Respectful Insolence

I was sitting in my office around 7:45 AM yesterday morning, going through my messages and mail in preparation for a long day of animal protocol and grant writing interspersed with meetings, the radio playing in the background. It was Curtis and Kuby, the usual talking heads show with a conservative paired with a liberal that I listen to when I get up, on the way to work, and even in my office if I’m not operating, in clinic, or otherwise out of my office in the morning. Bret Schundler, former candidate for Governor of New Jersey was being interviewed about the election results and the loss of the House of Representatives and possibly the Senate to the Democrats, and he made a historical analogy that literally made me drop what I was doing and listen in amazement. Unfortunately, I can’t find a transcript of exactly what he said anywhere; so I’ll paraphrase it now, while I can still remember.

In his warmup, Schundler argued that because in his estimation the Democrats had every advantage this election, including the press endorsing so many Democrats and an unpopular war presided over by the incumbent President, coupled with the fact that this is the sixth year of a two-term Presidency, when the party in power usually loses seats, the observation that the Democrats “only” captured 27 Republican seats or so was to him an indication that they actually didn’t really do all that well at all compared to how well they should have done. This was just standard damage control and excuse-making, nothing more than a talking point already being parroted by Republican talking heads everywhere since election night. It didn’t even cause me to look up from my desk. His next point did.

Schundler went on to compare the war in Iraq to the American Civil War (I say “American Civil War” to avoid confusion with a situation that is rapidly degenerating into a civil war in Iraq) and the elections of 2006 to the election of 1864. His rationale? In essence, he argued that in 1864 the American Civil War was going poorly and that Lincoln was in danger of not being reelected because of it. After a string of Northern victories (which Schundler failed even to mention, making it seem as though the war had been going badly for the North since the very beginning), by 1864, the war had bogged down. Were it not for General Sherman’s march through the South and capture of Atlanta in September followed by Cavalry General Phillip Sheridan’s decisive victory in the Shenandoah Valley in October, Lincoln may well have lost the election. In Schundler’s mind, the 2006 election was an analogous situation, except that no victory has materialized to save the Republicans’ hide. Schundler then went on to say that, if the Democrats had won in 1864, they likely would have sued for peace (probably true, given that the Democratic platform of 1864 called for “compromise” with the South) and that today slavery would still exist (highly unlikely, although it may have continued for a while longer).

Yes, Schundler was seriously arguing that a vote for the Democrats in 2006 is akin to voting for defeat and the continuation of slavery 142 years ago, and implying that the Democratic victory on Tuesday might lead to the same disaster that might have occurred had Lincoln lost in 1864. He finished by stating that Lincoln was remembered because he steadfastly stayed the course and predicted that President Bush would be remembered similarly.

Yeah, right.

Can anyone point out the flaws in this historical analogy? I can, and the Civil War isn’t even the area of history that I’m most knowledgeable about (World War II is).

Boiling it down, to Schundler, Bush = Lincoln; American Civil War = Iraq War; and 1864 = 2006. This was one I hadn’t heard before. I later learned that this idiotic analogy has been around for a while , at least since the 2004 election (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9). I even found an article from October 2004 that debunked at least one aspect (the military aspect) of this comparison:

That’s what somebody needs to say to the diehards yammering about the Civil War: this ain’t 1864, you ain’t Abraham Lincoln, and Iraq ain’t Northern Virginia.

Two vital differences that show you what nonsense these parallels are:

1. Conventional wars like the Civil War are decided on the battlefield; massacres of civilians are optional. In guerrilla war, massacring enemy civilians is the whole damn point.

2. Conventional wars end when one side’s army can’t stop the opposing army (Lee in 1865). Guerrilla wars BEGIN when the locals’ army is defeated in battle and occupied by the enemy (Baghdad 2003).

I realize this is all pretty basic for anybody who knows contemporary war, but jeez, nobody out there seems to know it. Most of all, people won’t face the fact that guerrilla war is dirty by design. That’s the whole idea: making the occupier so sick of you, so disgusted with what you do to him, and what he has to do to you, that he’ll just go home. That’s what happened to the French in Algeria, the Israelis in South Lebanon, and us in Nam. The idea of guerrilla war is as simple and horrible as eye-gouging: the locals care more about the place than the occupier, so they’ll outlast him, out-atrocity him.

There are, of course, many other much better reasons why the two wars are not analogous and the 2006 election is not the same as 1864, which, oddly enough, the article above failed to mention. The most obvious difference that renders any comparisons between the Civil War and Iraq specious is that the American Civil War was clearly a war for national survival. The very fate of the Union itself depended upon the outcome, and the consequences for the U.S. would have been catastrophic if the North had lost. Indeed, in that case, the Union would almost certainly have remained sundered, probably irrevocably. If we pull out of Iraq, although Iraq may descend into chaos, our nation will not fall. We do not depend on victory in Iraq for the survival of our nation. Having to withdraw would be a black eye and a humiliation, for sure, and it would allow Iraq to descend into chaos and sectarian violence, but U.S. would go on. Consequently, opposing the war in Iraq now does not quite have anywhere near the same import as opposing the Civil War did then. Another critical difference between the Civil War and Iraq is that Lincoln did not preemptively attack the South to start the Civil War. Indeed, several Southern states had already seceded before Lincoln even took office, and the South struck first militarily at Fort Sumter. Bush, on the other hand, started the Iraq War. It was a war of choice, not necessity. Consequently, when things went wrong, the American public quite rightly started to wonder exactly what cause it is that we are fighting and sacrificing our best and bravest for, particularly when it no longer seems possible to keep Iraqis from killing each other in large numbers. Bush appropriately bears full responsibility for the morass that Iraq has become and has finally paid a political price for his incompetence in conducting the war and his hubris for launching the war in the first place; the only surprise is that it took three and a half years for the bill to come due. Finally, the Civil War, unlike the Iraq war, was fought on American soil. Not only that, but it literally pitted brother against brother and produced mass slaughter hitherto unknown, with hundreds of thousands of dead. In light of the continued carnage, it is not surprising that there would be a contingent that would question whether preserving the Union was worth the cost, and not all of these people were Copperheads, a faction of Democrats with southern sympathies now generally viewed by many as defeatists, if not outright traitors.

In reality, this whole 2006=1864 analogy is a rather transparent attempt to paint Democrats who oppose Bush’s conduct of the war as being akin to the Democrats in 1864 arguing for an end to the Civil War, fallaciously linking their lack of concern about the continuation of slavery or the sundering of the United States with the consequences of pulling out of Iraq before “the job is done.” Of course, what advocates of this analogy fail to mention is that another reason some Democrats wanted to sue for peace was because of the imperial powers that Lincoln had taken on in his quest to save the Union and because feared he would become a dictator if the war continued, as resolved in the Democratic Party platform of 1864:

Resolved, that the aim and object of the Democratic party are to preserve the federal Union and the rights of the States unimpaired ; and they hereby declare that they consider the administrative usurpation of extraordinary and dangerous powers not granted by the Constitution; the subversion of the civil by the military laws in States not in insurrection; the arbitrary military arrest, imprisonment, trial, and sentence of American citizens in States where civil law exists in full force; the suppression of freedom of speech and of the press; the denial of the right of asylum; the open and avowed disregard of State rights; the employment of unusual test oaths, and the interference with and denial of the right of the people to bear arms in their defense, as calculated to prevent a restoration of the Union and the perpetuation of a government deriving its just powers from the consent of the governed.

And it is true that Lincoln did suspend a number of civil liberties in his conduct of the war, including the right of habeus corpus, decisions that were incredibly controversial at the time and provoke a fair amount of argument about whether they were justified even today. The Constitution does allow the temporary suspension of habeus corpus in “cases of rebellion and when the public safety requires it,” but Lincoln’s decision was still not viewed favorably among many. In essence, Lincoln is viewed as a great President now because the North won and history for the most part has vindicated his decisions. If Lincoln had lost , ended up with a stalemate, or been forced into a negotiated settlement with the Confederacy, chances are that he would not be nearly so favorably viewed today. Also remember that, at the time he made these decisions, it was not as paranoid-sounding as it is now to fear Lincoln’s becoming a dictator. And, although it may seem wrong-headed now, it was not unreasonable for the Democrats to criticize Lincoln’s assumption of extraordinary powers, and, in the context of a war that had claimed hundreds of thousands of American lives with no end in sight, it was not entirely unreasonable to question whether the price of victory was worth the cost. It’s only with the hindsight of 141 years that we realize that pressing for the total defeat of the Confederacy was the right thing for Lincoln to do. We often forget, however, that people living while these events were actually occuring didn’t have the advantage of that hindsight and couldn’t foresee the outcome anymore than we living today can foresee the outcome of the Iraq war.

When you strip down these analogies to their core, they boil down to this: Lincoln held firm during the Civil War even at the potential cost of losing the 1864 election, and he’s remembered as a great president who saved the Union. Opponents of Bush and the Republicans are no more than the 21st century equivalent of the pro-South (and presumably therefore traitorous) Copperheads. Because Bush stands fast on Iraq and is defending the security of the country against all enemies, history will also judge him to be a great President, just like Lincoln. It’s a silly analogy that’s about as valid as comparing apples and oranges. They’re both similar in that they’re fruit, but beyond that the differences make such a comparison less than illuminating in most cases.

It’s a measure of the ignorance of the American public over history that such bad historical analogies sound plausible to so many.

Any historians out there who’d like to comment?

Comments

  1. #1 mark a
    November 9, 2006

    Very interesting analogy and one I hadn’t seen until you pointed it out. As usual, you did a splendid job of deconstructing it. here is another one for you though, I asked my 14 year old niece this weekend this question. If I pay you $10 a week and you spend it all, but then you decide you want me to have a little more money and now I only have to pay you $5 a week but you start spending even more money what’s going to happen? her response “I won’t have anymore money.”

  2. #2 Prup aka Jim Benton
    November 9, 2006

    A very good analysis, but it misses a couple of things. And because it does, it gives a very good example of how the Republican lie machine works. It throws up so many false premises that it becomes almost impossible to attack all of them, and the things that don’t get attacked somehow slip into the consciousness as having been accepted. Coulter is particularly good at this. So many people attacked her comments on the “Jersey Girls” that for a while her creationism and her claim that all liberals were atheists and America haters simply slipped under the barrier.

    Lets look at some of the things that got missed, even in your very accurate demolition of parts of the argument. First is that the War we went to Iraq to fight is over, and has been since the arrest of Saddam. What is going on there now is an insurrection and a multi-factional war over the construction of a post-War society. We are just one of the targets, and — unlike Vietnam — we are not particularly supporting one side or another. If we left, as we should as soon as is feasible, this would not end the war going on. Had we picked up Saddam and packed up immediately, the same struggles would have gone on, only it wouldn’t have provided a further complication.

    The Civil War was, in fact, a war, one where are armies were still fighting and attacking. In Iraq, we are merely trying to act defensively, not attempting to conquer any territory, but just attempting to keep Iraqis from killing each other, and by doing so, getting everyone mad at us.

    No Democrat is calling for what McClellan was calling for, immediate surrender and an end to the fighting. We have no one to surrender to, our departure would not end the fighting, all we are trying to do is get ourselves out of the way and, as even Bush says we must, return the country to the Iraqis. If we were able to stop what is going on, its arguable whether we should, but we can’t.

    But the most important error that the Republicans are trying to slip by is this:
    Lincoln’s use of extraordinary powers in America was a direct result of the insurrection going on here. Whether right or wrong, they were at least directly relevant to the situation.
    Bush’s suspension of habeas corpus, his followers’ attacks on the press, his use of torture and military tribunals have NOTHING to do with the War in IRAQ, they are all concerned with the nebulous “War on Terror.”
    He has done everything that the Democrats accused Lincoln of doing, but had he done none of these things, the situation in Iraq would not have changed one bit.

  3. #3 Kiwiwriter
    November 9, 2006

    The Republican analogies are absurd…we’re not fighting against a secessionist insurrection on our soil, and we’re not up against Robert E. Lee and Braxton Bragg this time. The Confederates did not send suicide bombers with IEDs against the Union Army, they didn’t take hostages, and when they were defeated, they accepted surrender, and urged their fellow countrymen to get on with the task of rebuilding the nation.

    This is a specious argument…it’s like the people who claim links between Kennedy and Lincoln, because of their superficial similarities.

  4. #4 Roman Werpachowski
    November 9, 2006

    Schundler then went on to say that, if the Democrats had won in 1864, they likely would have sued for peace (probably true, given that the Democratic platform of 1864 called for “compromise” with the South) and that today slavery would still exist (highly unlikely, although it may have continued for a while longer).

    Slavery was doomed by economics. Separating from the North and creating custom barriers against foreign goods was the only way to preserve slavery as viable economical model.

    There are, of course, many other much better reasons why the two wars are not analogous and the 2006 election is not the same as 1864, which, oddly enough, the article above failed to mention.

    Maybe because it wasn’t written in 2006?

  5. #5 Joseph Hertzlinger
    November 9, 2006

    The claim that the survival of our nation was at stake in the Civil War begs the question of whether the North and the South are part of the same nation.

    If you don’t make such an assumption, the Civil War looks like classic imperialism. The d@mn Yankees used state terrorism (Sherman’s march to the sea), which set off a “cycle of violence” in the form of the KKK and Jesse James (who started out as a pro-slavery terrorist). There were even Yankee settlements on Dixie soil. Dubya himself is a second-generation settler.

    In any case, the current situation is more analogous to the aftermath of the Civil War with Democrats calling for an end to Reconstruction.

  6. #6 Orac
    November 9, 2006

    Maybe because it wasn’t written in 2006?

    True, but by October 2004, the Iraq War had already become a quagmire, a fight against insurgents, and it was an election year.

  7. #7 Troublesome Frog
    November 9, 2006

    I’m not familiar with Curtis and Kuby. Is the liberal side represented by an approved form of liberal (http://www.idrewthis.org/d/20061019.html)?

  8. #8 Chris
    November 9, 2006

    Why do you assume that dividing the nation would have been disastrous? As long as both halves remained committed to democracy and human rights (ok, white human rights; but I think both sides would have made progress on this issue eventually whether they were divided or not), isn’t that more important than whether there is one flag or two?

    Lincoln was a pretty persuasive orator and personally committed to preserving the Union, but it doesn’t follow from that that he was right and it really was worth all that bloodshed. The victors may write the history books, but later generations still have the right to read them critically.

  9. #9 jre
    November 9, 2006

    Mark — If I may be forgiven for saying it, your niece is (although undoubtedly very smart and charming) a little too reality-based for her own good. Doesn’t she know that she can borrow the missing $5 and more, explaining to her creditor that she will actually be ahead of the game when you become so wealthy that you start showering her with cash some day very soon?
    Someone needs a little tutoring in voodoo^M^M^M^M^M^M conservative economics, if you ask me.

  10. #10 mark a
    November 9, 2006

    jre – you are so right, I should have explained that to her first.

  11. #11 Flex
    November 9, 2006

    Civil War? Riiight.

    How about the Spanish-American war? It started with a media circus which escalated with the sinking of the Maine. Why the Maine sunk is unclear to this day. So the justification for the war was pretty poor.

    Some of the prominent American business leaders argued that the war would be good for the American economy. Spain had to put on a bellegerant act because it was facing a facing a civil war at home and the government of Spain couldn’t afford to lose face.

    Hostilities stopped in 5 months, and American troops occupied the Phillipines. Greeted as liberators, the American troops rapidly became seen as occupiers and while major battles with locals stopped within a few years, skirmishes occured for well over a decade.

    Casualties: 4324 US soldiers dead. Over 16,000 Fillipino solders killed, and between 250,000 to 1,000,000 Fillipino civilians died.

    Oh, and we got Gitmo out of the deal too.

    A nice little war.

    -Flex

  12. #12 Frank Warner
    November 9, 2006

    Every war is different, but the principle similarity between the American Civil War and America’s role in the Iraq war is the underlying goal of freeing the oppressed.

    Another similarity is the relentless opposition by some short-sighted Americans to the unselfish cause of liberation.

    The election of 2006 was nothing like the election of 1864. The 2006 election did not choose a president.

    The election two years ago had similarities to 1864. In 1864, the Democrats put up a candidate for president who was willing to abandon the idea of freeing the slaves, as long as the South rejoined the Union. In 2004, the Democrats nominated a candidate whose definition of “success” in the Iraq war excluded the idea of leaving a democracy where there had been tyranny.

    In the Civil War, Lincoln initially made no goal of liberating the slaves. In his 1861 inaugural address, he specifically said he had no intention of ending slavery in states where it existed. Though everyone knew Lincoln was morally opposed to slavery, it wasn’t until 1863 and 1864 that freeing the slaves became an objective of the war.

    Before the Iraq war, in 2002, Bush told the United Nations that democracy in Iraq was a great strategic goal. The first U.N. resolution Bush cited as reason to take action against Saddam’s regime was U.N. Resolution 688 which, as part of the 1991 Iraq cease-fire, required that Saddam end his repression of the Iraqi people. Clearly, liberation was an early Bush objective.

    Lincoln at first made preserving the Union his only stated objective, and Bush spent a lot of time talking about Saddam having illegal weapons of mass destruction. But in both wars, the moral underpinning for sending U.S. troops was the understanding that the president was leading a fight against oppression.

    In your post here, you argue that, in contrast to the Iraq war, the Civil War was “clearly a war for national survival,” and that “Lincoln did not pre-emptively attack the South.” You say the North was attacked first in the Civil War, but the Iraq war was “a war of choice.” Well, the facts don’t necessarily support your case.

    The South, and many Democrats in the North, claimed no one’s survival was at stake in 1861. They claimed the Civil War was totally unnecessary and illegal. Yes, the Union would be split in two, they argued, but everyone could continue living in peace. The old Union would not survive, but all its people would.

    The Confederacy did fire a few shots at Fort Sumter, but no one was killed there, and immediately after the shooting, Confederate troops went to the island to help Union soldiers put out the fires. In the eyes of the South, Lincoln’s full-scale military response might have looked very much like a pre-emptive attack.

    On the other hand, in Iraq 2003, the United States was responding to Saddam’s regular violations of the 1991 cease-fire agreement, including Saddam’s failure to end repression, failure to buy enough food with oil revenue, failure to return 600 Kuwaiti POWs, failure to stop supporting terrorists (including Palestinians blowing themselves up in Israel), and failure to cooperate fully with U.N. arms inspectors.

    Every cease-fire violation, every tongue cut out, every mass execution of dissidents, every payment to a terrorist family, every theft from the Oil-for-Food program by Saddam was, in effect, a declaration of war, or at least a resumption of war, by Saddam on the United States. And to clarify the state of belligerency, Saddam regularly was shooting at U.S. planes patrolling the two no-fly zones.

    Another similarity of the Civil War to the Iraq war is the Democrats’ insistence that the people the U.S. troops were freeing did not want freedom. Slaves liked being slaves, many argued, and we’ve heard Iraqis really didn’t want democracy. The Iraqis’ voting by the millions, in the face of credible death threats, put the lie to that idea.

    You note here that, “It’s only with the hindsight of 141 years that we realize that pressing for the total defeat of the Confederacy was the right thing for Lincoln to do.” I think we’ll see the wisdom of liberating Iraq even sooner.

    We already know something that Lincoln didn’t know: That there is a direct connection between democracy and the prevention of state-ordered mass killings, and there is a connection between democracy and a lasting peace.

    In the entire 20th century, no two established democracies went to war with each other, and dictators killed more of their “own” people than all the world’s wars combined. As more nations joined the Free World, wars became less frequent and less destructive. That’s a great argument for freeing the half of the world that remains unfree.

    From our World War II experience, we learned that the best way to turn old enemies into friends is to rid them of their despots and replace their dictatorships with democracies. The openness and accountability of democracies makes their governments infinitely less abusive. Freedom happens to be more fun.

    The United States entered World War II when we were attacked by a fanatical, repressive and aggressive enemy. We fought that attacker, and we fought on another front, too, against a totalitarian regime that had abused its people, invaded other nations and violated several solemn international agreements. On that level, the wars to liberate Afghanistan and Iraq are similar to World War II.

    But as I said, all wars are different. The 2003 Iraq invasion had conventional characteristics in its first mission of removing Saddam’s fascist regime. But it was basically a limited operation. Then, as the minority Sunni Arabs, egged on by al-Qaida, began their fight against the second mission of Iraq democratization, we started to see a guerrilla war that looks much like the Philippines insurgency of 100 years ago.

    The 2006 election is a relatively minor historical event. It doesn’t win the Iraq war, and it doesn’t abandon the cause of democracy in Iraq. It is a statement of voter frustration with the length of the war, as much as it is a vote against the mounting arrogance of the Republican Party, having controlled all branches of government for six years.

    American voters continue to say they want democratic success in Iraq. Polls show only a quarter of all Americans want all U.S. troops out now. Most still have the patience to give democratization a chance. Americans want to see new tactics, and most want to see clearer mileposts of success along the way.

    Progress has been hard to see in Iraq. No one’s marching on Atlanta these days. Sometimes you can’t tell who’s winning and who’s losing. As Sunni insurgents blow up something here, and Shiite militias assassinate others there, in the background, Iraq is trying to build an army capable of defending its new democracy.

    It’s that Iraqi army — and the Iraq people’s faith in freedom — that will make the final difference. In a year or two, that Iraqi army might decide, once and for all, how much the Iraq war is like the American Civil War. Will freedom win?

  13. #13 kehrsam
    November 9, 2006

    Why the Maine sunk is unclear to this day.

    I believe an explosion had something to do with it. Following the explosion, gravity explains much of the remaining mystery.

  14. #14 kehrsam
    November 9, 2006

    Why the Maine sunk is unclear to this day.

    I believe an explosion had something to do with it. Following the explosion, gravity explains much of the remaining mystery.

  15. #15 llewelly
    November 9, 2006

    Mr. Warner. Prup already explained, in a much shorter post above, what you are being used to accomplish.

  16. #16 Roman Werpachowski
    November 9, 2006

    Mr Warner:

    While I agree that the positive difference between pre-2003 Iraq and present is that now the Iraqis have a non-zero chance of becoming a relatively free and prosperous nation, I don’t think it will take less than 10-20 years (a guesstimate).

    I think the idea of deposing Saddam had its merits but was entirely botched by aiming at replacing him with 100% democratic government as soon as possible. A wise course of action would be to replace Saddam with some other dictator, who’d be pro-US and less bloodthirsty than Saddam. Then this dictator could have been massaged and pressured to steer his country in the direction of democracy, both from outside (read Europe and America) and inside. And Iraq would not be such a chaotic place as now.

  17. #17 Jared Solomon
    November 9, 2006

    Well, you know, habeus corpus was repealed in the American Civil War, and Bush has repealed it now, so I would say that it is a fair analogy. Other liberties of private citizens and the free press have been repealed by the Bush administration, further making the analogy correct.

  18. #18 Carl Strohmeyer
    November 9, 2006

    Every president since the Civil War has lost seats in a big way during war time, and this includes Roosevelt in WWII (considered to be a popular war?) and Lincoln in the Civil War. And I personally think Lincoln was our greatest president, the Emancipation Proclamation was very un-popular and as important as the Civil War was in holding our nation together, it was neither popular or a good vs. evil war (unlike WWII in my opinion), there were plenty of issues on both sides.
    Even though I am a Republican, I do not agree with the statement made by Schundler, there are differences. But the similarity is that things have not gone as predicted or hoped, but then things did not go well in first part of US involvement in WWII. We met some disastrous defeats in North Africa and until Midway it looked quite bleak in the Pacific (unless you count Dewey’s raid on Japan, which was more for morale).
    Hopefully the Republicans will learn from Rumsfield’s and other Republicans arrogance. It was definitely time for him to move on and for other Republican leaders to admit mistakes in many policies, including the handling of Iraq, but not for going into Iraq in the first place.
    But I still think going is was right; Do you remember “Peace in our time”? Well if Europe had more back bone then, maybe 2 million Jews would still be alive. Removing a man from power who has killed thousands of Kurd children is worht it.

  19. #19 Steve
    November 10, 2006

    I am a big fan of the site and almost always enjoy and/or agree with the logic posted herein. But I have to take disagreement with this post for a couple of reasons.

    1) An analogy doesn’t have to be a perfect overlay. Every analogy can be broken down to reveal differences. That’s why a map isn’t the city, and a paradigm isn’t reality. Doctors use analogies to explain medical issues to patients all the time. I think people only get this worked up over an analogy when they have a hard-core preconception against the positor, and just want to demolish their argument. The man may or may not be making a valid point, but he used an analogy (what is wrong with using an analogy that someone else previously wrote about anyway) to make a point. His point was not that the Civil War = Iraq, that was a tool in service of his point.

    2) The facts of the war. I guess I am the only person left who fully supports the military action in Iraq, at least I feel that way when I look around. I read, listen, pay attention to many different media sources including the mainstream 3+1, Rush, Glenn Beck, Liddy, Fox,and assorted blogs and commentators. I have for years and I know for a fact (since I began doing so) that there are news stories you just never see in the MSM. Beck for instance put together a video of Iraq news stories that you haven’t heard about the 4500 schools that have been rebuilt and stocked with 8 million textbooks, the 5 million cell phone users in Iraq (no one there knew what a cell phone was in Saddams time), the 33,000 new businesses there, the 25% female parliamentary representation (the highest in the Arab world), the 150 politically free TV stations and newspapers who can broadcast and print uncensored, the vaccination of Iraqi children from diseases like polio.

    Anyway: I do think we needed to be there, and I am disappointed in Bush et. al. for dropping one of the most important reasons. Saddam ignored 12 years surrender contingent UN resolutions. This was mentioned at the very beginning of the decision to invade, and then was dropped like a hot potato. I guess they determined it sounded too bureaucratic and not “hot blooded” enough of a reason to go to war. I would expect a crowd here that respects logic and reason to respect the concept that you cannot allow infinite patience in flaunting law (or whatever you want to call UN sanctions) without consequences. Everyone said “go through the UN”. We DID go through the UN. What do you do after that doesn’t work for 12 years?

    Other facts of the war that you don’t hear about in the MSM:

    A) Saddam’s general published in a book that he himself oversaw loading WMD missiles into aircraft fuselages and shipping them into Syria for hiding. Why doesn’t this get reported on NBC and CNN?

    B) The “insurgents” are absolutely nothing of the sort. They are terrorists, flooding into Iraq from other countries, and sponsored by Syria and Iran. There is no surmising this, we have their overtaken bodies and equipment.

    C) These terrorists (“insurgents”) have said in their own statements that the battle for control of Iraq is the decisive battle against the US and western civilization versus Islam, and their plan to destroy the sovereign democratic Jewish state of Israel. Again, this is not supposition, this is from their own direct statements. Why is Katie Couric not repeating this nightly?
    In these same statements, the terrorists have openly said that this battle is the test of the will of Americans, and that the battle is there because we are there and that *if we retreat, it is their sign of their righteousness and they will then bring the battle to us in the US mainland*.

    This makes it pretty clear that the consequences are not so far from the Civil War analogy.

    D) We do have an enemy that wants to see us killed. Period. This is undeniable. I believe that we fundamentally do not understand this enemy. We are overeducated and under-paradigmed. Playing nice, talking with, or “leaving them alone” will not result in the Islamic terrorists leaving America in peace. Those actions will only encourage them to attack us. This has been historically proven from both sides. When we have applied force, we have succeeded (Quadafi) and when we have done nothing, attacks have continued or even increased (the continued attacks during all of Clinton’s adminsitration).

    This enemy has made statements about the lessons they learned when we left Somalia. Why are we not paying attention to the very words that are enemy is revealing about themselves? We act as if they are mysterious aliens in space ships that we must decipher in order to “get along”. They have openly explained themselves in words and action for years. Is it going to take the vaporizing of an American city for people to reevaluate their squeamishness? There is no doubt in my mind that this is in fact the case. All the rational, non-woo, atheist, skeptics here need to read Sam Harris’s “The End of Faith”. He gets it.

    Which brings me to another point. Squeamishness does not equal a moral high ground. Yes, I feel for the death of every US soldier. I was in the military myself. Every death around the world is a tragedy. But we do not make primary decisions. We equate at the margins. Every choice has trade-offs. For every choice we take, there is some trade-off choice that we cannot also have. Lives may be lost, but if the trade-off consequence is even more lives lost, and the fall of western civilization, then the decisions have to be evaluated on that level.

    Yes there are losses in Iraq. We hear the drumbeat of the body count on the news. I’m suprised that the WWII history buff hasn’t noted the startling comparisons and contrasts. Since we’ve now been in Iraq longer than our involvement in WWII, the death toll of US troops has been 0.6% of the WWII death toll. Barely half of one percent! That is a stunning sucsess. Compared to Vietnam, it’s barely less than 4% of the Vietnam death toll. War has it’s measurments and a war prosecuted with that kind of minimized damage is an incredible success.
    Another WWII point- the Marshal Plan to rebuild Germany and Japan took 10 years to accomplish. Why do we expect any less in Iraq? The result of the Marshal Plan was taking two backwards, economically slumping countries and turning them into technological, engineering, managerial, and industrial models and strong allies! I believe there is no reason to expect any less in Iraq as long as we have the willpower to acheive it.

    (my apologies for any hasty spelling or grammar errors)

  20. #20 Roman Werpachowski
    November 10, 2006

    Carl Strohmeyer:

    Do you remember “Peace in our time”? Well if Europe had more back bone then, maybe 2 million Jews would still be alive.

    Why do you count only Jews, as if millions of Russians, Poles, Gypsies and other nationalities killed by the Nazis somehow didn’t count?

    Except for that, if Europe “had more backbone then”, why do you think it would achieve an easy victory over Germany in 1938 when it failed on its knees before the Wehrmacht in 1939?

  21. #21 Roman Werpachowski
    November 10, 2006

    CS:

    We met some disastrous defeats in North Africa and until Midway it looked quite bleak in the Pacific (unless you count Dewey’s raid on Japan, which was more for morale).

    Again, the comparison is totally flawed. US in the 1941-42 period was in the process of building a large ground army, unlike in 2003 when the US was starting with a quantitative and qualitative edge over almost everyone else, including Iraq. The North Africa campaign was a testing ground and an opportunity to hurt Germans *somewhere*. The Iraq campaign was *the whole point of going there*. I will not repeat the argument that militarily, the Iraq war has been won in 2003 and what was lost was the counter-insurgency war which came after it, unlike in WW II (in which the only Allied country which had to fight with insurgency was the USSR in 1945 and afterwards, and had no problems with it).

    “Let’s face it, Mr Frodo. We’re lost.”

  22. #22 Roman Werpachowski
    November 10, 2006

    The real point of comparing Iraq war to WW II is to make Saddam look like Hitler. Which is total BS. Compared to Hitler, Saddam was peanuts.

    Why didn’t the US attack Yugoslavia to depose Milosevic? He had a similar score of war crimes and bellicosity. But wait, Yugoslavia had no oil…

  23. #23 Roman Werpachowski
    November 10, 2006

    ” Another WWII point- the Marshal Plan to rebuild Germany and Japan took 10 years to accomplish. Why do we expect any less in Iraq? The result of the Marshal Plan was taking two backwards, economically slumping countries and turning them into technological, engineering, managerial, and industrial models and strong allies! I believe there is no reason to expect any less in Iraq as long as we have the willpower to acheive it.”

    Oh yes there are. Lots of them. Both Germany and Japan were in 1945 stomped in the ground and *knew* and *accepted* the fact of their total defeat. This was crucial for their quiet acceptance of the rules imposed on them on their new masters. This was crucial for the lack of any post-war resistance against the occupiers.

    None of this is has ever been true in post-2003 Iraq. Say nothing about the cultural differences.

    The basic mistake the US did was the assumption that the Iraqis want Western-style democracy and liberties. Well, it turns out that they don’t. They wanted to get rid of Saddam because he was bloodthirsty and tyrannical, but that does not mean that the Shiites will tolerate ethnic and religious minority rights or that the Sunnis will accept the fact that in democratic elections they get only as much power as their votes count. Yes, there were elections in Iraq but IMHO they were treated by the Shiites as a replacement for armed struggle: why shoot the Sunnis if you can kick their ass in the voting booth? And the Sunnis responded by ignoring the elections altogether, showing how much they dislike the idea that the other side may gain majority and win. This is an Iraqi democratical mindset in its full glory.

    These-guys-are-not-ready-for-it-yet. And they are in no mood to learn anything from America nor from Europe. If we were to follow the “let them do what they like” principle, we should leave Iraq now and let them sort it out with the means they like and understand, that is street shooting and cells of torture. Look at Algeria for a prime example. It’s either that or Hosni Mubarak.

  24. #24 Roman Werpachowski
    November 10, 2006

    That is not to say that there is no hope for democracy in the Middle East. In fact, there was a window of opportunity in the past for the West to promote democracy there. But it was shut down when the US and UK deposed Mossadeq, showing the Middle East that democracy only counts when you vote along the lines of the great powers. Well, they took the lesson to heart. Do you blame them?

    There is no democracy and no liberty when people feel free to shoot their neighbours. Thus, the first objective in post-war Iraq should have been stability. Which meant: make the objective of the war not the destruction of Iraq but merely that someone replaces Saddam. Preferably after Saddam dies in a mysterious accident. Then, be friendly with a new ruler. Trade with them. Sell them satellite TV dishes. The Iraqis watch MTV. In a matter of 10 years they are ready for democracy.

  25. #25 Steve
    November 10, 2006

    Roman, I agree with you in almost everything you said.
    There is definately a cultural difference there that has to be overcome.

    However, I don’t believe the conclusion that it is hopeless is a certain one. I don’t think we should have pushed for votes and democracy so early. I think we should have simply occupied the country under coalition control for as long as it takes. This is another example of cowardice in the face of public opinion.

    I believe under coalition military control “Benevolent Dictatorship” there would be even less loss of life.

    I can tell you for a fact that it is a mistake to treat “Iraq” as a whole as to what “they” want or don’t want. Same with Iran. Ahmenijad and his government are very different than 70% or more of the Iranian population.

    I know a enormouse percentage of Iraqis are pro-west, pro-America, pro-liberation, or some combination thereof. You just never see this reported on the news.

    As I said before, I believe a long term plan has hope of turning the tide there, even possibly overcoming those cultural differences *enough*. It does take time.

    Thanks for a thoughtful response.

  26. #26 Steve
    November 10, 2006

    A couple more things Roman,

    I don’t know about the specific dates of ’38 versus ’39, but the point is that peaceniks stalled. During all that time Hitler was gaining territory and building his war machine.

    I think it is inaccurate to say that we have “lost” the counter-insurgency. For several reasons, #1 being that counter-insurgency implies insurgents. There are none, or exceedingly few. There *are* outside sponsored terrorists who have entered from other countries for the specific purpose of fighting the US, and a very tiny few Saddam loyalists, who would have no resources sans Iranian/Syrian supported joiners. Words mean things. Using the terms “insurgent” and “counter-insurgency” concedes a point that is inaccurate.

    Milosevic had the good grace to be naughty during Clinton’s reign of “no soldier shall die, we’ll just bomb from 30,000 feet”. He is also not a central and key area in a Muslim middle east that threatens Israel.

    Still agree with your understanding about the cultural differences in Iraq vs. Germany and Japan. But also, it is safer to say Germany and Japan (the people) were supporting the war. The Iraqi people were hijacked by Saddams will.

    If we get our shit together and shut down the Iran/Syrian terrorist connection and Saddam stragglers, I think we would have a more accurate feel for how pro-west the Iraqis themselves are. (a lot more than you’ve been led to believe)

  27. #27 Steve
    November 10, 2006

    A couple more things Roman,

    I don’t know about the specific dates of ’38 versus ’39, but the point is that peaceniks stalled. During all that time Hitler was gaining territory and building his war machine.

    I think it is inaccurate to say that we have “lost” the counter-insurgency. For several reasons, #1 being that counter-insurgency implies insurgents. There are none, or exceedingly few. There *are* outside sponsored terrorists who have entered from other countries for the specific purpose of fighting the US, and a very tiny few Saddam loyalists, who would have no resources sans Iranian/Syrian supported joiners. Words mean things. Using the terms “insurgent” and “counter-insurgency” concedes a point that is inaccurate.

    Milosevic had the good grace to be naughty during Clinton’s reign of “no soldier shall die, we’ll just bomb from 30,000 feet”. He is also not a central and key area in a Muslim middle east that threatens Israel.

    Still agree with your understanding about the cultural differences in Iraq vs. Germany and Japan. But also, it is safer to say Germany and Japan (the people) were supporting the war. The Iraqi people were hijacked by Saddams will.

    If we get our shit together and shut down the Iran/Syrian terrorist connection and Saddam stragglers, I think we would have a more accurate feel for how pro-west the Iraqis themselves are. (a lot more than you’ve been led to believe)

  28. #28 Carl Strohmeyer
    November 10, 2006

    Roman Werpachowski:

    I earlier wrote:
    “Do you remember “Peace in our time”? Well if Europe had more back bone then, maybe 2 million Jews would still be alive.”

    “Why do you count only Jews, as if millions of Russians, Poles, Gypsies and other nationalities killed by the Nazis somehow didn’t count?

    Except for that, if Europe “had more backbone then”, why do you think it would achieve an easy victory over Germany in 1938 when it failed on its knees before the Wehrmacht in 1939?”

    I appologize, that was a MAJOR oversite of mine.
    Russians, Poles, Gypsies do count as well as Chinese and Koreans killed by the Japanese.

    I do stand by my analogy about the early defeats in WWII, as it was only meant to show how easy public opinion can go south. Of coarse there are differences.

  29. #29 Coin
    November 10, 2006

    Yes, Schundler was seriously arguing that a vote for the Democrats in 2006 is akin to voting for defeat and the continuation of slavery 142 years ago, and implying that the Democratic victory on Tuesday might lead to the same disaster that might have occurred had Lincoln lost in 1864. He finished by stating that Lincoln was remembered because he steadfastly stayed the course and predicted that President Bush would be remembered similarly.

    Of course, Bush didn’t stay the course. The very instant the Democrats took congress and Bush’s congressional free ride was over, he kicked out Rumsfeld, declared surrender to the Democrats and started sprinting towards James Baker in hopes it would get him out of this mess.

    Which is not all that surprising, due to the difference that Lincoln won the 1864 elections. Lincoln carried nearly every voting state and got 55% of the popular vote. By interesting coincidence, 55% is also about the percentage of America that voted for a Democratic senatorial candidate on tuesday, an election which Bush and company lost. So the people pushing this “Bush=Lincoln” point are basically telling a majority of the American voting public that they are confederates and traitors. Do you think this is the Republican way of making friends and influencing people?

    Civil War? Riiight. How about the Spanish-American war? It started with a media circus which escalated with the sinking of the Maine. Why the Maine sunk is unclear to this day. So the justification for the war was pretty poor.

    How about the Mexican-American war? You know, the one where when it started, Abraham Lincoln (Whig representative from Illinois) accused the President of lying to start an unjust war– and subsequently lost his seat for his apparent lack of patriotism.

  30. #30 Steve
    November 10, 2006

    “Which is not all that surprising, due to the difference that Lincoln won the 1864 elections. Lincoln carried nearly every voting state and got 55% of the popular vote.”

    Was this during the war? Does this include Confederate state votes?

  31. #31 Steve
    November 10, 2006

    In other words, if Bush’s country map going into the election looked as favorable as Lincolns, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_1864

    You can bet the Republicans would have won an overwhelming majority of votes too. So the 1864 election isnt’ much of a mandate considering it’s the votes of those who already showed up at the party.

  32. #32 Graculus
    November 11, 2006

    Considering recent political/social history, I don’t think that the Union won the American Civil War.

    In fact, there was a window of opportunity in the past for the West to promote democracy there. But it was shut down when the US and UK deposed Mossadeq, showing the Middle East that democracy only counts when you vote along the lines of the great powers. Well, they took the lesson to heart. Do you blame them?

    The world’s largest functioning democracy also regularly annoys the great powers, and is culturally alien from the West. But then again, India had Gandhi, but no oil.

  33. #33 mark a
    November 11, 2006

    Steve, I have to take some exception with the way you rationalize the Iraq war as being a “stunning succes” Because the death toll is 0.6% of that in WWII. First, the big point is that we should have never STARTED the war in the first place. There are many other dictators in the world just as bad if not worse than Saddam. Second, the UN was already in Iraq and while it is true Saddam was playing a cat and mouse game with them, it is clear that the reason he was doing it was because he did not want to reveal just how weak he was.

    Certainly the point is moot because we are there now and have to somehow deal with it. Now, I am not a big fan of the daily body count that permeates are news casts day and night but lets do a REAL comparison here.

    In the Iraq war there were/are 227,400 service members and 3,185 deaths, a death rate of 1.4%.

    In WWII 16 million service members were deployed and the death rate was 291,557, or 1.8%.

    In WWI 4.7 million service members and 53,402 deaths, or 1.1%.

    Doesn’t really seem so much a “Stunning Success” now does it?

    If you want to check the numbers you can find them on the U.S. Department of veterans Affairs web site here: http://www1.va.gov/opa/fact/amwars.asp

  34. #34 Coin
    November 11, 2006

    Considering recent political/social history, I don’t think that the Union won the American Civil War.

    Study carefully the history of Reconstruction, and consider what its lingering aftereffects on America today might be. I think you will perhaps find a more accurate way of stating things would be that the Union won the American Civil War, but was then unable to win the peace :(

  35. #35 Justin Moretti
    November 12, 2006

    “WW2: 16 million US Service members deployed.”

    How many ‘teeth’ (firing line) and how many ‘tail’ (logistics/support or still training back home), and in which theatres? What are the service breakdowns (Army, Navy, USAAF, Marines)? This is important. Without that multifaceted breakdown, your stats are meaningless, if not deceptive.

    I’m with Steve; the only reason the “Iraqi insurgents” are ‘winning’ is because they are breaking rules we (US/Aussies/Brits etc) dare not break, and because they are receiving help from outside (as Hezbollah was doing in the Lebanon recently – the ceasefire there probably stopped them from being gutted). Stop that help, and we could well win a lot sooner.

    The solution may well be to WIDEN the conflict, not wind it down. Make Tehran and Damascus responsible for the state of civil order in Iraq…

    I want to see that Iraqi body count broken down by who is being killed, and by whom. Don’t just quote me a number.

  36. #36 mark a
    November 12, 2006

    Thanks for validating my point.

    Mark Twain once said, “People commonly use statistics like a drunk uses a lamppost: for support rather than illumination.”

  37. #37 Roman Werpachowski
    November 12, 2006

    I’m with Steve; the only reason the “Iraqi insurgents” are ‘winning’ is because they are breaking rules we (US/Aussies/Brits etc) dare not break, and because they are receiving help from outside (as Hezbollah was doing in the Lebanon recently – the ceasefire there probably stopped them from being gutted). Stop that help, and we could well win a lot sooner.

    What rules? There is no rule that you can’t mine the roads your enemy travels along. There is no rule that you can’t ambush his convoys. There is no rule that you can’t fire a few mortar shells at your enemy’s base and disappear. The rule which is broken is that those Iraq insurgents which still care about killing US soldiers are not uniformed. Apart from that, what they do is legal — it’s called partisan warfare and has been carried widely during the WW II against the Germans in East Europe, for example. Yup, having outside help is very beneficial.

    If you’re referring to suicide bombings, they are mostly aimed not against US Army but against Iraqi civilians or officials, and are part of a growing *local* conflict among various parts of Iraqi society. Calling this an “insurgency” is misleading — what, a Sunni insurgency against the Shiite? Or vice-versa?

    Besides, what rules that the Americans “dare not break” can you point at, after Abu Ghraib and Haditha?

  38. #38 James
    November 13, 2006

    Hiding amongst civilians, striking and fading while ununiformed is a pretty big rule to break, especially when its the only reason you are effective. And my understanding is that partisans were not entitled to POW status.

  39. #39 Roman Werpachowski
    November 13, 2006

    Hiding amongst civilians, striking and fading while ununiformed is a pretty big rule to break, especially when its the only reason you are effective.

    Only the last part (“… while ununiformed”) breaks the rules. If partisans wear something distinguishing them from the civilians, and bear arms openly *while fighting*, they are following the rules of warfare. The fact with rules of warfare is that they aren’t always in our favor only.

    And my understanding is that partisans were not entitled to POW status.

    Read the Geneva Convention, then.

  40. #40 Steve
    November 13, 2006

    At risk of admitting I haven’t read the Geneva convention cover to cover, my understanding is that it applies only to those nations that are contained within it’s agreement, and to “official” army combatants.

    Rogue terrorists would not qualify for both reasons.

    Just as a contract between Donald Trump and McDonald’s would not in any way apply to me. If I showed up and saif “I want my check too”, they would both look at me funny because I wasn’t in the agreement.

    Thanks “Mark A” for the additional figures, you make a good point. I was only comparing the ratio, which wasn’t very well thought out. But it still holds to some degree, the point that the daily death count on TV news is singularly focused and does not take into account perspective.

    I also have to agree with “Justin”. We don’t have to get into long detailed reports of how the coalition side is constrained by the rules while the enemy is not. I can’t believe anyone would even argue that. Are you serious? It’s so evident and obvious as to be ridiculous. If we were not constrained, we would have said “To hell witht he infrastructure, we will demolish Iraq and OWN this place without ambiguity”. But we didn’t.

    Yes, some shitty things happened at Abu graib. But you know what, “Whah”. There’s a hell of a lot worse things than being “humiliated”, which is what 99.9% of the incidents amounted to. And using psychological warfare (humiliation) to extract information, ensure cooperation, intimidate prisoners, hell, I’m all for it. I seriously wonder about the cry-babies who criticize the way to prosecute a war who can’t manage to get their children to behave. BTW, I’m not directing that in this forum, I’m just speaking of the society whiners at large- the ones you see whining on the news and in protest marches.

    War is hell. Grown men who have studied or pacticed it for a lifetime know that. They don’t love war. It is the kind of conclusions that hippies come to after a lot of navel gazing that generals say “No shit son”, and now please let the adults take care of business.

    I’m an economics geek, and one of the basic tenets of economics is that everything is a matter of trade-offs. We do not make decisions outright based on the primary factors. We make marginal decisions by weighing the good and the consequences- we make decisions in that thin area in between. We equate at the margins.

    Yes, “Mark A”, there are other dictators, and yes Saddam was playing games maybe for one reason or for another. What is known after the fact cannot help us at present situations when making decisions. If cowards and whiners always say we shouldn’t prosecute with military action, in enough unkown situations where we gamble on the safe side, they will be right some percentage of the time.

    Saddam could have prevented this and he chose not to. This is not much different that the situation where a police officer is forced to shoot someone who will not take the simple action of showing that he is unarmed. (let’s not get started on no analogy being perfect, I’m just trying to make a simple point).

    As I said before, we tried non-violence. We tried UN sanctions and embargoes for 12 years. We tried “oil for food” programs. It turns out Koffi Annan, the crook, and his son, and guess who The French, and the Russians were all scamming the system the whole time. Amazing how the list lines up with those who didn’t want to take action on Iraq. Let’s not forget it was the French who gave Iraq nuclear technology in the first place.

    To make another bad analogy, this is like your kid with a mischevious grin reaching for the cookies. At some point, his hand will be close enough to grab one, and you have to decide when to smack his hand with a ruler. Saddam just kept reaching for the cookies. Is anyone kidding themselves about the intention? He wanted nuclear weapons, he wanted to launch them at Israel. The price was not what Saddam would do to the US, although I think he would absolutely give nuclear technology to terrorists who would be happy to sneak it into the US. But that’s just a bonus for him.

    Saddam wanted to nuke Israel. Israel has proven several times in the past that they won’t put up with crap like that. Israel also has the most effective intelligence service in the world, and the best airforce. They kick America’s ass in both categories. Israel would absolutely nuke Saddam, or conventionally attack Iraq as soon as they knew he was within strike ability.

    The problem is that Saddam deliberately kept his exact progress in a black box. Without knowing exactly where he is, we had to err on the side of caution. You don’t get to choose all the variables. In poker, you pay the cards you are dealt- and you have to guess at everyone elses cards.

    I would much rather see Iraq in the state it is now, than to see the whole Middle East region be one big irradiated sheet of glass.

    Another thing to think about, with Iran rattling it’s saber. Do you think Iraq would have allowed Iran to get nuclear? Those guys weren’t exactly buddies. And the fact that Iran and Syria are sending in the forces that are fighting us in Iraq now should not confuse anyone into thinking they are allies. Iran is proxy fighting us under the principle that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. Nothing more. Saddam would have snuffed Iran’s program premptively the minute he felt threatened.

    The fact is that we still DO NOT KNOW the extent of Saddam’s nuclear or biological programs. Anyone who downplays it is just wishful thinking. We may never know. But it was his responsibility, not ours, to alleviate the concerns of the world, via the UN, not just the USA. He dropped the ball, not us.

    Now personally, would I have done all of these policies the same way for administrations and decades back? Hell no. If it were me, we would have shut down the UN building in New York a long time ago and told all those suckers to hit the road and build their Honeycomb hideout somewhere else. And we would have reduced the general military budget, while doubling or tripling the budget for Green Beret’s and Navy SEALs, and remote technology. I’m all for surgical strikes, winning the hearts and kinds of the people, and technology that keeps my boys out of harms way. But this old fashioned insistance on ground pounding seems not to have gone out of fashion yet.

    Am I OK with political assasination? Roger that.
    I’d rather see one SEAL team do what needs to be done. Or have the Army Green Beret’s have the budget and incentive to recruit and train American Arab’s and native speakers- creating ground teams to solve Middle Eastern problems by providing training, support, morale, and planning to underground revolutions. Iran would be a great place for this now; it is estimated that somewhere in the high 70%’s of the people are pro-western and want to see Ahmenijad’s government gone.

    I’d like to see every pissant tin-pot dictator afraid that he may be wiping his but and see a Navy SEAL smiling up from his toilet bowl, or paranoid that his people have already been infiltrated and trained by Green Beret’s. Maybe that parade tomorrow isn’t such a good idea?

    Does that make me an evil American imperialist? Maybe. I think it saves lives. Tin-pot crackheads would learn to behave and get their poop in a group. Which means no need for invasions, and (if the UN exists) internaiontally determined sanctions get followed with a “Yes sir” or it’s time for a spanking.

    Discipline saves lives. And yes I’ll admit I absolutely believe individual freedom and free market economics works every time it’s tried. So I’m not ashamed to be a role model. You could do a lot worse (and it has been, to the tune of hundreds of millions dead). I don’t know that it’s neccessary to “exoprt” our way of life. Just do it and let people see what works, and be willing to mete out consequences for those who are naughty.

  41. #41 Roman Werpachowski
    November 13, 2006

    At risk of admitting I haven’t read the Geneva convention cover to cover, my understanding is that it applies only to those nations that are contained within it’s agreement, and to “official” army combatants.

    You’re wrong: http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/91.htm

    Read Article 2 and Article 4.

    Just as a contract between Donald Trump and McDonald’s would not in any way apply to me. If I showed up and saif “I want my check too”, they would both look at me funny because I wasn’t in the agreement.

    Irrelevant to the matter at hand.

    We don’t have to get into long detailed reports of how the coalition side is constrained by the rules while the enemy is not. I can’t believe anyone would even argue that. Are you serious? It’s so evident and obvious as to be ridiculous.

    I’m not arguing that the rebels in Iraq follow all rules of warfare, I’m just arguing that ambushing convoys or planting IED’s is not against these rules. The rebels break them when they do not wear any hint of a uniform, which is an important rule in war. They also broke other rules from time to time, for example by mutilating the corpses of fallen soldiers.

    If we were not constrained, we would have said “To hell witht he infrastructure, we will demolish Iraq and OWN this place without ambiguity”. But we didn’t.

    But you sort of DID demolish Iraq (think Fallujah) and you DO sort of own this place without ambiguity ;-)

    And using psychological warfare (humiliation) to extract information, ensure cooperation, intimidate prisoners, hell, I’m all for it.

    Then you’re for torture. Humiliation by physical acts, like forcing someone to do something… humiliating, is torture. And torture is wrong, period. This has been the basic notion of our civilization for quite a long time. If we abandon that, we might just as well join the Taliban. At least they are honest about what they want in life.

    They don’t love war. It is the kind of conclusions that hippies come to after a lot of navel gazing that generals say “No shit son”, and now please let the adults take care of business.

    Unfortunately, one of the war-fearing hippies (“I had other priorities”) became the secretary of defense and instead of just navel gazing, he shoved the generals aside and took control of the war by himself. With known results.

    Let’s not forget it was the French who gave Iraq nuclear technology in the first place.

    Let’s not forget it was the US who armed Saddam against Iran.

    Saddam wanted to nuke Israel.

    Says who?

    The fact is that we still DO NOT KNOW the extent of Saddam’s nuclear or biological programs. Anyone who downplays it is just wishful thinking. We may never know. But it was his responsibility, not ours, to alleviate the concerns of the world, via the UN, not just the USA. He dropped the ball, not us.

    An old “prove that you’re not an camel” game, as we say in Poland.

    If it were me, we would have shut down the UN building in New York a long time ago and told all those suckers to hit the road and build their Honeycomb hideout somewhere else.

    The world needs a political forum that *everyone* belongs to. If not UN, something else. For a large part of the world, the US has commands no respect but the UN does. You can whine at it, but that’s just how it is.

    Am I OK with political assasination? Roger that.

    I’d gladly see Saddam disappear from the radar, too. Why wasn’t it done?

  42. #42 Justin Moretti
    November 13, 2006

    Roman said: “I’d gladly see Saddam disappear from the radar, too. Why wasn’t it done?”

    What has the Iraqi justice system just finished doing? Sentencing him to hang for a mass murder of which he has been convicted of ordering and – through his proxies – carrying out.

    Why was it able to do so?
    Because the United States and its allies removed him from power and divorced him from his military machine.

    We know EXACTLY what went on at Abu Ghraib because we operate within an open system, even if the ‘proxies’ were able to operate without orders in the dark for a while. We may NEVER know exactly what Saddam and co. did to countless people they murdered.

    As far as breaking the rules is concerned, would you rather that a few likely-guilty people suffered in Abu Ghraib, or – if you really want us to be guilty of something – would you rather that places like Baghdad and Basra resembled Dresden after the firebombing. Because we could have done that, but chose not to.

  43. #43 Steve
    November 13, 2006

    Roman:

    Agree with some points, not with others.

    Re: the Geneva convention, I’m not reading all that nonsense. From article 2 and 4, it still sounds to me like it includes signers and at most, those who reciprocate. If I find any more on the GC, I will update.

    I apologize for not making my point absolutely clear. Yes, I am absolutely in favor of torture. Again, I apologize for not being crystal clear on that point.

    Wanton tortute for fun? No. Not like dropping people slowly, feet first, into a plastic shredder. That’s just crazy. Who would do that kind of thing?

    Meted and measured torture as a trade-off of marginal equation. Yep. Twice. Water-boarding absolutely sucks, and I sure wouldn’t want it done to me. But it has very little risk of actual damage, it operates on the primal fear of drowning. And yes, BTW, I have had it done to me at a very limited scope.

    When not torturing a knowledgable combatant means losing 1000 lives, and torture means saving those 1000 lives, I’m going with torture every time. Would I prefer to start at the least measures and use torture as a last resort? Absolutely. I don’t know about all that “civilization” stuff. I don’t really agree with you there. I actually don’t believe in any mystical sense of universal sanctity of human life. I certainly believe that there are moral situations in which it is downright evil not to torture.

    We have methods of “torture” that are as simple as disorienting drugs, sleep deprivation, artifically altering the day/night cycle.

    I don’t need to go into detail about the luxury of Guantanamo, it has been detailed ad nauseum elsewhere. If you want to find it. By and large, we are positively hospitable to our captives. Certainly so by comparison. When’s the last time we beheaded a captive on video tape and broadcast it while insulting the enemy.

    I’m astounded at the hogwash people believe (and this may not necessarily be you, I’m giving my reponse at large) if they *want* to believe that the US is the monster and the Islamic murderers of innocent civilians are the “freedom fighters”. Things that should be obvious on their face have to be broken down and debated point by point.

    The best measure I know of a product is who is buying it. In terms of countries and societies that means immigration. I don’t see a lot of people jumping over fences and swimming oceans in an inner-tube to get TO Cuba, or Iraq, or Iran, or Syria, or about any other place you could mention.

    With all the problems that the US has, I still believe it’s the best cereal box on the shelf. The prime reason being that comparitively we have the most freedom of all flavors. Some countries may have one shining thing that they brag about, but when you compare all countries across many indices of measurement, there is the US, constantly comming out on top or in the top crowd.

    I’m getting far afield with the flag waving, but I have a point besides the one on my head. We may not have perfect policy, no one ever has. We may not run a perfect war, no one ever has. We may not have a perfect military, admittedly, it is made up of human beings. To be criticized by countries with little or no significant military presence, or by countries that we have bailed out of wars, or by countries that have lived under the protection of the US nuclear umbrella kind of galls me to tell you the truth.

    Everyone seems to like the US as liberator as long as it was THEIR turn to be liberated. Pretty much all of Europe ought to shut the hell up.

    We don’t pick every battle the way I would if I were king. But we don’t have kings. At the end of it all, Bush has a limited time to do any damage. We do things well enough for the majority of the country to find some common ground, and when we don’t, we vote and change course. Maybe that’s what will happen now.

    But in my frank opinion, I think quitting now will prove to the Islamic death squad that we are afraid of them, and they will pursue us with redoubled zeal. Who will come to bail the US out in return?

    I may not have much more to say on this thread. I’m getting to the point where I’m more agitated than intellectual. I’ll check back and see what’s going on later.

  44. #44 Roman Werpachowski
    November 14, 2006

    apologize for not making my point absolutely clear. Yes, I am absolutely in favor of torture. Again, I apologize for not being crystal clear on that point.

    Wanton tortute for fun? No. Not like dropping people slowly, feet first, into a plastic shredder. That’s just crazy. Who would do that kind of thing?

    The same people who accept torture as a practical means. It’s the classic slippery slope situation. Once you accept the idea of legal torture, there is no telling where you can end up.

    Meted and measured torture as a trade-off of marginal equation. Yep. Twice. Water-boarding absolutely sucks, and I sure wouldn’t want it done to me. But it has very little risk of actual damage, it operates on the primal fear of drowning. And yes, BTW, I have had it done to me at a very limited scope.

    AFAIR, some people died during those “very little risk” tortures.

    Steve, what you completely fail to see is the enormous cost of torture in terms of human dignity of both the tortured persons (who even may or may not be criminals — after all, the point of torture is extracting information, not punishment, so why not torture innocent people if they possess the needed information?) and the torturers. Yes, I wrote “torturers”. If you care about “measured, meted out torture” not becoming a festival of barbarism, you need to make people with high level of morality perform it. Think about them! Think about the cost they will pay for what they will do. Either they will break apart psychologically or slowly become immoral thugs, which would make the notion of “measured, meted out torture” meaningless.

    The Nazis had a similar problem with the Einsatzgruppen members. Those people believed, or were led to believe, that what they did (killing Jews) was right. Nevertheless, they oftne broke apart psychologically from the strain of hurting other beings which did not threaten them directly.

    When not torturing a knowledgable combatant means losing 1000 lives, and torture means saving those 1000 lives, I’m going with torture every time. Would I prefer to start at the least measures and use torture as a last resort? Absolutely. I don’t know about all that “civilization” stuff. I don’t really agree with you there. I actually don’t believe in any mystical sense of universal sanctity of human life. I certainly believe that there are moral situations in which it is downright evil not to torture.

    It should be always *illegal* to torture. Thus, in the situations when torture could have been justified on moral grounds (we are absolutely 100% sure that the person at hand is guilty, it knows something which we need to save lives, etc.), the persons torturing will know that nevertheless, they are doing something very wrong and will pay the price.

    We have methods of “torture” that are as simple as disorienting drugs, sleep deprivation, artifically altering the day/night cycle.

    Geeez, sleep deprivation. That’s just what KGB and Polish communist secret service used to break Polish Home Army soldiers during the Stalinist times in Poland.