This New Yorker article
March 27, 2002 3:15 PM   Subscribe

This New Yorker article is a must read. Long and exhaustive (but well worth the trip), I believe it could have the power to change many minds about what should be done, and when, about Iraq and its dictator. The essential story is about the horrible and terrifying effects of Saddam Hussein's gassing of Kurdish villages, but as the story reminds us at the end "Please understand, the Kurds were for practice"
posted by cell divide (13 comments total)
I did read it. . . .it is the best New Yorker article in a long time. .harkens back to the long articles they used to publish before they dumbed down.

Very disturbing. .. would you invade Iraq and so after Saddam on the basis of this information? I truly don't know.
posted by Danf at 3:26 PM on March 27, 2002

I read another story in this article. It's the story of how the U.S. has alternately ignored and meddled in the Kurdish situation, always to the disadvantage of the Kurds and ultimately to our own disadvantage. Reagan/Bush stifles attempts by Congress to condemn the Iraqi use of biochemical weapons against them, Kissinger gets the Shah to reneg on a deal to establish a state for the Kurds, and so on. Frankly, if the Kurds had bombed the twin towers, who would have blamed them?
posted by Neologian at 3:36 PM on March 27, 2002

In this article you'll find out a little more about that situation, neologin, going all the way back to the promises for a Kurdistan by Woodrow Wilson. As usual, gas and oil interests had more sway.
posted by cell divide at 3:55 PM on March 27, 2002

What about the USA? I don't trust the USA Government more than I trust Saddam. It's sad to say that, but it's true.

I think that the USA tries to convince themselves that they are in charge of the world, then they believe it and then they act. This New Yorker article falls in the "convincement" category.
posted by Soveran at 4:13 PM on March 27, 2002

And here's from a long and detailed article about what such an invasion may entail from the previous New Yorker:

article by Seymour Hersh

More than five hundred thousand American soldiers took part in the Gulf War, and, until recently, military planners at the United States Central Command, or CENTCOM, in Tampa, have insisted that at least six combat divisions—roughly a hundred and fifty thousand troops—would be needed for another invasion. CENTCOM's current requirements remain classified, but, in an article just published in Foreign Affairs, Kenneth Pollack, the director of Persian Gulf affairs for the N.S.C. during the Clinton Administration, provided the following assessment:

"Some light infantry will be required in case Saddam's loyalists fight in Iraq's cities. Air-mobile forces will be needed to seize Iraq's oil fields at the start of hostilities and to occupy the sites from which Saddam could launch missiles against Israel or Saudi Arabia. And troops will have to be available for occupation duties once the fighting is over. All told, the force should total roughly two hundred thousand to three hundred thousand people; for the invasion, between four and six divisions plus supporting units, and for the air campaign seven hundred to a thousand aircraft and anywhere from one to five carrier battle groups. . . . Building up such a force in the Persian Gulf would take three to five months, but the campaign itself would take probably about a month, including the opening air operations."

...The renewed campaign against Saddam has inevitably quieted those in Washington who believe that the Iraqi Army will fight to the end. One recently retired senior military officer, who drafted CENTCOM battle studies with the Marine leadership, said, "We've got a bunch of people involved who think it's going to be easy. We're set up for a big surprise." A former American ambassador in the Middle East said, "If we have to have three months of bombing, with civilian casualties, we'll have real problems with the Arab world." Scott Ritter, the former marine who led U.N. inspection teams into Iraq during the nineties, predicted that the Iraqi Army would respond to an invasion by dispersing into villages and towns throughout the countryside. In that case, Ritter asked, "What will we do? Flatten the towns?"

...One nightmare would be that Saddam used weapons of mass destruction against Israel and you'd end up with a U.S.-Israeli war against Iraq. No one knows how much it will cost. You could have an interruption in oil supplies. Meanwhile, you've still got Afghanistan. The whole purpose of going in is to cleanse Iraq of all weapons of mass-destruction capability. If Saddam is gone and his sons dispatched, you will still need two things: complete coöperation of whoever is running the show and inspection teams to cleanse every bedroom and every crevice in the palaces. Iraq is a proud country that has been humiliated, and it's madness to think that these people, while hating Saddam, are in love with the United States. Latent nationalism will emerge, and there will be those who want to hold on to whatever weapons they've held back. The danger is that these capabilities could pop up somewhere else—in control of some small Army group with its own agenda."

posted by y2karl at 7:34 PM on March 27, 2002

And to second Neologian, the passages I found interesting in the article above, I quoted over here. For an argument in favor of invading Iraq, the article may have its merits. As to the fate of the Kurds during and after said invasion, well, I can't say I like their chances.
posted by y2karl at 10:52 PM on March 27, 2002

Neologian: First, politics is famously the art of the possible. It would have been nicer had we helped them out and given them their own state, but they're just one of many ethnic groups that in Wilson's days were divided amongst newly formed states. Right at that time, for instance, Greece and Turkey were in all-out war, and after a failed invasion of the nebulous Turkish state, the Greeks were driven back out and hundreds of thousands of ethnic Greeks living in what is now Turkey, near Izmir (Smyrna), were forced to resettle across the Aegean -- after living there for centuries. By comparison, the Kurds and Arabs seemed at the time largely to be getting along. The late 20th-century notion of tribal nationalism had yet to be developed (and IMHO should still be somewhat suspect). Judging those actions in a vacuum is ye olde moral bugaboo of hindsight, presentism; and why the US must be singled out for guilt among Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and Iran's active depredations is a transfer of responsibility.
posted by dhartung at 11:46 PM on March 27, 2002

It's not the politics of the possible that bothers me, dhartung. It's the hypocrisy of an administration (past, present or future) that presents our conflict with Iraq as the ultimate battle of good versus evil, when our allies, enemies and victims in the region have shifted like the sands. What is evil today was good yesterday, or at least conveniently ignored.

Further, I did not single out the Wilson administration, but rather the more recent conflicts in which the U.S. postured on behalf of a Kurdish state when the real interests at stake (read: oil) were all too clear.

What this article really says to me is that the U.S. has meddled too often in this region to disastrous effect. Is it possible, for once, for our government to just say no to intervention?
posted by Neologian at 8:07 AM on March 28, 2002

great article, thanks for posting it.

one part of the article that I thought was amusing was the author's interview with the UN's oil-for-food secretary. (the "don't talk to me about morals" guy) Possibly the most media-unsavy official ever. Did he not realize that he was talking to a journalist? Where does the UN find these people?
posted by boltman at 8:47 AM on March 28, 2002

Goldberg was interviewed on NPR's "Fresh Air" and it was riveting. I wasn't sure about the need to do something about Saddam until after I heard the interview and read this article.
posted by gen at 9:28 AM on March 28, 2002

Has the Australian government expressed an opinion about military action against Saddam? The media here seems mainly focused on Europe and the Middle East and never seems to mention if Australia would support it or even participate (or I just keep missing it somehow.)
posted by homunculus at 10:29 AM on March 28, 2002

The late 20th-century notion of tribal nationalism had yet to be developed (and IMHO should still be somewhat suspect).

Um, the state of Israel? It is, of course, a fact on the ground now, and it is true, as Jack Vance asserted in the Gray Prince , that, ultimately, ownership of land will always be traced back to an act of violence.

Then again, the Kurds have been living continuously in the same area for a couple of thousand years or more, if I read my Xenophon correctly...

Politics may be the art of the possible but online armchair general-ship is something more akin to the virtual practicing medicine without a license. Or is that science fiction or just plain Tom Clancyism? At any rate, I wouldn't want to be the one underwriting the virtual malpractice policy...
posted by y2karl at 3:32 PM on March 28, 2002

"Saddam Hussein secured broad Arab support today in heading off any American military action against his country when the region's leaders declared here that an attack on Iraq would be considered an attack against all Arab states."
posted by homunculus at 8:05 PM on March 29, 2002

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