Taking a position on Iraq


by Sunny
26th March, 2008 at 4:27 pm    

In the same vein as Sid’s recent piece on Iraq, Donpaskini has a post showing how supporters and opposers of the war are cherry picking the polls to support their own narrative.

So, for example, Iraqis have a relatively high opinion of their government (48% approval, higher than Britain or the USA), by 38%-28% think that British withdrawal from Basra made the situation worse, and report the top two problems in their lives are unemployment and lack of electricity.

And at the same time, 53% Iraqis think that the much lauded ‘surge’ has made the security situation worse, 61% think the presence of US troops is making the security situation worse, 42% think that attacks on coalition forces is acceptable, 69% think that former Ba’athists should be allowed to take government jobs and opinion is evenly divided about whether the invasion was a good idea.

Instead of polemics about ‘Troops Out Now’ vs ‘The Surge is Working’, could anyone point me to the fierce debates about ‘How to improve the electricity supply’ and ‘How to reduce unemployment [1]‘?

He also points to this piece by Flying Rodent brilliantly titled: What I Thought When That Iraq War Invasion Thing Was Being Planned And How I Decided Not To Support It, Because It Was a Stupid Idea, And That, who has these gems of wisdom:

It’s particularly worrying that so many on the left fell over themselves to grant continents of intellectual charity to the Republicans, trusting them with the lives of 25 million people when they wouldn’t trust the Tories to run a free bar. The Republicans’ ideological lunacy makes the British Conservatives look like committed Marxists.

But after backing and arming Saddam for so long, didn’t we have a duty to the Iraqis to depose him?

Ah, the Hitchens gambit. He’s been asking this question for years, and always appends it with “Answer comes there none,” like some corpulent, boozy Yoda. In all the times he’s asked this question, I’m staggered that nobody has said “Yes, but only a gibbering lunatic would trust the self-same fuck-heads who did the backing and arming to do the liberating.”

ha ha ha! Class.


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  1. tim — on 26th March, 2008 at 6:11 pm  

    Sunny,
    I presume you have a firm preference for leaving a fully armed Saddam in power.
    That was not cost free.
    Which is why the Shia and Kurds supported his removal.

  2. Sid — on 26th March, 2008 at 6:20 pm  

    That was not cost free.
    Which is why the Shia and Kurds supported his removal.

    Non sequitur.

  3. tim — on 26th March, 2008 at 6:22 pm  

    By the way,

    “According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, 80% of the major weapons systems procured by Iraq between 1980 and ’89 came from three of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council: the Soviet Union, France and China. Moscow alone supplied 53%.”

    So ha ha ha, ill informed.

  4. Sunny — on 26th March, 2008 at 6:22 pm  

    tim – No I didn’t want to leave him in power. But please re-read FR’s last point I quoted.

    Meanwhile, are you advocating forcibly removing North Korea’s dictator and invading China over Tibet?

  5. Sid — on 26th March, 2008 at 6:24 pm  

    From what I can see, the Shia are the fiercest opponents of the US armed forces in occupation in Iraq. This is probably because they feel they are paying the cost of removing Saddam.

  6. tim — on 26th March, 2008 at 6:34 pm  

    Sid,
    I know you regard the views of Iraqi Kurds and Shias as a non sequitor.
    Sunny,
    I’ve re read it, what is your point?

  7. Sid — on 26th March, 2008 at 6:44 pm  

    No Tim, I’m not saying the views of Shi’i and Kurdis are non sequiturs. I’m saying your silly formulation in comment #1 is a saggy, worthless non sequitur.

  8. tim — on 26th March, 2008 at 6:48 pm  

    Have a look here Sid.

    http://icasualties.org/oif/Provincemap.aspx

    You are wrong

  9. Sid — on 26th March, 2008 at 6:50 pm  

    Why are the Shi’i of Basra, for example, the fiercest opponents of the US invasion Tim, in spite of your insistence they supporters of the invasion?

  10. SalmanRush — on 26th March, 2008 at 6:52 pm  

    I love it that the people who were getting on my case for raising the origins of the Iraq war and its relevance to the present and future, are now, in fact, debating the origins of the Iraq war and its relevance to the present and future.

  11. Sid — on 26th March, 2008 at 6:54 pm  

    The origins of the war mean nothing for the people who have no electicity, jobs, running water, 3 meals a day does it? Carry on lubricating.

  12. tim — on 26th March, 2008 at 6:56 pm  

    Is that what you read in the article sid?
    No wonder “from what you can see” the Shia are the “fiercest opponents of the US forces”.

    Three militia groups fighting over the spoils.
    The biggest of which is on ceasefire in the areas with US forces,and thats what you see in the article?

  13. Sid — on 26th March, 2008 at 7:00 pm  

    Three groups fighting each other for spoils? That sounds like consensus on support for the invasion of Iraq, “at any cost” doesn’t it?

  14. SalmanRush — on 26th March, 2008 at 7:10 pm  

    Ah yes, Sid, I forgot that you have an exclusive claim on analysis of the Iraq war.

  15. tim — on 26th March, 2008 at 7:10 pm  

    I really have no idea what you are talking about sid.

  16. MaidMarian — on 27th March, 2008 at 12:42 am  

    The article raises some sound points and the complexity of the situation has been overlooked for far too long. That said, I don’t think that the sentiments expressed are anything new to the debate particularly.

    The were many unpalatable issues should have been fully addressed by all sides of the debate pre-war – issues that no one decided it was in their interest to think about.

    What were the chances of real (not cosmetic) democratisation in a fundamentally divided nation-state? What exactly was wrong with partition?

    Could Iraq possibly stay together without some tyrant like Saddam in charge? If no, was a more better tyrant in available?

    How would the political structure of the region be affected, if at all? Is there a difference between WND programmes and actual WMD?

    What was the risk of action further getting up the noses of Islamic nut-jobs and should the sensitivities of said Islamic nut-jobs dictate foreign policy? How valid a consideration was Saddam’s human rights record, if at all.

    In simple terms, what was the balance, rather than the absolutes?

    Of course then and now the whole thing was dumbed down to pacifism or action or bust. The article talks about narratives, these have been happily entrenching themselves for years now. It is just a shame that no one wanted to answer the tough questions before writing that narrative.

    If interest in Iraq is falling off and fewer turn out to demonstrate, is there a possibility that it is in part due to the not completely unfair impression that this is as much about digging collective heels in as anything else?

  17. Avi Cohen — on 27th March, 2008 at 9:23 am  

    What was said in the above piece is quite important and I think a few people are misunderstanding what was said.

    The question posed was why would you trust the same politcal thinking which armed Saddam to remove him.

    It is that simple a point and this is the point that Senior Hundal is highlighting.

    It doesn’t say he shouldn’t have been removed.

    It simply asks why trust the removal of a Dictator to the people who urged his arming many years earlier when he waged war on Iran.

    I don’t think Sunny or Sid have said that Saddam shouldn’t have been removed but the question they and many people have is that wasn’t the original basis for war and also why cherry pick which dictator or nasty govt around the world will be removed?

  18. Avi Cohen — on 27th March, 2008 at 9:30 am  

    Interestingly Mr. Hundal something which may have missed your attention is that the Right in America is now advocating and pushing setting up parallel institutions to the UN and G8 etc. thus rendering the UN and G8 obsolete and allowing America to pursue its policy through institutions it can control. The parallel UN would include allied democracies willing to pursue American interests.

    I wonder if Bliar would be put in charge of these as part of his new role to take every job available.

    The Right is advocating taking India and Brazil with them into these institutions. But the effects upon the world would be huge.

    America is now a very uncapable world policeman and for major players to be pursuing US interests is a dangerous development. It will be interesting to see how McCain now moves away from this and engages the world rather than working in isolations.

    So whilst the focus has been on the democrats the right is pushing the republicans ever further to isolationism and isolationists institutes controlled by America.

  19. tim — on 27th March, 2008 at 10:38 am  

    Avi.
    Who do you think armed Saddam?

  20. MaidMarian — on 27th March, 2008 at 11:51 am  

    Avi Cohen (17)

    ‘The question posed was why would you trust the same politcal thinking which armed Saddam to remove him.’

    True to a point, but aren’t you assuming that the political situation, interests and popular views on foreign policy are effectively pickled in aspic?

    Commentators could argue all day about who armed who and who did what in the 1980s. Would you say that just because middle eastern countries gave oil to the west in the past, that leads to an inalienable right for the west to assume that that flow of oil could continue for ever and that wider changes have no effect?

    Situations, context, interest and thinking change – that is partly what I was getting at earlier. We are where we are and balances have to be struck. Coming at this from absolutism is one-eyed.

    There is not always a right and a wrong, often is the the rubbish chioce and the even more rubbish.

  21. marvin — on 27th March, 2008 at 1:30 pm  

    The important things is that we should continue to state how wrong the war is, how wrong the people who supported the war are, and how righteous we are in saying how wrong it all was.

    We all know the Iraq war was wrong

  22. Derius — on 27th March, 2008 at 2:07 pm  

    I would be very wary of relying on any polls that claim to show the will of the “Iraqi” people.

    Most people currently living in Iraq would not firstly identify themselves as “Iraqis”, but rather instead as Sunni Muslims, Shi’a Muslims or Kurds (there are other groups as well, such as the Arab Christians). And the results you would get from each of these groups will be very different, as each have their own stakes and interests. Therefore, unless we know exactly who was questionned in the surveys taken in Iraq, then the findings are in effect, pretty useless in establishing anything of note.

    It should also be noted that not only do many Western commentators overestimate the level of nationalism in Iraq, but they also underestimate the religious and cultural divides in that country. This also causes poll results to be misinterpreted quite regularly.

    Finally, it should be pointed out that here, in the UK, most people believe that either:

    1) Removing Saddam and the continued occupation is correct, or

    2) Removing Saddam and the continued occupation is wrong,

    and hence begins the polarised debate. However, In Iraq, especially amongst the Shi’a, there is a belief that removing Saddam was correct, but the continued occupation is now wrong. Both sides in the debate in the UK take what they want from this view, and from the opinion polls mentioned above, and present skewed arguments that favour their stance.

    As a result of these points, the debate about Iraq here in the UK, or in America, has not moved on much in the last four years, and unfortunately, is unlikely to do so in the immediate future.

  23. marvin — on 27th March, 2008 at 2:55 pm  

    In Iraq, especially amongst the Shi’a, there is a belief that removing Saddam was correct, but the continued occupation is now wrong

    Absolutely, and this seems an impossible bitter pill to swallow for those who opposed the war. Quite why they are so mind numbingly niave/stubborn is beyond me. They don’t want foreign powers there but vast majority of shias and kurds thought it was the right decision to remove saddam in 2003. Of course Sunnis were less approving – they were the favoured sect.

    The shias & sunnis do not want a foreign occupying force (who would?) but they supported the original decision. Why do people deny this?!

  24. marvin — on 27th March, 2008 at 2:59 pm  

    Well like I say, not so much the Sunnis.

    But according to the poll asking the question was the decision correct, that makes around 20 million people living in Iraq who think it was the right decision.

    Quite why people such as Sid, who is pre-programmed to say non sequitor, do logisitical back flips to say well actually yes they did support the decision, but at the same time not the actual decision…

  25. Sid — on 27th March, 2008 at 3:05 pm  

    Quite why people such as Sid, who is pre-programmed to say non sequitor

    haha. not as much as you seem to make them.
    don’t you lot get bored of the same old circle jerk? It’s been 5 years already.

  26. Flying Rodent — on 27th March, 2008 at 5:21 pm  

    Who armed Saddam?

    Many nations, among them the Reagan-era United States, who funneled weapons, vehicles and intelligence to Saddam to assist him in his mad war against Iran.

    The Wikipedia article is, in my opinion, incomplete, but it does feature the legendary photo of Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam Hussein…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._support_for_Iraq_during_the_Iran-Iraq_war

    …the kind of thing considered by Decents to be a devastating indictment of the moral depravity of certain latin American politicians and United Nations Secretary Generals, but a childish gotcha when it’s British or American statesmen.

    The full details aren’t clear, but the Reagan admin certainly included Rummy and the entire cast of Iran-Contra: The Musical, whom the Bush admin cheered back onto the world stage for one last encore in the Middle East – Cheney, Poindexter, Abrams, Ledeen et al.

    I realise this Oooh, the Russians sold Saddam loads more stuff is considered the final word in pro-war circles, but I’m afraid the belief that our actions are more moral than the similar actions of our enemies is called Moral Relativism, which is a serious no-no in Decent circles.

    All of which rather reinforces the point that the Republicans couldn’t be trusted with the liberation of Iraq, don’t you think?

  27. SalmanRush — on 27th March, 2008 at 6:45 pm  

    Just as the American’s built vast wealth off negro slaves in the south and irish immigrants in the north, so too do they try to extract wealth and resources on the backs of the Iraqis and Palestinians living in squalor…my point is that it may take generations to right this wrong.

    To understand how this might end one may need to look at post-reconstruction in the U.S. or even post British raj on the Indian subcontinent.

    In other words, past is prologue.

  28. tim — on 27th March, 2008 at 7:54 pm  

    I would suggest that the argument Rodent uses applies more to the first Gulf War.
    And is weak even then.

  29. Flying Rodent — on 27th March, 2008 at 8:14 pm  

    Really? Why?

    If it only applies to GWI, how so? If it’s a weak argument, then please, shoot it down. I’d hate to think I was making a fool of myself.

  30. soru — on 27th March, 2008 at 10:10 pm  

    I realise this Oooh, the Russians sold Saddam loads more stuff is considered the final word in pro-war circles, but I’m afraid the belief that our actions are more moral than the similar actions of our enemies is called Moral Relativism, which is a serious no-no in Decent circles.

    I don’t think that is technically relativism, but it is certainly a bad thing if and when anyone uses that excuse to justify or minimise those kind of actions.

    The confusion starts when other people appear to believe that any action done by any westerner, in an official capacity or not, voted for or not, secret or not, legal or not, is in some sense ‘our responsibility’, in a way the actions of a non-westerner can never be.

    In the worst cases, they appear to believe that all moral questions should be judged, not at the level of institutions, let alone individuals, but solely looking at some kind of indeterminate lump of ‘westerness’ which must be supported or condemned as a whole. Personally, I don’t think ‘Western Civilisation: Good or Evil?’ is a particularly fruitful question to be asking, but to some it seems the sole subtext of every discussion.

    America is a foreign country. Outside the NATO military alliance, there are no particularly supportable grounds for placing it in a very different moral category than, say, China.

    The really fundamental underlying mistake the current British establishment collectively made, and is still making, was forgetting just how foreign a country America is.

    That doesn’t mean we can’t be pragmatic military or economic allies, as we are with Jordan or wherever. It just means we are not bound in some kind of moral union, where our sins are theirs, and vice versa.

  31. rmilhousen — on 27th March, 2008 at 10:11 pm  

    @4 “Meanwhile, are you advocating forcibly removing North Korea’s dictator and invading China over Tibet?”

    That’s a simplistic statement. You can’t apply the same “one size fits all” response to all situations.

    Just war theory (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/war/#2) sets out at least six tests to apply when deciding whether to go to war:

    - just cause
    - right intention
    - proper authority and public declaration
    - last resort
    - probability of success
    - proportionality

    Whatever you think of the Iraq war – and I think it was bloody touch and go whether it was right to go – you’ve got to admit that more of those boxes were ticked for Saddam’s Iraq than for North Korea or China.

    But basically I agree with the donpaskini post – especially the last point that sunny quotes.

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