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August 30, 2005 12:33 AM   Subscribe

A War to Be Proud Of. Christopher Hitchens in the Weekly Standard.
posted by semmi (183 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
What is this, trolling by proxy?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:57 AM on August 30, 2005


Oh, just fuck off, Hitchens.
posted by salmacis at 1:00 AM on August 30, 2005


there's a pony somewhere in this pile, Hitchens. Keep lookin'.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 1:08 AM on August 30, 2005


*farts*
posted by mr.marx at 1:13 AM on August 30, 2005


What a sad, sad man.
posted by funambulist at 1:15 AM on August 30, 2005


I especially like the part where he says Osama bin Laden did us all a favor...
posted by nightchrome at 1:18 AM on August 30, 2005



yawners...
posted by lampshade at 1:31 AM on August 30, 2005


"Coexistence with aggressive regimes or expansionist, theocratic, and totalitarian ideologies is not in fact possible."

Can someone (preferably more intelligent than me) tell me if the above statement sums up the point of the author of this rambling essay?
posted by jaronson at 1:36 AM on August 30, 2005


The article in question tries to convince us that because the war could be justified (=Saddam was eevil), it was the right thing to do. Wow.
posted by hoskala at 1:54 AM on August 30, 2005




One way of putting the war's cost in perspective is that so far it's been 10 or so Katrinas in terms of financial cost to the US taxpayer (and/or creditors) and lost US lives, with another 5 or 10 Katrinas on tap as the war evolves/devolves. For the Iraqis, it's been much, much worse.

The psychological compartmentalization required to be "proud" of this endeavor is truly breathtaking. Or perhaps Hitchens is just taking the piss.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 2:25 AM on August 30, 2005


I thought he brought up some good points but overall, I think this is a classic example of what a FPP should NOT be.
posted by Dagobert at 2:32 AM on August 30, 2005


jaronson, I believe it is more accurately If the great effort to remake Iraq as a demilitarized federal and secular democracy should fail or be defeated, I shall lose sleep for the rest of my life in reproaching myself for doing too little.

In other words, this is a self-apologia.

There's no cure for that illusion [i.e. that Hussein fits into Hitchens's spectrum of irrational Islamofascism], but the resulting bureaucratic chaos and unease has cornered the president into his current fallback upon platitude and hollowness.

Um, no, Hitch, he manages that all by his lonesome. I do remain perplexed as to why Bush has failed to more forcefully argue his points, except in a) ritualized form before a fawning Idaho audience, or b) running around like a jumping bean while debating Kerry.
posted by dhartung at 3:13 AM on August 30, 2005


Good things on Bush's post invasion score card...

'The ability to certify Iraq as actually disarmed, rather than accept the word of a psychopathic autocrat.'

Hahahahahaha!Thats the best/funniest prowar argument heard yet - i certainly hope he was taking the piss, or medication, when he typed that. But somehow i think he wasnt doing the former and needs the later.
posted by rawfishy at 3:17 AM on August 30, 2005


Coexistence with aggressive regimes or expansionist, theocratic, and totalitarian ideologies is not in fact possible.

I'm most concerned that China will come to the same conclusion.
posted by Enron Hubbard at 3:23 AM on August 30, 2005




Anyone see Hitchens on The Daily Show the other day? He and Jon Stewart had a rather brilliant exchange, and Stewart has rarely been so on. I was so impressed I watched it twice.

And yeah, Hitchens is a cock.
posted by zardoz at 3:56 AM on August 30, 2005


Ahh...this makes me even more want to go see the Galloway vs. Hitchens debate on Sept. 14th in New York. Quite possibly the best entertainment in the city that night.
posted by graymouser at 4:13 AM on August 30, 2005


The immense gains made by the largest stateless minority in the region--the Kurds--and the spread of this example to other states.

Yeah, except that they mostly obtained those gains after the first gulf war, and Turkey (a strategic ally for the USA on so many levels) is the only thing really stopping them from getting their own state since then.
posted by furtive at 4:27 AM on August 30, 2005


What trouble me is that otherwise responsible journalists and readers still take Hitchens seriously. But he is not the first opportunist Brit with experience of Oxford or Oxford style debating to take America by storm - in other words, as someone worth paying attention to because he is a self-proclaimed contrarian. His opportunism knows no limits. He shifted from leftist view points to a neo-con philosophy when he worked out that they had the power and the money to give him what he desired - fame and access. He even recently claimed that he discovered that he had Jewish roots so that he could claim alliance with the Israeli right and speak for them. The guy is a clever fake, a poseur who needs to be exposed for what he is - an ammoral self-promoter and nothing more. These days he writes as if he were an American. But he is no more American than Rupert Murdoch.
posted by donfactor at 4:39 AM on August 30, 2005


I have to admit, as an anglophile, I do love his voice and his sort of rough and tumble look. If only he were an apolitical b-film star. If only. But alas, he's just a prick.
posted by moonbird at 5:01 AM on August 30, 2005


(10) The training and hardening of many thousands of American servicemen and women in a battle against the forces of nihilism and absolutism, which training and hardening will surely be of great use in future combat.

Does that make anyone else's skin crawl?

And yeah, Hitchens is a cock.

Seconded, and in addition, I'd like to propose the use of a .|. which would be similar to the . used for deaths, but would simply indicate "this guy is a cock". I think it would get excellent use on this post and save much time.
posted by tetsuo at 5:23 AM on August 30, 2005


"You're a cock, you're a cock, you're a cock, you're a cock." If Hitchens wasn't so bloated, his resemblance to Gareth on The Office would be more readily apparent.
posted by OmieWise at 5:29 AM on August 30, 2005


Crooks and Liars' video of Jon Stewart bitch slapping Hitchens. (Link goes to HTML page: choose QT or WMV to download.)
posted by maudlin at 5:34 AM on August 30, 2005


God, what happened to this man? What happened? Is this really just another example of the tragedy of alcoholism or is there something more?

I suppose that maybe he wasn't all there in the beginning, but I liked him back then.

Another gin and tonic, hold the tonic, please.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:04 AM on August 30, 2005


Heywood: or maybe Hitchens just thought that it was worthwhile for the United States to do something to stop systematic rape, torture, murder and the violation of human rights -- something that hurricanes tend not to be very good at. Let me ask sincerely, do the people who despise President Bush and oppose the war in Iraq not think that overthrowing Saddam was a good thing at all?

I can understand the view that overthrowing Saddam was a worthwhile goal but that the cost in human life and resources was not justified. Is that what you think? (Your hurricane analogy suggests that the answer is no.)
posted by esquire at 6:05 AM on August 30, 2005


What trouble me is that otherwise responsible journalists and readers still take Hitchens seriously.

Really? He's been in my shillfile with Horowitz for years.
posted by sonofsamiam at 6:06 AM on August 30, 2005


Zardoz: Jon Stewart called and said that he apologizes for not showing up at the restaurant that night, but that your constant voice mail messages kind of creeped him out. He was thinking it might be a good idea if the two of you could just be friends, okay?
posted by esquire at 6:06 AM on August 30, 2005


I THINK I WILL begin every paragraph with full capitals for awhile. After all, it does make what I say seem sooo much more important.

WOULD NOT EVERYONE agree?
posted by odinsdream at 6:23 AM on August 30, 2005


He even recently claimed that he discovered that he had Jewish roots so that he could claim alliance with the Israeli right and speak for them

Really? It's a new thing?

Criticize him if you want to but please get your facts straight. 6 years ago, minimum, is not 'recent.'
posted by Dagobert at 6:36 AM on August 30, 2005


I just want to complain about the constant complaint that Hitchens is alcoholic. My question is, what's wrong with alcoholics?

They can be quite amusing sometimes. I certainly enjoyed being one for a while, and if I traveled to Pakistan or Iraq, I guarantee you I'd be looking for a drink.
posted by fungible at 6:36 AM on August 30, 2005


I believe almost everything he says in this piece is right. So there.
posted by loquax at 7:22 AM on August 30, 2005


Wow.

Over 30 responses so far in this thread and not a single one addressing the substance of the article linked. Every single message so far has been regarding a dislike of the author. The logic being, one can grok, Hitchens = no longer leftist = can't possibly have a valid point. Oh yeah, he drinks alcohol, too. But insofar as the article has a topic, every comment so far could be called a de-rail.

Now, I don't begrudge this at all. I just found it to be a good data point that I need to bookmark next time someone accuses me of being a troll, de-railing a conversation, or not addressing the topic as framed by the poster.
posted by dios at 7:27 AM on August 30, 2005


Hitchens = .|.
posted by Ber at 7:30 AM on August 30, 2005


I believe almost everything he says in this piece is right. So there.
posted by loquax at 10:22 AM EST


Which says a lot about you, and your talent (or lack thereof) for discernment.
Hitchens is a low life gutter snipe.
posted by nofundy at 7:30 AM on August 30, 2005


not a single one addressing the substance of the article linked.

The article must first have substance before substance can be addressed.
posted by nofundy at 7:31 AM on August 30, 2005


Actually when he was writing leftist tracts i was less careful reading him. I have now learned my lesson and share my ciritcism equally between both camps. I only ask for honesty and a liittle sincerity. One thing that anyone can learn if he takes the trouble, is that one can build a good and convincing argument for almost anything.
posted by donfactor at 7:32 AM on August 30, 2005


Which says a lot about you, and your talent (or lack thereof) for discernment.

Oh yeah? Right back atcha slick!

Oh, and I now further agree with what Dios has said in this thread. This is a ridiculous thread.
posted by loquax at 7:33 AM on August 30, 2005


This is a ridiculous thread.

Aye.

The whole website needs a diaper.

Someone links to an opinion piece running counter to the group ideology, and everyone loses bowel control. Let's make it a little harder for war supporters to paint anti-war folk as dippy contrarians with no real answers, shall we?
posted by dhoyt at 7:39 AM on August 30, 2005


*farts*
posted by nofundy at 7:43 AM on August 30, 2005


Hitchens is "spot on" as they say here at metafilter.
posted by shoos at 7:44 AM on August 30, 2005


The essence of the arguement by Hitchens is that Saddam a very bad man who did very bad things and therefore invading his country is justified and a good thing. Ok. Then why not do the same to Iran (WMD), N. Korea, China?
What's good for the goose is good for the gooser
posted by Postroad at 7:46 AM on August 30, 2005


Heywood: or maybe Hitchens just thought that it was worthwhile for the United States to do something to stop systematic rape, torture, murder and the violation of human rights -- something that hurricanes tend not to be very good at. Let me ask sincerely, do the people who despise President Bush and oppose the war in Iraq not think that overthrowing Saddam was a good thing at all?

It was a good thing. But the Bush apologists take this fact as an excuse for warcrimes committed by this administration, because, you know, if some good came of it, it must be all justified, no? It's mostly the people accusing liberals of moral relativism that in the same breath state that every human rights violation is a-ok as long as it's not as bad as it was before. This is what people not accepting this excuse want to make clear.

If I steal something from you, it doesn't make me less of a thief if you happen to be a thief as well. Even if you have been a far greater thief than me.
posted by uncle harold at 7:51 AM on August 30, 2005


"Coexistence with aggressive regimes or expansionist, theocratic, and totalitarian ideologies is not in fact possible."

Isn't that Bin Laden's whole spiel?

.|.
posted by mkultra at 7:51 AM on August 30, 2005


The essence of the argument by Hitchens is that Saddam a very bad man who did very bad things and therefore invading his country is justified and a good thing.

As I read it, the essence of his argument was that the Bush administration has thus far been totally incompetent in terms of framing the war in Iraq properly, and communicating objectives, motives and long-term geopolitical strategies, which has led to misconceptions, manipulations, and mistrust of both the administration and the US as a whole. The rest of your point may still stand, but it's really a separate issue.
posted by loquax at 7:52 AM on August 30, 2005


um, why is this post still here? mattamyn asleep or something?

hey dhoyt, pull my finger.
posted by mr.marx at 8:00 AM on August 30, 2005


.|.
posted by soyjoy at 8:00 AM on August 30, 2005


Let's make it a little harder for war supporters to paint anti-war folk as dippy contrarians with no real answers, shall we?

Yeah, it's pretty easy for the most incoherent, inbred, echo-chamber-engendered political force in recent American history to paint anyone as dippy.

What a joke. Among the Republican die-hards I know, there are a handful of PNAC-loving war supporters, and a whole lot of Christians who feel they have to support the republicans because of the abortion issue.

The flaky hippy dippy perception of the anti-war crowd is already melted away in the public eye. Too many screw-ups, too many outright lies.
posted by sonofsamiam at 8:01 AM on August 30, 2005


I've taken shit here before for saying that I had no real moral problem with using force against Hussein, just practical objections to both the way the war was promoted and prosecuted. On that level, I can agree with some of what Hitchens says quite readily. On the other hand, my central disagreement with Hitchens is that he seems to believe that doing something poorly is often good enough, and that he argues that our slight improvements are something to be proud of. The bizarro relativism makes my head spin: if we're attacking Saddam because of human rights abuses, then we have an onus to not just be a little bit better and torture a little less, but to actually stamp out that evil.
I realize that it's letting the perfect be the enemy of the good, but I find it prefererable to the weak assertation that we should somehow be happy having only one testicle smashed flat with a hammer, because after all, it could have been both of them.
(But thanks, Dershins, for trying to give my meme legs).
posted by klangklangston at 8:06 AM on August 30, 2005


um, why is this post still here? mattamyn asleep or something?
posted by mr.marx at 8:00 AM PST on August 30


Why the hell shouldn't it be here?

How is this any different than your typical y2karl post from commondreams or whatever?

On its own, there is no reason why it shouldn't be allowed here given the precedents established on this website.

Unless you are suggesting it should be deleted because of the behavior of the people in the comments. But if thats the case, then you are turning over editorial decisions to the loudest.
posted by dios at 8:08 AM on August 30, 2005


loquax: As I read it, the essence of his argument was that the Bush administration has thus far been totally incompetent in terms of framing the war in Iraq properly...

Actually, this cuts to the essense of Hitchensism: the "proper" framing of the Iraq War would have to be exactly what Hitchens wants. Nothing outside of that matters. If Hitchens approves of everything, then everything is right. If it does not match the blueprint in Hitchens' head, something has gone awry. Reality would have to rearrange itself in knots to satisfy Hitchens.

If you think the invasion of Iraq was a good thing, then you think 9/11 was a good thing. The invasion of Iraq did not exist in a vacuum. The removal of Saddam Hussein from power was not a Platonic exercise in idea exchange. The brute force required to depose Saddam required the deaths of thousands of people to catalyse the momentum.

It also takes a willful ignorance to isolate "remove Saddam from power" from the real-world consequences of that action. It takes doublethink to conflate a secular, fascist Arab leader and the Muslim fundamentalist/caliphate-restoration dreams of Osama bin Ladin. In the segment on the Daily Show, I was shocked that Hitchens would make such an obvious error and confabulation. It must be nice being able to ignore the horror unleashed by the achievement of one's idea.

And the saddest point is that Hitchens' platitudes about Saddam are, ultimately, meaningless. The Bush administration didn't invade Iraq because of freedom or democracy or WMD; they invaded because the long-term strategic interests of a petroleum-addicted nation require a military presence in the Middle East. The U.S. has tried exporting "democracy" before, which is really just corporate/capitalist exploitation of a region for its resources. Hitchens is a useful idiot because selling a war for oil doesn't work, and thus you need people screeching about what a horrible person Saddam is to cover up the fact that this is just about what war is always about: money and resources.

Can we call a moratorium on drunk insults? It does nothing substantive except make you look small. "He's a drunk!" Yeah, great, that tells us nothing.
posted by solistrato at 8:16 AM on August 30, 2005


Let's make it a little harder for war supporters to paint anti-war folk as dippy contrarians with no real answers, shall we?

Sigh. Hitchens has no real point; the rationalization for the war he offers was discredited years ago, and there's no point in rehashing it. He has no fresh substance, he's just reiterating the stuff Bush was talking about during the last election, even down to the weird "AQ Kahn" reference.

Checking this article from the Washington Post last week I find the single quote from a human rights advocate that most strongly undermines all Hitchens' rhetoric:

"I don't see any difference between Saddam and the way the Kurds are running things here" - Nahrain Toma, from human rights org Bethnahrain.

Hitchens' "pride" in the war should be overshadowed by the fact that the new situation is really not better, however much conservatives want it to be.
posted by graymouser at 8:17 AM on August 30, 2005


The criticisms of this thread have some merit, they are at least not disingenuous in the way that Hitchens' arguments have become. Where I disagree with them is that Hitchens has, over the past several years, managed to make it clear that he is not interested in actually discussing facts, but only in deploying his (impressive) rhetorical skills. This latest article is more of the same, and as such, the knee-jerk reactions to it in this thread are understandable. Much of the ad hominem concern in the responses here has to do with a sense among many people that Hitchens has let us down. He was, at one time, a contrarian concerned with justice; he has become a cheerleader for Rightist military force.

Is it simply his move from Left to Right that has made him seem less intelligent to people on the left? That's a fair question, but I think the answer is no. His earlier writing made clear that he considered his position to be with law and the people over manipulation and realpolitic. To that end he was a piercer of cherished myths in the name of truth. With Iraq he has become almost the opposite of that. He has chosen to uphold the legitimacy of the invasion of Iraq regardless of the evidence that suggests that the US public was gamed into this war. He has chosen to put to sleep his considerable journalistic acumen in order to simply assert again and again that invading Iraq was the right thing to do. While I understand that he really believes that this is so, I'm left feeling as if he is dishonest about his desires because he has been as guilty as the Bush administration of changing the reasons for why such an invasion was necessary. Hitchens is in many ways guilty of more lies, because unconstrained by the examination of the rest of the press, he can continue to insist, for instance, and against the evidence, that Saddam was in bed with Al Qaeda.

But, Hitchens' arguments are weak, and they devolve very quickly into the (ostensible) tautology that because things are better now, overthrowing Saddam was the right thing to do. This is a hard thing to argue with, and Hitchens manages to make hay every time someone tries, because it appears as if the dissenter must think that leaving people to be tortured and killed by Saddam is acceptable. But of course that isn't true. and acting as if it were is the worst kind of perfidy becuase it seeks to evade your interlocutors' arguments by painting them as truly evil people. The fact remains, however, that we all recognize that torture and killing in a given place do not make that state someplace that must be invaded; and we can all be happy that people are no longer being tortured by Saddam without thinking that the war was or is a good idea. The list of countries that would have to be invaded as torturers is too long to be countenanced, and the issues of complicity for the United States, which through extraordinary rendition supports torture, are too complex to be easily dismissed. Of course Hitchens never talks about these things because to do so would be to muddy the very un-nuanced picture he's chosen to stake his current reputation upon.

So, I have a lot of sympathy for this thread, and all threads that dismiss Hitchens' current set of arguments out of hand. It isn't that he doesn't deserve a hearing, it's simply that he hasn't said anything new in years, and that what he has said has devolved into a pile of self-serving blather. I mean:
One might have thought, therefore, that Bush and Blair's decision to put an end at last to this intolerable state of affairs would be hailed, not just as a belated vindication of long-ignored U.N. resolutions but as some corrective to the decade of shame and inaction that had just passed in Bosnia and Rwanda. But such is not the case. An apparent consensus exists, among millions of people in Europe and America, that the whole operation for the demilitarization of Iraq, and the salvage of its traumatized society, was at best a false pretense and at worst an unprovoked aggression. How can this possibly be?
How can we take seriously someone who asks that question with the niave light of a liar in their eyes? Especially after the world so roundly supported the invasion of Afghanistan? I guess if you don't see the world through Hitch's eyes, no matter how many valid objections you raise, you're a deluded fool.
posted by OmieWise at 8:17 AM on August 30, 2005


worthwhile for the United States to do something to stop systematic rape, torture, murder and the violation of human rights

Ah yes, another of the ever-shifting retroactively formulated objectives. Now it's saving the people from death and tyrannical abuse. I might find this more persuasive if they weren't continuing to block the release of the images and videos out of Abu Ghraib, which even the usually mealy-mouthed and evasive Rumsfeld is forced to admit "can only be described as blatantly sadistic, cruel and inhumane", and that a Republican Senator suggested contained scenes of rape and murder.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:19 AM on August 30, 2005


klangklangston writes "The bizarro relativism makes my head spin: if we're attacking Saddam because of human rights abuses, then we have an onus to not just be a little bit better and torture a little less, but to actually stamp out that evil."

Your whole comment was quite good.
posted by OmieWise at 8:20 AM on August 30, 2005


Hitchens:

But puerility in adults is quite another thing, and considerably less charming. "You said there were WMDs in Iraq and that Saddam had friends in al Qaeda. . . . Blah, blah, pants on fire." I have had many opportunities to tire of this mantra. It takes ten seconds to intone the said mantra.

And it apparently takes Hitchens ten paragraphs to ramblingly intone the "Saddam was bad" mantra in response.

Hitchens:

But a positive accounting could be offered without braggartry, and would include:

(1) The overthrow of Talibanism and Baathism...
(2) The subsequent capitulation of Qaddafi's Libya...
(3) The consequent unmasking of the A.Q. Khan...
(4) The agreement by the United Nations that its own reform is necessary and overdue...
(5) The craven admission by President Chirac and Chancellor Schröder, when confronted with irrefutable evidence of cheating and concealment, respecting solemn treaties, on the part of Iran, that not even this will alter their commitment to neutralism...
(6) The ability to certify Iraq as actually disarmed, rather than accept the word of a psychopathic autocrat...
7) The immense gains made by the largest stateless minority in the region--the Kurds--and the spread of this example to other states...
(8) The related encouragement of democratic and civil society movements in Egypt, Syria, and most notably Lebanon, which has regained a version of its autonomy...
(9) The violent and ignominious death of thousands of bin Ladenist infiltrators into Iraq and Afghanistan, and the real prospect of greatly enlarging this number...
(10) The training and hardening of many thousands of American servicemen and women in a battle against the forces of nihilism and absolutism, which training and hardening will surely be of great use in future combat...


OK then let's take these top 10 hits one by one:

1 - The Taliban is back, Saddam's Army is now being trained as the Iraqi Army.
2 - Libya capitulated to what? They gave up a nonexistent weapons program and we capitulated to them.
3 - Khan was already "unmasked" and is still at large in Pakistan.
4 - Since when? I don't see any of the people responsible for oil-for-food (including Dick Cheney) facing any questioning.
5 - Hitch must not read the news, because what I've seen has said that Iran is actually farther from the bomb than previously thought.
6 - Iraq is not disarmed and we are not closer to knowing what is out there than before. I suppose you could certify that they have one less mortar round each time one goes off in the Green Zone.
7 - I'll give him this one partially, then again does every minority group need political autonomy?
8 - Yeah, Syria's been so encouraged to overthrow Assad. Syria? Lebanon, maybe, maybe they did it on their own, then again what have they actually done but re-destabilize and set themselves up for a showdown with Hezbullah. Egypt, maybe, though I'll see when there are actual reforms with substance there.
9 - Yes, there have been a lot of Al Q fighters killed in a nation where they weren't fighting before the war. Undoubtedly as their movement grows in numbers, more will die while killing our troops and Iraqi civilians.
10 - Great, more wars in the future, just what every American dreams of.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:22 AM on August 30, 2005


His oh-so-shocking opening statement shows what a desperate moron he is.

"Hey, we're not abusing people as badly as Saddam did! So we can be PROUD!"

Hitchens is a monstrous and ill-wiped anus.
posted by Decani at 8:23 AM on August 30, 2005


Leave it up so folks can make fools of themselves defending it.

It's a poorly written shill piece that serves primarily to reinforce the ideas that it's target audience already holds. It brings up the liberal boogeyman (always a red flag, these days.) There is no argument beyond, "Americans are not as evil as Saddam." His reading of history is inane (Blair was the brave and noble force behind Clinton's wagging-the-dog? Yeah, right!). His most accomplished literary device appears to be the use of the thesaurus.

Osama bin Laden did do Hitchens and his imperialist SOB cronies a favor (less so New Yorkers), by providing the political lube required to for the public's acceptance of their wicked plans.

Fuck Hitchens. He can't write, he has no original ideas, and has nothing to offer the thinking reader. Echos of echos in the echo chamber.

on preview: ah, yes. Plenty of easy targets in this piece.
posted by sonofsamiam at 8:25 AM on August 30, 2005


if someone is beating on you with a lousiville slugger, and i come and stop them, and then kick you squarely in the groin, should i get indignant if you don't thank me?

hitchens' argument is the naked apotheosis of american foreign policy rhetoric: "there are many who are more destructive and sadistic than we. please meditate on them for a while and then thank us for being nominally less evil while we rape your country." it was rightly said that there isn't any substance to this article to be addressed - it's a shallow attempt to justify bitter contempt for life.

yes, saddam hussein is a bad man. i'm glad he's gone. but does anyone remember when the US explicitly backed him, as well as bin laden?. and at the same time that they were "liberating iraq," they were setting up a dictatorship in haiti, and negotiating trade deals which entrench labour camps in latin america. anyone who thinks this administration - or any administration in recent memory - really does or really has truly given a damn about freedom (beyond the freedom to "buy, buy, BUY!") hasn't been following very much news, or alternately, following too much FOX news.
posted by poweredbybeard at 8:26 AM on August 30, 2005


Pollomacho writes "(1) The overthrow of Talibanism and Baathism..."

Asad's party are also Baath, are they not?
posted by OmieWise at 8:29 AM on August 30, 2005


dear mr dios, the reason it shouldn't be here is cause it's a single link to an op-ed. or do you approve of those all of a sudden? how s@l of you.
posted by mr.marx at 8:35 AM on August 30, 2005


Asad's party are also Baath, are they not?

Actually, they just changed their name.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:40 AM on August 30, 2005


Oh, by the way, it's now time for all of the people who agree with Hitchens and find this thread puerile to step up well-reasoned supporting comments, rather than simply snarks at those who snarked at Hitchens.
posted by OmieWise at 8:43 AM on August 30, 2005


the "proper" framing of the Iraq War would have to be exactly what Hitchens wants. Nothing outside of that matters.

I don't know enough about Hitchens to comment about that, however a discussion of the war and how it was "sold" (in the most legitimate sense of the word) is relevant here. I am not a particular fan of the Bush administration (or of Hitchens's, for that matter, mostly because he deals almost exclusively in rhetoric these days), however it's plain to see that had the debate in late 2002 and early 2003 been framed differently, either the US would not be in Iraq, or public and international buy-in would make the current global political situation far more accommodating for the ongoing presence there and the continuation of the processes put in place (which I feel are absolutely necessary at this point). It's difficult, sure, for the administration to change benchmarks for success, and to claim victories over foes that they didn't acknowledge before the invasion, but this is a matter of not outlining a motivation that would ensure long term buy in. They promised a quick resolution, warned of WMD's, and barely mentioned the long-term deprogramming, liberalization and rebuilding efforts that were needed. Perhaps this is because they knew the American public would not be interested. Perhaps it was because Bush was not enough of a statesman to pull it off (as opposed to Roosevelt, or Truman). Perhaps it was because they themselves didn't know, or were too stupid to figure it out. Either way, I believe that much of the consternation felt by "democrats" or "liberals" regarding the war is due to this, rather than the actual events in Iraq, and it serves only to reinforce the negatives and obfuscate the positives that are happening there.

Personally, I've been cheering for Hussein's overthrow and the liberalization of Iraq (and the entire Middle East, and the world for that matter) for years. But the entire Bush position and justification for war made me uncomfortable, and I foresaw long term problems. If I were an American, maybe it would make me even more so. But no matter that that justification was, I do believe what happened in Iraq was/is positive and necessary, for reasons discussed elsewhere and often. What I believe is needed now is a Nixon to Bush's Johnson. A new leader unburdened by past promises and missteps who can continue with a new plan and, yes, a long term exit strategy (just like Nixon in Vietnam, not that Iraq is Vietnam Redux). And one who can frame the conflict in a way that highlights how key Iraq is not only only for American and global political interests, but for the future prosperity of the people of Iraq and the region at large. You may now feel free to call me naive, I've heard it before.
posted by loquax at 8:45 AM on August 30, 2005


loquax writes "It's difficult, sure, for the administration to change benchmarks for success, and to claim victories over foes that they didn't acknowledge before the invasion, but this is a matter of not outlining a motivation that would ensure long term buy in."

Not niave loquax, but we differ here. I don't think that the administration simply didn't mention these things, I think that they were not part of the motivation for going to war. And, not being part of the motivation, cannot be used retrospectively to argue (by the admin) that this was a good war. The American people were shamelessly lied to, and the administration gets no passes from me about that.

There is, I agree, a second set of questions about the war that have to do with liberation and liberalization, as you've outlined. To me, that's a completely separate argument, and one I'm not willing to link to a retrospective justification for this war. And, frankly, the problem with that set of arguments for the war is that since BushCo. was not interested in them prior to invasion, it has, evidently, very little chance of a net positive gain in terms of peace and world security.
posted by OmieWise at 8:53 AM on August 30, 2005


I'm not fully versed in the history of Ba'athism/pan-Arabism. But it does seem secular, modern and doing a damn sight more for women and minority groups than Islamic theocracies (c.f. the power, rights and position of women in Iraq under Ba'athism versus their power, rights and position now).

Postroad, the problem with that list of baddies is that they are the usual suspects. There are countries that are much more fucked up than Iran: Zimbabwe, Uzbekistan, Burma, etc. Any serious foreign policy commitments by the USA or Great Britain to "freedom", "democracy", etc. should surely look beyond the usual suspects.
posted by xpermanentx at 8:56 AM on August 30, 2005


What OmieWise said. All this Hitchens-bashing makes me sad, especially the nastier "ooh, he's a drunk! he's a prick! no, he's a drunken prick!' end of it. Hitchens used to be a wonderful, funny writer with a keen eye for the folly of power; this war has ruined him the way Vietnam ruined LBJ, the effort to defend the indefensible coarsening each man's thoughts and words and spoiling their reputations. But let's try to keep some perspective, shall we? Hitchens has become a parody of himself, but he hasn't killed anyone or invaded anything. I reserve my true anger for those who do such things, which includes both Saddam and the current occupants of the seats of power in the US.
posted by languagehat at 8:57 AM on August 30, 2005


Well he does have a point when he says bin Laden did "us all" a favour with the attacks on NY. If by "us all" you read: vile propagandists, shameless liars and egomaniac hacks like him who could have never had the degree of publicity and publishing contracts he enjoys if he hadn't jumped on the bandwagon from one ideological extreme to the other when the time was ripe. On behalf of Hitchens, let's all raise a toast to Al Qaeda for this fantastic service to humanity. (And for showing the world that terrorists are very very nasty people who do very nasty things, which we didn't know before, and what's a few thousands deaths compared to that result.)

And what sonofsamiam said.
posted by funambulist at 8:58 AM on August 30, 2005


doing a damn sight more for women
When we came back from exile, we thought we were going to improve rights and the position of women. But look what has happened: we have lost all the gains we made over the past 30 years. It's a big disappointment.
- Safia Taleb al-Souhail
posted by mr.marx at 9:03 AM on August 30, 2005


he hasn't killed anyone or invaded anything

no, he just supplies the fuel.
posted by mr.marx at 9:08 AM on August 30, 2005


Hitchens has become a parody of himself, but he hasn't killed anyone or invaded anything. I reserve my true anger for those who do such things

languagehat, that's just neither here nor there, people can still get bothered in different degrees about different things, it's not like they cancel each other out. And while he hasn't done any of those things, he has supported them in extremely ideological fashion and his views and his attitudes are why he's considered such an obnoxious prick. Hardly surprising seen as he clearly relishes being obnoxious.

Things are already in perspective, anyway. I've never seen anti-Hitchens demonstrations with millions of people.
posted by funambulist at 9:11 AM on August 30, 2005


For what it's worth, I know a couple of people at The Nation who've known Hitchens for years and who feel his drinking has had significant impact on his outlook on life and his writing.
posted by papercake at 9:45 AM on August 30, 2005


I think the central irony here is that this whole thing started to restore an Arabian monarchy back in 1991.
posted by solistrato at 9:50 AM on August 30, 2005


G-d bless CH.
posted by ParisParamus at 9:51 AM on August 30, 2005


maybe Hitchens just thought that it was worthwhile for the United States to do something to stop systematic rape, torture, murder and the violation of human rights

By replacing them with systematic rape, torture, murder, and the violation of human rights.

And that's his opener.

Seriously, how do you manage to spout this kind of nonsense with a straight face?
posted by ook at 10:00 AM on August 30, 2005


Tell us why, PP.
posted by sonofsamiam at 10:00 AM on August 30, 2005


Well dios? This thread has veered back into the semi-substanative, and I'd be curious as to your response to some of the more literate critiques of Hitchen's piece.

And thank you loquax for your thoughts, You've raised some interesting points for me to digest.
posted by jalexei at 10:01 AM on August 30, 2005


7) The immense gains made by the largest stateless minority in the region--the Kurds--and the spread of this example to other states...
(Pollo): I'll give him this one partially, then again does every minority group need political autonomy?


Compared to what? The Kurds were living in a virtual independent state prior to the war, enforced by a no-fly zone.
posted by norm at 10:04 AM on August 30, 2005


norm writes "The Kurds were living in a virtual independent state prior to the war, enforced by a no-fly zone."

That's true, rarely discussed enough, and it's arguable that the Kurds have lost more than they've gained by the US invasion.
posted by OmieWise at 10:08 AM on August 30, 2005


OmieWise: Leaving aside the justifications by this administration, and general perceptions (right or wrong) of their motivations, personal or otherwise, do you believe that what's happening today in Iraq is a net positive or negative, in the context of both the Iraqi population and also the world at large?

And, not being part of the motivation, cannot be used retrospectively to argue (by the admin) that this was a good war. The American people were shamelessly lied to, and the administration gets no passes from me about that.

Fair enough, but this is a condemnation of the administration, not what's happened/ing in Iraq.

And, frankly, the problem with that set of arguments for the war is that since BushCo. was not interested in them prior to invasion, it has, evidently, very little chance of a net positive gain in terms of peace and world security.


But what if John McCain were elected President in 08? Or Hilary? And what if they were to essentially continue in the management of the process in Iraq the same way? Would your objections to the American/international presence in Iraq ease with the removal of Bush? Or at the very least, would you be willing to give the process more leeway with respect to some of the (relatively) minor hiccups and major problems that have been encountered over the last two plus years? Honest question - this is really something I'm trying to understand. I guess the question is how much of the opposition to the happenings in Iraq is directly correlated to Bush being president.
posted by loquax at 10:15 AM on August 30, 2005


Why is obvious. Read his piece.
posted by ParisParamus at 10:18 AM on August 30, 2005


Has anyone else noticed that many posters here proved his point? Nobody has refuted his argument with facts, they simply have called him names and ridiculed him on personal terms. His main contention was that the liberal left is immature and unthinking, and many posters here have proved his point.
posted by flyboy at 10:25 AM on August 30, 2005


Also: good news in Iraq (scroll down for several mentions of Kurdish issues, including this).
posted by loquax at 10:26 AM on August 30, 2005


Fair enough, but this is a condemnation of the administration, not what's happened/ing in Iraq.

The two are inseperable in that, while I hope for the best possible outcome in Iraq, I fear that the demonstrated corruption on the part of those involved will sabotage whatever positive results would or could have come from American intervention in that state. What if the new institutions are tainted with the same corruption as the interveners, like we've seen in post-Soviet states, South American states, etc...

If one bad apple can spoil the barrel, how much more so when the bad apples were intentionally put in there?

PP, I already read it and critiqued a few of his points. I guess by now I shouldn't expect anything other than throwaway lines from you.

flyboy: You have got to be kidding. You read this entire thread, and cannot find one refutation of any of Hitchen's points?!
posted by sonofsamiam at 10:27 AM on August 30, 2005


I guess the question is how much of the opposition to the happenings in Iraq is directly correlated to Bush being president.

For me, my distrust of the entire Iraq war paraphernalia is simply exacerbated by Bush and his Bush League as POTUS. Dick Cheney, Karl Rove...thank heaven Wolfowitz is gone, albeit to the World Bank. :-/

If McCain takes the post in 2008 (and oh how I pray he does) I will at least rediscover some faith that the POTUS actually has some principles that aren't railroaded by members of a self-interested senior fraternity. I'll still be against the war, but won't want to spit venom every time I hear the President insist that "we have to do the hard work and freedom is on the march!"
posted by caporal at 10:28 AM on August 30, 2005


Hell, now I've gone and gotten myself interested in responding to this stuff. Here's my take on the CH 10:
But a positive accounting could be offered without braggartry, and would include:

(1) The overthrow of Talibanism and Baathism...
I thought you were writing about Iraq, Hitch. Talibanism was defeated by wholly a different war, and most who opposed Iraq did not oppose the Afghanistan war. As for Baathism, well, I don't even know what this means. Baathism started as a pan-Arab movement attempting to draw together the interests of the Arab world; they wanted to create a potent regional counterforce to Western imperialism. But funny thing happened in Iraq and Syria, which are the only places this form of pan-Arabism took shape (Nasser's was a wholly different animal); the parties were hijacked by Assad and Hussein to become vehicles of their autocracy. Insofar as this claim means anything it is true in that the invasion crushed Saddam's regime. But that is hardly the end of the story.
(2) The subsequent capitulation of Qaddafi's Libya...
Qaddafi got exactly what he wanted out of his early-level WMD program: he cashed in the bargaining chip he created and got incentives, new relations, and a reintroduction to the global community. Hardly a capitulation. Oh yeah, who runs Libya now?
(3) The consequent unmasking of the A.Q. Khan...
You have got to be kidding me. Khan's role in nuclear proliferation was well known prior to the war, and certainly by the CIA probably as far back as 1994.
(4) The agreement by the United Nations that its own reform is necessary and overdue...
And your evidence for that, Mr. Hitchens? What reforms have been undertaken?
(5) The craven admission by President Chirac and Chancellor Schröder, when confronted with irrefutable evidence of cheating and concealment, respecting solemn treaties, on the part of Iran, that not even this will alter their commitment to neutralism...
Ok, let's say this is true. This is a positive effect of the war? How did the war change this? In what world would this have been different?
(6) The ability to certify Iraq as actually disarmed, rather than accept the word of a psychopathic autocrat...
...or arms inspectors sent by your government? Oh, yeah, you wouldn't let those guys go in. But it's a good thing we now know for sure that there were NO weapons of mass destruction.
7) The immense gains made by the largest stateless minority in the region--the Kurds--and the spread of this example to other states...
As noted above, this is not true. There were no gains for the Kurds by the war. They had everything they have now before, and were better off then, most likely.
(8) The related encouragement of democratic and civil society movements in Egypt, Syria, and most notably Lebanon, which has regained a version of its autonomy...
...and the evidence for this is...what? The only possible case one could make for this claim is in Lebanon, and it seems pretty clear to me that Syria left not because they were afraid of further US action (indeed, we're so overstretched now militarily that I don't think we pose a credible deterrent to ANY rogue regime in the region) but because of a well orchestrated and peaceful series of demonstrations from the Lebanese people. I would state this point falls firmly into "fantasyland."
(9) The violent and ignominious death of thousands of bin Ladenist infiltrators into Iraq and Afghanistan, and the real prospect of greatly enlarging this number...
I suppose if you count those that were successfully recruited as a result of our Iraqi adventures in that total, there is a kernel of truth here. But as far as "greatly enlarging this number" it's pretty clear to me that we are giving the al-Qaida brand of terrorists their best PR tool since, well, the first Iraq war and the fact that our troops never left Saudi Arabia in the first place.
(10) The training and hardening of many thousands of American servicemen and women in a battle against the forces of nihilism and absolutism, which training and hardening will surely be of great use in future combat...
Ah, yes. The self-fulfilling prophecy. If you make war, you will need hardened warriors. But are there enough? I don't think we can chew what we have bitten off now. I wonder what sort of delusion is required to convince oneself that we are in a good or advantageous position now. And we have decades, if not centuries, of blowback to look forward to. But hey, that might fall into "negative accounting," which Hitchens seems patently incapable of even considering.
posted by norm at 10:30 AM on August 30, 2005


Norm:

(4) The agreement by the United Nations that its own reform is necessary and overdue...

And your evidence for that, Mr. Hitchens? What reforms have been undertaken?


This is true. Surprisingly, it seems to be moving swiftly.

There were no gains for the Kurds by the war. They had everything they have now before, and were better off then, most likely.

This is untrue, in my opinion and in the opinion of many Kurds. See my links above.

(8) The related encouragement of democratic and civil society movements in Egypt, Syria, and most notably Lebanon, which has regained a version of its autonomy..

I believe that you can see the beginnings of this in these societies, but it may take generations for them to take fruition. It's not fair to judge progress on this front after only 2 years (nor is it fair to claim serious progress yet), but a free, liberalized, prosperous Iraq can only be a positive influence in the region, and a destabilizing one for the autocratic regimes that remain.
posted by loquax at 10:37 AM on August 30, 2005


a free, liberalized, prosperous Iraq..

Of course, this must first be achieved...
posted by loquax at 10:41 AM on August 30, 2005


" Why is obvious. Read his piece."
Vaporware.
posted by klangklangston at 10:46 AM on August 30, 2005


"If you think the invasion of Iraq was a good thing, then you think 9/11 was a good thing."
Bullshit. If you think stopping Hitler was a good thing, then you think Stalin's murderous purges were a good thing.
posted by klangklangston at 10:47 AM on August 30, 2005


loquax: I guess the question is how much of the opposition to the happenings in Iraq is directly correlated to Bush being president.

It's an interesting question, actually, and one that should be asked of both Democrats and Republicans. As an independent on the far left, I can honestly say that I'd criticize the war if Al Gore had started it or if Kerry had been elected, and I'll criticize it if it's still ongoing in 2009 and some "lesser evil" were elected to follow Bush.

But I would be interested in knowing - would antiwar Democrats support the war if there were a Democratic President running the war? What about Republican hawks - would they support the war if it were launched and/or continued by a Democrat?
posted by graymouser at 10:48 AM on August 30, 2005


This is true. Surprisingly, it seems to be moving swiftly.

Ok, maybe I should have responded more substantively. What reforms are underway are cosmetic ones designed to keep the money coming from the U.S. The funny thing is that it's not likely to work as long as Kofi Annan stays in power. And what does he mean by 'reform' anyway? Is the budget going to be cut or increased for critical operations (like peacekeeping)? Will the Security Council's permanent seats be expanded to reflect changed geopolitical power? Will countries actually follow the UN charter?
Re: the Kurds. Read your own link, dude:
The Kurds have ruled themselves in northern Iraq since the aftermath of the Gulf war of 1991, when a "safe haven" was created to protect them from Saddam Hussein.

No. New. Benefits.

a free, liberalized, prosperous Iraq can only be a positive influence in the region, and a destabilizing one for the autocratic regimes that remain.

your assumption is a tenuous one at best. A weak, fragmented Iraq is likely to be far more of a destabilizing effect on the region, and not just on the strength of the regimes. One cannot, despite invading, dictating the process, and setting a deadline on a constitution, mandate a pluralistic society. And let me make this clear: I hope you're right, both the assumption and the assumed effect. I really do.
posted by norm at 10:51 AM on August 30, 2005


And while he hasn't done any of those things, he has supported them in extremely ideological fashion and his views and his attitudes are why he's considered such an obnoxious prick. Hardly surprising seen as he clearly relishes being obnoxious.

True and true, and I get pissed off at him myself. I'm just surprised and saddened by the level of vitriol on display here. Hitchens is no worse than the many pro-war blowhards who have never done or said anything good, and it wouldn't have made the slightest difference to the war if he'd stayed out of it. I'm not defending Hitchens, just... I dunno. Expressing my surprise.
posted by languagehat at 10:54 AM on August 30, 2005


"The sight of Hitchens view-hallooing across the fields in pursuit of some particularly dislikable quarry has been among the most exhilarating experiences of literary journalism during the last two decades. He's courageous, fast, tireless and certainly not squeamish about being in at the kill. But after reading this and some of his other recent writings, I begin to imagine that, encountering him, still glowing and red-faced from the pleasures of the chase, in the tap-room of the local inn afterwards, one might begin to see a resemblance not to Trotsky and other members of the European revolutionary intelligentsia whom he once admired, nor to the sophisticated columnists and political commentators of the East Coast among whom he now practises his trade, but to other red-coated, red-faced riders increasingly comfortable in their prejudices and their Englishness - to Kingsley Amis, pop-eyed, spluttering and splenetic; to Philip Larkin, farcing away at the expense of all bien pensants; to Robert Conquest and a hundred other 'I told you so's. They would be good company, up to a point, but their brand of saloon-bar finality is only a quick sharpener away from philistinism, and I would be sorry to think of one of the essayists I have most enjoyed reading in recent decades turning into a no-two-ways-about-it-let's-face-it bore."
posted by holgate at 10:58 AM on August 30, 2005


.,.
posted by Aknaton at 10:59 AM on August 30, 2005


graymouser: Democrats are equally culpable, as they ceded their constitutional responsibility to declare war. I get angrier at the Republicans because, ostensibly, they are the party of restraint, principles, and reason. (We see now just how deep those values run.) Additionally, the about-face the Republicans did when they got control was just swallowed by a lot of the rank-and-file. So now I've lost respect for not only the leadership and the small group that has taken over the party, but for the party as a whole, since they have not only gone along with the new agenda, they act as though it were THEIR plan all along!
posted by sonofsamiam at 11:02 AM on August 30, 2005


loquax: But what if John McCain were elected President in 08? Or Hilary?

John McCain's record would suggest he'd do something about the blatent profiteering by Halliburton and KBR. That would go a long way to deflating one of the primary complaints about how this war has been conducted, along with what appears to be a motivating factor

Hillary on the other hand... God help us.

graymouser: But I would be interested in knowing - would antiwar Democrats support the war if there were a Democratic President running the war?

Running this already botched invasion and occupation? Or one done right from the start, and with international support? I'm skeptical of the Democrats' ability to do things any better than the Republicans these days, but it'd be hard to do worse than we're doing now.

What about Republican hawks - would they support the war if it were launched and/or continued by a Democrat?

Well we saw their true colors during the Balkan War. I think it's safe to say they wouldn't.

On preview, what sonofsamiam said.
posted by kableh at 11:06 AM on August 30, 2005


Any list of states deemed to be Enemies of Democracy which could, with some White-Out and a pen, be quickly turned into a list titled "Geopolitical Interests" automatically looses all the Wilsonian idealist points it may have had. This is Kissinger with a better PR team and no frontal lobe - with predictable results.

Sudan, Zimbabwe, Burma, Uzbekistan, et al are all threatening to disappear, cock-first, up their own asses, and yet the US government is totally unmoved.

This is not evidence to support the idea that we are now in the business of invading states which do not support freedom and democracy. Repitition of mantras, which a useful device in passage meditation, is a crap foreign policy tool.

And, because I'm immature and unthinking:

.|.
posted by Coda at 11:15 AM on August 30, 2005


loquax writes "But what if John McCain were elected President in 08? Or Hilary? And what if they were to essentially continue in the management of the process in Iraq the same way? Would your objections to the American/international presence in Iraq ease with the removal of Bush? Or at the very least, would you be willing to give the process more leeway with respect to some of the (relatively) minor hiccups and major problems that have been encountered over the last two plus years? Honest question - this is really something I'm trying to understand. I guess the question is how much of the opposition to the happenings in Iraq is directly correlated to Bush being president."

Thanks, as always, for the thoughtful replies. You've got quite a string of what-ifs there, and I'm not sure I can do justice to them. I'm not simply opposed to the war because Bush is (kind of) running it, I'm opposed for a whole host of reasons that range from it making the US less safe in the short term, to it's complete gamble in the long term, to the damage done to US relationships throughout the world. Many of those things might have been, and perhaps could be, ameliorated by another President, but that's an open question. I think your analogy to Vietnam is interesting (and I understand and accept the ways in which you want to limit it.)

But I do think that the hiccups in Iraq are largely a matter of conjecture and where you place your optimism. Quite aside from the problems with agreeing on a constitution, and the issues in the lack of basic infrastructure that make many Iraqis not care about the Federal problems, there are all kinds of potential issues that seem like they are probably going to develop. Just a quick list: 1) The loose Federalism of the current draft constitution seems like a good idea as it preserves local autonomy, but on the other hand, it provides little incentive to stay within the Federal system; 2) If the Kurds were to leave the Federal Iraq, Turkey would be faced with a Kurdish homeland on its border, something that it has quite explicitly been opposed to; 3) The terms used to describe the relationship between Sharia and civil law in the new constitution privilege a conservative Sharia and seem to suggest a theocratic basis for civil law (to a much greater extent than in places like Egypt;) 4) The terms of an independent Iraqi coalition with Iran are potentially far from the terms that the US would like to see. Now, all of these things could go well (and this is just a partial list), but as I say, it depends where your optimism falls. There's really not much I see in the Middle East right now that makes me very optimistic, and there's certainly nothing about trying to force these issues (as the US is trying to do ) that seems like it will work.

So, my opposition isn't confined to Bush, but neither is my dismay.
posted by OmieWise at 11:22 AM on August 30, 2005


Coda writes "This is Kissinger with a better PR team and no frontal lobe - with predictable results."

This is exactly why Hitchens' position is his own tragedy: he was very clear eyed about Kissinger and his crimes.
posted by OmieWise at 11:24 AM on August 30, 2005


I had a whole big thing, but Coda was more succinct.

klang: Stalin's purges weren't used as a catalyst to push the U.S. into war with Nazi Germany. That's what I was getting at.
posted by solistrato at 11:26 AM on August 30, 2005


No. New. Benefits.

I don't understand?

Now it brings in investors. Businessmen, scared away from other parts of Iraq, are coming to Kurdistan instead, and helping its economy to take off.


"People have money, people are spending it, they feel it's safe to spend - and build for the future."

the current stability in Kurdistan now stands in stark contrast to other parts of the country.

Are these not new benefits? Yes, they were semi-independent before, but only because of the no fly zone. Now, investment is booming, there is no longer an immediate threat from Saddam's regime, and they are actively involved in the Iraqi political process as opposed to being actively shunned from it (even if that means eventual separation).

As for the UN, every indication I've seen is that this batch of reformation is being taken quite seriously. I don't have time to pull up links, partly because I don't think the analysis phase has been completed yet, but there is some hope that things will improve. Granted, I'm not sure how much is a direct result of the goings on in Iraq, and who knows if anything will come of it, but so far, it appears to be more than just window dressing.

Well we saw their true colors during the Balkan War. I think it's safe to say they wouldn't.


I don't think that's fair, from an ideological or political perspective rather than a rhetorical perspective. The series of wars in the former Yugoslavia were very different in scope and nature to the conflict in Iraq. On principle, I opposed US (and specifically US) intervention for a long list of reasons, none of which apply in Iraq. A more fair comparison in my opinion is the Korean war or the Vietnam war. What happened (and is continuing to happen in the Balkans) was not an extension of the cold war, and it was not an ideological confrontation between liberalism and totalitarianism (in essence, at least). Korea, Vietnam and Iraq very much were. My two cents, I'd have supported the war in Iraq if Al Gore had championed it, or if John Kerry had continued it.

Sudan, Zimbabwe, Burma, Uzbekistan, et al are all threatening to disappear, cock-first, up their own asses, and yet the US government is totally unmoved.

This is (somewhat) true. What do you propose? Invasion of all four (plus Somalia, China, DPRK and others)? As has been made abundantly clear, the US (and the global community) has limited will and resources to engage anarchy and totalitarianism wherever it lies. It is also constrained by the reality that their power is not absolute. The Soviet Empire was not destroyed by invasions and occupation, it crumbled after 50 years of pressure and influence, while key priorities were focused on and necessary concessions were made. We are in the same position today. It is absurd to believe that all of the problems of the world can be cured in one fell swoop, over a five year timeline. Influence and pressure must be brought to bear where it can be done, and direct intervention must be used where possible, and beneficial both to local people and to the global community at large. We may disagree on this last point, but surely we don't on the nature and limits of US power and influence. We cannot do everything, but if we can at least do some things, are we not moving in the right direction? Of course, questioning the priorities is certainly fair.
posted by loquax at 11:28 AM on August 30, 2005


Somehow I doubt that CH wants such blessings.

For me, CH has a major blind spot. If he continues to argue that Kissinger should be held accountable for his war crimes, then by the same standard, how do we justify having Negroponte, Abrams and Poindexter in positions to influence our foreign policy in Iraq? Do we really think that a group of people who established that "democracy" in the Americas means friendly goverments murdering members of opposition parties can build a democratic Iraq and Afghanistan?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:28 AM on August 30, 2005


tangent on loquax: UN reform seems to have hit a few snags.
posted by solistrato at 11:39 AM on August 30, 2005


Hitchens cites the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 and says the US promised to remove Saddam. The act says:
It should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and to promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime.
"Support efforts to remove the regime," not "remove the regime." "Promote the emergence of a democratic government," not "install a democratic government." The act also says (my emphasis):
Nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize or otherwise speak to the use of United States Armed Forces (except as provided in section 4(a)(2)) in carrying out this Act.
Section 4(a)(2) refers to providing "defense articles from the stocks of the Department of Defense, defense services of the Department of Defense, and military education and training" to Iraqi democratic opposition organizations, not US combat troops.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:43 AM on August 30, 2005


G-d bless CH.

Ooh yes. And maybe Tinkerbell and Santa will too, while you're in the realm of absurd fantasy.
posted by Decani at 11:52 AM on August 30, 2005


His main contention was that the liberal left is immature and unthinking, and many posters here have proved his point.

Hehe I love this... yes of course no one has ever written about or responded to or debate with Hitchens, and commenters on an internet website have today for the first time revealed that the only criticism of Hitchens is juvenile because they called him a prick. Hurrah! point proven.

After all, Mr Hitchens is so moderate and fair and open to dialogue and treats his opponents such intellectual honesty, and is never ever dismissive of them, it would be totally unfair to be anything but polite and respectful to him, possibly with a tinge of worship, because he's such an eloquent man. It's not like you can get to the point where you just have it up to here with his tiresome arrogance and his rehashing of the same bilious rants and fact-defying arguments over and over in the very same form for the past three years. Such a reaction over Hitchens, of all people, is truly unwarranted...
posted by funambulist at 11:56 AM on August 30, 2005


OmieWise:I'm not simply opposed to the war because Bush is (kind of) running it

Of course, I didn't mean to suggest simply that.


1) The loose Federalism of the current draft constitution seems like a good idea as it preserves local autonomy, but on the other hand, it provides little incentive to stay within the Federal system;

I agree, but I don't necessarily believe that would be a bad thing. To directly contradict my last comment (sort of), Yugoslavia is far better off broken up than forced together under Tito. The same may be true in Iraq. There's no real reason as far as I can see that Iraq needs to stay together anymore than the Czech Republic did (or, for that matter, Canada, as the Iraqi constitution, so far, really reminds me of Canada's). Of course, the trick is to ensure a gradual transition and prevent civil war and foreign influence from aggressive neighbours.

2) If the Kurds were to leave the Federal Iraq, Turkey would be faced with a Kurdish homeland on its border, something that it has quite explicitly been opposed to;

True. I don't know what to say about this. Turkey may just have to deal with it. I find it very hard to believe that Turkey would go to war, or otherwise oppress Kurds, independent or not given the EU negotiations, and the explicit American disapproval of any such action. Maybe this is wishful thinking, but I just can't see a long term major problem here, if it were to happen. Tensions, yes. Issues, certainly. Not a catastrophe.

3) The terms used to describe the relationship between Sharia and civil law in the new constitution privilege a conservative Sharia and seem to suggest a theocratic basis for civil law (to a much greater extent than in places like Egypt;)

Yes, it does, and it disturbs me also. My optimistic thinking about it is that in the long term, it will serve the same function as "God" in "God bless America" and whatnot. It's a sop, a bone thrown to the major religious leaders and their militias to obtain their buy in now. After the US leaves, say in 10-15 years, perhaps the separation of religion and government will be such that the mentions of Sharia in the constitution are rendered effectively meaningless. In addition, I believe that the majority of Iraqis are fully aware of what's happened in Iran under their theocracy, and have little to no interest in repeating the experience at home. That's my hope anyways. It is certainly reason to worry.

I agree with you that much of this discussion has to do with personal principles, previous beliefs and current levels of optimism. Respectfully, I ultimately disagree with you on your outlook for Iraq and the region, but certainly acknowledge that long term success is by no means a slam dunk, and that the problems you point out, along with others are very real and very troubling. If anything, to me that means that more effort is required, more international participation and more commitment to the long term success of this project. If the result is ultimately failure, I would be far more upset if it were due to a halfhearted effort rather than errors or misjudgments. The reality is that the US invaded Iraq, and it is now their responsibility to ensure that the people under their control have the best possible chance for success. In this regard, I believe the world should also share in that responsibility.

UN reform seems to have hit a few snags.

Yeah, I saw that. I don't necessarily think that Bolton causing "mischief" is a bad thing, depending on the outcome. Reforming the UN is and will be a very long process (if it occurs at all), and will probably outlast Annan and Bolton both. The key I think was the spark that triggered discussions about what the UN is, what purpose it serves, and how it should function politically and militarily. Hopefully good things come out of those discussions, but the fact that they happened at all is good in itself, IMO.
posted by loquax at 11:57 AM on August 30, 2005


I think I get it now. Mr. Hitchens, that is.

His experience in Kurdistan -- seeing the republic that flourished there, seeing the liberal democracy (relative to the region, naturally) that sprung up...well, who wouldn't become a believer after that? Who wouldn't bank hope on that flowering all over Iraq, and possibly the Middle East? Who wouldn't advocate for that? Who wouldn't dream of that? (Especially as a devotee of Orwell, perhaps imagining himself fighting the fascists?)

I'm just sad that it was Bush at the helm. In an irony worthy of, well, life, it may have been Clinton who would have been best able to bring about Hitchens' dream. Clinton would have made the necessary diplomatic concessions to get it done. (And hell and damn yes, Clinton would have gone into Iraq after 9/11. Anyone would have. Realpolitik rears its ugly head.) The tragedy of the situation is that Hitchens had to go with Bush, and the malignancies of Bush's personality (as well as basic incompetence) created the clusterfuck that exists now.

And in what may be the worst blow, Kurdistan itself may fall. Turkey certainly doesn't want it around, and if indeed Iraq is federalized and the south becomes, functionally, an arm of Iran, what's to stop the Shiites from simply going in once they have the wherewithal?

So if you got everything you wanted but got it in the worst way possible, if your dreams were suddenly turning to sand, if you were a contrarian by nature and suddenly (in Hitch's mind) all those leftist groupthink fucks are mindlessly mouthing rhetoric against the war (and to be honest, there's a ton of shitty, shoddy thinking about the war out there) and shouting, "I told you so" -- well, what would you do?

Sorry, Chris.
posted by solistrato at 12:14 PM on August 30, 2005


NO AUTHOR FOUND NO BACKLINK FOUND "If anything, to me that means that more effort is required, more international participation and more commitment to the long term success of this project. If the result is ultimately failure, I would be far more upset if it were due to a halfhearted effort rather than errors or misjudgments. The reality is that the US invaded Iraq, and it is now their responsibility to ensure that the people under their control have the best possible chance for success. In this regard, I believe the world should also share in that responsibility."

Agreed, and my objections to going to war don't translate into any easy answers about what to do now. But, I do know that I don't trust Bush to be able to really sell the world on helping now, since he messed up selling the world on the war so completely.
posted by OmieWise at 12:16 PM on August 30, 2005


Clap harder Hitch or Tinkerbell will die!
posted by nofundy at 12:27 PM on August 30, 2005


(On the question of a Democrat running the war)

kableh: Running this already botched invasion and occupation? Or one done right from the start, and with international support? I'm skeptical of the Democrats' ability to do things any better than the Republicans these days, but it'd be hard to do worse than we're doing now.

I'm interested to know the answer to both. I remember the "should have been done better" line vividly from the Kerry campaign, but given that there were neither WMDs nor a 9/11 link, and given that this should have been obvious from the word "go," I'm not sure how the war could have been done better. Propaganda aside, I think the war was more or less blatantly launched to further American interests in the Middle East. I suppose that it could've been done with less bluster and more overtures to internationalism, but would that have justified it?

(On the question of Republican hawks supporting a Democrat running the Iraq War)

kableh: Well we saw their true colors during the Balkan War. I think it's safe to say they wouldn't.

It's an interesting point to make; Republicans tend to support Republican wars, while Democrats go for the Democratic wars. It's easy to be a "patriot" when you're rooting for the guys in charge.
posted by graymouser at 12:44 PM on August 30, 2005


Omnie-Wise: Are you arguing that overthrowing a regime that was responsible for atrocities was not part of the justification for going to war in Iraq, or are you arguing that because there were other reasons for going to war, that the human rights basis is invalid?
posted by esquire at 12:58 PM on August 30, 2005


And hell and damn yes, Clinton would have gone into Iraq after 9/11. Anyone would have.

Huh? This is ridiculous. Since Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, the only reason for going in was a pre-existing lust for war with Iraq that no facts could affect. The Bush administration had such a lust; it's doubtful any other would have, and certainly untrue that Clinton would. What a silly thing to say.
posted by languagehat at 1:01 PM on August 30, 2005


I suppose that it could've been done with less bluster and more overtures to internationalism, but would that have justified it?

Of course not, it would have just been the same soup in a different bowl. Legal and ethical justification of the decision to bomb the inhabitants of another country is not dependent on the style used to argue the case.
posted by funambulist at 1:03 PM on August 30, 2005


languagehat, I think what he is saying is that in a realpolitik mode of thought (and in Hitchens), 9/11 demanded action against rogue states which permitted terrorists or harbored them (remember Bush's famous formulation). The obvious target was Afghanistan because of the open and notorious ties to al Qaeda. But it also served as a pretext to examine other rogue states which harbored terrorists and threatened peace. Looking across the landscape, there might be several targets, but Iraq was viewed as a primary one.

Thus, 9/11 was not a causal justification. That is, we didn't choose to go there because of a connection to 9/11. Rather, we 9/11 was an eye opener; a wake up alarm, an invitation to get involved in a precarious region of the world. The connection is that our eyes were opened to the threat of Islamic fascists (in Hitchens formulation; although he believes we ignored the original sign when his friend Rushdie had a fatwa issued against him) or the threat of rogue states what harbor terrorists (in Bush's formulation).

Or, to put in other words: we didn't go into Iraq because of payback for 9/11, rather 9/11 created the willingness and opened our eyes for the need to be proactive. One could say that 9//11 was not a justification; the justification was already there. 9/11 created the conditions to act on the pre-existing justifications. That is Hitchens view.

I don't know what Clinton would have done, but it is seems that Hilary was pretty hawkish and argued for going into Iraq, so we have at least that indication. And we know that Clinton thought there were justifications during his tenure to be engaged in Iraq. The remaining question is whether Clinton would have spurned to act on his perceived justifications. I don't know that we know the answer to that. But this was hardly a war that only Bush had an interest in pursuing.
posted by dios at 1:17 PM on August 30, 2005


Dios: Both here and in the Fox News thread, you've been quality (even though I disagree with you).
Just thought you should know.
posted by klangklangston at 1:19 PM on August 30, 2005


esquire writes "Omie-Wise: Are you arguing that overthrowing a regime that was responsible for atrocities was not part of the justification for going to war in Iraq, or are you arguing that because there were other reasons for going to war, that the human rights basis is invalid?"

I'm arguing that human rights abuses were not a valid justification for going to war in Iraq. In addition, I'm arguing that the atrocities justification was moved to center stage only after no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq, making it a disingenuous excuse for war.

(And, as an aside, it's OmieWise. I don't particularly care how I'm addressed, but I don't really think of myself as Omni anything, and doubt others do either.)
posted by OmieWise at 1:27 PM on August 30, 2005


OmieWise, you are arguing that the president sold the war poorly. That the justifications he offered are the only basis from which it can be analyzed. That is unfair if we are discussing the propriety of the war in the abstract. If the issue is so narrowly focused (e.g., can you defend the war on the grounds Bush offered and only the WMD grounds), then you probably wouldn't get much an argument. Bush didn't market or sell this war correctly.

You might think it is disingenuous to suggest there are humanitarian justifications, but I might argue that it is disingenuous for you to cover your ears and stomp your feet and say that we are only allowed to anaylze this through the premise of the WMD argument.

Bush made a political calculation when he focused on the WMD argument. To that extent, it is a discredit to his politics. But that doesn't mean that Joe Q. Public couldn't support it on any number of grounds other than just Bush's proferred grounds.

It seems to me there are two seperate questions here:
1. Was military action to dispose of Saddam a justified action?
2. Did Bush effectively and honestly present a case for the same?

I think the first quesiton is a very fertile ground for making the argument that you are alleging is disingenuous. I think Hitchens and others can meet you from a position of strength on that battlefield.

I think the second question is one that is a question of politics, a question that Hitchens isn't contesting you on, and it is one that you would get arguments that are very weak.
posted by dios at 1:53 PM on August 30, 2005


dios: Fair enough, and I probably stated my point too sweepingly. (The mention of Hillary brought me to my senses.) I still doubt Clinton would have gone into Iraq, but you're right, it's certainly a possibility.
posted by languagehat at 1:56 PM on August 30, 2005


Actually, dios, that's not what I meant at all. I meant that since Iraq is stragetically important due to its petroleum reserves, only a fool wouldn't have used 9/11 as a pretext. And please keep in mind that this is the completely cynical, amoral interpretation of events, and that I don't endorse this. I just think it's what they thought.
posted by solistrato at 2:02 PM on August 30, 2005


There is nothing, I repeat nothin in this thread that refuter'sa CH's piece. What a great writer and thinker.
posted by ParisParamus at 2:19 PM on August 30, 2005


1. Was military action to dispose of Saddam a justified action?... I think Hitchens and others can meet you from a position of strength on that battlefield.

In a vacuum perhaps. If you rephrase the question (given current troop levels and other known threats, is military action to dispose of Saddam the best use of our resources?) I'm not so sure. I'll grant you I may be speaking from hindsight, but I think that question could have been argued "no" persuasively even before the invasion.

Or, to put in other words: we didn't go into Iraq because of payback for 9/11, rather 9/11 created the willingness and opened our eyes for the need to be proactive.

I'd agree – My issue is how we chose to exploit that proactive atmosphere. The one tactic the right employs that really burns me is branding those against the war in Iraq either pacifists or traitors. I'm neither, thanks.

Given the number of dangerous rogue states that would be either politically or strategically suicidal to invade (Saudi Arabia, North Korea, etc.) I'd have preferred we used the momentum from 9/11 to drastically grow our Arabic-language intelligence assets, engage in very expanded (but still covert) operations to go after the terrorists where they are (with the threat of economic or military sanctions to “persuade” a recalcitrant state to play ally), punished states like Pakistan that allowed nuclear technology into other "axis of evil" nations, and revamped our port and strategic asset protections. That’s not to say I'm sad Saddam is gone. It’s just that, in this scenario, a partial victory isn't really a victory.

Steven Vincent (the film critic turned combat journalist killed some weeks ago) supported the war, yet I still found his comments (In a roundtable discussion "grading" the war) very astute:

...Insurgents win by not losing. If they keep Iraqis living in misery, then no matter how many "insurgents" we dispatch to Paradise, Amir Zarqawi gets the prize. In assessing the war effort, then, we must also include the quality of Iraqis's lives. Want a grade for that? F....

...It must be frustrating to the Punditry to realize that even with all the American blood and treasure expended in this war, the effort hinges on whether an Iraqi housewife feels safe enough to walk to the market. Or parents can let their children go to school without fear of kidnappers. Or businessmen can bid on a construction project without bribing the local elected authorities, religious party members and tribal gangs. Not all these issues are America's responsibility, but all of them are our problems...


Those goals may still come to pass - I very much hope they do. I'm very concerned they will not.

There is nothing, I repeat nothin in this thread that refuter'sa CH's piece. What a great writer and thinker.

PP, you used to drive me nuts, now I appreciate the levity you bring to these posts...
posted by jalexei at 2:37 PM on August 30, 2005


jalexel, I am completely serious. And I vow to do everything in mt power to assure that President Bush is followed by another President and administration that continues his smart, courageous policies towards the Middle East and terrorism. Hitch would be a great speechwriter for that person.
posted by ParisParamus at 2:46 PM on August 30, 2005


And semmi, thank you for posting this, as it must annoy most of Metafilter--for the better.
posted by ParisParamus at 2:48 PM on August 30, 2005


Hitch would be a great speechwriter for that person.

You'll get no argument from me on that point ;-)
posted by jalexei at 2:48 PM on August 30, 2005


And on preview: And semmi, thank you for posting this, as it must annoy most of Metafilter

Quite the contrary, I found this (minus a few unnamed contributors) a remarkably civil and engaging discussion, with some very compelling views from the "other side" I'll need to explore more closely. Proof indeed a worthy thread can emerge from a craptacular link.
posted by jalexei at 2:54 PM on August 30, 2005


Huh? This is ridiculous. Since Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, the only reason for going in was a pre-existing lust for war with Iraq that no facts could affect. The Bush administration had such a lust; it's doubtful any other would have, and certainly untrue that Clinton would. What a silly thing to say.

No. No it's not.

Clinton was the one who came up with our "Regime Change" foreign policy in regards to Iraq.

It was Clinton who increased sanctions and bombed the shit out of Iraq every chance he got for all sorts of trumped up reasons.

It was Clinton who first gave a hearing to the neo-cons. AND the current invasion plan - minus the extra 230,000 (now much needed) troops (whoooops) - was drawn up for Clinton.

Had he not got side-lined with the blow-job impeachment bullshit it's not at all unlikely some form of serious armed confrontation (other than him bombing them) may have erupted with Iraq.

Clinton - to this day - SUPPORTS this war.

Hitchens may have had some points early on; in that WE helped create Saddam and we are obligated to correct that mistake. After it became obvious that Bush didn't know what the fuck he was doing batting a hornets nest of suffering belays Hitchens fall from sobriety. The fact that women in Iraq will now have ZERO status in the new Islamic federation should wake his ass up. But no.
posted by tkchrist at 2:57 PM on August 30, 2005


huh? people should be annoyed by truth that hurts. The civility of the discussion is a separate dynamic.
posted by ParisParamus at 2:58 PM on August 30, 2005


The obvious target was Afghanistan because of the open and notorious ties to al Qaeda.

The Taliban resurgent in Afghanistan, and al Qaeda is on the loose in Pakistan and has ties to the London bombings.

But it also served as a pretext to examine other rogue states which harbored terrorists and threatened peace.

The only support Hussein gave to terrorists was giving money to Palestinian suicide bombers that struck Israel, which is reprehensible, but not a reason for the United States to attack Iraq. Zarqawi was in the Kurdish-controlled part of Iraq, and Bush avoided attacking him on three occasions before the invasion (so he could continue claiming that Iraq was "harboring" terrorists).

And according to prewar statements by Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice:
He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors.
...
The sanctions, as they are called, have succeeded over the last 10 years, not in deterring him from moving in that direction, but from actually being able to move in that direction. The Iraqi regime militarily remains fairly weak. It doesn't have the capacity it had 10 or 12 years ago. It has been contained.
...
But in terms of Saddam Hussein being there, let's remember that his country is divided, in effect. He does not control the northern part of his country. We are able to keep arms from him. His military forces have not been rebuilt.
I might argue that it is disingenuous for you to cover your ears and stomp your feet and say that we are only allowed to anaylze this through the premise of the WMD argument.

We are only allowed to go to war with the approval of Congress, and Congress' approval was based on "the premise of the WMD argument." The Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Iraq is all about terrorism and national security, not humanitarian intervention.

And I vow to do everything in mt power to assure that President Bush is followed by another President and administration that continues his smart, courageous policies towards the Middle East and terrorism.

I thought you'd be doing everything in your power to make sure the president is indicted:
If WMDs are not found in Iraq, and in large quantity (or at least objective evidence that they were destroyed), then, in terms of American politics, the war was a sham, and the President should be indicted.
And semmi, thank you for posting this, as it must annoy most of Metafilter--for the better.

This doesn't seem kinder, sweeter, or less annoying.
posted by kirkaracha at 2:59 PM on August 30, 2005


Sorry kirkacha, you are mistaken. Read the fine print. Actually, you don't have to. Standing up to the pacifist Left always justified. I did not declare to become a coward.
posted by ParisParamus at 3:06 PM on August 30, 2005


jalexei, your points are well made. You may be right about what would have been a better way to go. I think it is hard to talk about what would have been the best way to handle things and compare it to what we have. The danger there is to make The Best the enemy of The Good.

We have to avoid making The Best the enemy of the Good. The Best is that we are able to deal with all threats and dispose of dangerous despots through means such as you listed. That would be nice. But there is Good in what was done.

The Good is that Saddam is gone without turning power over to his two sons. The Best is that Saddam is gone without any loss of life. Don't make The Best the enemy of The Good. Could things have been done better? Absolutely. To that extent, I find your point about a partial victory being no victory at all to be wrong.

My biggest beef with people who oppose the war is not that they oppose it---I think there are very legitimate and respectful grounds to do so---it is how they oppose it. So much of the opposition is a mish-mash of general, irrelevant, petty, solipsistic complaints thrown together with bad faith and pettiness, or worse, just base misplaced partisanship (examples of which are replete throughout this thread).

For instance, I often find the "but what about N.K., Saudis, Syria, etc." argument to be very weak and vapid. People offer it up as if it is a serious argument; it isn't. The obvious answer to that argument is "they should go too, but you have to start somewhere and you can only go 1 or 2 at a time." "What about Kim Jong il?" "He should be gone, too... what's your point?" There are many good reasons to oppose the war, but why the hell do people offer up that argument? Equally bad is the argument that Bush wanted to dispose of Saddam all along. So? Where does that get us on the ultimate question? If Saddam was deserving to be disposed of, why does it matter when Bush came to this realization? Surely sooner is better than later if he is right. Or how about another mindless critique: we once supported Saddam. Again, how can a thinking person offer this as an argument against our intervention in Iraq. Any moral calculus would show one that if you did something wrong in the past, you should try to fix the problem. While I often question personally the way Bush went about this war and promoted it (I don't question my support of the big question of 'should we'), the sheer thought that I might be aligned with an opposition force that offers up such drivel makes me nauseous.

The opposition position, frequently, is so incredibly incoherent and without alternatives. I have much respect for people who actually offer alternatives instead of "no" or "I oppose that." (The most stinging thing I have ever heard Hitchens say is that the Left has become a status quo force in America, at least internationally.) Equally bad are people who blindly support the president. Blind fealty to Bush is as bad as blind opposition to Bush. We don't know who will ultimately end up on the right side of history, but they should both be discredited for their unthinking shallowness.
posted by dios at 3:08 PM on August 30, 2005


dios: agreed, and well said.
posted by loquax at 3:22 PM on August 30, 2005


dios: I salute you.
posted by ParisParamus at 3:26 PM on August 30, 2005


dios:

Your critique of antiwar arguments is shallow. The problem is, the strong case for going to war itself was the argument of immanent danger; it was only subsequently changed to the various rationales that supporters have given. Inasmuch as the Iraq war was a case of removing an immanent danger, it was and is wholly unjustified.

The subtler pro-war argument was that Iraq constituted a "rogue state," which presented a potential future danger and that "rogue states" must be eliminated. Unfortunately, even in the scheme of the War on Terrorism (which is slowly losing ideological power) the rogue state theory is a castle on air; the case for states being the principal contributors to terror is not really viable. Threats by Bush Administration officials of impending cases where a state would provide a terror group with WMDs have never been backed up by an actual instance; I would suggest it is sensationalist and unfounded, rather like Cold War anti-communist paranoia.

The Cold War should have warned us significantly about two aspects of the problem with the rogue state doctrine. First of all, that the "democracy" of US-backed states is often little or none; Pinochet is a counterexample to any protests, to say nothing of Hussein himself. Second, propping up a puppet government by direct military force is very difficult. Even if you thought that Hussein was a threat in the rogue state doctrine, the US experience in Vietnam and the Russian experience in Afghanistan should have pointed out that backing a pro-US regime in Iraq would be very difficult. Our invasion of Iraq was one where the country had been so effectively dominated by its dictator that there was no coherent opposition in place to seize power and there was no national infrastructure to maintain it. (The war and the misguided policy of de-Baathification ensured this.) Chaos was a fairly predictable result.

At this point, Iraq is a shambles; it edges closer to a failed state, and the government has relatively little authority and dim prospects. Civil war looks highly possible even with the much-ballyhooed constitution, on which the Bush administration seems to be placing all its cards. (There has been a trend throughout the war to call each new "milestone" a point at which the tides will surely turn. This is remniscent of the wars in Orwell's 1984, a constant switch between "about to lose" and "about to win.") Being pro-war is a losing proposition at this point; it is sketchy that the US will even get a modest victory out of the mess.
posted by graymouser at 3:54 PM on August 30, 2005


graymouser: Iraq is a shambles; it edges closer to a failed state, and the government has relatively little authority and dim prospects.

What is your response to this list of positive steps being taken? On what do you base your pessimism? It does not seem to be shared by Iraqis, as judged by the polling found here (brief summary in a previous comment of mine), or the indicators cited by the Brookings institute.
posted by loquax at 4:15 PM on August 30, 2005


loquax:

I am pessimistic based on the overwhelming reports that the situation in Iraq is getting worse, and that the Constitution issue is hardening resistance to the US in certain key sectors.

I don't trust much news coming out of Iraq; the country is dividing along sectarian lines badly, though some are trying to paint a rosy picture as always. This Washington Post article is - at least to me - evidence that what is happening is quite far from the rise of a peaceful secular democracy. The militias are becoming maor forces in running the ersatz democratic state; this is a recipe for civil war.
posted by graymouser at 4:25 PM on August 30, 2005


I don't trust much news coming out of Iraq; the country is dividing along sectarian lines badly

If the first is true, how do you know the second? Is it that you only trust the news which confirms your biases? It sure seems that way.

I am pessimistic based on the overwhelming reports that the situation in Iraq is getting worse

So you think you know better than the Iraqi people how the situation is going, even though you don't trust much of the news coming out of there. On what basis do you dispute the Brookings numbers provided by loquax which shows that the majority of Iraqis are optimistic (80%).

I'm curious, because it seems like you are looking for the bad and rejecting the good.
posted by dios at 4:28 PM on August 30, 2005


graymouser: I agree that all is not perfect by any stretch, and there is certainly much more work to be done, but that first link had stories from the Guardian, the Telegraph, BBC, Xinhua, Forbes, a variety of independent agencies and a variety of Iraqi sources that show extremely positive signs of development. I have to respectfully disagree that there are overwhelming reports that the situation is getting worse. If anything, the violence appears to be reducing (at least in the short term), and the political process is continuing, with numerous positive steps (like the forgiving of debt and foreign investment, a better indicator of stability than almost any other) along the way. Of course Iraq is a long way away from a peaceful, secular democracy, but can you really argue that it's not closer than it was 3 years ago? Success is not guaranteed, but nor is failure. Much will still be up to Iraqis themselves.
posted by loquax at 4:36 PM on August 30, 2005


The danger there is to make The Best the enemy of The Good.

There are very clear dangers there, but as someone who considers themselves a patriot, I believe that one of the greatest things about my country is our ability to not merely strive for "good", but for the "best". I know, it's easy to write that sitting in my comfortable chair, and frankly, it's pretty corny, but I believe many on the left exemplify true patriotism better than many on the right. And I'm fine with you and many others disagreeing with that.

For instance, I often find the "but what about N.K., Saudis, Syria, etc." argument to be very weak and vapid. People offer it up as if it is a serious argument; it isn't. The obvious answer to that argument is "they should go too, but you have to start somewhere and you can only go 1 or 2 at a time." "What about Kim Jong il?" "He should be gone, too... what's your point?"

That we went after an "easier" and "less threatening" target first, despite ample evidence that we would not be "hailed as liberators" or need just "40,00" (or whatever Rumsfeld said) troops to do it. Ignore all the touchy-feely reasons the anti-war folks might offer, I feel (and I admit I'm hardly an expert) that we made a strategic mistake in invading Iraq. You can certainly dispute my conclusion, but to call it "vapid" is unfair. From what I've seen, many of us on the left want the USA to be tougher on terrorists than we've been.

I didn't advocate going into N.K. or any other "rogue state" at this point. I think some of my alternatives are (were?) emminently doable, potentially more effective, and a hell of lot cheaper. History will prove who was right, and I'm not so proud as to admit I hope I'm wrong.
posted by jalexei at 4:42 PM on August 30, 2005


dios: I'm curious, because it seems like you are looking for the bad and rejecting the good.

Well, when considering things reported in the corporate press I tend to be openly and wholly skeptical. I assume that the press has an agenda, and that this agenda skews generally toward the government. Since the government has a heavy hand in Iraq coverage (most reporters rely heavily on the Pentagon sources), and since it has a vested interest in putting a good face on the war, I assume that the good news is overstated and the bad news is understated. This is basically a good way to handle the American media, which has always put a good face on wars and foreign interventions (even the so-called "liberal" media; there are plenty of cases where the New York Times has cheerled for war and gone with the positive spin).

In the case of Iraq, overstating the positive in a media climate where the Pentagon gets to hand out a good section of the news and is responsible for the safety and well-being of journalists is so obvious I think they'd be idiotic not to do it. And if anybody tries to play the press as unbiased...I don't think that even needs to be taken seriously.
posted by graymouser at 4:45 PM on August 30, 2005


That we went after an "easier" and "less threatening" target first

I feel (and I admit I'm hardly an expert) that we made a strategic mistake in invading Iraq


I disagree wholeheartedly. Without knowing the specific motivation of those who planned and executed the war, I think Iraq was the most important place in the world for the global community to intervene and prevent the potential further expansion of totalitarianism. The DPRK is contained, Cuba is contained, China is slowly liberalizing (and an unrealistic candidate for direct intervention), African nations generally do not have the funds or the will to export their ideologies or expand their empires (with notable exceptions). Iraq and specifically the Baathist, authoritarian, totalitarian regime instituted by Hussein was the greatest risk to liberal values on Earth, IMO. He was somewhat contained by the US-led embargo, but that would only last as long as the will to maintain it lasted in the US. He could survive forever due to the repressive nature of his rule and the oil wealth his country possessed. That wealth gave him the ability and the desire to expand his empire, as he had tried twice before. Who knows what his sons or whoever replaced him would have been like. His political ideology was also extremely compatible with Islamic fundamentalism in that both are autocratic, totalitarian, anti-liberal systems of government. This goes for both Al Qaeda et al and the Theocracy in charge of Iran. The liberalization of Iraq is a great bulwark against both political and religious totalitarianism in the region, and therefore, IMO, the most strategically important battle for the expansion and preservation of liberalism that could have occurred, not to put too fine a point on it. This goes for both the liberal countries of the world, and the people of Iraq themselves.
posted by loquax at 4:59 PM on August 30, 2005


I assume that the good news is overstated and the bad news is understated.

I assume the opposite, on the basis of the economics of selling newspapers and attracting viewers. Think killer sharks and rampant kidnappings.
posted by loquax at 5:01 PM on August 30, 2005


loquax: I assume the opposite, on the basis of the economics of selling newspapers and attracting viewers. Think killer sharks and rampant kidnappings.

Killer sharks and rampant kidnappings are quite different from a war, in two respects. First, war in general is good for newspaper sales. Second, that isn't affected much by whether the news is good or bad. So, since the Pentagon gets a hand on a lot of what comes out, an assumption that the news is given a major positive spin is dirt simple.
posted by graymouser at 5:05 PM on August 30, 2005


since the Pentagon gets a hand on a lot of what comes out

On what do you base that? Is the pentagon censoring what Iraqi government officials say to the Guardian? Are they censoring IMF reports? Are there military handlers following Chinese reporters around? Blacking out Iraqi news agency reports? This was likely the scenario during the actual war back in 2003, but I don't think it's supportable anymore.

an assumption that the news is given a major positive spin is dirt simple.

I suppose we'll have to agree to disagree.
posted by loquax at 5:20 PM on August 30, 2005


144 replies is more than I can read through just now, but in case no one's mentioned it, Michiganers unable to attend NYC's Hitchens/Galloway sixteen rounder have a reasonable substitute that same night with Hanson vs Huffington.

I wonder what the honoraria are for these four....
posted by IndigoJones at 5:29 PM on August 30, 2005


Man, this thread is just chock-full of primo bullshit.
No wonder things are going to hell in a handbasket.
posted by nightchrome at 5:58 PM on August 30, 2005


That wealth gave him the ability and the desire to expand his empire, as he had tried twice before.

And shattered any remaining military might. I don't doubt the desire was there, but I believe he was contained, and would have been as long as needed. But predicting the future is obviously tricky.

His political ideology was also extremely compatible with Islamic fundamentalism in that both are autocratic, totalitarian, anti-liberal systems of government.

Despite sharing traits, I'd say conflating the two is a dangerous oversimplification.

The liberalization of Iraq is a great bulwark against both political and religious totalitarianism in the region,

Perhaps, it may also further antagonize the less enlightened areas in the region. But regardless, what I've seen of the new constitution is (if certainly an improvement over Saddam) worrying far from "liberalization".

I suppose we'll have to agree to disagree.

Indeed, but I've (at least) enjoyed the exchange. Good night to all (in the EST zone, at least) too much work to do this evening.
posted by jalexei at 6:01 PM on August 30, 2005


There is nothing, I repeat nothin in this thread that refuter'sa CH's piece.

for starters: Zarqawi. Zarqawi was operating from northern Iraq, from a region Saddam had no control over. Hitchens knows this, I'm sure. so why does he have to lie to make his point?

then, let's look at Hitchens' criteriums for a nation to lose its sovereignty:

It had invaded its neighbors,

1991

committed genocide on its own soil,

1988

harbored and nurtured international thugs and killers

as have every nation on the planet. H clings to two examples: Zarqawi (see above) and Abu Nidal, who indeed was a terrorist - but 1) hardly a "bin Ladinist" and 2) hardly was a threat to the US. to some Israelis, sure, but by that logic the US should invade Gaza. oh, wait.

and flouted every provision of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The United Nations

touting UN treatys now, are we? I thought the UN was unsignificant? badly in need of reform and whatnot? btw, what was that international association of governments that didn't approve of military action against Iraq? funny that.

now I badly need another drink.
posted by mr.marx at 6:11 PM on August 30, 2005


Thanks for the link to the video of Hitchens on Jon Stewart's show about 100 comments back. I don't agree that Hitchen's received a bitch slap -- actually it looked as though Stewart had to reach a bit deeper than usual into his gutbucket of understatedly impassioned cries for Bush to treat us as adults when responding to our concerned and probing questions. Of course, I don't believe that anyone in the entire administration has ever acted as if those to whom they were dispensing "information" at press conferences were adults capable of any sort of critical reasoning at all... But as much as I'm loathe to, perhaps we should cut the administration some slack as far as their campaign of disinformation regarding the Iraq war is concerned. Perhaps the real motivation for the invasion and occupation was something like the following (hardly original) scenario. Many of the current administration being involved in the oil industry (or at least being familiar enough with the US economy and energy needs to understand the US's dependence on oil), they may have realized that global oil production was reaching its peak (discussed many times before on metafilter) and that the source of the preponderance of oil was in the politically unstable Middle East. To be in control of the oil supply and satisfy Western energy needs, they reason that it would be very convenient to have a huge military presence in the region. After September 2001, they have a pseudo opportunity to launch such a military operation (after all, Bin Laden's an Arab and so is Saddam Hussein -- I know, I know it's crackers but many people in the States swallowed it, hook, line and sinker) All they need to sell it is some story involving (1) WMDs, (2) a crazed Arab tyrant easily capable of harboring terrorists, (3) attacking those terrorists there before they attack us here, (4) supporting soldiers who go into harm's way (5) allowing freedom to go "on the march" (6) perhaps more patriotic stuff. The totally obvious and tired punch line is that we didn't go to war for the advertised reason. Thing is, they just couldn't sell it on its own merits. I guess it would have been more democratic of Bush & Co. to have had a referendum asking the American people whether on not they wanted to invade a country with the hopes of stabilizing a region from which comes the majority of the oil that powers the entire US economy. Perhaps the best justification for such a move the reasons for which are presented in those stark terms is that it's better that the Americans control the region as its oil production peaks and then declines and perhaps for the Americans to manage by proxy peaking and declining oil production. If the question of whether or not to invade and occupy Iraq had been put into those terms, I don't believe it would have been quite so easy to disdainfully condemn the occupation John-Stewart-style or to blindly and patriotically support it. But if Bush & Co. had presented the proposition to the American people in such fashion, perhaps they could have been better able to present to the American people the choice that (perhaps) they saw: between engaging in a war of questionable morality to secure declining oil supplies on one hand and, on the other, facing a future with a less than secure supply of relatively cheap oil. It's unclear to me whether the other issues surrounding the war -- in particular whether Iraq is better for Iraqis now or before the invasion or how terrorist organizations targeting Western interests react to the invasion should be considered in isolation from the issue of petroleum. It is unfortunate that this particular issue can't be rationally discussed in the US political arena.
posted by Wash Jones at 7:31 PM on August 30, 2005


While I could condense it, I largely agree with Wash's above.

Going into Iraq like we did was a beautiful play. It nearly worked. (things were looking pretty good until the UN HQ got blowed up).

We still could salvage something out of it.

But we need to get our economy off of foreign energy. We've got a horrendous trade imbalance, we don't make anything anyone wants anymore (other than financial instruments).

The $200B+ we spent could and should have gone toward some serious R&D (directed research / industrial policy) wrt solar, hydrogen, coal, pig crap -> oil, cow farts -> methane, etc etc.

We think we can colonize the moon, how about colonizing our sunbelt efficiently; there's no reason why our areas with 80%+ insolation shouldn't be net energy exporters, other than national stupidity.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 7:52 PM on August 30, 2005


loquax: What do you propose? Invasion of all four (plus Somalia, China, DPRK and others)? As has been made abundantly clear, the US (and the global community) has limited will and resources to engage anarchy and totalitarianism wherever it lies. It is also constrained by the reality that their power is not absolute. ... We may disagree on this last point, but surely we don't on the nature and limits of US power and influence. We cannot do everything, but if we can at least do some things, are we not moving in the right direction? Of course, questioning the priorities is certainly fair.

For the purposes of discussion, I'll agree that we should be in the business of promoting democracy, etc. That said, when I make up a list of things I need to do (titled, say, "Countries to Liberate from the Yoke of Totalitarian Ideology"), I usually rank them in order of importance. This could be time sensitive, or it could have to do with what would make other things easier to do, or it could be based on what's most important, or shit - alphabetically.

Our invasion of Iraq (unlike Afghanistan, I'd say) fails to meet any of the criteria. It didn't have to be done soon - obvious Saddam Hussein wasn't marching on Tehran or other freedom-loving lands. It wasn't easy to do, either. Well, the knocking over an ineffectual tinpot moustache was easy, but we're still there and shit's still blowing up, so this wasn't one of those to-do list freebies, like "shave." It hasn't made anything else, except make Ghaddafi give up his dreams of empire which, last I checked, were scary when Hammer pants were cool, but have been rather theoretical and artheritic of late.

And was it the most important thing we needed to be doing? Were Saddam's hordes of unfreedom burning and maiming vast stretches of the countryside? Were thousands of protestors being shot and killed by troops? Were the secret police boiling prisoners alive? Well, no - it was bad stuff, to be sure, but it was the usual garden variety mustachio'd strongarm bullshit, not some kind of Bond villian/Hitler clone. So now we're left asking ourselves, does freedom trump safety? It is better to live in a war zone than in a totalitarian state? It's a much less comfortable question than it was a few years back.

So seriously, Loquax: what the fuck? We're sitting on a gigantic, decade-sized fuck up; there is no evidence to support the idea that, even given a wide-eyed Wilsonian foreign policy, we should have invaded Iraq; and your response to this is, "We cannot do everything, but if we can at least do some things, are we not moving in the right direction?"

No, goddamnit.

One step forward, then one step back for each person killed during this fiasco on both sides, and then another step back for each person who has lived under the heel of a totalitarian state while the US is stuck trying to keep Iraq from falling apart like wet toilet paper.

There are things we can do, and then there are the right things to do. Doing things, regardless of whether they're right or wrong, does not equal doing the right thing and in the real world, we don't get gold stars for effort. Real people die, and then the other real people who only got fucked up have to pick up the pieces. We bide our time and wait until we have a bead on a target; we don't get happy feet and run off invading countries. This shit is for real.
posted by Coda at 8:03 PM on August 30, 2005


And that's even if I thought that one could promote freedom through military means.
posted by Coda at 8:06 PM on August 30, 2005


Coda, read some of my later posts for why I disagree with you. I believe Iraq was strategically important, and that the invasion/occupation/last two years have been generally positive and that there is reason for optimism.
posted by loquax at 8:19 PM on August 30, 2005


it's amazing how people turn up the Criticism Resolution Control to 11 when they don't like the author of a policy, but can't seem to get it up to 1 when they do. I'd take the Bush Administration's foreign policy over that of any other US administration in my lifetime, and certainly over that of France, Germany or any other supposed "enlightened" power. And, needless to say, over the reality of the United Nations.
posted by ParisParamus at 8:54 PM on August 30, 2005


I'd take the Bush Administration's foreign policy over that of any other US administration in my lifetime

will you admit that bush senior (prior to the kuwait invasion) and reagan administration officials (including dirty don rumsfeld and scumbag dick cheney) supported and supplied weapons (including weapons of mass destruction) to saddam hussein which he used to kill his own people and attack his neighbors?

and with the history/facts as our guide - don't we have the right to be a little suspicious of the same sons-of-bitches now claiming to be democratizing iraq while plunging the country into anarchy and using our tax dollars to pay for the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians not to mention our own troops based on lies about WMD?
posted by specialk420 at 9:21 PM on August 30, 2005


no, I will admit that they may have supplied them to get Iran, which deserved to be gotten. In any case, they was then. When do you stop dwelling on the past? Does past stupidity and/or bad policy estop you from doing better now?
posted by ParisParamus at 9:31 PM on August 30, 2005


Reflection:
Jalexei says, "a worthy thread can emerge from a craptacular link"

member since: August 21, 2001
jalexei has posted 1 link and 486 comments to MetaFilter
posted by semmi at 9:36 PM on August 30, 2005


I think Iraq is going well, given the nature of what's being attempted. I'm just sorry that your patience-horizon is so short. And as CH says, it was really never a question of "if" but "when." Neither of us can prove what the future would have wrought, but I am comfortable that the Iraq War was a reasonable choice.
posted by ParisParamus at 9:38 PM on August 30, 2005


Actually, on a scale of 1 - 5, Iraq is a 4. The effort makes me fell very proud to be a US citizen; haven't felt this proud since, well, ever!
posted by ParisParamus at 9:56 PM on August 30, 2005


PP: I am comfortable that the Iraq War was a reasonable choice.

Oh, well, if you're comfortable.

*sigh*

This whole thing reminds me of running into friends who got terrible tattoos and are in the process of rationalizing them. Like, they've got a really shaky outline of Ed Koch as a furry on their stomach and they're saying things like "Oh yeah, I really like how it's turning out. I'm going in to having the coloring done in a couple of weeks."
posted by Coda at 10:02 PM on August 30, 2005


Does past stupidity and/or bad policy estop you from doing better now?


if only. paris - please tell us when you are shipping out to fight in this war you so staunchly defend?
posted by specialk420 at 10:43 PM on August 30, 2005


nice one coda. would be funny if it wasn't so sad... we COULD have done it the right way. instead - the next 9-11 most likely will be blowback from this massive bush/neo-con f*ckup... maybe they'll hit houston this time.
posted by specialk420 at 10:52 PM on August 30, 2005


.|.
posted by mosch at 1:00 AM on August 31, 2005


Well it's always so nice to see Americans sitting down at their desk to have a civil academic debate on bombing people in other countries and then leaving them to deal with a handful of terrorist attacks each day which they'd never seen before, a country divided and fundamentalists gaining power. It really warms my heart.
posted by funambulist at 1:26 AM on August 31, 2005


dios writes "OmieWise, you are arguing that the president sold the war poorly. That the justifications he offered are the only basis from which it can be analyzed. That is unfair if we are discussing the propriety of the war in the abstract. If the issue is so narrowly focused (e.g., can you defend the war on the grounds Bush offered and only the WMD grounds), then you probably wouldn't get much an argument. Bush didn't market or sell this war correctly. "

dios-I'm arguing more than that, actually. I said above that I don't see that Saddam was worthy of US military intervention. He just did not meet the criteria, whether they were sold to us by the administration (we know he didn't meet those criteria of immanent threat) or whether we consider them in the abstract. I understand why loquax, and perhaps you, think that we should have invaded Iraq, but I just don't think that the justification was there. And, I am one of those who would list other countries while arguing that the Iraq invasion was a bad idea. I would list them because I see them as more of a threat to the US and to world stablity than I saw Iraq. Yes, in a perfect world where the choice was between doing nothing else and liberating Iraq, liberating Iraq would be the thing to do, but that does not make it the best choice for US foreign policy at the time of our invasion. One can only take abstraction so far.

In addition, and of course this conversation has been constrained in many ways by the article and author that sparked it, I oppose the war because I feel that it makes the US less safe in the world, and specifically less safe from terrorist threats. I really don't mean to be condescending when I say that I'm constantly surprised that anyone who cares about American safety could argue for this war. It just seems so self-evident to me (I realize that this does not, in fact, mean that it is self-evident) that we are in a worse position since we started this war. We've lost allies; we've over-extended our military with no sign of that ending; we've occupied a country in a region of the world where that fact alone gives propaganda to the enemy; we've put our economy in peril and siphoned money from important dopmestic priorities, including homeland security; we've diluted our moral position. And all for a place and a person, no matter how odious, that was demonstrably not an immanent threat the US.
posted by OmieWise at 6:03 AM on August 31, 2005


This piece appeared--two page spread--in the NY Post this morning. Again, G-d bless CH!
posted by ParisParamus at 6:11 AM on August 31, 2005


Just in case anyone who hasn't completely lost their shit is still reading this, I wanted to reiterate the point Hitchens made about 9-11 being a blessing because it gave the administration an excuse to enact their plans, i.e. "woke us up to the situation."

This utterly amoral proposition (which is completely in line with the current feeling among koolaid drinkers) could hardly have been stated any more clearly. It is the result of a disturbed worldview that values human plans and ambitions above human life.

They believe so much in their plans for the world that they are ready to kill more 100,000 people to see those plans fulfilled. They ignore self-doubt (which is the root of wisdom), they ignore history (which shows the foolishness of their plans), and they ignore their own professed principles (a sign of fanaticism).

It is ok to not always know what to do. It is ok to not know what position is the right one. It is ok to change our minds. These are indications that we are being honest with ourselves.

It is never ok to allow our dreams of Utopia (No-place) to rule our common sense and integrity.
posted by sonofsamiam at 8:14 AM on August 31, 2005


Hitch didn't say that. He just said it woke us up to depravity about which we were in denial; and which still exists.
posted by ParisParamus at 8:30 AM on August 31, 2005


I already touched on that, didn't I.
posted by sonofsamiam at 8:35 AM on August 31, 2005


"His political ideology was also extremely compatible with Islamic fundamentalism in that both are autocratic, totalitarian, anti-liberal systems of government."
You're dead wrong on that, Loquax. One of the things that a lot of people forget about Hussein's regime is how incredibly secular it was for an Arab country. It was a practically Lebanon in terms of women's rights.
Totalitarians aren't all of the same stripe, and while they can be analyzed similarly in some situations, Islamic Fundamentalism and Hussein's post-socialist Baathist dictatorship were as different as Idi Amin and Stalin.

The reasons why Iraq was a stupid move are:
It has undermined our ability to credibly project deterent force in other parts of the world.
It removed focus from Afghanistan, which is more likely to be a haven for terrorism of internationalist proportions.
It is unlikely to significantly advance America's interests in the Middle East (any gains made through installing their current oligarchy are likely to be diminished when considered in terms of radicallizing Muslims in other countries).
It has been an incredible hog slop for pork barrel projects, financed by a deficity, which is likely to decrease America's ability to achieve policy objectives in the future.
It alienated us from our allies abroad, which despite the blather of Paris Paramus, will be important from both an economic and a security standpoint.
We have not mobilized the resources to do this correctly.
The US is attempting to install a democracy that will conform to the current policy goals of the US, which is historically a recipe for failed states and strongmen (especially in the Mid East).

Again, I can support many of the (initially ancillary) motivations for invading Iraq. I am glad that Hussein is out of power. But the simple fact is that this invasion required both great vision and great skill to pull of successfully. I have no doubt that Bush has a vision, though I suspect that it is equal parts great and venal, but I don't believe that he had the skill to prosecute the war in the way that it would have required were it to be a success. To do so would have meant actively engaging other countries in order to share the burden, putting more responsibility on the UN for rebuilding, actively accepting open bids on reconstruction projects, and supplying fair-handed security while encouraging enfranchisement within the population.
posted by klangklangston at 9:06 AM on August 31, 2005


On what do you base your pessimism? It does not seem to be shared by Iraqis, as judged by the polling found here

Do you actually read your links? While I will gladly admit (and remember, I WANT Iraq to succeed. badly) that there are some positive signs, including in the areas of media, telephone subscribers, and gas lines (the average gas line is down to 1 mile! d'oh), the polling data in the Brookings report shows negative trendlines in terms of public opinion polling. Specifically, questions like "is Iraq headed in the right direction?" and "are things getting better or worse" show significantly negative polling trends this year.

One thing I find particularly odd is the accusation that opponents of the war are picking and choosing their data to emphasize the bad and shut out the good. I think it's pretty plain that the news outlets that are hyping the war operate in the conservative echo chamber, immune to the dull tyranny of inconvenient facts.

And furthermore, this war did not operate in a vacuum. In addition were the stated goals untrue, the rest of the world hasn't forgotten that the US and Britain undertook this particular foreign policy adventure in spite of traditional allies or international law. Saddam thumbing his nose at the UN? How about violating the UN charter with undertaking a definitionally aggressive war without Security Council approval? Or will UN reform deal with that particular problem?
posted by norm at 10:21 AM on August 31, 2005


After reading holgate's link to the LRB review of Hitchens' Orwell book, I had another thought about what's bothersome about Hitchens and contributes to my dismissal of his recent opeds. It feels to me very much as if Hitchens has decided that he's not only right about this war, but that he's also busy congratulating himself on that rightness with an eye on history. I may be being unkind, but I feel like part of why he ignores so many inconvenient facts is that he wants desperately to be remembered as the lone voice on the left that got it right. The problem, of course, is that what made Orwell Orwell was that he was pretty busy working and letting his reputation take care of itself.
posted by OmieWise at 10:47 AM on August 31, 2005


Lefties may not like me saying this, but it is my opinion that:

Hitchens and Horowitz are both born authoritarians, who long to squirm under the powerful thumb of some absolute and to force everyone else into the same position.

That is why they were both formerly drawn to radical leftist groups and that is why they have now glommed onto the new Republican anti-conservatism. They want a revolution, and they don't care what life afterwards looks like.

But that's just my unfounded feeling.
posted by sonofsamiam at 10:53 AM on August 31, 2005


Iraq and specifically the Baathist, authoritarian, totalitarian regime instituted by Hussein was the greatest risk to liberal values on Earth, IMO.

This is absurd. Secular Iraq was not our greatest threat by any stretch. We have China. A quasi-superwpower. Looming on the horizon. THAT is threat moving into the mid-east was attempting to contain. We had hoped to cut them off from oil to contain China's growth. And it backfired. BIGTIME. Now they have sweetheart deals with Iran - who will soon control 25% or Iraqs oil.

We have NON-secular threats at home that are such powerful movements of ignorance and seething just-bleow-the-surface violence that they threaten to disembowel the republic.

And we have Radical Jihadism.

I would say Saddam barely ranked 5 or 6 on this list as a Strategic threat. It was his realestate that mattered.


He was somewhat contained by the US-led embargo, but that would only last as long as the will to maintain it lasted in the US. He could survive forever due to the repressive nature of his rule and the oil wealth his country possessed.

Partially true. But nobody lasts forever. There would have been a power struggle between the sons. And likely the growing power of Iran would have sparked Shia problems in the South with in a few years. The danger would be him purchasing nukes. But he would NEVER have turned them over to a terror network. That would not happen and every important military strategist has agreed with that.

That wealth gave him the ability and the desire to expand his empire, as he had tried twice before.

Empire? What empire? Iraq? WE (the west) created Iraq. Sure he envisioned himself a mini-Stalin.

His oil wealth is the only legitimate strategic concern as far as Saddam having any kind of leverage on world stability. So. Ok. That is a real concern.

I was in favor of a military intervention in Iraq. Conditionally. Intervention in Iraq could only be possible after we captured or killed Bin Laden and/or made Afghanistan the most secure and prosperous secular democratic state in central asia. We would have made a great number of friends if we did that.

Well we really fucked that up.

"Shock and Awe" was a terrible blunder that killed far too many innocent people and damaged infrastructure crucial to rebuilding the state. It would have been better to nurture an insurrection among his military. Encourage them to surrender and switch sides.

Hitchens is wrong. IF we let inspections conclude. If we got UN Security Council approval and a real coalition (certainly hard to do given the legitimate corruption of the French and German illegal alliance with Saddam), all possible if we went slowly.

But the argument that Saddam himself was a threat to us is simply absurd. Bush the Firsts OWN people concluded this was not true after Gulf I. Powel and Rice agreed right up until just after 9/11.
posted by tkchrist at 11:00 AM on August 31, 2005


Islamic Fundamentalism and Hussein's post-socialist Baathist dictatorship were as different as Idi Amin and Stalin.

I disagree, but mostly because I think there was very little difference between Idi Amin's regime and Stalin's. Or Hitler's and Stalin's. Or Tito's and Assad's. Or Ceausescu's and Castro's. Sure, the details, and the death tolls and the particulars may be different, but ultimately, all are predicated on the fact that the individual exists for the benefit of the state, and in fact only exists at the whim of the state. All are characterized by a fundamental lack of rule of law, and all rely on the use of force and intimidation to maintain control. None allow alternate sources of power, for to do so would undermine the state and the ideology of infallibility it has been built upon. Through this prism, there is no difference between Saddam's rule and the Taliban, or the Islamic Republic of Iran, or Mao's China.

That political philosophy is incompatible in the long run with liberalism. The two systems, liberalism and totalitarianism, can only exist in conflict as each threatens the other's existence and viability. That is why totalitarianism with the resources or opportunity to expand is extremely dangerous to liberal societies. That is why I believe that Iraq was of great strategic importance while Cuba, for instance, is not (at the present time, anyways). Again, not to mention the plight of the people living under such an abhorrent system. Whether or not civil society was secular is irrelevant, the transition to Islamic Theocracy would have been (and still could be) as simple as the East German or Polish shift from Nazism to Stalinism. That is, of course, besides the fact that Saddam's particular style of autocratic, systemic, oppressive totalitarianism was cruel enough and dangerous enough to mandate action on it's own.

To do so would have meant actively engaging other countries in order to share the burden, putting more responsibility on the UN for rebuilding, actively accepting open bids on reconstruction projects, and supplying fair-handed security while encouraging enfranchisement within the population.


I agree with the gist of what you're saying, however it's not far to ignore the contributions of the UK, South Korea, Italy, Poland, Romania, Japan and many others who have supplied combat troops, peacekeepers, aid and investment. More obviously, would have been better, however I question whether or not it would have ever been possible to obtain buy in from the countries and agencies that have not participated to a significant extent. As I said above, maybe if the war had been framed differently from the start, it would have been. As for specific military and occupation strategies, I agree that certain things could have been handled better. By the way, the UN has taken out full page ads in magazines with a picture of an Iraqi with a purple finger, and the words "we the people" at the top, claiming responsibility for the elections and the implementation of governance in Iraq.

Quickly:

The reasons why Iraq was a stupid move are:
It has undermined our ability to credibly project deterrent force in other parts of the world.


I don't know enough about the particulars, however it doesn't seem as though this has been a problem yet. Where has the US military been needed, but was unable to function due to a lack of resources? The 5th fleet is still in the Pacific, there are still 60,000 troops in South Korea, and hundreds of thousands across Europe. Yes, there appears to be a strain, and yes there would be resource issues should another war break out, however it would occur to me that they've balanced the risk of inaction now vs. future theoretical problems and available resources. If the US always needed to maintain full deterrent status all over the world, they'd never be able to use the military at all.


It removed focus from Afghanistan, which is more likely to be a haven for terrorism of internationalist proportions.

I don't know that that's true. The time frame is still too small in Afghanistan (as in Iraq) to properly judge progress. The Taliban has not retaken the country, despite some reports of increased activity. It is inconceivable that the US will allow that to occur, and inconceivable to believe that should it occur, they will not be dispatched as quickly as they were last time. The people of Afghanistan have no love for the Taliban, and do not wish it to return, as far as I understand. Warlordism, poppy cultivation and lawlessness are still issues, and they probably will be for decades, but I don't know how the US could solve those problems short of full scale occupation and rule for an indefinite period. Afghanis will have to be responsible for their own country, as Iraqis have to be, and make good choices with the support of the international community, which both seem to have at the moment.

It is unlikely to significantly advance America's interests in the Middle East (any gains made through installing their current oligarchy are likely to be diminished when considered in terms of radicalizing Muslims in other countries).

I disagree. I don't know how many Muslims have been "radicalized". Iraqis themselves feel positively about the future and investment is coming into the country for the first time in decades. If Iraq is a rebuilding success, Arabs and Muslims in the region will be radicalized to no longer accept Islamic and Autocratic totalitarianism as their systems of government. Either way, we have to give this time, and concentrate as much effort as we can on making Iraq a success, both for the Iraqi people and as an example of liberalism for others in the region.


It has been an incredible hog slop for pork barrel projects, financed by a deficit, which is likely to decrease America's ability to achieve policy objectives in the future.

I have no comment. I'm not American, I don't pay taxes, I don't particularly care where the money comes from. I can only say that sometimes, this kind of money needs to be spent for future generations. I see this as no different from spending billions on Kyoto and the like.

It alienated us from our allies abroad, which despite the blather of Paris Paramus, will be important from both an economic and a security standpoint.

Some allies. Not all. France and Germany and Spain. That's pretty much it. There are sizable minorities in many European countries that support US actions. It has certainly not led to reduced cooperation in economic areas, or aid or other initiatives. As has been discussed in this thread, at least some of the displeasure with the actions of the US are directly correlated to Bush, once he is gone, international relations are a whole new ballgame. Sort of.

We have not mobilized the resources to do this correctly.
The US is attempting to install a democracy that will conform to the current policy goals of the US, which is historically a recipe for failed states and strongmen (especially in the Mid East).


All the more reason to try to break the cycle, if I can be glib.
posted by loquax at 11:07 AM on August 31, 2005


You certainly can be.
posted by sonofsamiam at 11:09 AM on August 31, 2005


You certainly can be.

Thanks!
posted by loquax at 11:14 AM on August 31, 2005


We should've listened to Cheney:
I think that the proposition of going to Baghdad is also fallacious. I think if we were going to remove Saddam Hussein we would have had to go all the way to Baghdad, we would have to commit a lot of force because I do not believe he would wait in the Presidential Palace for us to arrive. I think we'd have had to hunt him down. And once we'd done that and we'd gotten rid of Saddam Hussein and his government, then we'd have had to put another government in its place. What kind of government? Should it be a Sunni government or Shi'i government or a Kurdish government or Ba'athist regime? Or maybe we want to bring in some of the Islamic fundamentalists? How long would we have had to stay in Baghdad to keep that government in place? What would happen to the government once U.S. forces withdrew? How many casualties should the United States accept in that effort to try to create clarity and stability in a situation that is inherently unstable? I think it is vitally important for a President to know when to use military force. I think it is also very important for him to know when not to commit U.S. military force. And it's my view that the President got it right both times, that it would have been a mistake for us to get bogged down in the quagmire inside Iraq.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:29 PM on August 31, 2005


Let me be the first to say then, that I completely disagree with Cheney's remarks.
posted by loquax at 1:48 PM on August 31, 2005


Christopher Hitchens' last battle
posted by homunculus at 8:54 PM on September 5, 2005


Of course President Bush got it right. It's nearly obvious.
posted by ParisParamus at 9:29 PM on September 5, 2005


Hitchens on Galloway.
posted by loquax at 11:53 AM on September 13, 2005


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