Skip

Spooks & State Took Dim View On Prospect For Iraqi Democracy
August 14, 2003 3:50 PM   Subscribe

Democracy might be impossible, US was told
The CIA's March report concluded that Iraqi society and history showed little evidence to support the creation of democratic institutions, going so far as to say its prospects for democracy could be "impossible," according to intelligence officials who have seen it. The assessment was based on Iraq's history of repression and war; clan, tribal and religious conflict; and its lack of experience as a viable country prior to its arbitrary creation as a monarchy by British colonialists after World War I.
The State Department came to the same conclusion. "Liberal democracy would be difficult to achieve in Iraq," said a March State Department report, first reported by the Los Angeles Times. "Electoral democracy, were it to emerge, could well be subject to exploitation by anti-American elements."

posted by y2karl (60 comments total)

 
Or to put it simply: liberal democracy and voting: one vote for one person one time. It worked for Hitler.
How many countries with a muslim majority have a liberal democracy? Sharia law seems to goal for so many.
posted by Postroad at 3:55 PM on August 14, 2003


One comment in and we're already Godwinned.

BACK ON TOPIC: Remember, kids: a democracy that does not suit the interests of the United States is not a democracy.
posted by solistrato at 3:58 PM on August 14, 2003


Electoral democracy, were it to emerge, could well be subject to exploitation by anti-American elements.

In other words, if you give 'em the vote, they might vote you out. And we're not going to allow that! ;)
posted by kaemaril at 3:59 PM on August 14, 2003


For might makes right
Until they've seen the light
They've got to be protected
All their rights respected
'Til somebody we like can be elected...


(Tom Lehrer)
posted by swerve at 4:05 PM on August 14, 2003


I hate shit like this. Hello, has anyone ever heard the saying, "There's a first time for everything?" I don't give a shit what historical precedence there is. It doesn't mean we shouldn't give it a try.
posted by PigAlien at 4:09 PM on August 14, 2003


What about a republic? Would that work? Not that I can think of any other countries who are republics.
posted by woil at 4:32 PM on August 14, 2003


This isn't helping matters: Rising Tide of Islamic Militants See Iraq as Ultimate Battlefield

Things aren't going smoothly in Afghanistan either: Afghan security crisis deepens
posted by homunculus at 4:39 PM on August 14, 2003


Now, now. It wouldn't be impossible to install democracy there. You would just need to kill a lot of people first.
posted by delmoi at 5:06 PM on August 14, 2003


See also They have No Other Choice.

Unfortunately, policies in Washington are making it more likely that Iraqi nationalism is becoming anti-Americanism. Last week Iraq’s Governing Council, the 25-person body of Iraqis that helps the United States run the country, chose nine members who will each serve as president of the council on a rotating basis. This committee within the committee is where real power will lie. And the group of nine is virtually identical to the Leadership Council of exiles formed last February—at the urging of the Defense Department. In other words, we have pushed our favorite Iraqis onto the center stage of Iraqi politics. All those groups and leaders who lived through Saddam Hussein’s reign cannot be pleased to see the exiles—many of whom hadn’t been in Iraq for 40 years—being foisted atop their country.
Some have wondered why a small group of people in the Pentagon—Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith—have been obsessively maintaining control of Iraq policy. They have cut out the State Department entirely. They have blocked efforts to bring in other countries or nternational organizations, except in a purely subsidiary role. They have constantly overruled Paul Bremer, who was wisely trying to keep the Governing Council as an advisory body. But it all makes sense if the Pentagon’s goal is to create circumstances that help the exiles gain control of Iraq. “That’s why they didn’t want extensive postwar planning, that’s why they don’t want a long transition process, that’s why they are paranoid about greater U.N. involvement. All this forces us to transfer power quickly to a reliable group of Iraqis. And right now, the exiles are the only ones around,” explains an administration official. Douglas Feith admits, “Our goal is not to turn Iraq over to any international organizations. Our goal is to turn Iraq over to the Iraqis.” Transpose two words and you have the actual policy: the goal in Iraq is to turn Iraq over to our Iraqis.

posted by y2karl at 5:08 PM on August 14, 2003


Of course it's "impossible" to install democracy - what would be the point of invading a country only to give it back?
posted by spazzm at 5:24 PM on August 14, 2003


Electoral democracy, were it to emerge, could well be subject to exploitation by anti-American elements.

US democracy has long been exploited by anti-American elements, such as the religious right, powerful corporations, and the current administration. What else is new?
posted by troybob at 5:30 PM on August 14, 2003


This is cool, though. I recall clearly all the right-wing ridicule heaped on the experts who, just before the war, were giving statements identical to those in these reports. Not that we'll call them on it...
posted by troybob at 5:34 PM on August 14, 2003


You know, I tried installing democracy a while back, but all hell broke loose. I think the documentation was written in Greek or something, and the user interface was completely unintuitive. And there were all sorts of warnings about not screwing up or else you'll slide into tyranny. Eventually, I got the thing online and in working order, but it didn't really seem to work at all.
posted by kaibutsu at 6:22 PM on August 14, 2003


solistrato, just for the record, Godwin's Law is not invoked when someone says "Hitler". It happens when one party to an argument resorts to calling the other party a Nazi.

As often happens, a useful rule of thumb has been reduced to a meaningless taboo. (The mention of religious law is opportune, though, as this often happens. Something is proscribed for good and sound reasons. Sooner or later people forget the reasons but keep the proscription out of religious tradition.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:32 PM on August 14, 2003


has anyone ever heard the saying, "There's a first time for everything?"

Yes, and it's a really stupid saying, because it's completely false. There's a first time for everything that actually happens. For things that don't happen, there is no first time.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:38 PM on August 14, 2003


Yeah, George, and there's certainly no first time if people don't try. Why quit before you've even started? Nothing ever will happen if you don't give it a go. It is better to have tried and failed than never to have tried it all. There's another trite saying for you to shoot down.
posted by PigAlien at 9:25 PM on August 14, 2003


PigAlien (love that name, BTW. Wasn't it used on The Muppet show, where they were doing, or talking about doing, a version of Pygmalion starring Miss Piggy?), I do take your point that if a thing is worth doing you have to start somewhere. But just to be totally pedantic, it's not necessarily better to have tried and failed -- for example, I could try to fly by jumping off a tall building. I think that's a pretty good case of it being much, much worse to try and fail than never try at all.

Yes, Democracy in Iraq would almost certainly be a good thing. I say "almost" because I don't know everything and there's something suspiciously quasitheological about our presumption that Democracy is, has been and always will be better than anything and everything else. Like I said, I don't know everything, and I certainly don't pretend to know what's good for Iraq better than they do themselves.

But if we take it as a given that Democracy is a good thing, I still think its dangerously simplistic to say "better to try than not to". Because it matters very much how you go about it, and why. It is not necessarily better to try in a really bad, fucked-up way, and that may be exactly what we're doing.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:09 PM on August 14, 2003


A liberal democracy in Iraq? I should rather think the administration is more interested in a republican democracy in Iraq...
posted by five fresh fish at 11:27 PM on August 14, 2003


I should rather think the administration is more interested in a republican democracy in Iraq...

Considering the conservativeness of the majority of Iraqi's, I would not be suprised if the elected government of Iraq is much more closer ideologically to the GOP than any other political group.
posted by PenDevil at 1:52 AM on August 15, 2003


/offtopic

FYI, George_Spiggott : you're dead wrong about Godwin's Law

BTW, Postroad is also somewhat wrong. While Hitler was indeed elected to the Reichstag and the Nazi party at one point won the majority of seats, he never received enough popular votes to become Chancellor. That required quite a bit of legit and ilegit behind-the-scenes action

/offtopic
posted by magullo at 3:34 AM on August 15, 2003


The US of A is a republic. If the US of A can't create a Democracy within its own borders, how can it create one in other places?
posted by rough ashlar at 4:26 AM on August 15, 2003


"How many countries with a muslim majority have a liberal democracy?"

Turkey springs to mind. Might not be perfect, 'specially if you're Kurdish or a communist. (but think of blacks or communists in McCarthyite / segregated America before leaping on high horses and charging off to the moral high-ground)
posted by Pericles at 6:14 AM on August 15, 2003


I said it before the war-- if we don't allow elections because the Iraqis might elect a government hostile to our interests, then we are no better than a conqueror. To assert that we have the right to choose the forms of government of another nation is to assert an imperial priviledge.
posted by Cerebus at 6:27 AM on August 15, 2003


George, thanks for the compliment on the name. I loved the Muppet show, but don't necessarily remember that episode (although I do remember 'Pigs in Space', of course!). I chose this name when I wanted to create a Yahoo! mail account a few years ago and everything was taken already. I just thought, "Ok, what's a name no one else already has?" Lord knows I didn't want to be 'JohnSmith892' or anything else so mundane, so I picked what I thought were two random words and threw them together. Of course, I have an affinity for both pigs and aliens, so they weren't entirely random.

In any event, the saying "It is better to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all" may not explicity state that you should think before you make your attempt, but I believe its implicit. You are, as you stated, being pedantic.

Anyone who dares to undertake something never done before must plan carefully. Many people did try to fly and failed before anyone succeeded. Some of these people did indeed die! In the end, however, someone was successful. I believe the world is much better off for people having tried to fly and failed. I think the world is a better place with modern aviation and I appreciate the sacrifice of those who made it possible.
posted by PigAlien at 7:48 AM on August 15, 2003


" I don't give a shit what historical precedence there is. It doesn't mean we shouldn't give it a try."

Yes we should try - At the point of a gun, we should force people who don't want it to embrace our preferred form of government. Absolutely. And, if after a few years of them killing us every day, they still don't like it, we'll just toss a large percentage of them in jail. After all, that worked for Saddam.

This is why the rest of the world hates the US. We think it's totally reasonable to force our ideology on others.
posted by y6y6y6 at 7:57 AM on August 15, 2003


"there's something suspiciously quasitheological about our presumption that Democracy is, has been and always will be better than anything and everything else."

I think the opposite is quite true. There is nothing 'quasitheological' about the presumption that Democracy is better than anything else. In fact, I don't believe its a presumption.

The perfect governmental system would have perfect knowledge. Given that no one person or even group of persons can have perfect knowledge, any governmental system which gives complete control to authorities with incomplete knowledge is inherently flawed. Democracy operates on the theory that each individual has knowledge (perhaps not perfect and perhaps not complete) about his or her own situation and is therefore the best authority to make decisions based on this information.

Now, humans are imperfect and make imperfect decisions, but in a democracy the risk of poor decision making is spread equally among the population and hopefully evened out. Anytime you concentrate that decision-making capacity, you skew the results farther from the desired norm.

Even the United States is a representative democracy. Our decision-making abilities are relegated to elected representatives and look how horrible it is! It may be better than most other systems, but it is controlled by special interests because the power is concentrated in the hands of a few 'representatives' who in fact do not represent us at all.

The problem with a true, direct democracy is logistics. How do you manage the voting process and the law-making process? I believe my earlier adage is appropriate - "It is better to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all."

Of course, I love our constitution because it has protections for the minority, but that itself is really a subjective decision of the founders of our country. Even our constitution is subject to revision.
posted by PigAlien at 7:58 AM on August 15, 2003


Um, y6y6y6

"Yes we should try - At the point of a gun, we should force people who don't want it to embrace our preferred form of government."

How do we know, precisely, what their preferred form of government is if we don't ask them? I think that's what a vote is for and I think that's called 'democracy'. Just because they haven't had a democracy historically doesn't mean anything. People have to be free from tyrants to have a democracy, and these people have simply always been under the control of those with swords and guns.

Many Iraqis may indeed feel that they would rather be told what to do, but by whom? Should they not be able to choose who their despot is?

I don't think its appropriate to just withdraw and let the warlords run the country. I don't think that's what the majority of Iraqis would want, and its the warlords and their clansmen that are fighting US troops right now, not your average Iraqi.
posted by PigAlien at 8:02 AM on August 15, 2003


And, for the record, I think we're living in a fascist state here in the US and I'm no fan of Bush or this so-called 'war on terrorism'. I do believe in democracy and unfortunately we're losing what little semblance of democracy we have left here in the US.
posted by PigAlien at 8:04 AM on August 15, 2003


"How do we know, precisely, what their preferred form of government is if we don't ask them?"

We don't need to ask them. It's their country. We shouldn't be there.

And in the end it will turn out just like Afghanistan - We'll spend a few hundred billion dollars, give up, and pull out while things are worse than before. This is what we do. It's not what we *say* we're going to do, but in every case in the last 50 years it's what happens.

This post is about the fact that experts seem to agree we can't bring democracy to Iraq. Pounding the square peg into the round hole, at a cost of $200 billion, is stupid. This war was always about taking out the guy that tried to kill Bush's dad and creating business for his friends. We've done that, and now it's time to get out. Because staying will only make things worse.
posted by y6y6y6 at 9:38 AM on August 15, 2003


The Catholic Church's March report concluded that British society and history showed little evidence to support the creation of democratic institutions, going so far as to say its prospects for democracy could be "impossible," according to church officials who have seen it. The assessment was based on Britain's history of repression and war; clan, tribal and religious conflict; and its lack of experience as a viable country prior to its arbitrary creation as a monarchy by Norman colonialists after the Battle of Hastings.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 9:53 AM on August 15, 2003


Your analogy is false, Pseudoephedrine, because Britain established democratic forms from change coming from within, not force imposed from without.
posted by Cerebus at 9:58 AM on August 15, 2003


and its lack of experience as a viable country prior to its arbitrary creation as a monarchy by Norman colonialists after the Battle of Hastings.

Just checking, but you do realise England was a monarchy BEFORE the Normans popped up?
posted by kaemaril at 11:05 AM on August 15, 2003


I'd rather Britain have a go at it than the U.S. They might have a history of repression and war, but they've also got a pretty good track record on overall success. There's the U.S., India, Canada... all pretty good democracies.

The U.S. has... what? The Philippines? Yay.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:17 AM on August 15, 2003


There's the U.S., India, Canada... all pretty good democracies.

Most of them are still in the commonwealth, which presumably means they still like us too...
posted by inpHilltr8r at 11:55 AM on August 15, 2003


Civil: Don't forget Haiti, 1915-1934. And we even got do-overs there in the 1994's, and still screwed it up.

We just suck at the whole 'nation-building' thing.
posted by Cerebus at 12:05 PM on August 15, 2003


Speaking of the Norman Conquest, when did the practice cease of kings personally risking and occasionally losing their lives in war? Personally I think if kings are going to play dress-up in military gear and land on aircraft carriers, they should go into fricking combat and see how they like it.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:07 PM on August 15, 2003


y6y6y6,

Unfortunately, we can't go back in time and change history. The war has already happened -- Bush's daddy, Saddam Hussein, whatever hullabaloo you want to protest about, those are dead issues now. We're there and we have a responsibility. Whether you like it or not, agree with it or not, we took their government out of power and it would now be irresponsible to leave the Iraqis to the whims of the despotic warlords.

You really think Democracy is going to happen spontaneously if we pull out? I know, you don't really care, its their business to sort out.

The Iraqi warlords aren't the only problem to worry about. There is an entire country called 'Iran' just next door which would love to march lockstep into Iraq.

I don't believe there was enough justification for a war, but I do believe that once you've started something, you should finish it. Pulling out and leaving the Iraqis in a state of lawlessness isn't right. We made our bed, we have to lie in it now. It may be a hard, expensive road ahead, but we've committed ourselves.
posted by PigAlien at 12:17 PM on August 15, 2003


Its my understanding that Germany was never a democracy until the Weimar Republic, which was created by the Allies after WWI. It was usurped by the Nazis under Hitler, which of course led to WWII, when we got a second attempt to do it right. It seems to have lasted a bit longer the second time around.

Japan also was not a democracy until after WWII and its democracy was basically created by the US.

I know Iraq is neither Germany nor Japan, but I still believe recognition is due.

I'm sure I'm missing something, but I'll leave it to you to point it out for me.
posted by PigAlien at 12:26 PM on August 15, 2003


I'd rather Britain have a go at it than the U.S. They might have a history of repression and war, but they've also got a pretty good track record on overall success. There's the U.S., India, Canada... all pretty good democracies.

Success at what, exactly? The US revolted and created a republic. India broke free (through Gandhi and international pressure to end colonialism) and established the largest democracy in the world, despite Great Britain's terrible interference. In case you didn't realize this, many (think majority) Indians hate the West, especially England.

I'm not suggesting that the US is "better", but looking to GB as an example of a good leader and messenger for democracy is ::ahem:: bloody silly.
posted by BlueTrain at 12:47 PM on August 15, 2003


Pulling out and leaving the Iraqis in a state of lawlessness isn't right.

*cough*Afghanistan*cough*

Yeah, lawlessness is for corporations, not for citizens.

We made our bed, we have to lie in it now. It may be a hard, expensive road ahead, but we've committed ourselves.

Actually we made the bed but it's the Iraqis who have to lie in it. In any event have we committed ourselves to doing something we actually know how to do? Unmentioned in all this is WTF would the Bushies know about democracy? If a candidate has a brother who can illegally purge the voter rolls in a tightly-contested province, and has friends and family connections on the high court, I'm sure our guys could give them some pointers, but how about a REAL democracy? Will they create an executive branch which lies and conceals information from the rest of the country? One which forces government agencies to sue them to get information which ought to be public?

(BTW PigAlien, I'm not snarking at you, just trying to put this into perspective. We don't have a good track record here, especially when private agendas are involved, and it is ludicrously naive to suppose that the jerks who are running this thing don't have a private agenda. They always have one. I do not see a good outcome here unless we get other nations more involved, and not just to rubber-stamp whatever we decide to do.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:49 PM on August 15, 2003


"it would now be irresponsible to leave the Iraqis to the whims of the despotic warlords."

Bullshit. We didn't go to war to be nice. We went to war because we had an urge to strike back after 9/11 and we wanted to reshape the middle east. Now we have egg on our face because the reasons we went to war turned out to be bogus. Everyone over there knows this. Staying in Iraq just makes things worse.

The US: "We're here to fix things."
Iraqis: "You've got to be fucking kidding me......"

Get this - Our *plan* is to install a government by letting Iraqis vote on our hand picked candidates. Seriously. In the meantime US companies (only US companies) will be rebuilding Iraq. How will the Arabs see this? As creating a puppet government and bleeding off the oil money. The result? Gorilla war, a populous who has traded dictatorship for occupation, and more festering hatred for the US.

We look bad now. But we'll look even worse in 10 years.

You want to do the right thing? Remove the occupying army, get the UN to take over rebuilding, and have the US pick up the tab.

"the whims of the despotic warlords."

What warlords? In Iraq? Saddam killed all the warlords. I think you mean their clerics. Now, maybe you think they shouldn't be left to the whims of their religious leaders, but they (the Iraqi people) strongly disagree. They *want* to be left to the whims of their clerics. This is a problem for the US, which we're currently solving by tearing down banners and shooting into crowds.

We look worse everyday. We can't rebuild a country when hatred is going. This is a losing effort.
posted by y6y6y6 at 1:22 PM on August 15, 2003


BTW PigAlien - you seem like a reasonable person. I don't mean to be overly nasty to you personally, I'm just really pissed off at my government right now. It seems like Bush & Co's solution to large fires is to toss in half full tanks of gas. I don't mean to take that anger out on you personally.
posted by y6y6y6 at 1:27 PM on August 15, 2003


George, I'm not quite sure how our mistakes in Afghanistan justify making the same mistakes in Iraq.

"*cough*Afghanistan*cough*"

Unfortunately, lawlessness IS for multi-national corporations. Until we have a world government, multi-nationals will be able to arrange themselves in such a way across national borders to circumvent the normal rule of law and behavior that belongs to non-multi-nationals and individuals. Its wrong, disgusting and I detest it. And?

I don't trust Bush or his cronies at all. Unfortunately, he's what we're stuck with the for the time being.

Yes, the Iraqis have to lie in the bed we made, but so do we. We may have a choice to withdraw, but that doesn't mean we should. I'd rather we had help with the undertaking, but I just think its too dangerous to the region to simply withdraw.
posted by PigAlien at 1:42 PM on August 15, 2003


y6y6y6, I feel your anger because I share it with you. I loathe the Bush administration and all of the havoc they have wreaked upon the world. I don't trust any of them. Unfortunately, as a democracy, we're responsible for what our government does, unlike the poor Iraqis. Right or wrong, we marched in and destabilized the power structure in Iraq. We simply can't just back out and leave a power vaccuum.

Saddam may have killed off the warlords, but Saddam himself still hasn't been captured and there is (possibly organized) resistance to our troops. Most Iraqis may not like being 'occupied', but I doubt they want to be taken back over by Saddam or by any of these wayward soldiers with arms.

Iraq does not have an 'army of the people' at the moment. If we were to back out of Iraq, do you really think the Iraqis would be able to choose their own government, democratic or not?

Again, I'm all for allowing others to help with the transition to democracy, but until more stabilizing troops can arrive, the US should remain.

Anyway, the whole thread was whether there could be democracy in Iraq, and my point was, US or no US, someone has to try or we'll never know - screw the historical precedence.
posted by PigAlien at 1:54 PM on August 15, 2003




PigAlien, no, I didn't mean to imply anything like that. It's just when you mention pulling out of a country and leaving it in a state of lawlessness, it has to be mentioned that there is ample precedent in this administration for doing precisely that, so while you can make the argument, they can't.

Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq has an educated middle class and at least some history of stable civilization and functioning bureaucracy (in the non-disparaging sense). Afghanistan has been kicked around like a dog by the major powers for centuries and is in a comprehensively wretched state.

So one has to ask, why do we want to build a nation in Iraq while contemptuously leaving Afghanistan in chaos? The answer is not noble ideals, it is fear. We fear what Iraq would become if we don't have a say in bringing it about ourselves. We're not particularly afraid of Afghanistan. This, by the way, is the same rationale for Germany and Japan. The western world saw what happened when Germany got whupped, humiliated and left to recover on its own. We wanted to make sure that they got back on their feet without engendering another state of militant lunacy, and that's exactly why we're doing it in Iraq.

Damned if I haven't answered my own question. I'm starting to see your point of view.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:13 PM on August 15, 2003


"If we were to back out of Iraq, do you really think the Iraqis would be able to choose their own government?"

The only way the Iraqis will be able to choose their own government is if we back out of Iraq.

Especially when the US is so arrogant as to believe that the only way a sovereign nation can function is for the US to do it for them. The Iraqis will build the government, and the country, the way they want it. If the US "fixes" it for them they'll just have to do more tearing down before they can start building up.

The point you're missing is that Iraq has a long history, thousands of years longer than the US. They are quite capable of running their own country. We had no right to topple the government there, and we have no right to install one now. We can't fix it, because the fix we have planned is doomed to failure. We can't clean it up, because Iraqi citizens are too busy trying to kill us.

For the US Iraq is a no win situation. What I hear you saying is, "Yes, I agree the people in charge are inept, but I think they should keep at it. I hate what's gone before, but that's no reason to change course now."

I disagree. I think it's time to change course. So do the Iraqi people (and it is their country). So does the UN (and it turns out they were right all along).
posted by y6y6y6 at 2:21 PM on August 15, 2003


Oh my lord, George, I hadn't planned on that! :) LOL I think I'll have to try that myself sometime ;)

And, Homonculus, that is how he wants it and that's terribly wrong. Don't even get me started on the multi-nationals, their puppets in power and the sale of American democracy to the highest bidder.
posted by PigAlien at 2:33 PM on August 15, 2003


"The only way the Iraqis will be able to choose their own government is if we back out of Iraq."

That's simply not true. If we back out, the people with the guns will form another dictatorship. You can believe otherwise, if you'd like.

Besides, our imperfect democracy is better than their perfect dictatorship.

"We can't fix it, because the fix we have planned is doomed to failure."

Are you psychic? How do you know it's doomed to failure? It is doomed to failure by definition if it is never undertaken to begin with.

"We can't clean it up, because Iraqi citizens are too busy trying to kill us."

If you consider the Fedayeen 'Iraqi Citizens', then sure they're trying to kill us. Fortunately, the vast majority of Iraqi Civilians aren't trying to kill us.

I don't believe our leaders are inept - I believe they're corrupt. Ok, some of them are certainly both inept and corrupt. I don't think this is reason to pull out - I think it is a reason for us to exercise our voice as Americans to get our government to listen to us and do what's right and that's NOT abandoning Iraq.
posted by PigAlien at 2:43 PM on August 15, 2003


"How do you know it's doomed to failure?"

That's the subject of this post. The CIA and the State Department think it's doomed to failure. It's not just my opinion, it's the opinion of the experts. And yes, I am psychic.

"Fortunately, the vast majority of Iraqi Civilians aren't trying to kill us."

This is what Bush & Co is telling you. It's not what the soldiers on the ground are telling you. It's not what reporters in the country are telling you. It's not what Iraqis are telling you. Out of all the voices you could listen to you choose official White House line?

Would you agree the vast majority of Iraqis want the US out? Doesn't it seem strange that as we arrest more and more of the "deck of cards" and old Baath party members and Fedayeen, the pace of attacks and protests only grows?

Just like the nuclear program and the stocks of WMDs turned out to be bogus, the Bush claims that the attacks on our troops are from Baathist and Fedayeen "dead enders" will also turn out to be bogus. Before the war started I said here that the US effort to establish democracy in Iraq was doomed to failure. I'm saying now, and you can acknowledge it when it happens, that we will soon have documentation showing that the US knew guerilla attacks weren't all from Baathist and Fedayeen diehards.
posted by y6y6y6 at 3:06 PM on August 15, 2003


y6y6y6, I don't buy much of anything the White House tells me. They have given me no reason to believe them. Of course, the soldiers and reporters are telling us that they are being attacked. They are being attacked, but not by the majority of the population. There are 25M people in Iraq. If 150,000 US troops have 2 Iraqis each attacking them, then that is 300,000 Iraqis, somewhat more than 1%. Of course, that's probably an absurdly high estimate.

And yes, they are Fedayeen diehards and Baathists and I don't need the White House to tell me that. Before we removed Saddam Hussein from power, only the Fedayeen and Baathists and the Imperial Guard and the army had weapons. I don't think they just walked out in the street and said, 'here, the americans have come, take our weapons.' The Iraqis with the guns would not give them to the Iraqis without guns because then they would know that after they had fought off the Americans, they would have to fight off the Iraqis with guns.

As much as you loathe the US presence in Iraq, there are other powers-that-be in Iraq that would love to have us go, and they don't have the interests of the Iraqi people at heart.
posted by PigAlien at 3:25 PM on August 15, 2003


Oh, and yes, I know you think our administration doesn't have the interests of the Iraqi people at heart either - and I would agree with you! Nonetheless, as I stated previously, I believe the answer is not to create a power vaccuum, but to lobby our government to do the right thing.
posted by PigAlien at 3:27 PM on August 15, 2003


"they are Fedayeen diehards and Baathists"

Oh. Really?

After Saddam's sons were killed, cities around Iraq were filled with the sound of automatic weapons fire as people celebrated the deaths. Who was doing all that shooting? Saddam supporters?

Also, most of the members of the army were conscripts who didn't support Saddam. The Fedayeen and Baathists were just the officers. I seriously doubt that they went around and collected weapons as their army collapsed around them.

Why is it so hard for you to accept that the Iraqis are willing to fight to get the US out?
posted by y6y6y6 at 4:02 PM on August 15, 2003


Hey y6y6y6, its not hard for me to accept that Iraqis are willing to fight to get us out. I've never denied that. I've simply said its not the majority of Iraqis attacking our soldiers. In fact, despite any protests to the contrary from the Iraqis, I think its our responsibility to stay. Whether we should have gone in or not, we are there now and we simply can't let the country revert to mob rule or despotism.
posted by PigAlien at 6:04 PM on August 15, 2003


Whether we should have gone in or not, we are there now and we simply can't let the country revert to mob rule or despotism.

When your best idea pre-war is that setting up the likes of Ahmed Chalabi as President and then privatizing the oil industry is the certain highroad to secular democracy, it's not exactly rocket science to see what is wrong with the picture here. All these ethnic and religous differences matter--to the Kurds, the Turks, Turkomen, Arabs Sunni, Shia and Assyrian and Chaldean Christian, to the clan, tribe and ilk. The CIA and State, who employ top rate people knowledgeable in all these matters--they threw up their hands. Not that a secular, democratic pro-Western Iraq was ever more than an ideologue's pipe dream pre-war. There never was a plan before the fact--now they're improvising, they're treading water.

As you say, we are there now.
posted by y2karl at 7:37 PM on August 15, 2003


It's probably fair to point out that Iraq does NOT have a long history of running its own country. None of the mid-East countries have a long history, because they were all arbitrarily created over the past century or so of Western meddling. Prior to that the territories were peopled by tribal societies. There was no concept of country, just of one's people.

Historical proof that the USA can not simply pull out is as recent as The Partitioning of India, when the British government simply set a date and then removed itself from the India/Pakistani border area. All fucking hell broke loose, with a lot of death and suffering, and the impact is felt to this very day.

That said, the USA could be doing a hell of a lot better.

Y'all need to remove your current administration and replace it with benevolent smart people, instead of the greedy hawks that are in there now.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:31 PM on August 15, 2003


Cerebus> Democracy proper only came to Britain once, and was more the result of Calvinistic agitation against Catholicism than some natural Anglo-Saxon yearning for freedom and liberal government. It was "change from within" only in the loose sense that it was Englishmen killing one another in the name of the foreign ideologies.

kaemaril> Prior to the Norman Conquest, there was no "England" proper, as I understand it, but rather a number of large autonomous Saxon and Briton feudal estates.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 2:26 AM on August 16, 2003


Ah, here's that The New Republic subscribers only Founding Fakers by Frank Foer, as generously transcribed by the folks at Gene Expression:

On April 6, a C-17 transport plane unloaded Ahmed Chalabi in Nasiriya, the Iraqi heartland. For years, Washington conservatives had fantasized about this moment. They hadn't just touted the exiled leader of the Iraqi National Congress (INC) as a potential player in postwar Iraq but as a world historic figure. In meetings, Deputy Undersecretary of Defense William Luti described him as the "George Washington of Iraq." Others suggested he could become a George Washington for the entire Muslim world. Writing in National Review about "the president-in-waiting," David Pryce-Jones argued, "[I]f anything like the expectations of Chalabi's program are fulfilled, Arab absolutism can be broken." In The Wall Street Journal, Seth Lipsky pronounced him "a democratic visionary."

His American boosters assumed the Nasiriya stop would be the first event in a chain culminating in a Chalabi presidency. This assumption even permeated Pentagon planning. According to a Knight Ridder report last July, top planners such as Luti and his boss, Doug Feith, believed "Chalabi, who boasted of having a secret network inside and outside the regime, and his supporters would replace Saddam and impose order."

For the most part, these supporters didn't materialize. In fact, they have been so hard to come by that Chalabi has largely stopped trying to get them. Reporters in Baghdad told me that Chalabi no longer bothers holding rallies or advertising for the INC. "He has no chance of obtaining" the people's affection, one says. Empirical evidence backs this up. According to The Daily Telegraph, in Kurdistan--a supposed bastion of INC support--only 9 percent of respondents told pollsters they wanted a Chalabi presidency. Even Chalabi's American patrons doubt his public support. They have scaled back his public operations and dismantled his Free Iraqi Forces. As The Washington Post reported in June, Iraq's top civil administrator, L. Paul Bremer, privately told Chalabi and his cadre that they "don't represent the country."

Conservatives should have seen this coming. Chalabi represents the latest incarnation of an archetype: the foreign opposition leader romanticized beyond reason. Everybody knows this romantic strain has afflicted liberals--from admirers of Joseph Stalin, such as Henry Wallace and Edmund Wilson, to glorifiers of Fidel Castro, such as Tom Hayden and Oliver Stone. And everybody knows this because conservatives have long, and justly, chastised the left for what Tom Wolfe famously called "radical chic." During the 1960s, when the right first made this critique, the hardheaded realism that dominated conservative foreign policy prevented it from embracing such hero-worship. But, starting in the 1980s, conservatives, too, began celebrating revolution and insurgency, albeit of the anti-communist variety--a celebration that was enshrined in the Reagan Doctrine. Suddenly, a generation of scruffy Third World guerrilla fighters became right-wing icons.

When the Soviet Union disappeared, this doctrine seemed to fade with it. But the post-September 11 focus on radical Islam has created the conditions for its revival. In fact, some in the Pentagon argue the Bush administration has already reactivated the Reagan Doctrine by supporting the INC and the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. As one official told me, "The mold is set. It's very much a return to Reaganite principles of adopting opposition movements." That means Chalabi isn't so much a throwback as the harbinger of a new wave of conservative iconography.


See also Building Democracy Out of What? by David Brooks in the June Atlantic.

Alternatives to the state in struggling Iraq is of interest as well:

Kanan Makiya, a sophisticated ideologue of the anti-Baath opposition, is now trying to establish a council to draft a new constitution. He told me: “Hizb (party) is a swearword in Iraq. All the political parties and leaders are getting burned.”
Ahmed Chalabi, the leader of the Iraqi National Congress and the most prominent figure in the new governing council, is referred to in the Iraqi press as “Al-Harami” (the thief). Ayad Allawi, the head of the Iraqi National Accord, the No. 2 opposition party, is called “Abu Baath” (Father of the Baath).
Even Adnan Pachachi, a pre-Baath foreign minister and by far the most respected council member, is ridiculed. Long ago Pachachi’s ancestors were specialized butchers. His name derives from Bacha, a traditional Iraqi dish made from offal. A running joke in Baghdad says Pachachi would replace the “Allahu Akbar” (God is Great) currently on the Iraqi flag with the image of a sheep. None of the four religious Shiite representatives on the council have spent any significant time in Iraq in the last decade. Even Iraqis living in Baghdad have never heard of the majority of the other members. Oddly, it’s the Kurdish representatives ­ Massoud Barzani of the Kurdish Democratic Party and Jalal Talabani of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan ­ who command the greatest nationwide respect.


Having bitten off, now we must chew.
posted by y2karl at 4:35 AM on August 16, 2003


I am now retired. Shortly before my retirement I was allowed to return to my primary office of assignment, having served in NESA as a desk officer backfill for 10 months. The transfer was something I had sought, but my wish was granted only after I made a particular comment to my superior, in response to my reading of a February Secretary of State cable answering a long list of questions from a Middle Eastern country regarding U.S. planning for the aftermath in Iraq. The answers had been heavily crafted by the Pentagon, and to me, they were remarkably inadequate, given the late stage of the game. I suggested to my boss that if this was as good as it got, some folks on the Pentagon's E-ring may be sitting beside Hussein in the war crimes tribunals.

Hussein is not yet sitting before a war crimes tribunal. Nor have the key decision-makers in the Pentagon been forced to account for the odd set of circumstances that placed us as a long-term occupying force in the world's nastiest rat's nest, without a nation-building plan, without significant international support and without an exit plan. Neither may ever be required to answer their accusers, thanks to this administration's military as well as publicity machine, and the disgraceful political compromises already made by most of the Congress. Ironically, only Saddam Hussein, buried under tons of rubble or in hiding, has a good excuse.


More on how our Iraq policy was made by Karen Kwiatkowski, a recently retired Air Force Lieutenant colonel who witnessed the process at the Pentagon..
posted by y2karl at 1:04 PM on August 16, 2003


One final (?) coda to Y2karl's epitaph - there has been a claim made repeatedly in this discussion that, regardless of the facts on the ground in Iraq, that the US cannot pull out of Iraq due to the fact that lawlessness would then ensue.

This is a straw man argument. The US could invite in the UN - with a UN peacekeeping force which could include troops from Islamic nations - and pull it's long suffering soldiers out in a phased withdrawal as the UN moves in ( Y6Y6Y6 mentioned this approach earlier in the thread. I have proposed it before also )

Since the US initiated the mess, it should offer to fund the UN occupation but - I would bet - France, Germany, Sweden, Japan, and other wealthy industrialized nations would be so relieved at the uncharacteristic display of US foreign policy sanity that they would chip in substantial amounts of cash to foot the bill.
posted by troutfishing at 7:37 AM on August 17, 2003


« Older Support our troops?   |   Hippies not wanted. Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post