not your average pivotal moment
February 27, 2003 5:45 AM   Subscribe

RIFT: in "The madness of empire", American Conservative Magazine breaks with Neoconservatism. Meanwhile Norman Mailer, in Gaining an empire, losing democracy? warns "America is going to become a mega-banana republic where the army will have more and more importance...democracy, noble and delicate as it is, may give way".

What can we say about a nation so powerfull that it can simply bury thousands of troublesome humans with bulldozers?
posted by troutfishing (102 comments total)
We could ask, "How long have you been asleep?" How the Mass Slaughter of a Group of Iraqis Went Unreported; strange, but I knew all this within months of its occurring.
posted by mischief at 5:52 AM on February 27, 2003

mischief - OK, but do you think you are representative of most Americans, and are you saying that the "bulldozer" story got much press at the time? Or that this story, in all it's grotesquery, it is irrelevant to my larger point - that Neoconservatism, a very narrow an incresasingly isolated US political tendency, is making a play for a US world neo-empire?

US Undersecretary of State John Bolton summed it up recently: "U.S. [he] said in meetings with Israeli officials on Monday that he has no doubt America will attack Iraq, and that it will be necessary to deal with threats from Syria, Iran and North Korea afterwards."

Move along then....nothing to see here.
posted by troutfishing at 6:05 AM on February 27, 2003

The US is much smarter about its empire than the Romans or the British. Rather than trying to subjugate all of their conquered peoples, they simply install sympathetic governments and use trade as a way to get everything they want. This formula has the potential to scale much more than the Romans who needed a huge standing army and slaes to keep it going, and the british who probably could have gone on longer had it not been for the two World Wars.
posted by Space Coyote at 6:41 AM on February 27, 2003

People die in wars? wtf??

Why wasn't I told this before?
posted by tiamat at 6:49 AM on February 27, 2003 It was combat, and the victims were combatants. Would you have preferred we had the other side line up to be quietly euthanized via lethal injection. Whatever your position on that war or the next, I'm pretty comfortable that the U.S. military leaders involved used and will use tactics that do the most damage to the enemy while exposing their own troops to the least risk. I wouldn't want it any other way.
posted by cyclopz at 6:53 AM on February 27, 2003

Can someone explain what the big deal with the bulldozer story is, and how it possibly relates to neoconservatism? It sounds like the Iraqi army constructed and occupied a bunch of defensive trenches, which the US Army then attacked and destroyed.

Yes, the Second Gulf War was a horribly one-sided affair, but in what way is this possibly news to anyone?
posted by jaek at 6:55 AM on February 27, 2003

OK, but do you think you are representative of most Americans, and are you saying that the "bulldozer" story got much press at the time?/

It was hardly kept secret, anyway. I was an inattentive college kid, and I knew about it.

Or that this story, in all it's grotesquery, it is irrelevant to my larger point

It's irrelevant. As enemy soldiers in the way, they were dead one way or another; would you really be satisfied if they'd been blown to bits by B-52's or an artillery strike or killed up close and personal with Berettas or sharp sticks instead of smushed by bulldozers? They're certainly no more dead now than they would be if we'd shot them. You survive a war like that by surrendering promptly, not by staying in your ditch.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:57 AM on February 27, 2003

If these soldiers' deaths were no big deal, then there's no reason say "what bodies?" to hide the carnage. There would be no reason to harass reporters into towing the party line. Or to steal their film. Or arrest them. The "management" of the press is not about national security. It's purely marketing and it's unethical.
posted by neuroshred at 7:04 AM on February 27, 2003

The neocons are criticized for their pro war hysteria, but what is not noted is the antiwar hysteria.

Many opposed to the administration are attacking a straw man: that the US wants to build a string of thuggish dictatorships, is engaged in a 1920s style resource grab, or that it is not interested in promoting the power of international institutions.

Yet every time the administration speaks*, especially in its most careful and considered statements, it says the opposite.

*I can't stand to listen to Bush talk but the speach reads quite well. The first seven paras are not in the NYT version and are probably not included in the main draft. They are best skipped.
posted by ednopantz at 7:19 AM on February 27, 2003

That some conservative mag splits with Neos is of no great moment: after all, it is the Neos who seem to have the ear of the president. I find it refreshing that there are these splits even within a basic conservative movement because ift indicates a healthy democratic response to issues.

Mailer is always Mailer. Fun but not to be taken too seriously on political matters. He always sees demons where others do not.

As for Iraq supporting terror: heck, they have for a long time now been paying families of suicide bombers 25,000 bucks as a reward. If that is not sup[-porting Hamas (where the suicie bombers come from) I don;t know what is.
posted by Postroad at 7:29 AM on February 27, 2003

American Conservative Magazine breaks with Neoconservatism.

Just a bit of a clarification, American Conservative is a PaleoConservative rag and was never with the NeoConservatism movement, and there for could not break with it. American Conservative is the mouth piece of Pat Buchanan, and his fringe group on the right. It is the xenophobic, close-the-borders, isolationist conservatism of old that now only makes up a small fraction of the conservative movement. Now, I am not using that to discount the ideas put forth in this article linked (Though I disagree with most things Buchanan & Co. have to say about conservatism), but do not assume that because the title of the magazine says "Conservative" in it, that it's editors hold the same values as the current administration or any of the leaders of the conservative movement.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 7:31 AM on February 27, 2003

I'm afraid ROU and Mischief are on target here, trout. The "bulldozer" story was no secret, it got press, but only after a long delay, so the story ran on page 3 or so. The story of the 1st Army's commander getting a court marshall and dishonorable discharge over the incident ran on page 12 of section D. The problem with the bulldozer scenario for the military was not that he cleared a trench by killing all inside, but that he used a particularly unsavory means of doing it. The alternative was napalm.

I thought Bush said something interesting last night. He said that after Saddam is ousted terrorists will lose a patron. Did he mean Saddam? I wonder if he meant that once we oust Saddam and take the Iraqi oil fields, then we won't have to depend on Saudi oil. Maybe I'm just reading too much into it?
posted by Pollomacho at 7:31 AM on February 27, 2003

Our coalition of more than 90 countries is pursuing the networks of terror with every tool of law enforcement and with military power. We have arrested, or otherwise dealt with, many key commanders of al-Qaida.

Manhunt for bin Laden and Top Aide, Zawahiri, Continues to Be Fruitless

Yet every time the administration speaks*, especially in its most careful and considered statements, it says the opposite.

Boy, howdy!
posted by y2karl at 7:53 AM on February 27, 2003

if it had been Iraqi forces that had done this, we would be screaming about how hussein is a murderous despot.
posted by mcsweetie at 7:54 AM on February 27, 2003

leaders of the conservative movement

do you think real old school main street conservatives really want to take over the world? be a proxy army for israel? be the most hated nation in the world? expand the wealth of the top 1% of of our nation while stripping everyone else of the most basic of government services? reduce funding for our national parks to pitiful levels? - i grew up on a farm in northern minnesota next to as classic a mainstream conservative as one could imagine - though dead now, im am certain his views much more closely resemble those of pat buchanan than paul wolfowitz.

posted by specialk420 at 7:56 AM on February 27, 2003

Great post troutfishing. Thanks! Look for attacks upon your person instead of a thoughtful discussion of the article and it's associated implications sir.
posted by nofundy at 7:56 AM on February 27, 2003

I'm pretty comfortable that the U.S. military leaders involved used and will use tactics that do the most damage to the enemy while exposing their own troops to the least risk. I wouldn't want it any other way.

Well, everyone here already knows I was in the Army, I guess - a 37F PSYOP sergeant in the Army's special operations command. So I hope you'll grant that I know whereof I speak on these matters. And I say, cyclopz, that what you suggest is retrograde and barbaric.

I just loathe when people who have never even remotely put their own asses on the line hold forth like this. For myself, if militaries there must be, I'd rather they be clever, stealthy, lateral forces that bring about the conditions of victory swiftly and without need for much in the way of bloodshed or even "damage."
posted by adamgreenfield at 7:56 AM on February 27, 2003

McConnell's "The Madness of Empire" is excellent. Good post.
posted by four panels at 7:59 AM on February 27, 2003

Yes, the Second Gulf War was a horribly one-sided affair,

Gee, it's already happened and I didn't know it!

if it had been Iraqi forces that had done this, we would be screaming about how hussein is a murderous despot.

Exactly. I think that was the point troutfishing was making when pointing to this atrocity. Is it any less an atrocity when we do it? Of course Rummy would have no problem bulldozing our troops under but I feel most sensible Americans WOULD have a problem with it.
posted by nofundy at 8:02 AM on February 27, 2003

posted by Beholder at 8:05 AM on February 27, 2003

from the article:

"During the Clinton years, quite a few international affairs specialists wondered why American pre-eminence had not given rise to the kind of counterbalancing and ganging up against the leading power that classic international relations theory and diplomatic history would lead one to expect. Russia and China briefly eyed one another as allies, the Europeans griped, but nowhere did major countries come close to forming real military alliances to counter America’s strength. Why not?

The most persuasive answer came from Joseph Joffe, a conservative pro-Atlanticist German. He wrote that while there was plenty of smoldering resentment of American power, no one felt it necessary to ally against it. The United States was a hegemon “different from all its predecessors. America annoys and antagonizes, but it does not conquer. … This is a critical departure from the traditional ways of the high and mighty. For the balance of power machinery to crank up, it makes a difference whether the rest of the world faces a huge but unusually placid elephant or a caniverous tyrannosaurus rex.” America is an elephant that lumbers but does not crush and that uses its hegemony to create “public goods”—institutions that the rest needs for security and economic growth."

I feel very bad in the change under the Bush Administration.
posted by four panels at 8:08 AM on February 27, 2003

He said that after Saddam is ousted terrorists will lose a patron. Did he mean Saddam?

Regardless of whether there is an al-Qaeda/Saddam link, Saddam definitely supports Palestinian terrorism in Israel.

It's refreshing to see Pat Buchanan lining up with Kucinich, A.N.S.W.E.R. and the Hollywood left. All the idiots are on the same side, for once!

What S@L said. Buchanan's conservatism is 1930's conservatism: isolationist, protectionist and vaguely anti-semitic. These are the discredited ideas that Bill Buckley succeeded in rescuing American conservatives from beginning in the 1950's. Buchanan and his notions have nothing to do with 'neoconservatism', which was originally a description of writers who were once liberals themselves, but who were frustrated by the failed liberal policies of the Great Society, and turned instead to conservative and libertarian solutions to societal problems.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 8:09 AM on February 27, 2003

Right on the button adamgreenfield - the sentiment behind cyclopz's comment bugged me a bit too, I must say.

Anyway, although it contains nothing new, this BBC article on the neo-conservative approach provides a neat overview of many of the issues which lie at the heart of European concerns at the new waters being charted by US foreign polics - it's safe to say that distrust and resentment of the neoconservative approach which appears to be taking form is almost universal outside the US at this stage.
posted by Doozer at 8:12 AM on February 27, 2003

Well so far as I know, specialk420, the only thing that you and Buchanan would agree on is that we should sit on our hands.

If your long time ago neighbor believed that the tax code was not progressive enough, or wanted more of a social welfare state, then you are sadly mistaken that he was a "classic mainstream conservative".

Never the less, I was simply pointing out that American Conservative is not a Neocon publication.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 8:15 AM on February 27, 2003

Yes, the Second Gulf War was a horribly one-sided affair,

Gee, it's already happened and I didn't know it!

Nofundy, some think of the Iran-Iraq war as the Gulf War and the US-led coalition war to push Iraq out of Kuwait as the Second Gulf War.

I would note that Arabic sources have come to call the Kuwait war Harb al-Khalij--"the Gulf War." I have no idea what they will call the coming war. I put my money on Harb Iraq since Harb Bush would require a further distinction Big Bush's War and Small Bush's War.
posted by ednopantz at 8:53 AM on February 27, 2003

Space Coyote:

During the heyday of Rome's expansion, when the Romans went to war with a recognizable government (be it a State or some form of tribal organization) they would defeat them in the field and install a friendly native government in place of the defeated one. Then they took the relatives of that government's leaders to Rome for "education"-- hostages against their good behavior.

While this was going on, the borders of the new ally would be reinforced by Roman garrisons bolstered by auxiliaries. That's when the traders flooded in.

This should all sound terribly familiar.

Direct Roman rule was reserved for only the most troublesome of peoples-- those who couldn't be trusted to see the inherent benefits of Roman trade and military support. As the empire aged this became the more frequent state of affairs until Rome reached the point of being unable to pacify these provinces while simultaneously defending its borders.
posted by Cerebus at 8:54 AM on February 27, 2003

I remember this bulldozing incident being raised at a Pentagon or White House press briefing back in the day-and the general conclusion was-gruesome yes, but what is the "nice" way to kill enemy soldiers anyway? That was a United Nations backed war btw. So how should these Iraqi soldiers have been killed? There was a still a war on at that point. It was after incidents like this that the Iraqis started surrendering to surveillance drones and such.
posted by quercus at 8:59 AM on February 27, 2003

How was the Bush foreign policy "conservatism" as advertised in the 2000 election all that different from Buchanan's? Why are you partisans so quick to agree with him now? Because he's Republican and popular and therefore groovy in everything he does? Conservative Republican crowds had loved the 2000 bit about being against nation building, and being modest in our foreign policy, etc. They just went nuts over it. (I actually liked the part about being modest. That was one of the few things about Bush that impressed me during the debates. I can see that as being conservative, or Kennan-esque liberal. Depends on how you look at it.)

Now, it turns out all that was horseshit, but somehow Silthy-Tove and Steve_at_Linwood became convinced in the interim to discount such "conservatism" as backwards and isolationist. All (not just a few, such as William Kristol) neo-conservatives turn out to have been supporters of nation building and a lack of modesty all along. Right. May I ask what being bothered by the Great Society has to do with foreign policy, by the way?
posted by raysmj at 9:04 AM on February 27, 2003

P.S. it wasn't thousands bulldozed either-for that matter-between 44 and 250.
posted by quercus at 9:07 AM on February 27, 2003

Fair enough adam...I have not "even remotely put my ass on the line." But wars include blooshed. Would napalm have been less "barbaric and retrograde?" an artillery barrage? How should that commander have proceeded when faced with trenched in defenders? What would you have done?

For the record, I did not know that the commander of that attack was later court martialed. Does anyone have a link to the details?

On preview...and as quercus notes...did the annihilation of perhaps those 250 contribute to the surrender and sparing of the balance?
posted by cyclopz at 9:25 AM on February 27, 2003

Interesting, I've always heard thousands myself. Nice link quercus.
posted by Plunge at 9:25 AM on February 27, 2003

The guy being court martialed is total bs
posted by quercus at 9:28 AM on February 27, 2003

Ray, Buchanan is an isolationist, there is no debating that. More so, you confuse the want of 'nation building' with the desire for a strong, vigorous foreign policy. There is still no desire for 'nation building', but there is the realism that if we take out Saddam, it will be necessary to stay there and rebuild the place and allow democracy to grow. I wonder what major event may have changed Bush's outlook on foreign policy, hmmmm? I wonder...

I suggest you read this summary:

What the Heck Is a 'Neocon'?

posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 9:36 AM on February 27, 2003

Yet another issue definitively decided by the thoughtful, responsible, and well-reasoned commentary of Pat Buchanan and Norman Mailer. I mean who represents more clearly the voice of reason than a writer who has managed both to stab his wife, and free murderer to kill again? That's someone whose judgment you can trust. And when he joins the ramparts with america's premier neofascist? Yeah, their support lends credence to the anti-war movement. That's the side I want to be on.
posted by leotrotsky at 9:41 AM on February 27, 2003

uh... that's, "free a murderer"
posted by leotrotsky at 9:45 AM on February 27, 2003

Steve_at_Linwood: I see you ignored the part about modesty. Good going. This isn't foreign policy realism, by strict definition. It's foreign policy idealism, in my opinion of a most dangerous sort.

I know what neo-conservatism is, by the way. Don't be condescending little prick, and don't use pompous language like, "I suggest" if you aren't wanting to come off that way. I just don't see what the Great Society stuff that Silthy_Tove was talking about has to do with foreign policy. (Plenty of neo-cons were against the actions in Bosnia - with the notable exception of Kristol - and that's where a lot of the "modesty" talk came from, I imagine.)

What is being discussed for post-war Iraq is nation building. Why is it not?
posted by raysmj at 9:54 AM on February 27, 2003

What changed Bush's outlook on foreign policy? Sept. 11? Perhaps, but it's beyond clear that some of his handlers were thinking of this all along. I've never understood what Iraq has to do with Sept. 11, regardless. No clear connection has been proven. Meantime, the war against Al Qaeda remains unfinished.
posted by raysmj at 10:05 AM on February 27, 2003

raysmj, you are way out of line. Chill out.
posted by ednopantz at 10:08 AM on February 27, 2003

Whatever. I was rather calm there, thanks (and the bit about being a "prick," was followed by the implication that he might not have wanted to sound like one). It's decidedly more out of line to selectively address what someone has to say, and then on top of it sound impossibly haughty when doing so. Actually addressing the question in a rational and repsectful and careful manner might be a better idea and garner the same treatment in kind.
posted by raysmj at 10:19 AM on February 27, 2003

I've never understood what Iraq has to do with Sept. 11, regardless. No clear connection has been proven.

It's pretty simple. Before Sept. 11, it was assumed that various global miscreants could be sort of contained and dealt with in a reactive manner as they didn't pose a real threat to the US. Sept 11th showed that this was not the case, and that a more proactive approach is required. By these new standards, the threat posed by a "contained" yet still hostile Saddam was no longer acceptable - and since he shows no signs of becoming less hostile, he has to go.

While you may disagree with this theory, it's not patently ridiculous.
posted by jaek at 10:32 AM on February 27, 2003

jaek: But what of other miscreants worldwide, including those in Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, etc.? What makes Saddam so special? The whole rationale here seems far from easily to explain, or so simple.
posted by raysmj at 10:45 AM on February 27, 2003

I've been trying to stay off this thread because I've had a bad habit in the past of posting excessive comments on my own original posts. But I'm interested that no one took my "bulldozer" link to be a statement on the absurd asymmetry of the first Gulf War. And, although that war was absurdly asymmetrical, the second Gulf War will be even more so, to the point that it would not be completely out of line to compare the US vs. Iraq to an elephant squashing a mouse. The main difference, the only difference, in this case is that the "mouse" could have a nasty chemical/biological weapons sting.

One more "bulldozer" comment: it seems as if it would be on the edge, but wouldn't this skirt close to a type of war crime? -- I'm sure there actually is an expert on inernational legal codes for warfare prowling somewhere on Mefi - any help on this? -- as far as I know Hussein's "crack" Republican Guard hung back: the bulk of the front line Iraqi troops ranged against US forces were mainly conscripts, weren't they? Is it even clear that they were willing conscripts? - or that they didn't have a few guns pointed at their own backs from the Iraqi side?

I'm not saying that bulldozers and machine guns were any more or less humane than bombs, missiles, napalm, whatever. And, yes, war is war is hell, and so on. But I'm a relativist (albeit one who, like Mailer, believes in a sort of strong Good and Evil, so I guess I'm a "neoliberal") and so I have to wonder - wasn't there a better way to deal with the situation? Bulldozing fellow humans - many quite likely unwilling combatants - into the ground seems absurd, pathetic and even evil. Yes, there does exist (INMYHOP) the "Just War". But even within a war deemed overall to be "just" there can be specific evils and excesses........

As some have noted, the US military was clearly aware that at the very least, bulldozing people under the ground and then machine gunning them in that helpless state would make the American public uneasy

Anyhooo..... this is all an aside from the main point of the post: from a number of political camps - Paleocons, old line Democrats, Progressives, Libertarians, not to mention the National Academy of Science, most of the US' churches religious and affiliations, the bulk of historians, yada yada......are all ranged against a US neo-imperial project.'s Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Perle, et al. vs. most of the World...

By the way, has anyone viewed the recent press briefing at which the whole present press corps literally laughed Ari Fleischer out of the room?

Jaek - Don Rumsfeld (I believe) made a widely quoted quip after 9-11 about "sweeping it all up.....things related and not" which sums this up. It amounts to the current laundry list (which I linked to a the top of this thread) spelled out by Undersecretary of State John Bolton: Iraq, Iran, Syria, North Korea (for a start). -- All troublesome regimes who might oppose the US' will. Then, there is the concurrent thrust of increasing political represson within the US. Many observers not previously prone to conspiratorial leaning have noted a pattern here.

I don't think the Neocons feel themselves to be opposed to Democracy - in the US or in the world at large. But they seem to define it a bit differently from most, and it is not at all clear that their sense of "Democracy" would seem very different from a type of authoritarian government - with an imperial agenda - to most Americans.
posted by troutfishing at 10:54 AM on February 27, 2003

Iraqis started surrendering to surveillance drones

I recall they surrendered in droves, not to drones. I do not recall that we used drones to any extent in the Gulf War. Did this really happen--do you have a source?
posted by y2karl at 11:08 AM on February 27, 2003

The "neo-con" article in the Wall Street Journal was fairly interesting, by the way, and could have been posted in such a way as to be of explanation to everyone reading the thread. The only thing is, it still didn't tell me what the rational, philosophical connection was between the embrace of a radical and idealistic unilateral post-Cold War foreign policy and opposition to the Great Society. In fact, Steve_at_Linwood could have helpfully noted that the article doesn't agree that neoconservatism began with the opposition to the Great Society, but with the opposition to Communism. On the other hand, what would Daniel Bell and Daniel Patrick Moynihan think of this foreign policy? Who the heck knows or really cares? Neo-conservatism is, to me, old hat. It's now whatever certain people identified with the movement (say, Kristol or Podhoretz) say it is at any given time. And if they don't agree with what is, they still describe themselves as neo-conservatives and are identified by pundits as such.
posted by raysmj at 11:16 AM on February 27, 2003

Dazed Iraqis were surrendering to unmanned drones.

One sentence by Bruce Sterling in Wired does not a source make. Where did he get it?
posted by y2karl at 11:16 AM on February 27, 2003

Actually addressing the question in a rational and repsectful and careful manner might be a better idea and garner the same treatment in kind.

Ah, if only that were the way political debate actually went...

So I've been looking for striaght answers on why we're going to be invading Iraq from real, live conservatives for a while now. Most of what I've heard has been, in my opinion, the voice of cowardice: "If we don't do it, then Saddam will get nukes and try to blow us up," or some variation thereof. (That's on good days, btw. Most of the time, I hear things closer to "Remember Sept. 11th?") Most people I have "debated" with give me all their words of cowardice and then straight up -ignore- questions along the lines of "But won't this create more terrorists?" or "Why do we ignore Saudi Arabia, who supplied 15 of the 19 Sept. 11th terrorists?" My point is not that I'm right and they're wrong: my point is that there is no real debate going on. I think this may be a symptom.

Something is wrong here. This is the FIRST time I've seen this stuff about using America's power to pursue her own goals, or seen this Wolfowitz-tested, Cheney-approved Defense policy outline. Why is this reason for going to war, apparently agreed upon by many of our senior administration (though Buchanan's magazine may have few followers, let's not ignore the facts it presents) so far removed from the arguments from war that I hear from the man on the street? I find it hard to believe that Bush is so far removed from this power-grabbing policy - his Vice President and brother have both signed on (and wasn't he a 'dumb president with good advisors' to begin with?). It sounds to me like the administration is making a bid to pursue it's own agendas by riding on the hysterical fear of a terrorized populace.

{postscript - Ah, Bush... The eternal question. Democrat turned Tyrant or Philosopher King?}
posted by kaibutsu at 11:20 AM on February 27, 2003

North Korea has nuclear weapons, and thus needs to be handled with a little bit of care. Pakistan is at least pretending to play nice with others. Iran shovels aid under the table to various terrorist organizations, but they're fairly circumspect about it and it's at least plausible that their government may turn into something non-evil on its own (and in the near future).

In comparison, Iraq has no redeeming qualities, is openly defying the international community (even though the international community doesn't seem to care that much), has enough military hardware / WMD to be a threat to the world at large but not enough to be a real threat to a fully focused United States, and is on legally shaky ground ever since the end of Operation Desert Storm.

The U.S. can't deal with every problem militarily, but it can certainly deal with Iraq that way.

y2karl - It really did happen. One of many articles describing the incident is here (scroll down about 2/3ds of the page).
posted by jaek at 11:22 AM on February 27, 2003

Let's not forget the third leg of the conservative tripod: Libertarians have more fun--and make more sense.
posted by homunculus at 11:23 AM on February 27, 2003

Never the less, I was simply pointing out that American Conservative is not a Neocon publication.I've taken to calling it The American Contrarian. To refer to them as paleoconservative is like saying a Hummer is a "midsize sedan." A couple months ago they ran a several-thousand-word diatribe from some aged professional intellectual in favor of Luddism.
posted by aaron at 11:25 AM on February 27, 2003

Does anybody actually believe Bin Ladin is still alive?

Whenever I see a new "tape" showing a static picture of the guy with "what Pentagon experts believe to be Bin Ladin's voice", I can't help but think of those Lottery commercials where they block the speaker's mouth as he says the new current jackpot so they don't have to keep reshooting the commercial.

Or for Simpsons fans, the episode Kamp Krusty:

"Welcome to Kamp Krusty! I'll see you in a few weeks! Until then, I turn things over to my bestest buddy in the whole wide world, [dubbed] Mr. Black [/dubbed]. I want you to treat [dub] Mr. Black [/dub] with the same respect you would give me. Now here's [dub] Mr. Black! [/dub]"
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:28 AM on February 27, 2003

jaek: I thought the implication of the idea that Saddam hasn't been truthful with the U.S. is that he has weapons of mass destruction. What then makes Iraq different from North Korea?
posted by raysmj at 11:29 AM on February 27, 2003

There is another other side of the fight terror, attack Iraq argument. The fight terror by democratizing argument.

It goes like this:

The root problem in the Arab world isn't that Islam is inherently violent or that Arabs are creatures of rage, it is that they are miserably governed. The Arab league is the only regional body with 90% dictators. They really need to replace these thugs with representative systems.

The trouble is, that thanks to the WOT, the US needs some of these Arab thugs today. It can't, therefore ask them to democratize overnight. Listen, Husni, could you cut your own throat for us, and while you are at it, can you keep helping us crush al-Qa'ida? Thanks!

Um, no. So who is the Arab thug who is 1) a growing danger 2) possesses NBC weapons programs that could be catastrophic if released on the US and 3) is doing absolutely nothing for the US?

Bingo. Iraq.

So phase 1 is stomp Iraq, install something like a representative government, give the Iraqis the choice of what to do with their lives, and the radicalism of the jihadis will start looking less convincing. Phase 2) is let all the rest of the Arab world see that it doesn't have to be a choice between millenarian jihadism and crushing oppression. Wolfowitz explicitly cites what happened in SE Asia under his tenure when the US abandoned Marcos and helped usher in half a dozen new democracies in the region.

Will war make us more unpopular? How could it? Our name is mud anyway, so we can only improve. Plus, if it is less than an unqualified disaster, if the US does indeed not steal all the oil, some of the contempt in which the US is held will evaporate.

There is another fight the WOT by fighting Iraq argument, which is that those Arab thugs will lose one member of the club and start asking themselves who will the US take on next if he screws up. "Focusing the mind" of dictators who tacitly support terror or fail to fight it enough is how advocates describe it.
posted by ednopantz at 11:42 AM on February 27, 2003

What then makes Iraq different from North Korea? We don't believe Iraq has nukes, for one, nor the means to launch them far enough to reach us even if they did. Some WMDs are more MD than others. And I've never understood why so many people think North Korea isn't next on the list anyway. (Why are my paragraph tags getting ripped out?)
posted by aaron at 11:42 AM on February 27, 2003

Jaek - re: Iraq has no redeeming qualities, is openly defying the international community" -- Well much of the Islamic world would be very quick to point out that Israel is in violation of many more UN resolutions than Iraq. The US isn't considering bombing Tel Aviv, though.

And I take issue with your "international community" which would seem to me to be, rather, a "community" consisting of US Neocons, Tony Blair, and the leaders of a few other European countries. Turkey? - bought. Eastern European countries - perhaps sympathetic to the US position but also probably swayed a bit by US cash or favours. In fate the great mass of world public opinion is ranged very strongly against the US position.

'Community', my ass.
posted by troutfishing at 11:44 AM on February 27, 2003

The guy being court martialed is total bs

it seems as if it would be on the edge, but wouldn't this skirt close to a type of war crime?

It would be and I am attempting to confirm from my source, an eye witness to both the incident and the command given to proceed, also a witness at the trial. He gave, directly to me, an even more ghastly account of the event, long before I had ever read a word about it. According to his account the trench was quite long, possibly half a mile. The "bulldozer" was actually a tool used in mine sweeping, a sort of reverse cow catcher mounted on the front of a tank frame (maybe a mine plow, I don't know much about mine sweeping?). Not only was the tank rolled along the top of the trench to fill it, but two Bradleys rode on either side and gunned down anyone who ran out of the trench. The Iraqis' choices were to be cut down by a bushmaster or buried alive. I don't think that was covered in any article I read.

I will keep trying to get a link for y'all.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:56 AM on February 27, 2003

North Korea already has nuclear weapons. Iraq does not. That is the difference. Iraq almost certainly does have biological and chemical weapons, and while those are classified as WMD, the "M" is of an entirely different scale. There is still an opportunity to prevent Iraq from obtaining nuclear weapons. Iraq getting nuclear weapons would be an undeniably bad thing - even if they didn't threaten us with them, they'd almost certainly threaten Israel, and probably get pre-emptively nuked for their troubles. And if you thought the situation in the Middle East was bad now, just wait until that happens.

Pollomacho: according to this, a bunch of Iraqis surrendered, and a bunch stayed in the trench and didn't. The ones that didn't were killed. That's war. If this was World War II, they'd probably have been killed with a flamethrower instead.
posted by jaek at 12:09 PM on February 27, 2003

troutfishing... I read this "a nation so powerful that it can simply bury thousands of troublesome humans with bulldozers" as a troll. I'll take your word for it that it's not. The status of the Iraqi soldiers in that trench strikes me as irrelevant unless the commander of the attacking forces had some foolproof way of knowing who they were. And lastly, do you think Americans would be any less uneasy if they actually thought about (or were presented with evidence of) the results of a napalm attack or the blast effects of an airstrike or artillery round?

I'm still waiting for adamgreenfield's nonbarbaric solutions to the trench problem...
posted by cyclopz at 12:10 PM on February 27, 2003

troutfishing, Israel is in condemned by the UNGA all the time, but is probably not in violation of any UNSC resolutions. The UNSC ones about pulling out of 1967 territories specify that everyone acknowledge each other, which Syria and Iraq still haven't done. Moreover, it has to be a negotiated process, which hasn't happened, not solely due to the Israelis.

Iraq, on the other hand, is clearly breaking the "turn over your WMD in 15 days or the war is back on" parts of UNSC 687 as well as, obviously, all the follow ups including 1441. Only the hawks actually want 1441 enforced, while it seems the French would only be convinced Saddam isn't cooperating if he strangled Blix with his bare hands during a meeting.
posted by ednopantz at 12:10 PM on February 27, 2003

Troutfishing, comparing Israel to Iraq is so stupid (which I know you are not) I can only assume you are deeply antiSemitic.

First, Israel is a democracy.

Second, Israel is a member in good standing of all major international organizations, ranging from issues of human rights to certain forms of nonproliferation (chemical and biological, though it has not signed nuclear nonproliferation treaties.)

Third, Israel is not in the same violation of UN mandates that Iraq is. The most frequently refered to mandate is the one after the '67 war calling on Israel to withdraw to "secure and recognized" borders while negotiating a peace settlement. Whatever you think of Israeli policy, you must admit that Israel made a good-faith effort during the 1990s to negotiate peace, and unilaterally withdrawing from the West Bank right now would not lead to "secure" borders on the part of Israel.

Lastly, none of the resolutions passed against Israeli occupation have been as definitive as those passed against Iraq, and none of them directly relates to a cease-fire brokered between UN-led forces and a national government. All Iraqi resoultions are presupposed on the cease-fire ending the Gulf War I brokered between the UN (which was a combatent in that war) and Iraq, the terms of which Iraq has later broken.

Don't bring antiSemitism here. I have no stomach for it.
posted by pjgulliver at 12:11 PM on February 27, 2003

Eastern European countries - perhaps sympathetic to the US position but also probably swayed a bit by US cash or favours.

They're pro-American on this issue because they still remember full well what it's like to live under oppression and both remember and appreciate all the things the US did to help make them free.

Apparently that memory disappears after a couple of generations.
posted by aaron at 12:12 PM on February 27, 2003

ok but until then-the court martial is bullshit.
posted by quercus at 12:13 PM on February 27, 2003

I think the relevant part of jaek's link should be posted, since it's part of the entire basis of this thread:
Q: There was a flap about burying the Iraqis in their trenches. What really happened?

[Bernard] Trainor: When the 1st Mechanized Infantry Division went into the attack, of course the essence was speed, move fast, move fast. If you're going to run into enemy, you know, bypass them, kill them,get moving, but don't slow down for anything. So when they went forward they came across a trench line where a lot of Iraqis surrendered and a lot of Iraqis did not surrender. So in keeping with their philosophy of attacking fast, they simply sent a bulldozer and bulldozed over the trench line and buried some 150 Iraqi soldiers in there who refused to surrender. Well this made the press as though it was unprecedented and it was terrible. But I don't know that there's much difference between how you die whether you're shot with a bullet or suffocated in a trench line and it certainly wasn't unprecedented. Most of the Japanese in Iwo Jima who were killed were simply buried within the bunkers and tunnels that they were occupying. It's been done in all wars, this is nothing unusual. But Americans have become so out of touch with the unusual, the brutal nature of warfare they saw that this as being something that was out of the ordinary, when in wartime it's very much part of the ordinary.
posted by aaron at 12:21 PM on February 27, 2003

jaek: If Saddam has chemical and biological weapons, why hasn't he used these on Israel already? Or sent them over to U.S., via terrorists? Saddam's certainly had motive, right? If these WMDs of sufficient concern, then why aren't we worried about attacking Iraq and having them used against us? Because we wouldn't have as many people die? I wonder if aaron might be right. They're not of concern to Bush's people, North Korea is next, and this administration is really radicalized.

Pretty much every opinion poll taken in Eastern Europe shows that majorities there are against unilateral U.S. action in Iraq, by the way.
posted by raysmj at 12:25 PM on February 27, 2003

If Saddam has chemical and biological weapons, why hasn't he used these on Israel already?

um, because they would nuke him off the face of the earth?
posted by ednopantz at 12:32 PM on February 27, 2003

Raysmj: I'm really interested in getting your view here:

What is the dark "radicalized" motive you assign to the administration? Why would it be in someones interest to take over Iraq or NK other than the national security imperatives discussed?
posted by pjgulliver at 12:46 PM on February 27, 2003

ednopantz: Why couldn't he do it through Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups, if he has connections with them? That's been the implication - that he'd do so through terrorists, not necessarily directly.

pjgulliver: *If* they attacked North Korea next, despite fears of a nuclear attack, then they are radicalized. The whole idea of preemptive attacks is a radical notion in itself regardless, when viewed historically and in the context of philosophical debates over what a "just war" is, etc. Backing preemptive strikes regardless of impossibly lethal consequences would be extremely radical.
posted by raysmj at 12:54 PM on February 27, 2003

Pollomacho - Are you indeed a brave chicken? (Or would that be a courageous fowl?) : That's appallingly fascinating.

Of course (answering the critics) Saddam's regime has done worse. As have the North Koreans, the Burmese, The Gautemalan military, and so on. But that's not the point, is it - The point is that the US always claims the moral high ground.

And I'm not saying that the US military is especially prone to war crimes. Far from has tried, constantly since Vietnam, up till now, to refine it's methods so as to reduce civilian casualties. But - help me out here Pollomacho - I believe that most of the buried Iraqi soldiers were not professional soldiers but, rather, civilians press-ganged into the Iraqi army and given small arms. Then plowed under by US tank-plows and machine gunned while prostrate and half buried. Blech. That's pathetic.

Don Rumsfeld has recently discussed possible attacks against civilians - in the context of weakening the Iraqi will to resist. This is appalling but - once again - not a policy which was advancing by the US military establishment. I would guess that it makes them a bit queasy, and for good reason. It goes against decades of effort towards "sanitizine" the US war making ability.

Pollo - Have you seen this? I imagine you have, but just in case. ""Even in Vietnam I didn't see anything like this. It's pathetic," said Major Bob Nugent, an Army intelligence officer." (concerning the mass slaughter of fleeing Iraqi troops, especially on the "highway of Death" (a traffic jam actually).

EdnoPantz - Yes I wholly agree with you that "The root problem in the Arab world isn't that Islam is inherently violent or that Arabs are creatures of rage, it is that they are miserably governed." - The damage of European colonialism is in the past, yes.

But, of course, one must take this on a country by country basis, for the Mideast is fairly heterogenous. The US has recently interfered with a number of Mideast countries and so set back their progress towards democracy by decades.

It is unlikely that radical Islam would have become nearly so virulent had not the US:

1) Installed the Shah of Iran - with his extremely brutal repression of Iranian political dissent.
2) Refused to put pressure on Israel to resolve that running sore of a problem, the West Bank and Gaza.
3) Funded an Egyptian government which has brutally repressed political dissent.
4) Promoted and funded the emerging culture of Islamic Jihad when it was convenient weapon against the Soviet Union
5) Or, not the least of my list sponsored the Putsch which installed Saddam Hussein in power in 1963:

"Iraqis have always suspected that the 1963 military coup that set Saddam Husain on the road to absolute power had been masterminded by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). New evidence just published reveals that the agency not only engineered the putsch but also supplied the list of people to be eliminated once power was secured - a monstrous stratagem that led to the decimation of Iraq's professional class. .....The overthrow of president Abdul Karim Kassim on February 8, 1963 was not, of course, the first intervention in the region by the agency, but it was the bloodiest - far bloodier than the coup it orchestrated in 1953 to restore the shah of Iran to power. Just how gory, and how deep the CIA's involvement in it, is demonstrated in a new book by Said Aburish, a writer on Arab political affairs.
.....The book, A Brutal Friendship: The West and the Arab Elite (1997), sets out the details not only of how the CIA closely controlled the planning stages but also how it played a central role in the subsequent purge of suspected leftists after the coup." the US is completely reformed of these past anti-democratic tendencies, eh? I don't buy it.

Democracy? Human Rights?...............I have some Enron shares to sell if you are buying.

Perhaps Democracy - democracy which works for the benefit of US and US corporate interests, that is - is what the NeoCons have in mind for Iraq. Perhaps. We may see.

But regardless of what I think of their sanity and judgement, I do NOT think Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld and company are STUPID. Not at all. They are playing a long term game which looks decades into the future.

They are contemplating a US rivalry and/or confrontation with an ascendant China. They do not plan to lose. Thus, the US must "clear the deck", so to speak, of minor threats, troublesome regimes which might band together against perceived US interests.

And these guys are nothing if not upfront about their plans, which are laid out in great detail in "Rebuilding America's Defenses" (you know the link).

Promoting democracy is not their first concern but, rather, extending the American aegis over the Mideast and, eventually, Asia.
posted by troutfishing at 12:57 PM on February 27, 2003

I know all that Ray, and I don't think they'll attack North Korea next...though I do think a way needs to be found to deal with the North Korean proliferation issue

but really...aside from the "war for oil" argument...what is the dark motive that everyone is assigning the administration here? Or do you just think they are acting stupidly?
posted by pjgulliver at 1:02 PM on February 27, 2003

pjgulliver - regardless of what adjectives on uses to describe it, the Neocon plan is indeed expansionist and Neo-Imperial. You can read the long version of the plan at "Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources For a New Century," September 2000. A Report of the Project for the New American Century.

Zbigniew Brezyzinski, also, has sketched the the tactical reasons underlying the current US push to establish a network of military bases in Southwest Asia in "The Grand Chessboard": "... it is imperative that no Eurasian challenger emerges, capable of dominating Eurasia and thus of also challenging America. The formulation of a comprehensive and integrated Eurasian geostrategy is therefore the purpose of this book. (p. xiv)" (also see "Rebuilding America's Defenses....").

THIS is the substrate of the push to invade Iraq. I won't charactorize this long term strategic goal as "evil", "mad", "dark" or sinister". The US government - via the strategic thought of the dominant Neocons - has been steered towards long term preemption of the Chinese emergence as a great-power rival to the US, and indeed the preemption of ANY potential rivals.

US Neo-Imperialism and the extension of an absolute US military aegis over the whole world flows quite logically from the Doctrine of Preemption.

It's a logical, far-seeing and thoroughly consistent position, but I disagree with it nonetheless, deeply and fundamentally.
posted by troutfishing at 1:15 PM on February 27, 2003

Ahhh. So you disagree with this policy. Yes, I have read The Grand Chessboard and Rebuilding Americas Defenses. I took a class in college with ZB as a guest speak....I majored in security studies. I am familiar with these rational.

So I ask you, would you prefer to see another military power emerge as a rival to the US? Is there any nation that could foresably be a major military power (Finland or South Africa don't count here) that you feel would be a better global hegemon than America?

And if the world became such that America could only use its military power at the absolute behest of UN/global opinion, what would be the point of America maintaining that power? And then where would the force be for the times it is justified to use? Or do you think force is never justified?
posted by pjgulliver at 1:24 PM on February 27, 2003

Troutfishing-perhaps if you tried to be historically accurate your opinions might change. Not that's there anything wrong with them-still a good foundation is everything. Your FPP says thousands were bulldozed. The facts are different. You appeal to Pollomacho who continues to claim someone was court-martialed. That is just bullshit and you're called on it.
posted by quercus at 1:30 PM on February 27, 2003

pjgulliver: I think they're acting not so much stupidly as arrogantly and, yes, radically. "Radical" is a word you can look up, by the way. It fits what they're doing - it goes against conventional, time-tested ideas - and I doubt anyone in the administration would disagree if really questioned hard enough. They'd just prefer terms such as "visionary," I'd guess. "Radicalized," by contrast, equals thoroughly dangerous in my book, although it might not in everyone's.

What bothers me is that there so many holes in the pr-war argument, *unless* you take the thoroughly radicalized position. Otherwise, it's, "Y'know, he hasn't used chemical weapons against Israel? Well, look, Iraq be nuked off the face of the Earth. Simple enough." Wouldn't the same thing happen if he managed to get nuclear weapons and used them against Israel? Then those who are in favor of invasion counter with the fact that Saddam is irrational and would . . . blah blah.
posted by raysmj at 1:31 PM on February 27, 2003

"Troutfishing, comparing Israel to Iraq is so stupid (which I know you are not) I can only assume you are deeply antiSemitic." - Well, I actually didn't do that. I observed that: "much of the Islamic world would be very quick to point out that Israel is in violation of many more UN resolutions than Iraq. The US isn't considering bombing Tel Aviv, though."

I'd say that my statement concerning the opinion of "much of the Islamic world" - regardless of whether or not one regards the UN Resolution violations by Israel as valid or real (or not) - is dead-on accurate and has nothing to do with Anti-Semitism.

My wife (who's Jewish, by the way, a "Cohain" (sp?) - of Moses's priestly lineage, that is) and I are reading "Becoming Evil: How Ordinary People Commit Genocide and Mass Killing", by James Waller (Oxford University Press, 2002). It's quite interesting. You might enjoy reading it. It's heavily grounded in recent studies of human instinctual tendency. The first step towards becoming able to commit mass-killing, something which all humans have an instinctual capability for - Waller concludes, is the dehumanization of the other, the hated, target group. This dehumanization acts as a disinhibitor, and allows human instincts towards mass-killing to come to the fore: it is not a cause in and of itself, but a necessary precursor.

This dehumanization begins with invective, ridicule, slander, mischaractorizartion, demonization.......

I am not trying to lump your "you be deeply Anti-Semitic" statement in here as a mark of impending bloodlust on your part ; but, charges of Anti-Semitism are a powerfull weapon, and one not to be used carelessly.
posted by troutfishing at 1:40 PM on February 27, 2003

Don't be condescending little prick

You should heed your advise, my friend. The article linked was for your information and entertainment.

I did not ignore the part about 'being modest', the desire for a strong foreign policy supersedes that artificial modesty. I really didn't know what Silthy_Tove was getting at myself, with the Great Society, so I thought I would let him answer for himself.

Yes, so neocons were against the actions in Bosnia, as many were not. It is called partisan politics. Some on the opposite side of the political spectrum would have disagreed with Clinton no matter what he he did (same as Bush or any other president for the matter).

I think jaek nicely summed up why 9/11 changed Bush's outlook on foreign policy, I need not repeat it.

I will agree with you ray, that the term NeoConservatism is 'old hat', it is just a label that is being thrown around carelessly, and now has taken on a new form from it's original meaning.

I really, really did not want to debate Iraq anymore, I just wanted to inform my friends here on the left of the nuances that are the conservative movement.

For more information on the administrations logic and policy I suggest reading these two doctument:

The National Security Strategy of the United States of America

The National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction

[Both PDF]
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 1:45 PM on February 27, 2003

I apologize, I read your statement far to quickly. However, be charging someone as "anti-semitic" I'm hardly dehumanising them.....

I read your statement as an a statement comparing Iraq to Israel, not, what in rereading, is clearly a statement saying that some in the Arab world equate Iraq to Israel.

Again, I apologize.
posted by pjgulliver at 1:46 PM on February 27, 2003

OK-looks like no response forthcoming-this fpp was just a troll. BTW troutfishing-your link to the highway of death of article which i saw you fpp the other day too is also a little shaky. Thousands were not killed, it was not a war crime, and to boot I am willing to bet cold hard cash that "Major Bob Nugent" does not exist.
posted by quercus at 1:50 PM on February 27, 2003

PJGulliver - re: Anti-Semitism - no big deal, thanks for the apology. I've done the same sort of thing myself. It's comment on Mefi - lot's of text to scan quickly. By the way, I was quite serious about that book. You probably would enjoy it (warning - personal testimony in the book might give you a few night's troubled sleep).

Quercus - sorry I haven't responded. I missed your challenge on that on the thread: I'll try to respond this evening, or tomorrow morning. If I'm out on a limb there I'd rather confront it honestly rather than flinging off some pat opinion as a response.

PJ - re: "So I ask you, would you prefer to see another military power emerge as a rival to the US? Is there any nation that could foresably be a major military power (Finland or South Africa don't count here) that you feel would be a better global hegemon than America?

And if the world became such that America could only use its military power at the absolute behest of UN/global opinion, what would be the point of America maintaining that power? And then where would the force be for the times it is justified to use? Or do you think force is never justified?"

I have to go and do some work but - quickly - paragraph 1) question one: no, question 2a - yes, China (maybe India, but far, far less likely), 2b no. all would be overbearing and even brutal.

Paragaph 2) question 3 - force is sometimes justified.

The only other logical long term path for the US, and the world, is for the US to throw it's massive military and political weight behind the construction of democratic international governing bodies and the implementation of binding international law. The US, were it to follow this course, would still act - for the foreseable future - as the global policeman. It would be able to back out of this role as an effective military force, controlled by the world government, was gradually constructed. Meanwhile, the nations of the world could begin a negotiated disarmament and start to use the freed resources not devoted to military budgets to solve actual human and environmental needs.

Currently the US is actively undermining most international treaties, agreements and conventions. It is using the UN, in the case of Iraq, purely out of expediency.
posted by troutfishing at 2:06 PM on February 27, 2003

Um, Quercus, I'll throw this out first, its the judgement by the War Crimes Tribunal meeting after the first Desert Storm war. I have only been able to talk to my friend's former roomate at Fort Campbell, who confirmed that my recount of the story as told by our friend was correct as he remembers and that his roommate did actually have to testify at the trial the commander who ordered the bulldozing inciden for whom he was assigned as driver, thus was present not only for the order but the aftermath. I'm not so sure that the incident is directly connected with the Neo-conservative or Paleo-conservative movement as the FPP would suggest, but the incident did happen. I would be sceptical too, until I provided proof, which I am trying to do, but this is an actual case for which I have actually spoken to persons involved. Whereas the information about the incident is not hard to come by, the court marshall papers are not so easily accessable. I will keep trying, don't dismiss me yet, I'm working on it!
posted by Pollomacho at 2:13 PM on February 27, 2003

raysmj: Nuclear weapons are far more useful as threatening devices than as killing devices. Saying "Stay out of this, or I'll nuke you" is much more effective than saying "Stay out of this, or I'll drop nerve gas on you." It's entirely plausible that Saddam believes that having nuclear weapons and threatening to use them is enough to make the US leave him alone; it's similarly possible that if he threatens to use them against Israel that they'll decide it's not worth finding out if he's bluffing or not and will stage a preemptive strike.

troutfishing - am I on crack or did you just seriously suggest that China would be a better global hegemon than the U.S.? I know that a lot of lefties like to go on about dissent being crushed under Emperor Bush I, but the Chinese definition of crushing dissent is a bit more serious.

pollomacho - we aren't asking for the court-martial papers, just a statement somewhere that someone was court-martialed for the incident. Given the wide spread of the article describing the trench-burial bit, it seems like there should be at least one mention of the subsequent court-martial, don't you think?
posted by jaek at 2:23 PM on February 27, 2003

Fine Pollomacho-I don't claim to know everything-nor do I trust what the U.S. government says blindly-still, i followed these events closely-I am just very skeptical. P.S. the "War Crimes Tribunal" you linked is not the Hague Tribunal.
posted by quercus at 2:24 PM on February 27, 2003

PJ - re: "I took a class in college with ZB as a guest speak....I majored in security studies." - Well, your qualifications trump mine! - I'm a colege [sic] dropout and an ex-shade-tree volkswagon mechanic (divulges sketchy personal information). BUT..... I'm certainly deeply impressed with Brzezinski as a strategic thinker. I've come to the same sorts of abstract conclusions, in a sense, as the Neocons: it's got to be either US empire or world government. But the Neocon camp doesn't believe that world government, UN or otherwise, can work and so they are following the ONLY course which they believe to be viable. For my part, I reject the "world governance is unworkable" argument and take the other, "international", bifurcation point. Some might view this as risky. I see it as, actually, the only course which will prevent long term disaster.
posted by troutfishing at 2:35 PM on February 27, 2003

Paleoconservative. Heh. That's a great term. :-)
posted by five fresh fish at 2:36 PM on February 27, 2003

Might I say this has turned into a fascinating thread, thanks to all.
posted by Plunge at 2:46 PM on February 27, 2003

Buchanan: Wages of Empire
posted by homunculus at 4:43 PM on February 27, 2003

jaek: So, what does that have to with going to war? The chemical weapons aren't much, and he'd like nukes so we can leave him alone? Well, so what? We could still bomb Iraq 80 times over. Why would Israel wage a preemptive strike if it knows it'll be nuked either? That doesn't make much sense at all. Nukes, as dangerous as they are, have a curious peacemaking quality about them, if the actors involved are rational. Wanting nukes so that people will leave you alone sounds perfectly rational to me.

Oh, and for clarification: The Bush policy is, again, not stupid. It is, however, profoundly unwise for the long term.
posted by raysmj at 5:38 PM on February 27, 2003


Sun Tzu ever said it best: "The acme of skill in war is not to win one hundred battles of one hundred fought. The acme of skill in war is to win without fighting."

Bulldozers not required.
posted by adamgreenfield at 5:45 PM on February 27, 2003

raysmj: Israel would make a preemptive strike if they thought they could destroy Iraq's nuclear capability and if they thought there was a good chance that they'd be attacked if they didn't. Further, Iraq wants nukes so that we will leave them alone while they do things like invade their neighbors and/or Israel. You may not have a problem with this; I find it very undesireable.

It's not so much a lack of rationality that makes things go seriously downhill, it's misunderstanding other nations motives and thought processes combined with general poor judgement. Sadly, the track record of national leaders in crisis situations is not great, and Saddam's is worse than most. He's started two distasterous wars in recent memory and is well on his way to starting a third, which to my eyes looks like it's going to end with his government shattered and him dead.
posted by jaek at 6:52 PM on February 27, 2003

So then the long-term US plan is to create a global situation in which noone has military power except for the U.S. This has two major problems with it, as I see it.

1) (more important of the two) These plans are a subversion of the American democracy. They are not the stated policy, and they were not made a consideration, insofar as I know, when the administration was placing itself in power. This reminds me of Isiah Berlin's Two Concepts of Liberty, and the idea common throughout most of American and European political history that the people are not smart enough to make decisions for themselves. What we are seeing is a huge diverting of money for social programs into "defense," so this policy, if not the best course of action, could be destabilizing us on the world stage and making life at home more miserable at the same time.

2) Why I disagree with the policy, for starters. Essentially, we are placing ourselves in the position to be a government that dictates what other countries do since we will be the only country with a considerable military (and subsequently, economic) influence. I disagree with this for the same reason I disagree with tyranny: I can't trust person/ country A to know best how person/ country B should live, or to even treat B civilly. Yes, there is the argument that such a situation could end war, but the position is exactly "peace through superior firepower." As soon as someone defies with the guy with the guns, he has to choose whether he loves peace or power more.

The opposition to these radical few in the administration is a massive radical movement forming in urban centers in our country and around the world. We also believe in the elimination of war, but want to see a peace of harmony, not of fear. I realize that I am one of six billion, and when I see what is done to other ones of six billion in the pursuit of money and power, I am disgusted and have no desire to be involved with money, power, or the bodies that wield them. There are some of us whose empathy extends to those Iraqis in that ditch and the Iraqis who have been starved by the games of Bush and Hussein. I can't forget these deaths because, but for a small twist of chance, any one of them could have been my own.

I can trust in the morality of our democracy when in our most just war, WWII, we were just as guilty of mass slaughter (Hiroshima, Nagasaki), racism with an eye to genocide (Japanese concentration camps, dehumanization of the Japanese), and imperialism (with our puppet dictatorships in Korea, Latin America, and the Philippines) as our sworn enemy. Perhaps we were more subtle, and perhaps we won, but the victory and good intentions are soiled by the atrocities carried out in their names. I also put stock in the argument that neither the Fascists nor the Allies would have been nearly so vicious without the war to bring out their worst side. I have no reason to believe that our moral righteousness will be any less bloody and abused now than it was sixty years ago. Our killing machines may be more streamlined, but we can still expect six to ten civilians to die for every soldier.

There are other ways than violence, and we should strive to end war not with a violent tyranny, but rather with a peaceful, democratic solution. The way will be hard, and will require courage, but in the end we might find that we can live without fear.
posted by kaibutsu at 7:08 PM on February 27, 2003

jaek: The Iran-Iraq war I'm certainly no expert on, but Saddam wasn't wrong in thinking that growing Iranian fundamentalism was a threat. We didn't doubt him on that count either. (Curiously, that was a preemptive strike. Preemptive means that you start the war, not the other side.)

In any case, I knew you'd say that Saddam wants to be left alone to invade neighbors. I was fishing for a clarification there. But do you really believe that's going to happen, with his being so closely and carefully watched? He may be a lot of things, cruel and tryannical and whatnot, but he's not a complete idiot.
posted by raysmj at 7:48 PM on February 27, 2003

kaibutsu - that was very eloquent at the end. I especially liked "There are some of us whose empathy extends to those Iraqis in that ditch and the Iraqis who have been starved by the games of Bush and Hussein. I can't forget these deaths because, but for a small twist of chance, any one of them could have been my own. " hmmm.....a position of honesty and humility.

By the way, there have been several Mefi threads addressing - directly or indirectly, the issue of American Empire (or a new "Pax Americana", a term used quite self consciously- I might add-by Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Cheney and crew). As I said, the Neoconservatives have been remarkably open about their project and so I have posted on Mefi the same links (on different threads) at least two dozen times, to the same key source documents which spell out the overall plan - such as "Rebuilding America's defenses" from the "Project For a New American Century"

Jaeck: I broke up PJgulliver's probing series of questions, designed to ferret out my position, a little strangely (or counterintuitively).

Here was my breakdown which I thought at the time was more obvious than it seems to me now: "So I ask you, [question 1] would you prefer to see another military power emerge as a rival to the US? [question 2a] Is there any nation that could foresably be a major military power (Finland or South Africa don't count here) [question 2b] that you feel would be a better global hegemon than America?"

I broke question two into two sub questions (maybe not pj's intention) 2a - Is there any nation which could arise to be a global hegemon? and 2b - Would that nation do a better job than the US?

So: "question one: no, question 2a - yes, China (maybe India, but far, far less likely), 2b no. all would be overbearing and even brutal." So: I wouldn't prefer to see another military rival to the US arise to become the global hegemon because, in my opinion, all global hegemons would - in all likelihood - because in a similar way: overbearing and brutal.

I hope this clears things up. Now...*whispers in low, conspiratorial tones to self*...time to find and destroy that official "Sendero Luminoso" membership card...throw away carton of copies of "The Little Red Book", burn posters of Chairman Mao in heroic revolutionary poses.....throw away 1975 Khmer Rouge "Year 1: marching towards a glorious future" wall calendar.....much work to be done....
posted by troutfishing at 8:17 PM on February 27, 2003

raysmj: Why wouldn't he think he could get away with it? After all, if he's still around he would have successfully stared down (and humiliated!) the United States from a position of nearly utter weakness. The rest of the world has clearly shown that they have no interest in standing up to him as long as he promises to behave better in the future. And he will have done all of this without nuclear weapons.

troutfishing - Ah - I see. Sorry for the misinterpretation.
posted by jaek at 9:18 PM on February 27, 2003

jaek: He's humiliated the United States? Really? That sounds a little insecure to me.

In any case, we let him have helicopters with which to stave off a revolution and such. I can see why he might think we can be toyed a round with a bit. But he's been steadily weakened over the past 12 years, despite his shenanigans. You just pretty much admitted that yourself, right?

Consequently, the rest of the world is for something similar to "containment," although I still don't think that Cold War word is the best to describe what's going on. Deterrence is more the right word, along with containment. Thanks in large part to this policy, he hasn't attacked any neighbors in more than a decade after the Gulf War, nor has he been involved in any violence within U.S. territory. I think we could be much wiser about how we go about this policy, but you can't call it an utter failure, from a rational standpoint.
posted by raysmj at 9:38 PM on February 27, 2003

Sorry - if he survives the next year he will have humiliated the United States.

And the last twelve years - well yes, it worked. Sort of. One of the big complaints Osama bin Laden used to trot out circa Sept. 11th was about the huge US presence in Saudi Arabia. We spent God knows how many dollars supporting military operations there. The sanctions imposed on Iraq to keep him from re-arming made civilian life even more unpleasant than it usually is in a dictatorship, which was leading to mounting international pressure to drop them and walk away.

If we're already going to be parking lots of troops there and pissing off the locals, we may as well be doing it from within a recovering Iraq rather than propping up the unpalatable Saudi regime and blowing up SAM sites whenever Saddam gets uppity.
posted by jaek at 10:14 PM on February 27, 2003

There's a lot more the US government _should_ be humiliated about...
posted by Space Coyote at 10:29 PM on February 27, 2003

Steve_at_Linnwood - where is Linnwood, anyway.....No, really: you're RIGHT. I knew that Pat Buchanan's brand of Paleoconservatism didn't exactly break with Neoconservatism in the sense that the two strains of conservatism were never closely allied. But my sense is that there has never been a point at which the invective hurled by the Paleocons at the Neocons has been more acidic, or more confrontational. I could be wrong on this (historians, call me on it if I am). So I call it a "rift". But I do actually know the basic Linnaean typology of the varying strains of conservatism.

Pollomacho - I was reading through the thread at midnight, and noticed that my quip about your Mefi name which preceded one of my comments got turned into an apparent personal attack because of a sudden flurry of posts which separated my comment from yours. I was actually responding to your (tail end of comment) ..."The Iraqis' choices were to be cut down by a bushmaster or buried alive. I don't think that was covered in any article I read.
...I will keep trying to get a link for y'all." I was responding to that and didn't mean to imply that your Mefi name was "appallingly fascinating"!

Quercus (cyclopz too) - I should have researched that story I linked to (the "Bulldozer" story) in more depth. The more I read about it (now, after posting) the more confused the story becomes. The "thousands" figure could be clumsy left wing spin and so I'll call it "hundreds".

"Thousands"? or merely hundreds? This matters to me. Perhaps it should not - in the sense that even one unjust killing is still unjust. I do think scale is important here. Remember this though: I could cite atrocities -with US involvement- endlessly because the US has been involved in so many foreign conflicts, had affiliations with so many despotic regimes, carried out so many invasions and interventions, supported so many anti-democratic coups.......which have resulted in so many questionable "incidents". I just blundered into the "bulldozer" story today (or perhaps I heard about it at the time and forgot it ) and thought "aah....this is topical". But the laundry list of US involvment with and complicity in human rights atrocities is long indeed - see below for two recent examples.

So, in conclusion - the grotesque imbalance of power evident in the US exercise of political and military force -as represented in this thread discussion -via the "Bulldozer" incident- is not a new thing. Is it a long standing theme. And the body count is very high indeed. As high as the 'great' murderous regimes of Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot? Some would argue so. Most would disagree. But the body count is indeed large for a nation with such strong claims to morality and high ideals in it's conduct of foreign affairs.

Bulldozing, machine gunning, torturing people to death, or just simple execution - in any such cases, whether they are carried out by the US, Iraq, China, France, Burma, Guatemala....the common theme here is that human rights and human dignity are treated as non existant.

So: Is the US just another country, just another amoral power ruled by Machiavellian imperative........or do we aspire to a nobler ideal?

Please don't mischaractorize my statements to the effect that I am 'demonizing the US', for I feel that the US government has - through it's association with demonstrably evil governments and regimes - often defecated on the noble ideals underlying the US political system.


To cite two of a whole constellation of human rights atrocities with US government involvement - An awfull lot of civilians were killed in the US invasion of Panama (around 5,000, I have read) and so the bulldozer work - in disposing of civilian corpses - was a magnitude heavier than the bulldozer 'work' (apparently) at issue here from the first US Gulf War. Furthermore, as I mentioned, I've been reading "Becoming Evil: How Ordinary People Commit Genocide and Mass Killing", by James Waller (Oxford University Press, 2002). It contains a number of personal testimonies - survivors of massacres, genocidal killing, and similar atrocities.....I remember the strong US gov. support for the Guatemalan government during the early 1980's - by the Reagan adminstration - and the US' vehement dismissal of reports of major atrocities in Guatemala carried out by right wing death squads connected with the Guatemalan government. During these years, the Guatemalan army's Staff College review published an article by one of it's officers praising Adolf Hitler. Human rights groups estimate the death toll from government death squads to have been between 100,000 and 140,000 from the early 80's to the early 90's. And - yes - there was substantial US involvement, both in terms of financial support for the Guatemalan government and also military support through the provision of US military intelligence, advisors, and training - both in Guatemala and at the infamous "School of the Americas" at Ft. Benning in Georgia.

A personal testimony from "Becoming Evil....":
"First they cut out one eye, then the other. Then the nose, lips, the tongue, ears and testicles, and at last they slice off his head. It is a slow, excrutiatingly death, conceived to make a human die in the greatest possible pain....The screams of that night have been forever engraved in my memory....the incinerated corpses are thrown into a pit...." - Your US tax dollars busily at work.
posted by troutfishing at 10:36 PM on February 27, 2003

Troutfishing, I would agree that this disagreement between the strains has come to a head, mostly due to the Neocons having the ear of the President this go-round. The only factor I would say that they totally agree on is distrust of the Left. So when you see the Paleocons (boy that is a mouthful) siding with the Left on such a big issue, you know there is a "rift", as you put it. I guess if I can further clarify my point, the two sides would be just as happy to defeat and destroy each other, as their combined opponents on the Left. Neither has much use for the other.

And Linnwood? Well that is a magical forest, a haven from trolls and other evil doers of middle earth... ;)
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 1:00 AM on February 28, 2003

May I ask what being bothered by the Great Society has to do with foreign policy, by the way?

Nothing. I was just pointing out the origins of the 'neocons'. I don't think there's a cut and dried neocon position on foreign policy. As S@L points out, the term is now being used to represent all mainstream conservatives, including the president's national security team, which muddies its original meaning.

Pat Buchanan and the paleocons are not mainstream conservatives, although they might have been three-quarters of a century ago.

This is far from the first split between the paleocons and other conservatives. During the the Cold War, 'movement' conservatives (e.g. National Review), libertarians, values conservatives (e.g. William Bennett), free-marketers, anti-communists, and defense-oriented types (e.g. Richard Lugar) joined forces against a common enemy, the USSR. Now that the USSR is history, that coalition is beginning to break up.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 1:49 AM on February 28, 2003


I spoke to two friends (who did hang their asses on the line) about my comment and your "barbaric and retrograde" response. The first, a retired artillery officer who served in the Gulf War, said quote, "any officer who didn't follow the philosophy of 'suppress the enemy and preserve your men' would probably end up as a REMF with a laser printer and a megaphone." The second, a Ranger who fought in Grenada and a couple of places he wouldn't identify, laughed and said that he would have hacked the enemy to pieces with a dessert spoon if it would have saved the life of one of his men. Do I think that both of these guys would have preferred not to risk their lives and spend time away from their families? Absolutely. But the fact of the matter is that somebody further up the food chain decided they were going to fight. I still want to know what you would do with the enemy in a foxhole on the other side of the hill and you haven't managed to talk him into calling it quits.
posted by cyclopz at 7:10 AM on February 28, 2003

Troutfishing-like I said-I do not carry water for the United States govt.-you are correct-United States entanglement in the sadomasochistic carnival that was El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua in the 1980s was criminal, and if somebody pops up on mefi denying our culpability- I will call them on it too.
I just try to insist on historical accuracy (to the extent it is possible), because both the left and the right mangle truth (to the extent it exists) to serve their own ends.
The truth is usually complex enough to support one's chosen viewpoint anyway.
posted by quercus at 8:03 AM on February 28, 2003

quercus - I bow to your honesty, good sir.


Steve_at_Linnwood - Linnwood....OK, now I remember!

By the way, are you a neocon ______ paleocon _______ libertarian ______ Raellian ______ other _______?

Cyclopz - "But the fact of the matter is that somebody further up the food chain decided they were going to fight."

Yep. I'm not into blaming soldiers who are just "doing their job" - because I usually consider the higher ups as more culpable. The "bulldozer" story? I'd say, at this point, that it's not high on my "atrocity" hot list and that the soldier/s who got court martialed (if this is true) probably was/were fall guys.
posted by troutfishing at 9:27 AM on February 28, 2003

All right, here's the update, I still haven't found anything which is making me skeptical. It seems my source has most likely shipped out, his former roommate hasn't talked to him for a while and believes this to be true. Our friend in question WAS a driver for brass in the Gulf War and WAS in the 1st, this much I know for fact. He did relay the story to us before it was in the media, so it could always have been one of those BS things soldiers tell, however it was fairly well known that he was going to testify, although this could have been some BS too as far as I can confirm, so anyway, for now, be skeptical.
posted by Pollomacho at 9:34 AM on February 28, 2003

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