercus at 10:02 AM on November 16, 2001


I already said the million was an honest mistake - there's no disputing the 500,000 Iraqi children that have died due to US sanctions.
posted by omar at 10:12 AM on November 16, 2001


I already said the million was an honest mistake - there's no disputing the 500,000 Iraqi children that have died due to US sanctions.

Please read some of the actual information about what Hussein is doing in his own country. Furthermore, you undermine your own case by referring to the sanctions as "US" sanctions rather than "UN" sanctions (UN Resolution 661, to be exact).
posted by ljromanoff at 10:17 AM on November 16, 2001


LJ isn't it true though, that every country in the UN wanted to repeal the sanctions besides the United States (and possibly Britain and Israel)?

I don't think they would exist if it wasn't for the United Nations, and we all know how selectively the United States views UN resolutions.
posted by cell divide at 10:25 AM on November 16, 2001


I already said the million was an honest mistake - there's no disputing the 500,000 Iraqi children that have died due to US sanctions.

If you want to convince us, find and cite a legitimate source -- UN, UNICEF, WHO, etc. So far, all you've done are quote some unsourced claims by other people.
posted by rcade at 11:01 AM on November 16, 2001


LJ isn't it true though, that every country in the UN wanted to repeal the sanctions besides the United States (and possibly Britain and Israel)?

There have been three separate proposals (one French, one US/UK, and one Russian) to modify the sanctions by various amounts this year. The French eventaully backed the US/UK plan that would provide for more humanitarian goods to enter Iraq while making potential military hardware more diffcult to acquire. The Russians threatened to veto that plan in the Security Council. The Russian plan would conditionally suspend sanctions if Iraq allowed UN inspectors back into the country.

That's where it stood over the summer. Post 9/11, I don't know what the UN is doing exactly. In any event, I wouldn't quite describe the situation as U.S. vs. everybody else.
posted by ljromanoff at 11:07 AM on November 16, 2001


LJ that sounds about right, I probably misspoke in saying it was the US versus the world, however I do know that most if not all governments are opposed to the current form of sanctions.

I guess my objection to the sanctions is that they don't appear to be working in any way. Certainly they aren't leading to an overthrow of Saddam-- it seems to me that that was much more likely when Iraq was a prosperous, well-educated country.

The fact is that Saddam is more in control than ever, and the only victims (regardless of whether the numbers are correct) are his people, who are double victims of a cruel and criminal regime and worthless sanctions that cripple the economy but keep the leadership in place.

How the hell did we get here, anyway? I guess even on MeFi it's hard to separate middle east policies.
posted by cell divide at 11:20 AM on November 16, 2001


I don't know what kind of sources you need - I think a former U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq (Denis Halliday) is a good objective source. He's not Iraqi, he's not Muslim, he's Welsh. If he was biased in any way, it would be against Iraq. Mr. Halliday is no fan of Saddam, and neither am I, but we have no illusions about US culpability in the deaths of Iraqi children.

Not *one* person has demonstrated that even *one* of Mr. Halliday's arguments is invalid. Do you all know some ugly secret about him that I don't? If you do, please share it. Maybe just *one* U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator blasting the West for starving Iraqis isn't enough. Perhaps you'd like another.... very well.

Here's what, Hans von Sponeck, the next U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, says:
"As a UN official, I should not be expected to be silent to that which I recognise as a true human tragedy that needs to be ended."

Being a man of conscience, he too, resigned:

The second U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq also resigns in protest!!

And they are US sanctions, *not* UN sanctions - everyone knows the US vetos what it doesn't like (fair resolutions against Israel for example) and throws its weight around to get the UN to do whatever the US wants. All the UN has over the League of Nations is bodies like UNICEF and WHO. Apart from that the UN does little good and has no credibility as an impartial international arbiter of justice and order.
posted by omar at 1:41 PM on November 16, 2001


And they are US sanctions, *not* UN sanctions - everyone knows the US vetos what it doesn't like (fair resolutions against Israel for example) and throws its weight around to get the UN to do whatever the US wants.

OK, whatever. Your creditbility is nil if you keep insisting on making this obvious error.
posted by ljromanoff at 3:03 PM on November 16, 2001


Whatever - its America that has zero credibility in a war on terrorism when America itself is seen as the greatest supporter of terrorism hte world over.
posted by omar at 3:41 PM on November 16, 2001


America's "War on Terror" now has immense credibility, given that it's already taken down one government for sponsoring terror.

That's all the credibility I need.

...Oh, you meant moral credibility, didn't you? Can't say I give a shit about that; I'll take military credibility any day.

"Obey me because otherwise I'll kick your ass" always works better than "Obey me because I'm virtuous and honorable." Diplomacy always works better when backed up with a credible threat of force, and now all the other nations who were tolerating international terrorism which is inimical to America's interests will know what we intend to do to them if they don't cut it out.

That's what "credibility" means in my book.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 4:02 PM on November 16, 2001


Go ahead - by all means: pursue that kind of 'diplomacy'. Just don't feign surprise and self-righteous indignation the next time American citizens are treated the way the citizens of other nations are treated by the US... :)
posted by omar at 4:38 PM on November 16, 2001


Citizens of other nations are generally treated extremely well by the US -- unless they attack us or commit crimes.

The United States has a higher proportion of non-citizens living within its borders than nearly any other nation.

I am not impressed by your argument.

In any case, nearly all successful diplomacy in history has been pursued that way. I cannot right off think of a single major diplomatic initiative which was accomplished simply because one nation acted virtuous and impressed hell out of others.

It's not so much that what I'm describing is absolutely "good", as that all the other alternatives are worse. What I'm describing is the only thing that actually works. I have no patience for idealistic plans that fail. (I'm a pragmatist: anything that works is better than everything that doesn't.)
posted by Steven Den Beste at 5:01 PM on November 16, 2001


I'm not saying to turn the other cheek - get the ones behind the attacks - and clean up America's act while we're at it. Killing Afghanis, starving Iraqis, aiding the slaughter of Palestinians and Kurds... these are all going to come back to haunt America. Again.
posted by omar at 6:35 PM on November 16, 2001


Omar, my man, you are seriously deluding yourself if you insist of believing that it's the US that's responsible for the misery for the Iraqi people. Simple facts:

1. US didn't invade Kuwait, Saddam did.
2. US didn't gas the Kurds, Saddam did.
3. As a condition of surrender, Saddam accepted UN inspection teams to assure that he didn't have or was pursuing manufacture of WMD (which he was).
4. Because Saddam had repeatedly shown that if he has access to WMD, HE WILL USE THEM, the US sought an embargo against Iraq until he complies with all of UN demands (as much as you want to believe otherwise, the rest of UN participants also voted on that resolution).
5. Saddam has NOT complied, so the sanctions continue. End of story. If there is no embargo, you and I know that he will vigorously pursue attaining WMD. DO you want that. I sure don't.
6. As far as the death of innocent Afghani civilians, who do you think has killed more innocent Afghanis: The Taliban or the American? Go ahead, guess. And is that preferable to you than American getting rid of this horrendous regime?
7. As far as the Palestinians are concerned, as long as they continue to strap bombs to themselves and slaughter innocent Israelis, well, they will get what they deserve. However, if it makes you feel better, Bush, and even Shimon Peres, have been openly talking about a Palestinian state.

And, BTW, SDB point is well taken: America has been, and continues to be, a very welcoming country to people from all over the world. That something that cannot be said about most nations, especially the ones in the middle east.
posted by Rastafari at 10:31 PM on November 16, 2001


1. It's well known Saddam was trained and supported by the US/CIA in his bloody rise to power
2. Gassing took place with US knowledge, at a time when he was a 'friend' of the US, and using 'weapons of mass destruction' that the US helped him develop - in case you've forgotten, the US had him use chemical weapons against Irani troops who were swarming his troops
3, 4, 5, (and more) have all been answered very well by Denis Halliday - Israel is the only entity in the Middle East that hasn't signed the Nuclear weapons non-proliferation treaty, has 'weapons of mass destruction' and is in many ways the most brutal of all regimes in the region
6. I think the Northern Alliance has killed more people than the Taliban. And raped quite a few too. The Taliban had their own unique brand of barbarism.
7. The Palestinians are fighting a defensive war against a US armed and supported occupying force. Even the UN recognizes that people under these conditions cannot be expected to follow the conventions of war - they have no government, no social bodies, no army, etc., etc. These hypocrites you mention and others before them have been talking of a Palestinian state for over half a century. It is merely a ploy, a deceptive ruse.

The countries in the Middle East have a wide range of all problems, most of them of their own making. As I have mentioned earlier, they are ultimately responsible for their lot. It it up to the 'Islamic' countries to stop oppressing their own people, to band together and stop allowing foreign powers to take advantage of them.

There hasn't been one thing said here that shows what the former UN Humanitarian Coordinators of Iraq have said isn't true: the West is to blame for the deaths of over half a million Iraqi children alone. History will judge America harshly for the role she has played in committing genocide.

Do you think the people of the Middle East are unaware of the depleted uranium munitions the US used in Iraq? The radioactive fallout from those weapons has caused the most horrific birth defects and the material has a half life of something like 400 years... delusional indeed.
posted by omar at 3:51 AM on November 17, 2001


Rastafari, extreme though Omar is, I'm afraid his last post on Iraq is pretty close to the truth as I understand it. You'd do well to read up about the embargoes, particularly the kinds of products that America (and other nations) have prevented getting to Iraq. Bear in mind that much of Iraq pre-Desert Storm was educated and middle-class like you and me. Now they can't even get simple medicines and the people are headed towards a third world lifestyle. Meanwhile an elite, including Hussein, live well, seemingly unhindered by the embargoes. This is not right.
posted by skylar at 4:36 AM on November 17, 2001


I don't know what kind of sources you need - I think a former U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq (Denis Halliday) is a good objective source.

The sources I'm talking about are the actual studies you (and Halliday, Albright, etc.) are basing these "half a million children dead/million children dead/50 bajillion children dead" claims on. I have researched the sources, and to my knowledge they are based entirely on numbers reported by Iraq's Ministry of Health.

That's not a reliable source of information on the issue. If you have something better, provide it. Otherwise, I'm going to conclude that you're parroting the same false numbers that are used whenever someone wants to bolster their argument that sanctions are bad, and you haven't actually looked into the subject enough to know what you're talking about.
posted by rcade at 4:59 AM on November 17, 2001


And I've done my own research that shows these numbers are *not* from Iraq's Health Minisrty. I'm afraid I'm going to have to conclude (Just as Mr. Halliday has in the article it seems you still haven't read) that you're just parroting Western propaganda.
posted by omar at 8:12 AM on November 17, 2001


Omar, while it's true that the US supported Saddam during his war against Iran (which was out of self-interest, and other nations helped as well) and while it's true that US has supported other less-than-friendly regimes out of self interest, that does not mean that US should intervene every time there is repressive government in power. While the US may have known about the gassing of the Kurds, so did the rest of the Middle East and all of the Muslim world. So why didn't the other Muslim nations HELP THE KURDS OUT, instead of looking for US to do something? If the other Middle Eastern countries would have gotten of their lazy asses and made it clear to Mr. Hussain that this king of barbaric act WILL NOT STAND, then perhaps he would never have invaded Kuwait.

Israel is the only entity in the Middle East that hasn't signed the Nuclear weapons non-proliferation treaty, has 'weapons of mass destruction' and is in many ways the most brutal of all regimes in the region

Well the US hasn't even signed that stupid treaty, so forget Israel. The most 'brutal' of all regimes? Are we living in the same fucking planet? Did the Israelis gas their own subjects like Saddam? Suppress and brutalize their women subjects like the Taliban? Seems like your hatred of Israel has clouded your reality perception, my friend (can I call you my friend? ;>). Does Israel harass their religious minorities like Iran, Saudi Arabia or other Muslim nations? I think you need to reconsider the definition of brutal.

I think the Northern Alliance has killed more people than the Taliban...

You think? Unless you mean to include the Taliban and the al-Quida fighters who were killed during battle, I think that accusation is false. So unless you can back up those charges...

The Palestinians are fighting a defensive war against a US armed and supported occupying force. Even the UN recognizes that people under these conditions cannot be expected to follow the conventions of war

So now the UN supports Palestinians strapping bombs to themselves and killing innocent civilians, huh? Gee, I must have missed that resolution. Could you please point that out to me (learn something new everyday). The Palestinians will never have legitimacy as long as they, supported by most of the Middle East, continue to believe that Israel has NO right to exist. And as long as this happens, the US (along with all the civilized world) will continue to support Israel.

The Palestinians are not fighting a defensive war. They want Israel out -- which is not a defensive stance. It is offensive, in both sense of the word.
posted by Rastafari at 9:45 AM on November 17, 2001


Omar, while it's true that the US supported Saddam during his war against Iran (which was out of self-interest, and other nations helped as well) and while it's true that US has supported other less-than-friendly regimes out of self interest, that does not mean that US should intervene every time there is repressive government in power.

The US has no business 'intervening' in the first place. It is this collusion and intervention in the affairs of other countries that has gotten the US into this predicament.

While the US may have known about the gassing of the Kurds, so did the rest of the Middle East and all of the Muslim world. So why didn't the other Muslim nations HELP THE KURDS OUT, instead of looking for US to do something? If the other Middle Eastern countries would have gotten of their lazy asses and made it clear to Mr. Hussain that this king of barbaric act WILL NOT STAND, then perhaps he would never have invaded Kuwait.

I agree and have already stated at least twice that the countries of the Middle East are responsible for not cleaning up their act. I have said they should treat their people with justice, band together, and stand against foreign powers that seek to exploit and abuse them. But this is what the West *doesn't* want. An unstable Middle East is what the West wants - one of their master strokes in their chess game in achieving Middle Eastern instability was the establishment of a permanent power base there - Israel. Could anyone not have foreseen the strife this would bring to the region? If the 'Islamic' countries clean up their act and unify, it will mean trouble for the US with a capital 'T'.

Well the US hasn't even signed that stupid treaty, so forget Israel. The most 'brutal' of all regimes? Are we living in the same fucking planet? Did the Israelis gas their own subjects like Saddam? Suppress and brutalize their women subjects like the Taliban? Seems like your hatred of Israel has clouded your reality perception, my friend (can I call you my friend? ;>). Does Israel harass their religious minorities like Iran, Saudi Arabia or other Muslim nations?

I know the US hasn't signed the treaty - the US' unwillingness to sign any number of progressive treaties is a matter of record, e.g. the non-proliferation treaty, the Kyoto Accord. It's funny how if anyone else has nuclear weapons their weapons of mass destruction when in fact the US is the only nation ever to use them. On civilians. Twice. And as a matter of fact, Jewish peace activists are harassed and even killed by security forces in *peaceful* demonstrations. The brutality of the Israelis is in the apartheid they practice against Palestinians (in particular Palestinian Muslims, but Christians, too).

The Palestinians are not fighting a defensive war. They want Israel out -- which is not a defensive stance. It is offensive, in both sense of the word
The European Zionist settlers had no right to take Arab land and create a Zionist entity for Jews only. Any action taken against someone who is occupying your land by force is a defensive one.
posted by omar at 10:39 AM on November 17, 2001


Well, I think this horse is beaten to pulp now. But...

But this is what the West *doesn't* want. An unstable Middle East is what the West wants - one of their master strokes in their chess game in achieving Middle Eastern instability was the establishment of a permanent power base there - Israel.

If you insist of this type of paranoid, delusional, we-are-the-perpetual-victims-of-Western-aggression-and-exploitation thinking, then we cannot have a logical and pointed discussion. Just for the record, not that I buy into your paranoid opinion, but why should it matter what what the West wants? Do you really believe that simply because the *West* wants something, it will happen automatically?

But other than that, it was good having this discussion with you. I like the fact that you have such strong opinion -- regardless of how illogocal or delusional it may be.
posted by Rastafari at 12:15 PM on November 17, 2001


And I've done my own research that shows these numbers are *not* from Iraq's Health Minisrty. I'm afraid I'm going to have to conclude (Just as Mr. Halliday has in the article it seems you still haven't read) that you're just parroting Western propaganda.

I read the actual reports that Halliday and others get the Iraqi casualty numbers from, Omar. They're highly dubious, as described in huge detail in this report from the Middle East Institute.
posted by rcade at 9:52 PM on November 17, 2001


Though the MIE is based in WDC, the author of this report, Amatzia Baram, is the Director of the Jewish-Arab Center and Gustav Von Heinemann Middle East Institute at the University of Haifa. Haifa, Israel, that is. I have no references on the author and cannot opine about possible biases, but it's an interesting fact.

Let's go ahead and assume this report is the "bible". Just what is the non-suspect number of child deaths necessary to consider the situation appalling and unjust towards the innocent, and status quo for Hussein? The report from by states "...every month saw deaths as a result of the embargo of around 1850 children under five..." between August 1990 and March 1998. Does a smaller number make you feel better or justify the structure of the sanctions? I suspect not.
posted by mmarcos at 2:38 PM on November 18, 2001


Interesting in what sense -- worldwide Zionist conspiracy? The facts in the article are consistent with other sources of independent analysis of the situation in Iraq.

Does a smaller number make you feel better or justify the structure of the sanctions? I suspect not.

I've already addressed that point -- any loss of life is regrettable. However, I don't believe there's any factual basis to the wildly inflated mortality figures that Saddam Hussein is spreading, and in parts of Iraq where he isn't actively withholding health aid, the child mortality levels are comparable to pre-Gulf War levels.

Since most of the anti-sanctions debate consists of people tossing out these dubious figures, it's difficult to have a genuine discussion of the issue.
posted by rcade at 7:27 AM on November 19, 2001


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