An apology anyone?

I vaguely remember – at about the time of the September 11 attack as part of the ‘everything has changed’ meme, a lot of invitations to the left to apologise for all the things they’d done wrong. All their naivite, all the things they stuffed up, all the things they didn’t understand. Am I imagining this? If not can some friendly reader please point me towards some relevant links. (I’ll monitor the spam checker carefully, but it may help if you provide one or at most two links per comment and if you have more links then make more than one comment.)

For a while now I’ve been thinking that maybe someone who called for apologies then while supporting the Bush Administration’s bizarre adventure in Iraq, might like to apologise and say they were wrong. I think they should tell us what they think of the President of the most powerful nation the world has ever seen lobbying Capitol Hill for powers to torture people in secret – having already done so in any event.

I was reminded of this idle thought reading this great post by Brad DeLong on “the history of the shrill” – or (I would have subtitled it) how ‘he-said she-said’ reporting reduces everything – EVERYTHING – to spin.

DeLong quotes Richard Cohen an often excellent columnist for the Washington Post saying this.

I was only briefly enamored of George W. Bush… who went to war in Iraq for stated reasons that turned out to be baseless and for unstated reasons that have yet to be publicly acknowledged… neoconservative foreign policy agenda in which violence plays too prominent and casual a role…. chilled by assertions of near-royal power… choice of judges, his energy policy, his unilateralism or the manner in which he has intruded religion into politics…. I nevertheless cannot bring myself to hate Bush…. In fact, Bush haters go so far they wind up adding a dash of red to my blue…

Now look at what Cohen actually says Bush has done and then read what he says – not thta he doesn’t hate him, but that those who are too shrill about it tend to make him more sympathetic to him. So there you go – there’s no real bottom to how bad the guy is, but try to be nice about him. A month later this is what Cohen wrote.

Not since the Spanish-American War has the United States gone off to war so casually, so half-cocked and so ineptly…. Yet from Bush comes not a bleep of regret, not to mention apology. It is all “steady as she goes” — although we have lost our bearings and we no longer know our destination. (Don’t tell me it’s a democratic Middle East.) If the man were commanding a ship, he would be relieved of command. If he were the CEO of some big company, the board would offer him a golden parachute — and force him to jump…

In fact I found my way to the post I’m quoting by reading DeLong’s post today on Bob Woodward’s most recent book.

Matthew Yglesias / proudly eponymous since 2002: What’s The Deal With… Bob Woodward? His new book:

[Quoting the NYT review] In Bob Woodward’s highly anticipated new book, State of Denial, President Bush emerges as a passive, impatient, sophomoric and intellectually incurious leader, presiding over a grossly dysfunctional war cabinet and given to an almost religious certainty that makes him disinclined to rethink or re-evaluate decisions he has made about the war. It’s a portrait that stands in stark contrast to the laudatory one Mr. Woodward drew in Bush at War, his 2002 book, which depicted the president — in terms that the White House press office itself has purveyed — as a judicious, resolute leader, blessed with the “vision thing” his father was accused of lacking and firmly in control of the ship of state.

Why were the earlier books so different? Did [Woodward] somehow not notice this stuff before? It’s a serious problem for the most prominent people in the journalism world to be merely lagging indicators, praising leaders when they’re popular and then pointing out that, in fact, they suck only after a whole series of disasters discredit them.

You see it all gets down to spin and journalists are there to participate in and amplify the endless self-reflexive developments that occur under the rule of ‘he said – she said’ reporting, not to figure things out according to some broadly agreed set of values and report and opinionate accordingly.

I was reminded of this when listening to an excellent set of speakers at the George Munster awards for excellence in journalism. They had engaged with their subject – the winner of the prize was Olivia Rousset, who in Lifting the Hood – Prisoners of Abu Ghraib; Abu Ghraib Revisited and A Torturer’s Tale had actually had the journalistic curiosity to report on those tortured – on their view of things. She was surprised to find no-one had done it before her.
If you read Steven Poole’s triffic blog unspeak on the term “questioned by experts” you’ll see that it describes ‘procedures’ which are similar in spirit to many of the things that were captured in the photos at Abu Ghraib. In what way is ‘waterboarding’ for instance in any way less extreme than what we saw in the pictures?

Then it was a shock. A scandal. Now things are different. The worm has turned. The spin has spun.

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whyisitso
whyisitso
15 years ago

Just what purpose is served by this sort of gloat? Are we really just spectators in the war on terror? Just what would the Bush haters have the US do now? There’s just no constructive dialogue with these people. Just negativity ad infititum. Let’s just surrender and get on with our self-satisfied lives until they decide to blow us all up with our own technology. Just as well you people were a small minority in Hitler’s time. Hitler would thrash us today I’ve no doubt about that. We don’t have the will to defend ourselves any longer. It’s all just a matter of time. Nick’s right of course, the worm has indeed turned. And we’ve turned into nothing but worms.

Gummo Trotsky
15 years ago

Nick,

You might find something in this lot, with a lot of help from some magic elves.

Gummo Trotsky
15 years ago

Or there’s this lot which looks a lot more promising.

Jc
Jc
15 years ago

Apologize for taking out a mass murdering maniac who was responsible for the death of 1,500,000 Iraqis.

Ok let’s see how it sounds.

I apologize to Saddam for supporting a Prez who took out his regime by force. As Saddam was the “legitimate”

Yobbo
Yobbo
15 years ago

When leftists apologise for 100 years of communism and the deaths of hundreds of millions of innocent people, the rest of the world will apologise for the fact that someone took a picture of an Iraqi’s cock and posted it on the internet.

There, I think I have found an appropriately stupid response to this incredibly stupid post.

Amused
Amused
15 years ago

JC,
At the time we were told that ‘regime change’ was not the purpose of the invasion of Iraq, at least as far as Australia was concered. Howard carefully restricted our casus belli to the issue of wmd. So actually, if you think it was/is all about regime change, you are in direct contradiction to the stated purposes and aims of the Australian participation in the CoW. You are of course entitled to be so, but please don’t try and reinvent history. I for one can remember statements made by our fearless leader as far bach as 2003, even if he and his supporters would prefer otherwise.

If the armchair blowhards enjoy a spot of ‘war of choice’ against dictators and their ilk, why start with Iraq? Why not start agitating for a go nearer to home. How about Burma? How about Pakistan? No? Why not?

Oh well, I guess we are only in the cart for regime change when the US says so, otherwise, our moral principles concerning ‘wars of chice’ against nasty dictators, stay at ‘home’ as it were. Give us a break!

taust
taust
15 years ago

Consider this scenario:

There exists a group who are prepared to take violent direct action in order to achieve their aims;

One of their major aims is a caliphate of all countries in the world under a law that takes as its basis religious writings

That the majority of the inhabitants of the caliphate would lose significant capacity to achieve their potential under the caliphate regime.

That the relative reduction in the price of weapons results in violent direct action groups having relatively easy access to weapons of significant power.

That one violent direct action group received significant levels of funding from Saudi Arabia.

Assuming that you found the likely outcome of the scenario unacceptable. What would you have done to change the scenario that would be likely to result in a lesser loss of life and treasure by the time the scenario was changed ( I am not implying that currently the scenario is anything more than in change).

I too regret that the idea developed by the left have so little practical impact that they are left seeking an apology. I think that is the fault of the ideas though.

Amused
Amused
15 years ago

What ideas taust? What does this scenario mean? Who is the ‘left’? Does it also include conservatives with impeccable conservative credentials who always opposed the invaion of Iraq? I think what all this means, amongst other things, is that it is a good idea to stop and think and not tell lies, when you and your supporters are gung ho for regime change in one direction,(Sadam Hussein) but try to justify it by reference to a distinct and unrelated event elsewhere (WTC attacks). That is the scenario we are dealing with, here and now.

Mark Bahnisch
15 years ago

I don’t see that asking people who supported the war to apologise does anything useful at all. Clearly the demands that “the left” apologise for Stalin are absurd. But then so are all such demands.

The logic is flawed. Why should people “apologise” for supporting the war?

It’s moralising. You could support it and then change your view based on the outcome, but I think this whole game of turning politics into an ethical game of good and evil is a large part of the problem.

The argument against at the time was rationally stronger and that ought to be the point made – not “you didn’t see it was wrong morally” – all you end up with then is a “holier than thou” argument. There should be a common interest in rational discussion of options, not some sort of discourse based on claims to superior ethical insight. That might not be the intention of those calling for apologies, but it’s the inevitable corollary.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
15 years ago

Andrew Sullivan is perhaps an example of the point that Mark is making. Sullivan did support the war, believed (as did everyone, pretty much) that Saddam had WMD, didn’t believe that Iraq was directly linked with 9/11 and suggested that winning the peace would be harder than toppling the Ba’ath gang in Baghdad. He was dead right on the last count and his despair at the ineptitude shown by the administration has turned him into a vociferous critic – particularly in respect to torture and it’s government apologists.

For all that, he doesn’t support withdrawal but is now a pariah on the blogospherical Right for perceived “desertion.”

Sadly, I suspect that the bloodbath that would ensue in Iraq following the withdrawal of Coalition troops would probably drown “apologies” – however appropriate – all round.

Mark Bahnisch
15 years ago

Agreed about Sullivan, Geoff. It seems to me the rhetoric of “apology” is premised on the same all or nothing “with us or against us” logic that’s put paid to rational foreign policy thought in the first place.

If someone like Sullivan made a prudential decision to support the war based on what he believed at the time, and hoping that the outcome would be good, why should he “apologise”?

As you say, it’s the sort of rhetoric indulged in by those on the right who want everyone to sit in neat little boxes and stop thinking but just cheer. Of course, there are many on the left who want the same but would substitute jeering for cheering.

taust
taust
15 years ago

Amused;

Yes I would extend the question to all who opposed the war.

A major strategic challenge is to create conditions in the Arabian peninsular that will lead to regimes that give their populations hopes for the future.

Most of the peninsular regimes although wealthy do not allow their subjects potential to be achieved.

Hence there has been the development of violent direct action groups from the Arabian Peninsular.

Initially these groups were directed against the regimes but one or more develped an analysis that is both world power directed and supporting action against the west.

If you are not going to war what are you going to do?

Why Iraq you might ask? Iraq had a bad PR image. Saudi Arabia even more than Iraq could play the sacred sites at risk card.

Have the Saudi’s et al disrupted the funding of the direct action groups since the invasion. Probably yes , but drugs from Afghanistan probably more than make the shortfall up.

Jc
Jc
15 years ago

Look, as far back as the late 90’s almost every one in the CLinton administration was supporting regime change in Iraq. It was a better plan in certain ways I think because it was a go in , get the bastard and come out. Clinton couldn’t get he support though because he really wasn’t into the action and he had no credibility after getting Monicered in the Oval office.

Every major figure in that adminstration that had a hand in foreign policy was quoted as supporting regime change in Iraq. So going into Iraq is not a new thing.
And Bush, in a way was following on from where Clinton left off becasue he was inefective in achieving his goals.

Before we write it off as a lost cause, at the very least, we ought to recognize that we had a hand in finally freeing the Kurds who are people that deserve liberation.

Sure mistakes have been made, but don’t write it off just yet.

taust
taust
15 years ago

In defence of Clinton the reason for not changing the regime at the time of the Kuwait Gulf#1 was the difficulty in preventing the regional dominance going to the Iranians. This remained a major difficulty for the Clinton era and is still a major strategic difficulty.

So now we arrive at the Iranian nuclear ambitions.

Shortly after the Gulf War#1 an Indian General was asked what was the lesson from Gulf #1. He replied do not take on the USA without having a nuclear weapons.

The Iranians were obviously listening if they had not already arrived at the same conclusion.

rog
rog
15 years ago

Its a bit late to say that Iraq is not a left/right thing, it has been a cause celebre for left for a long time. From memory I think a recent election figured Iraq heavily, the losers took it badly.

I find it hard to accept that after all the bloodshed Iraq can be dismissed as “bizarre”. The victims of this jihad might also find it hard to accept.

What is really bizarre is this failing by the left to acknowledge that the global jihad against the west exists. This is compounded by the fact that there is copious evidence that this jihad started before Iraq yet the condemnation of any effort to protect against this (non existing) Jihad has been relentless. Its no wonder the left are collectively viewed as being traitorous.

Chris Lloyd
Chris Lloyd
15 years ago

JC said: “”

whyisitso
whyisitso
15 years ago

“Sure mistakes have been made”

The only people who’ve never made a mistake are those who’ve never done anything, Chris. Wise after the event is not wisdom, just another form of masterbation. I suspect you’re a practised “stroker”.

Jason Soon
Jason Soon
15 years ago

Nick
if the title of your post was meant to be ironic that certainly got lost in translation. I took it the same way that Yobbo obviously did.

Bring Back EP at LP
Bring Back EP at LP
15 years ago

I find this all faintly amusing.

It was the right which tore to shreds any strategic analysis of invading Iraq.

Messrs Scowcroft and Eagleburger were alarmingly prescient about what would happen.
The Cato institute was the severest critic of Condi and the reasons there of.

I also submit no-one ever could be specific about the WMD Hussein had. They were a generic term. My local member ( The member for Bennelong ) wouldn’t or couldn’t provide me with any specific WMDs Hussein had that would threaten his neighbours, the USA or the World.

Anyone who after 11/9 thought invading Iraq was a first order requirement was simply a moron.

taust
taust
15 years ago

Bring Back etc

Why was it moronic to regard the invasion of Iraq as a first order action after 11/9?

Ignoring the invasion of Afghanistan as per your post what would have been the first order action you would regard as non-moronic?

Mark Bahnisch
15 years ago

I do not know why Mark has such a problem with asking for apologies. I suspect he might have been a marcher on National Sorry Day. A hell of a lot more Iraqi’s have been violently killed since 2003 than Aborigines in the past 50 years. And there is much more prospect of the unacknowledged ME mistakes being repeated.

I don’t think the two situations are at all comparable, Chris. The first is something for which I feel some part of collective responsibility – the second, no, because I opposed the Iraq War and I don’t believe that anyone is asking Australians generally to apologise – that’s ludicrous. As is asking those who were in the CPA in the 50s to “apologise” for Prague. The thoughtful ex-CPA members agonised over it, and many are highly critical of their younger selves as well as of the Soviet Union, but many don’t “apologise”, because they had or believe they had good reason to support the Communist movement at the time. As someone who has always had anti-Communist Left politics, I find it ludicrous that I should be asked to “apologise” for – I don’t know, let’s say human rights violations by Castro in the 1980s (I’m picking that example because I only became politically active when I was a teenager in the mid 80s). I don’t see why someone ten years older than me who was active in Left politics should “apologise” for Pol Pot (and the demand is often made by Quadrant-ites).

To be honest, I’m dubious about National Sorry Day and have never marched. I have been on Land Rights marches, and others which protested violence against Indigenous people in custody. I’ve also worked with Indigenous people on campaigns, and these issues are ones on which I have strong convictions. But I still don’t think that apologies are particularly worthwhile as a political strategy in this context either.

In general, I think that the concept of collective apology is too confused to be supported, and as I said before, it’s just a moralising move. You shouldn’t be amoral in politics but reducing it to “good” vs. “bad” is a child’s game. Politics has its own standards of conduct – it’s better to go with Weber and refer to an “ethics of responsibility”. The ultimate sanction is political failure. But you get precisely nowhere by moralising, and attempting to insinuate that your opponents are somehow less ethical. That’s far too common among Latte Left style commentators like Robert Manne, and it’s why they’re so politically ineffectual. There are ethical people on the right and unethical people on the left. It’s puerile to think otherwise, and we owe people a more adult debate than the distasteful self-righteousness that invariably accompanies such demands.

Mark Bahnisch
15 years ago

I do think the issue of collective apologies, and demands for them, is well worth discussing outside the Iraq stoushing. I wish I had more time to develop the issues at length, but I’ve made a bit of a stab here, stimulated by this thread:

http://larvatusprodeo.net/2006/10/02/should-we-apologise-for-castro/

Jc
Jc
15 years ago

Chris L

Saddam’s days wewre numbered the moment the clock struck 12 am Sept. 11. You may not like the consequences but there it is,as no prez could have allowed him to stay on.

Feign belief in WMD? Could you please point me to one leading figure in intel, or a high government position in the west who did not think there was WMD. Name one Clinton adminsitration official who was the “voice of reason” with regard to WMD?
Hans Blix doesn’t count as his useless mutterings were ignored by almost everyone.

Jc
Jc
15 years ago

More to the point, Iraq isn’t over yet. We may actually end up apologizing for a success.

Amused
Amused
15 years ago

jc
‘Feign belief in wmd’s’? Remember the ill fated wheapons inspectors? Remember the trashing of Hans Blix’s reputation, and the not so subtle suggestion that he was a ‘weak kneed European who made easy meat for the iraqi regime’? WMD was a feigned reason from the get go, and indeed was not even the whole reason, even in the statements of the US policy elite at the time. Remember the vague references to a meeting between Al-Quaida and an Iraqi agent in Prague that supposedly ‘proved’ that the Iraq regime was behind the WTC attack? Remember the ‘aluminium tubes designed for nuclear enrichment’? I even remember the appalling Greg Sheridana screaming at some fellow interviewee at the time, that if we didn’t invade Iraq, we would be responsible for a nuclear attack on Sydney Harbour. Yes, really, as Henderson would say.

And on your last point-when will we know that what we did in invading that country and being responsible for the deaths of thousands will turn out a success?

What is the criteria?
What are the benchmarks?

Could we have them prior to the policy so that we can evaluate the actions, and actually hold someone to account? whatever we are supposedly trying to ‘do’ to the Iraqis. Just for once, could we have some truth and rationale for this adventuree in delusion and duplicity.

The whole thing has been a litany of ex post facto justifications for a ‘war of choice’ conducted by a regime which believes that every now and again the US has to go in and beat up some brown people to ensure that everybody understands who is ‘boss’. Clap trap about democracy and liberty in a region where US policy has signally ensured that neither was achievable by and for the people of that benighted region, convinces nobody who actually remembers what someone said yesterday.

Jc
Jc
15 years ago

Amused
all I did was ask for a name of a senior intel officer or government official that knew there was no WMD.Blix doesn’t count as he was going back anf forth on the issue. Can you name names?

Katz
Katz
15 years ago

Just what purpose is served by this sort of gloat? Are we really just spectators in the war on terror? Just what would the Bush haters have the US do now? There’s just no constructive dialogue with these people. Just negativity ad infititum. Let’s just surrender and get on with our self-satisfied lives until they decide to blow us all up with our own technology. Just as well you people were a small minority in Hitler’s time. Hitler would thrash us today I’ve no doubt about that. We don’t have the will to defend ourselves any longer. It’s all just a matter of time. Nick’s right of course, the worm has indeed turned. And we’ve turned into nothing but worms.

So, Whyisitso, the gloat gets on your goat.

You cheered for Chimpo with all your might and he’s led you up a dry gulch.

Now you blame “the Bush haters” for the Iraq disaster. Risible.

Was it “the Bush haters” who decided on inadequate troop levels in Iraq? Was it “the Bush haters” who set the policies of de-Baathification? Was it the Bush-haters who decreed that the COW should go about its task with gloating arrogance?

No. Chimpo was the author of his own failure. Apologists of Chimpo owe it to themselves to check their thinking when they brayed support for his idiocy. Doesn’t memory of your supreme arrogance make you squirm? It should.

Opponents of this sorry misadventure don’t expect Chimpo apologists to acknowledge the feebleness of their thinking. That would assume too much dignity and class.

But at least they could take a vow of silence for a spell, maybe until Chimpo leaves office.

whyisitso
whyisitso
15 years ago

Jc, it’s not much point asking that question because neither Amused nor any of the pro-Saddamites can name anyone of consequence.

Amused
Amused
15 years ago

ooohh, ‘Saddamites’- Nice one. Just love the alliteration and the faint suggestion of- well, you know what! Which spaced out young turk in the tank thought that one up?

Hey guys, you were right after all! Who gives a rats about evidence. Ready fire aim-that’s the the only style possible for red blooded opponents of tyranny at home and abroad! Neither of you have answered an earlier question I posed. Why did we start with Iraq? Why not Burma? Why not Pakistan? Or are you armchair know nothing blowhards only interested in the tryannies we are told we have to topple. Come on answer the question. Why Iraq, and why then. And don’t start the old ‘everyone knew they had WMD routine any more. Everybody did not know. Hans Blix didn’t know, but of course we could’nt leave him to find out, in case he er, found out. Pathetic.

whyisitso
whyisitso
15 years ago

1. Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990 without provocation.
2. The USA and allies responded and repelled the invasion, turning back the Iraquis, and stopping short of completing a counter invasion of Iraq in exchange for a cease-fire agreement imposing stringent conditions on Iraq.
3. Shortly after that Clinton became US president.
4. For eight years Clinton allowed Saddam Hussein to thumb his nose at the US continuously, culminating with Butler’s weapons inspectors retreating from Iraq with their tails between their legs, totally lacking support from Clinton.
5. Hussein continued flouting the cease fire conditions.
6. Finally the USA completed the job it should have done in 1991 and executed regime change in response to this continual flouting and contempt of the cease fire conditions.
7. Since then the Sunnis have initiated a campaign of indiscriminately murdering other Iraqis, particularly Shiites.
8. No-one is calling for an apology from Sunnis.
9. Through all this the UN has continually demonstrated its irrelevance and counter-productivity.
10. The 2003 USA invasion was not pre-emptive, just the logical response to the breach of the cease-fire after the 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

whyisitso
whyisitso
15 years ago

“and the faint suggestion of- well, you know what!”

Spell it out, Amused. Don’t talk in riddles.

NicM
NicM
15 years ago

whyisitso – have you forgetten Andrew Wilkie, or does he not fit your criteria?

AM Archive – Wednesday, 12 March , 2003 08:00:15
Reporter: Catherine McGrath
LINDA MOTTRAM: Unable, he says, to sit and watch in silence as Australia drifts towards war with Iraq, Andrew Wilkie, a senior Australian intelligence officer is this morning jobless at his own hand, after his resignation in protest against the Howard Government’s position.

http://abc.net.au/am/content/s804540.htm

Amused
Amused
15 years ago

Er,
whyisitso, if the invasion was just a logical response to the flouting of the ceasefire conditons imposed by the UN, why did the CoW decide to invade in the absence of:-

1. A mandate from said UN Security Council in the form of a second resolution, and

2. Definitive proof that Iraq had not disarmed, which was supposed to to be the mandate of Hans Blix and the wheapons inspectors?

Face it, this was a ‘war of choice’ whose rationales have shifted and changed with every twist and turn in the fortunes of the invaders. BTW, regime change was never, I repeat never, the rationale for the Australian government. It was the ‘proof’ of WMD, provided by Intelligaence Agencies who clearly understood their mandate to make the evidence ‘fit the policy’. In the event the central question remains, why Iraq, and why then. You have not provided an answer. You have regurgitated neo con talikng points.

Jc
Jc
15 years ago

Amused
I hardly ever go to right wing sites these days.

I guess you can’t answer the question can you? Neither you or anyone else.And the reason is simple. Everyone thought the lunatic had WMDs.

I am not arguing the performance of thr war has been good after taking the captial. AS I have argued that clintons plan seems to have been a better srtategy.

A lot of what is being spoken about these days is mendacious second guessing and hindsight.

whyisitso
whyisitso
15 years ago

“1. A mandate from said UN Security Council in the form of a second resolution”

The UN has always been irrelevant. Sure there was a resolution in 1990 but the US and its allies would have supported Kuwait militarily anyway. It just suited the allies at the time in a PR sense to have a resolution. The UN has no legitimate authority and is composed of a substantial number of countries that are one-party despotisms (including its largest member). Its claim to be a world government is ludicrous.

“2. Definitive proof that Iraq had not disarmed” Totally unnecessary. They were in demonstrative breach of the victors’ cease fire of 1990 so the victors continued their military action that they’d suspended because of the cease fire agreement.

“Why Iraq?” Because the Iraq regime surrendered its sovereignity in losing the war in 1991.

“why then”. Silly question. Because it was well overdue. Clinton should have taken action when Butler’s mob were chucked out. Just like action should have been taken against the Third Reich when Germany moved into the Rhineland. 9/11 of course galvanised those who, despite all the evidence, didn’t realize that radical Islam had already declared war on the West long ago.

Chris Lloyd
Chris Lloyd
15 years ago

JC: You asked about my phrase “Feigning belief in WMD”. I was not referring to the Clinton days and I do not see how Clinton is relevant unless you are going to run the silly Fox News line. I am talking about the immediate lead up to the war where Hans Blix told Howard straight out in a private meeting that he did not believe there were WMD. It is all in Blix’s book. Of course, Howard refused to reveal to the waiting press what Blix and he had talked about, because he thought it not appropriate to release details of a private conversation. But I forgot. Blix doesn’t count according to you. He was going “back and forth”. Yes. he was going back and forth from site to site on the ground and finding naught. There is plenty of evidence that Bush, Blair and Howard knew very well that their public statements about the likelihood of WMD bore no relationship to reality.

“Saddam’s days were numbered the moment the clock struck 12 am Sept. 11. You may not like the consequences but there it is,as no prez could have allowed him to stay on.” I do not think Gore would have invaded Iraq.

Mark: I was not talking about a collective apology. You really squirm like Howard about this apology word. When people make a bad call and its costs 100,000 lives a significant response is required. It was not difficult to see that Iraq was a con-job in the preceding 6 months. The vast majority of the Australian population thought so according to polls. The war brigade were not acting or arguing in good faith. They were willing Fox fodder.

whyisitso
whyisitso
15 years ago

“I do not think Gore would have invaded Iraq.”

Maybe not. But he certainly wouldn’t have got a second term. He would have just been another ineffectual hand-wringing Jimmy Carter who allowed Iran to commit an act of war against the USA without a response (other than a botched “rescue” attempt).

Mark Bahnisch
15 years ago

You might try to be less personally offensive occasionally in your comments here, Chris, at the home of blog civility. I’m not “squirming”.

If you persist in thinking that every single person who supported the war was acting in bad faith, all I can say is that your partisanship has blinded you to reality.

In truth, some were in good faith, and others were not. The same goes for opponents of the war.

I hope you enjoy sitting on your self-righteous perch.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
15 years ago

“It was not difficult to see that Iraq was a con-job in the preceding 6 months. The vast majority of the Australian population thought so according to polls.”

Really? My perception is that the “con job” line is almost entirely post facto. The “majority of Australians” weren’t asked directly about their thoughts on the quality of the intel information. They were asked whether they supported armed intervention – based on what was known – and said “no.” Hence Mark’s point – which I wouldn’t have thought was all that hard to grasp.

whyisitso
whyisitso
15 years ago

“costs 100,000 lives”

I assume you are including the deaths caused by indiscriminate attacks by Sunni insurgents that you’re trying to pin on the allies.

Jc
Jc
15 years ago

” I do not think Gore would have invaded Iraq.”
Course not. He would have been too worried about the AGW consequences of the war. He was recently quoted as saying that cig smoking causes AWG, so i guess he would have not gone to war unless he did an environmental impact study.

I don’t watch Fox or TV for that matter, what’s so threatening about it?

I still maintain going to Iraq qas a sound idea as getting rid of Saddam and the kids was a good deed.
As for an aopology??? I kind of think it is the opposite. Those who oppose the war need to explain why they thought it was a good idea to allow a mass-murdering maniac to remain in power that cost the lives of 1.5 million Iraqis.

Ken Parish
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Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
15 years ago

Hi Mark

I don’t think Chris Lloyd is being uncivil (although I also don’t think his characterisation of you as “squirming” is in any sense accurate). In fact I’m not even clear on why you two are squabbling, in that you seem to be in basic agreement.

If anyone here should be squirming it would probably be me, because I WAS one of those who supported the Iraq invasion at the time, albeit cautiously and with qualifications. But I did so because I assumed that the US/UK actually did have solid evidence of Iraqi possession of WMD when manifestly they didn’t. I also assumed that the US had cogent plans for the occupation and rebuilding of a prosperous, democratic Iraq after the invasion, which also proved not to be the case and still isn’t. Thus I was certainly one of many bloggers and others who supported the Iraq invasion in good faith but on mistaken premises, and who now accepts unreservedly that I was spectacularly wrong.

JC’s arguments are, with respect, misconceived. Although Saddam was unquestionably an appalling dictator, the great bulk of his slaughtering of innocent civilians took place either during the Iran-Iraq war or in the 2-3 years after the first US invasion (Kuwait operation) in 1991 (while suppressing the Shiite insurrection that Bush senior encouraged but then failed to support). The generally accepted annual rate of murders/executions etc for the last 8-10 years of Saddam’s rule prior to the Coalition of the Willing invasion (according to Human Rights Watch and others) was around 2000 per year. Given that at least 50,000 or so Iraqis have died violently during and after that invasion to the present, and at least the same number by way of excess deaths due to disease, starvation etc (i.e. much higher death rates from such causes than was the case under Saddam prior to the invasion), it’s difficult to argue convincingly that getting rid of Saddam was a fantastic idea on balance for Iraqis. There are 90,000 or so of them who are now dead who would still be alive had the US/UK etc not invaded.

Moreover, in regional stability terms that isn’t much of an outcome either because it will further empower an already threatening Shiite Iran and thus destabilise the world’s most strategically critical region.

Even then, one might conceivably argue that this is a price Iraqis shouldn’t mind paying because they’ll eventually end up living in a peaceful liberal democracy instead of an oppressive and unpredictably violent dictatorship under Saddam. However, at the moment that sort of outcome looks extraordinarily unlikely. Realistically, the most optimistic current scenario is that Iraq will eventually end up with a stable but oppressive, theocratic Shiite dictatorship that will be able to maintain dominance only by suppressing and slaughtering Sunnis at a similar rate to what Saddam slaughtered Shiites in the past to remain in power. Surely getting rid of Saddam can only be argued sensibly to have been an adequate justification for the invasion if both the end result and the price paid to reach it can be regarded as worth it. I don’t see how one can possible say that at present, nor do I see any sign of a miraculous turnaround in the current state of near civil war (nor it seems do US intelligence agencies, who seem to be predicting that things will get worse not better in the next year or so).

Finally, if you still think the Iraq invasion was a great idea purely to get rid of Saddam and despite all the above figures etc (which aren’t in dispute and in fact are if anything conservative), why do you imagine neither the US nor anyone else is currently seriously contemplating invading Sudan, where the slaughter in Darfur is still occurring at a much higher rate than in Iraq under Saddam? Or invading Somalia, where slaughter continues (albeit at somewhat reduced rates since the Islamic hardliners triumphed there)? Or any of several other countries with oppressive regimes and higher rates of regime-generated slaughter than Saddam perpetrated at least post-1993. May I suggest that it’s in part because, unless war (at least a war of choice which the Iraq invasion undeniably was) has a very clearly defined and achievable objective and thorough and sensible plans to achieve it (as well as a moral justification – and I agree that getting rid of Saddam was a valid moral objective), it almost always end up making things much worse rather than better. This is not a lily-livered “lefty” perspective; it was bipartisan mainstream thinking in the US and elsewhere until Cheney, Rumsfeld and the other neocon loonies got their hands on the keys to the asylum. It was certainly Colin Powell’s view (until he allowed himself to be suborned/intimidated by the neocons) and of both the State Department and CIA. Events have proven them right, as is abundantly clear to all but the most determinedly blind denier of stark reality.

whyisitso
whyisitso
15 years ago

“oppressive, theocratic Shiite dictatorship that will be able to maintain dominance only by suppressing and slaughtering Sunnis at a similar rate to what Saddam slaughtered Shiites in the past to remain in power”

I’d like to see factual numbers on which faction is killing which since 2003. My impression is that it’s the Sunnis who are overwhelmingly doing the killing, with the occasional retaliation by Shiites.

The Iranians have been making plenty of noises about eliminating Israel but my impression is that it’s just rhetoric and giving aid to groups like Hezbollah rather than truly threatening aggression directly themselves. As well, their position on nuclear energy usage, while potentially threatening, is so far within their rights as a sovereign nation, regardless of any non-proliferation pact that can’t be enforced anyway.

I tried to set out above why Iraq was a special case for military action, and no one has argued that I’m incorrect in my assessment. Certainly Michael Costello’s view is similar and he’s no rightist.

The USA will not invade or bomb Iran, Sudan, North Korea, China or any other country except in retaliation against external aggression committed by them.

Anyway, what is the totally ineffectual, useless, pontificating UN doing about Somalia and Sudan except pass unenforceable resolutions?

Jc
Jc
15 years ago

Ken
It’s been the staus quo in the middle east that got us into trouble in the fist place. I am a believer in root causes and their consequences. If Atta had the chance of a decent job in Egypt and the rest of his coterie had a shot a job in Saudi we may not even be having this discussion…. Atta could be working some place in Egypt as a town planner worrying about where the sewer drain was to to go for the new development.
It’s the status quo that is in fact killing us. So why not mess things up there anyway as it certainly can’t get any worse. “Sure it can”, I can hear, “What if the Iranians gain influnece in Southern Iraq”
Let them, let them have all the influence they want. They’re Sh’ites, so of course they are going to feel close with Iranians Sh’ites.
What we need is much more instability in the Mid east. The kind that rolls over regimes.

IF the Islamists gain government in some palces, I don’t see that as a worse thing that could happen. If the people there want hard islamic governments let them have it. It’s us trying to stop this and supporting rotting fish that’s making us unpopular.

If hardened Islamists gain power shut the border and don’t trade with them at all. have nothing to do with them growl at them froma distant. Maybe in 50 years or so the may come to their senses.

Bush is trying an experiment in Iraq. It is a decent attempt to give the Iraqis a democratic government. If they don’t want that and would rather kill themselves , lets get out and call it a day.
there is is evil intent on Bush’s part to try this out. He is just trying to be decent about it.

Leinad
Leinad
15 years ago

Excellent post, Ken. You’ve covered most of the bases but I think a few points should also be made regarding the ever-shifting rationale for invasion, particularly the ‘we’ve brought democracy’ argument.

First, it should be born in mind by people who take this approach that direct democracy was the last thing on the CPA’s agenda. A quick check of Bremer and co.’s statements in 2003-early 2004 would tell you that the US plan was to create a ‘caucus’ system – the long and short of it being that handpicked US candidates would play a central role in formulating another convoluted council that would elect representatives to be voted on by other regional handpicked councils. This was to be essentially unrepresentative and largely pro-US (Matt Yglesias described it as “Picking a group of Iraqis to pick a group of Iraqis to pick a group of Iraqis to make decisions, while hoping no one remembers who picked the first group of Iraqis”.)

Indeed, the CPA was forced, in mid-2004 into holding the January 2005 elections by Sistani, who threatened otherwise to turn most of the Shia population away from co-operating with them and into the arms of Moqtada Al-Sadr. This lead to the situation the Coalition wanted desperately to avoid, where the fundamentalist Shia parties trounced the pro-Coalition parties of Iyad Allawi and Chalabi and effectively took over large parts of the new Iraqi govt.

Secondly, democracy isn’t just voting. The Iraqi elections of themselves have in no sense lead to democratic, open government, as they are conducted in the absense of any serious civil and political insitutions, in the backdrop of a country that has in living memory gone through twenty years of coups and unrest followed by thirty years of war, sectarian bloodshed and one-party rule. What civil administration the Baath party left was comprehensively dismantled by the CPA, in great haste and the results speak for themselves.

In two sucessive elections, Iraqis have voted on overwhelmingly sectarian lines. None of the ‘national’ parties, that sought to represent a political viewpoint across ethnic-religious divisions got anywhere. Shia voted for Shia, Kurds for Kurds and Sunni for Sunni. These parties seek little beyond their narrow sectarian agenda, least of all a united Iraq. The ruling United Iraqi Alliance/Democratic Patriotic Alliance of Kurdistan coalition are mooting plans to effectively split the country along ethnic lines, under the guise of ‘federalism’, a move that would conveniently leave Iraq’s oil revenues in ‘local’ (read: Kurdish and Shia) hands.

This is the sort of democracy that leads to Biafra and Rwanda.

Katz
Katz
15 years ago

Just like action should have been taken against the Third Reich when Germany moved into the Rhineland. 9/11 of course galvanised those who, despite all the evidence, didn’t realize that radical Islam had already declared war on the West long ago.

Saddam’s Iraq, unlike the emerging Iraq, was a secularist dictatorship. Saddam hated and feared Shiite Islam and Sunni Islam was contained.

It is mendacious deliberately to conflate Saddam’s supposed threat to the world with that of radical Islam.

RWDBs love quoting the Nazi parallel. Well, here’s a parallel for RWDBs.

It would have been mendacious for Chamberlain in 1939 to conflate the threat of Nazism with the threat of Stalinism. The Allies didn’t do that, despite the fact that Hitler and Stalin had actually signed a pact in 1939. Did Saddam ever sign a pact with Sunni jihadists? Of course not.

The decision to desist from the temptation roll both enemies into one war was intelligent. What chance would France and Britain have had in fighting both Nazi Germany and Stalinist Soviet Union? Should Chamberlain be condemned for neglecting to declare war on the Soviet Union when he declared war on Germany? Of course not. The war against Germany was a war of honour. The war against the Socviet Union would have been a war of opportunity.

On the other hand, what does Chimpo do? He conflates two enemies that hate each other: secular Arab nationalism and radical Sunni Islamism.

Bottom line: the Iraq frolic was a war of opportunity (just like the hypothetical war against Stalin) where neocons sought to impose their messianic vision of a new world order. These neocons were bouyed by the arrogance of inexperience, impelled by the impatience of burglars, and fortified by counterfeit self-righteousness.

The neocons were idiots.

Jc
Jc
15 years ago

Katz says:
“It would have been mendacious for Chamberlain in 1939 to conflate the threat of Nazism with the threat of Stalinism. The Allies didn’t do that, despite the fact that Hitler and Stalin had actually signed a pact in 1939. Did Saddam ever sign a pact with Sunni jihadists? Of course not.”

Unless I’m mistaken WW2 started with the Nazis attacking Poland and later France etc. I don’t think it was Stalin was it? I could be wrong though, Katz.

whyisitso
whyisitso
15 years ago

What utter rubbush, Katz. I’m not comparing the nature of Nazism and Saddamism. I’m comparing circumstances where both the Nazis and Iraq blatantly breached obligations under treaties, and the responses or non-responses thereto.

Also it was strategically sound to have Stalin as an ally rather than an enemy in September 1939. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone argue seriously against that.