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Collateral Damage: The Health and Environmental Costs of War on Iraq.
November 19, 2002 12:29 AM   Subscribe

Collateral Damage: The Health and Environmental Costs of War on Iraq. The terror of the war on terror: "A war against Iraq could kill half a million people, warns a new report by medical experts - and most would be civilians." The report (pdf format) is from Medact, the British affiliate of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. One of the report's conclusions: "It cannot be emphasised too strongly that even a best-case scenario of a limited war of short duration, perhaps comparable to 1991, would have much greater impact on the Iraqi people and would initially kill three times the number who died on September 11."
posted by fold_and_mutilate (49 comments total)

 
An excerpt from the report's conclusion:

The Iraqi people's mental and physical health and well-being were seriously harmed by the direct impact of the 1990-1991 war. They were further weakened by the indirect effects of the conflict in a variety of ways that stem from the consequences of economic collapse, and from widespread infrastructural destruction and damage to services and facilities such as food production, energy supplies and health care that are key influences on morbidity and mortality.

In the ensuing decade, the continuing imposition of sanctions on Iraq led to further dramatic damage to health and well-being and an acceleration in social decline. The no-fly zones enabled faster recovery in the north but US and UK air strikes damaged health and the environment. OfF, the world s largest relief programme, prevented humanitarian disaster and health and social indicators began to improve throughout Iraq from late 1997, especially in the Kurdish autonomous region. However, OfF has institutionalised a state of crisis and has not prevented serious violations of rights to food, education, employment or health care, all factors that impact on health and now faces a funding shortfall. While the economy has picked up in the last three years, it is not clear how widely the impact of recovery is felt beyond the million-strong elite surrounding the regime.

The most probable scenario for the threatened war on Iraq was outlined as a basis for estimating its likely impact on health and the environment. It cannot be emphasised too strongly that even a best-case scenario of a limited war of short duration, perhaps comparable to 1991, would have much greater impact on the Iraqi people and would initially kill three times the number who died on September 11. Except the elite, protected by wealth and privilege, most of those who have survived were much healthier mentally and physically in 1990. They are now far less able to withstand further assaults on their health, suggesting an exponential growth in the potential harm.

The Gulf War also triggered extensive damage to the environment of neighbouring countries, and to the health and well-being not only of coalition combatants but also of civilians in neighbouring countries and in developing countries hit by its negative impact on trade. Estimates of how a new war might damage the global economy, and thus indirectly harm the health and well-being of millions more people, are speculative but none the less serious for being hard to gauge.

Some argue that the continued negative health effects of the regime must be traded off against the short-term effects of a war. The brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein undoubtedly damages health in many ways, from direct action such as torture and execution to worse physical health and the mental and physical decline associated with living in fear. The regime's failure to comply with UN resolutions, thus undermining the case for easing sanctions, and its hindering of the implementation of OfF by manipulation of oil supply and failure to agree on oil pricing, also lays further serious health effects at its door. It appears, however, that the slow but perceptible improvement in health since 1998 might continue under present conditions. It cannot be argued that doing nothing would necessarily damage health, and it might even help it to improve.

Furthermore, and most importantly, in spelling out the massive death and destruction a war would probably cause both directly and indirectly in Iraq and the rest of the world, this report is not making a case for doing nothing . Neither is it concerned with apportioning blame. It argues that in assessing how best to tackle this dangerous regime and work towards democracy and social justice for all, the true cost of war must be calculated and widely debated. If the war is likely to cause worse problems than those it sets out to solve, then it is ill-advised under any circumstances, and other options must be explored.

The many options on the spectrum between doing nothing and going to war against Iraq have by no means been exhausted.


The report also makes a number of cogent recommendations, and ends with the following observation:

Overarching all these proposals is an urgent need for humane and wise global leadership which recognises that national security is impossible without international security and that this can be achieved only by the measures outlined above. Medact and IPPNW call on those concerned to make the 21st century a safer era by pursuing peaceful means of resolving conflicts with Iraq, and to think carefully about the effects of waging a war that might damage our fragile planet and its people for decades to come.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 12:40 AM on November 19, 2002


Doing nothing is out of the question.

However, if somebody knows about depleted uranium shells alleged to have been used in the Gulf War and in Yugoslavia, could you please fill in the blanks, because bombs with 'depleted uranium' in them sound awfully dangerous, and not so ethical.

"Depleted uranium, a by-product of enriched uranium, is used in anti-tank weapons because its high density gives it armor- piercing capabilities. NATO carried out air strikes in Bosnia- Herzegovina in 1994 and 1995 in retaliation for Bosnian Serb shelling of cities. " [from bloomberg].

Here's another.
posted by hama7 at 2:58 AM on November 19, 2002


"Doing nothing is out of the question?"

Well, we've been doing nothing for somewhere between four and nine years now, depending on your criteria... Why stop now? And why does "something" necessarily involve massive bomb runs and skads of civilian death? Is it really ethical for the U.S. to be killing Iraqis so that (cutting to the chase) we can improve our oil throughput? Maybe I'm just trolling, but c'mon... The Man is pushing this war. It has nothing to do with the common Iraqi or American good. Just with fat cats getting fatter.
posted by kaibutsu at 3:31 AM on November 19, 2002


Just with fat cats getting fatter.

Is The Man hasslin' you too?

My main concern, as stated above, is the use of so-called 'depleted uranium shells'. This is the first I've ever heard of such a thing, and it seems patently indefensible, if true.

On the flip side, kaibutsu, if decisive (not depleted uranium or nuke: within reason) military action prevents further innocent American civilian casualties, then I'm all for it.

If this were a true imperialist power struggle for oil, then the Palestinians would be Jell-o, and the mid-east would be an American oil fountain.

Iraq is no more about oil than North Korea is about oil. There is a moral obligation to protect free, responsible democratic republics from fascism and totalitarianism.
posted by hama7 at 4:23 AM on November 19, 2002


Iraq is no more about oil than North Korea is about oil. There is a moral obligation to protect free, responsible democratic republics from fascism and totalitarianism.

Except, of course, when they're Saudi, Afghani (didn't know the moral responsibility to protect Democracy kicked in after over 20 years there), Iranian, Chilean, Kuwaiti, and any other one of the countless military operations this country's performed to maintain the status of an unelected leader being placed in power at the behest of this country's interests. Please.

If this were a true imperialist power struggle for oil, then the Palestinians would be Jell-o, and the mid-east would be an American oil fountain.

THIS is your argument now? That if this was really about oil we would have just taken over the whole world? That's ridiculous logic and you know it. What's your next argument- "If Al Gore really thought he won the election he would have just had Bush killed?" "If the Sopranos is that good TV show we'd be forced to watch it in school!"

Oh, here's a better one- "If Afghanistan is really a country we gave a flying fuck about protecting it's oppressed women and restoring legitimate democracy to, we would have done it fifteen years ago." Oh well....
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 5:08 AM on November 19, 2002


hama7, your opinion on the motivation for the threatened further bombardment of iraq is charmingly optimistic.
i am unware of any previous war faught 'to protect free, responsible democratic republics from fascism and totalitarianism'*, but now would be a good time for the us to start.
*unless you count guerilla action against governments bollstered by foreign powers.
'Wars are never fought for altruistic reasons. They're usually fought for hegemony, for business. And then, of course, there's the business of war. In his book on globalisation, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, Tom Friedman says: "The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist. McDonald's cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley's technologies to flourish is called the US Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps." Perhaps this was written in a moment of vulnerability, but it's certainly the most succinct, accurate description of the project of corporate globalisation that I have read.'
Arundhati Roy

Use of DU shells.
posted by asok at 5:20 AM on November 19, 2002


hama7,

I would have thought you better informed on the issues, but anyway, here's just one link of many (Google) I found in 2 minutes on the subject of depleted uranium shells in Iraq:

http://cbc.ca/news/indepth/background/gulf_war.html

"Among the detritus of the sandy battlefield was 40 tonnes of radioactive depleted uranium from coalition weaponry."

Try Google yourself and you'll see just how bad it was/is!!
posted by nofundy at 5:26 AM on November 19, 2002


That if this was really about oil we would have just taken over the whole world?

Yep. There is a marked difference in the way that tyrants dictate, and the way that elected leaders lead.

Afghanistan was a breeding ground for parasitic terrorists. What the Taliban did in Afghanistan is not so different from what the primitive savages who call themselves Al-qaida are doing in Pakistan today.
posted by hama7 at 5:32 AM on November 19, 2002


Try Google yourself and you'll see just how bad it was/is!!

I shall, nofundy. Thanks.
posted by hama7 at 5:33 AM on November 19, 2002


There is a marked difference in the way that tyrants dictate, and the way that elected leaders lead.

Agreed. Unfortunately we are seeing that very difference today in the US with our unelected fraud and his minions.
posted by nofundy at 6:28 AM on November 19, 2002


Well, we've been doing nothing for somewhere between four and nine years now, depending on your criteria... Why stop now?

Actually, we haven't been doing nothing. Ths US and Britain mostly, have subjected Iraq to crippling economic sanctions designed to 1) topple the regime (didn't work) or 2) at least make it give up WMD and its WMD programs (didn't work either).

The effects of the sanctions, championed by many well meaning people as a peaceful means to confront a bloody tyrant, have been devestating to ordinary Iraqis. They have definitely slowed Iraq's WMD programs, and cramped the regime's power outside Iraq, as their army is a pathetic shell of what it once was. However, Saddam's security forces seem to be just as powerful. Moreover, widespread smuggling has allowed Saddam to skim funds from oil sales, while holding up legitimate sales of humanitarian supplies to create human suffering and direct blame at the US. If he used civilians as human shields against US weapons in 1991 (and will do so in 2002-3), he also has used civilians to absorb the brunt of the sanctions.

Right now the choice is between 1) keeping the increasingly less effective sanctions in place, giving the regime propaganda points while hurting civilians, 2) going in and eliminating Saddam for good, or 3) doing nothing and letting Saddam resume WMD programs and return his armed forces to pre-1991 strengths.

There is an argument that option 2 offers the only way to both eliminate Saddam and his WMD while limiting civilian suffering over the long term. I wish the administration would make this case.
posted by ednopantz at 6:35 AM on November 19, 2002


Afghanistan was a breeding ground for parasitic terrorists. What the Taliban did in Afghanistan is not so different from what the primitive savages who call themselves Al-qaida are doing in Pakistan today.

They're still there, and we let them do it for over 20 years. Afghanistan is still a breeding ground for parasitic terrorists because we now have an installed president with a cabinet half-made-up of former Taliban Mullahs who rules over a small section of a nation while the rest of it remains regulated by warlords with local fiefdoms. The opium crop is starting production again, women are still being raped, beaten, oppressed, and stoned to death, and bin Laden is reported to be somewhere along the country's Pakistani border.

It amazes me how anyone in this country can point toward Afghanistan and feel proud about the way it looks right now, let alone pretend that prior to September 11 the country was listed on the maps as "where?"
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:37 AM on November 19, 2002


Hama7, some of the sources you list on DU weapons are just daft, or lying. One states that it was not known that DU weapons were used ~10 months after the war, which can only be true for those utterly ignorant of modern weaponry. If an A-10 fires its main gun, DU shells were used. If a tank fires a sabot round, the penetrator is DU. This was wide-open freely acknowledged and not any sort of secret.

It's not used because it's free NUCULAR WASTE!!!!! gleefully foisted on the military by the NUCULAR POWER BARONS whose neutrons make baby Jesus cry. It's used because it's about the densest stuff they can get their hands on, which makes it very useful as a component of armor, or in weapons designed to punch through armor. And the way these things punch through armor necessarily creates a lot of dust as they penetrate.

The alternative is something like tungsten, which is going to be just about as bad as it's also a heavy metal, which can fuck you up eight ways from Sunday.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:41 AM on November 19, 2002


Well, we've been doing nothing for somewhere between four and nine years now, depending on your criteria... Why stop now?

well, actually...
posted by mcsweetie at 7:04 AM on November 19, 2002


ednopantz - 'Right now the choice is between 1) keeping the increasingly less effective sanctions in place, giving the regime propaganda points while hurting civilians, 2) going in and eliminating Saddam for good, or 3) doing nothing and letting Saddam resume WMD programs and return his armed forces to pre-1991 strengths.'

4) Spend the budget for the proposed bombardment and possible invasion on humanitarian aid for Iraq.
5) Get out of the middle east.
6) Apologise for the unneeded suffering of the Iraqui people over the past 10+ years, cancel the proposed 'war'.

i may be naive, but i would have thought any one of these options would grant the us the moral high-ground in world opinion. Diplomacy (sans gunboat) could then be brought in to act on the incumbent regime. or maybe bush and blair are unable to admit they make mistakes?
remember - new educational books are kept from Iraquis via the sanctions, simply flooding the country with text-books may be enough to precipitate a reversal of fortunes for the Iraqui populance (who, like the us populance are armed). Education breeds awareness. The general populance out-numbers the fedayeen Saddam somewhat, but at the moment probably believe that tyrant Saddam is the devil they know, and the rest of the world is set against them. not that it should have to come to civil war.
i would hope that Saddam (Uday, and Qusay) realise that deployment of WMD would be a suicidal move on their part - give the country hope and they will lose the reckless urge to try this out.
posted by asok at 7:50 AM on November 19, 2002


asok's options for Iraq:

4) Spend the budget for the proposed bombardment and possible invasion on humanitarian aid for Iraq.
5) Get out of the middle east.
6) Apologise for the unneeded suffering of the Iraqui people over the past 10+ years, cancel the proposed 'war'.


So I guess that would be some variant on option 3-do nothing with the added caveat that we should 'hope' that a fascist dictator with a history of genocidal violence would not deploy WMD or use them as bargaining chips to deter anyone from challenging his regional ambitions, which in the twenty some odd years of his reign, have brought two major wars to the region causing somewhere on the order of 1.2 million deaths. We should also hope that having starved his own people to keep the WMD program alive, he would , with sanctions removed, see the wisdom of abandoning the program.

While we are at it, let's send a Christmas card to the North Koreans and put some flowers on Pol Pot's grave.

Yes, you are naive.

I love the idea that new textbooks would open Iraqi minds and therefore cause them to overthrow Saddam.
Do you know absolutely anything about this regime?
The reason Iraqis haven't risen up and thrown off Saddam isn't because he is the devil they know, or that they are ignorant of the fact that they are denied the fruits of democracy. It is because anyone who shows the slightest inclination towards dissent is hauled off and tortured to death. Then they come for his relatives.

It isn't sweetness and light vs. American cowboy interventionism. It is one of the most brutal governments of the last century which is hell bent on getting the bomb vs. American cowboy interventionism. If you don't want the latter, than you are stuck with the former.
posted by ednopantz at 8:21 AM on November 19, 2002


Yes, you are naive.

Apology in order here.

Let's keep the talk on a higher level or not participate if we feel we can't please. These are important issues that need discussed and such language is not constructive.

There exist forums and weblogs for such attacks, or "warblogging" if you will, and Metafilter is not one of them.

Thank you for listening to a convert.
posted by nofundy at 8:30 AM on November 19, 2002


"and would initially kill three times the number who died on September 11."

Deary me clearly the authors seem to have completely forgotten that iraqi lives are completely expendable.
posted by johnnyboy at 8:37 AM on November 19, 2002


However, if somebody knows about depleted uranium shells alleged to have been used in the Gulf War and in Yugoslavia, could you please fill in the blanks, because bombs with 'depleted uranium' in them sound awfully dangerous, and not so ethical.

Depeleted uranium has been discussed before. Instead of looking at sensationalistic links and articles written to inflame and incite, I would think that looking at the WHO report on the subject would be better.
posted by Plunge at 8:47 AM on November 19, 2002


Is It Likely That Anyone Could Breathe Enough Depleted Uranium to Do Any Harm? Short answer: Not very.

Foldy: I thought Americans were murderous barbarians... but you're saying a *WAR* on Iraq would only kill three times the number who died on September 11?? We're sending in THOUSANDS of troops and HUNDREDS of planes and tanks and we're only gonna kill 9,000 civilians? Where's the brutality? Where's the inhumanity? Where's the Evil Imperialistic Racism?! It's almost like we don't even care about high civilian casualties - or worse, we're AVOIDING THEM?!? GOOD GOD NO IT CANNOT BE.
posted by techgnollogic at 8:56 AM on November 19, 2002


Medact's data is largely unreliable, and focuses only on possible costs of war while ignoring any possible benefits. But dwelling on the data deficiencies only strengthens the organization's hand. The real problem lies not in the presented data, but in what is missing from them. Sanctions and war, hardship and heartache are all catalogued as if they were acts of nature or the effects of freakish chance. However, all of Medact's detailed situations, casualty figures, grisly war scenarios, and environmental and health impact estimates result from one cause, which does not get mentioned more than once or twice in the whole report.

Sadaam Hussein

More here...
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 9:00 AM on November 19, 2002


Apology in order here.

Let's keep the talk on a higher level or not participate if we feel we can't please. These are important issues that need discussed and such language is not constructive.


Says the guy who can't help but mention that the election was "stolen" every time a discussion of the Bush Administration commences. Glass houses, nofundy. You leftist babble is no more or less attractive than "attempted warblogging".
posted by BlueTrain at 9:10 AM on November 19, 2002


While you're at it, ednopantz, apologize for insulting our intelligence as well. I've all for objectivism, but I'm afraid I'm not as stolid as nofundy. Your rant was a repeated, unoriginal copy of the basic pro-war strategy to bitch and moan that anyone who might make the ludicrous suggestion that killing thousands of people isn't the best way to make them love us is a godless commie un-American traitor. "Do you know anything about this regime?" Daaahhh... me like peace, me no think smart like President. Oh, do grow up. Calling someone naive or a wimp for being against mass casualties is as annoying as being called an asshole or a Nazi for making sweeping ludicrous stereotypes about the anti-war position. So you don't and I won't either/or, okay?

Nevertheless, again in a rationale we've NEVER heard near-verbatim before, we have to invade Iraq because Saddam is an evil man rant rave attacked many weapons on his own people yawn. Sooo.... because of how horrified of what Saddam did to the Iraqi people we're now going to commit worse acts of violence against them? Way to slap the wife for not standing up to the abusive husband there.

But wait, the people of Iraq will never be against their own leader, because he'll just oppress them more, and besides, squalor and poverty is all they know because the U.S. hasn't shown them the alternative yet. Well, that explains the eleven years of crippling the nation through sanctions. Oh wait, no it doesn't.

As I already pointed out in a previous comment in this thread, would you mind telling me a recent event in U.S. military intervention that brought/restored Democracy to a previously dictatorial regime? We had the first Gulf War to defend the Regime Monarchies of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and last time I checked we "lost" Vietnam and Korea at the cost of countless lives. Fidel Castro has outlived eight U.S. presidents. Our bass-ackwards policy in the "Holy Land" has left a near-eternal cesspool of bloodshed that will likely never be resolved until one side in some method significantly annihilates the other. We actually had to debate whether or not the Apartheid governments were bad in Africa. And our recent addition to a U.S. Homeland Defense surveillance department was formerly indicted before Congress for lying about HELPING South American dictatorships.

And where are the "fruits of Democracy" in the other nations we've "liberated?" Serbia? Kosovo? Afghanistan? Show of hands- who's taking a vacation to any of these places in the near future because of the GREAT post-invasion jobs we've done there?

Face it- the last nation we saved from brutal oppression and actually followed up on to promote Democracy and better the general population was Germany following World War II, and even then we had to deal with over 50 years of horrid diplomacy and nuclear threats. If we're going to do with Iraq what we did to Afghanistan, then I don't really see their people praising the exploits of the "Cowboys" any time soon.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:13 AM on November 19, 2002


I don't think fundy is 100% right, but he is no hypocrite on this. He does seem to avoid the personal, something we should all try to do.

I think if someone suggests that they might be naive, then demonstrates that to be the case, calling them on it is OK. Nonetheless, for the sake of not letting things get to personal, let's just ammend

"Yes, you are naive."
to
"Your comments do, in fact, seem rather naive. "

(and where can I get some umlauts?)
posted by ednopantz at 9:18 AM on November 19, 2002


we're only gonna kill 9,000 civilians? Where's the brutality? Where's the inhumanity?

Well, nine thousand people, who as civilians presumably have no involvement with terrorism, war, 9/11, etc., will be dead. Since when was that okay?

What's telling about the war on Iraq is the motive(s) behind it. First, Osama bin Laden was hiding out there. That hasn't held up. Then, Saddam was building nuclear weapons. This hasn't held up thus far, and he's now allowing inspectors in, and granted them total access. Finally, we arrive at Saddam violating the UN. Perfectly valid point, but one that's been around for ten years, and certainly since the Bush administration took office. Funny that it didn't become an issue until our other reasons for invading didn't pan out.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 9:21 AM on November 19, 2002


Actually, Yelling, the news today is reporting that the U.S. is alone in believing that the firing on the air patrols is a breach of Res. 1441. So now, we've got a new "reason of the week."
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:26 AM on November 19, 2002


Says the guy who can't help but mention that the election was "stolen" every time a discussion of the Bush Administration commences. Glass houses, nofundy. You leftist babble is no more or less attractive than "attempted warblogging".

Thank you so much BlueTrain! Your reasoned and balanced approach to debate is amazing! [/satire]

That's exactly the kind of personal attack on members I propose we discourage. Expressing opinion and debating issues is good, attacking me or others indicate you have a weak argument and must resort to attacking the messenger.

Can't debate the issue? Then don't post. Let's use positive contributions instead of weak attack rhetoric. Like I said, I'm a convert.

And the 2000 election was stolen. By a 5-4 vote. Read Vincent Bugliosi's book "The Betrayal of America" for details. And, no, before you say it, I'm never "getting over it."
posted by nofundy at 10:13 AM on November 19, 2002


Hey nofundy read this.

"Under any standard used to judge the ballots in the four counties where Gore lawyers had sought a recount -- Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Volusia -- Bush still ended up with more votes than Gore, according to the study. Bush also would have had more votes if the limited statewide recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court and then stopped by the U.S. Supreme Court had been carried through."

Give it up already...
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 10:34 AM on November 19, 2002


And the 2000 election was stolen. By a 5-4 vote. Read Vincent Bugliosi's book "The Betrayal of America" for details. And, no, before you say it, I'm never "getting over it."

It was a 7-2 vote that the Florida Supreme Court had acted unconstitutionally.
posted by wrffr at 10:36 AM on November 19, 2002


No one is suggesting you get over it...just try to keep your hot buttons reasoned. You accused someone of being a warblogger, but your rhetoric is no less inflammatory. And you're one to talk about reasoned debate. Your zealoutry is well documented and your evidence is far from conclusive...glass houses, that's all.
posted by BlueTrain at 10:40 AM on November 19, 2002


Face it- the last nation we saved from brutal oppression and actually followed up on to promote Democracy and better the general population was Germany following World War II
Which is why the post-WWII experience is going to be the model for the post-Saddam settlement. At least that is what all the leaks indicate.

Go back and read the Administration's national security planning documents. http://www.whitehouse.gov/nsc/nss.html

Either the whole thing is BS or the neocons who run the administration accept the notion that frustrating people's ability to determine their fate is a root cause of many of our problems. If we have relations with the king or president for life, we get the blame for whatever he does. (Indeed, Egyptians damn the US for supporting Mubarak and damn the US for criticizing him.)

To the neocons, democracy (within constraints that the market imposes) is in the US interests. Liberals have been saying something similar for years, but it took the rise of non-state adversaries for the neocons to buy in. Back when the Soviets were around, any thug was better than the communists. You will notice how few of those thugs are still around outside the Arab world. They feel their policy succeeded everywhere but the Arab world. Whether they were right or not is open to debate, but their satisfaction seems sincere.

Their favored sort of democracy is a weak state, keeping with their philosophy of limited government for all matters but security, lax rules for business, and limited power to elected systems because in reality "the market" calls most of the shots.

In fact, to the neocons, corporate controlled globalization makes democracy safe for the market. How big a threat is a populist if he really can't change anything anyway? The forces that are a danger are those outside the international financial/trade system. So you see, when the neocons say "democracy," they are sincere, but it is hardly the democracy that many want.

Back to why I think they are sincere about building such a democracy in Iraq:
Forcing a democracy on an enemy like Iraq may not be easy, but it is a lot easier to force democracy on a defeated foe than it is to talk an autocrat into loosening up. Right now, Mubarak's men can stop cooperation against al-Qaida if the US puts the pressure on to democratize, fight corruption, and increase financial transparency (things that are perceived to be in the US long term interests.) Forcing all four on Iraq is comparatively easy, so start there. There is nothing to lose.

Is this destabilizing? Absolutely, but given what stability has spawned, maybe some instability isn't so bad.

The US is definitely not intervening solely in order to impose democracy. It is intervening to eliminate a foe who is perceived as a growing danger. Imposing a democracy on a populous Arab country rich in natural resources and human talent is merely a side bonus, but one worth pursuing. It takes the wind out of the Arab nationalist narrative of perpetual victimhood and self pity and it forces ordinary Arabs to take responsibility for their lives, in theory, diminshing the appeal of nationalist or jihadist pie in the sky noble struggles in favor of boring everyday politics.
posted by ednopantz at 10:41 AM on November 19, 2002


On preview, I just deleted all the counter-links for Steve because it suddenly occured to me that THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE THREAD.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:42 AM on November 19, 2002


First of all, ednopantz, I find quite paradoxial the notion of "imposed democracy." That said, there's numerous flaws in this paradigm. Even if the United States goes against all historical probability and actual establishes a thriving, successful Democracy in the heart of Baghdad, there's way too many questions that this magic plan leaves completely unanswered.

For example, what happens to every other Arab nation adjacent to Iraq? As said before, our alliance with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia is, nevertheless, support of monarhcial dictatorships... has their sense of security against a U.S.-supported Democratic state addressed? It seems that the only other nation in the region under such guidelines is Israel... and we know how well everyone gets along with Israel, don't we?

Why Iraq, for that matter? The question of why specifically this one individual nation gets the special treatment that Afghanistan and Kosovo was denied, left only with the "here's a few million and some guns, good luck" foreign policy remains.

And again, focusing on "imposed Democracy:" it reminds me of that Eddie Izzard routine about Italy in the 1930's- "okay, we're all Fascists now!" Are we just going to tell the 20,000,000-minus-whoever-we-killed-eight-months-earlier that they're now a Democracy? "Well, the U.S. has given you a new life now!" "Oh, the great U.S.! Now we can speak freely! I don't hate the U.S. or what I believe they've done to us for the last eleven years of a combined eyewitness account and force-fed propaganda at all anymore! Let's be friends! I WUV the U.S.!"

Granted, the idea that Democracy will magically just appear in Iraq is a good intention, but I think Reuben Bolling sums it up as best as possible about its true feasability.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:57 AM on November 19, 2002


Hey, if they're a democracy then they can vote in a government that hates the US with pleasure... Kinda like the French really...
posted by PenDevil at 11:02 AM on November 19, 2002


It seems that the only other nation in the region under such guidelines is Israel... and we know how well everyone gets along with Israel, don't we?

I don't think Democracy is the problem in that case...
posted by stifford at 11:15 AM on November 19, 2002


XQ ... here's the difference between old Afghanistan/Kuwait and Iraq. In general world opinion, the U.S. is not allowed to go into nations with bad rulers and simply remove them. Sure, we've done it before, especially during the Cold War (when the Soviet Union was doing the exact same thing). But unless there is some strong reason to go in, I can't think of any post Cold War government that the U.S. has toppled just because they have a bad leader. So much of the world is led by dictators or monarchists that the UN simply wouldn't approve of removing a leader just because he's undemocratic. Indeed, many undemocratic leaders (Kuwait and Tunisia come to mind) aren't all that bad.

However, in certain instances, the US will remove a government if almsot any alternative is better than the status quo. In *every* case since the Cold War, a nation to be attacked by the US has been given an option to change first (Afghanistan could've given up the terrorists, Iraq can submit to UN demands, Serbia could've stopped their atrocities, etc.). We're not attacking wantonly. Not attacking on a whim.

If anything, the US should do *more* to stop bad governments - stopping the kind of events that occurred in Rwanda and Congo sooner. But without complete global support, it's unlikely to happen.

The US dealing with a dictator doens't necessarily mean that it supports that leader, as edno said. France and Russia have made deals with Hussein, but does that mean they're propping up a savage dictatorship? Of course not.
The US should do more to protect benign leaders, especially those elected democratically such as Chavez in Venezuela, but other than that, I don't really see what's so evil about the US foreign policy. Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia have had some of the lowest war casualties in the history of warfare.

Lastly, the argument that sanctions are responsible for Iraq's troubles is proposterous. Look at the Kurdish North, where the human situation is *better* in terms of education, infant mortality and life expectancy than it was before the sanctions. The problem is that Saddam is building weapons and palaces instead of spending the UN-Oil money on health and food for his people. The more recent problem is that fundamentalist tyrant regimes have been proven to breed unacceptable terrorism. That is why the US must remove Saddam's capability to do this - preferrably peaceably, then by assassination and worst case scenario by a war with as few casualties as possible.

End story.
posted by Kevs at 11:32 AM on November 19, 2002


Actually stifford it in some cases it might be. A successful, democratic,vibrant Israel would make the current crop of monarchist (Jordan, Saudi Arabia), secular socialist (Syria), puppet (Lebanon, Syria still wields the power there), dictatorial (Iraq) and theocratical (Iran) Arab government look really unappealing to their respective populations. What better way to hide your own shortcomings and silence the population by keeping them in a frenzy over the government next door. This is a bit of a tangent, so back to the main program...
posted by PenDevil at 11:33 AM on November 19, 2002


It's part of the problem, stifford. I wasn't as much referring just to the fact that Israel is a Democracy (a statement which in itself is arguable) but the fact that Israel is a Democracy backed and funded directly by the United States.

You can argue that this isn't entirely true, but the fact remains that most Right-wing Arab nations view Israel as a tool of U.S. Imperialism that manipulates its government against Islam. The sudden absence of Saddam Hussein isn't going to fool any of these Arab nations... a newly installed government is going to be seen as a U.S.-operated threat to them if they don't wholly support the same core beliefs of other Islamic nations... one of the very argumed reasons why the U.S. is trying to take it over in the first place.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:39 AM on November 19, 2002


First off, Kuwait is hardly a dictatorship. More like: A pseduo constitutional monarchical state biased in favor of the royal family with plenty of dough to buy off opponents.

Anyway,
Getting rid of Saddam makes the Saudi alliance less important. The US bases in Saudi Arabia can be abandoned, as their major quarry would be long dead.

So what if the Iraqis vote in an anti-US govt? At least it would be an anti-US govt without WMD and with better things to worry about than territorial aggrandizement or championing Arab resistance to the accursed Zionist Entity. The Iraqis will have work cut out for them rebuilding their country and no way to pay for it but to sell oil as fast as possible. That means they need Western investors and international financing. To get those they will have to abide by the rules of institutions where the US wields enormous power.

The US may leave to curses, but it will leave a substantially less dangerous Iraq without Saddam and his weapons factories.

And what if Iraq elects an Islamist government harshly critical of the US? Let them. It is no accident that anyone who has ever lived under an Islamist government has regretted it. Over the long run, letting them come to power democratically, in non-frontline War on Terror states, where there is no risk to the police cooperation that is needed to dismember al-Qaida, is probably the fastest way to discredit Islamist millenarian politics. Give them enough rope to hang themselves.
posted by ednopantz at 11:39 AM on November 19, 2002


End story.

Well. That settles everything then. Matt, close this thread and delete all our accounts. Give me a fucking break. For this you are Fisked.

I can't think of any post Cold War government that the U.S. has toppled just because they have a bad leader.

Which is a clever line because technically the Cold War ended in the early 90's. So "post" Cold War leaves out our "interventions" in South America, the Contras, Noriega, and the installation of the Shah, doesn't it? Or do none of those count? Likewise, this line is a sweeping over-generalization. Exactly what constitutes a "bad leader?" We have accused countless leaders of countless bad things while ignoring countless accusations from the rest of the world of turning a blind eye to others (cough... Israel.. cough... Saudi Arabia...) Is there a rubric for "bad" somewhere, or can we just accept that the U.S. determines threats to the world as threats to direct U.S. interests?

However, in certain instances, the US will remove a government if almost any alternative is better than the status quo. In *every* case since the Cold War, a nation to be attacked by the US has been given an option to change first (Afghanistan could've given up the terrorists, Iraq can submit to UN demands, Serbia could've stopped their atrocities, etc.). We're not attacking wantonly. Not attacking on a whim.

Afghanistan offered to give up the terrorists. Iraq originally submitted to UN demands. Then it discovered that the CIA was using UNSCOM to spy on Iraq in a direct violation of the UN. On a whim, Bill Clinton decided to incinerate an aspirin factory. No follow-up bombings or ground raids followed: Please define "wantonly" for me as apparently we have different dictionaries.

The US dealing with a dictator doesn't necessarily mean that it supports that leader, as edno said. France and Russia have made deals with Hussein, but does that mean they're propping up a savage dictatorship? Of course not.
The US should do more to protect benign leaders, especially those elected democratically such as Chavez in Venezuela, but other than that, I don't really see what's so evil about the US foreign policy. Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia have had some of the lowest war casualties in the history of warfare.


Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yugoslavia have had some of the lowest American war casualties in the history of warfare. However, you neglect the history of diplomacy, which allows one to factor in countless victims of ethnic cleansing in Serbia, the contested thousands killed in last year's Afghan bombing raid, and of course, the estimated 500,000 Iraqis who have starved to death or died of easily-curable ailments in the last eleven years. Then of course, there's the indirect affects of U.S. foreign policy which leads to over a thousand lives lost in the Israeli region, multiple killings across the Middle East, and of course, 3,000 lives lost on September 11, 2001 in New York City.

Lastly, the argument that sanctions are responsible for Iraq's troubles is preposterous. Look at the Kurdish North, where the human situation is *better* in terms of education, infant mortality and life expectancy than it was before the sanctions. The problem is that Saddam is building weapons and palaces instead of spending the UN-Oil money on health and food for his people. The more recent problem is that fundamentalist tyrant regimes have been proven to breed unacceptable terrorism. That is why the US must remove Saddam's capability to do this - preferably peaceably, then by assassination and worst case scenario by a war with as few casualties as possible.

Obviously Saddam is abusing funds, but this logic is what's truly preposterous. To say that the sanctions are not in any way affecting the Iraqi people is to imply that without sanctions Saddam would still be spending every cent building weapons- a statement that is not only absurd, but near-impossible. The sanctions are, with little doubt, one of the strongest excuses Saddam has to promote his military funding in the first place. The removal of sanctions could feasibly give Saddam more money for weapons, but it would also strip him of the most significant excuse as to why his people are impoverished.

Likewise, there is a lingering hypocrisy in the accusations of misappropriated UN funds. The minute it is mentioned that Bush approved $43 million in humanitarian aid to the Taliban Afghani government, there is a rally to note that it was not a direct funding to the Taliban, and merely an allocation of humanitarian funds through the UN to the people of the country. In contrast, the minute one raises how the sanctions are hurting the Iraqi people, the same point is reversed to say that Saddam is obviously abusing the UN-directed humanitarian aid towards his own goals. Is this a hypocrisy, or was the Taliban just too stupid to do exactly what Saddam is accused of with a nearly identical opportunity? You can't have it both ways.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:08 PM on November 19, 2002


I am not sure if one more link to a report on DU munitions would help, but I found this one to at least seem well-researched.

How hard would it be to get someone to slip a heavy dose of Lupron to Saddam? It would put an interesting spin on regime change.
posted by john at 1:16 PM on November 19, 2002


The problem is that Saddam is building weapons and palaces instead of spending the UN-Oil money on health and food for his people.

actually, you know, that doesn't make any sense. Consider: the UN Food-For-Oil programme is operated under direct UN supervision. Iraq sells oil, and buys capital goods that are then approved by the UN Security Council. Unless every member of the Security Council is in Saddam's pocket, it would be impossible for him to use any of the revenues from Food-For-Oil for building weapons. Instead, there's articles like one in the recent Harper's that describe how several humanitarian projects in Iraq are typically blocked by American and British diplomats in the UN under the technicality of "dual-use" and that this continuous policy of interference has contributed to the dismal situation in Iraq.

The Iraqis are perfectly happy to spend the UN-oil money on medicines and water treatment supplies, but the US & UK are routinely blocking the shipment of these supplies because they're afraid that wristwatches will somehow find some nefarious use in the Iraqi military.

This isn't to say that the US and UK are solely at fault, but they do share the responsibility for the humanitarian crisis simply by sabotaging the only solutions that have been permitted into Iraq.

Unfortunately, there isn't a web version of the Harper's article to link to, but there is a paper published by Global Policy and a statistic from the current Harper's Index

Amount of Iraq's oil revenue since 1996 spent on anything but humanitarian programs, Kuwaiti reparations, or U.N. costs : 0
posted by bl1nk at 2:06 PM on November 19, 2002


Yelling: 9000 iraqi civilian deaths would be unfortunate but don't take for granted that there will be so many. I sure don't. Especially not in the initial attack. I keep hearing about how many children are starving and dying of DU mutations and you'd think that there would be 9000 unnecessary casualties in the next couple of months whether we attack or not. It's just mindboggling that people use the welfare of iraqi civilians as a reason not to go in... as if they're not absolutely miserable right now... as if we're going to make it worse... as if that's our desire... as if there's anything to gain in us not rebuilding iraq into a prosperous, stable, free democracy... It runs counter to the whole purpose of this war - to crack and ultimately destroy the safehavens of muslim fundamentalist and arab nationalist culture that are not only a failure but a threat to the rest of the world. Iraq will lead by example if it takes 30 years of American military occupation to do it (which it probably won't).
posted by techgnollogic at 3:22 PM on November 19, 2002


Thanks for this information on breathing depleted uranium, techgnollogic. I'm still rummaging around for more, but I hope that the initial horror stories were exaggerated.
posted by hama7 at 3:50 PM on November 19, 2002


I wasn't taking the number for granted at all; as miserable as those children may be, they are alive. I found the way your implication that 9000 dead civilians was acceptable disgusting.

As far as the war itself, by going in we risk more domestic terrorism, and worse, inflicting Vietnam-like PTSD on another generation. You assume a great deal about the intentions of the United States government, and about how well we will be able to exert our will on the Iraqi people.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 4:15 PM on November 19, 2002


That should be I thought your implication.... Not I found the way your implication....

[/Dubya-Speak]
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 4:19 PM on November 19, 2002


Yelling: I was being satirical... I don't at all see 9000 unnecessary Iraqi casualties as acceptable. I don't expect 9000 civilian casualties to become necessary either. I don't think it will happen unless Saddam hides behind them and gives us no other option (besides us giving up, which is not an option). The US military has been leafleting Iraq over the past several weeks urging them not to engage us. We don't want to have to fight them, but we will do so if they make us. We're going in either way.

It does alarm me that you seem to think a miserable, short life under a brutal dictator is better than the alternative we intend to provide and enforce... Would you not risk your life for freedom under such circumstance? Are their lives not worth the risk? Or do you just doubt that freedom is what we intend to offer?
posted by techgnollogic at 5:01 PM on November 19, 2002


I don't assume that we'll install a free government; the record in Central and South America speaks for itself. I think that given a choice between a long occupation and re-structuring of a government in hostile territory, and allowing a pro-U.S. dictator to come to power, the U.S. will act in it's own best interest.

I certainly don't think the Iraqi citizenry is doing well, but I also can't speak for them. I've never lived under an oppressive regime, and if I did, I might well choose life over possible death in an armed revolution (however just.) Remember that Saddam is a despicable tyrant, and he certainly is not above hiding behind his citizens. What do our armed forces do if he does? I think that if we force the hand of Iraqi social change, a lot of people are going to get killed.

I think a lot of people are dying and miserable now, and I don't want to detract from their plight. But I think the best way to go about saving them is not to roll into Baghdad in heavy armor and demand Saddam surrender himself. Because I don't think he will. And then that 9,000 is going to look very, very optimistic.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 6:38 PM on November 19, 2002


kevs - 'If anything, the US should do *more* to stop bad governments - stopping the kind of events that occurred in Rwanda and Congo sooner. But without complete global support, it's unlikely to happen.'

the way to do this, IMHO, would be to work with the rest of the world, say via an international organisation, to achieve political solutions to problems, rather than exascerbating the situation with 'silver bullet' military solutions. building up a level of trust could only help.

kevs - 'The problem is that Saddam is building weapons and palaces instead of spending the UN-Oil money on health and food for his people.'

as discussed above, this is specious commentary. further, the latest reports i heard of (WHO) record an improvement in the health of the iraquis due to the oil-for-food/medicine deal. this information seems to be avoided by both saddam and the western aggressors, for the same reasons perhaps.

ednopantz - i am glad that you understand the psychology of the entire iraqui population so well. maybe you should be a consultant for cia leaflet-dropping propagandists. ad hominems apart, i infer you believe that any people can be brutally subjugated successfully by a ruling elite without destroying a society, and leading to a revolution of sorts over time. i disagree with that position.
as regards my 'naive' solutions to the situation (scroll down 2/3 of page)in iraq, i was attempting to balance the foolish hubris (IMHO) demonstrated by the 'we can solve problems with these quick and easy bullets' approach. it may be naive in your opinion, but it is worth trying anything rather than increasing suffering in this world.
saddam, and the people of iraq have been punished for the past 12 years for his attempted annexation of kuwait, a country bollstered after WW2 by the british government to act as a safe contact in the land of black gold. the message is clear - this kind of expansionism is only acceptable when backed by western governments.
it is my understanding that at least $11million (that's your taxes in action) was spent on covert attempts to assainate saddam in the early 1990s, including the bombing of udays car (which left him crippled). if bush jr is insensed that saddam may have plotted to kill his father, how do you think saddam feels?
having said that, there is no evidence i am aware of that suggests that any 'terrorist' activities have been perpetrated against any us target by any organistion or person under command of the iraqui regime since the gulf debacle.
look to zimbabwe if you want to see an out of control dictator destroying his country. why no intervention there?
chechnya, where the russian occupation has seemingly sunk to the depths of depravity.
in fact, many countries have been sacked by brutal dictators with american busines and cia backing in the 'fight against communism'. suffering and death increase for the masses.
any approach which differs from this is welcome in my book, whether 'sweetness and light' or not.
posted by asok at 6:54 AM on November 20, 2002


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