Seeing Past the Blowhards


by Sid (Faisal)
22nd March, 2008 at 11:11 pm    

Today was an unusual day at CommentIsFree. We had two posts on Iraq from the mouthpieces of the two polar opposites of the Left’s opinion mill on matters regarding Iraq, neither of whom are offering anything more than snake oil.

There was this piece by Oliver Kamm, the verbose used-car salesman of the Decent Left. His dense rhetoric is light on verifiable fact but heavy on stodgy polemic. Reading the article I was none the wiser about the facts on the ground in Iraq but came away with the vision of him in full shadow-boxing mode doing what he does best, score-settling. There is also the pathetic name dropping (Angelina Jolie thinks the ‘surge’ is working and so it must be) and the stock Decent Left pretext for waging war (forget liberal democracy, it was all about snuffing Saddam).

If you believe Saddam Hussein’s regime was a lawful authority of pacific character, the violation of whose sovereignty was comparable to the attack on Pearl Harbour by a xenophobic imperialism, then you might reflect on how easily you confirm the case advanced by Nick Cohen, Christopher Hitchens and me. Your cast of mind is not anti-war, but anti-American and anti-British.

Which brings us neatly to the next article which, funnily enough is by the man Kamm is addressing, Seumas Milne. Milne has been known to take an apologist’s line with Trotskyists, Stalinists, the Muslim Brotherhood, RESPECT, Andrew Murray, George Galloway and possibly any number of other illiberal non-starters. As is to be expected, Milne paints the obligatory dismal picture of the situation in Iraq as a hopeless quagmire. Quagmire it may be, but I refuse to regard it as hopeless in spite of the horrific circumstances of sectarian violence and American trigger-happy hubris.

There is another way to read events in Iraq without having to suffer the filibustering of these two spin doctors. One that is balanced, well-informed, respectful of Iraqi people and most importantly of all: non-partisan. None of which Kamm nor Milne nor their respective supporters can offer.

For starters, we could do worse than consider this article by Robert Springborg on OpenDemocracy: “Uncle Sam in Iraq: the war of narratives”

From this article, we know of the tentacular growth of the US presence:

  • the construction in Iraq of sprawling military facilities and a massive US embassy
  • continued efforts to build Iraqi security forces that are dependent upon their US counterparts
  • negotiation with the dependent Iraqi government of a new legal framework for the continuation of the occupation
  • backtracking from earlier commitments to reduce the troop surge and committing itself only to review the situation when the current mandate expires in July 2008 (amidst cautions from US ambassador Ryan Crocker that a new cycle of violence could start if withdrawals “were not handled very carefully”)
  • continued holding of Iraqi reserve funds in excess of $27 billion in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York
  • doubling of monies to support “provincial reconstruction teams’ (PRTs)
  • enhanced reliance for reconstruction on the military’s “commander’s emergency response program” (Cerp)
  • the vetoing in March 2008 of a bill to prevent the CIA from using “harsh interrogation methods” against suspects
  • attempts to intensify the Nato campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan
  • replacement of democratisation as a foreign-policy objective by support for US-friendly dictators
  • steadfast refusal to rename or downgrade the “global war on terror”

And yet we also learn the positive developments in Iraqi self-governance:

The original thrust into Iraq was intended in part by the Bush administration to break the mould of modern middle-east history. It has succeeded in at least a small way in doing that. Iraq in 2008 is not what it was in 2003, or even in 2006. Both Sunni and Shi’a Iraqis have become disenchanted with nihilistic, sectarian violence and have increasingly turned their back on narrowly sectarian leaders, especially those who wrap their appeal in religion. Iraqi nationalism is stirring and in its emerging variant appears to be anti-Iranian, even among some Shi’a. The longing for peace, security and development has intensified. The size and capacities of the various Iraqi security forces, all trained, equipped and at least indirectly controlled by US forces, have increased. A precarious balance between the central and provincial governments has been established, in part through the work of the US’s provincial reconstruction teams and devolution of budgetary support to the provinces).

We will benefit if we stop falling into the trap of this Milne/Kamm faux-binary. They are a parody unto themselves. The Guardian-reading hand-wringing woolly-liberal who views all developments in Iraq as hopeless versus the self-exalting Muscular Liberal who sees the US presence in Iraq as the one and only shining beacon of light, god and apple pie and all of that without a sliver of doubt. They add nothing to our understanding nor to our solidarity with the people in Iraq who struggle each day in hell and yet are bound to the task of building a secular, liberal democracy.


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  1. Chris Baldwin — on 23rd March, 2008 at 12:26 am  

    Surely you can’t be an apologist for Trotskyism and Stalinism at the same time? That’s like being an apologist for Christianity and Islam or for peace and war.

  2. Leon — on 23rd March, 2008 at 12:43 am  

    We will benefit if we stop falling into the trap of this Milne/Kamm faux-binary. They are a parody unto themselves.

    Yep the Eustonites and the SWP are two sides of the same coin…there is far more to the left than them.

  3. Sid — on 23rd March, 2008 at 12:45 am  

    Or for Hawkwind and Bootsy Collins or Gary Numan and Def Leppard. Take it up with David T:

    “Milne’s greatest contribution to the Guardian Comment Pages has been to turn it into a soapbox for the RESPECT and Stop the War Coalition projects: a Red-Green-Brown alliance between Stalinists, Trotskyites, and Islamists associated with the Muslim Brotherhood. Milne evidently regarded his appointment to Comment Editor as an opportunity to promote the obnoxious politics of this alignment. “

  4. Raul — on 23rd March, 2008 at 12:56 am  

    How about a common sense approach bereft of labels. Saddam whatever you want to call him cannot be the sole reason to justify the attack simply because there are worse than him who continue to exist and some who are even treated respectfully. The west and so called international community has squandered its credibility over the last 50 years at the altar of real politik, pragmatism and self-interst so human rights, democracy and all these issues have zero value apart from negotiating tactics and that is a criminal tragedy perpetrated in a world that needs genuine concern and action on human rights and democracy.

    Just take the recent bank bail out in US, there are obviously ‘good reasons’ but the international community and US always advocated tough reform and short time hurt to countries that have similar issues, always. Now its different. This same hypocrisy is blatant is all dealings and it’s simply not acceptable anymore.

    Not single person informed person can stand up today and say the Iraq war is about democracy without exposing themselves to ridicule, naivety, ignorance or straight disingeniousness.

    So what else then, just accept this was a huge error in judgment that has made things worse for everyone involved, Iraqis and Americans. Admit the mistake and then you can move on and create a solution. Why should American soldiers lose their life and limb in Iraq, for what, what’s the point? What are you going to tell their parents and family, this is not politics, intrigue and backroom dealing in Washington, this is a real war and people are getting killed. And for nothing. This is reckless irresponsibility and I hope Americans hold Bush to account for the pointlessness of the Iraq war.

    Having said that the reaction in the middle east and other places where the war is one more pretext to spread victimhood mentality and exacerbate the culture of hatred against the west/US is asinine and dangerous. And all these people apparently care for Iraqis and Afghanis but when Saddam/Taliban were going on there was no squeak, nothing, no resistance, the US forces turn up and suddenly hell breaks loose. So whats the racket about. The message is as along as a muslim is doing it its ok.

    Countries and groups operate like individuals on self interest including muslim counties, the same people you are accusing of being unfair to muslim nations have been unfair to most other countries too to pursue their own interests but some people are in a haste to see or create a pattern. Most countries pay mixed roles of victims and aggressors, exploiters and exploited. Everyone’s guilty and to draw a conclusion that there is some sort of conspiracy against Muslims is simplistic, exploitative, self serving and one of the reasons for Islamic terrorism in the world today.

  5. Sunny — on 23rd March, 2008 at 2:40 am  

    Well written Sid. I don’t think all Guardianistas should be tarred by Seumas’s writings though. He’s still waiting for the revolution, comrade, like Kamm is waiting for daddy George Bush to save him from further humiliation (in making predictions that is).

  6. Sid — on 23rd March, 2008 at 10:15 am  

    Yeah, they’re two messianic peas in a pod. Add to them ‘The Professionals’: Slick Nick Cohen and that other bloke who does a great impersonation of a walrus talking out of it’s arse.

  7. Avi Cohen — on 23rd March, 2008 at 10:34 am  

    One thing worth mentioning is the fact that US Citizens can sue foreign governments for acts of terror and chase assets in the USA but strangely the US itself can’t be sued.

    27 Billion and probably growing of Iraqi assets plus the US controls Iraqi Oil Wealth.

    Certainly its tentacles are growing.

    Can a country in recession afford to keep going in such a war – doubtful.

  8. Boyo — on 23rd March, 2008 at 10:40 am  

    Sid, your last par said it all, and the pair of them say much about the shallow times we live in: their lack of depth is the intellectual equivalent to our popular culture’s fixation with celebrity. Both are equally frivolous.

    The question I am left asking is: why? On reflection, I suspect all are to do with our almost obscene insulation from the reality. If either Kamm or Milne were subject to the impact of the arguments they prosecute, then both would no doubt temper their views.

    They are, essentially, the intellectual equivalent of teenagers supported by their parents.

  9. Rumbold — on 23rd March, 2008 at 11:05 am  

    “Angelina Jolie thinks the ’surge’ is working and so it must be.”

    You know that someone has lost it when they do that.

  10. Ashik — on 23rd March, 2008 at 11:05 am  

    Thanks to the hyjacking of the Anti-war movement by Communists and Islamists in the UK, the govt and pro-war lobby has had a relatively easy time of justifying what is essentially an illegal war (Ref: Nuremburg ‘aggressive war’ principles).

  11. Rumbold — on 23rd March, 2008 at 11:14 am  

    Good piece Sid.

  12. soru — on 23rd March, 2008 at 12:59 pm  

    Saddam whatever you want to call him cannot be the sole reason to justify the attack simply because there are worse than him who continue to exist and some who are even treated respectfully.

    Actually, it’s pretty hard to find anyone ‘worse’ than Saddam: maybe Kim Jong-il.

    Remember just how many Iraqis say it has been ‘worth’ 5 years of war, occupation and terror to get rid of him. To inspire such hatred in the people he ruled, and survive the consequences, is really quite unusual. There are lots of unelected leaders, some of whom routinely kill and torture to keep power, a few of whom take their countries economy backwards while doing so. But no-one I can think of has attacked two neighbouring countries, used chemical weapons on their own people, and repeatedly demonstrated the ability to survive any coup, rebellion or defeat.

    The problem is that just as work expands to fill the time available, spending on a mismanaged project tends to make use of all the available budget. That makes a more important project, with a consequently bigger budget, likely to end up as a bigger disaster.

    When the currency is lives and legitimacy, this is not a good thing.

  13. Chris Baldwin — on 23rd March, 2008 at 1:53 pm  

    “Or for Hawkwind and Bootsy Collins or Gary Numan and Def Leppard.” – Sid

    Ha, but you could be an apologist for all those people! I’m just a bit tired of the way people bandy around the word ‘apologist’ on the internet. Half the people called apologists aren’t apologists at all, it seems to go like: Person A says “Well, George Galloway may be a tosser, but he’s hardly a threat to civilisation like you make him out to be.” and then Person B takes to referring to A on his blog as an “apologist for George Galloway”, whereas surely a real apologist would be someone who says “George Galloway’s great and here’s why…”.

  14. Refresh — on 23rd March, 2008 at 5:02 pm  

    Sid, you’ve left me confused. I can’t see how the position taken in the OpenDemocracy article differs that much from the Milne piece.

    The confusion is made worse by your comments about Hawkwind and DavidT. I genuinely don’t know what you are saying.

    Also, I too am bored with people using the term apologist. It is quite reasonable for people to approve of comments and activity that they are aware of, without being labelled apologists.

    In the general sense everyone who voted new labour this last time could be called an apologist for Blair amongst many other things. It is not a helpful term, it obscures more than clarifies.

  15. Sid — on 23rd March, 2008 at 5:14 pm  

    Sid, you’ve left me confused. I can’t see how the position taken in the OpenDemocracy article differs that much from the Milne piece.

    You sure about that? Did you see any mention in Milne’s piece that the situation slowly improving as more Sunni and Shi’i reject the sectarianism espoused by their religious leaders? Do you see any mention of a non-monolithic US policy that might mean Iraq is salvageable? Did you read the Springborg piece as a Bush-bashing piece? I don’t think it was, I thought it was far more balanced with a longer term view than Milne’s article.

    The Hawkwind/Bootsy Collins thing was a joke. Can’t a guy have giggle? sheesh.
    If you don’t like the word ‘apologist’ to describe Milne’s sympathies, how about “journalistic patron”? I don’t mind, the underlying support Milne has for these groups is clear.

  16. Raul — on 23rd March, 2008 at 5:30 pm  

    Soru even you can see that’s half hearted. There is nothing in modern day politics that says you have to get rid of despots. There is zero activism here apart from soundbytes. Its just not a priority, the worst you can expect is sanctions like Zimbabwe, Sudan, Burma, N Korea. We do business with China, ex soviet republics, Saudi Arabia and all sorts of dubious characters so that’s weak.

    This is a world so shit scared of China and ‘so committed’ to democracy that there not a single ‘loudmouth democracy champion’ recognizes Taiwan, those who do are some relatively unknown small Caribbean islands so our commitment to democracy is that shallow and the question of organizing an invasion to get rid of Saddam and insert democracy rings that hollow.

    Any intervention if at all conceivable today can only be successful with complete international backing, only then can you actually envision or plan an actual invasion and hope to successfully support and pull it off it after. In the recent pas SA would merit an intervention but sadly the biggest blot remains tolerating and dragging our feet against apartheid in SA for such a long time.

    We can’t have terms like democracy project, remove despots like saddam, US occupation, US invasion, resistance, terrorism, allied forces all apply to one single situation. If Iraqis are so thrilled why is there a resistance there, why is there no consensus on what US is trying to do here, what are other middle east countries not behind the alliance, why are most muslim voices up against America on the Iraq war, why are they even calling it an occupation. What is what here? Nobody knows, different people are peddling different agendas but on the ground Iraqis and US soldiers are paying the price with their lives while we figure this out.

  17. Refresh — on 23rd March, 2008 at 5:36 pm  

    OK, perhaps I should have read the bits in red and not just your summary, which is the bit I was referring to.

    The section in red seems to be trying to paint a rosy picture – good intentions and all that. Even Greenspan has told us different.

    I just didn’t get the Hawkwind joke. Still don’t.

  18. Sid — on 23rd March, 2008 at 5:42 pm  

    You should read Springborg’s article in full because it is very good.

  19. Refresh — on 23rd March, 2008 at 5:44 pm  

    Missed your comment about apologists – a person can’t seem to have a view without being labelled. What in Milne’s analysis are you not happy with? Given you pull this out from someone else’s:

    ‘From this article, we know of the tentacular growth of the US presence:

    the construction in Iraq of sprawling military facilities and a massive US embassy
    continued efforts to build Iraqi security forces that are dependent upon their US counterparts
    negotiation with the dependent Iraqi government of a new legal framework for the continuation of the occupation
    backtracking from earlier commitments to reduce the troop surge and committing itself only to review the situation when the current mandate expires in July 2008 (amidst cautions from US ambassador Ryan Crocker that a new cycle of violence could start if withdrawals “were not handled very carefully”)
    continued holding of Iraqi reserve funds in excess of $27 billion in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York
    doubling of monies to support “provincial reconstruction teams’ (PRTs)
    enhanced reliance for reconstruction on the military’s “commander’s emergency response program” (Cerp)
    the vetoing in March 2008 of a bill to prevent the CIA from using “harsh interrogation methods” against suspects
    attempts to intensify the Nato campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan
    replacement of democratisation as a foreign-policy objective by support for US-friendly dictators
    steadfast refusal to rename or downgrade the “global war on terror”

    Hence my confusion.

  20. Sid — on 23rd March, 2008 at 5:50 pm  

    You get the rough with the smooth in Springborg’s article and much deeper and wider analysis in genereal, whereas Milne is just an anti-American piece really. And Kamm’s is an even sillier anti-Milne piece.

  21. Refresh — on 23rd March, 2008 at 6:30 pm  

    But on the Iraq thread you argued the polls suggesting some improvement was relative. And I think we seemed to agree on that. That the polls were a crutch the pro-war crowd needed.

    You can see the reasons for my confusion, can’t you?

  22. Sid — on 23rd March, 2008 at 7:10 pm  

    Springborg’s closing para wraps this up nicely:

    “In sum, the Iraq war has created a narrative of US incompetence and defeat that the Bush administration is desperately trying to replace with a second narrative in which the US appears more capable and on the brink of success. The key question is whether or not it can manage to create just enough objective reality to make this second narrative plausible. Hence it is busy manufacturing a political poison pill that will prevent hostile forces from taking over the president’s war in Iraq and ending it. Narratives, after all, define reality, so the struggle over the tale of Uncle Sam in Iraq is not just a matter for historians.”

    The Prowar left denies peer-reviewed studies of Iraqi deaths but finds it convenient to accept incremental polls which suggest Iraqis are happier now than they were 6 months ago (or some other arbitrary timeframe). This is all about creating this “objective reality” that Springborg mentions. Their primary motive is to establish the success of the war and not about concern for the welfare of Iraqis. Does Kamm sound like he gives a shit about Iraqis?

  23. MaidMarian — on 23rd March, 2008 at 7:56 pm  

    Perhaps a wider point, but worth floating – is Iraq as an issue being hugely overcovered by media of all ‘sides.’

    I think so.

    Quite brutally, is this really, really an issue of such significant standing outside of medialand? I do not doubt that it is important, but I would suggest that we are running the risks of overkill and issue fatigue.

    To be clear, I’m not saying I like it but six plus years of non-stop stridency have candidly become tiresome.

    Sorry.

  24. Refresh — on 23rd March, 2008 at 9:01 pm  

    Now 22 is something I can agree with. All about domestic interests. Not sure that Milne would have disagreed.

    Kamm, or Olive Oil as he is to be known from here on (although I do feel he thinks he is the spinach muncher himself), is an irrelevance who is being given media space including when he wants to make the surge a permanent phenomenon. What Kamm and others don’t want you to know is that there is a resistance. Acknowledging a resistance means recognising a legitimacy and that just will not do.

  25. Refresh — on 23rd March, 2008 at 9:02 pm  

    Tiresome maybe, but still in our name and with our money.

  26. SalmanRush — on 23rd March, 2008 at 9:06 pm  

    Sid,

    I appreciate your article but I find your debating rather naive. You are too busy debating about “narratives” and are missing the point. The Bush administration has used the rhetoric of “changing the course of middle eastern history” as coverup for geopolitically driven American business interests. You are getting hoodwinked by engaging in this debate over narrative. The narrative is a setup by the Bush administration to coverup the truth.

    The bottomline is that the U.S. invaded Iraq as an economic grab for natural resources — oil, and minerals, etc.; and as a captive market for American services a la Halliburton, Bechtel, McDonalds, Subway. So, for all intents and purposes, Iraq is currently the 51st state, albeit more like Louisiana after Katrina, than, say, Alaska.

    Iraq hasn’t been invaded. Its been annexed. America owns it and that was always the intent. The Fed holding 27bn of Iraqi reserves is not a by product of invasion, its indicative of the systematic goal of 21t century U.S. mercantilism which Cheney, 2 Bushes, and 2 Clintons have been harboring for decades. To think that the Bush administration or any American politician really cares about the short term “collateral damage” to Iraqis, is incredibly naive. The U.S. has wanted a permanent presence in the Middle East since the 1930′s and now they have it and will never give it up.

    The texts that you are debating have likely been sent into the public discourse by the Bush administration itself to set up a straw man while they put the new American Mercantilism in place.

    You would be wiser to debate the subtext.

  27. Refresh — on 23rd March, 2008 at 10:14 pm  

    Precisely SalmanRush, precisely.

  28. MaidMarian — on 23rd March, 2008 at 10:22 pm  

    Refresh – true. I realise that in these fora stridency can too easily be read into comments such as mine. My real question is what does all the moralising chest-beating and finger-pointing really achieve?

    Is this really about Iraq or is it about the far-wider political frustrations and indeed hatreds of that cross-section of society that writes on talk-boards? Or is it something that justifies the self-loathing that is never far from the surface.

    I don’t know. I really don’t and I don’t pretend that I do, but I sense that much of the coverage from all sides is ever more confusing over-hyped rhetoric with the real significance.

    I wish you well.

  29. Sunny — on 23rd March, 2008 at 10:24 pm  

    The bottomline is that the U.S. invaded Iraq as an economic grab for natural resources — oil, and minerals, etc.; and as a captive market

    Which is just the SWP narrative. Your post doesn’t actually say anything new.

    I think the point MaidMarian is trying to make is much better and worth thinking about.

  30. soru — on 23rd March, 2008 at 10:26 pm  

    The bottomline is that the U.S. invaded Iraq as an economic grab for natural resources — oil, and minerals, etc

    Anyone who can believe that is either incapable of doing basic arithmetic, or utterly indifferent to the truth.

    Seriously, just do the math: cost of the war, net value of Iraqi oil reserves, those are two figures not in the same ballpark, even setting a zero value on human life.

    Iraqi oil revenues for the next 30 years wouldn’t pay for a single US regiment. If they could have, then Saddam would alrwady have used them to build an army that would have made it impractical to invade.

    Economically, the Iraq invasion was something like putting on the Olympics, or a man on the moon – a way of spending money to buy prestige, not an investment plan.

  31. Refresh — on 23rd March, 2008 at 10:44 pm  

    ‘Your post doesn’t actually say anything new.’

    I don’t understand this. What new things would you like to hear?

    Soru,

    Your #30 is really an observation after the event, and forgets that is not how it was supposed to be. It was all to be shock and awe, and then roll onto the next country on the list. A cheap operation by cheap conmen.

    Even now, direct control of oil will determine whose economy succeeds or fails.

    To imagine a scenario close to your #30 would have to imagine a thoughtful bunch in the Whitehouse.

  32. Random Guy — on 23rd March, 2008 at 11:07 pm  

    Soru @ #30:

    And I suppose the dwindling reserves globally and the demand from economies like China meant that the U.S. wasn’t at all worried about procurement of oil? Its not only about money.

    Just ask Alan Greenspan.

  33. Sunny — on 23rd March, 2008 at 11:20 pm  

    I don’t understand this. What new things would you like to hear?

    I didn’t say I wanted to hear anything new. My point is we’re going round and round in circles, and SalmanRush is pretending to espouse a new narrative but its the same old rubbish. Yeah, the US wants to extend its influence worldwide. Big deal, who doesn’t? You think India, Pak, France, China, Russia, Iran etc don’t meddle in other countries affairs to get influence? After all, why else is Iran funding Hizbullah and Hamas? If it was purely an ideological struggle then they’d work with the Saudis. But its not.

    So yes, he’s pushed all your buttons Refresh so you’re nodding sagely, but there’s quite a few probs with that analysis as soru points out.

    Either way, arguing about whether it was over oil or not is a waste of time and circular. The focus should be on where to go from here. This is what Sid is focusing on. People like yourself are still arguing over things like its 2003. Time to move on me thinks.

  34. SalmanRush — on 23rd March, 2008 at 11:20 pm  

    #30

    Soru-

    Ok, let’s see your numbers. The U.S. government and big business is taking the long view on Iraq, and that would be 50 – 100 years. During that time, American companies will take a cut of Iraqi oil, and have the Iraqi market captive to sell telecommunications, consumer goods, consumer electronics, IT, etc, ad infinitum. Those cash flows would be a huge return on the sunk cost of the war up until this point.

    Furthermore, oil is not the only gain. There is arable land in Iraq and historically, agriculture has been the primary economic activity of the Iraq’s, not oil. Iraq could become the bread basket of the middle east, if not the globe, when American style agriculture takes hold.

  35. Refresh — on 23rd March, 2008 at 11:24 pm  

    MaidMarian, I think I understand your point.

    ‘My real question is what does all the moralising chest-beating and finger-pointing really achieve?’

    One option might just be to rally people to bring those responsible for the mass-deaths in Iraq to account, instead of watching them publish books, take on directorship and in one case be allowed to lobby for the position of President of the EU etc. In a nutshell,if they can’t be taken to the Hague (yet), then at least be honest and do the next best thing – hound them out of public life.

    At another level, what might be seen as chest-beating has actually had the beneficial effect of putting war-mongers on notice that this is as far as it can go, and it will be reversed. Clearly the Iraqis can’t, but we the people can take a stand.

    As for the sheer volume of material on the subject, its inevitable we will see quality analysis amongst mountains of chatter most of it designed to obfuscate.

  36. SalmanRush — on 23rd March, 2008 at 11:30 pm  

    #33

    “Yeah, the US wants to extend its influence worldwide. Big deal, who doesn’t?”

    The Iraqi annexation by the U.S. represents more than extending influence. Its been about seizing and controlling precious natural resources for American economic advancement and no one elses. 27bn in the fed. Money in the bank for America. Moola. Greenbacks. Euros. Coin.

    This is the issue now as much as it was in 2003. You’re arguing about self-determination and respect for the Iraqi’s now. My point is you can argue til you’re blue in the face about it but you won’t see it until the U.S. has well-established its own economic interest in Iraq, before any Iraqi’s.

  37. Sunny — on 23rd March, 2008 at 11:53 pm  

    27bn in the fed. Money in the bank for America. Moola. Greenbacks. Euros. Coin.

    Compared to the trillion its nearly spent, and another 2 trillion it will end up spending? Yeah, that really works. If the Republicans stay, they’ll end up spending trillions. If the democrats pull out, then there won’t be an onvasion of ‘Us style agriculture’ and turning it into a bread basket for the Middle East. Gimme a break with the terrible analysis, please!

  38. SalmanRush — on 24th March, 2008 at 12:03 am  

    Ok sunny. You need to look at the economic return beyond 18 months into more like 50 years to see the economics.

    Also, what’s the alternative? Americans pullout and Saudi, Iran, UAE, et al. get pulled into WW III and the global economy really takes a tank? No U.S. president, Democrat or Republican would let that happen.

    At any rate, what makes my analysis so terrible? Is it that it’s different from yours?

  39. Refresh — on 24th March, 2008 at 12:14 am  

    ‘Either way, arguing about whether it was over oil or not is a waste of time and circular. The focus should be on where to go from here. This is what Sid is focusing on. People like yourself are still arguing over things like its 2003. Time to move on me thinks.’

    There is no argument. It was about oil. The focus since 2003 has been on how do we stop the war machine rolling into Iran, Syria and any other country it felt like. And how you stop it happening again.

    That’s where I am, and hopefully so is the rest of the country. As I hope Obama is for the US.

    I am not sure Sid is moving anything along. He is pitting Milne v. Kamm. Why the hell he didn’t just say he was impressed by the article by the Springboro fellar, I have no idea.

  40. Sid — on 24th March, 2008 at 1:52 am  

    He is pitting Milne v. Kamm. Why the hell he didn’t just say he was impressed by the article by the Springboro fellar, I have no idea.

    You don’t read the article do you Refresh? It is immaterial whether Iraq was invaded for humanitarian reasons, whether it was to remove the Hussein dynasty or whether it was about Oil and Big Business and the annexation/invasion narrative. Does it matter to Iraqis what the UN resolution wording was or the horsetrading that went prior to the invasion? For the history books maybe, but not now surely.

    Milne vs Kamm perfectly personify the two narratives that Britain seems to have carved out for itself. I didn’t pit Kamm against Milne, they pitted themselves, and the rest of us have so far sat around enthralled by the debate that has been dominated by their two camps. But the debate is bogus and their arguments are spurious. Seumas Milne is an avowed anti-American and Nick Cohen supports torture – are these the only choices we’ve got?

    I can’t believe that we should still be debating invasion stories 5 years after the event. If you want to waste your time on that kind of thing, go to Harry’s Place where it’s evident grown men still get a kick out of calling each other “stopper” or “neocon”. Fuck that for a living.

    Its time we took an interest in how an Arab muslim-majority country can resist the forces of Islamism and sectarianism from splintering it into three states and how the post-Bush America (hopefully under Obama) can leverage the UN to rebuild a nation into a liberal democracy.

    Let’s make this about political healing now. Touch the screen. :)

  41. Refresh — on 24th March, 2008 at 2:30 am  

    Its time you took your pills. :)

    US does not need leverage at the UN. Good grief, have you forgotten how having ignored the pleas of the world it went ahead with the invasion; only then to push through a resolution to say that Iraq wanted the the invading forces to stay to help with security. And now everytime you hear anything of it, the spokespeople insist they are their at the behest of the Iraqi govt., with a UN resolution to match.

    Your proposition is very dangerous. The re-building of Iraq has to be on your terms. Not on the basis of self-determination.

    And if in this brave new world you are dreaming about, there is a lack of consensus, how will you avoid a civil war?

    Absolutely nuts.

    This is lower sixth common room talk or New Blair spin depending on how generous one feels.

  42. Sid — on 24th March, 2008 at 2:46 am  

    The United Nations is already working in Iraq not only on development, but also on political issues. The UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon has made no statement critical of the US role. Capacity building goes on apace. But you won’t hear that from either Milne or Kamm because it does not fit their version of events.

  43. SalmanRush — on 24th March, 2008 at 4:39 am  

    Let’s just say its the plain truth that the Iraqi annexation initially occured in 2003 for oil. (The ministry of oil was the only building that U.S. troops secured right after invasion while other Iraqi govt buildings were left for looters.)

    Therefore, in 2008 terms Muslim Arab majority of Iraq will not have any liberal democracy until the American mercantilist system is in place and the thirst for oil and natural resources is being quenched. The U.S. is keeping Iraq on the brink of civil war so that they can repatriate the spoils of invasion in an undisputed fashion vis a vis the Iraqis.

    So don’t expect things to get better for the Iraqis in terms of liberal demcracy, for another 10 years at least.

  44. Sunny — on 24th March, 2008 at 5:04 am  

    Well said Sid.

    Its time we took an interest in how an Arab muslim-majority country can resist the forces of Islamism and sectarianism from splintering it into three states and how the post-Bush America (hopefully under Obama) can leverage the UN to rebuild a nation into a liberal democracy.

    Smackdown.

  45. billericaydicky — on 24th March, 2008 at 5:16 am  

    Only just found this site, but then I have only just found the internet, and was interested in what was being said about comment is free and Seamus Milne. I was suspicious that when I said anything critical of Trotsky, the SWP or Stop the War my posts were deleted.

    It would seem that other people posting have had the same problem, I was wondering what I had done but now all is explained. Generally there seems to be a higher level of debate here with people sticking to the point and not getting abusive. I will check it every day from now on.

  46. Refresh — on 24th March, 2008 at 9:45 am  

    ‘Smackdown?’

    I should have said Primary 7.

  47. soru — on 24th March, 2008 at 11:22 am  

    Hey, I was banned from CiF too.

    Admittedly, it was for posting a death threat to Rupert Murdoch.

    Well, something that I realised, after the fact, could be read that way. I may not like the man, but I don’t actually have any intention of bumping him off…

    You need to look at the economic return beyond 18 months into more like 50 years to see the economics.

    But doing that is rather different from crudely stealing the crude.

    Some numbers, for 50 years time:

    scenario A: Iraq has a GDP per head equivalent in world terms to modern South Korea, with a thriving bio-industrial sector. Due to historical ties with the defence establishment, and the setting of industrial standards, trade with the US is somewhat higher higher than it would be otherwise.

    scenario B: Iraq has a GDP-per-head equivalent to modern day Somalia. They really hate the US, but do export a few million a year worth of local agricultural produce.

    The difference in value to the US between A and B does start to approach a low-end estimate of the cost of the war. If you were prepared to assume they valued Iraqi lives as high as 100$ per year each, that gap might even be closed.

    On the other hand, you are not going to be able to recruit all that many people to suicide-bomb mosques in order to try and stop scenario A coming about.

    So anyone doing that would have to take a tip from Bush: lie.

    Have you considered the possibility that at some point in time, someone has lied to you about this stuff? Why not check the numbers they supplied for yourself? They are easily researchable, e.g. here

  48. SalmanRush — on 24th March, 2008 at 1:18 pm  

    Nobody, not even the bush administration, talks about Iraq in economic development terms. They wouldn’t dare because that would signal that their intentions for invading had nothing to do for humanitarianism and that all the bloodshed is really so that American’s can more economically gas up their trucks and SUV’s.

  49. The Common Humanist — on 25th March, 2008 at 1:05 pm  

    Surely, all sane and normal people can come together on the ‘Galloway is a tosser’ meme?

    Good. I thought so.

    Anyway, how long till GG takes the Chinese Mullah and starts working for Bejing?

  50. soru — on 25th March, 2008 at 9:27 pm  

    The Chinese have the money and sense to buy someone more credible.

    He will presumably spend the remainder of his days shilling for a variety of second-rate African tyrants and war criminals. Everyone like that needs someone who can pop up on the BBC at short notice to say that criticism of their latest actions are ‘unprecedented imperialist aggression’. If you have a modest PR budget, he could be your go-to guy.

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