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An open letter to pro-warriors

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Dear pro-warrior,

I am writing to address your claim that the primary motivation for the Iraq war was to end human-rights violations.

I don’t have any problem with someone’s sincere desire to rid an oppressed people of tyranny. It’s so rare that people–especially most conservatives, including one who in 2000 disparaged “nation-building”–are even concerned with such things as fairness and justice for the oppressed that it is refreshing even to see the topic get their interest.

The problem I have is that I suspect you are insincere in your desire to rid oppressed people of tyranny, and I think it is rather simple to confirm this suspicion.

Here is the test: Name all of the other countries you also want to rescue from tyranny via the U.S. military.

I would guess your answer is, “Every situation is different.”

But that’s not an answer. What are the situations? Why are they different? What are your standards?

If you were sincere in your desire to reduce the maximum amount of suffering possible, the standard would be this: Where can the U.S. do the most with the least? That is, given X amount of financing and military power, where could these resources be best applied to reduce the most suffering for the most people?

I would submit that if you don’t approve of this standard, reduction of human suffering clearly is not your primary concern. Something else is, and reduction of human suffering is merely a useful side effect while you achieve that primary concern.

But the primary concern matters. The primary motivation is what we should be talking about. What is that thing that, were it absent, we would not be doing this? Clearly, the daily torture of Iraqis is not that thing. “Disarmament” was the stated motivation for the war, not “ending torture.” And “national security,” while a legitimate concern for any nation, is still not the same as “ending torture.” One is selfish–not necessarily in a bad way, but selfish nonetheless. The other is not selfish–it is altruistic.

“But,” I imagine you are responding, “is it not still noble to want to reduce suffering even if that was not the primary motivation for the invasion?”

The answer is “no.” It would be noble if you wanted to rescue the Iraqi people absent another motivation. But when that result is merely a side effect–or, more accurately in this case, a useful public-relations cover–it is not noble. In fact, it is rather disgusting to pretend to be championing human rights when the real motivation is something else. It is like running into a burning building to rescue a baby–but doing it because that baby happens to be wearing a diamond necklace. Would you rescue the baby even if it were not wearing that diamond necklace?

In the case of Iraq, clearly the answer is “no.”

And that is why it is disgusting when you talk about human-rights abuses in Iraq as if they are a primary motivating factor for the military campaign. You are like that “rescuer” pumping up your chest and talking to the gathered reporters about how important it was to save that poor screaming baby, while you quietly slip the diamond necklace into your back pocket.

Perhaps it is unfair of me to lump you in with the Bush Administration. Clearly, human-rights abuses are not their primary concern. But perhaps human-rights abuses are your primary concern. I admit this may be possible.

Here’s the test: If you can name, right now, without research, the countries that contain populations in the most desperate need of relief from violent tyranny, and you know what strategies you think are best to achieve this goal, I’m probably wrong.

However, if it is closer to the truth to say that you support the action in Iraq because the BUSH ADMINISTRATION chose it, and you don’t really have a clear idea of the human-rights situation on the rest of the globe, I would say you lack credibility in asserting that you are primarily concerned with human rights.

Because your position would essentially work ANYWHERE that there are human-rights violations that can be described in gruesome, emotional detail. Anywhere. And you would apparently support any of these hypothetical military actions just because the Bush Administration pointed in that direction, not because their plan reduces the most suffering with the available resources.

If you can claim that you have thought out the Iraq military action and determined that, of all the places on the globe that the U.S. could spend $100B+ and deploy hundreds of thousands of troops, Iraq represents the place where those resources will reduce the most suffering for the greatest number of people, then I apologize for suggesting human rights were not your first concern.

However, the fact remains that clearly this was NOT the process that the White House used to arrive at the Iraq war, and it is time for you to stop pretending that it is. If you see the “brave rescuer” slipping that diamond necklace into his back pocket, how can you praise his virtue? It is true and worth celebrating that the baby is alive, but it is also true that one should have different expectations of the “brave rescuer’s” future actions than one would if the diamond necklace had not been attached to the baby’s neck.

A parody that expresses this well, from the Onion:

    Tortured Ugandan Political Prisoner
    Wishes Uganda Had Oil

    KAMPALA, UGANDA — A day after having his hands amputated by soldiers backing President Yoweri Museveni’s brutal regime, Ugandan political prisoner Otobo Ankole expressed regret Monday over Uganda’s lack of oil reserves. “I dream of the U.S. one day fighting for the liberation of the oppressed Ugandan people,” said Ankole as he nursed his bloody stumps. “But, alas, our number-one natural resource is sugar cane.” Ankole, whose wife, parents, and five children were among the 4,000 slaughtered in Uganda’s ethnic killings of 2002, then bowed his head and said a prayer for petroleum.
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About Brian Flemming

  • http://w6daily.winn.com/ Phillip Winn

    You’ve fallen into the familiar trap of assuming conservatives are heartless. It is worth noting that the reverse argument is at least equally applicable: how can pro-appeasement people claim to be in the least bit concerned about tyrrany if they refuse to allow the US to act to end it? It is like seeing a baby in a burning building, but protesting that the fireman running in might be after the diamond necklace and so should stand aside and continue to let the normal process of life continue.

    Well, it’s no more ridiculous than your own argument.

    To address the core of the issue, I don’t think that the problem is one of concern or caring. The problem is what to do about the various situations around the world. While some look at the various unjust situations around the world and see another chance to point yet another finger at Israel and her pet America, others look around the world and see another chance to invade yet another country. Neither extreme is worth considering, though I can tell you which of these wrong approaches would have better results in the long-term.

    Like it or not, if you could pull aside the idealogical blinders, you’d see that different situations are in fact different. I’m all for helping to free the oppressed Chrisitan of Sudan, but the cost of any action the US takes must be measured. While invading at the first whiff of abuse might be satisfying to the soul, it heaps yet more responsibility on America at a time when the majority of the countries of the world already seem to expect the US to be their own personal military, all the while criticizing America publicly for some bizarre aspirations to colonize the world. That is, the benefit of freeing the oppressed people is outweighed by the cost of acting abruptly.

    So the diplomatic dance begins, and different people have different ideas about how that ought to work. Depending on whether the person in office is a liberal or conservative, conservatives or liberal get upset about sanctions, or embargoes, or working with the UN too much, or not enough, or whatever. We bomb a factory in Sudan and some people complain it wasn’t enough while others complain it was too much, and neither side considers anything that isn’t being spouted by their anointed leader, be it the President, Noam Chomsky, or Rush Limbaugh.

    After some diplomatic wrangling, maybe we drop a bomb or two. Maybe the UN imposes sanctions. Maybe all sorts of things happen. We hope that the pressure of all of these combined things will help, as it tends to (er, a little) with Cuba or China. Sometimes things get worse instead of better, as they did in Iraq. Eventually, after enough years have gone by, America finally decides that even though a large number of people will be upset no matter what, it is time.

    Get over it.

    Ii’m sure many people would be perfectly happy if we went through half of Africa, half of Asia, and a good two-thirds of the Middle East and smacked down some tyrants. While every situation is different, cruelty is easy to identify and is pretty much a constant. Would you honestly be happier with such a simple one-criterion questionnaire to compose the “Who shall we invade” checklist? I think not.

    So yes, lots of things are on the checklist, including the relative cost of the effort. Since Iraq can apparently largely pay for rebuilding itself – at least so say the protestors who want us out by the weekend – the relative cost of freeing the Iraqi people has been quite low, wouldn’t you say? Compared to say, Sudan, at least? I doubt we’ll find nearly a billion in US cash laying around Sudan any time soon.

  • Shaw Shaw Shaw

    “I am writing to address your claim that the primary motivation for the Iraq war was to end human-rights violations.”

    WHAT?!? Er, Straw Man much, Brian?

    We did it for our benefit first, their benefit second (or third or fourth). Who claims otherwise?

    It’s wonderful that 24M Iraqis no longer have to live under Saddam, but the motivation was to reduce the threat of Islamofascism to 280M Americans.

    Congratulations on using 1,005 words to refute definitively a position no serious person holds.

  • jr

    Ahhh…..yes it is all about the motivation!!!! Sniff, sniff, well I really meant well (kicking toe in dirt) whilst absolutely not a damn thing gets done.

    To quote Jonah Goldberg (from Dec 6, 2002 NRO):

    http://www.nationalreview.com/goldberg/goldberg120602.asp
    “I think the Left is addled by a logic-bending obsession with hypocrisy. While certainly not unknown on the right, I think liberals today put an emphasis on purity of motives and consistency of action, particularly in foreign policy, that makes them damn-near blind to reason. (The New Republic is a rare exception, and has been trying, largely in vain, to construct a coherent and serious liberal foreign policy that the Democratic party and the Left generally ignore — at their peril).
    This attitude has deep roots in leftist thinking. It was Hannah Arendt who observed that the Left’s great accomplishment in the 1930s was switching disputes over facts into disputes over motive. So the question wasn’t whether or not so-and-so was a Communist but whether the person who exposed him was a good guy or not.”
    End of quote
    Your argument basically (as are most Lefty) arguments one for inaction. So you don’t agree with the Bush Administrations selection of Iraq? Is this because you have information or infinite wisdom that would suggest another target? I doubt it (perhaps Zimbabwe’s, little thug Bobby). Nope, lets just talk about it some more. This is why the Democrats are going to lose yet again in 2004, no ideas, only mindless yapping. No plans of action, only of reaction.
    In case you haven’t noticed, the world’s remaining dictators (with the exception of Casto, the darling of the Left), are now sitting up and taking notice. North Korea’s demands have now the softness of a good creamy whip cone. The Middle East is tripping over itself wondering “What the hell, just happened?” and “Holy Shit, I can’t believe that they would do what they said they would do!” The Russian military generals saying “Better someone else learn this lesson than us”
    There is a saying in the Middle East:
    “Beat the dog to scare the Lion” Sounds like a bunch of curs yelping very loudly now doesn’t it.
    As for motivation being of the primary importance:
    Goldberg again:
    http://www.townhall.com/columnists/jonahgoldberg/jg20030423.shtml
    “When Hillary Clinton ran for the Senate in 2000, she told voters the only question was which candidate is more “concerned” about the issues facing New Yorkers -not which candidate was more qualified or which candidate had better ideas.
    If you can’t grasp why this is a terrible trend, ask yourself this, When you hire a plumber are you looking for someone who can fix your toilet or are you looking for the person most concerned about fixing your toilet?
    The answer explains why we don’t hire postmodernists as plumbers, and why we shouldn’t hire them as politicians -or professors -either.”
    Well said, Jonah, well said.

  • http://w6daily.winn.com/ Phillip Winn

    If you’re looking for a list of countries to which we can spread freedom, start here. (With commentary from Yale Kramer)

  • Eric Olsen

    Brian, you do seem to be moving backward here and clutching at straws a bit (no pun intended, much, SSS). I have said all along that the human rights angle is a nice icing on a cake that needed to be made and eaten anyway.

    We did it because we’ve been needing to do it since 1991, because Saddam was a dangerous, threatening totalitarian who defied international will as expressed by the UN for 12 years, who paid terrorists’ families for their vile deeds, because he continued to develop and/or acquire WMD against international law and its own promises, because we could, and yes, because this action would also free a nation from appalling tyranny.

    How many times do I have to say all of these reasons count, are valid, and complement each other?

    There is no economic motive here – that invalidates your baby with the necklace scenario. Or are you saying we invaded Iraq to somehow MAKE money? Please.

  • NC

    It is like running into a burning building to rescue a baby–but doing it because that baby happens to be wearing a diamond necklace. Would you rescue the baby even if it were not wearing that diamond necklace?

    I think the analogy is more like this: you run into a burning building and put out the fire, thereby saving the life of a baby inside. But it turns out the only reason you did it is because your house happens to be right next door and you didn’t want the fire to spread.

    By the way, I think it’s lovely that even in the analogy you gave us, your primary reaction to the fact that the baby’s life was saved is that it wasn’t saved for a pure enough reason.

    If you can claim that you have thought out the Iraq military action and determined that, of all the places on the globe that the U.S. could spend $100B+ and deploy hundreds of thousands of troops, Iraq represents the place where those resources will reduce the most suffering for the greatest number of people, then I apologize for suggesting human rights were not your first concern.

    Now this is interesting. It almost sounds like you’re saying we’re not doing enough when it comes to military interventions. There’s certainly some merit in that argument; I’m all for sending a division or two down to Cuba tomorrow to liberate those 80 odd journalists and human rights activists whom El Comandante recently decided to lock up. Wouldn’t take more than a week to take care of business, if that long. The question is, of course, whether it’s worth putting the lives of American troops at risk to undertake a task that doesn’t really benefit America–even if successfully accomplished. That’s a fair subject for debate (see, e.g., Kosovo), but I don’t see how it hurts the pro-interventionist side if sending in troops in a given instance would free the oppressed AND would benefit America, as was the case with Iraq. Since when did having more than one reason for doing something make it LESS worth doing??

  • http://www.slumdance.com/blogs/brian_flemming/ Brian Flemming

    Phillip,

    You wrote:

      It is like seeing a baby in a burning building, but protesting that the fireman running in might be after the diamond necklace and so should stand aside and continue to let the normal process of life continue.

    Actually, it’s more like there are two firemen standing there right at the decision point. You have to choose: Send in the neighbor who you know in the past has broken into houses and stolen jewels, or send in a fireman, whose stated mission, at least, is to save lives.

    That’s the choice between the U.S. and the U.N. (Remember those inspections that were halted by Bush right as they were working better than they ever had been?) The U.S. has unequivocally stated that it is concerned with its own interests in Iraq. Of course it is. The Bush Administration, through its attitude and record of shameless lying, has also gratuitously added, “Oh, and fuck the rest of the world, too.”

    The U.N., at least, IS the rest of the world. While it is far from perfect, there are at least checks and balances there. Right now the interests of the Bush Administration and only the Bush Administrtion are being served in Iraq. And, absent a public relations motive, that Administration is not interested in curing human rights violations.

    I don’t feel that all conservatives are heartless; I do feel that conservatives, in general, lack credibility when they proclaim a sudden interest in nation-building and human rights when that interest just so happened to spring up out of nowhere when it was useful to support a war.

    I will offer one generalization about conservatives here on Blogcritics, however. They have a curious habit of instructing those with whom they disagree. You and Eric have both given me instructions/advice on several occasions. Your latest is “Get over it.”

    I find it curious that the story you linked to says that conservatives think liberals are “stupid,” yet it is so often (judging by my experience here in Blogcritics) the conservatives who need to resort to commands, which have zero value in a serious debate. If conservatives are so smart, why can’t they keep their arguments within the domain of reason?

    I will admit that liberals do have a tendency to paint conservatives as patronizing (i.e., considering themselves superior enough to lend unsolicited advice to lesser mortals), but I have to say my experience here offers some anecdotal evidence to support this generalization.

    Shaw X3,

    You wrote:

      We did it for our benefit first, their benefit second (or third or fourth). Who claims otherwise?

    Any conservative who has ever used the human-rights situation in Iraq as ammunition in an argument with a war opponent. If you have never said something along the lines of, “Oh, I suppose you’d rather just let the Iraqis get tortured then?” to a war opponent, I would exclude you from the group to which I targetted my letter. Obviously, your position on this matter is, “I would let the Iraqis get tortured if the U.S. lacked a selfish reason to invade.” If you’ve been straightforward about that and therefore not tried to use the suffering of the Iraqis to achieve advantage in a debate (when in reality their suffering is a low priority for you), I appreciate your consistency. It is not shared by many of your fellow pro-warriors, whose favorite argument tactic is to pretend they possess a burning concern for the Iraqi people.

    Eric,

    You wrote:

      I have said all along that the human rights angle is a nice icing on a cake that needed to be made and eaten anyway.

    True, you have. But if I were to count how many words you have written on Blogcritics about human rights in Iraq and how many you have written about the real reason(s), how would the numbers stack up? And have you never criticized the anti-war side, implicitly or otherwise, for its failure to jump on the human-rights bandwagon with you?

      There is no economic motive here – that invalidates your baby with the necklace scenario. Or are you saying we invaded Iraq to somehow MAKE money? Please.

    Do you remember when I predicted a couple of weeks ago that we would soon find out that huge contracts had been awarded to Bush’s political cronies in secret? $680M so far. More is coming, without a doubt.

    JR,

    You’re right–motives aren’t everything. If I were making an argument that the only thing that matters here is the motives of the Bush Administration, and we must exclude everything else from the discussion, you would have a point.

    However, I am not saying motive is the only thing that matters. I AM saying that it is essential to consider. If you can make an argument that motive doesn’t matter at all, I would like to hear it.

    NC,

    You wrote:

      By the way, I think it’s lovely that even in the analogy you gave us, your primary reaction to the fact that the baby’s life was saved is that it wasn’t saved for a pure enough reason.

    “Primary reaction”? What are you talking about? It was a hypothetical. Was I supposed to do a little dance in celebration of a hypothetical baby’s life being saved? If so, I would point out that neither you nor anyone else here did such a dance either (as far as I know).

      Now this is interesting. It almost sounds like you’re saying we’re not doing enough when it comes to military interventions.

    I’m not necessarily opposed to military actions taken for humanitarian reasons. I am opposed to pretending that humanitarian reasons were in any way a motivating factor for the Bush Administration’s choice to go to war against Iraq.

    And the world will not necessarily be made a more humane (or safe) place as a result of this war. We have told our leaders, Just give us a fake reason that stirs our hearts, and we’ll let you go to war. In the past, this kind of carte blanche has not always resulted in a reduction in worldwide human suffering, to say the least.

      Since when did having more than one reason for doing something make it LESS worth doing??

    Since never. But neither was that argument anywhere in what I wrote.

    Further, my open letter was not intended to be a blanket argument against the war. It had one purpose: To get pro-warriors to stop putting on the cloak of humanitarianism, because I would prefer to vomit less often.

  • http://w6daily.winn.com/ Phillip Winn

    It’s easy to pick and choose comments and assign motives to them or (mis)characterize them. To post tripe laden with imagery like vomiting, then complain when I suggest that “even though a large number of people will be upset no matter what, it is time [to move in Iraq]. Get over it,” I’m somehow being superior, patronizing, and lacking in reason? That’s simply specious.

    As far as your “correction” of my “correction” of your analogy, it falls apart. To continue again with your scenario, I remind you that the “firefighter” in question was quite content to send in exploratory robots to scout out that burning building, while the “neighbor” actually acted before it was too late. Even the grammatical construction of your sentence reveals either the complete breakdown in your thinking, or your true view of America, or possibly both.

    By stating that the stated mission of the firemen (representing the UN) was to save lives, while the neighbor was evidently there only to steal, you completely ignore the reality: Iraqi people are now free, a threat to the US has been removed directly in Iraq, and other threats around the world have now been greatly reduced, all during the time that the UN would have still been turning pleading Iraqis over to Ba’ath party “soldiers” for execution, telegraphing their planned daily inspections well in advance, and misrepresenting written reports in verbal presentations.

    Results matter, Brian. The results of this action are unequivocally better than the results of inaction in every way. Before you start, of course, I’m referring to macro-level comparisons. Obviously the life of anybody injured by the bombing is worse off, but conversely the lives of those who the Ba’ath party would have killed as a matter of course are infinitely better off, and any way you run the numbers, things are better.

    Results matter, even more than motivation. Wrong motivations usually lead to bad results. I’m not seeing much in the way of bad results right now, only lots of hand-wringing from the same people who haven’t predicted anything correctly since at least 9/11.

    Even addressing the question of motivation, either I’m missing your point, or you haven’t been paying attention to reality. If we’re supposed to be going after the jewels in Iraq, why have we spent $80 billion of our own money and counting? We only get 1.4% of our oil from Iraq, an amount we’ve been promised will be made up by Saudi Arabia if needed, so there is no pressing need for oil. To say that contracts awarded to US companies somehow amount to a net gain reveals a startling lack of insight into mathematical and financial issues. We’d obviously be a lot better off just giving cash directly to US companies than spending 80 billion to funnel 10% of it to the same.

    Gee, is that the sort of condescension to which you were referring? When you make statements that are ridiculous and juvenile on their face, it’s hard to exert the effort to keep this at a level remotely resembling discourse among equals. Or like the bumper sticker says, “I refuse to engage in a battle of wits with an unarmed person.”

    In the end, Brian (and this is the end for me, on this post at least), results matter. To isolate and attack the straw man of any single individual issue short of national security being the compelling reason for invasion is silly, and you know it because we’ve told you so before. And yet you persist. But results matter, and you’re missing that.

    So let me put it one last time in mathematical terms. Let’s assign weighted values to varying issues and see if you can follow along then. Let’s say that human rights concerns are worth 10 points. As you pointed out and I listed, there are lots of countries with 10 points on their list. Let’s say economic incentives are worth another 10 points. While I fail to see where Iraq meets the qualifications for economic incentives, it’s apparent that you believe that there are some, so Iraq is up to 20 points. Now let’s assign general national security interests something pretty big, like 50 points. Iraq is up to 70 points. A direct attack on the US is worth even more, maybe 75 points. Finally, let’s tack pride on the list, and give it 10 points.

    So now let’s see, Afghanistan, by virtue of being the active host of the parasite known as Al Queda, was at 85 (attack + humanitarian) or 95 (attack + humanitarian + pride) points, so we went in and took care of business. Iraq is at about 80 points (threat + humanitarian + $$$ + pride), which is over the bar as well.

    What is the bar? Maybe it’s 50. Maybe 60. Certainly an attack is enough justification all by itself, so we can the number is 75 or less.

    Note that with these off-the-top-of-my-head numbers, it’s pretty easy to see why the humanitarian concerns are a factor. Without them, we’re slightly less inclined to attack. Not so disinclined as to not do it, but slightly less inclined.

    Besides, it’s all part of speaking to everybody where they live. For people who care about national security or are able to recognize the threat, that’s enough. For those who don’t see it or don’t care, there are a few other reasons on the list. And for those that consistently speak up against every issue ever raised by a Republican President, the clincher is the humanitarian concerns. Because when you get all bent of shape about those, you really do sound heartless.

    Er, not you personally, of course, I just mean “you” in the general sense. Y’all sound heartless.

    8^)

  • http://www.slumdance.com/blogs/brian_flemming/ Brian Flemming

    Phillip,

    Yeah, results matter. And the result for the Iraqi people has so far, on balance, been good (i.e., freedom instead of tyranny), and I’m on record several times as saying that.

    But there is more to the issue–a lot more, and it deeply matters as we go forward. You seem to be confusing my saying that there is more to the issue with the same thing as saying nothing else matters. They aren’t the same thing.

    One can agree that the freedom of the Iraqis is a good thing (once again, I agree, freedom is good, freedom is good, freedom is good, freedom is good, freedom is good, freedom is good, freedom is good, freedom is good, freedom is good, freedom is good, freedom is good, freedom is good, freedom is good, freedom is good, freedom is good, freedom is good, freedom is good, freedom is good, freedom is good, freedom is good, freedom is good, freedom is good–is that enough times?) and at the same time feel that there are solid reasons to worry about what the Bush Administration is planning to do and how it plans to do it.

    The two assertions aren’t contradictory.

      As far as your “correction” of my “correction” of your analogy, it falls apart. To continue again with your scenario, I remind you that the “firefighter” in question was quite content to send in exploratory robots to scout out that burning building, while the “neighbor” actually acted before it was too late.

    “Too late”? What are you talking about? The only race to a deadline I saw in mid-March was Bush rushing to announce an invasion before the inspectors could turn in any more unprecedented progress.

    “Too late”?

    I admit, this is where the analogy breaks down. Clearly the situation in Iraq, at over a decade old, was not exactly a burning building. And clearly, the threat of Iraq’s alleged WMD (never all that great to begin with) was being REDUCED every day in early March.

    For Bush, those inspections were the burning building. THEY are why he had to act. The inspections, clearly, were the threat in his POV.

    “Too late”?

      Even the grammatical construction of your sentence reveals either the complete breakdown in your thinking, or your true view of America, or possibly both.

    I don’t even understand what you’re trying to communicate here. Which sentence? And how could the grammatical construction of one sentence reveal a “complete breakdown” in a person’s thinking?

    And what view of “America” do you think I have?

      …the UN would have still been…misrepresenting written reports in verbal presentations.

    Please provide evidence to back this up. Articles of faith work in the right-wing echo chamber, but they do not resonate here in the real world, where facts matter.

    As far as I can determine, Blix never misrepresented anything, while the U.S. has been confirmed to have presented embarrassingly shaky evidence.

    Confirmed facts: The U.S. presented forged documents to the U.N., passed off an ancient academic paper as fresh evidence, claimed an audiotape revealed a bin Laden-Saddam connection when it did not, called a primitive balsa-wood model airplane a “drone” and suggested it had a tactical WMD purpose, and created a press sensation out of “aluminum tubes” even after it was clear they were not likely used for any nuclear-weapons purpose.

    These were all significant misrepresentations, and all of them are confirmed–the White House did not deny the eventual repudiations of their original version of these facts.

    When I mention these facts and pro-warriors let them pass without comment, as they consistently have here, I assume that means you agree that the facts are accurate but don’t wish to acknowledge them. Not an intellectually admirable position, but okay, whatever.

    But that doesn’t mean the facts don’t exist. And that doesn’t mean that your unsourced fantasies about “misrepresentation” by the U.N. magically become fact.

      Results matter, Brian. The results of this action are unequivocally better than the results of inaction in every way.

    Please quote the passage where I have ever advocated for inaction.

    You say this:

      To say that contracts awarded to US companies somehow amount to a net gain reveals a startling lack of insight into mathematical and financial issues. We’d obviously be a lot better off just giving cash directly to US companies than spending 80 billion to funnel 10% of it to the same.

    And then, incredibly, also manage to say this:

      When you make statements that are ridiculous and juvenile on their face, it’s hard to exert the effort to keep this at a level remotely resembling discourse among equals.

    “Ridiculous and juvenile,” eh? I suggest that corporate interests aligned with the Bush Administration will be amply rewarded by this Iraq adventure, and you call that “ridiculous and juvenile.” Are these the new words for “obvious”?

    Okay. What words would you use to describe someone who doesn’t understand that political corruption often involves the grossly inefficient transfer of public money into private hands?

    I would call this person “naive” as well as “startlingly uninformed” or, alternately, “disingenuous.” I might throw in a “willfully blind” if I were feeling generous, which I rarely am these days, what with my stomach problems and everything.

    And I would explain to this person that it works like this:

    1. I contribute $250K to Bush and the GOP.

    2. Bush rewards me by giving me preference when it comes time to, say, determine energy policy or award a $680M contract.

    He wins, I win, the taxpayers lose.

    This is how it has ALWAYS WORKED.

    I’m surprised you didn’t know that.

      And for those that consistently speak up against every issue ever raised by a Republican President, the clincher is the humanitarian concerns. Because when you get all bent of shape about those, you really do sound heartless.

    Yes, this is the brilliance of the trick, and why it may keep working for awhile.

    Who can argue against saving a little girl from being raped in front of her father?

    Pick your country. Tell that story. Done.

    Baa-aa. Baa-aa.

  • http://w6daily.winn.com/ Phillip Winn

    Okay, I know I said that was my last post, but this one really is. Going back to your original post, Brian, you asked for a specific list of human rights violators worth invading. I gave you one example off the top of my head, then a public list which included the one I mentioned. However, in the meantime the subject had been changed. Since I believe that this post was only ever an excuse to bring up the same old arguments all over again, this does not surprise me.

    Anyway, during this straw-man tirade, you essentially (and this is my own characterization, so I’m sure you’ll disagree with it) argue that those who argued in favor of liberating Iraq (and yes, I use the term to annoy you. Well, not really, but it fits as well as nearly any other I can think of.) insincerely misappropriated the idea of concern over human rights to provide some aura of respectability to what was in essence a grab for material benefit.

    Did I get that right? The hawks and eagles or whatever birds some of us have chosen to pretend to be don’t care about the people but use them as an excuse? At this point you’d probably agree, but by the time I’m done you might not.

    Because I want to ask about Abdul Razaq and little Ali. You seem to believe that using specific examples of human concerns is irrelevant here (and as several here have argued, that’s not the case, though they are generally secondary or tertiary) since the primary goal is something else. And yet this doesn’t seem to be limited to the hawks/eagles. I’ve heard several times from, oh, somebody here on Blogcritics about Abdul Razaq, who supposedly changed color while in US custody. I don’t even know whether to believe the story or not, since I’ve seen very little reporting on it and no real evidence one way or another. It seems a before and after set of photos ought not to be hard to produce. Anyway, I’ve heard about him several times, and yet I don’t think that’s actually your primary reason for being upset about the US-led operation. Ditto on the little boy with no arms (or was it legs).

    I care about those people. You care about those people. I think it’s safe to say that most people care about those people in the abstract sense at least. And yet the truth is that there are around six billion people in this world, and bad things happen to a lot of them every day. Tomorrow it might be you or me. If the US had not invaded, most mathematical analyses reveal that statistically speaking, more people would have died under the Ba’ath regime’s normal modus operandi than did as a result of the coalition attack. Go ahead, do the math: the lowball estimate of 1,000,000 people dead in 26 years (1352 weeks, we’ll say) means around 740 innocent people died every week under Saddam’s regime.

    As I write this, Iraq Body Count is noting that we should “Take a note on the number that continues to increase even weeks after the end of Saddam Regime,” and reporting that a maximum of 2380 civilians have died. The war started five weeks and a day ago, so that’s an average of 476 per week, considerably less than the 740 equivalent under Saddam’s regime. And one presumes that the current number will continue to drop on average as time goes on.

    So since we care in the generic sense, we should be pleased in the generic sense. Instead, you attack the hawks on the false theory that human rights concerns were of paramount importance (rather than national security, always the chief claim of the White House), and continue to use people like Ali-no-arms and Abdul Razaq to make your own case against America’s operation.

    What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, Brian. The truth is that we all focus on personal stories because they’re easier to hold onto that abstract concerns or principles for most people. I can talk about the moral injustice of America’s income tax system until I’m blue in the face (oops, more color-changing!) and most people don’t care. But when I point out that a family of four pays $XXXX in income taxes every year, or that non-income payroll “taxes” amount to 15.3% of your income out of every check, people pay attention.

    That’s why State of the Union speeches have tended to feature individuals standing up to be used as an example for whatever pet issue the President is trying to trumpet. It’s the human factor, and it’s real.

    That doesn’t mean that people don’t matter. But the truth is that even when the big less-tangible issues matter more, many people need something to hold in their minds. Not everybody can get worked up over abstract concepts like you or I can.

    So in the end, I’ve answered your questions. I listed other countries, I named the standards and criteria I might use to make that situation. I’m sorry that it isn’t as simple as you would like it to be, but that’s the way it goes. There are lots of factors involved, and one of them is surely how difficult a task it would be. Another is how other countries might react. And so on. Unfortunately, you haven’t really responded to my specific answers, but then I suppose I haven’t taken the weeks of effort it would take to really nail down the specific mathematical details yet, so there is always that…

    In any case, you’ll have the last word here, since I’m done.

    In the end, Brian, understand that not everybody who disagrees with you views you the same way. Obviously some rely on “America, love it or leave it” reasoning, and that’s unfortunate. I’m certainly willing to recognize that not only is it possible for someone to love America but hate some of the things she does, it is almost a requirement. That is, we tend to hold those we love to a higher standard.

    However, I also do not assume that just because someone lives in America and criticizes it, that they criticize out of love. I see America as a once-nearly-perfect country brought down by people who aim to twist and pervert her ideals and Constitution to suit their own ends and inflate their own power. Some, I fear, see America as a bad idea to start with, or as a country so far gone that it is now truly a force for evil in the world.

    That strikes me as a position lacking any basis in fact or objectivity. As long as I feel that you’re part of the first group, I’ll support your right to be as wrong as you want to be here on Blogcritics.org. If I think that you’ve really completely crossed the line, expect harrassment in the comments section. 8^)

    Anyway, I’m rambling ’cause I’m coming down with something and my head is swimming, so I’ll let you get busy on the last word now. Enjoy!

  • http://www.slumdance.com/blogs/brian_flemming/ Brian Flemming

    Phillip,

    You wrote:

      Go ahead, do the math: the lowball estimate of 1,000,000 people dead in 26 years (1352 weeks, we’ll say) means around 740 innocent people died every week under Saddam’s regime.

    Source?

    You must be including Iraqi casualties from the Iran-Iraq war. If so, I would point out that 1.3 million French (11% of France’s population) died in WWI (many of them while the U.S. indifferently sat out that conflict). I would say that those French deaths represent a noble sacrifice for country, not evidence of a tyrannical French leader.

    Saddam’s war against Iran can hardly be considered noble, but that one-million figure you cite is nonetheless deceptive. By manipulating the statistics this way, you imply that 740 people a week were being killed by Saddam’s regime in, say, the weeks leading up to the bombing.

    I have no doubt that Saddam purged like Stalin to maintain his control over the population of Iraq, but if you’re going to “do the math,” as you say, you should cite your sources and acknowledge that you are including casualties from the Iran-Iraq war in your numbers.

      So in the end, I’ve answered your questions.

    Hardly. Among the questions you have left unanswered are these:

    1. You suggested that the U.S. invaded Iraq out of some sense of urgency (i.e., the building was burning). You said the U.S. had to act before it was “too late.” I asked, “‘Too late’? What are you talking about?” I consider your assertion that the U.S. was acting out of a sense of immediate urgency totally unsupported. I assume your silence on the matter means you agree.

    2. Regarding something I wrote, you said, “Even the grammatical construction of your sentence reveals either the complete breakdown in your thinking, or your true view of America, or possibly both.” Having no point of reference for this accusation, I wrote, “Which sentence? And how could the grammatical construction of one sentence reveal a ‘complete breakdown’ in a person’s thinking?” I assume your silence in response to these questions constitutes an admission that your accusation had no merit.

      …you attack the hawks on the false theory that human rights concerns were of paramount importance (rather than national security, always the chief claim of the White House), and continue to use people like Ali-no-arms and Abdul Razaq to make your own case against America’s operation.

    The White House called the war “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” If that’s not a claim regarding motive, what is?

    With my letter, I was criticizing the tendency of pro-warriors, when pressed in a debate, to ACT as if human-rights were a primary concern. Pro-warriors seem to have no problem taking the position, “I would tolerate the torture of the Iraqi people if the U.S. had no self-interested reason to invade” and at the same time hurling “Don’t you care about the oppressed Iraqis?!” at anti-war people in argument. This is hypocritical.

    As far as Ali and Abdul Razaq go–do you think mocking them makes them go away?

    While I have freely (and frequently) acknowledged that the Iraqi people are better off now, on balance (and never did I predict otherwise), I have brought up Iraqi civilian casualties when a pro-warrior seems to be denying them or encouraging others to ignore them. And examples of illegal and cruel behavior by the U.S. military are important to bring up, because the U.S. is making a claim to moral authority in this action (and many people, including Eric, post articles talking about how flawless our military is, using that as an example of Bush Administration virtue).

    I think the U.S. could credibly claim the moral high ground in international relations. I think we could both be and be seen as giving more than we take, of using our wealth and power to improve life on Earth rather than intimidate every other inhabitant of it. We’re perfectly capable of claiming this moral high ground, and the American people want to (the majority did, after all, vote for the guy who wanted to participate MORE in international treaties and organizations, not the guy who wanted to shatter them–and opinion polls give even stronger evidence of the American people’s desire to take part in agreements like Kyoto).

    What upsets me is that we have an Administration that seems determined to shatter any basis we have for that moral authority. One cannot have moral authority while displaying blatant hypocrisy (i.e., violating the Geneva Conventions while complaining about one’s enemy violating the Geneva Conventions; blatantly lying to the U.N. while complaining about the lying of adversaries; claiming to be “liberating” the Iraqi people while allowing the museum and every ministry but Oil and Interior to go up in flames, while large numbers of tanks and troops sit idle nearby).

    I consider the Bush Administration’s lies, hypocrisy and contempt for the world an outrage not because the people of the United States want to display these qualities, but because they don’t. Opinion polls show that most people in the world consider the U.S. to be the “greatest danger” to the world–not al Qaeda, not Saddam, not North Korea. The U.S.

    I don’t blame them. And I don’t blame the people of the U.S. for the shameful standing of the United States in world opinion. I blame the Bush Administration. Bush has given the rest of the world every reason to fear him. If I had to choose between bin Laden and Bush as the “greatest danger” I would choose Bush, too. Bin Laden is certainly more vile, but he’s not as powerful. When the most powerful man in the world declares a desire and intention to make war wherever he damn well pleases, and the rest of the world can just kiss his ass, I’d be scared of that man. I am scared of that man.

      In any case, you’ll have the last word here, since I’m done. […] I’ll let you get busy on the last word now. Enjoy!

    You’ve done this whole “this is my last word on the subject/no, this REALLY is my last word o the subject/no, honest, this time it REALLY REALLY is my last word on the subject” thing before.

    I don’t get what you’re trying to achieve with this tactic. Are you trying to end the conversation by preemptively exiting it? Are you trying to excuse yourself from responding to any criticisms that might be posted following your “last” comment?

    I don’t get it. What is the point of saying, “this is my last post on the subject”? I mean, even if you follow through on the promise, what do you get out of having made it?

  • Thomas

    I think it is interesting that the mainstream U.S. media is oh-so-cynical about France’s real motivations for opposing the war in Iraq, yet they have accepted without question every rationale the Bush Administration has put forward to promote the war. I mean, it’s not like President Bush deserves the benefit of the doubt. As you noted, he has lied to and deceived the American public on several different occasions during the run-up to war. What gives?

  • http://www.sanfordmay.com san

    Thomas: Because the French are the bad guys, remember. No double standard need be regretted in making your case for war. Eric writes, “We did it because we’ve been needing to do it since 1991,” in other words, we must take responsibility for our inconsistent policies. But when antiwar arguest that we must bear in mind our historical poilicies — like madly supporting Saddam in the 80s — prowar says, No way, you can’t use our past against our current administration.

  • SlackMFer

    brian wrote:
    “it’s more like there are two firemen standing there right at the decision point. You have to choose: Send in the neighbor who you know in the past has broken into houses and stolen jewels, or send in a fireman, whose stated mission, at least, is to save lives.”

    comparing the US to the UN. brian, YOU HATE AMERICA! just fucking admit it already, you coward.

  • http://longmans.net/blog Ben

    SlackMFer. You need to take your brown shirt off once in a while. Chill out.