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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

John Pilger on Iraq « Previous | |Next »
March 11, 2004

I"m back in Adelaide after being on the road since Sunday. I'm dog tired and I'm fighting off a headache that I've had all day.

I caught John Pilger on Lateline last night. He clearly outlined his position:--- that the US in Iraq is similar to the French in Algeria or Vietnam and that the current Iraqi resistance to the US occupation force is a nationalist response to a foreign invader.

In Australia you don't often hear that view being put in public debate. Pilger's position is a reasonable view, is it not? One worthy of discussion and engagement?

There has been little response so far. Tim Blair has responded. Tim says that Pilger's interview illustrates his "moral illness." Tim does not say what "moral illness' is. Let say that the killing of the European Jews through gas chambers by the Nazi's would an example that we could agree on. Presumably genocide would be another. The assimmilation of aborigines in Australia would be contestable example of moral illness.

So why is Pilger morally ill? Tim does not say. What he does say is strange. Consider this:


"Pilger would support the same outcome -- Saddam’s removal -- if only it had been achieved by different means. Means that involved people unable to achieve it, on account of them all being murdered."


..."all being murdered"? So how come there is still an Iraqi resistance to the US occupation of Iraq?

Now Tim does not engage with Pilger's argument. He titles his post 'Bring back Saddam.' Yet Pilger is not saying this at all. He says that there is a moral case made for deposing the dictator who was killing hundreds and thousands of his opponents by the Iraqi people. So where is the 'bringing Saddam Hussein' in that?

Blair implies that Pilger supports a Saddam Hussein who is is guilty of the most terrible human rights abuses. Alas, Pilger says no such thing. What Pilger is talking about is the local resistance in relation to foreign occupation:


".... any foreign occupier of a country, military occupier, be they Germans in France, Americans in Vietnam, the French in Algeria, wherever, the Americans in Latin America, I would have thought, from the point of view of the local people - and as I mentioned, be they Australians in Australia - if Australia had been invaded and occupied by the Japanese, then the occupying forces, from the point of view of the people of that country, are legitimate targets."


Pilger describes Saddam Hussein's old security apparatus as Gestapo-like and then points out that the US is re-employing them.

Pilger then goes on to say that "you can't approve, under any circumstances, in my opinion, the killing of innocent people....[but].. you have to understand why it happens"?

Hardly an illustration of moral illness is it? Tim Blair does not engage.

Upgrade
More nonsense, as usual, from Gerard Henderson on the issue. It's all simple back and white. He does not canvas the possibility of an Iraqi resistance fighting for a sovereign democratic Iraq. The resistance to US occupation is the work of mass murders. Acording to Henderson the push for democracy and freedom in Iraq is being driven by the US military, not the Shiites under Grand Ayotolla Sistani.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:39 PM | | Comments (38) | TrackBacks (1)
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There's a really interesting debate going on at the moment between Gary Sauer-Thompson and Timmy Blair in the comments area... [Read More]

 
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Comments

It was a very difficult line to take, speaking on TV in one of the victor nations. And he did not do it with panache. All the more credit to him then.

Of course, we all understand why the freedom fighters of Iraq are resisting the foreign invasion of their sovereign nation. What John Pilger hasn't explained to those of us with this deep understanding, is why these freedom fighters blow up their own innocent, freedom loving Iraqis. When he does that, we'll all be crystal clear where they and Mr Pilger are coming from.

Gary, is English your first language?

Just curious.

Tim,
why you don't engage with the arguments of your political opponents.
Just curious about the evasions.

Observa,
That is onesided. Pilger is saying it is war.

Both sides are killing innocent civilians.

That is what happens in war.

Or are you wanting to say that the occupying US military forces do not kill civilians?

What evasions? It seems to me that my site contains hardly anything except arguments against political opponents.

Detail these alleged "evasions" and I'll deal with them.

Blair is unable to engage his political opponents because he does not understand, makes no attempt to understand their point of view. He fails to appreciate that in any civilised discussion and interchange of ideas and opinions, there will always be at least two points of view if not more. From Blairs perspective, only he and his kind are correct in their view and all others are not. To prove that point, he incites vilification and abuse of his opponents to such an extent that any opponent worth their salt simply shrugs and ignores the reposts as the ignorant drivel and distain for rational engagement they surely are. One will note that Blair himself, rarely engages in individual libellous behaviour of personal innuendo, preferring to encourage others to do so on his behalf. One only needs view his website for evidence of this. All in all, the man is a very poor example of the journalistic profession and most definately not to be taken in any way seriously.

Gary,
We might understand these freedom fighters of Pilgers attacking COW troops and even some of their Iraqui 'collaborators', with consequent civilian casualties BUT how the hell does Pilger explain them blowing up the Shia? The same way he justifies casualties of war on Madrid trains I guess. Oh that he had a ticket! Actually, most of us would forgive him for having travelled without one.

Niall's idea of "civilised discussion": describing someone as "an ignorant, slitty-eyed, slimy little Landcruiser-driving vietnamese prick" and an "ignorant, non-english-speaking immigrant".

And he accuses me of inciting "vilification and abuse". Nice supporters you've got here, Gary.

Yeah but is Pilger even right with his first assumptions? How can we be sure that the current Iraqi resistance is a nationalist one? Is it really like Algeria or Vietnam? It doesn't look like it to me.

Blair's response is quite appropriate- Pilger is more interested in drumming up support for his own cause and furthering his own fame. He doesn't give a stuff about people unless it furthers his political agenda.

Engage that, and try and do better then tired cliches for once.

Scott,
there can be no engagement when you dismsiss your opponent's position as tired cliches.

Tim,
you do owe us some indication of what you mean by 'moral illness', given that Pilger does say that he does not approve the killing of innocent people.

you do need to accept Pilger's position for what it is---'foreign occuping power & national resistance'--- and not distort it by saying that Pilger is only about bringing Saddam Hussein back.

If you disagree with Pilger's position (as you & Scott do), then you need to show us what is wrong with the arguments that endeavour to support, back up, or render Pilger's position plausible.

eg.is there an argument that supports Pilger's claim that the US is a foreign occupying power in Iraq? If so is it a poor one. If so why?

or is there an argument that supports Pilger's claim that the resistance to the US presence in Iraq is a nationalist one with support from the Iraqi people? If so is it a poor one? If so why?

Maybe the 'occuping/national resistance' model that Pilger is working with doesn't really fit what is happening in Iraq----if you hold this then you need to show us why.

Saying Pilger wants to bring Saddam Hussein back doesn't do that at all. A quick read of Pilger indicates that he agrees with you that Saddam was a bad guy, ran an oppressive regime that killed lots of Iraqi's and had a Gestapo-like security apparatus.

Hence the bring back Saddam response is an evasion.

Just to loosen up things---I'm not defending Pilger.I have doubts about "approve"---its not strong enough---and I'm unsure about the Vietnam/ Algerian mode--not sure it fits the current resistance to the US military presence in Iraq.

Observer,
you overlook the little fact that the current form of administration in Iraq is an American military dictatorship.

It is a foreign occupation whose rule relies on brute force rather than democratic legitimacy.

Actually, Gary, I don’t owe anybody anything. But thanks for the reminder about the arrogance of modern Australian academics.

Yes, Pilger does say that he does not approve the killing of innocent people. He says it often. He has to, because most of the rest of the time it sounds as though he’s saying exactly the opposite. Consider how many times in your life you’ve been forced to defend yourself from accusations that you support the death of innocents; Pilger needs to do so on almost a daily basis.

It’s a get-out clause. If I end a racist tirade with the line: “But I do not condone racism”, does it get me off the hook? No. These days Pilger throws the old “I do not approve of ...” line in almost reflexively, like a speeding driver making a guilty check of the rear-view mirror. If you take another look at the transcript, you’ll find that he utters it here about people he doesn’t even consider innocent; people, in fact, he views as “the most vicious creatures”.

As for me not giving sufficient explanation of Pilger’s moral sickness, well, his remarks speak for themselves. He equates Australia’s wartime government with Saddam’s dictatorship. He describes as “the resistance” various forces which prior to Saddam’s overthrow were torturing and murdering Iraqis. He denounces the troops who liberated Iraq as “illegal occupiers” ... because they deposed a fascist dictatorship. Was Saddam’s occupation legal?

You write that I distort Pilger's position “by saying that Pilger is only about bringing Saddam Hussein back.” Well, isn’t that the logical extension of Pilger’s position? He opposed the removal of Saddam. He supports Saddam’s remnants as they “resist” the “occupation”. It adds up to restoring Saddam (or a like force), does it not?

A quick review of recent events: we’ve seen attacks on the US, Bali, and Spain. Let’s assume all, rather than only two, were led by Islamic fundamentalists. These represent an assault on western liberal democracy. Yet what is Pilger more concerned about?

“I think the situation in Iraq is so dire that unless the United States is defeated there that we're likely to see an attack on Iran, we're likely to see an attack on North Korea and all the way down the road it could be even an attack on China within a decade, so I think what happens in Iraq now is incredibly important.”

Pilger, while enjoying the massive privileges available to him in western society, is worried about the overthrow of dictatorships. He would deny to the citizens of those countries the freedom he revels in. He is morally sick.

Tim,
you write 'you do not owe anybody anything'?

An interesting turn of phrase.

You say you are defending 'western liberal democracies' from terrorist attack by Islamic fundamentalists.
Okay. That means you a defending a certain way of life----minimally one of freedom.

That means you are defending the application of the ethos of public reason within 'western liberal democracies'. That means you accept the principle of internal critical argument. So owe the rest of 'us' within western liberal democracies a commitment to conduct yourself in terms of open public argument and debate.

Rejection of this ethos of public reason means that that you are insisting on, and defending, an authoritarian mode of discourse: a liberalism that would exclude others from the bounds of reasonable political argument.

All I did was articulate, and make explicit, the ethos of the public reason of western liberal democracies in an academic style. It's spelt out over at philosophy.com

You say you find the academic articulation of the ethos of public reason 'arrogant'. Now the academic style cannot be arrogant as you consistently mock the style as being inferior to the clear prose of your kind of journalism.

What is arrogant is the demands of open western liberalism on its citizens to conduct themselves in accord with its principles.

Many Islamists in Asia and the Arab world also find the public reason of western liberal democracies arrogant.

Well the last time I tried to get into a debate with you you recycled a heap of old ALP cliches so I really don't see the point in going over the same tired old ground.

What's this about Tim Blair defending "Western Liberal democracies?"

Sounds like you are reading what you want to read.

Then you go from there to build a strawman

"That means you accept the principle of internal critical argument. So owe the rest of 'us' within western liberal democracies a commitment to conduct yourself in terms of open public argument and debate.

Rejection of this ethos of public reason means that that you are insisting on, and defending, an authoritarian mode of discourse: a liberalism that would exclude others from the bounds of reasonable political argument."

Some people call this a 'strawman', although I prefer the term "bullshit".

In the first place, Tim does actually agree to public debate, else he wouldn't be commenting here. So it's not clear how he's rejecting this ethos and insisting an 'authoritarian mode of discourse'

In the second place, Tim is entitled to dismiss your arguements without comment. Just because you disagree with a statement I make, doesn't mean I'm obliged to defend it to you.

Imagine on my blog I make statement 'A'. And you make on your blog a post saying that statement 'A' is wrong, because of reasons 1, 2 and 3.

That doesn't mean I'm obliged to read your post, let alone respond to it.

Readers can draw their own conclusion from that, but get a grip- these are blog posts we're talking about, not the Magna Carta.

Gary,

You accused me of not "engaging", and asked me a bunch of questions.

I answered them.

In reply, you essentially ignored everything I'd written except for the first sentence.

Who "doesn't engage", you pretentious, half-literate, witless, terror-excusing, pretend-intellectual fraud?

On so many levels, Gary ... you owe us an explanation.

scott - yawn... you don't really understand the strawman, do you?

Gary and Pilger are being intellectually dishonest when they say that they only opposed the means by which Saddam was deposed. The fact of the matter is that, in practical terms, opposition to the war meant opposition to the only thing that would remove Saddam from power in the foreseeable future.

anti-Ba'ath resistance was negligble, at best, having been destroyed by decades of Saddam-ite political terror.

The bottom line is that the only way Saddam was ever going to be removed was at the business end of a US Army bayonet. Thus, opposition to the war is for all practical intents and purposes a vote in favour of allowing Saddam's reign of terror to continue.

THAT non sequitur is a reflection of Pilger's moral blindness/illness, whose source stems from a knee jerk hatred of the US that propels him to adopt morally insupportable positions like these.

Scott,
I was explicating what 'owe' us meant in terms of the ethos of public reason of western liberal democracy.

As far as I know Australia is a western liberal democracy and we living and talking in Australia not Iraq.

I never said that Tim Blair did not accept this ethos; or that he worked in terms of an authoritarian mode of discourse.

I also indicated that the arrogance he noted was that of a western reason of liberal democracies.

Your post can be interpreted as an attack on the rules and ethos of open debate in the public sphere.

You are walking a thin line here.One slip and you would be interpreted as attacking public reason from the perspective of explosive personal emotion and irrationality.

Your way of "debating" is to say that your position is a reasonable one and your opponent's position is an old cliche.So they are not worthy of being considered or taken seriously.

You "win" before the debate begins. That is an example of the style of an authoritarian mode of discourse.

I disagree with Tim's position in this debate but I acknowledge it, take it seriously and treat it with respect. I ask for arguments to justify it then evaluate the arguments.

Voice of Sanity
May I suggest you read the Pilger transcript on Lateline.

That interview has nothing to do with the reasons for going to war with Iraq. It is all about the current situation in Iraq---the US occupation and the resistance to that occupation.

Pilger is arguing that the best way to understand what is going in Iraq is in terms of a foreign occupation by the US and national resistance by the Iraqi's.

It is the Vietnam model if you like---involving both the French and the US.

The question I've posed is: 'how useful is this model for understanding what is currently happening in Iraq.'

There is no intellectual dishonesty here at all. We are not addressing the issue you raise.

Tim,
I've had a chance to re-read the Pilger transcript on Lateline.

You write "If you take another look at the transcript, you’ll find that he [Pilger] utters it here about people he doesn’t even consider innocent people; in fact, he views as “the most vicious creatures”.

The only reference to the "most vicious creatures" I could find is this:
"Well, there's a great irony here because what the United States is doing now is retraining, or rather rehiring, 10,000 of Saddam Hussein's most vicious security people." He then describes these as being "among some of the most vicious creatures."

He distinquishes these members of Saddam Hussein's old Gestapo-like security apparatus from innocent civilians.

He then says: "The CIA are training these people to actually put the finger on who the resistance are, so you have - what you have going on in Iraq now is a kind of re-Nazification, the same sort of thing that went on in Germany after the Second World War."

Pilger adds that if you look at things from the perspective of the Iraqi resistance to the foreign power occuping Iraq then the security apparatus is a legitimate target.

JOHN PILGER: "You know, all resistances have said if you're going to collaborate, then you are a target."
Then this:
"Well, of course, the killing of innocent people can't be condoned under any circumstances.But in all resistances, it happens."

That is pretty specific. It's what the French resistance did with those who collaborated with the Nazi's in the 1940s.

The solution? The sooner things move to putting in place a democratic sovereign Iraqi the better.


Tim,
I've re-read the Pilger transcript on Lateline in the context of your moral illness thesis.

As you know I'm sympathetic to the idea of 'moral illness' (my understanding is along the Nietzschean lines of it arising from nihilism) but I was unclear how Pilger suffered from it.

You write:
"As for me not giving sufficient explanation of Pilger’s moral sickness, well, his remarks speak for themselves. He equates Australia’s wartime government with Saddam’s dictatorship. He describes as “the resistance” various forces which prior to Saddam’s overthrow were torturing and murdering Iraqis. He denounces the troops who liberated Iraq as “illegal occupiers” ... because they deposed a fascist dictatorship. Was Saddam’s occupation legal?"

Let me go through your points one by one to see if there is moral illness here. My judgement is that you sense it, but you cannot put quite put your finger on it. I'll point to where I reckon the "moral illness" can be found.

1. Your write that: "He [Pilger} "equates Australia’s wartime government with Saddam’s dictatorship."
Not quite. Pilger says "I've just said that any foreign occupier of a country, military occupier....from the point of view of the people of that country, are legitimate targets."

He then illustrates this by saying if Australia had been invaded and occupied by the Japanese, then the Japanese occupying forces(and Australian collaborators) would be a legitimate target for the Australian resistance.

2.You write:" He[Pilger]describes as “the resistance” various forces which prior to Saddam’s overthrow were torturing and murdering Iraqis.
That assumes the forces are remnants of Saddam Hussein's Ba'athist regime. Pilger challenges this asssumption as he says: "There are 12 groups, they're all very different, there are groups within the Shia, but what they're all united about, quite clearly, is getting rid of a foreign invader and occupier from Iraq."

Further on Pilger mentions the Shia. He says "The Shia have long been a very patient group...my understanding of what the Shia are doing in Iraq is something very similar,{to what happened in Iran] that they, yes, are building a militia army and they're doing it patiently and they're doing it in a very ordered way.

There is a certain commitment to a peaceful resistance among the Shia actually, and they're the majority in the country."

3.You write: "He [Pilger]denounces the troops who liberated Iraq as “illegal occupiers” ... because they deposed a fascist dictatorship.

Let me put "illegal" to one side since we are dealing with moral illness and ethics is not identical to law. The US did dispose a fascist dictatorship. But post liberation they are foreigners using a military dictatorship to govern the Iraqi people. The foreignness and the lack of democracy activates a resistance amongst different groups of Iraqi's.

The sooner Iraq becomes a sovereign democratic nation-state the better.

I do not see moral illness in this. What I see is your rejection of Pilger's occupation/resistance model to understand Iraq. Fair enough. That is not a moral illness per se.

Where Pilger has the ethical shakes is not in saying "the killing of innocent people can't be condoned under any circumstances" as a get-out clause.

He morally condems the Americans for the way they conduct the war--eg. "their kind of murderous presence"--- but he does not morally condemn the murderous tactics used by the resistance--eg. bombing the UN and the Red Cross.

That--the double standard---is where I find Pilger evasive. Tony Jones failed to pressure him on that evasion in the Lateline interview. Pilger uses his model as a cover to hide the evasion on the double standard.

You can acccept his foreign occupation/national resistance model---as I do with reservations---but morally condemn some of the tactics employed by some of the resistance groups.

Gary,

You wrote: "My judgement is that you sense [moral illness] but you cannot put quite put your finger on it."

Possibly because I only have ten fingers. How many examples do you need? Here’s a favourite. And here are a several more.

The first link highlights one of his more hilarious evasions. Remember, my line was that Pilger's moral illness was "revealed anew" by his latest madness; he has quite a history.

You treat him as an essentially fair-minded commentator who sometimes allows his enthusiasms to get the better of him; then again, you're capable of looking at the depiction of a fat, evil Jew biting off a baby’s head and seeing “a powerful image”, and “form” that is "crucial to the content".

Most rational observers simply see a fat, evil Jew biting off a baby’s head. Speaking of rational, what's your take on Niall's anti-Vietnamese remarks? He's a big defender of yours. I'd like you to "engage" his comments.

Now that's a Strawman, for the benefit of Scott Wickstein et al. You're not as stupid as I gave you credit for after all, Timmy. On the question of anti-vietnamese remarks, why don't you engage me, instead of building strawmen to attack Gary with, or don't you have the moral well-being to handle that?

I'd love to be engaged to you, Niall, but mixed marriages rarely work. I'm a male human, and you're a type of speech-capable bacterium. Do you live in straw? Is that why you hate Vietnamese -- because they threaten the straw somehow? Defend the straw!

Ahh, but it's you who say I do, not I. Make what you will of my comment, which you have done, but it's the context, dear boy, which you've as usual, taken out of the way. You know this of course, but that's your style. Let's face it, Timmy. You can't engage logically or rationally, a point which Gary has rather eloquently portrayed here. Thanks for comin'.

"Make what you will of my comment, which you have done, but it's the context, dear boy, which you've as usual, taken out of the way."

Let me just fix that for you ...

"You've taken my comment out of context."

See? It's easy to write concise, legible sentences when you're not rushing to the window every five minutes to make sure Triad gangs aren't tagging the Camry.

Gary, you say:

"We [Gary and Pilger] are not addressing the issue you raise" [your opposition to the war = the perpetuation of Saddam's tyranny].

No you don't, because that allows you to avoid the pejorative moral implications of your stance against the war. But, I have to say that your attempt to address both elements in isolation [the war, and now the post-war] reeks of intellectual dishonesty because the they both constitute an inseparable whole. Even if you think that the post-war management of recovery operations in Iraq could have been done better, there would have been no reconstruction going on at all if Saddam hadn't been removed from power at the business end of an American bayonet.

Moreover, you [approvingly?] cite Pilger's assertion that "post liberation they [American troops] are foreigners using a military dictatorship to govern the Iraqi people. The foreignness and the lack of democracy activates a resistance amongst different groups of Iraqi's."

So, let me apply this principle of yours a bit more broadly. I guess you:

1) supported the Khmer Rouge in their war against the Vietnamese communist invaders of Cambodia, even though that Viet incursion brought the KR's campaign of genocide to an end

2) would have supported the sporadic acts of violence against Allied occupation forces by Nazi remnants in post-WWII Germany


Voice of Sanity,

1. Australia was wrong---yes wrong--- to participate in the war against Iraq. The reason? An invasion of Iraq to overthrow a dictatorial regime was irrelevant to the US struggle against terrorism, which was largely represented by Al Qaeda.

2. The next post on Iraq at public opinion deals with the Iraqi Interim Constitution. The people of Iraq were not involved in drawing up this constitution. Only the 25 IGC members. The debates on the Interim Constitution were not public. No draft was published in advance for public comment. Nor was there any system of public education and consultation.

The lack of democratic participation in drafting is bad----yes a bad.

3.My account of Iraq is grounded in what is happening in Iraq not in Cambodia.

4 It's perspective is that a sovereign federal democratic Iraq is a good--yes a good. Democracy is an integral part of the good life.

Consequently, those who oppose this good are bad. Hence it has no connection to Nazi forces resisting the allied occupation forces after WW2.

5.I accepted Tim Blair's concept of moral illness and I gave examples of it---the Nazi's killing the Jews in the 1930s and 40s and genocide---but rejected Tim Blair's claim that Pilger was morally ill as unproven. The killing fields of Cambodia would be another example of moral illness. My judgement is that these actions -Auschwitz and the Gulag---are wrong--yes wrong---an evil, if you like

Note the ethical language used in the above.

So, let me get this straight. The Nazi genocide against the Jews, and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia were a "morally ill" policies the presumably warranted military action against the regime that perpetrated them. But, Saddam's campaign of mass murder against the Kurds, Shia Arabs did not?

You'll have to excuse me, but you seem to be more than a tad inconsistent here.

Why do the half-million or so victims of Saddam's tyranny matter less than European Jews or Cambodians?

Gary, here's a piece I wrote late last year that deals precisely with the issue under discussion.
--------------------------------------------------------

Less than a year ago, it was the scene of one of the most decisive triumphs in US military history. Yet, today the headlines are very bad.

Writing from the heartland of the defeated country, journalist with the New York Times finds that "bitter resentment was voiced over the Americans’ first six months of occupation…" Another NYT piece relates that growing hostility towards the US "is finding expression in the organization of numerous local anti-American organizations throughout the zone and a rapid increase in the number of attacks on American soldiers." The general gravity of the situation is encapsulated by a front-page New York Times article that tells of serious concerns in Washington "that the United States might lose the fruits of victory."

The reader might be excused for assuming that these news stories are focussed upon the current situation in Iraq. Yet in reality, these articles appeared in the New York Times between October 1945 and January 1946, and the occupation they described was that of a vanquished Nazi Germany.

These 60 year-old news clippings illustrate the perils of applying short-term vision to an environment where a long-term, strategic perspective provides the only path to coherence. The world of 1945 turned at a far slower pace than today’s frenetic, computer-driven culture of instantaneous global communications and 24-hour news cycles. And, that wasn’t necessarily such a bad thing.

Modern hi-tech society moves with a celerity that tends to focus on the immediate at the expense of the profound. Anyone reading the New York Times in December 1945 might easily conclude that state of post-war Europe was an unmitigated disaster, and that the sacrifices of Normandy, Tobruk and Guadalcanal had been in vain. Anyone reading the New York Times in December 2003, might easily reach the same gloomy conclusion about the current situation in Iraq.

Yet, from Baghdad to Basra, there are events transpiring at the grassroots level that give considerable cause for optimism. For example, electricity generation levels throughout Iraq now surpass the amounts of electric power produced before the war.

Public health expenditures have increased from the $16 million spent by Saddam Hussein during 2002, to the sum of $433 million expended by Coalition authorities during the six months that it has governed from Baghdad. This vast infusion of funds has allowed all of Iraq’s 240 hospitals and 1,200 clinics to operate at full capacity. Moreover, the Iraqi health care system now has the wherewithal to acquire the long-overdue equipment and pharmaceuticals that are needed to make modern medical treatment available to the Iraqi people.

There is similarly positive news to report about the Iraqi education system. Teacher salaries have been multiplied by a factor of 12 to 25 over wage levels paid during Saddam Hussein’s regime. Over 1,500 primary schools have been refurbished, and all of Iraq’s 22 universities are functioning. Moreover, the liberation of the educational curriculum has proved to be just as important as the reconstruction of classroom buildings. For the first time in a generation, Iraqi children have been free to focus on learning, rather than a rote regurgitation of praise for Saddam Hussein.

On the military front, as well, there is cause for hope. On 30 November, over 50 Iraqi insurgents were killed during a large-scale attempt to ambush two US military convoys in the western Iraqi town of Samarra. Military experts at the private sector "Stratfor" intelligence service have concluded that this attack was most likely motivated by insurgent desperation, rather than confidence. "The Iraqi guerillas realise they are running out of time," say Stratfor analysts. "The U.S. – Kurdish – Shi’ite alliance is becoming operational and the guerillas’ read of the political landscape is that they are about to be caught between a rock and a hard place. In addition, the guerrillas understand that their resources are limited and that attrition, over time, plays against them."

During the past six weeks American forces have captured or killed over 1,100 Iraqi insurgents. Thus, the insurgents have suffered roughly 15 casualties for every single death they have been able to inflict on the Coalition.

During the Vietnam War, American firepower repeatedly decimated Viet Cong and NVA forces. Yet, the communists were able to keep on fighting because fresh equipment and reinforcements from North Vietnam constantly replenished their ranks. The insurgents in Iraq enjoy no similar external source of support, and they will be unable to maintain this unfavourable casualty exchange ratio for any length of time. Moreover, all America’s allies in Iraq have stood fast, despite the deadly attacks on the Italian and Spanish Coalition contingents.

The devastation inflicted upon Berlin in 1945 was far worse than anything endured by Baghdad in 2003. Yet, despite all the miscalculations of post-war American occupation authorities, Germany emerged from the rubble to build a stable and prosperous democracy.

The first independent opinion poll to be conducted in Iraq recently revealed that an overwhelming majority of Baghdad residents yearns for political freedom and individual liberty. Moreover, that Gallup survey further revealed that over 70% of Baghdadis wanted American troops to stay in Iraq until representative government can take root in their country.

The United States must keep faith with these Iraqi democrats. If America perseveres in the face of adversity, then there is no reason to believe that the successful rehabilitation of post-WWII Germany can not be duplicated in post-war Iraq.

# # #

Voice of Sanity,
I never said that Saddam Hussein's treatment of the Iraqi people was not a moral evil.

It never came up in the discussion. Remember it was me giving examples of moral illness to unpack what it could possibly mean.

For the record Hussein's treatment of the Kurds and Shiites was bad--a moral evil.

However, the US has dirty hands on this one.

Gary, you state:

"For the record Hussein's treatment of the Kurds and Shiites was bad--a moral evil"

Just not enough of one to warrant military action, it seems. I guess a half million murder victims isn't sufficient to trigger your liberationist instincts.

As far as the dirty hands of the United, States are concerned, the following bit by your old friend Ted Lapkin from Radio National's "Perspective" constitutes an effective rebuttal of that old lefty argument:

Ted Lapkin
Wednesday 28 January 2004
Presented by Sandy McCutcheon

Topic: Why the Leftist Portrayal Of America Ain’t Necessarily So

Program Transcript
Within leftist ranks, where the range of sentiment towards the U.S. extends from mild distaste to vehement detestation, the game of American moral equivalence is a popular pastime. The rules are simple. Players must demonise the United States by asserting that American foreign policy is ethically equivalent to the actions of the world’s worst tyrants.

Yet, more often than not, the arguments adduced by proponents of U.S. moral equivalence are constructed upon falsehood.

Leftist icon Noam Chomsky, for example, has long masked his own sordid record of support for the Khmer Rouge by misrepresenting those communist fanatics as protégés of the United States. Marxist writer Tariq Ali descended into similar absurdity when he described NATO’s military intervention to halt Serbia’s genocidal rampage through the Balkans as “anti-Serb racism.” Ali strained his credibility yet further when he commented that “Iraq under US occupation is in a much worse state than it was under Saddam Hussein.”

Never mind the torture chambers and mass graves that have been discovered from Baghdad to Basra.

But, even when such progressive intellectual contortions manage to avoid factual error, the leftist worldview peers through a monochrome prism that grossly distorts reality.

While it is true that the US forged alliances of convenience with non-democratic regimes, it is also true that such unsavoury coalitions were usually motivated by external threat. In fact, the most salient example of such cynical expedience took place during WWII, when the Western democracies made common cause with communist Russia.

Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin presided over one of the most viciously repressive regimes ever to mar the annals of humanity. With over 15 million victims to his discredit, Stalin was the silver medallist in the 20th century mass murder challenge, surpassed in homicidal endeavour only by a more prolific Marxist butcher named Mao Tze Tung.

Yet, despite Stalin’s crimes against humanity, the threat posed by Nazi Germany propelled the Allies to enter an alliance with the Soviet Union. Even the most ardent America-basher should concede that, in that particular circumstance, the end justified the means.

But, the demise of the Third Reich marked the emergence of a new menace to the free nations of the world. Throughout Eastern Europe, the end of WWII merely signified an exchange of tyrannies, with communist brutality rising to supersede Nazi savagery. Moreover, fuelled by a toxic combination of Marxist dogma and ancient Russian imperial ambition, Soviet leaders laboured to expand their regime of repression wherever they could.

The bloody crimes of communism are well documented, and ghosts of 50 plus million victims would belie any argument that Marxism was any less barbaric than Nazism. Surely if the menace of Hitlerism justified an Allied coalition with Stalin’s genocidal regime during WWII, then the threat of Marxist totalitarianism justified American aid to far less murderous anti-communist juntas during the Cold War.

America’s morally pristine strategic imperative to defend the democratic world from Soviet tyranny obligated the U.S., at times, to adopt ethically imperfect tactics. In some instances, like Vietnam, the incorrect application of this correct principle ended in tragedy for all concerned. In others, the United States successfully combated communist expansionism by enlisting distasteful allies.

The same pragmatic considerations should be applied to American policy towards Ba’athist Iraq. During the 1980s, Iranian leader Ayatollah Homeini was aggressively threatening to export his virulently anti-Western strain of radical Islam throughout the world. While Saddam Hussein was viewed as a brute, he was also seen as a necessary buffer that would contain very sort of violent Muslim extremism that we see in Al Q’aeda today.

Similarly, while Pakistani strongman Pervez Musharraf is certainly no poster boy for democracy, he is far preferable to the pro-Bin Laden Islamic zealots who might replace him in power.

The politics of reality sometimes demand ethical compromises that involve the commission of a lesser evil in order to achieve a greater good. The only relevant moral yardstick must be based on a judgement whether the danger to human freedom is severe enough to warrant such a deal with the devil. Despite the Faustian bargains that American foreign policy has sometimes made, the United States has largely been a force for good in the world.

As in physics, a vacuum in international power politics will always strive to be filled. In a world where the contenders to fill that void are UN multilateral impotence, cynical European self-aggrandisement and American real-politik in pursuit of freedom, I cast my vote for Uncle Sam.

Guests on this program:

Ted Lapkin
Senior Policy Analyst
Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council


Sorry Voice of Sanity, but mass-murder was never the reason given for invading Iraq. If it had been then the government of the US would be obliged to invade every time there is a huge mass-murder (not necessarily a bad thing at all) in another country.

At the moment it is ignoring the Congo as it ignored Rwanda. It is also ignoring Chechnya and Tibet. As it ignored Iraq up til Iraq invaded Kuwait.

I am pleased that Hussein is deposed but I am not pleased that far greater instability has been created by it.

The USSR was a far greater danger than Al Q'aeda will ever be and it was defeated comprehensively without ever sending B52s over Moscow.

Similarly to you many said that the USSR could not be defeated without a war. Many are also claiming that Hussein would never have been defeated without invasion.

No patience.

Al Q'aeda is a policing issue and should have been approached as such. And any policeman will tell you that it's the beat cop doing the dull, repetitive grind of daily policing who prevents most crime, not the heavily armed glory-seekers.

Israel's attacks on Palestine are just as morally culpable as those of the Palestinians on the Israelis.

No patience. In the meantime thousands more die.

And because the US does not remove every evil, it may remove none. Damned if it does, damned if it does not. What a convinient proposition.

Andrew, you are in fundamental error on several points, but let me focus on just a couple.

Your assertion that Al Qaeda is a "policing issue" is reminiscent of the policy error that plagued the foreign policy of the Clinton Administration and set the stage for 9/11.

In October 2001, a front page, above the fold piece in the Washington Post related how the Clinton Administration had botched a perfect chance to nab OBL in 1996. At the time, OBL was resident in Khartoum, and the Sudanese government was eager to get off the US State Dept's terrorist nation list. So, the Sudanese offered to hand over OBL to the Americans on a silver platter.

The Clinton Administration refused this offer. Why? Well, former Clinton Nat'l Security Advisor Sandy Baker is quoted in the Wash Post piece to the effect that Clinton Attorney General Janet Reno didn't think that the Justice Department had enough evidence to prosecute OBL. So they declined the Sudanese proposal, OBL later relocated to Afghanistan, and the rest is history.

This illustrates the problem in the approach you propose. Terrorism in general, and Al Qaeda in particular, are not criminal justice issues. These organizations pose a threat to the West so profound in scope and severity that it transcends the category of law enforcement problem to become a national security issue. And that's how the Clinton administration should have dealt with OBL in 1996.

Instead of worrying whether they had enough evidence to prosecute the scrawny bastard in court, they should have sent in Delta to either blow him away, or nab him and put him in in a Guatmo-type facility where he could be interrogated.

This is war, not "Law and order." And, as Napoleon said: a la guerre, comme a la guerre (in war, as in war)

The second issue on which I believe you are in error is the false moral equivalency that you impose on the Arab Israeli conflict. I have dealt with this issue in greater detail in my commentary on the Leunig cartoon on this site. I commend it to you for your perusal.