The Iraq war – A humanitarian disaster

The Iraq Family Health Survey, conducted by the Iraqi government and the World Health Organization, found that there were about 400,000 excess deaths in Iraq up to June 2006 associated with the invasion. The second Lancet survey conducted by researchers from Johns Hopkins and Al Mustansiriya University found that there were about 650,000 over the same time period. Both surveys missed the most violent period in Iraq — if we project forward to the current day I estimate that the net cost of the war so far has been between 750,000 (using IFHS) and 1,250,000 (using Lancet2) deaths.

So how on earth does Eric Posner come up a net benefit for the war? Let’s see:


The sanctions regime, which began in 1990, destroyed Iraq’s economy (reducing GDP by as much as three quarters) and impoverished millions of Iraqis. Particular attention was given at the time to its effect on children. The contemporary critics of the sanctions pointed out that before the sanctions began, the child mortality rate was about 50 per 1000; during the sanctions, on one accounting the rate soared to about 128 per 1000 (click on “basic indicators” here). More conservative estimates were in the range of a doubling of child mortality. Using the more conservative estimate, at one million births per year, this works out to an annual difference of 50,000 children surviving to the age of 5 (for various qualifications, see here). Today, the child mortality rate is below the pre-sanctions figure, and so every year in excess of 50,000 more Iraqi children survive than during the sanctions. The data are hotly contested but the trends are unmistakable and will continue to strengthen if security improves. A conservative estimate is that more than 40,000 Iraqis survive per year today than during the sanctions regime, and probably most of them children.

Has the ending of sanctions improved child mortality? Posner’s link just has UNICEF’s child mortality rates for 1990 and 2006, but click around a bit and you can find a more complete table:

Country 1960 1970 1980 1990 1995 2000 2005 2006
Iraq 158 125 80 53 48 48 47 46

Yes, the current rate is lower than before the sanctions, but most of that decrease occurred during the sanctions. Posner cites an earlier UNICEF report that mortality had increased to 128 per 1000, but the current numbers are based in the new 2006 Iraq MICS-3 survey and are likely to be more accurate than statistics gathered under Saddam’s regime. All other large surveys agree with MICS-3. The 2004 Iraq Living Conditions survey found child mortality rates of 40 38 per 1,000 for 1994-1998 and 35 40 per 1,000 for 1999-2003. The 2006 Iraq Family Health Survey finds:

For all Iraq, [child] mortality rates were higher at the beginning of the analysis period [1993] and started to decline, until around the year 2002, and then started to increase again to levels closer to the mid-1990s.

The increase after the invasion found by the IFHS corresponds to an extra 10,000 child deaths per year.

Both Lancet surveys found increases in child mortality after the invasion.

All published sources, including the one Posner cites, show that there has been no decrease in child mortality after the invasion, and most actually show an increase.

Posner continues:

Let’s suppose that the sanctions regime had continued for 10 years, from 2003 to 2013, and further that security flattens out–it doesn’t get worse, but it doesn’t get better. Under these assumptions, 400,000 Iraqi children would have died if the war had not occurred and the sanctions regime continued. Now, almost 100,000 Iraqis died during the war, and so one of the war’s benefits is that it saves the lives of 300,000 Iraqis (over 10 years).

Posner cites the Iraq Body Count number of civilian deaths reported in the media. But not all deaths are reported in the media so it is wrong to treat this as an upper bound. To find the net cost or benefit in lives we need to look at mortality survey data. I find it perplexing that Posner would use survey data to measure child mortality but ignore the surveys that measure the number he is interested in. The IFHS found that up to June 2006 there were about 400,000 excess deaths and the 2nd Lancet survey found about 650,000 excess deaths in the same time frame. Both surveys missed the most violent period in Iraq — if we project forward to the current day I estimate that the net cost of the war so far has been between 750,000 lives (using IFHS) and 1,250,000 lives (using Lancet2) deaths.

In a survey of Americans last year their median estimate of the number of Iraqi civilian deaths was 9,890.

Comments

  1. #1 Crust
    November 25, 2008

    A couple of other notes: Posner is comparing the IBC count so far (after 5 years of conflict) with a 10 year projection for infant mortality (2003 to 2013).

    Also, he doesn’t bother to mention refugees (the UNHCR estimates 4.7 million have been displaced of which 2 million are living as refugees overseas). On the other hand, he highlights the fact that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have gained internet coverage since 2003. (Putting aside whether that is a faster or slower rate of growth than in other countries, internet service while a good thing is not exactly as fundamental an issue as being able to live in your home.)

  2. #2 ben
    November 25, 2008

    Can someone point me to a major conflict that wasn’t a humanitarian disaster?

  3. #3 Mahan Atma
    November 25, 2008

    The Iraq Body Count only counts violent deaths.

    Posner is ignoring the increase in child mortality that arose from non-violent causes, e.g. the disruption in basic services (clean drinking water, prenatal care, electricity, etc.)

    It is well documented that child mortality (infant mortality in particular) is extremely sensitive to the provision of basic services. I dare say there hasn’t been a war in history that hasn’t resulted in such.

  4. #4 Crust
    November 25, 2008

    Ben:Can someone point me to a major conflict that wasn’t a humanitarian disaster?

    Posner thinks he can: He thinks Iraq was a humanitarian success.

  5. #5 dhogaza
    November 25, 2008

    Can someone point me to a major conflict that wasn’t a humanitarian disaster?

    Nope, which is why the rational among us believe that everything possible should be done to avoid them.

  6. #6 Dunc
    November 25, 2008

    Interesting argument – the war is good because it’s not as bad as what we were doing to them anyway. Is that a barrel-bottom I hear being scraped?

    I guess the notion of simply not killing people is too radical…

  7. #7 Bruce Sharp
    November 25, 2008

    For those who haven’t yet clicked through to Posner’s original article, I’d like to point out an absolutely brilliant allegory in one of the comments:

    http://uchicagolaw.typepad.com/faculty/2008/11/the-iraq-war-a.html#comment-140293396

    Regards,
    Bruce

  8. #8 David Kane
    November 25, 2008

    Excellent post.

    Did you mean to repeat the sentence “Both surveys missed . . .” at the top and bottom of the post? It is a fair point, but probably not worth saying twice.

  9. #9 Pierce R. Butler
    November 25, 2008

    … the current rate is lower than before the sanctions, but most of that decrease occurred during the sanctions.

    Ehh? We had the US Secretary of State admitting that sanctions had led to the deaths of half a million children, but child mortality decreased?!?

    Something seems more than a little wrong about the statistics here…

    (Possibly sanctions led to a large decrease in births, skewing the absolute numbers so that there was a proportional decline?)

  10. #10 Crust
    November 25, 2008

    FYI, Posner has done the honorable thing. He linked here and noted your point about infant mortality.

  11. #11 ben
    November 25, 2008

    Nope, which is why the rational among us believe that everything possible should be done to avoid them.

    Does this explain why the UN is doing essentially nothing for Darfur, and why it did nothing for Rwanda, and why it basically sucks ass at just about everything it does in terms of preventing mass killing?

    I guess the notion of simply not killing people is too radical…

    Problem is that some people just need killing. Otherwise there is the risk that we end up like Neville Chamberlain again etc. At what point has an aggressor gone to far and needs to be stopped with plain old violence?

  12. #12 curlyfries
    November 25, 2008

    Learning about science is fun!

  13. #13 Donald Johnson
    November 25, 2008

    “Ehh? We had the US Secretary of State admitting that sanctions had led to the deaths of half a million children, but child mortality decreased?!?”

    Well, no, it was presupposed in the question that half a million children had died and she accepted the premise and said the price was worth it.

    I thought the sanctions were cruel and brutal and Albright’s reply probably shows how moral our leaders actually are when you can catch them off-guard, but this is no way to establish the true infant mortality rate in Iraq at that time. I thought I read though, though, that surveys long after the fact would be unreliable.

  14. #14 Pierce R. Butler
    November 25, 2008

    Uninformed allusions to Neville Chamberlain need a Somebody’s Law to remind people that such comments deserve ignoring.

    As of 1938, Great Britain’s military power was basically limited to its navy, and its population was still too war-weary after the unpleasantness of 1914-18 to rally around the defense of a small nation several borders away. Chamberlain had no choice but to try to make a deal to slow Hitler’s aggression, and – though fooled in part by his own rhetoric – did begin the rearmament that he came to realize was necessary for British security. The German violation of the Munich agreement was what finally convinced the English public that another war was unavoidable.

    Nothing about Chamberlain’s negotiations then has any applicability to the world’s most heavily armed hyperpower today.

  15. #15 hardindr
    November 25, 2008

    Does this explain why the UN is doing essentially nothing for Darfur, and why it did nothing for Rwanda, and why it basically sucks ass at just about everything it does in terms of preventing mass killing?

    I think you are making a statement in bad faith. It is not true that the UN “did nothing for Rwanda.” As D^2 never tires of pointing out, the UN approved the French-run Opération Turquoise, which was a disaster, along with the UNAMIR force, which was also a disaster. What would you propose for Darfur, realistically?

    Problem is that some people just need killing. Otherwise there is the risk that we end up like Neville Chamberlain again etc. At what point has an aggressor gone to far and needs to be stopped with plain old violence?

    That is a very complicated question, and I think different people could come to different conclusions based on different moral calculuses. Personally, I think if diplomacy is properly used, military interventions should be very rare. Also, Neville Chamberlain is a one-off case and an analogy that is too often abused.

  16. #16 Pierce R. Butler
    November 25, 2008

    Donald Johnson: … it was presupposed in the question that half a million children had died and she accepted the premise …

    That “premise” was not a reporter’s concoction, but the widely publicized (among those paying any attention) conclusion of a World Health Organization report (written when research into Iraqi health conditions was much easier & safer to conduct than it has been since that country was “liberated”), and backed by numerous independent humanitarian agencies.

    If that figure is unreliable, then present numbers are purely hallucinatory.

  17. #17 Donald Johnson
    November 25, 2008

    Yeah, Pierce, I know–I was just being sloppy in my previous question. The reporter was citing an estimate. I’m one of those back in the 90’s and up until 2003 who wrote a lot of letters protesting the sanctions. I don’t know how reliable the numbers back then were–I recall Garfield estimating somewhat smaller numbers, for instance, though he later increased his estimate. As for the more recent estimates, as I said in my previous post, I thought I’d read that you don’t necessarily get reliable results when you ask about infant mortality not during the preceding year, but from years past. But I’m no expert, and maybe someone around here who is can comment.

  18. #18 Pierce R. Butler
    November 25, 2008

    Donald – Indeed, it would seem that we all need better data than what’s available so far.

    The UNICEF figures listed by our host, asserting that child mortality decreased during the sanctions, strike me as questionable at best, and certainly in need of explanation if true. If cutting off foreign trade (including medicines & hospital equipment), degrading water treatment facilities, and drastically reducing food supplies all contribute to better health among children, policy changes are needed almost everywhere.

  19. #19 Chris O'Neill
    November 25, 2008

    ben:

    Problem is that some people just need killing.

    What a nutcase.

  20. #20 z
    November 25, 2008

    “Problem is that some people just need killing.”
    as it happens, i happen to have been keeping a rather lengthy list…

  21. #21 Eli Rabett
    November 25, 2008

    ben volunteers

  22. #22 Robert
    November 25, 2008

    Donald Johnson wondered:
    > I thought I’d read that you don’t necessarily get reliable results when you ask about infant mortality not during the preceding year, but from years past. But I’m no expert, and maybe someone around here can comment.

    You probably did read something like that. Recall bias increases as time passes and it’s often worse for infants than for older kids or adults; however, it’s certainly not unique to infants. What’s kind of interesting is that the kinds of recall bias you observe for infants can be different from the kinds you observe for older kids or adults. That’s the main reason why surveys that focus on maternal and child health, or reproductive histories and health, ask questions in a different way than they ask about adult health.

    As a not-so-aside, almost all countries in the world record cause of death info on death certificates. There are many problems with assigning death causes and, unsurprisingly, they vary person to person. Look up “nosology” sometime when you’re bored. The bottom line is that there’s always some uncertainty about the data but there’s more uncertainty about what caused the death of the guy in front of you than that he’s dead.

  23. #23 Tim Lambert
    November 26, 2008

    The UNICEF figures show that child mortality was falling before the sanctions and that this reduction stalled with sanctions. Mortality continued to fall in other countries like Syria, so it is certainly true that the sanctions killed many children, though not as many as was previously thought.

    But see also [an analysis by Tim Dyson](http://se1.isn.ch/serviceengine/FileContent?serviceID=ISN&fileid=707DE74D-3124-AA9D-A2FA-2544465954BD&lng=en) who argues that mortality did go up and the ILCS didn’t detect it because mothers didn’t report deaths so that they would keep getting rations for that child.

  24. #24 Bernard J.
    November 26, 2008

    Ben ejaculated:

    Problem is that some people just need killing.

    The problem is that anywhere from several hundred thousand to over one million innocent people were killed in this excursion of insanity and of fatuous reasoning.

    The problem is Ben, that if some people thought that you, for instance, needed killing, you’d be rather miffed about the whole thing. And why should they not be entitled to think thus, if you do?

    Get real, young fella-me-lad, and think a bit more carefully about what you vomit. Saddam was most certainly an arse-hole, but I can see no justifiable reason for the humanitarian catastrophe that has been inflicted upon the Iraqi nation, that is in any way proportionate to the crimes of this one US puppet-gone-postal.

    There were many other solutions, but with folk like you in the saddle the sad outcome is what we are counting now.

    Believe me, if you knew just one of those millions of innocent victims as well as you know your family or your neighbour, you’d be mortally embarrassed to have made the comment that you did.

  25. #25 dhogaza
    November 26, 2008

    As of 1938, Great Britain’s military power was basically limited to its navy, and its population was still too war-weary after the unpleasantness of 1914-18 to rally around the defense of a small nation several borders away.

    France. 1938 was too late. Occupation of the Rhineland.

    There are many ways in which to dispute – indeed refute – your premise. It was never about defending a small nation several borders away, it was a desperate desire to avoid a European-wide conflict that led to appeasement.

    However, I will agree that the situation was a one-off. Conservatives like Ben who mindlessly wave the appeasement flag, suggesting that the one remaining superpower in the world was at the potential mercy of some two-bit middle eastern dictator in the same sense that France (especially) feared she was regarding Germany (about twice the population of France with a much more highly developed scientific and industrial base).

    The appeasement strategy had more to do with miscalculation of relative strengths than any true trust of Hitler, more of the feeling that France and Britain were powerless to stop him without a full-fledged European war (while monday morning quarterbacking makes it reasonable to believe that a strong reaction to the occupation of the Rhineland might’ve nipped the problem in the bud), than the motivation attributed by american conservatives to the strategy.

    If Bushco had believed that Saddam could not be overthrown short of a world war with even a diminished Russia, would failure to do so be considered “appeasement”, Ben?

  26. #26 dhogaza
    November 26, 2008

    Conservatives like Ben who mindlessly wave the appeasement flag

    I meant to add “are idiots” somewhere up there.

  27. #27 Dano
    November 26, 2008

    I have ben on [killfile], but reading the responses to ben’s drivel makes me think ben is the poster boy for Lakoff’s Strict Father model of moral politics [1. , 2. ].

    Lakoffianism is relevant to Bernard J.’s comment: ben believes the wicked should be punished. He doesn’t listen to Bernard’s worldview, as it doesn’t resonate.

    Best,

    D

  28. #28 Pierce R. Butler
    November 26, 2008

    dhogaza – At the risk of terminal thread derailment, I’d like to make two brief comments on your rebuttal @ # 25.

    1) Yes, a well-executed blocking of Hitler’s 1936 move into the Rhineland would have been much more effective than any attempted defense of Czechoslovakia in 1938. But Chamberlain the Wimp is the cliche endlessly invoked by pro-war advocates (even though it’s absurdly wrong – especially in context of Iraq), so that’s what I was refuting.

    2) As for the “desperate desire to avoid a European-wide conflict”, I suggest you read Ian Kershaw’s Fateful Choices, which points out that the Munich conference was a concession by Hitler to Mussolini’s fear of a major war for which Italy was unprepared.

    How long until the bens of the blogosphere start complaining that Boy George’s omitting to invade Iran is the Great Cowardly Failure of the 21st Century? (That will happen sooner than most Americans will admit the war on Iraq was among the Great War Crimes of the 21st…)

  29. #29 ben
    November 26, 2008

    The problem is Ben, that if some people thought that you, for instance, needed killing, you’d be rather miffed about the whole thing. And why should they not be entitled to think thus, if you do?

    I’m sorry that you are not capable of understanding what I mean. Yes, “some people need killing.” Those would be people who INTENTIONALLY harm others, said others having done no violence to anyone ever. I have never hurt anyone in my entire life, intentionally or otherwise. It should be obvious that I am not referring to the killing of innocents in Iraq. An unfortunate circumstance of any war is that innoscents will suffer. The blame for this falls entirely on the shoulders of the wrong-doer, and in this case I point the finger at Saddam. Now you can point the finger at past US administrations if you like for supporting Saddam, but Saddam was ultimately the one who “pulled the trigger.”

    Now, Iraq has its best chance for a decent government. Under Saddam that was impossible. The sanctions failed because Saddam re-routed all that oil-for-food money to build palaces, given that he cared not for his people, and the UN scumbags took kickbacks and looked the other way. So the war had that benefit, unless you think the Iraqis are uncivilized savages incapable of self government except by the fist of a tyrant of one form or another.

    Someone here mentioned Mugabe, and yes, he definitely falls into the catagory of “needs killing,” since he is a tyrant and hurts many innocent people. Fidel Castro is another. To suggest that I need killing is pretty lame. What have I ever done to anyone, short of rile up the folks on this website? At least suggest something partly reasonable, like “Pres GWB needs killing” because he went to war with Iraq and a lot of people died. I’d argue that those deaths were unintentional, which makes a pile of difference.

    Note: much of the arguments here beg the question “does the body count really matter?” A human death is a tragedy in itself. I don’t think the tragedy is multiplied by a body count, especially not for the individual or individuals who are dead.

  30. #30 hardindr
    November 26, 2008

    Now, Iraq has its best chance for a decent government. Under Saddam that was impossible. The sanctions failed because Saddam re-routed all that oil-for-food money to build palaces, given that he cared not for his people, and the UN scumbags took kickbacks and looked the other way. So the war had that benefit, unless you think the Iraqis are uncivilized savages incapable of self government except by the fist of a tyrant of one form or another.

    I don’t think this is an accurate summation of the “Oil for Food” program scandal (for one, please read this. Do you really believe that million excess deaths is a price worth paying for the current situation in Iraqi and its government? Why are you accusing your critics of being racists? Have you not decency?

    Note: much of the arguments here beg the question “does the body count really matter?” A human death is a tragedy in itself. I don’t think the tragedy is multiplied by a body count, especially not for the individual or individuals who are dead.

    What was it that Stalin allegedly said about a million deaths and tragedy?

  31. #31 Splendid One
    November 26, 2008

    I said it in 2002 and 2003. If what you wanted was regime change in Iraq, then all you had to do was give me unlimited spending authority over, say $500M, and I’d have had Saddam gone in a year.

    But we wanted to flex our muscles and kill people. It just didn’t have to happen that way and, no, Saddam didn’t pull the trigger, our president did. It’s our responsibility, not the dead dictator’s.

  32. #32 Dano
    November 26, 2008

    But we wanted to flex our muscles and kill people. It just didn’t have to happen that way and, no, Saddam didn’t pull the trigger, our president did. It’s our responsibility, not the dead dictator’s.

    There were a bunch of weak d*cks in this country who needed a wargasm. Now it’s coyote ugly and they won’t admit their desires had a price.

    Best,

    D

  33. #33 Jason
    November 26, 2008

    Tim writes,

    The 2004 Iraq Living Conditions survey found child mortality rates of 40 per 1,000 for 1994-1998 and 35 per 1,000 for 1999-2003.

    You appear to have misread the report. There is no figure in Table 35 for total (U5MR) child mortality rate for 1999-2003. The 35 number you mention above is the rate for females only. You seem to have misread this number as the total rate. Both the rate for females and the rate for males were higher in 1993-2003 than in 1994-1998.

    So what the report found is that the child mortality rate increased between 1989 and 2003, from 38 in 1989-1993, to 40 in 1994-1998. It remained at 40 from 1999-2003, but the rates for both sexes increased, so the total rate can only have remained constant because of a change in the sex ratio.

    The data also shows the same trend of increasing mortality between 1989 and 2003 for neonatal mortality, post neonatal mortality and infant mortality. The authors point this out themselves:

    During the last 15 years [from 1989 to 2003], infant and child mortality rates appear to have been steadily increasing.

  34. #34 Tim Lambert
    November 26, 2008

    Jason, I had another look at table 35 and the formatting is messed up so things don’t line up correctly. As a result we’ve both misread it.
    For each time period, they give total, male and female rates, in that order. But they’ve lined things up so that the totals look like they belong to the period before. So total child mortality is actually 36 for 1989-1993, 38 for 1994-1998, and 40 for 1999-2003. As a check you can see that it within a point of the average foe the male and female rates. I’ve corrected my post, and thanks for checking and noticing the problem.

  35. #35 Jason
    November 26, 2008

    Tim,

    I don’t know what you think is messed up about the formatting. I’m looking at the table right now. Table 35 on page 51 of the pdf document “Volume II: Analytical Report” that I reached through your link. The table clearly shows a total U5MR child mortality rate of 38 for 1989-1993 and 40 for 1994-1998. It does not provide a total for 1999-2003, but in the preceding text the authors report the total for that time period was also 40. The table shows that rates by sex increased between 1994-1998 and 1999-2003. For males, the rate increased from 43 to 44, and for females it increased from 32 to 35.

    The point is that this data contradicts your claim that the child mortality rate declined during the sanctions. On the contrary, according to this ILCS report, the child mortality rate increased during the sanctions. This doesn’t seem terribly surprising given that the sanctions deprived the iraqis of food and medical supplies.

    If the child mortality rate has declined since the invasion (as, for instance, the UNICEF data suggests), that is a reversal of the trend during the sanction years, and it supports Posner’s case, not yours.

  36. #36 Jason
    November 26, 2008

    Tim,

    Your assertion:

    All published sources, including the one Posner cites, show that there has been no decrease in child mortality after the invasion, and most actually show an increase.

    is also inconsistent with the UNICEF data you cite, which shows the child mortality rate declining from 48 in 2000 to 47 in 2005 to 46 in 2006.

    You also neglect to mention other sources showing that child mortality increased during the sanctions, such as Richard Garfield’s study Morbidity and Mortality Among Iraqi Children from 1990 Through 1998: Assessing the Impact of the Gulf War and Economic Sanctions

    Garfield found that the child mortality rate increased and caused 227,000 excess deaths among children under 5 from August 1991 through March 1998, and that three-quarters of these excess deaths were primarily caused by the sanctions.

  37. #37 glasnost
    November 27, 2008

    To the various folks on this thread confused and skeptical at the data that shows Iraq’s infant mortality declining over the course of the sanctions regime, you shouldn’t be, and you wouldn’t be if you knew more about Iraq’s history.

    In 1990-1, when the sanctions were imposed, Iraq was 2-3 years removed from an amazingly devastating, decade-long war with Iran – one of the five most deadly wars of the century – large chunks of which were fought on its own territory. There was also the Persian Gulf war, also fought on its own territory, and then a third round of terrible carnage when Saddamn suppressed Shiite and Kurdish uprisings. Iraq was in an unbelievably bad state in 1991 regardless of sanctions – much lower than it would realistically stay at during a period of peacetime. (Think about the effects of all those maimings on the health system and economy)

    That’s reason #1 why mortality declined during the 90’s. The second reason is that, in the case of Iraq, as the conservative talking point goes, the sanctions were considerably weakened over time. Specifically, the oil-for-food program allowed Iraq to seriously mitigate the humanitarian consequeneces of the sanctions by, as the title implies, trading oil for humanitarian goods. Also, smuggling grew over time as Iraq’s neighbors became more indiffreent to it.

    Not all sanctions weaken as time goes on. These, however, did indeed weaken. The regime adapted. Compromises were sought and obtained.

    Look at those terrible rates in 1960 – a time of peace in Iraq. Wow.

  38. #38 ben
    November 27, 2008

    @30

    racist? when did I ever accuse anyone of racism? I’ve been called a racist in comments on this blog, but I’ve never accused anyone here of same.

  39. #39 Tim Lambert
    November 27, 2008

    Jason, the first three rows of table are for 1989-1993, the next three for 1994-1998 and the last three are for 1999-2003. But the first column is misaligned so that row 4 (total mortality for 1994-1998) looks like it is for 1989-1993. There is similar problem for row 7.

    >If the child mortality rate has declined since the invasion (as, for instance, the UNICEF data suggests), that is a reversal of the trend during the sanction years, and it supports Posner’s case, not yours.

    Posner’s case requires a 40 point drop in child mortality. The UNICEF data shows, at best, an insignificant 2 point drop. It’s also consistent with an increase after the invasion from (say) 45 in 2002 to 47 in 2005. And the UNICEF data does not show an increase during sanctions as you assert.

    Garfield was one of the authors of the first Lancet study which found an increase in child mortality following the invasion. The report you cite was based on surveys done in the 90s that UNICEF now seems to think were inaccurate.

    The evidence suggest that the sanctions killed many children, just not as many as previously thought. And the invasion also many killed children.

  40. #40 Bernard J.
    November 27, 2008

    An unfortunate circumstance of any war is that innoscents (sic) will suffer. The blame for this falls entirely on the shoulders of the wrong-doer, and in this case I point the finger at Saddam. Now you can point the finger at past US administrations if you like for supporting Saddam, but Saddam was ultimately the one who “pulled the trigger.”

    If wars are commenced for unjustifiable reasons Ben, it is more than just an “unfortunate circumstance” when innocent people suffer and/or are killed.

    Let’s not pretend that George W. Bush wasn’t itching to invade Iraq after the 9 September attacks. This, when it was clear that there was no evidence at all to impute the involvement of Iraq in the attacks and, if some of his former staffers are to be believed, coming off the back of Bush asking for his men to find a reason to invade and ‘finish the job’ his father started.

    Saddam was a secularist and he had no time for bin Laden, nor for bin Laden’s religious mission. Whilst Saddam did offer encouragement to terrorists targeting Israel, as a number of other (currently not-invaded) Middle-Eastern countries are known to do, this was never used as an excuse to attack him. The anti-US vipers’ nest of terrorism that is the post-invasion Iraq was almost entirely a consequence of said invasion by the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ – a mess that countless experts and even lay people predicted long before the invasion commenced.

    Osama bin Laden must have been crying with joy when Dubya and his mates stumbled over their feet to kick seven colours of snot out of Iraq – in that action the US justified in the eyes of many Muslims so much that bin Laden had ranted about. The US also created an instant terrorism industry in Iraq as a consequence of their attack.

    And in doing so the US and its partners have been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands, to perhaps over one million, innocent people. Innocent, because:

    1) Iraq did not instigate the 9 September attacks

    2) Iraq did not buy yellowcake from Niger

    3) Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction

    et cetera, et cetera…

    The excuse about bringing democracy to Iraq came only after it became patently clear that the US had no other good excuse to be there. The US was nowhere to be seen when, years earlier, Saddam was targeting the Kurds with his crimes against humanity, nor when he cruelly suppressed the internal uprisings that were encouraged by the US with promises of support, support that never came.

    The excuse that Saddam “pulled the trigger”, and therefore it is only ‘his fault’ that so many innocent people died, is a distraction, a clumsy attempt to blame a despicable dictator for a decision that the US was not itself obliged to take. There are other countries around the world that have no democracy, or that have had brutal crimes committed against their civilians. Where is the US in many of these instances? Oh, hang on – I just noticed the corporate siphon snaking out from the Gulf, and the strategic Castle sitting on the Middle-eastern part of the board…

    Seriously, the US was in no imminent threat from Iraq (look how easily they walked in to the country…). And who made them the world’s policeman, to go riding rough-shod over particular countries, independent of the UN? And really, if the Bush administration was about ‘democratising’ Iraq, where was the post-invasion plan to do so?

    It’s curious that you use a gun metaphor. However, you have contorted your comparison somewhat.

    How’s this for an alternative scenario? If your metaphor is to be valid, it was the US and its mates who held the gun, and Saddam was a guy in the next city who was beating up the poor folk in his street. The CotW just ran in and started shooting blindly, imagining that they were wearing their underpants on the outside. Or, if one were less charitable, ready to scoop up any loose change that might have fallen to the ground in the confusion…

    Now, Iraq has its best chance for a decent government.

    Come on, grow up. Iraq has been FUBARed. It would have had a better chance if the sanctions had been lifted, and the nascent business community that was emerging after GW1 been allowed to flourish – many commentators had observed that a solid economic base would have helped the Iraqis deal with Saddam more than any international political manoeuvring would have. I am reminded of a sign I read at the rally I mentioned in an earlier post – “Fighting for peace is like fucking for virginity”.

    Even if war was justified, the magnitude of the killing of innocents is disproportionate. And after having been reminded yesterday of the number of innocent people killed, you yourself said:

    A human death is a tragedy in itself. I don’t think the tragedy is multiplied by a body count, especially not for the individual or individuals who are dead.

    If this is what you seriously believe Ben, what maximum number of innocent deaths do you believe would have vindicated violent force? How many could have died before it was unjustifiable to continue? Many, many people around the world predicted that the number of deaths would be high as a consequence of the US invading, whether they died directly at the hands of US forces or otherwise – surely there should have been a formula for a priori determination of a limit that could have justified the war? And remember, this is to justify invading on the basis that Saddam was responsible for the 9 September attack, and then flip-floppingly that he had WoMD. Although I am curious to know what cost might be calculated, that is worth bringing the sort of democracy that the invasion has wrought…

    To suggest that I need killing is pretty lame.

    I did not suggest this at all. Learn to parse a sentence Ben.

    And I am curious – at what point does a person or a group of people ‘need killing’? Who decides this, and who takes the wrap when it’s determined wrongly? It seems that the Geneva Convention fell by the wayside somewhere in the endeavour: how can one country or even a coalition unilaterally decide what its rules are, and expect the rest of the world to accept them? Don’t get me wrong, there are circumstances that I can easily picture where just about any reasonable person might agree to ‘killing’, but just how is the line formally drawn in the sand?

    It seems to me that if we don’t have (or no longer adhere to) a clear and internationally accepted protocol for taking such profound action, it is a hopeless exercise to hold the moral high ground in dismissing the deaths we cause, even if we could agree on the number of such deaths in the first place.

    The sad fact is though that Dano nailed it at #27 – some folk just unilaterally decide that they know best for the good of the world, based on their own internal and egocentric paradigms, and the rest can just ask “how high” when told to jump.

    In which case my comments are just wasted space.

  41. #41 sod
    November 27, 2008

    i met from von Sponeck during a “political breakfast” (weisswurst frühstück..) at university, shortly after he quit his job.

    i have some rather strong memories of the event. (though all inaccuracies in this reflexions should be blamed on me, and not on him…)
    he was worried about a worsening situation that included, but was certainely not limited to mortality rates.
    his main complain, was this:

    the US were inventing reasons for blocking humanitarian goods, while blaming Iraq for not distributing them.

    i clearly remember him, giving an example of pencils being not delivered, because they contain graphite, that could be used for nuclear weapon production…

    in his book, von Sponeck outlines the distribution of humanitarian goods. it was entirely UN controlled and not influenced by Iraq.

    certain americans were waging war on iraq during the sanctions. i am not 100% sure, whether killing children was just some collateral damage to them, or a secret goal of their mission.
    the same is true today. some people see the destruction of the iraqi state as a good thing, and the ethnical slaughter as a cheap way of keeping control of the country.

    i hope that these kind of people get removed from any job with any responsibility when Obama takes control. it is a major problem, that they kept their jobs under Clinton.

  42. #42 Jeff Harvey
    November 27, 2008

    Bernard, Excellent post. You have summed it up perfectly.

    Ben’s pushing himself further and further out along the limb, and soon its going to snap. He ought to read up on some of the horrific atrocities perpetrated in Latin America by military regimes fully supported, armed trained and funded by the US. US military advisers, for example, were advising death sqauds in Guatemala, El Salvador and elsewhere to “go primitive” and to use whatever horrific methods necessary to prevent populist-based change. I won’t even begin to describe what they meant by ‘going primitive'; its sickening. The targets included priests, trade unionists, progressive dissidents intellectuals, environmentalists, in fact anyone who resisted (peacefully or not) the vile regimes that were being propped up by successive US governments. Many of the most vile killers in the death squads were actually trained at the notorious ‘Fort Benning’ School of the Americas during the 1980s. These killers included Jose Garcia, Armando Larious and others, some of whom went back to their countries and slaughtered dozens of civilians. A number of them now reside in the US, mostly in the sunshine state or California. Pol Pot’s right hand man apparently lives in Mount Vernon, New York. Orlando Bosch, a terrorist responsible for the downing of a Cubana Airline in 1977 that killed 73 people lives in Florida. Emmanuel Constant of the notorious FRAPH, the brutal death squad that murdered thousands of Haitian civilian supporters of Jen-Bertrand Aristide in the early 1990s, apparently lives in New York City. The US government categorically refused repeated extradition requests from Haiti where he would be tried for mass murder, because he would spill the beans on how much support he got from the Clinton adminsitration. He’s now in prison in the US on other charges.

    The reasons for US intervention, subversion, and support for (or directly carrying out) terror in Latin America, are easy to understand if one looks into the historical record. They are summarized by Patrice McSherry in a scholarly study of Operation Condor, the international terrorist operation established with U.S. support in Chile under Pinochet. McSherry: “The Latin American militaries, normally acting with the support of the U.S. government, overthrew civilian governments and destroyed other centers of democratic power in their societies (parties, unions, universities, and constitutionalist sectors of the armed forces) precisely when the class orientation of the state was about to change or was in the process of change, shifting state power to non-elite social sectors”. She goes on: “Preventing such transformations of the state was a key objective of Latin American elites, and U.S. officials considered it a vital national security interest as well”.

    The vital part is this: “…precisely when the class orientation of the state was about to change or was in the process of change, shifting state power to non-elite social sectors”. Therein lies the rub. It verifies Thomas Carothers argument that the US did not want to risk upsetting traditional [=top down] structures of power with which they had long been allied. Thus, the US supports democracy “if and only if it is in line with US interests. If it isn’t it is downplyaed or even ignored”.

  43. #43 jodyaberdein
    November 27, 2008

    Ben,

    ‘The blame for harm to innocents falls entirely on the shoulders of the wrong-doer’,

    Presumably by this you mean the bad guys, the other side. So how should we decide who exaclty has done what wrong to whom? And who does the deciding? Presumably you think this should be decided by some central international body, e.g the UN? Also presumably you think that we should revise the Geneva Conventions article III to refer not to ‘each party’ but ‘ the wrong doer’?

  44. #44 hardindr
    November 27, 2008

    Ben at #38

    This comment is one in which you accuse your opponents of racism, i.e. they believe arabs are so uncivilized that they are only fit to be ruled by a tyrant.

    So the war had that benefit, unless you think the Iraqis are uncivilized savages incapable of self government except by the fist of a tyrant of one form or another.

  45. #45 ben
    November 27, 2008

    And in doing so the US and its partners have been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands, to perhaps over one million, innocent people. Innocent, because:

    1) Iraq did not instigate the 9 September attacks

    2) Iraq did not buy yellowcake from Niger

    3) Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction

    et cetera, et cetera…

    But they did violate the terms of the original cease-fire that ended Gulf War I, and were found by the UN to be in constant violation of the many and various UN resolutions against them. Typically, that would be grounds for war.

    Hardindr, at #44

    ‘Arab’ isn’t a race.

  46. #46 hardindr
    November 27, 2008

    ‘Arab’ isn’t a race.

    Pure semantics.

  47. #47 Bernard J.
    November 27, 2008

    But they did violate the terms of the original cease-fire that ended Gulf War, and were found by the UN to be in constant violation of the many and various UN resolutions against them. Typically, that would be grounds for war.

    Ben, have you counted lately the violations of UN resolutions that Israel has committed, without being invaded by the Coalition of the Willing? You’ll need more than your own fingers and toes…

    Perhaps this is because such violations are not typically grounds for war. If they were, then the globe would be one smoking ruin.

    And note, many of Israel’s violations are more serious than many of those committed by Saddam. And note further, that Saddam’s breaches were committed by him and his small cadre of unelected officials (and not by the direct or indirect will of the population), for which a new war can hardly be justified on ethical grounds.

  48. #48 Chris O'Neill
    November 27, 2008

    Typically, that would be grounds for war.

    Typical for the government that started the war.

  49. #49 Bernard J.
    November 28, 2008

    Erm, “9 September”?

    Obviously the preview function didn’t screen my fatigue when typing late at night in eastern Australia.

    That should have been 11 September.

    Who was the bright spark who insisted that the US not follow a logical date format?

    I stand by the rest of the post though.

  50. #50 Jeff Harvey
    November 28, 2008

    Ben, you are painting yourself further and further into a corner. The invasion nof Iraq violated the UN charter, to which the US is a signatory. Considering the US constitituon also clearly states that any international laws and treaties signed by the US are the ‘supreme law of the land’, then the US severely violated its own laws as well during the invasion. Canadian international lwa attorney Michael Mandel explains:

    “Resolution 1441 makes a lot of demands on Iraq, many completely unreasonable, but it doesn’t say or even imply that any state or group of states can attack the country for failing to comply with them.

    It says that it is the responsibility of the Security Council as a body to decide whether and to what extent there has been compliance and what to do about it — and the Security Council can only lawfully act when nine of the 15 members vote in favor and none of the five permanent members exercises its veto.

    Those are the rules the Americans agreed to by signing the U.N. Charter and if they don’t like them, they can withdraw from the U.N. But in fact they usually seem to like them just fine.

    America exercises the veto more than all the other Security Council members put together.

    Without the American veto, Israel would have been sanctioned long ago for violating dozens of Security Council resolutions over its 36 years of occupation of the Palestinian territories. Without the American veto, Boutros Boutros-Ghali would not have been replaced by the more U.S.-friendly Kofi Annan as secretary general.

    If anything is and should be subject to the veto, it is the power to make war.

    If you want to know what a specific authorization for war by the Security Council looks like, you need look no further than the one that launched the other Gulf War, Resolution 678 of Nov. 29, 1990, which specifically said that it “Authorizes member states … to use all necessary means” to enforce the Council’s resolutions on Kuwait.

    This is the huge, missing ingredient from Resolution 1441, and it was no slip”.

    In other words, the US committed the ‘supreme international crime of aggression’ when it unlawfully invaded Iraq. The US knew that it would not be close to getting the nine out of fifteen member vote in 2003, in spite of veiled threats, bribery and coercion against countries primed to vote against the war resolution. So it just did what it usually does, and ignored international law, its own constitution, and acted unilaterally. The same way it did when condemned by the World Court in 1986 for ‘unlawful use of aggression’ in its terrorist war against the Sandanista government in Nicaragua. This is a war that left tens of thousands dead and the country almost ruined. Although the US was ordered to pay reparations for the huge damage their war inflicted on Nicaragua, as usual they ignored the verdict and actually escalated their war against this tiny nation.

  51. #51 ben
    November 28, 2008

    ‘Arab’ isn’t a race.
    Pure semantics.

    So if you’re anti-American, then you are also racist? ‘Racist’ means something. You can’t be ‘racist’ unless you have something against someone’s RACE.

  52. #52 ben
    November 28, 2008

    Ben, have you counted lately the violations of UN resolutions that Israel has committed, without being invaded by the Coalition of the Willing?

    Israel is in violation of UN resolutions simply for existing these days. The UN is a joke.

  53. #53 surfnet
    November 28, 2008

    ben:
    But they did violate the terms of the original cease-fire that ended Gulf War, and were found by the UN to be in constant violation of the many and various UN resolutions against them. Typically, that would be grounds for war.
    ben:
    The UN is a joke.

    Put the shovel down, son.

  54. #54 pauly
    November 29, 2008

    So if you’re anti-American, then you are also racist? ‘Racist’ means something. You can’t be ‘racist’ unless you have something against someone’s RACE

    This statement seems to imply that there are real races and not real races. “Arab” and “Black” are races just as much as “American” is. The difference is that there is a great deal of violence backing up the fiction in the first two cases.

  55. #55 ben
    December 1, 2008

    ‘Black’ is a race, more or less, just like ‘White’. ‘American’ is not. ‘Arab’ is not:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arab

  56. #56 ben
    December 1, 2008

    For the record, ‘Arab’ is like ‘Latino’… not a race, but a culture or ethnicity, but not defined by genetics in the least. I would be Latino if I was born and raised by parents who were also born and raised in a Latino culture:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latino

    My ancestors happen to come from Ukraine, Sweden, perhaps Germany (or those German speaking parts of Russia, not sure), Ireland, and probably Normandy, plus who knows what. And none of Ukrainian, Swedish, German, Irish, or whatever refer to races. I’m just a Caucasian mutt.

  57. #57 pauly
    December 1, 2008

    There’s no more genetic basis to a classification like White or Black than there is to one like Arab or Latino.

  58. #58 P. Lewis
    December 1, 2008

    There’s only one race on this planet, and it’s the human race!

    It is well established, that the level of differentiation between the continental human groups, as measured by the statistic FST is about 0.06-0.1 (6-10%), with about 5-10% of variation at the population level (that is between different populations occupying the same continent) and about 75-85% of variation within populations.(Risch et al., 2002; Templeton, 1998; Ossorio and Duster, 2005; Lewontin, 2005). Tempeton (1998) states that in biology a level of 0.25-0.3 (20-30%) of differentiation normally accepted in biological literature for a population to be considered a race or subspecies.

    “A standard criterion for a subspecies or race in the nonhuman literature under the traditional definition of a subspecies as a geographically circumbscribed, sharply differentiated population is to have FST values of at least 0.25 to 0.3 (Smith et al. 1997). Hence as judged by the criterion in the nonhuman literature, the human FST value is too small to have taxonomic significance under the traditional subspecies definition.”(Templeton, 1998)

    [Unless, that is, the likes of characters wearing a Mulder alter ego are right.]

  59. #59 JB
    December 2, 2008

    Ben says,

    “The blame for harm to innocents falls entirely on the shoulders of the wrong-doer”

    So, George W. Bush is entirely responsible for the death of and injury to all the hundreds of thousands (if not million) innocents in Iraq due to the Iraq war, right Ben?

    As an American, I could not agree more.

    If I had my way, that murderous little son of a bitch would be tried in a war crimes tribunal at the Hague — and almost certainly spend the remainder of his life in prison there.

    Unfortunately, the Congressional “leaders” (Pelosi, Reid even Obama) who have the wherewithal to make this happen are more interested in preserving the status quo than in seeing that justice is served.

  60. #60 ben
    December 3, 2008

    blah blah blah…

  61. #61 Bernard J.
    December 3, 2008

    Ben says:

    blah blah blah…

    That’s hardly adressing the point Ben.

    Fact is, Saddam was responsible for killing tens of thousands of Iraqis. In response (supposedly, but not in reality) Bush added hundreds of thousands more innocent Iraqis to the list, against international laws.

    Are you trying to have a bet each way? If so, it smells a lot like the wafting stench of expediency mixed with hypocricy to me…

  62. #62 Jeff Harvey
    December 3, 2008

    Bernard, JB, The problem is that Ben probably believes that the US is incapable of supporting regimes that commit mass murder, let along carrying this out these atrocities themselves. This harks back to historian Stuart Creighton Miller’s point that many Americans have been conditioned to believe that the US is ‘That most peace loving of nations’ that only goes to war reluctantly. The historical record, of course, is very different, if one were to examine it in detail. But virtually all of the atrocities committed by the US and its proxies (including the UK) are not a part of history because they have been downplayed and ignored, and are therefore airbrushed from the historical record.

    Of course, Bush and many of his cronies, as well as a number of British politicians in the Blair cabinet (including Blair himself) are guilty of mass murder, serial violation of international law and, all things considered, in any war crimes tribunal would be given multiple life sentences. The same would be true for many of our previous leaders – Nixon certainly for the carpet bombing of Cambodia, for instance. But the problem is, of course, that the powerful and dominant states are more or less exempt from international law, whereas the weak states are fully bound by it.

    International law attorney Richard Falk said a few years ago that we in the west are conditioned to see the world through a one-way moral/legal screen, with western societies and values depicted as being threatened, therefore validating a campaign of indiscriminate violence on our part. This about sums it up. For many, the thought of ‘our’ leaders being culpabale of mass murder and atrocities elsewhere in the world is beyond the pale and is summarily dismissed, in spite of copious evidence showing it to be true. Many people just aren’t aware of what is being done in ‘our name’, so why question empire when m any of its trappings give us privileged lifestyles? I am sujre that many of the historical atrocities committed in our name – for instance the ‘heathen’s war’ in Korea in 1871, or the genocide committed in subduing the Phillipines from 1899-1902 – would be greeted with blank stares by all but a small number of Americans. Similarly, the fact that the US sent gunboats more than 6,000 times into Latin American ports between 1860 and 1900 to ‘maintain order’. Or decorated general Smedley Butler’s assertion in 1935 that during his 34 years in the marine corps he spent most of his time acting as a ‘high class muscleman for big business, Wall Street and the bankers’, who was ‘a rackateer and a gangster for capitalism’ who helped in the ‘rape of half a dozen Latin American countries for the benefits of Wall Street’. The list goes on and on. Most Americans who love their country would nevertheless be horrified if they knew what had been done and was being done in their name.

    This about sums up Ben’s ‘blah, blah, blah’ response. Keep wearing the blinkers, Ben.

  63. #63 Chris O'Neill
    December 3, 2008

    Of course, Bush and many of his cronies, as well as a number of British politicians in the Blair cabinet (including Blair himself) are guilty of mass murder, serial violation of international law and, all things considered, in any war crimes tribunal would be given multiple life sentences.

    I’m still amazed how Blair was sucked in by Bush and his cronies to start a war on the flimsiest of and subsequently disproven evidence. I can only guess that Blair was hopelessly incompetent. I think this was important because lack of British support might (but only might) have changed the US decision to start an illegal war.

  64. #64 JB
    December 3, 2008

    Ben’s position is not just hypocritical.

    It is utterly illogical.

    And, most amazing of all, he does not even seem to realize it.

  65. #65 Jeff Harvey
    December 3, 2008

    Chris,

    I don’t think that Blair was incompetent. His support for the US policy in Iraq (and elsewhere) is a strategy that goes back through many British governments, and has to do with maintaining British influence in the world, particularly with respect to British corporations. I feel that, since the 1960s, successive British governments have realized that the best way they could retain influence in the world is to throw their weight behind the US with respect to foreign policy. This means that British business interests will reap the benefits in the wake of aggressive wars initiated by the US. Historian Mark Curtis discusses this area in some detail in his recent books examining British foreign polciy since World War II, ‘Web of Deceit’ and ‘Unpeople’.

  66. #66 ben
    December 3, 2008

    I’m still amazed how Blair was sucked in by Bush and his cronies to start a war on the flimsiest of and subsequently disproven evidence.

    I seem to recall that Clinton believed the evidence.

  67. #67 JB
    December 3, 2008

    When it comes to Blair, i think there is more than a little hubris involved.

    The guy clearly fashions himself as a latter-day Churchill who obviously saw the invasion of Iraq as an “easy” way to assure his place in the history books.

    How right he was, though not in the way he thought/planned.

    Like Bush, Blair is a pompous ass who has always gotten away with everything.

    This may be the first time that Blair has actually been caught in a lie.

    And what a doosey it was.

  68. #68 guthrie
    December 3, 2008

    Blair is a known dissembler and truth twister, and probably a liar as well. He has an entire chapter to himself in “The rise of political lying” by Peter Oborne.
    Examples from him or carried out on his behalf include:

    Denial of ever being a member of CND.
    Claiming that he voted in favour of a ban on foxhunting when he had in fact not even been present, and then blaming the bills failure on the lack of time when in fact it was more his fault due to lack of time allocated to it.
    Denial of his heart problems that came to light in 2003, when it was claimed that they were new and had not been seen before, when in fact the Queen and President Clinton both knew about them…
    Lying about knowing what sort of magazines Richard Desmond published.

    And various other examples. The sexed up dossier is just one with the most serious consequences.

  69. #69 JB
    December 3, 2008

    I guess I should have said “The first time the charge of lying actually stuck to Blair and had a major impact on his career — ie, the first time that he did not get away with it”.

    I suppose that some would argue that he did get away with it, but I would beg to differ.

    All a politician really has is his credibility in the public eye and once that goes, he’s really got nothing.

    Blair is a used up rag.

  70. #70 guthrie
    December 3, 2008

    But a very rich one who will milk his gvt contacts and experience as PM for the rest of his life; who will no doubt charge tens and hundreds of thousands of pounds for speaking; and still has people who think he was a nice bloke. The damage he has done is still being uncovered, and with Brown in charge will continue to be done (I never understood the fantasies of those who thought Brown would be significantly different).

  71. #71 Sortition
    December 3, 2008

    Jeff,

    > This about sums up Ben’s ‘blah, blah, blah’ response. Keep wearing the blinkers, Ben.

    Don’t pick on ben. He is in the minority here anyway. I think many of the Deltoid regulars would find your narrative hard to accept. See, for example, Levenson on the “Death in Iraq” thread.

  72. #72 Bernard J.
    December 3, 2008

    Ben said:

    I seem to recall that Clinton believed the evidence.

    in response to Chris O’Neill’s

    I’m still amazed how Blair was sucked in by Bush and his cronies to start a war on the flimsiest of and subsequently disproven evidence.

    Ben, is this the same Clinton who said “I did not have sexual relations with that woman”? Is this the same Clinton who displayed the same revealing body ticks when giving interviews in support of the WMD angle as he did when he dissembled about his Monica antics?

    Seriously mate, the Clintons understood that the US proletariat were all for shooting first and asking questions later, and they knew that Hillary was going to have a tilt at the White House this year. They were hardly going to diss the whole Iraq meme, regardless of the fact that it was a fact-free zone, because they would have dropped so fast off the radar that there would have been no coming back before the elections. George W. Bush whipped up an anti-Iraq frenzy for his own agenda, and the Democrats were largely willing to join the baying because to do otherwise would have marginalised their side.

    Either that or they were simply more gullible than words can describe.

    In hindsight the Clintons must be wondering if a bit more moral fortitude on their own behalf might have carried Hillary past Obama, but that’s something they, nor world, will now never know.

    This is why the rest of the world sees the US’s choice of leaders as pretty much a Tweedle Dum/Tweedle Dee dilema. Just as we have in Australia, and just as England seems to have.

    In this regard there are many other countries that are more deserving of the “bastion of democracy” title, than the self-delusions of such that these countries’ citizens are so happy to believe in.

    The ‘us vs them’ of politics in the Aus/UK/US triumvirate is largely a mirage. It reminds me of the Merry Melodies cartoons where the carnivores and the prey clock off at the end of a day of ‘work’, and say their civil goodbyes as they bundy.

    Except that the cartoon characters know how to demonstrate a modicum of civility.

  73. #73 Jeff Harvey
    December 4, 2008

    Sortition, I am happy for people not to accept my narratives, even though I don’t think Ben or Levenson or any others have been able to challenge whatsoever the empirical evidence that I presented. Moreover, Levenson said that he supported the Iraq war, while always failing to comment on the toll wrought by that war: 300,000 to a million dead, 4 million internally dispalced refugees, the country ‘destroyed, never to rise again’ in the words of historian Nir Rosen. The US has pretty well blown the country to smithereens, totally ravaged its infrastructure, and left in its wake a humanitarian disaster. Where’s the beef of Levenson’s points, Sortition?

    In fact, I am surprised anyone with half a brain would find many of the points I and others make re: US and western foreign policy to be controversial at all – this shows how indoctrinated many have become through depending on the punditocracy in the corporate MSM. What points did Levenson really make to undermine my thesis? I don’t take comic level analyses such as ‘Because the US does a lot of bad things they can also do good things’ very seriously at all. This kind of flimsy argument ignores the factors that underlie exactly why many developed nations support rogue regimes with appalling humans rights records. It also explains the economic and strategic reasons that our nations go to war, which have nix to do with the spreading of freedom, human rights and democracy and never have. I have read a number of declassified planning documents (one of the virtues in living in open socities in the west) whereas it appears that posters like Levenson and Ben haven’t. Until they are able to discuss the content of government planners which spells out the real agendas, then I am not too worried about the myths they promulgate of western benevolence and exceptionalism.

  74. #74 Barton Paul Levenson
    December 4, 2008

    At the end of one of his typically long and boring rants, Jeff Harvey writes:

    Until they are able to discuss the content of government planners which spells out the real agendas, then I am not too worried about the myths they promulgate of western benevolence and exceptionalism.

    Note how completely Jeff is unable to see outside his Chomskyan worldview. If I disagree with him about American foreign policy, it must mean I believe in “western benevolence and exceptionalism.” Black and white, guys. The US is evil. Everybody else (except Israel) is good. People who don’t admit that the US is the most evil regime in history think it’s a perfect country that smells like roses.

    Isn’t it amazing how a guy who is so good at his scientific field can be a complete babbling fool when it comes to something outside his field? Kind of like Shockley ranting about race and IQ.

  75. #75 Jeff Harvey
    December 4, 2008

    Barton, you are creating strawmen again. I didn’t say that the US is evil. I said that in its foregin policy it does many evil things, things that have cost millions of lives around the world in the past 50 years. In terms of other areas, like science, it has been one of (if not the) world leaders in many fields of endeavor.

    Most importantly, you never, ever, ever, ever (ad libitum) address the empirical evidence that I discuss. I think its pretty cut-and-dry, but all I get in return are the kinds of posts (like the last one) that attempt to smear Noam Chomsky and me by suggesting my worldview is one and exactly the same. I read a heluva lot you know, far more than Chomsky, and I have travelled very widely, and spoken with many people from around the world. All you can do is throw tantrums and accuse me of saying that things that I categorically did not. I am happy for you to disagree with me with actual facts on the ground to back them up. I have cited example after example of US foreign policies that have been horrific, bordering on genocidal, that are ignored by the MSM because they do not fit into the pre-determined worldview of the way we view ourselves.

    Chomsky is a formidable reader of planning documents and relevant history, and he is demonized for the sqame reasons I alluded to above. I would be happy to politely debate you on the relevant issues, but it appears to me that we are standing on very uneven playing fields. If we weren’t, you’d stop saying frankly vacuous things like, “If the US does bad things in the world, can’t it do good”. Sure it can, and does, but this does not mean that a nation which apparently expounds democracy and freedom and the like actually has a historical record in its foreign policies which is quite the opposite. The thrust of what I have been asking you is why? Again, I have spelled it out pretty clearly, and don’t believe things will change much in the coming years, but you never reply except with hand-waving. If you are going to call me a ‘babbling fool’ then show me where I am wrong. At present, it appears you are the babbling fool because you are the one resoprting to childish insults, and not me. And again, no evidence. This and the insults suggest that you’ve thown in the towel.

  76. #76 Jeff Harvey
    December 4, 2008

    One final nail in the coffin of Barton’s vacuous response: I also never ever said that every other country in the world (except Israel) is good. Barton, please cut-and-paste any point I have made on any thread here that even remotely resembles this remark of yours. We are talking about the Iraq war (which you apparently supported, whilst ignoring the humanitarian catastope it has caused), and I have argued that this war and the violation of international law by the US is not exceptional when it comes to the historical record. If one looks at US polies over the past 100 years or so towards brutal regimes one tends to find that the US has more often than not either helped install the leaders of these regimes (Pinochet, Suharto, Armas, The Shah, Saddam, Mbutu etc) or supported them in full knowledge of their crimes. This suggests that the US does not often abide by the stated intentions of its leaders to promote democracy and freedom abroad, but instead that it has an alternate agenda. I have asked Barton what he thinks that agenda is, and he never replies. I am fully aware that there are all kinds of horrendous regimes in the world today that are not supported by the US. But this does not exempt the US on the grounds that ‘its OK for us to undermine democracy and support dictatorships because others do it’.

    My parting question on this basis for Barton is: how would you view the record of American foreign policy over the past 50 years? Give examples.

  77. #77 Bernard J.
    December 4, 2008

    Barton.

    I am usually extremely reluctant to engage in the politics of war with anyone, and especially so with someone whose scientific commentary I read with enthusiasm and great appreciation. However it is with genuine sincerity that I am curious to know upon what basis you supported the invasion of Iraq prior to its commencement.

    Here in Australia there was, over many many months, a long line of interviews (almost exclusively by our public broadcaster, the ABC) with foreign correspondents, military personnel, weapons inspectors, academics, intelligence agents – the list goes on – who all said quite clearly, and who backed up their statements with verifiable references, that:

    1) Iraq had no terrorist ties with bin Laden or Al Queida, whether through financial support or through training assistance

    2) Iraq had no religious ties with bin Laden, and that in fact Saddam was antipathetic toward him

    3) Iraq had not bought uranium from Niger

    4) Iraq had no functional nuclear weapons capability, and that none was imminent. For example, the much-vaunted aluminium ‘centrifuge tubes’ were always declared by the interviewees, and later proved, to be for conventional missiles. (The tubes specifications were such that they could not have been used for centrifuges, but this didn’t seem to be a problem for MSM promoting the nuclear meme…)

    5) Iraq had no operable chemical or biological WMD capacity

    6) Iraq had no mobile WMD factories

    and so on, as I have said before in other posts.

    Note: this was all a priori documented analysis.

    Most conservative talking-heads, and their attendant MSM buddies, were scathing of the ‘leftist’ leanings of the ABC in reporting this material, but you know what? In retrospect they were damn-well spot-on, and the conservative leaders and their media apologists were all shown to be either lying, or at the very least incompetently wrong.

    The thing is, anyone who might have dispassionately listened to these interviews and reports would have easily seen the tenuous tissue of justification for invasion exactly for what it was – so it’s not as though the info wasn’t ‘out there’

    One example worth considering is that of Andrew Wilkie, an Office of National Assessments Officer who resigned from his position on the basis that the Howard conservative government was misrepresenting the case for invasion. Wilkie was pilloried for his stance and for his comments (Google him – the behaviour of government ministers of the time, including Alexander Downer, is shameful), however he was absolutely correct in his statements. Had he and all the others been listened to and had their evidence not been ignored, Australia would almost surely not have had the remotest justification for war.

    Successive US governments were Saddam’s big buddies for many years (Rumsfeld must wince whenever that handshake is aired), and during this time no big stink was raised about democracy nor about internal genocide. It was only after Saddam got uppity and threw his leash that the Bushes grew antagonistic to Saddam, and these simple facts makes it unfathomable that this is the real (hindsight) reason for invading.

    The only people I know who supported the attack are red-neck types who thought it was great to kill ‘towel-heads’, or otherwise more intelligent folk who just didn’t have any evidence to think upon other than the commercial junk-food version. Or media hacks who wanted ‘good’ material.

    I have an acquaintance in the Australian army who did a tour in Iraq. Before he went he was all for the Coalition of the Willing being there: after his return he had a different take. What did he learn the hard way, and at the coal face, that made him change his mind? How is it that such first-hand understanding of the ‘real’ Iraq is nevertheless negated by whatever rationale the CotW leaders persist in using? What a priori rationale was so strong that it negates (even if not now) such coal-face experience?

    You don’t strike me as a racist, and you are an intelligent person who definitely reads far beyond the commercial tripe that so many less inquisitive people consume. So how is it that you are so dogged in your conviction that the US should be in Iraq, ahead of any of half a dozen or more basket cases in Africa, or in Burma, or in Tibet, or any other truly troubled coner of the world?

    I repeat with genuine sincerity, in your opinion what justification is it that the US and its allies (which include my two beloved countries) have for the humanitarian catastrophe and the cultural ruin that we have inflicted upon the innocent population of the country, that is in any way proportional to the real, and not to the fabricated, crimes of its leader? Why do the crimes of the leaders of other countries not similarly inspire us to ‘free’ their citizenry, ‘collateral damage’ or no?

  78. #78 JB
    December 4, 2008

    As usual, former UN Weapons inspector in Iraq Scott Ritter has some comments about the Iraq war that will probably not sit well with some here. But as we all know, Scott Ritter has no clue (none whatsoever) what he is talking about (even if he did say before the US invaded that Saddam had gotten rid of his WMD and even if he did warn us that the war would be no picnic in the park)

    Scott Ritter:

    “The most important aspect of Bush’s interview rests not in what he admits, but rather in what he avoids, when he stated that the failure to find WMD in Iraq was “the biggest regret of all the presidency.” He doesn’t regret the decision that led America to war, or the processes that facilitated the falsification of a case for war. He doesn’t regret the violation of international law, the deaths of so many innocents, the physical destruction of Iraq or America’s loss of its moral high ground. He merely regrets the fact that his “gut feel” on Saddam’s WMD arsenal was wrong.

    In this, truth be told, Bush is no different from the majority of society in both America and Great Britain. It is easy to moralise today, armed with the certainty of 20/20 hindsight, that the invasion of Iraq was wrong, the case for war a fabrication. But how many people will admit that Iraq was better off under Saddam than it is today, ruined by conflict generated by the destruction of Iraqi society prompted by the toppling of the Iraqi dictator? How many people will decry the kangaroo court and the lynch mob that convicted and executed Saddam as a travesty of both law and justice? Unless one is willing to repudiate all aspects of the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq, inclusive of the termination of Saddam’s regime, then any indignation shown over the so-called intelligence failure represents nothing more than hypocrisy.

    //end Ritter quote

    I would only add that for a great many Americans, the only regret is that Bush handled the aftermath of the invasion so “incompetently”. As with Vietnam, they do not regret the war itself so much as the fact that the outcome is not completely to the liking of the United States (that the US “lost”). I realize some might argue otherwise for Iraq, but I don’t think even Bush is proud of the fact that so many US troops have died.

  79. #79 JB
    December 4, 2008

    guthrie says

    But [Blair is] a very rich one [use up rag] who will milk his gvt contacts and experience as PM for the rest of his life; who will no doubt charge tens and hundreds of thousands of pounds for speaking; and still has people who think he was a nice bloke.

    True enough, but (just like Bush) what Blair craves more than anything else is being viewed by history as a great war leader.

    Also like Bush, Blair has been deprived of that legacy — and it will undoubtedly haunt him no end until the day he dies.

    It is no surprise that Blair followed Bush like a little puppy dog. They both had the same goal/fatal flaw.

  80. #80 mgr
    December 4, 2008

    A bit of a comment on the Chomsky slur used by Barton. The analysis of US imperialistic tendencies towards other countries, including propping up unpopular dictators et al does not begin with Chomsky, but extends well into the 1950’s with left ward criticism of United Fruit Company and Somoza. I well recall my stepfather telling me about discussing these matters at grad school (at Wheaton no less).

    Now if he referred to Jeff’s commentary as Neitschemannian….

    Mike

  81. #81 z
    December 4, 2008

    The US had to attack Iraq in order to protect itself against an imminent threat. Very much as Germany had to attack Poland in 1939 in order to protect itself against an imminent threat.

  82. #82 Barton Paul Levenson
    December 5, 2008

    After accusing me of raising strawmen, Jeff Harvey posts:

    We are talking about the Iraq war (which you apparently supported, whilst ignoring the humanitarian catastope it has caused)

    Yeah, Jeff, I ignored the humanitarian catastrophe it caused. You haven’t actually paid attention to a damn thing I’ve said, have you? Ideological blinders. You continue to reply to what you would like me to have said rather than what I actually said.

  83. #83 Barton Paul Levenson
    December 5, 2008

    Bernard,

    Forget it, okay? You’re not reading what I said any more carefully than Jeff Harvey is, or you wouldn’t think I said we should be in Iraq ahead of anywhere else in the world, or suggest that only a racist could be in favor of invading Iraq, or spend several paragraphs refuting the idea that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, a point I never defended. Again, you’ve got firmly in your mind that there are only two camps on this issue, and I’m in the bad one and you’re in the good one. I find that cast of mind largely impenetrable. To explain where I’m actually coming from in a way that you would understand would mean I’ve have to go way, way back in your assumptions to show you where I differed, and frankly, I’m not willing to spend the time.

    My answers to people like you and Jeff Harvey are not meant for you and Jeff Harvey. They’re meant for the other readers who might otherwise be taken in by your posts. I would no more try to convince you that invading Iraq might be justified than I would try to convince Lubos Motl that anthropogenic global warming is happening. Nonetheless, I will answer Motl’s posts when he posts misleading crap.

  84. #84 Barton Paul Levenson
    December 5, 2008

    JB quotes Scott Ritter:

    How many people will decry the kangaroo court and the lynch mob that convicted and executed Saddam as a travesty of both law and justice?

    This is what I mean about the kind of blinders worn by the ideological left. Trying and executing Saddam Hussein was a “travesty of both law and justice.” How many people will decry it? I guess Scott Ritter and JB will. Poor Saddam! We treated that man so unjustly, and he’d done so little to deserve it!

  85. #85 Jeff Harvey
    December 5, 2008

    Um er, argh, in another thread, Barton wrote:

    “I think the idea of invading Iraq and overthrowing Saddam was a good one. I think the disaster aspects are from the incompetent way it was done. We could have run a much better occupation, as we did in Germany and Japan” (he could have mentioned the success of Russia’s occupations of eastern European countries too, but then again the Russians are bad guys; see below). Then, in another thread, he says, “I think overthrowing genocidal dictators is a good idea. Saddam was a genocidal dictator, therefore he needed to be overthrown”. He then lays out a six-point plan why the invasion was handled badly. I am sure that in hindsight the Russians said the same thing about their invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. If only they’d handled it better, along the lines of Barton’s advice for US forces in Iraq, and they would have avoided the catastrophe that their invasion turned out to be. The people of Afghanistan would have emnbraced the occupation and welcomed their invaders with open arms. What’s the bloody difference? Oh, of course, The Russians are perennial bad guys who conduct their foreign policy out of naked political and economic self-interest whereas we (the US) do it as a magnanimous gesture to spread freedom and human rights. We are always the good guys and any officially designated enemies are the bad guys. Barton’s thesis thus hinges on the assumption that the overthrow of Saddam was based on humanitarian motives, and that Bush and the neocon nutcases in his administration should have looked at the history textbooks (Japan and Germany, but not Viet Nam) as a way to conduct their occupation. What else can one conclude about an illegal war that violated both the UN Charter (to which the US is a signatory) and, by association, the US constitution.

    When is Barton going to wake up the the realization that our governments aren’t a whole lot different from the Russians (or the Chinese of any other hyper-power) in terms of the reasoning behind out political and military activities. I have asked Barton innumerable times to spell out why he thinks the US invaded Iraq. Most importantly, why is the US very choosy about which genocidal dictators it wishes to overthrow (= very few of them) and which ones it wishes to support (= very many of them)?. Why has the US had a history of not only supporting many genocidal dictators, but of helping them into power in the first place?

    In Barton’s plan, some of which craps all over international law, he said that the US should not have fired basically the entire Sunni army, should have ‘taken out’ (= assassinate) leaders like Moqtada Al Sadr who didn’t do what they were told by the invaders, sent Viet Nam style troop numbers into the country, and various other points the prevention of looting and of teaching soldiers relevant history of the country. Of course, all of this presupposes that the intentions of the invaders were humanitarian and thus benign. If only the Ruskies had done the same prior to their Afghan adventure! But to anyone with half a brain it should be obvious why the US went into Iraq, but never would have even thought of venturing into episodes against other killers and torturers that they have routinely supported over the years (a good example being Suharto). Bernard has spelled it out in several excellent posts. I have discussed the real motives, harking back to the now notorious 1950 State Department memo, as well as Eisenhower’s 1958 report examining why the US is held in such low regard by people living in the Middle East, especially lands rich in oil. Barton ignores that lot, and instead focuses on pedantics.

    Effectively, Barton’s argument reads: Screw international law. Screw the United States constitition. Screw that fact that the US – as well as Russia, China etc., but that should be obviou – support brutal dictators when and where it suits their political/economic/strategic agenda. In the case of the US, this fact alone explains why Bush and co. did not implement his 6-point plan. He’s answered the question himself. Because they didn’t care about Iraq or of its people – they had other things in mind that precipitated the invasion. Like control over some of the biggest oil fields in the world; having their hand on the spigot. To reiterate: ‘The greatest material prize in history and a source of stupendous strategic power’ (State Department, 1950); ‘any country controlling the region has veto power over the global economy’ (Kennan); ‘control of these countries gives the US critical leverage’ (Brezinski).

  86. #86 Bernard J.
    December 5, 2008

    Barton.

    I did not say or even imply that you were racist. I said the only people I know who barracked for invasion were racists, or ill-informed but well-meaning, or media hacks after a story. I am simply trying to understand where you are coming from, because I specifically excluded you from these three options.

    I don’t see that there are only two camps (life is never that simple), but there were two choices – to invade or not to invade. I happen to believe that invasion was wrong, and I am trying to fathom why you think that invasion was right. Especially so when the reasons used were a priori recognisable as tenuous, and the death toll amongst innocent civilians and indeed within coalition troops was easily predictable.

    Saddam was certainly an arsehole, but I simply don’t see how that excuses our supposedly civilised nations from adhering to the moral standards we so proudly espouse, but frequently seem to ignore. For what it’s worth, no matter his crimes I believe that he was treated unjustly – if my neighbour was treated the same way I would be outraged. It has nothing to do with the fact that he was documentably guilty, but that we dropped our ‘innocent until proven…’ process, and the minimum starndard of human respect that should go along with it.

    He should have been tried outside of the country, by the UN, and personally I think that he should have been given life in prison – IMHO any country that practises the death penalty has lost a certain moral high ground.

    And I repeat: there are so many other criminal leaders around the world, who have perpetrated heinous acts upon their citizenry. Really, if invasion of Iraq was appropriate, what other countries would you consider should be invaded by the ‘Coalition’? Is the rationale based on a count of people killed by the offending governments, and/or how they are killed, and/or why they are killed? Is it based upon these leaders having directly ordered such crimes, or are indirect chains of responsibility also to be considered? What of political and/or cultural differences between the West and other nations – how do these factor into determining culpability and reason for invading?

    Barton, I am not trying to be rude, nor am I trying to argue with you. As I said before, it is with extreme reluctance that I engaged in a conversation of this nature in the first place.

    I am just trying to understand the reasoning that the Iraq invasion was right.

  87. #87 Chris O'Neill
    December 5, 2008

    BPL:

    People who don’t admit that the US is the most evil regime in history think it’s a perfect country that smells like roses.

    Where did anyone say this? The point is that that there is a lot of evil about it, having had a long history of being violently selfish.

  88. #88 Jeff Harvey
    December 5, 2008

    Bernard, To follow on from your excellent points, I think that we need to go beyond our individual opinions as to whether the invasion of Iraq was right or wrong, because this is pointless; the question arises as to its legality under international law. At Nuremberg, the Nazi defendents argued that their invasions of Poland and Czechoslovakia were fully legal under Nazi German law, but of course this was irrelevant. Under international law, these invasions were entirely illegal, and the leaders were justifiably tried for the crimes and many were executed or given very long prison sentences.

    Many argue similarly that, under US law, the invasion of Iraq was legal, but this has no more basis in legality on the international stage than the German invasion of Poland did. The Iraq invasion was illegal; moreover, under the US constitition, it was also illegal: The U.S. Constitution compels the need for a Security Council vote, since the US is a signatory of the UN Charter, thus giving the Charter the status of a treaty guaranteed by the Constitution itself. The Supremacy Clause of the Constitution in Article VI, Section 2, specifically grants international treaties the same status as the Constitution itself and all state and federal laws enacted in accord with the Constitution. This cannot be said more clearly. Once national and international laws are consigned to the trash heap, then we are reverting to the law of the jungle. It will be of little consolation when the Chinese or Russians or any other countries violate international law and we raise this point (as we have done): by violating the UN charter, the US has basically said that international law and its own constitution means nothing when it comes to pursuing a political or strategic agenda (as it clearly did in Iraq).

    Most importantly, like it or not, the impetus to overthrow brutal dictators like Saddam must come from the people in these themselves, no matter how abhorrent they are(and no-one with any sense defends Saddam’s vile atrocities). The Iraq war further exposed naked US hypocrisy in the world as I have said many times. It is patently clear that the US has been super-selective with respect to which regimes it supports, and a look at the historical record reveals that it has quite strongly supported, armed, aided and abetted regimes with records that rival (or even exceed) Saddam’s for brutality (e.g. Suharto).

    To come back to Bernards final point, the reasoning for invading Iraq should be obvious. The US would not have ever considered invading the country if (a) its main export had been potatoes, and (b) if it had been remotely capable of defending itself. It was basically defenseless and certainly from an economic and strategic perspective worth the cost. It was also easy to manipulate public opinion into believeing that Saddam’s regime was a dire threat to us in the west.

    Finally, if we in the developed world start to go down the ‘humanitarian imperialism’ road, then we’d have to completely overhaul our foreign policy agendas, eliminate the utter hypocrisy that chracterizes them and change the ways in which we deal with poor nations. Much of our economic wealth stems from the fact that we plunder the resources from other less developed countries; this should be hardly surprising but is well described in books by economists like Tom Athanasiou, Patrick Bond, and others. Until I see a wholesale change in the way the rich world treates the poor world, I will continue to view the motives of ‘humanitarian wars’ with utter scepticism, no matter who wages them.

  89. #89 Barton Paul Levenson
    December 6, 2008

    Jeff Harvey, still in his ideological lock box, posts:

    The people of Afghanistan would have emnbraced the occupation and welcomed their invaders with open arms. What’s the bloody difference? Oh, of course, The Russians are perennial bad guys who conduct their foreign policy out of naked political and economic self-interest whereas we (the US) do it as a magnanimous gesture to spread freedom and human rights. We are always the good guys and any officially designated enemies are the bad guys. Barton’s thesis thus hinges on the assumption that the overthrow of Saddam was based on humanitarian motives, and that Bush and the neocon nutcases in his administration should have looked at the history textbooks (Japan and Germany, but not Viet Nam) as a way to conduct their occupation.

    Nope. Still completely misreading what I said. You are going from “BPL said invading Iraq was a good idea” to “BPL thinks the Bush administration’s motives for invading Iraq was good.” You don’t seem able to understand what I mean, and I can only conclude that you don’t want to, because God knows I’ve explained it often enough.

    When is Barton going to wake up the the realization that our governments aren’t a whole lot different from the Russians (or the Chinese of any other hyper-power) in terms of the reasoning behind out political and military activities.

    Right, Jeff. The USA is just like the USSR invading eastern Europe or China invading Tibet. Jesus, talk about ideological blinders.

  90. #90 Barton Paul Levenson
    December 6, 2008

    Bernard posts:

    Saddam was certainly an arsehole, but I simply don’t see how that excuses our supposedly civilised nations from adhering to the moral standards we so proudly espouse, but frequently seem to ignore. For what it’s worth, no matter his crimes I believe that he was treated unjustly – if my neighbour was treated the same way I would be outraged. It has nothing to do with the fact that he was documentably guilty, but that we dropped our ‘innocent until proven…’ process, and the minimum starndard of human respect that should go along with it.

    Saddam was given a trial where he was presumed innocent, was allowed to have counsel and to have his counsel call and cross-examine witnesses, and was permitted to testify himself. He was found guilty not because he was railroaded, but because the evidence that he had done what he was accused of was overwhelming. Nobody dropped either the presumption of innocence or human respect. Whoever told your otherwise was lying to you.

  91. #91 Jeff Harvey
    December 6, 2008

    Barton, this is my last post on this thread. I really don’t think we are getting anywhere. As I said above, I am not wearing idealogical blinders; I am saying that countries and their elites act out of self-interest and this dictates their foreign policy, irrespective of who they are. I do not deny that the US is a very open society and that our ability to have discussions like this reflects that. But I am sorry to say that there are few if any differences in the agendas the Soviet Union had for invading Afghanistan and the US had for invading Iraq. Both were based on expansion into a region of great strategic and economic importance and both were about power. This explains why the US has supported and continues to arm and back many vile regimes, just as the Russians did and still do. Our problem, like many in the west (and in China and Russia for that matter) is that we fail to apply the same standards to our governments that we do to ‘official enemies’. We are drip-fed propaganda from the day we are born instilling us with the idea that our system is better (it certainly is internally) and that this is also reflected in our foreign policy (which it sadly it often isn’t). The foreign policy record of the US, like that of the Soviet Union and China, for that matter, as well as the UK, France etc., is abominable. Abhorrent. There’s volumes of evidence showing that over the past 60 years our elected governments have been actively complicit in senseless butchery and in deterring democracy in many places where it has threatened to take hold. The only reason any of this should be considered ‘controversial’ is because our media and corporate elites, along with our governments, have been very efficient at downplaying it, while focusing laser-like on the atrocities committed by our enemies. This harks back to the ‘one way moral/legal screen’ in our countries that international law attoreny Richard Falk talked about a few years ago.

    This also explains why you are somewhat hypocritical in defending Saddam’s kangaroo court trial (which as Bernard said should have been carried out under UN auspices), because I have yet to hear you suggest that Bush, Wolfowitz, Cheney, Feith, Libby, as well as Blair, Straw, Hoon etc. be tried for their part in violating international law in an act of aggression that has virtually destroyed a country and left between 300,000 and a million dead and 4 million internally displaced as refugees. Given these facts, I can only conclude that you can’t wait for the trial of ‘our’ war criminals to begin. Or are we exempt from international law? And if so, why?

    In summary, I am sorry if I have appeared heavy handed, but its easy for us to bicker across the ocean while our leaders get away with crimes against humanity; crimes that will never be punished and hardly publicized, destined to go down the memory hole like most of our past crimes.

  92. #92 Bernard J.
    December 6, 2008

    Barton.

    Permit me to tell you a couple of short anecdotes.

    When I was a boy I was raised in a very fundamental Christian way. However I was a voracious reader and a sciency sort of a kid, and by the time I had reached the age of about ten I had read sufficient biology and geology to understand that the creationist stories were no more than parables. It didn’t take much longer to figure out that the stories of the flood, and of virgin births and so on were also parables. No-one forced me from one ‘ideology’ to another: it was simple assessment of the evidence before me.

    During the same period my school colleagues instilled in me a vitriolic homophobia that was typical of Australian schoolboys in the 70s and 80s. Again, it took for me to extend myself past my initial upbringing, by meeting, working with, and befriending gay and lesbian people, to realise that what I had learned as a young person was all a load of bollocks. I am embarrassed now to think back upon that aspect of my boyhood, especially as my eldest daughter’s godfather is a wonderful chap… (he even makes jokes that he is the fairy godfather, but that’s off-topic).

    In the 90s, before I had completely learned to deconstruct the swill that is the MSM reporting in Australia, I was indignant about the ‘rash’ of ‘illegal’ boat-people, those ‘untrustworthy’ queue-jumpers and job-stealers, and even though I was opening my mind in many other areas I still harboured a quiet resentment at what I perceived were undesirable people and cultures. And this at a time when was learning to deconstruct so much other political spin and mumbo-jumbo presented by our leaders and media.

    I well remember the day in 2001 when the Norwegian ship Tampa was reported to be sailing toward West Australia with a boatload of refugees rescued from a sinking boat. There was much talk in the media of how these people were illegally entering the country and how they were a threat to our way of life, and I found myself saying to a friend that the navy ship that intercepted the Tampa should have just torpedoed it and be done with the matter.

    And at that point I stopped, and thought about what I had just said. Several weeks before I’d heard a media commentator say how the Coalition government always released its bad news on a Friday afternoon, because by the time people got over their weekends away from the television and newspapers they’d forget the bad news and be hopefully distracted by a more recent event.

    The Friday before the Tampa incident there was a report about how the Queensland Liberal part had been caught rorting the recently introduced Goods and Services tax, and the scandal was shaping up to be the dealbreaker that would see the federal Liberal/National coalition ousted at the upcoming federal election. The Tampa was the godsend that John Howard needed to divert the country’s attention from the GST rort, and he played it to the fullest extent.

    The thing is, I realised after my deplorable comment at the first report of the Tampa what I had done – I’d swallowed the MSM’s line – and I also realised how the government would play it. And play it they did. The racism grew to monumental proportions, with (known) false claims of other boat-people throwing children overboard being promoted for weeks, and with the expansion of the ‘detention’ (read concentration) camps in which genuine assylum seekers were imprisoned for up to 5 years or more for the simple act of seeking refuge in our country. It is documented that folk who were sent home, on the basis that they had nothing to fear there, were killed upon their return.

    The point is though that after a deep enough analysis I came to my own understanding of the political machinations of my own government to attempt to pull a lot of wool over the eyes of my fellow Australians.

    There is much less ideology in my beliefs today than I had as a boy. I would like to think that there is none at all that isn’t predicated upon firm, universal, humanitarian bases, but I understand that I am a continually evolving being and that it would be arrogance to think otherwise. And I know that to reach this point I have had to spent years in careful introspection and challenge of what I had learned.

    I see a similar careful and logical analysis in your excellent postings on climate science and on other scientific subjects, but I have to say that I simply cannot see that you apply a similar non-value-laden approach to your views on the Middle-east. You do not carefull dissect Jeff’s detailed points, points that are thoroughly documented in multiple fora.

    If you took the time to leave aside the accusations of ideological motivation on Jeff’s behalf, and carefully explained exactly where it is that his propositions fail on the basic of fact and logic, then your rebuttals might have credibility. If you similarly took the time to detail the rational basis for justifying the invasion and subsequent carnage in Iraq, or at least linking to such a justification, you might find that there is then an engagement of the substantive matters that avoids matters of perceived ideology.

    Jeff has spent a great amount of time detailing the political manouvreings of governments around the world, and as far as I can see he has not been especially biased in targeting the Western coalition countries. If it smarts to read these comments, it might be that it is because there is an underlying truth that is uncomfortable for the citizens of such ‘paragons of democracy’ (as our respective countries claim to be) to face.

    If Jeff is incorrect in any of his claims, use the scientific processes of logic and evidence to prove it. Leave aside the personal barbs. If you have a solid justification for supporting the war, lay it out in precise for us to analyse and understand.

    From where I sit at the moment I cannot see that you are applying a logical approach to your stance. Rather, I see a similar approach to the one that I adopted based on what I was taught by others, as opposed to a considered winnowing of wheat from chaff.

    I have to echo Jeff’s last paragraph above, and especially the last sentence about forgetting the past mistakes of our own countries. There are few in the world who are free from such sins, whatever good that any of us have earned or striven for, and if anyone permits themselves to think otherwise they are in a fashion culpable for any repetition of these mistakes and for these crimes.

  93. #93 Chris O'Neill
    December 6, 2008

    You are going from “BPL said invading Iraq was a good idea” to “BPL thinks the Bush administration’s motives for invading Iraq was good.”

    Invading Iraq was an appalling idea. Not many people here are starting from the presumption that “invading Iraq was a good idea”.

  94. #94 JB
    December 6, 2008

    Barton Levenson summarizes/characterizes Scott Ritter’s statement about Saddam’s trial and execution thus:

    Poor Saddam! We treated that man so unjustly, and he’d done so little to deserve it!

    Here again is what Ritter actually said:

    How many people will decry the kangaroo court and the lynch mob that convicted and executed Saddam as a travesty of both law and justice?

    Ritter’s question deals purely with the way that Saddam’s trial, conviction and execution were handled — iwe, with the manner in which “justice” was meted out.

    It makes no claim (or even implication) whatsoever that Saddam did not commit crimes. It does not speak at all to Saddam’s guilt or innocence (ie, “he’d done so little to deserve it!”)

    Barton, if you truly believe that you have accurately summarized (in your snide way) what Ritter said, I’d say you either have some significant trouble with reading comprehension or are in dire need of some reading glasses.

  95. #95 JB
    December 6, 2008

    Jeff Harvey says:

    “Under international law, these invasions [of Poland and Czechoslovakia by the Nazi’s] were entirely illegal, and the leaders were justifiably tried for the crimes and many were executed or given very long prison sentences… The Iraq invasion was illegal [according to international law]; moreover, under the US constitution, it was also illegal.”

    But as we all know, only those who invade illegally, lay waste to the country and then suffer defeat and are forced to surrender are ever tried and sentenced.

    To the victor goes the immunity (along with the spoils, soils and oils).

    Can you envision any scenario under which Bush and/or Blair would ever be allowed to be tried in an international war crimes tribunal? (to say nothing of actually rendered up to such a tribunal)

    I can’t.

  96. #96 Barton Paul Levenson
    December 7, 2008

    JB writes:

    Ritter’s question deals purely with the way that Saddam’s trial, conviction and execution were handled — iwe, with the manner in which “justice” was meted out.

    And I addressed that at length, which you apparently missed. It wasn’t a kangaroo court, it was a court. Once again — pay attention this time:

    1. Saddam was allowed legal counsel.
    2. His counsel was allowed to subpoena witnesses and cross-examine witnesses.
    3. Saddam himself was allowed to testify at length.
    4. The trial started with a presumption of innocence.
    5. Due process was observed.

    Saddam was convicted because eyewitnesses and documents shown he had ordered the genocidal policies he was charged with. Why you, or Ritter, call that a kangaroo court is beyond me. I think you simply don’t understand what a “kangaroo court” is. You’re so willing to believe the US railroaded the man you even missed the point that it wasn’t the US conducting the trial.

  97. #97 Jeff Harvey
    December 7, 2008

    Bernard, Thanks for the support. I am not trying to bludgeon Barton; I have made a number of arguments based on observations made by senior US planners where its easy (or should be) to tie them together to spell out a political/corporate agenda. The agenda should not be difficult to elucidate. Barton has spent the last few posts discussing why he thinks the trial Saddam received was a fair one. Several of us beg to differ, and wonder why it could not have been held under more international auspices. But since there are kangaroo courts being also conducted for Guantanemo detainees, its small wonder that the US raised little objection to Saddam’s trial.

    Furthermore, Barton has failed ot address a related point: why are Bush, Blair and their cronies not being summoned to appear before a criminal court for the breaking of international (and US constitutional) law, and why won’t anybody be holding their breath for this to happen? Given that Barton admits the US has done ‘bad things’ in the past (an understatement, but I will let it stand) why aren’t US leaders ever thought of being summoned before international courts from crimes against humanity? Why are our leaders also exempt from justice? Given that the US also helped to arm Saddam, aren’t any of our politicians gulity at least in being complicit? There are countless examples where, if the US has not actually pulled the trigger, it has provided arms and logistics to regimes in full knowledge of what they are doing with them. So, Barton, when are you going to argue that some western leaders should also be tried for crimes against humanity or at least of being complicit in them? Or do you believe that our leaders are ‘too moral’ to ever be considered thusly?

  98. #98 JB
    December 7, 2008

    Barton,

    You have missed entirely (or possibly just conveniently ignored) the main thrust of my last post altogether: your mis-characterization of what Ritter said.

    What you just posted immediately above does NOT address your mis-characterization of Scott Ritter’s question. (“he’d done so little to deserve it!”)

    Apparently you DO have a rather serious problem with reading comprehension.

  99. #99 JB
    December 9, 2008

    Barton says: “You’re so willing to believe the US railroaded the man you even missed the point that it wasn’t the US conducting the trial.”

    Wow. That’s complete fantasy. I never said or even implied anything of the sort (nor did Ritter, for that matter).

    The irony of your claim that those of us who have actually approached the Iraq issue with some modicum of intelligence and reason — ie, trying to understand the actual history of the country and region and the fact that Saddam was basically the ONLY thing holding the different sects in Iraq together, and the only think keeping the Sunnis and Shiites from each other’s throats — are wearing “ideological blinders” is almost too much to bear.

    While many (myself included) were opposed to the US invasion based largely on a reading of that history (eg, as laid out by Sandra Mackey in her book “The Reckoning: Iraq And The Legacy Of Saddam Hussein”), the architects of the Iraq invasion threw history to the winds and based their decisions on little more than pure, unadulterated ideology. Paul Wolfowitz, was essentially obsessed with the completely fanciful idea of using Iraq as an “easy” means to bring democracy to the entire Middle East. As he admitted in an interview, the WMD rationale for the invasion was simply “the one reason everyone could agree on”.

    What happened post invasion (eg, fighting between Sunnis and Shiites and consequent “divisions” that have developed within the country) was entirely predictable. In fact, people like Mackey got it right.

    Finally, Barton. It is you who do not understand what a kangaroo court is. being “allowed to have counsel and to have his counsel call and cross-examine witnesses, and permitted to testify” is hardly sufficient to ensure a fair trial.

    And it is not simply a matter of being “fair” to Saddam. It is a matter of demonstrating to ordinary Iraqis and to the rest of the world that the current Iraqi government is going to act in a manner which holds dear the very things for which Saddam Hussein had utter contempt: individual rights and freedoms, respect for the written law, etc

  100. #100 JB
    December 10, 2008

    I wonder, Barton,

    Does believing that this was wrong mean that one is wearing “ideological blinders”?

    I would not categorize my country (the US) as “evil”, but we have certainly done our share of evil things over the years. dropping 260-million “bombies” on Laos (to “keep the dominoes from falling”) certainly ranks near the top of that list.

    Burying one’s head in the sand and ignoring such actions by the US does not change that.

    AAA tells alcoholics that the first step to recovery is recognizing and admitting that one has a drinking problem.

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