10 Years After The Iraq War: The Inevitability of Failure — and of Success

by Chris Cutrone on March 20, 2013

Originally published in Platypus Review 53 — Leading public member of the Socialist Workers Party of the United Kingdom, Richard Seymour, who made a name for himself with the book The Liberal Defense of Murder (2008), polemicizing against campaigns of “humanitarian” military intervention such as the Iraq War, recently released his book on the late Christopher Hitchens, Unhitched, demonstrating that Hitchens remains an enduring and indeed indispensable phenomenon in the present system of thinking on the “Left.”

Hitchens became a flashpoint in his support for the U.S. and allied invasion and occupation of Iraq. Why was Hitchens’s position so significant? After all, arguably many millions of people around the world supported the war and its aims. Hitchens, of course, was a former member of the “Marxist Left,” and even continued to avow his adherence to this, accusing the “Left” rather of deserting him, at least as much as it could be claimed that he had deserted it. Not many accepted Hitchens’s position. It’s unclear that Hitchens fully accepted it himself.

So, Hitchens was and continues to be denounced as a “renegade.” But a renegade from what? The “Left,” which is supposed to express potential and possibility.

As a politics, the Left, like any other, must express the “art of the possible.” The exercise of the faculty of political judgment has been sorely tested in recent decades, and not only on the ostensible “Left.” It is an endemic problem. Such judgment over the course of events, and what if any actions are to be taken therein, must risk the gamble of engaging reality with the aim of changing it. In so doing, accommodation to reality or of changing it only in worse ways, inadvertently reinforcing current trends, may defeat any attempted political action and threaten its goals. The degree to which anyone can claim to be a political actor at all, one must argue for action that does not simply sanctify existing tendencies, but can actually claim responsibility for its effects. Politics cannot succeed dishonestly. At least not for the Left.

To give political cover for what’s going to happen anyway is mere opportunism, the worst sin in politics. For this renders politics, that is, deliberate action attempting to take responsibility for the course of events, superfluous. It degrades agency, and evades rather than actually taking responsibility. Politics properly aims to be more than merely the mask or the performative rehearsal of the status quo. Politics aims at agency, and agency of change. Maintenance of the status quo doesn’t require politics, but only reproductive technique. At issue in politics is the direction of change: What ought to happen that isn’t already happening? How do we rally people for such a cause? What is to be done? And where do we want such action to take us? There is always much to dispute in this. Contention is the essence of politics. The only question is, what can be possibly and desirably contested?

In the case of the Iraq War, there were many avowed goals on the part of the U.S. and its allies. But perhaps the most compelling ideological aim was the “democratization” of Iraq (beyond the merely technocratic aim of removing “weapons of mass destruction” from Iraq, legalistically enforcing a prior United Nations mandate), freeing it from Baathist tyranny. This was the aim of the neo-conservatives, for example. And this aim was attacked by many, including traditional conservatives such as reelected President Obama’s current nominee for U.S. Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel. A conservative Republican, Hagel earned the ire of many in his party for his dissent from the Iraq War, based on his opposition to the military adventurism motivated by the neo-conservative ideologues. In this sense, Hagel’s opposition to the neo-cons was from the Right, that is, conservative with respect to action: better to not do something than to do something wrong(ly).

But the opposition to the war from the avowed “Left” was supposed to be different from this: neither merely technical (as in favoring economic sanctions over military action) nor conservative.

Hitchens debated Tariq Ali on the Iraq War, and they argued over the relation between their shared opposition to the Vietnam War, previously, and their disagreement over the Iraq War, now.

One memorable exchange went as follows:

[Hitchens:] I think that the United States and coalition forces are not militarily defeatable in Iraq. . . . I think it’s important to know first what can’t happen. . . . Unless the United States chooses to be defeated in Iraq, it cannot be. Therefore, the insurgency, so-called, will be defeated. And all logical and moral conclusions you want to draw from that, should be drawn.

[Ali:] Well, I think Christopher is right on this, that militarily, it is virtually impossible to defeat the United States. After all, they were not defeated militarily in Vietnam, either. . . . The question is this: The United States army cannot be defeated militarily; they’re incredibly powerful, but can the Iraqi people be defeated? Can Iraq be anything else but a lame colony, a mixture of Gaza and Guantanamo under foreign occupation? . . . And so one has to move to a situation of U.S. withdrawal, and the emergence of an elected Iraqi government, which will determine its own future, including control of its own oil. There’s no other way out.

What is remarkable about this exchange is how both Ali and Hitchens appear to have been correct in their estimations, however drawing opposite political conclusions. The U.S. was not defeated militarily by the insurgency; and there has been the emergence of an elected Iraqi government exercising independent sovereignty. And, as a result of both these eventualities, as the only possible outcome, the U.S. and allies have militarily withdrawn from Iraq.

While Hitchens may have been wrong with respect to the success of the military invasion and occupation, Ali was also quite wrong that the result of the war would be to render Iraq a “mixture of Gaza and Guantanamo under foreign occupation.” Also, what Ali described as the only “way out” was achieved not by military resistance to the U.S. and allied occupation but rather its forcible subdual.

At the same time, what Hitchens warned about the “theocracy” threatened in Iraq, while perhaps not quite as virulent as Hitchens may have feared, has indeed triumphed, and precisely as a result of the occupation.

This renders the Iraq War a curious non-event. All that happened was great bloodshed, and at enormous financial and other social costs. The only question remaining, then, is: Was it necessary? Was it worth it? Was the war avoidable? Was the atrocity avertable?

What has the history of the Iraq War shown to be possible and desirable, moving forward? No one wants a repeat of what happened. Does that mean that the war was a mistake? What was the alternative?

The unspoken point of Ali in his debate with Hitchens was that not only, as Hitchens put it, was the U.S. and allied military defeat not possible but “all logical and moral conclusions” must be drawn from that, but that what the U.S. and allies (at least the neo-cons) aimed to do, democratize and otherwise liberate Iraq, was also impossible, and that “all logical and moral conclusions” must be drawn from that, too.

The “democracy” aimed at by the neo-cons and others in invading and occupying Iraq was only ever going to be a neoliberal farce: only the neoliberal version of “democracy.” If the U.S. and allies aimed at democratizing Iraq, this raised the question of the agency for doing so: How democratic, really, were the U.S. and its allies, as political agents, themselves? How democratic was the war? How democratic could it be, anyway? And: Could the ends of democracy be achieved by non-democratic means?

War in the modern era is only ever regrettable necessity. But it is also opportunity. Not only Hitchens sought to make it so, and perhaps none did so with less venality. Did the Bush administration seek to make use of Hitchens or did Hitchens try to make use of the Bush administration? There is a certain tragedy in that, however masked by Hitchens’s false bravado, easily rendered pathetic.

So that leaves the war itself. Was it inevitable? The sanctions regime, including “no-fly” zones over vast regions of northern and southern Iraq, where Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime faced opposition among the Kurds and Shia, respectively, had come into crisis. Neither Saudi Arabia, nor Iran, or Turkey would have accepted a return to a pre-sanctions status quo. Neither would have Kurdish and Shia opposition groups. At the very least, a civil war in Iraq was inevitable. Indeed, it was already ongoing. Of course such an ethnicized and culturalized civil war would have (for it already did) involve mass conflict, displacements and killings. Some advocated the war (Kurdish opposition groups); others took advantage of it (Shia opposition groups). Yet others resisted it (former Baathists and Sunni leaders) or at least tried to alter the course of its effects to their advantage. This was all more or less opportunism, however, not policy.

False necessities abounded, and were deployed opportunistically by both sides, such that further, growing threats could supposedly only be averted by military means: that it was preferable, for example, to face U.S. and allied military attack than to open Iraq to transparent arms inspections by the U.N., or that the political power of Baathist tyranny could be broken with desirable outcome only by military intervention. The two essential actors in the war were the Iraqi and U.S. regimes. And their conflicting politics were masked by crisis. (Internationally, the sanctions regime, the embargo that allowed only “oil for food,” was unraveling, whereas domestically, the Baathist regime was more tenuous, subsisting on an ever narrower basis.)

Not so Ali and Hitchens, neither of whom were in politically responsible positions or otherwise faced exigencies of necessity, but both of whom could only comment from the sidelines. They both advocated freedom for Iraq, but had radically different visions, not only of how to achieve this, but what it meant.

Hitchens’s pro-U.S. and allies position and Ali’s “anti-imperialism” both contained a kernel of truth: Hitchens that the Iraqi “resistance”/insurgency against occupation could only further the bloodshed and not advance the sovereignty of the Iraqi people and Ali that the invasion and occupation could only make things worse, undermining the very goals Hitchens and the neo-cons avowed, the liberation of Iraq.

Iraq is arguably more “democratic” and more politically dynamic today, involving more people and more diversely, as a result of the ouster of Saddam, than had been possible under the latter’s Baathism. But this has had nothing to do with genuine self-determination for the people of Iraq: no democracy. Nor has the debacle of the U.S. and allied military effort (the farce of a neoliberal, privatized/”outsourced” military policy) yielded a salutary political effect for people outside Iraq. The anti-war movement was as spectacular a failure as the war itself—and as spectacular a success. All around, common sense prevails. The political controversy died a quiet death, settled apolitically. Of the war, what opportunity could be made, was made. And we are all in great measure curiously in the same place as before. — All, that is, but the dead, who are not in a different place, but simply ended.

In certain respects, the Iraq War has not ended—will never end.

Victory is no victory; triumph is no triumph. Rather, misery prevails.

Failure has become success, and success has become failure. Ideologues were replaced by technocrats and technocrats by ideologues. Baathist state torture poses in retrospect as the only alternative to communitarian violence and civil war; and communitarianism as the only alternative to state repression. Obama was the only alternative to Bush; but only after Bush’s Presidency ended, guaranteeing Obama’s victory as the only “change” that could be “believed in.” “Sensible” political opposition to what the Obama campaign called “tactical success within strategic failure” triumphed; but still without undoing either the failure or the success of the war. McCain lost because no one wanted to face the war any longer. The only clear victims are the dead—and not all of them, for some must be counted among the war’s “victors,” having fallen willingly in pursuit and at least to some achievement of their goals. They, and politics.

And the victors? They have buried themselves in lies and crimes of opportunity.

The costs remain, but any sort of balance sheet is lacking. All political gain must deny itself, shamefaced. A solemn if not entirely satisfied silence rules that is no less opportune than the opportunism of the war itself.

Both sides—that is, both George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, et al., and former Baathists, as well as both pro- and anti-war politicians and commentators such as Ali and Hitchens—can continue to claim to having been in the right: to have wanted the right things and pursued them in the only ways possible. And both remain wrong.

The only question is, where has this left us, now?

{ 400 comments… read them below or add one }

Arthur March 20, 2013 at 9:05 pm

This is pathetic. The author clearly understood and utter and complete bankruptcy of the anti-war position but consciously chose to maintain the same sort of ambivalence with rhetorical flourishes in all directions so as not to break completely with the pseudo-left that he also understands is dead.

“Politics properly aims to be more than merely the mask or the performative rehearsal of the status quo. Politics aims at agency, and agency of change. Maintenance of the status quo doesn’t require politics, but only reproductive technique. At issue in politics is the direction of change: What ought to happen that isn’t already happening? How do we rally people for such a cause? What is to be done? And where do we want such action to take us? There is always much to dispute in this. Contention is the essence of politics. The only question is, what can be possibly and desirably contested?”

Well put! Following 9/11 ruling circles in the US recognized that the middle eastern status quo of stagnant autocratic swamps that they had encouraged in the interests of cheap oil, anti-communism, contention with the Soviet Union and support for Israel no longer served their intrests. With nothing much else for young men to do in those societies they were breeding terrorists. The autocracies no longer served US “security” interests. They were a threat to those interests. They decided to change the status quo.

Almost the entire foreign policy establishment in the US and Britain, whose entire careers had been devoted to maintaining that status quo warned against this “crazy” idea and mobilized “opinion leaders” against. Anyone even mildly progressive who understood what was going on naturally supported ending that status quo. The entire pseudo-left demonstrated that they were completely clueless and not even mildly progressive by rallying behind the explicitly conservative opposition of the foreign policy establishment.

Instead of siding clearly with ending the status quo, the author waffled in much the same manner as this article. (Still being branded a “Eustonite” or a “neocon” by the pseudos, who demand unconditional support for reaction rather than mere wafling). But since he did not actually come out in support of ending the status quo like Hitchens did, but merely tolerated the idea he could also still be tolerated by the pseudos.

“At the same time, what Hitchens warned about the “theocracy” threatened in Iraq, while perhaps not quite as virulent as Hitchens may have feared, has indeed triumphed, and precisely as a result of the occupation.”

“This renders the Iraq War a curious non-event. All that happened was great bloodshed, and at enormous financial and other social costs. The only question remaining, then, is: Was it necessary? Was it worth it? Was the war avoidable? Was the atrocity avertable?”

There is no “theocracy” in Iraq. Inevitably the democratic regime in the Arab parts of Iraq has a strongly Shia sectarian tinge, since it has emerged from a war of mass murder attacks against the Shia majority waged from the Sunni Arab minority and with significant support in that minority. There are major problems, mostly from the sheer savagery of the fascist opposition to democracy. But basically a democracy was won. For the first time in that region.

That is such a major event that naturally everyone who opposed the war, which includes most of the mass media has to pretend it hasn’t happened. No longer able to gloat over the prospects drowning Iraqi democracy in the bloodbath unleashed by the Baathists and islamofascists, they simply don’t report the fact that they were defeated.

Nevertheless, everyone in the region knows that they were defeated. The “gates of hell” that the Arab League warned of are now well and truly opened and other Arab peoples are no longer passively tolerating their autocracies as “fate”.

“What has the history of the Iraq War shown to be possible and desirable, moving forward? No one wants a repeat of what happened. Does that mean that the war was a mistake? What was the alternative?”

Nothing ever gets repeated, except as tragedy or farce. Certainly the media are practically unanimous and saying the war was a dreadful “mistake” and naturally “the ideas of the ruling class are the ruling ideas”. But basically the foreign policy establishment has been defeated there has been no significant Western opposition to the revolutions in Tunis and Egypt, and active NATO support for revolution in Libya. They are still blocking serious support for revolution in Syria with the same tired cliches about the “disaster” of Iraq, but that is getting thinnner and thinner as even the Tories in Britain who had little enthusiasm for the Iraq war are starting to insist on at least arming the Syrian people.

“Iraq is arguably more “democratic” and more politically dynamic today, involving more people and more diversely, as a result of the ouster of Saddam, than had been possible under the latter’s Baathism. But this has had nothing to do with genuine self-determination for the people of Iraq: no democracy.”

Intended as just another pointless academic “dialectical” flourish the counterpoint posed by the second sentence merely confirms the truth of the first sentence by highlighting the absurdity of “conventional wisdom” embodied in the second sentence. The Iraqi people fought and defeated the fascists. They suffered far more casualties doing so than the coalition troops who supported them. They kow it and their enemies know it.

Pretending that was not “self-determination” is exactly the sort of sneering the pseudos engage in. One might more plausibly claim that although Germany and Japan are more democratic and dynamic today than under fascism, their people have no genuine self-determination since that resulted from invasion and occupation.

The only question is where is the author left now, after this parade of misery and equivocation?

Does the author support military intervention in Syria, or more waffle?

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Ross Wolfe March 21, 2013 at 1:06 am

So much for the accusation that Platypus is in any way comparable to the Australian grouplet the Last Superpower, a contention that was once made (I seem to remember Louis attempted something similar by equating us with the British Eustonites).

As far as responding to Arthur, taking Rosa Luxemburg’s (and Engels’) dilemma of “Socialism or barbarism” seriously means taking seriously the fact that the failure of world revolution that followed after she posed it in 1919, we are living in the world of barbarism. The Left is dead, and so we’re left with conflicts where there is literally almost no one worth supporting. It’s just the Right fighting the Right, unbridled barbarism all around.

And I find it somewhat ironic that Arthur invokes some mystical, populist unity of “the Iraqi people” in a manner identical to Tariq Ali, whom he clearly disagrees with, only deployed toward his own ends. The Iraq war is anything but unambiguous. Ali’s position was bankrupt. Hitchens’ position was bankrupt. How could it have been otherwise?

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Arthur March 21, 2013 at 7:46 am

Talk of “Socialism or Barbarism” was understandable (although wrong) at the time of the First World War. But claims that “we are living in the world of barbarism…. we’re left with conflicts where there is literally almost no one worth supporting” are characteristic of the world outlook of reactioary cynics and of the pseudos, not of anything left. We’re not much at the moment but we still exist. Not everyone has become a jaded cynic.

Whether or not the left is actually dead or merely dormant we can agree that it is rather firmly nailed to its perch at the moment. But that is primarily because of the absence of a mass base and that in turn results from the precise opposite of barbarism – that capitalism has in fact progressed immensely since the dark period around the first world war and the masses are still satisfied enough with that progress from barbarism.

Dismissing the bourgeois democratic revolution as merely the Right fighting the Right would have been even easier for Marx and Engels in the 19th century. It was nothing but a cover for jaded cynicism then and no better now.

Terms like “the people” have always been used “aspirationally” by revolutionaries. Far from denying contradiction and struggle it labels certain forces (such as the Baathists and Al Qaeda) as “enemies of the people”. Pretending neither side is worth supporting in a fight against mass murdering fascists is barbaric.

Barbarism is not unbridled. Not only is it being bridled, it is being buried. Jaded academic ennui about that is better than the pseudo-left actively siding with barbarism. But its still pathetic. Tthere are things worth fighting for and people are fighting for them and that’s why there will be a left again.

Hitchens position had its limitations. But he was both on the right side and on the winning side in a fight against barbarism. The bankruptcy of the side taken by Tariq Ali et al is so self-evident it is frankly admitted in the companion article “Reflections on the Anti-War Movement”.

http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=7700

Since they have admitted complete failure, what purpose does it still serve for you to still stand in the middle?

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Richard Estes March 21, 2013 at 10:40 am

Hitchens was on the wrong side, and post facto attempts to manufacture a link between the Arab Spring and the invasion of Iraq won’t change that. Hitchens became a peculiar kind of neoconservative, willing to lay waste to Iraqi society in the service of his late embrace of US/UK imperialism.

As related by Dahr Jamail yesterday on Democracy Now, the people of Iraq live in deplorable conditions, with millions of refugees resulting from both the war and subsequent sectarian violence, violence intensified by the US through John Negroponte who brought the methods of Central American dirty war to Iraq from 2005-2007. Many of those he recently interviewed commented upon the pervasive violence that faces them every day.

Hitchens was, in effect someone who embraced barbarism as a means of attaining his ends in Iraq. Along these lines, it is worth nothing that the Iraqis (much like the Iranians currently, even Green Movement ones, in relation to current US threats) did not support an invasion in 2003, and, for good reason, as it turns out. A left that supports the invasion of Iraq, and those who promoted it, is a completely unnecessary left, a sort of pimple on the face of neoliberalism.

The antiwar left failed, not because it was wrong on Iraq, but because it failed to communicate the relationship of that war to related issues of capital and attacks upon workers within their own countries.

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patrickm March 21, 2013 at 12:21 pm

Richard
There is not any ‘post facto attempts to manufacture a link between the Arab Spring and the invasion of Iraq’ as the following examples shows.
http://larvatusprodeo.net/archives/2007/01/scourging-the-surge/

patrickm @78
January 9, 2007 at 12:39 am | Permalink

wbb: There ought to be nothing ironic in you wishing, for the sake of the Iraqi people, further success to the Bush Administration in their efforts to liberate the peoples of Iraq. I say further success because what is seen by pseudo-leftists and open right wingers as a disaster has been the launching of the bourgeois revolution that while fought out first in Iraq must now inevitably spread to the entire region and far beyond.

Think of how we watched as the police states of Eastern Europe collapsed over as little as fifteen years and you will get the point. This country is having a revolution and it will be less bloody the more the forces of reaction (islamo-fascists either Sunni Baathists or Jihadists or Shia death squad varieties) are suppressed and intimidated as the forces for democracy (note mostly islamists but also the minority secularists and other minorities) grow in number training and equipment. The Coalition facilitates that force development.

This revolution is a fantastic undertaking and is now rolling…’

and see David Jackmanson starting @ 6
January 4, 2007 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

James A. Baker once dismissed the break up of Yugoslavia as unworthy of American intervention because “we don’t have a dog in this fight?â€?. Who is the American dog in the Iraqi fight?

The desperate need to re-align foreign policy, after 60 years of propping up tyrants (AKA ‘moderate Arab leaders’) in the Middle East is the USA’s strategic interest in Iraq.

That is, overturning the policy that was supported by ‘realists’ like Baker III, and that led directly to September 11 2001.

Even those who don’t agree with me that the Iraq invasion was justified should be asking:

“What do we do about the fascist regimes in the Middle East like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and so on?”

and

“Should tyrants like Sadaam be toppled or not?”

and patrickm @ 12
‘…
As for Mark;
The Egyptian regime will be replaced by the Muslin Brotherhood, as Hamas has come to power in Palestine and Hezbollah is beginning to take its rightful place in proportion in Lebanon. But why do you say ‘if they were overthrown?’ It is a question of when they are overthrown.

Bourgeois liberals can not be the majority in these countries for many years to come and islamists must come to power as the US leadership knew they would. Only a fool would think you could hold free and fair elections in any of these countries without islamist parties winning.

Now the question of Saudi Arabia is interesting because social development is so bad there. But one thing is certain. The current regime is doomed. As is the Syrians and Iranians. The region is heading for change and propping up tyrants has only made things far worse. I do not know enough about Saudi Arabia to comment yet but I do know that millions of guest workers feature in the equation as does the fact that the oil is mostly in the Shia region of Saudi Arabia as well. Anyway we probably have a few years for that problem to fully develop and by then there will be sufficient progress throughout the region such that all current analysis would be rendered hopelessly premature.

However of more immediate concern; the next cab of the rank has got to be an Israeli withdrawal from its failed war for the conquest of greater Israel. A West Bank pull out can not be put of much longer.
patrick.

This was a real monster debate with David Jackmanson, Barbara, patrickm, notable on the left and a guy called Paulus said @11 ;
Paulus
January 4, 2007 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

Well, David, you have your answer on the pages of this blog. Assuming that Bush’s new policy is to no avail, the old style realists will triumph. The minority on the left who thought it was a good idea to actively attack tyrants, as exemplified by Christopher Hitchens, will go back into their shell; the right will turn isolationist; and tyrants will have many happy decades of ruling in peace.

Sanctions too have been discredited over the last decade, and will join military means on the list of unavailable options. So the left will revert to the old tried and true methods of tackling dictators, such as writing letters through Amnesty International, and calling for resolutions at the UN.’

Well nobody at TNS is tackling Assad with those old methods!!

Anyway have a look through the thread and ctrl f patrickm David Jackmanson and Barbara as our comments have stood up very well and people that think something like a post facto attempt is being spun have missed the debate at the time.

Also check out our views on the establishment of a Palestinian state given the quite predictable Obama effort this very day, that has people all a buzz and all pseudolefts wrong footed yet again. I may be hopelessly optimistic but the direction is clear enough. A Palestinan state is in US interests!

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Richard Estes March 21, 2013 at 1:31 pm

So, all of you got it wrong from the inception. The problem, of course, is that the invasion of Iraq was not about liberating the people of Iraq, as subsequent events promptly showed, as the Iraqis had to subsequently launch an armed resistance against the US to obtain what rights they currently have, and that, even if one insists upon this perspective, it is based upon a conflation of the peoples stretching from the Mahgreb to Central Asia as predominately monochromatic politically.

Such an approach, favored by US policymakers, especially neo-conservative ones, is, of course, as absurd as considering the people of Spain as analogous to the people of Poland, and thereafter identifying the same causes for events in both countries. Ignorance of the peoples and places where they advocate intervention has been a primary feature of their advocacy. In this instance, the Arab Spring was ignited in Tunisia by the wikileaks disclosures of corruption, the extreme economoc distress experienced by the populace and the self-immolation of an impoverished young man.

Given the close relationship of France to the despotic regime in Tunisia, the corrupt post-colonial relationship between France and Tunisia, as exposed in concrete form by wikileaks, was much more influential than what transpired in far away Iraq. If anything, the failed Green Revolution in Iran, because of the courageous, enthusiastic participation of young people, was also more influential as such people played such a strong role in Tunisia and Egypt. There was, and remains, a youth rebellion separate from efforts to force the political turmoil into tired geopolitical categories favored by neo-conservatives and their allies on the left. In Egypt, the rebellion against Mubarak was built upon a foundation of over a decade of trade union agitation, agitation which predated the invasion of Iraq. Why would they have seen the invasion of Iraq as a positive influence upon their cause, when the Occupation Authority, through Paul Bremer in the Green Zone, sought to privatize Iraqi industries and retain Baathist laws prohibiting labor organizing and strikes? But, to engage this question, leftist interventionists would have to admit that the invasion was the result of a marriage between neoliberalism and US militarism after other alternatives had been exhausted.

Of course, it would be great to get rid of the dictators in the region (including those in the Gulf States about which you and Arthur, consistent with US policy objectives, remain silent here, especially, for example, in regard to Bahrain), but the left can’t do so for an obvious reason: it is impotent, both in the G-20 countries and the areas involved. Embracing US military intervention is not going to change that fact, nor is it going to magically transform such intervention as harmonious with left objectives.

Why do some leftists reduce the peoples spread across three continents to one, and then support US military intervention as a means of attaining their goals? My guess is that there is an economically deterministic belief that countries like Libya, Syria, Iraq and Iran have to go through a phase of neoliberal led capitalist development on the long path towards socialism, and that US military intervention will initiate this process. In other words, until such intervention, the peoples of these countries are historically moribund, in a form of decadent stasis, until the US violently acts to place them on the path of economic transformation. Needless to say, it is completely dismissive of the social and cultural evolution of the peoples in question.

On this, they are in agreement with the neoconservatives, except that they disagree as to the final destination. It results from a crude application of Marxism through a eurocentric lens.

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jim sharp March 23, 2013 at 7:21 pm

arfur lad!
your god’s a gawd awful
covetous goddess & you’ve
capitulated to her imperial
agitprop- a- gandism without
so much as one question from
a fervent worshiper’s noggin

Reply

Richard Estes March 20, 2013 at 9:31 pm

The author has internalized the boundaries of the mainstream explanations for the war with far too much of a neo-conservative flavor. When examined as an extension of the programs of structural adjustment inflicted upon much of the lesser developed world, military force as yet another means of coercion, new avenues for possible investigation reveal themselves.

The author would have us believe that US military force is utilized for objectives separate from those associated with US economic power as institutionalized with the IMF, the World Bank and the G-20. Saddam was both militarily and economically independent of the US. Because of the sanctions and Iraq’s oil reserves, US economic coercion was incapable of him to conform to neoliberal dictates. His country was invaded. Much the same is true of Syria (with Israeli concerns operating as a constraint upon US aggressiveness), and it is definitely true of Iran (where such constraints obviously don’t exist). Both face the prospect of US military attack.

None of this constitutes a defense of the regimes that govern these countries. They are appallingly bad. But there is a need to examine why the US is so interested in the removal of them when it has no problem with similar regimes nearby in the Gulf States.

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Chris Cutrone March 21, 2013 at 8:23 am

I think that the issue is indeed one of neoliberalism and democracy, which are not related “dialectically” so much an antinomically. In other words, Iraq post-invasion is both more neoliberal and more democratic than under Saddam’s Baathism.

But while neoliberalism is clearly a damper on democracy, it is not so clearly the case that democracy is such a damper on neoliberalism.

I was sympathetic to both the Iraqi Communist Party, which warned that while resistance to occupation is a democratic right, it was politically hopeless to do so with much of the opposition to the U.S. and its allies coming from the Right. This led to the ICP to take a ministry in the post-invasion regime, tarring them as “collaborators” in the eyes of the dead (and pseudo-) “Left.” I was equally sympathetic to the Worker-communist Party of Iraq, which led the largest labor union federation in post-invasion Iraq, leading strikes against the privatization of the oil industry. Bu the W(C)PI called for a UN peacekeeping force to replace the U.S.-led occupation, and so also supposedly compromised themselves in the view of the “anti-imperialist Left.” The W(C)PI characterized the situation as a “dark scenario.” I agree.

This is the “barbarism” — the primacy of Right-wing politics — of which Ross speaks. It is very specifically about there not being a true (politically effective) Left. The term “Right” is not merely pejorative, but about how everyone accommodates the status quo more than they should.

The real issue is not whether there has been a (on-going) democratic revolution in the Arab world, but rather what can this revolution be in the absence of the political struggle for socialism in North America, Europe and Japan?

1979 was a democratic revolution in Iran, but it was an Islamic Revolution, not a socialist one And necessarily so, since there was no world struggle for socialism, as arguably there had been prior to WWI. That’s the point of harking back to the history of Marxism, not cynicism (academic or otherwise): it is help illuminate — to throw into critical relief — what is missing and necessary today. This is as it was in, e.g., 1979: as long as the revolution was going to be an Iranian one, the more radical it was, the more it was going to be Islamist. At least Fred Halliday, after breaking with Tariq Ali, admitted as much, saying it was preferable to support the pro-U.S. liberals in Iran against the Islamists. This led Halliday to reject “Leninism” and Marxism altogether by the time of the Iraq War. But it is a hopeless position. There is a reason by the liberals (as well as the purported “Left Islamists”) lost in Iran.

Tariq Ali and Christopher Hitchens were not wrong in their positions on Iraq, etc., but rather in their shared assumption of the impossibility of socialist revolution in the U.S., which Hitchens replaced with a spurious celebration of the American Revolution as the only enduring successful one, ignoring 200+ years of the history of capitalism, i.e., dropping (his former however superficial) Marxism.

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Arthur April 23, 2013 at 11:20 am

Apologies for the one month delay in responding to Chris Cutrone. I didn’t have time for an extended discussion of Iraq then due to over-enrolling in 20 MOOCs. The thread has revived recently and I now have more time.

“I was equally sympathetic to the Worker-communist Party of Iraq, which led the largest labor union federation in post-invasion Iraq, leading strikes against the privatization of the oil industry. Bu the W(C)PI called for a UN peacekeeping force to replace the U.S.-led occupation, and so also supposedly compromised themselves in the view of the “anti-imperialist Left.” The W(C)PI characterized the situation as a “dark scenario.” I agree.”

I read the WcPI material at the time and had a better impression of them than other groups too. But this stance highlights what was wrong with them. There never was the slightest possibility of a UN peacekeeping force to replace the US led occupation. Advocating it was purely and simply a cop out to avoid having to openly side with the US led occupation and be denounced by the pseudo-left or side with the Baathists and islamofascists and join the pseudoleft.

Similar choices were made by Platypus and if I recall correctly, the AWL with similar cop out “policies”.

So here we are with Syria. Its a lot easier since Libya and the complete disappearance of the “anti-war movement” to be honest about what’s needed to end fascist barbarism there.

Its a live policy question right now. Do you support NATO military assistance to the Syrian revolution or do you prefer to be silent or waffle on the question, as with Iraq?

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Richard Estes March 21, 2013 at 2:17 pm

“I was sympathetic to both the Iraqi Communist Party, which warned that while resistance to occupation is a democratic right, it was politically hopeless to do so with much of the opposition to the U.S. and its allies coming from the Right. This led to the ICP to take a ministry in the post-invasion regime, tarring them as “collaborators” in the eyes of the dead (and pseudo-) “Left.””

But this was the wrong line, even on its own terms. The post-invasion resistance resulted in the Iraqis obtaining liberties that they wouldn’t otherwise possess. Recall that Sistani forced the US to permit elections to go forward on terms that the US opposed. So, it wasn’t politically hopeless at all. It forced the US to scale back the goals of the occupation and grant the Iraqis a degree of autonomy that they wouldn’t otherwise have.

It is a tough question for those on the left who supported the invasion: if the invasion liberated them, why did so many Iraqis, both Sunni and Shia, rebel against it for years? Why did the US have to exploit sectarian conflict between Shia and Sunni, and bring in John Negroponte as ambassador to implement the tactics of the Honduran dirty war in Iraq between 2005 and 2007? The resistance, and its aftermath, the dirty war and the sectarian cleansing of Iraqi cities, tends to get lost in the pro-invasion narrative and no wonder. If there is a leftist position in support of the invasion, is there a leftist one in support of the US sponsored Shia death squad campaign as well? If so, what is it?

If the objective of the left is to generate mass support for its positions and ultimate vision of society, support for the invasion of Iraq fails to do so. Iraqis are often interviewed about the invasion, and many still say, as related by Dahr Jamail yesterday, that they felt safer under Saddam. There are currently 4 million refugees with no prospect of escaping refugee camps. Cancer, birth defects and leukemia are proliferating in places, like Fallujah, where US forces used white phosphorus and possibly depleted uranium as well. No sane person would want to live in such a society. It is not so much that the Iraqis want Saddam back, but much like Russians who lived through the brutality of 1990s neoliberalism, they don’t consider what they have been subjected to anything for anyone else to emulate, and if they could escape it, they would, and prefer the nostalgic sense of stability associated with the past. Yet the pro-Iraq war left continues to hold out this catastrophe as an achievement that inspires others.

“Tariq Ali and Christopher Hitchens were not wrong in their positions on Iraq, etc., but rather in their shared assumption of the impossibility of socialist revolution in the U.S., which Hitchens replaced with a spurious celebration of the American Revolution as the only enduring successful one, ignoring 200+ years of the history of capitalism, i.e., dropping (his former however superficial) Marxism.”

I generally agree with this (with the exception of the comment about Hitchens not being wrongn on Iraq, of course), but it assumes that socialism can only move forward through revolutions in the US and Europe, the “capitalist core”. I can’t say that I’ve come to a definitive conclusion on this, except to say that, given the economic advances of the lesser developed world in the last 30 years, I am skeptical.

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PatrickSMcNally March 21, 2013 at 4:06 pm

Questions about a “capitalist core” should not be measured today in terms of industrial statistics the way that Trotsky would have treated it a century ago. For the last century the world has seen multiple attempts by underdeveloped countries to reach for the socialist stars and rocket themselves ahead. Some successes were achieved, and some failures hit hard. But fundamentally it was always premised on the idea that revolution would spread to the traditional industrial world. Even Mao, who was certainly no Trotskyist, assumed this to be the case.

The fact that capitalism in the First World was not only able to survive but to even achieve a great rise in the standard of living amidst conditions of relative political liberty (in comparison with much of the rest of the world) has had a sharp lasting effect. Latin American countries today are more likely to view South Korea as the example to be studied, rather than Vietnam. The days when Third World nations were shouting socialist slogans from the rooftops are largely over. Of course one may plausibly expect to see more examples like Hugo Chavez arising. But such phenomena have more in common with the pre-1914 German Social Democrats than with any real Marxist revolution. That doesn’t mean that it is somehow bad, just that we are really passed the point when Third World uprisings are going to be spearheading a world socialist movement.

In today’s world the entire planet more or less has its eyes slanted in the direction of the USA. If capitalism can recreate within the USA the standard of living which people had for a quarter-century after WWII, then pretty much the whole rest of the planet will draw from that the conclusion that Marxism was just a chimeric delusion and the real task of today is to build the best working capitalism possible. I don’t believe that the USA will succeed in this. I expect that capitalism in the USA is going to continue to slide steadily downwards and crash decisively at some point in this century, though I can’t say when. But absent that event, there simply not be any significant socialist revolutions in the future. That’s where things are at today.

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Richard Estes March 22, 2013 at 12:39 pm

An concise, insightful analysis: Two things: First, it is almost is impossible for every country to attain US/EU/Japan living standards, even if problem of uneven development could be solved. Capitalism requires a large pool of people (whether workers or women in the home) from home to expropriate the surplus of their labor. Minqi Li examines this question in depth in his book about China and globalization: “The Rise of China and the Demise of the World Capitalist Economy”. Second, to the extent that lesser developed countries countine to industrialize (is that the right word now? but you get the idea) along the lines of the US model, the environmental consequences will be disasterous.

In regard to the US, you are assuming that it will remain as the center of capitalist power globally. It could decline instead of crash, with the Chinese, the Brazilians, the Japanese and the Turks taking the baton from the US, thus perpetuating the capitalist system into the indefinite future. The US could become a larger version of the UK. You may be correct, however, in that a US collapse would crash the system as a whole. I wonder, though, if China is already sufficiently economically developed so as to carry the system forward even if this happens.

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Bill Kerr April 22, 2013 at 11:34 pm

Before the second Iraq war Christopher Hitchens visited Kurdistan and was embarrassed to see pictures of George Bush displayed prominently on their jeeps. When he asked why they did this they replied that they would be dead – murdered by Saddam – without the no fly zone which was put in place after the first Iraq war.

Subsequently he rethought the whole issue. Nothing like being on the ground, in the locality, for having a life and death reality check.

If we translate this reality to the second Iraq war, initiated by George W Bush: Given the strength and brutality of Saddam’s dictatorship it turns out – in retrospect – that the only choice for the elimination of that fascism was an imperfect one (the US invasion which did create democracy accompanied by a series of fuck ups) or a continuation of that particularly brutal fascism.

Insofar as I can project myself into that reality I think the imperfect external imposition of democracy from US imperialism was preferable. Rather than continuing to grovel to Saddam it would be better to risk freedom even at the tremendous cost that it led to. Easy for me to say from a distance but I think we all have to make that judgement call. Just as Hitchens had to make it when confronted by the Kurds. The only slogan about which I can be particularly clear these days is “Death to Fascism”.

To paraphrase:
“If it wasn’t for the imperialists we would be dead”.
“If it wasn’t for the imperialist we would still be living under the exceptionally brutal yoke of Saddam’s fascism”.

We have here on this thread an inability of some intellectuals to face reality in these simple terms – the terms under which the people of Iraq have lived and died.

If George W Bush and team hadn’t made so many mistakes – quite a few of which he admits in his account Decision Points – then not so many would have died and the war would have been shorter.

What mistakes does George W admit?
– intelligence failure (268)
– “Mission Accomplished” banner (257)
– failure to secure Baghdad and stop the looting (258)
– not enough troops sent in (258)
– Brenner’s order to disband the Baath army (not necessarily but needed to be discussed more)
– “Bring ’em on” statement (260)

There were other mistakes too. Mistakes built into the imperialist apparatus so to speak. eg. torture. One of the great things Hitchens did was to expose water boarding as torture in a very personal way, by subjecting himself to it. Some arguments are more powerful than other arguments. On the ground arguments are more powerful than deep strategic analysis. Both are necessary but some are more powerful and actually more *real*. This is one reason why George W Bush’s account is more plausible to me than some of the comments on this thread.

I do accept – as arthur argues – that there was a strategic and very significant reversal of previous US policy, that the US came to support democracy in Iraq and the Middle East in general to be in their best imperialist interests. This was repeatedly stated by Bush and Condi and not believed and strangely still not believed even though it did eventuate.

However, Israel continues to be the albatross around the neck of US imperialism and their continuing inability to deal with Israel “problem” means that the swamp which breeds the terrorists who will continue to attack the US is not only not drained but not really on the path of being drained in such a way that those on the ground will perceive it as a US initiative to drain it. I think that reality some undermines arthur’s grand narrative:

Following 9/11 ruling circles in the US recognized that the middle eastern status quo of stagnant autocratic swamps that they had encouraged in the interests of cheap oil, anti-communism, contention with the Soviet Union and support for Israel no longer served their intrests (my emphasis)
comment above

I believe George W Bush when he says he was shocked, angry and sickened when WMDs were not discovered (p. 262) I also believe him when he says he planned for democracy in Iraq from the beginning. (p. 232).

But when the WMDs weren’t discovered it did mean that the two point rationale for the invasion became a one point rationale which in retrospect (from George W Bush’s perspective) may not have been a strong enough rationale for the invasion. The post 9/11 two points being:

1) Saddam has WMDs and will hand them to al Qaeda who will use them against the US homeland
2) Democracy in the Middle East is the best option for the future prospering of US imperialism (post 9/11, post end of the threat from the USSR etc.)

I’m suggesting that Bush was neither particularly dumb (as the “left” argues) nor particularly smart (as arthur implies). I accept most of what he says on face value rather than peering into it for deeper interpretation simply because what he says is adequate based on my understanding of the conflict. It’s more like what patrick has suggested from time to time, that he muddled through.

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jim sharp April 23, 2013 at 12:27 am

b.k.
you cud have saved your self time coz this iraq
back then article by bert ollman holds up quite well
but then!
gun marxians bone
as clean as a whistle
leaving nowt to pare
whilst everyday boners
forages for skerricks to pursue
their bare bone shit-a-gandisms
http://www.nyu.edu/projects/ollman/docs/why_war_iraq.php

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anitah April 23, 2013 at 4:34 am

That was informative and well put Bill. I saw a doco on this and one of the Scientists involved lied to the inspectors. She didn’t have much choice given the Baathist tyranny and reprisals etc., but it sent the UN weapons inspectors off with the idea that there was a serious issue. The bottom line imv is that no politician deliberately lied about the situation in order to garner support for the war, so I do agree with the John Howard (Aust. Prime Minister at the time) that the war was not started on the basis of a political lie.

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ISH April 23, 2013 at 7:21 am

“The bottom line imv is that no politician deliberately lied about the situation in order to garner support for the war”

Are you serious? In what alternate neocon universe do people like you get to call yourselves leftists? You are actually and in reality apologists for imperialism.

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Bill Kerr April 23, 2013 at 10:13 am

ISH,

> You are actually and in reality apologists for imperialism

Yes politicians do lie. But I would be curious as to what answer you would give to the Pesh Merga soldiers who had taped a photograph of George H Bush to the windshield of the jeep which carried Christopher Hitchens. When he questioned them about this they replied:

“Without your Mr. Bush, we think we and our families would all be dead”

Hitchens started off with an opinion similar to yours. If you read his chapter “Mesopotamia from Both Sides” in Hitch22 you will discover a process to go through which might change your mind.

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Pham Binh April 23, 2013 at 10:27 pm

No Shia waved or publicly displayed Bush Jr’s picture after the invasion and occupation. Things like that should cause you to change your mind, but like ISH, you won’t change your mind no matter what evidence is presented.

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Bill Kerr April 24, 2013 at 12:19 am

Pham Binh,

Good point Pham Binh.

My understanding is that was payback for the US betraying the Shia in 1991. But Bush jnr did listen to Sistani. He didn’t attempt to replace one dictator with another. A Federal Republic was a good way to go, wasn’t it? The Shia had far more freedom after the invasion than before.

I would have changed my mind if the US hadn’t supported Iraq democracy after the invasion.

I regard myself as more of an expert about my mind than you are. It’s a strange way for you to argue since you don’t know me. Perhaps you are subconsciously talking about yourself, if I may indulge in some Freudian analysis?

I hope you can argue better than that in the future. I can’t really tell until I hear your detailed argument about the Iraq war. If I have missed it in the past please provide the link. Some others on this thread mistake WTF or venting spleen for an argument. I do need more than that or one liners from you.

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Pham Binh April 24, 2013 at 3:23 am

The Shia who survived the invasion and occupation had more freedom because they fought and bled for it, not because Bush Jr. handed it to them on a silver platter. That’s why they wave pictures of Sistani and Sadr, not Bush Jr.

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Arthur April 24, 2013 at 5:49 am

They fought and bled together with the coalition forces against the “resistance” supported by the same pseudoleft that supports Assad today. True, thugs like Sadr attacked US forces but the war the Shia, Kurds and some Sunnis won against the vicious enemies of democracy in Iraq was fought in alliance with US forces and could not have been won without them.

If the peace movement you were once part of had their way they would have remained under the heel of a regime far worse than Assad’s (and later involved in a far worse bloodbath in Syria when that regime did eventually implode).

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Arthur April 24, 2013 at 5:50 am

typo “far worse bloodbath than in Syria”

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Pham Binh April 24, 2013 at 7:49 am

No, the Shia led by Sistani protested the coalition’s attempt to set up a system of indirect elections. The peaceful protests were too huge to be fired upon as had been done in Fallujah and elsewhere.

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patrickm April 24, 2013 at 8:03 am

Binh; there was absolutely zero – repeat zero – need to fight or bleed for it (more freedom than they had) and (apart from the ‘small’ number of casualties from error etc) the Shia did not as those that gathered to bring down the statue clearly demonstrated.

You ought to know that Sistani did not ask them to bleed for it! He told them (the Shia) to hold their peaceful demonstrations of resolve over the issue of what type of voting system it would be and as a result the issue was decided. There was always going to be A voting system but they got THE exact one that was adopted in South Africa as they wanted, rather than the one that was first proposed. That was all the effort that was required.

The anti democratic killer of his rival Iraqi Shia cleric, Sadr, did call on his followers to bleed and those that were foolish enough to follow that fascist DID – till they were put a stop to and he fled to his anti democratic mates in Iran. He was defeated by the democratic Iraqi masses.

But they – the 60% majority sect of the Shia – had zero need to fight and die to win what the Syrian peoples are fighting and dying for right now! There was always the opportunity to talk their way forward through the stages of required occupation into 2013. They had the chance to join the new army and did. It could be called the Free Iraqi Army. They had the chance to get training and support like the FSA does now and they took the chance and got that training! They chase down and capture or kill fascist bombers every week just like the FSA tries too. They work under a constitution that is as good as it gets in the region just as the FSA have declared that they are non sectarian and I believe they are doing their best to be that despite the activities of their Baathist and Al Qaeda type enemies.

Remember the voting system that was adopted was what the Shia took to the streets to demand. They had wanted to do that (take to the streets) when their Baathist masters were still in power but they could not do it for fear of ending up like the hundreds of thousands already killed by Saddam. But they could do it under the occupation and did do it and won their demands without any trial of civil war that the Syrians ARE having to get through.

Then came the civil war part of the revolutionary transformation of Iraq and they the Shia took lots of casualties as they still take to this day from the real enemy. Baathists and Al Qaeda types slaughter them like animals and you know this is true and you also know that the more backward of the Shia took the bait and started killing Sunni and ethnic cleansing as well till the COW helped stop it.

Keep your eye on the numbers of casualties http://www.iraqbodycount.org/ and let me know when Syria gets an identical site. If you like you could get one of your mates to do the maths and given the times lines that’s been required to reach 70,000, make some guestimates as to when Syrian casualties will pass Iraq.

10 years on from the liberation that you are still pointlessly trying to pretend was not, many Iraqi people are (understandably) shattered by what they have had to endure – and still HAVE to endure from Baathist and Al Qaeda types. But the Iraqi democrats are winning and they never had to fight against the COW and they didn’t! The path to a new Iraq was laid out reasonably clearly from the day the old Iraqi army was disbanded by order No 1.

There was no requirement to bleed a drop of blood. Zero, zip, none.

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Pham Binh April 24, 2013 at 1:53 pm

The very same Shia political forces you laud today as “Iraqi democrats” are flying Iranian weapons and troops into Syria to kill the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian masses in their fight against the Ba’athist, fascist Assad.

Arthur April 25, 2013 at 6:03 am

That is exaggerated but has some truth. Iraq is not “flying Iranian weapons and troops into Syria” but they have only inspected a few Iranian flights crossing Iraq and have so far refused requests to close their airspace because they found nothing violating the UN arms embargo.

This ostentatious “neutrality” amounts to passively siding with the regime, partly for good relations with Iran but perhaps mainly for sectarian reasons. They are understandably suspicious of Sunni insurgents since they are still suffering mass murder attacks from them in Iraq which other Sunnis in Syria and throughout the region were not particularly outraged by. That is of course heightened by the prominence of goups like Jabat Al Nusra that were actually part of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

I’m not particularly surprised that Iraqi democrats are disappointing in this respect. Likewise I won’t be surprised if the democratic regime established in Syria doesn’t help the Bahraini revolution and has many other negative features. Bourgois democratic revolutions are often the basis for new imperialist powers – eg the English, American and French revolutions. Indeed the Russian, Chinese and Vietnamese revolutions also ended up disappointing.

The Marxist perspective on that is “uninterrupted revolution”. The need for revolution doesn’t end when one form of tyranny is overthrown. Its interesting how people influenced by Trotskyist groups preaching “permanent revolution” have so little grasp of that concept even when they have broken from the “permanent counter revolution” of actively siding against democratic revolutions.

Its ridiculous to be talking about “The very same Shia political forces you laud today” immediately after saying “The Shia who survived the invasion and occupation had more freedom because they fought and bled for it,…”

It highlights the contradictory nature of the better positions you have adopted while still not repudiating the bad positions you took before.

I have no attachment to Shia or Sunni or any other religious or ethnic group.

As a revolutionary democrat and communist internationalist. I support the various national revolutionary movements even when they don’t support each other.

Arthur April 24, 2013 at 8:20 am

The point that you and most of the left (not just the pseudo-left) failed to grasp is that the US was comprehensively defeated when it fought the people of Vietnam and it was completely out of the question for them to get into a fight with the people of Iraq. In Fallujah they were fighting the enemies of democracy in Iraq (after letting it fester for far too long) which could not be postponed any further with elections being held while mass murder bombers still had a place of sanctuary.

The fact that they did not suppress peaceful protests and did in fact hold free elections is something the anti-war movement you participated in simply could not and still cannot explain.

Ten years later its more than time you started figuring out why you got that so wrong.

The US did propose a system of indirect elections that would have given a disproportionate influence to the Sunni minority. I’m inclined to think the Shia majority were right to insist on proportional representation but its hard to argue the US position was not a reasonable suggestion aimed at avoiding civil war.

Most of the casualties fighting the fascists in Iraq were suffered by Iraqi forces, mainly Shia and Kurdish but also some Sunni. Their fight for democracy was not confined to peaceful demonstrations over disagreements with the US but was, and on a much smaller scale, still is, a fierce armed struggle against terrorists far worse than Assad.

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PatrickSMcNally April 23, 2013 at 8:36 am

Let’s not forget the way that Imad Hage received the offer from Iraq of holding UN-supervised elections:

http://www.transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0311/04/i_ins.01.html

The Bush administation turned it down because the Israel lobby wanted the US to be stuck in Iraq. Saddam Hussein could have been removed from power by such UN-supervised elections in a way that would have opened the door for a color revolution in Iraq. The reason that the attempts by Imad Hage were spurned was not because of oil companies wanting it so and not because of any doubts that Saddam could have been eased out of power more simply without a war. It was because the neoconservatives had determined with the Likudniki that it would be better for the US to be embroiled in a war there.

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PatrickSMcNally April 23, 2013 at 8:40 am
Arthur April 23, 2013 at 11:29 am

These fantasies are no different from those about seizing Iraq’s oil or preventing a switch from US dollars to Euros, revenging an assassination attmpt on Bush senior and so on.

The official reasons given for the war were completely unconvincing but instead of independently analysing what it was really about the anti-war movement just went for any silly story.

The actual reality was that the Israeli government supported the US foreign policy establishment line opposing the war.

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Brian S. April 23, 2013 at 2:25 pm

@Arthur. I’m generally an “oil sceptic” but there’s no point making that a fetish any more than its opposite. It seems to me quite plausible that Saddam’s position on the “militant” wing of Opec would have significantly raised his profile as a target for the US.

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Arthur April 24, 2013 at 5:52 am

Its equally possible that it was just a diversion on the way towards an invasion of Venezuela as claimed by Chomsky. This stuff merely reflects not actually attempting to analyse what was actually going on.

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Brian S. April 24, 2013 at 8:16 am

Actually, Arthur its you who are “not actually attempting to analyse what was going on”- you have constructed a fantasy account of the origins of the Iraq conflict and US motives and that is your sole point of reference when engaging in discussions like this – if something doesn’t fit your fantasy you dismiss it without consideration (as your facile comment above exemplifies). Your view of post-invasion Iraq is cut from the same cloth.

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Bill Kerr April 23, 2013 at 9:14 am

patrickSMcNally:
> not because of any doubts that Saddam could have been eased out of power more simply without a war

I don’t understand how you can speak with such authority about your projected result of an attempted back channel negotiation, given Saddam’s extremely devious history. However, it is on the public record that Saddam could have avoided war. He was given 48 hours for him and his sons to leave the country.

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Arthur April 23, 2013 at 10:40 am

I haven’t read Bush’s book but I don’t see how he could write a reliable account and a quick scan suggests it belongs in the category of fictional memoirs rather than an insider account.

1. Re lies, I think its clear that they assumed that Iraq had some WMD program or they would have hedged their bets and played up other reasons for the war instead of shooting themselves in the foot by over-emphasizing that reason and not even mentioning the real reason until the eve of war. (Or course they had to lie about it or Congress would never have authorized the funds, but they didn’t have to paint themselves so completely in a corner so I assume that was accidental).

2. But WMDs simply wasn’t what the war was about and they WERE lying when they pretended it was. In particular they clearly had to rush to war when Sadaam capitulated and gave the inspectors full access with videos of them destroying missiles that marginally exceeded permitted ranges. This made it obvious the aim was to invade, not ensure WMD disarmament yet the book still claims Bush was hoping for a diplomatic solution.

3. Re intelligence failure, it was pretty much created by the political imperative to support the official reasons for the war. Intelligence analysts are generally suspicious of claims that weak enemies have all kinds of hidden weapons, especially since the US fiasco when they built a force of 1000 missiles in response to a successful Soviet deception that they had a few hundred (when they only had a dozen or so). The aim of weaker powers is to appear stronger than they are and every intelligence analyst knows that. The idea that Sadaam had concealed weapons rather than active deception programs was inherently ludicrous.

4. Re mistakes. Bush suggests there should have been more discussion before Bremer’s orders suppressing the Baath party and dissolving the army, because some of the consequences were unforeseen. I think he knows better. He hints that it might have been necessary anyway since there would have been no cooperation from the Shia without a clean break. I think the “more discussion” just an equivocating gesture towards his friends because it was basically the unanimous view of senior officers that it was a mistake. To me that highlights the problems they were up against with the new orientation. Not even the top geenerals (with very few exceptions) could comprehend a strategy that actively destabilized instead of maintaining the traditional regime for stability. Generals who didn’t understand the necessity for a clean break didn’t understand much at all.

5. Re Israel, my quote did not say they no longer had interests in “interests of cheap oil, anti-communism, contention with the Soviet Union and support for Israel”. It said they recognized that the autocratic swamp they had encouraged in support of those interest no longer served their interests. They are still anti-communist, would still like cheap oil and are still strongly allied with Israel but 9/11 showed them that a swamp breeding terrorists was not in their interests. I did expect that they would move a lot faster than they have in mitigating the damage Israel does to US interests by its war for Greater Israel. But now even the Democrats (traditionally the party closest to Israel) are getting sick of Israeli recalcitrance. Obviously Israel’s position is completely undermined by the changes sweeping the region, although that is taking a lot longer than it should.

6. Re Australian PM John Howard. He admitted that he couldn’t support the war on the basis of regime change. That was the reality in Britain and the USA too (ie that was not an argument that the “opinion leaders” would accept. But he certainly knew it wasn’t about WMDs. There have been some recent reports of the strong advice given by Australian intelligence (based entirely on US intelligence) that the case re WMDs was extremely weak.

7. One only needs to look at the lack of enthusiasm for doing anything about Syria to understand how hopeless it would have been to ask for Congressional funding to initiate a process of destabilizing the whole region. They had no option but to lie about it, and having lied they cannot just brazenly admit it.

8. I am more sympathetic than I was to patrickm’s emphasis on “muddling through”.

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Bill Kerr April 23, 2013 at 7:39 pm

arthur,

> fictional memoirs rather than an insider account

I don’t read it that way. In the absence of an insiders account supporting your narrative (which I don’t expect will ever appear) I prefer to believe that Bush was simply not smart enough to pull off what you are suggesting he did pull off. If he was that smart then it could be argued that some of the errors he made and has now admitted would not have been made. The muddling through narrative is more plausible as you sort of admit in point 8.

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Arthur April 24, 2013 at 6:01 am

You haven’t attempted to deal with the simple fact that Sadaam capitulated, and allowed unlimited access to inspectors who were destroying missiles on TV as the US accelerated the rush to war.

There is no way to reconcile that with the lie that they were going to war to prevent a threat from WMDs.

Also accepting Bush and Wolfowitz’s claims that since they had invaded they had to hold free elections ignores the fact that this was a historic reversal of decades of US policy in the region, bitterly opposed by the foreign policy establishment including most of the military leadership that executed it.

If it wasn’t a central war aim they did not need to go to war.

The endless carping about how the war was “unnecessary” is precisely based on the “realists” rejection of the central war aim.

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Bill Kerr April 24, 2013 at 8:07 pm

wolfowitz analysis @ 10th anniversary:
http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2013/03/18/10_years_on_paul_wolfowitz_admits_us_bungled_in_iraq_117492.html

Not sure if I have the energy to keep arguing with you arthur.

Did you read John Howard’s account, it’s behind The Australian firewall:
http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/opinion/errors-were-made-but-we-did-not-go-to-war-on-a-lie/story-e6frgd0x-1226615231594
(I can post it in full if anyone here wants to read it)

Reading that induced me to buy Bush’s book. Bush’s book is neither fiction nor an insiders account. But I do think it provides an opportunity to read b/w the lines which shouldn’t be missed.

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Bill Kerr April 24, 2013 at 8:21 pm

also wolfowitz in 2003:
http://peacefuljustice.caltech.edu/0630/5.shtml

The truth is that for reasons that have a lot to do with the U.S. government bureaucracy we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on which was weapons of mass destruction as the core reason, but […] there have always been three fundamental concerns. One is weapons of mass destruction, the second is support for terrorism, the third is the criminal treatment of the Iraqi people. Actually I guess you could say there’s a fourth overriding one which is the connection between the first two.[…] The third one by itself, as I think I said earlier, is a reason to help the Iraqis but it’s not a reason to put American kids’ lives at risk, certainly not on the scale we did it. That second issue about links to terrorism is the one about which there’s the most disagreement within the bureaucracy, even though I think everyone agrees that we killed 100 or so of an al Qaeda group in northern Iraq in this recent go-around, that we’ve arrested that al Qaeda guy in Baghdad who was connected to this guy Zarqawi whom Powell spoke about in his UN presentation.

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Bill Kerr April 24, 2013 at 10:02 pm

Even better, the full wolfowitz interview:
http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/WO0305/S00308.htm

Wolfowitz Interview with Vanity Fair’s Tannenhaus
Friday, 30 May 2003, 2:17 pm
Press Release: US Department of Defence

extract:
Q: So this notion then that the strategic question was really a part of the equation, that you were looking at Saudi Arabia —

Wolfowitz: I was. It’s one of the reasons why I took a very different view of what the argument that removing Saddam Hussein would destabilize the Middle East. I said on the record, I don’t understand how people can really believe that removing this huge source of instability is going to be a cause of instability in the Middle East.

I understand what they’re thinking about. I’m not blind to the uncertainties of this situation, but they just seem to be blind to the instability that that son of a bitch was causing. It’s as though the fact that he was paying $25,000 per terrorist family and issuing regular threats to most friendly governments in the region and the long list of things was of no account and the only thing to think about was that there might be some inter-communal violence if he were removed.

The implication of a lot of the argumentation against acting — the implication was that the only way to have the stability that we need in Iraq is to have a tyrant like Saddam keeping everybody in check — I know no one ever said it that way and if you pointed it out that way they’d say that’s not what I mean. But I believe that really is where the logic was leading.

Q: Which also makes you wonder about how much faith there is in spreading democracy and all the rest among some of those who —

Wolfowitz: Probably not very much. There is no question that there’s a lot of instability that comes with democracy and it’s the nature of the beast that it’s turbulent and uncertain.

The thing is, at a general level, I’ve encountered this argument from the defenders of Asian autocracies of various kinds. Look how much better off Singapore is than Indonesia, to pick a glaring contrast. And Indonesia’s really struggling with democracy. It sort of inherited democracy under the worst possible conditions too, one might say. But the thing that — I’d actually say that a large part of Indonesia’s problems come from the fact that dictatorships are unstable in the one worst way which is with respect to choosing the next regime. Democracy, one could say, has solved, not solve perfectly, but they represent one of the best solutions to one of the most fundamental instabilities in politics and that’s how to replace one regime with another. It’s the only orderly way in the world for doing it other than hereditary monarchy which doesn’t seem to have much of a future.

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Arthur April 25, 2013 at 6:23 am

“Not sure if I have the energy to keep arguing with you arthur.”

Evidently. You haven’t responded to my arguments and just stated your preference for believing Bush’s memoirs and Wolfowitz’s interview when he was still Deputy Secretary of Defence in 2003.

BTW that interview was important for its admission that:

“for reasons that have a lot to do with the U.S. government bureaucracy we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on which was weapons of mass destruction as the core reason,…”

That was correctly understood to be an admission that this was NOT the core reason but a bureaucratic agreement on what could be justified publicly. I have no idea why you interpret it in some other way.

His language on “stability” is a clear rejection of the prevailing foreign policy establishment view that ” the only way to have the stability that we need in Iraq is to have a tyrant like Saddam keeping everybody in check” and also an acknowledgement that most of the US government had less faith in the prospects of democracy than he did.

It would be surprising if he either said or even thought of that dramatic reversal of decades of US policy in the same terms as I did – a switch from supporting stability to supporting instability. But thats exactly what happened (of course they still talk about “stability” in much the same way that the national anthem of the British republic is “God Save the King”).

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Bill Kerr April 25, 2013 at 8:01 pm

arthur,

It’s worth reading both Wolfowitz articles in full, the long 2003 one and the more recent one. I think it’s the closest thing to an “insiders account” that your ever going to get. Of course I might be wrong there. Bush said that he has read 14 biographies of Lincoln. Interesting for someone who the “left” believed couldn’t read without moving his lips.

I really liked the Wolfowitz Bush joke btw:

Q: There is something kind of humorous in it because a few weeks ago all we heard was he’s been the kind of cowboy, rampaging around the globe looking for evildoers. And now he seems to be in the vehicle of erudite philosophy.

Wolfowitz: It sort of calls to mind the joke about the President and the Pope are on a boat, and the Pope’s hat blows off. The President says, no, I’ll get it for you and walks across the top of the waves, picks up the hat and walks back across the top of the waves, hands the hat to the Pope and the next day the headlines are, “President Bush can’t swim.”

Here’s my hypothesis:

The events before, during and 10 years after the Iraq war indicate there were multiple reasons for going to war, in an administration which itself was internally divided, and not one main reason that outweighed all other reasons. The multiple reasons were:
1) WMDs
2) Saddam was a sponsor of terror in a strategically vital region of the world
3) The linkage of (1) and (2)
4) Democracy in Iraq was in the best future interests of the USA, as well as being the only realistic option

There was no consistent grand plan of the US administration for the democratisation of the Middle East since a pragmatic muddling through at all times outweighed such an approach. If there had been a consistent grand plan they would have moved more decisively against Israel in support of a Palestinian state on the West Bank.

The only argument I can see above that disputes this hypothesis is:

You haven’t attempted to deal with the simple fact that Sadaam capitulated, and allowed unlimited access to inspectors who were destroying missiles on TV as the US accelerated the rush to war.

This is where I lack energy: to go and research this claim in detail. It just sounds to me like another last minute deception by Sadaam who had had ample opportunity in the past to prove that he didn’t have WMDs and had fudged all of them and so could no longer be trusted. If Sadaam really wanted to capitulate and prevent war then he could have done so by leaving the country with his sons.

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Arthur April 26, 2013 at 8:44 am

1. The fact that Sadaam capitulated to inspection does not require “research in detail”. It was worldwide news central to the US humiliation in the Security Council and the mobiization of anti-war protests, drowned out only by Bush announcing every half hour or so “Sadaam must disarm”. The UNMOVIC report at the time has all the detail you might want:

http://www.un.org/Depts/unmovic/documents/2003-232.pdf

UNMOVIC certainly didn’t trust the regime but wanted to keeep on inspecting and the US accelerated the war preparations to PREVENT that. This is what outraged people most at the time.

2. I read the article about the recent Wolfowitz interview before and looked for the full text:

http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/world_news/Americas/article1230851.ece

If you can obtain and provide a link to an accessible copy I’ll be interested to read it.

3. Ditto for Howard interview.

4. Nevertheless its a really bad method to base opinions on evaluation of the trustworthiness of sources. This is unfortunately the way most people do form their views even on questions of scientific and historical fact but its no substitute for analysis, especially on highly controversial policy issues where lying is practically mandatory but admissions of lying could be grounds for criminal prosecution.

5. Nobody could doubt that the administration was divided and that there were multiple reasons supported (and opposed) by different groups.

6. Omitted from your list are main reasons presented both internally and externally to the foreign policy establishment and accepted by the Democrats as outlined in Ken Pollack’s “Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq”:

http://en.bookfi.org/book/1345009

These focused on the likelihood of having to eventually go to war with Iraq anyway as the sanctions were collapsing and Iraq remained a predator state likely to attack its neighbours. (There is an indirect connection to FUTURE WMDs after sanctions collapse but not just related to support for terrorism).

7. Another relevant consideration was that there would likely be a regional war dragging in many of the neighbours when the regime eventually did implode.

8. But none of that had changed. What changed was 9/11 and the need for a long term response since it was obvious that invading Afghanistan and chasing Al Qaeda would not change the fact that the region had become a swamp breeding terrorists and would remain so while the autocracies remained in power.

9. The idea that the invasion could have been avoided if Sadaam had taken up the offer to leave the country is plain silly. The offer was unambiguously for a “peaceful” invasion following Sadaam’s departure. The troops were already deployed.

10. Of course the change in policy was inconsistent. But we wouldn’t be denouncing the US for failing to support rebels in Syria if we didn’t know that a major shift has occurred in which it is possible to imagine the US supporting rebels rather than doing what it had done for decades before 9/11, siding with the regimes against their people. That possibility did not open up with the election of Obama. It happened with the invasion of Iraq.

11. Re Bush reading a lot on Lincoln. It was in the news at the time and I paid a lot of attention to this and wrote about the fact that Lincoln had to out manouvre majority opinion in the US Congress, Supreme Court and his own administration to fight a war against slavery and repeatedly denied any intention to emancipate the slaves until he was in a position to do it by a military order related solely to confiscation of enemy “property”. There was some insightful analysis of Lincoln by Marx which I quoted at the time.

12. Sure they “muddled through” but you don’t make “Order number 1” and “Order number 2” dissolution of an entire regime and its armed forces in a fit of absent mindedness when State Department and CIA advice was solidly against it.

Wars are about politics, not about weapons. That was the politics:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De-Ba%27athification

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Bill Kerr April 26, 2013 at 7:16 pm

the video at the sunday times link contains far more information about what wolfowitz said than the actual article:

http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/world_news/Americas/article1230851.ece

Arthur April 27, 2013 at 2:03 am

I get a request to subscribe at the Sunday Times link (which I won’t do). Can’t see article or video.

Chris Cutrone April 23, 2013 at 12:03 pm

My point in writing the article was to emphasize how the dead “Left” obviated any actual *political* considerations whatsoever in the “anti-war movement” (which was, in fact a *pro*-war movement, in that the war was a godsend to the perennial “activist” “Left,” as well as appearing to confirm their paranoid worldviews — ideologies).

I don’t want to go in for what is an essentially (and inevitably) moralistic stance regarding whether one should cheer-lead or not from the sidelines regarding U.S. and allied governments’ “humanitarian interventions.”

As Adorno put it prophetically regarding the founding of the U.N. and the post-WWII trials on “crimes against humanity” conducted for the Nazis,

“Legalities.—What the Nazis did to the Jews was unspeakable: language has no word for it, since even mass murder would have sounded, in face of its planned, systematic totality, like something from the good old days of the serial killer. And yet a term needed to be found if the victims—in any case too many for their names to be recalled—were to be spared the curse of having no thoughts turned unto them. So in English the concept of genocide was coined. But by being codified, as set down in the International Declaration of Human Rights, the unspeakable was made, for the sake of protest, commensurable. By its elevation to a concept, its possibility is virtually recognized: an institution to be forbidden, rejected, discussed. One day negotiations may take place in the forum of the United Nations on whether some new atrocity comes under the heading of genocide, whether nations have a right to intervene that they do not want to exercise in any case, and whether in view of the unforeseen difficulty of applying it in practice the whole concept of genocide should be removed from the statutes. Soon afterwards there are inside-page headlines in journalese: East Turkestan genocide programme nears completion.”

— Adorno’s point was that, by calling a *political* phenomenon a “crime,” it was tacitly expected that it will continue go on, rather than being actually prevented, which would be achievable, if at all, only in socialism.

I think that the jury is still out as to the ultimate political consequences of the Iraq War. I don’t think that today we can say that either it was good or that it was an avertible atrocity.

This is because whatever politics there may have been to the war was hopelessly swamped in opportunism — lies, including those they (on all sides) told to themselves about the necessity, possibilities and desirability of what (they thought) they were doing and why they were doing it. The war was a Right-wing phenomenon — not an emancipatory one.

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Dan D. April 23, 2013 at 1:40 pm

“I don’t think that today we can say that either it was good or that it was an avertible atrocity.” Are you kidding me? I’m speechless.
Also:
“the “anti-war movement” … was, in fact a *pro*-war movement, in that the war was a godsend to the perennial “activist” “Left,” as well as appearing to confirm their paranoid worldviews — ideologies.” All I have to say to that is: $%^#@$%#%)(*()*$%$%%@@%#$%**()__.

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Pham Binh April 23, 2013 at 1:42 pm

Troll: successful.

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ish April 23, 2013 at 1:49 pm

That’s not trolling. It’s the exasperation I would expect from any actual leftist over the social-imperialism floating in this thread which really doesn’t leave much appetite for discussion. Which side are you on Binh?

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Pham Binh April 23, 2013 at 2:01 pm

I was referring to Cutrone. Obviously.

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Arthur April 23, 2013 at 2:02 pm

I realize that this isn’t all that different from the way that you and Platypus write on other topics. But it reeks of avoiding issues by surrounding them in a cloud of obfuscatory waffle.

You know, and to sme extent say that the anti-war movement was completely bankrupt from the start.

But you withold judgment on the war. That avoids actually recognizing that the pseudo left are consciously hostile to democratic change and actively side with the dictators.

Do you support US and NATO military assistance to the Syrian revolution or not?

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Bill Kerr April 23, 2013 at 9:05 pm

Chris Cutrone:

I don’t want to go in for what is an essentially (and inevitably) moralistic stance regarding whether one should cheer-lead or not from the sidelines regarding U.S. and allied governments’ “humanitarian interventions.”

… holocaust … genocide

Adorno’s point was that, by calling a *political* phenomenon a “crime,” it was tacitly expected that it will continue go on, rather than being actually prevented, which would be achievable, if at all, only in socialism.

It is a *huge* mistake to put off a moralistic humanitarian argument in favour of a war to remove a particularly horrible fascist on the grounds that moral decisions are irrelevant until socialism arrives.

Elie Wiesel, a child in one of the Nazi death camps, and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize supported Bush’s invasion of Iraq: Peace Isn’t Possible in Evil’s Face. (although problematic since his support was based on the correctness of Colin Powell’s testimony to the UN).

So here, in contrast to your account, is Elie Wiesel’s story as recounted by Martha Nussbaum in The Therapy of Desire:

Wiesel as a child in one of the Nazi death camps. On the day the Allied forces arrived , the first member of the liberating army he saw was a very large black officer. Walking into the camp and seeing what was there to be seen, this man began to curse, shouting at the top of his voice. As the child Wiesel watched, he went on shouting and cursing for a very long time. And the child Wiesel thought, watching him, now humanity has come back. Now, with that anger, humanity has come back. (403)

Quite simple really. Allied imperialism was preferable to Nazism.

Hitchens, no longer a socialist, had a straightforward moralistic humanitarian argument: that imperialist imposed democracy was preferable to fascism, that modernity is worth fighting for. The critics of Bush here seem to have difficulty in responding coherently to that argument.

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jp April 23, 2013 at 1:41 pm

the jury is still out? ask the million+ dead, and the hundreds of thousands of refugees, about that. you see political consequences from iraq to be worth those lives? if not, it can’t be ‘good’

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Arthur April 23, 2013 at 2:08 pm

Was the war against fascism worth those lives?

Doesn’t the level of mass murder waged by the Baathists and islamofascists in Iraq reinforce the impossibility of letting them win?

No wonder Assad can kill 70,000 or so without much being done. The more he kills the enemy kills the more the pacifists while whine about the costs and avoid actually helping to end it. Still got quite a way to go before reaching Iraqi levels of mass murder, but the closer he gets the less you’ll be willing to fight because its so “costly”.

If only people would just accept mass murderers remaining in power they wouldn’t have to kill so many people.

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Chris Cutrone April 23, 2013 at 2:46 pm

I wrote that, “I don’t think that today we can say that either it was good or that it was an avertible atrocity.”

I don’t think that this was either “waffling” or “trolling,” but it was an attempt at expressing what I actually think.

Let’s step back for a moment and consider: Compare, for instance, the Vietnam War, in which perhaps over 4 million Southeast Asians were killed — for what? So that Vietnam can crawl today to the WTO for right to be a sweatshop in the global economy?

The Vietnamese (and Russian and Chinese et al.) Communists thought that such an enormous sacrifice was worth it. I don’t. Were the U.S. and allies solely responsible, politically, for the carnage, or were there other political actors involved, e.g., the Communists, who had their own agency and therefore can be held responsible for their own decisions, their own choices to sacrifice lives for certain political objectives?

For instance, the famous Tet offensive was at once a public-relations stunt meant to force the U.S. (due to rising unpopularity of the war back at home) to the bargaining table in Geneva, but it was also, as an added bonus, an opportunity for the North Vietnamese to expose South Vietnamese National Liberation Front cadre, who might not have been so politically tractable, to death, sacrificing them in the Tet offensive. In other words, a political calculation of another sort was part of the decision to launch the offensive. Further evidence for this is provided by what the North Vietnamese Communists did after taking over South Vietnam: purge the South Vietnamese Communists!

So, I think all the rhetoric about violence and death is beside the point: The Iraq War can’t be argued *against* based on horror at the carnage (wrought by the U.S. and its allies); nor can it be argued *for* based on horror at the carnage (inflicted on the Iraqis by Saddam’s Baathist regime).

The point of my article was to address the politically murky character of the Iraq War for the “Left,” which the arguments for and against on this thread prove in abundance.

If my comments here are considered “trolling,” then my original article in the Platypus Review that’s been reposted here may be as well.

But all I can say is that I was not trying to be pointlessly provocative — to merely attract attention to myself — but to raise what I consider to be serious problems for consideration. (I assume that this is why the article was reposted here, that someone thought it raised some substantial issues!)

Indeed, I have much better things to do with my life than incense the blogosphere “Left.” The discussion here is of very little or no consequence. The U.S. and allies are neither going to be prevented from nor goaded into acting, e.g., in Syria, based on what the “Left” does or does not do!

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Arthur April 24, 2013 at 6:13 am

“Let’s step back for a moment and consider: Compare, for instance, the Vietnam War, in which perhaps over 4 million Southeast Asians were killed — for what? So that Vietnam can crawl today to the WTO for right to be a sweatshop in the global economy? ”

“The Vietnamese (and Russian and Chinese et al.) Communists thought that such an enormous sacrifice was worth it. I don’t. Were the U.S. and allies solely responsible, politically, for the carnage, or were there other political actors involved, e.g., the Communists, who had their own agency and therefore can be held responsible for their own decisions, their own choices to sacrifice lives for certain political objectives?”

Let’s step back for a momen and consider the world outlook expressed with crystal clarity in those sentence.

Chris Cutrone says, explicitly and unambiguously that the “Communists” should be held responsible for US imperialism killing millions of Vietnamese.

This “moral equivalence” is basically the gangster logic of imperialism. After all the Amercans would rather rule peacefully. The Vietnamese could have just accepted that the US was entitled to decide who governed the southern part of Vietnam.

By exactly the same logic, the Soviets are to blame for the millions killed by Nazism.

Its difficult to top that, but Chris Cutrone actually manages to do so. Vietnam is now a corrupt dictatorship that purged the people who led the fight against imperialist aggression. So that makes the fight not worthwhile.

On that basis not only the Russian and Chinese revolutions but also the American, French and English revolutions and in fact every progressive movement in history is futile because they all involve two steps forward, one step back and are all flawed and incomplete.

For a final flourish Chris Cutrone announces that he doesn’t need to have a position on what to do about events in Syria right now because nothing matters.

This is the traditional world outlook of all conservative cynics. You can’t win, nothing is worth fighting for, it doesn’t matter.

Exeunt stage right.

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Aaron Aarons May 23, 2013 at 1:42 am

Chris Cutrone writes:

[The] Tet offensive [..] was also, as an added bonus, an opportunity for the North Vietnamese to expose South Vietnamese National Liberation Front cadre, who might not have been so politically tractable, to death, sacrificing them in the Tet offensive. In other words, a political calculation of another sort was part of the decision to launch the offensive. Further evidence for this is provided by what the North Vietnamese Communists did after taking over South Vietnam: purge the South Vietnamese Communists!

Could you provide some documentation for these charges? If true, could these actions have had anything to do with the historical influence of Trotskyists, and the broader tradition of working-class militancy, in the South that the Viet Minh had responded to with massacres in the autumn of 1945?

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PatrickSMcNally May 23, 2013 at 9:09 am

“So that Vietnam can crawl today to the WTO … ?”

Not only is that an outrageous reactionary claim, but it’s especially intriguing coming from someone who purportedly has some background with Trotskyism. The whole which Trotsky had made was that such struggles can not be assessed on a purely national scale but must be seen as part of an international process. Trotsky simply erred in hoping too much that the great fires of 1914-45 would lead to revolution in the advanced industrialized world.

But if we’re going to assess how Vietnam on an international scale, then it makes more sense to look at South Korea. Although people today may not realize it, but until the 1970s South Korea was widely regarded as a very backward state. All of the economic indicators showed that North Korea was staying ahead of the South. It wasn’t until the 1980s that South Korea began roaring ahead of the North. When this did happen it occurred because of very favorable trade arrangements that were made between the USA and ROK. The realists inWashington understood that success in the Cold War required having a success story in South Korea that could be pointed to. Now today no one in the right mind would ever prefer to live in either Vietnam or North Korea over South Korea.

But if you take the whole process of revolutionary struggles over more than half a century out of the picture, then what you would be left is that Asia would just consist of impoverished banana republics or military dictatorships in which white colonists would easily travel back and forth grabbing whatever they want. It took massive struggles to change much of that on an international scale. To try arguing from that that either Vietnam or North Korea would somehow have gotten a better deal if only the revolutions had been called off at an early stage is clearly naive.

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Louis Proyect April 23, 2013 at 4:00 pm

One of the main explanations for sectarianism on the left is its propensity for idealism. It sets up an ideal socialism and reality is measured against it. As to be expected, reality always loses.

Instead of taking Marx’s observations as a starting point:

“Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. ” (18th Brumaire)

or

“What we have to deal with here is a communist society, not as it has developed on its own foundations, but, on the contrary, just as it emerges from capitalist society; which is thus in every respect, economically, morally, and intellectually, still stamped with the birthmarks of the old society from whose womb it emerges.” (Critique of the Gotha Program)

They take instead some kind of Platonic ideal that only they–the philosopher kings–are capable of knowing. All the rest of us are living in the cave.

Cutrone gives this away when he says things like: “What ought to happen that isn’t already happening? How do we rally people for such a cause? Contention is the essence of politics.”

Actually contention is not the essence of politics. Instead it is the essence of Talmudic studies. I am rather impressed with Chris’s mastery of the art of contention perfected by a thousand years of orthodox Judaism when he is not even Jewish.

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patrickm April 24, 2013 at 7:05 am

Louis that is as may be but there is also something very ‘Irish’ about the strange reasoning from Chris Cutrone that I can recognize along the lines of my old favorite Irish-ism ‘if I was going to democracy sure I wouldn’t be starting from here’; however…

The owner of this site is behaving in a very bizarre manner when the author of the article that Binh posts responds to someone and is labeled a troll by Binh!! That is inexcusable.

I think Chris Cutrone despite his strangeness (check out the reasoning over the struggle to come further down from the trees above – bad bad communists fighting wars against their oppressors only to end up not being perfect) is owed an apology. But I am not holding my breath in expectation as I think it is part of a far deeper bad style that I nevertheless live in hope gets dispensed with.

TNS takes one step forward then one step back as its method of long march so unsurprisingly is churning while real world developments expose the churn.

Back to Chris;

I recently wrote that since the Vietnam War period ‘the USSR went out the back door but the reality of the successor states is stalled revolution and massive reaction that is an uncharted part of the bourgeois democratic struggle that proletarians have an interest in and an obvious fight against barbarism that Putin claims to be involved with but is not.’

Naturally Putin was not for ridding Iraq of Saddam and Baathism and defends Assad.

It is very easy to be anti-communist but it gets a bit tricky to be a Marxist that is opposed to wars of national liberation, especially using a reverse engineered cost benefit analysis. This is how things are done in Neverland not in the real world. In the real world people fight back and go on long marches and when they win get called monsters no matter what.

Here was I thinking that ‘the danger of massive and widespread war is stamped all over our current times and that all political power comes from the barrel of a gun and along comes Chris to explain that it is far too expensive as you just end up with ‘meet the new boss, same as the old boss…so he won’t be fooled again, oh no’ Ah yes really great music! ‘But the change it had to come. We knew it all along..

I suppose Chris will be waiting for the newer model of liberation soon to be released from the Neverland workshops once they have ironed out the bugs.

But just to remind everyone about an already released model; recently voting came to Nepal. Communists fighting against their oppressors were on the Nepalese road to political power. This was via armed struggle and they obtained political power much cheaper than Vietnam’s communists who went into and out of WW2 and continued on for decades more fighting one enemy after another. Nepal resulted ‘in a genuinely multi-party political contest in a state that is not smashed. Struggle thus goes on but people are not being shot at present and are instead empowered to organize in all forms of democratic manner! How good is that Chris? This is not a revisionist ‘sell out’ but a comprehensive rejection of the western Neverland sects delusional politics. So where is the cheering?

Chris in expressing what he actually thinks is however also “waffling” but definitely not “trolling,” .

‘..4 million Southeast Asians were killed — for what? So that Vietnam can crawl today to the WTO for right to be a sweatshop in the global economy?’

At least with the Russian revolution WW1 was put a stop to and after communists from 1927 were systematically murdered in China a long march fight for power can’t be condemned there! But really what sort of red politics tries to explain why it has no dog in the fight because perfection did not arrive after the first 80yrs of someone else’s struggle. Neverland phony Marxism works like that.

.. violence and death is anything but beside the point. It is the point.

Oppression is the violence and ending oppression can’t be done without the armed struggle from whence political power comes. Naturally if one can’t successfully fight you run away to find a way to fight another day. All basic stuff..So…

The Iraq War can be argued *against* based on horror at the carnage (wrought by the U.S. and its allies) but it must be compared and contrasted thus it can be argued *for* based on horror at the carnage (inflicted on the Iraqis by Saddam’s Baathist regime).

Neverland can’t even think of comparing methods of destroying Baathist tyranny.

The ‘politically murky character of the Iraq War for the “Left,” which the arguments for and against on this thread prove in abundance.’ Is a very good reason to write about it and there are obvious substantial issues! They ought to be worked through fearlessly. But just because struggle takes place in shockingly backward conditions and human association is 1,000 years behind what we can envision is no reason to sit on the fence or remain there when events have moved on.

Pick a side or for that matter face up to the requirement to run a disputes committee if you have an organization. Just because the region may shock and horrify genuine western progressives is no reason to waffle about how to wage war, or run silent about how organizations function.

For example the military effort required for liberation in Nepal can’t really be disputed; are the communists of that country wrong for now talking their way forward rather than shooting people?

When you say ‘The discussion here is of very little or no consequence.’ you are exactly right and that is because of the waffle rather than striving in an open honest and above board method to find a line of march and build further unity. The problem is TNS is becoming a flip through, magazine style, circular effort and people who run it seem to want that for the moment (I think that they will soon get bored and move on).

You say ‘The U.S. and allies are neither going to be prevented from nor goaded into acting, e.g., in Syria, based on what the “Left” does or does not do!’ True but not the point for those of us who want to expose Neverland as you have and contribute our take on a revolutionary outlook for others to build on and with. Even one person can make a difference as we saw with Christopher Hitchens, but a site that is not an echo chamber – well anything is possible. We can all benefit from open engagement at TNS.

My views are about the revolutionary aspects of intervention not humanitarian and I only ever point that – also relevant aspect – out to shoot down those on the so-called moral high ground that does not exist for them alone. The revolutionary left is entitled to grab a share of that humanitarian high ground. Indeed currently I have the field clear to myself over Mali at TNS and I want to see drones flying over that territory hunting out the enemy Al Qaeda sorts ASAP just as people know they fly off the coast of Somalia and say nothing.

re Adorno ‘…calling a *political* phenomenon a “crime,” it was tacitly expected that it will continue go on, rather than being actually prevented, which would be achievable, if at all, only in socialism.’

The issue of piracy refutes this thinking as does slavery and that is why Neverland anti-war activists get into trouble the moment they try to address a proletarian crew or workers in any port etc.. Neverland conventions are never held in Kuwait or the Falkland Islands.

You may ‘think that the jury is still out as to the ultimate political consequences of the Iraq War.’ but leave aside ultimate and at some point take a stance on now. The bombs go bang in Boston and you support the struggle against that. Bombs go off in Iraq so do you support that government’s efforts and concede that the people of Iraq require that a state be built that can effectively fight this enemy?

Ultimately the whole region is producing these bombers so how can the Iraqi state defeat this enemy alone? Logically it can’t while they get churned out in say Syria. Do you accept that the region is a swamp that will be many decades in the draining till the world gets to the stage when the Islamic countries have achieved a Norway level of peace and prosperity? These states will still be dealing with terror at that point just as Norway is dealing with it.

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Aaron Aarons May 20, 2013 at 3:05 am

Arthur Dent writes:

The issue of piracy refutes this thinking as does slavery and that is why Neverland anti-war activists get into trouble the moment they try to address a proletarian crew or workers in any port etc.. Neverland conventions are never held in Kuwait or the Falkland Islands.

While I admit to having difficulty following Mr. Dent’s chain of thought in these long comments of his, I will respond to what I think he is saying in these sentences:

1) I presume his reference to ‘piracy’ is a reference to Somalis taking ships and holding them for ransom. But, given that most of the shipping involved is serving imperialist extraction of resources from the neo-colonies for the benefit of the capitalists and others in the imperialist countries, I can’t see why leftists would object to such piracy, even if we don’t necessarily see it as a positive activity to be encouraged. It should be pointed out, as it has been many times even if Arthur Dent (né Albert Langer, a man born into wealth), hasn’t noticed, that the piracy he objects to came after years of over-fishing, and of dumping of toxic waste, in Somali waters by international shipping. And, to the best of my knowledge, the pirates have generally not treated the crews of ships they have taken badly, and Mr. Dent has provided no evidence that such piracy is a particular concern to maritime or port workers. Even if it were, that should no more be determinant than the possibility that foreign mining workers operating in some oppressed area would be upset by local people opposed to their activities taking direct action to stop them.

2) The political reason anti-imperialist conventions would never be held in Kuwait or the Falkland Islands, even if the idea weren’t absurd for non-political reasons, is that those places are ruled by imperialists or their clients. Kuwait is an extremely undemocratic country, even by Arthur Dent’s own standards, ruled by a small, parasitic, rentier, extended family where the great majority of the population, particularly the actual working class, has about as few rights as do undocumented workers in the United Snakes. And the Malvinas/Falklands are inhabited by a small British settler population that obviously sides with Britain in its dispute with Argentina over those islands. There is no more reason to be solicitous of their opinions than of the opinions of British patriots inside Britain.

BTW, Arthur/Albert, I’m still waiting for you to come clean about your own current place in the global class structure.

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Aaron Aarons May 20, 2013 at 4:06 am

OOPS! That was Patrick Muldowney, not Arthur Dent, that I was replying to. Their politics may be virtually identical, but they aren’t the same person.

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mdb April 24, 2013 at 1:39 am

This whole article is characterized by a notion of political judgment that, while frequently gestured at, is conspicuous in its absence. You write:

“I think that the jury is still out as to the ultimate political consequences of the Iraq War. I don’t think that today we can say that either it was good or that it was an avertible atrocity. ”

The jury is still out on the ultimate political consequences of capitalism and neoliberalism: for that matter, the jury is still out on the political consequences of the battle of Thermopylae. That uncertainty doesn’t absolve you of the obligation to judge. But you evade that obligation here. Instead, you line up all of the existing positions on the Iraq War, deem them all equivocal and thereby equal, and thus claim that nobody can possibly be in real control of the situation in the face of the domination of capital.

But if nobody can be in control, nobody can be responsible, and imperialism, or for that matter genocide, is therefore no crime.

If the argument here were simply an attempt to claim that the Left is obliged to find the seeds of socialism even in atrocity, and to contrast that with its own implication in a generalized unwillingness to assume responsibility for the war, that would be one thing. But you go a little further than that: the definition of socialism as the -only- possible politics ends up paying for the negation of any hierarchy of political, legal, or moral responsibility.

And in fact, you go a little further still. For it is not for the sake of the perpetrators that justice is done. At issue in the question of responsibility for the war in Iraq is that the war, simply by virtue of being perpetrated, instituted a division between aggressor and victim, which would not merely determine all subsequent politics in favor of the interests of the former, but also efface the victim as a political agent entirely. For with no victim, likewise, there can be no crime.

Thus, ‘the curious non-event’ (!) of the war and the hopelessness of the Iraqi political situation are supposed to oblige the Left to a kind of sober realism in which it would renounce its initial ethical opposition to the war in order to be true to itself. But in the process, both the guilt of the perpetrators (no matter how we rank it) and even the barest of everyday Iraqi reality vanishes.

People have been comparing this style of argument to the Eustonites, but what’s going on here seems suggestive of something else entirely less historically reputable.

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Chris Cutrone April 24, 2013 at 4:06 am

@ mdb:

I agree with you up to the point where you shift back from the question of politics to the appeal to “justice” be done regarding a “crime.”

While such categorization was not the topic of my original article, it has become the concern of my comments in this thread.

For it is precisely the move from political considerations to those of “crime” and “justice” that I think is the dodging of actual political responsibility.

“No victim, no crime” means that one is engaged in a discourse of victimization, not politics.

I don’t think that the Left — a politics of emancipation — can be about justice (and hence “crime”), but must be, rather, about *freedom*.

Yes, the “jury is still out” on the history of civilization — barbarism. The Iraq War is certainly part of that history. And I think that the jury will still be out until socialism.

For it will only be then that the question of *redemption* can be posed.

I think that the victims of the Iraq War — and of the prior history leading up to it, as well as the on-going and future victims of its consequences — will not be done justice of any kind until such potential redemption in socialism.

And even then their sacrifices will not be redeemable. As Horkheimer put it in response to Benjamin, the dead will remain dead.

That I did say in my original article.

But are the U.S. and its allies the solely responsible parties, the sole political actors in exacting that sacrifice? I don’t think so.

Were the opponents of the U.S. and its allies serving justice for the victims? Again, I don’t think so.

I think, rather, that there was a political dimension to such actions that the (psuedo, dead) “Left” avoided considering, and that this avoidance was expressive of the “Left’s” own powerlessness, which it did nothing to try to overcome, instead exercising “judgment” from a safe distance of armchair cheer-leading, which was not only pathetic but reprehensible. That was the only “crime,” as far as I’m concerned. The Right (Bush, Saddam, the Kurdish, Shia, former Baathist and other Sunni leadership) did what it always does, adapt to and provide ideological cover for what was going to happen anyway.

A true Left would need to do something different in order to be a Left — a political force for emancipation — at all.

A true Left would need to exercise a different kind of judgment than that of tallying victimhood. — It would need to exercise judgment about the struggle for greater *freedom*.

I’m not going to pretend that I’m in a position to do that, either, especially given the existing predominant political forces. — It was my concern to emphasize (perhaps I over-emphasized) that problem, which inhibits the exercise of true political judgment towards the constitution of a real Left.

This is why I think that the Iraqi (“)Let(“) was more honest — out of necessity — than the likes of Ali, Hitchens, et al.

My original article was particular in its concerns and emphasis. My comments here aimed to supplement that by reference to the Iraqi (“)Left(“), in order to show that there were others whose equivocation was at least to some extent indication of a problem that cannot be overcome rhetorically without contributing to the opportunistic rationalizations that naturalize and thus contribute to the prevailing Right-wing character of politics.

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Chris Cutrone April 24, 2013 at 7:10 am

@ Arthur:

Against black-and-white thinking:

I don’t think that the issue is “moral equivalence” or lack thereof: I don’t think that the issue is weighing crimes on the scales of justice to determine relative “moral” worth.

Concretely, I don’t think that the issue is “to fight, or not to fight” — the question was and is not whether, but *how* to fight for freedom.

As nationalists, the Stalinists in the Soviet Union, China or Vietnam made political calculations and decisions that I think are not above criticism, not even in light of great Nazi or imperialist atrocities. The atrocities don’t in themselves argue for conducting oneself politically in any particular ways. Atrocities do not in themselves provide for strategic or tactical decision-making. That is still up to the political actors involved.

I think there are different ways in which one could politically oppose imperialism and that some are btter than others in terms of achieving what one desires politically — socialism — and that this is a political not moral decision. I don’t think revolution is a pure choice of will, but demands a high faculty of the art of political judgment. This is something I think that the present (pseudo, dead) “Left” wholly lacks. But it is not something that can be developed ex nihilio in the abstract (“theoretically”), which is how I think I’m being mistaken (as a “cynic”). It demands the development of a different kind of political practice. For instance, Lenin at the beginning of the 20th century opposed Narodnik terrorism and demanded instead of Russian socialists (as well as elsewhere, for instance against anarchist terrorists in the U.S.) “Kautskyan patience” in building the political forces of the working class for the struggle for socialism. I don’t think that the way the “Left” has “opposed imperialism” since the Vietnam War has been effective for doing this.

So, in the case of the Iraq War — the U.S. and allied invasion and occupation — as I’ve pointed out already, the Iraqi Communist Party/ICP and the Worker-communist Party of Iraq/W(C)PI determined that despite resistance to occupation being a “right” they would choose not to do so militarily, because they did not want to become hostage to greater political Right-wing forces leading the military resistance to U.S. and allied occupation, the Sunni and Shia Islamist and Baathist forces. They did not think that any purported Left — any politics of social emancipation — could side with or even credibly make use of the Right-wing “resistance” to U.S. and allied imperialism. I think that’s a political judgment worth considering. Indeed, despite U.S. Labor Against the War sponsoring a speaking tour of representatives of the ICP and W(C)PI they garnered little attention let alone concrete political solidarity from the U.S. and international “Left.” People shied away from even the mos meager beginnings of constitutive an authentic Left response to the crisis of the war that could have offered a political alternative, no matter how modest, to either the Saddam Baathist or post-invasion Right-wing “resistance” and the U.S. and allied imperialism. That was a serious missed opportunity that we will continue to pay the price for.

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Arthur April 24, 2013 at 8:43 am

“They did not think that any purported Left — any politics of social emancipation — could side with or even credibly make use of the Right-wing “resistance” to U.S. and allied imperialism. I think that’s a political judgment worth considering.”

Its stating the bloody obvious. The Iraqi Communist Party for all their many faults did in fact draw the obvious conclusion and actively sided with the Iraqi and coalition forces fighting the fascist “resistance” (notjust a Ministry – despite being an insignificant minority they were the main convenors of the Iraqi Governing Council when the Shia parties were still keeping their distance from the US). The Worker-communist Party (a tiny group) hypocritically put the non-existant alternative of a UN occupation force.

The pseudo-left actively sided with the fascists so of course they didn’t think much of those positions.

An authentic Left response to the crisis of the war that could have offered a political alternative, no matter how modest, to either the Saddam Baathist or post-invasion Right-wing “resistance” was offered by Christopher Hitchens. But the left had been moribund for decades before the Iraq war and nobody paid much attention when lastsuperpower.net offered a much sharper analysis of reasons to actively fight against the fascists as the left has always done.

There wasn’t an alternative to either siding with the fascists or with the US and Iraqi forces fighting them.

Strategically the result of the war against fascism was considerable social advance world wide. The result of defeating US aggression in Vietnam was also a further advance. We would be in a much more backward environment if either the Nazis or the US had won.

Defeating the fascists in Iraq has also opened up the prospects for an end to stagnant autocracies throughout the region.

So strategically as well as morally choosing to fight is worth it.

Instead of actually making a strategic analysis, which would necessarily result in choosing to fight the enemies of progress in Vietnam, in Iraq and in Syria and therefore require a complete break with the moribund pseudo left, your stance expresses paralysis.

Pointing out the obvious absurdities of the moribund pseudo-left does not entitle anyone to stand above the fray preaching abstention.

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Aaron Aarons May 23, 2013 at 2:20 am

Arthur Dent advocates “choosing to fight the enemies of progress”

The problem is, using the word “progress” without specifying “progress towards” some goal or other just takes any real meaning out of the word and instead turns it into a non-theistic religious mantra to justify capitalist devastation of the world in much the same way that Christianity served that purpose before the industrial revolution.

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Chris Cutrone April 24, 2013 at 9:11 am

@ Patrick:

I am not waiting for “Neverland” or for that matter am I willing to accept some decades- or even centuries-long process of “bourgeois democratic revolution” to play out in however messy ways.

I am not one who is about letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.

But the good is exactly what’s at issue here.

I think that the issue needs to be brought around to revolution in the advanced capitalist centers, such as the U.S., Western Europe and East Asia.

The strategic calculation of Stalinism, by contrast, did not recognize the possibility for this and so acted without and even against it. These political habits die hard and are still evinced today, especially by the “anti-imperialist” “Left.”

A concrete example from the history of Marxism will suffice to illustrate my point.

When Lenin argued for signing the Brest-Litovsk treaty in 1918, he was opposed not only by the Left Social Revolutionaries (Slavophilic “peasant” socialists) but also by some Bolsheviks and by Rosa Luxemburg. Lenin gambled that an immediate peace with Germany would help prompt a revolution in Germany. Luxemburg thought the contrary, that it propped up German militarism. Lenin was willing to risk the Russian Revolution to German and White counterrevolutionary terror in order to promote revolution in Germany. As it turned out, Lenin appeared to have been correct, in that a revolution erupted in Germany soon afterwards. But the treaty also prompted the civil war in Russia, and ultimately the revolution in Germany failed, due in no small part to the Freikorps who had cut their teeth putting down revolution in Eastern Europe/former territory of the Russian Empire.

In no case did Lenin, Luxemburg, et al. forget that the point was world revolution, and in a relatively immediate sense. Still, they disagreed on how to get there. Today, there isn’t even agreement on the goal, let alone the path.

So, my point is that Lenin, Luxemburg, et al. all had valid points in political dispute. All can serve as examples of (competing) political judgment, based on concrete practical matters of revolution, not abstract principles and armchair impressionism and tailism. I’d rather refrain from the latter, even though I recognize that it is an endemic condition in the absence of the former.

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Arthur April 25, 2013 at 6:45 am

“So, my point is that Lenin, Luxemburg, et al. all had valid points in political dispute. All can serve as examples of (competing) political judgment, based on concrete practical matters of revolution, not abstract principles and armchair impressionism and tailism. I’d rather refrain from the latter, even though I recognize that it is an endemic condition in the absence of the former.”

There is something really bizarre about suddenly switching to a discussion of the Brest-Litovsk treaty in responding to discussion of an article about the Iraq war.

Frankly I get the impression that you have only encountered criticism of your views from the pseudo-left and haven’t had time to think through a response to criticism that goes much further than you in rejecting the pseudoleft.

There is a political dispute about the Iraq war and closely related, the Syrian revolution. You wish to avoid taking a clear stand on either of those issues. Somehow the fact that Lenin and Luxemburg had different and opposing clear stands makes you feel more comfortable about not having one at all. Bizarre!

Or perhaps you really do believe the issue can be avoided by switching to discussion of revolution in the advanced countries instead? But you clearly do understand the existing pseudoleft with its hostility to any kind of progress needs to be buried in order for a genuine left to emerge. So why equivocate about democratic revolution in Iraq and Syria while wanting to discuss revolution in advanced countries. Even more bizarre!

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Chris Cutrone April 25, 2013 at 7:19 am

@ Arthur:

I don’t “equivocate” on “democratic revolution in Iraq and Syria,” because I am concerned with the world-historical conditions in which this takes place that are limiting: global capitalism and its history, of which the history of the Left is a crucial part. The failures of today have been prepared long before.

In other words, why were there no socialists of political consequence taking part in the Egyptian toppling of Mubarak, etc.? Why not in Syria? (There were in Iraq, the ICP and W(C)PI, but they were very weak, despite the latter’s admirable organizing of the Iraqi working class, e.g., against the privatization of the oil industry.) Perhaps the strongest ostensibly socialist Left organization in Egypt were the Revolutionary Socialists, part of the Tony Cliff-ite International Socialists, but they were hampered by the latter organization’s views’ on Islamism as a potentially “progressive” force. Critically, any socialists in a democratic revolution in Iraq, etc. lack comrades in the advanced capitalist countries. Distant solidarity is no substitute for international political organization, which is necessary. My example of Luxemburg and Lenin demonstrates this: without the preceding history and organizational realities of the 2nd Intl., there would have been no Russian Revolution — just as today there is no actual revolution in Egypt, etc.

About the deeper history for this, the key to, e.g., the French Revolution’s trajectory was (the lack of) British Jacobinism. It was there, but it was too weak. This led to the U.K. becoming the manufacturing workshop and logistical center of world counterrevolution against the French Revolution, arming, clothing and feeding all the reactionary forces in Europe against it, and thus limiting the revolution in France itself.

This seems like the most important — and presently lacking — factor in any prospects for “uninterrupted revolution:” global conditions for world revolution.

As Marx put it, in The Class Struggles in France 1848-50,

“Just as the period of crisis [of the post-Industrial Revolution “hungry 1840s”] began later [elsewhere] than in England, so also did prosperity. The process originated in England, which is the demiurge of the bourgeois cosmos. [Elsewhere] the various phases of the cycle repeatedly experienced by bourgeois society assume a secondary and tertiary form…. Violent outbreaks naturally erupt sooner at the extremities of the bourgeois body than in its heart, because in the latter the possibilities of accommodation are greater than in the former. On the other hand, the degree to which revolutions [elsewhere] affect England is at the same time the [barometer] that indicates to what extent these revolutions really put into question bourgeois life conditions, and to what extent they touch only their political formations. On this all the reactionary attempts to hold back bourgeois development will rebound just as much as will all the ethical indignation and all the enraptured proclamations of the democrats.”

— I think that what Marx said of England in the 19th century is true of the U.S. today. The true measure of the Arab Spring was its reverberation in Occupy Wall Street; with the latter’s collapse (which was inevitable due to the longstanding “death of the Left” in the U.S. and other advanced capitalist countries), so collapsed the progressive potential for revolution in Egypt, etc. There is no revolution to begin with (the Egyptian state is still intact), let alone “uninterrupted revolution.” (In terms of Iraq, only the most conservative-reactionary outcome of the toppling of Saddam has transpired, i.e., communalist disintegration capped by a neoliberal soft Islamist regime.)

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Arthur April 25, 2013 at 9:21 am

“The true measure of the Arab Spring was its reverberation in Occupy Wall Street; with the latter’s collapse (which was inevitable due to the longstanding “death of the Left” in the U.S. and other advanced capitalist countries), so collapsed the progressive potential for revolution in Egypt, etc.”

I’ll just let that dangle in the breeze without reply.

Studies of history and philosophy should help illuminate current events. They cannot substitute for actual study of current events. Such phrasemongering about the Egyptian revolution depending on Occupy Wall Street suggests a complete lack of interest in concrete analysis of current events.

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mdb April 24, 2013 at 12:52 pm

“I agree with you up to the point where you shift back from the question of politics to the appeal to “justice” be done regarding a “crime.”…For it is precisely the move from political considerations to those of “crime” and “justice” that I think is the dodging of actual political responsibility. ”

What is the difference between saying that there was a crime (but that you don’t wish to concern yourself with it) and that there was no crime (and there is nothing to be concerned with) besides the very question of responsibility?

The fact is, the Left and the anti-war movement were the only components of American and international society to have pointed to that responsibility and took the lead in doing so. This might not award it any agency, but it is an ethical position, and it’s specious at best to claim, as you do, that ethical positions become meaningless when they are not backed by power–in that case, force decides not only in practice but also in principle.

Let’s put it this way-if the Left is dead, why do you even care? It would presumably be better to get on with your life without the encumbrance. But the problem is that leaving the existing Left is also an ethical decision and it carries political consequences.

So you try to build a descriptive case as to why all positions lead to the same political empty-handedness in practice, but you miss that the neoliberal and neoconservative positions were _based_ on that ‘realist’ empty-handedness and worship of circumstance and exigency. And in the process, you end up reconstructing their logic and defending it in your argument.

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Chris Cutrone April 24, 2013 at 1:08 pm

@ mdb:

No, it is not the case that the neoliberal and neoconservative (not the same things!) ideologies are the same as that of the foreign policy “realists.” — Both the neoliberals and the neoconservatives aim to change the world in ways the “realists” don’t.

Also, I don’t think that practical judgment in politics is the same as ethics. — I am against the reduction of the Left (the politics of emancipation) to an ethical stance.

I am not worshipping the accomplished fact of the status quo. — And I am not saying merely that the “Left is dead,” but that it needs to be reborn.

That’s not going to happen through varieties of opportunism — Right-wing politics.

The only principle I stand for is freedom, which is what I think defines the Left — not justice, which is where the “Left” has lost itself and become another species of conservatism (Right-wing politics).

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mdb April 24, 2013 at 3:43 pm

You’re missing my point, which is about practical positions. I’m asking: given that the Left was (and is) the only entity questioning Bush’s responsibility in the Iraq war, why are you arguing that it is dead?

If you have some justification for why calling for justice in that instance is a right-wing position (and for why ‘freedom’ is not), I’d like to hear it.

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Arthur April 25, 2013 at 9:10 am

“…given that the Left was (and is) the only entity questioning Bush’s responsibility in the Iraq war, why are you arguing that it is dead?”

The US foreign policy establishment was almost unanimously opposed to the Iraq war, as were most of the world’s governments and the mainstream media are overwhelmingly agreed that it was a disaster. The pseudoleft opposition merely tailed behind that (completely ineffectual) rightwing opposition. In fact libertarian and paleoconservative sites like antiwar.com provided most of what passed for “analysis” in a “movement” that no interest in or capability for understanding anything about Iraq.

How on earth do you maintain this fantasy of being some sort of radical opposition when practically every bourgeois “opinion leader” agrees with you?

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Aaron Aarons May 23, 2013 at 12:52 am

One silly question deserves another, so here’s a question to Arthur Dent:

How on earth do you maintain this fantasy of being some sort of radical opposition when practically every bourgeois “opinion leader” agrees with you that the defeat of fascism in the 1940’s was a good thing?

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Chris Cutrone April 24, 2013 at 3:51 pm

@ mdb:

Justice is about restoring a status quo ante and so is inherently conservative; emancipation is about transformation and so ever-expanding (and limitless) freedom.

As Marx put it in the Grundrisse,

“[T]he ancient conception, in which man always appears (in however narrowly national, religious, or political a definition) as the aim of production, seems very much more exalted than the modern world, in which production is the aim of man and wealth the aim of production. In fact, however, when the narrow bourgeois form has been peeled away, what is wealth, if not the universality of needs, capacities, enjoyments, productive powers etc., of individuals, produced in universal exchange? What, if not the full development of human control over the forces of nature — those of his own nature as well as those of so-called “nature”? What, if not the absolute elaboration of his creative dispositions, without any preconditions other than antecedent historical evolution which make the totality of this evolution — i.e., the evolution of all human powers as such, unmeasured by any previously established yardstick — an end in itself? What is this, if not a situation where man does not reproduce in any determined form, but produces his totality? Where he does not seek to remain something formed by the past, but is in the absolute movement of becoming?”

— That’s what I’m interested in.

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Arthur April 25, 2013 at 6:58 am

That’s what I’m interested in too.

But you wrote an article about Iraq at a site which has initiated a debate about Syria. Your flat refusal to actually take a stand on either has been challenged and suddenly you want to talk about the “absolute movement of becoming”?

There is a relevance in the Grundrisse quote. Its fundamental critical and revolutionary – for the unleashig of human potentiality. The pseudoleft is notoriously hostile to all human progress. Opposing democracy in Syria or Iraq goes together with hostility to dynamism and demands for a return to pre-capitalist medievalism.

Despite a much better position than the pseudoleft on Syria, most of the people here are still keen on the sort of “ecosocialism” in other articles. I gather from Ross Wolfe’s “A Marxist Critique of the Contemporary “Green” Environmental Movement” that people from platypus are likely to have something to contribute here on such topics, along the lines of the Grundrisse quote, that would find me agreeing rather than sniping.

By all means do so.

But both aspects of the pseudoleft need to be buried. Equivocation on one because you are more interested in another won’t cut it.

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Red Blob April 26, 2013 at 7:00 am

Ah the invasion of Iraq. 10 years on and we are still arguing. Saddam is dead good, elections have been held good but lots of people were made dead or injured or made refugees and that’s bad. Some of us say the results were worth the price and some of us say that it wasn’t. I think that the last word should go to the Iraqi people because they have to live with the consequences.
Now we cant ask every Iraqi but in 2011 Zogby Research Services asked a statistically significant number the following question.
“Do you think that the Iraqi people are better/worse off than they were before American forces entered their country”
The whole study is worth a read
http://aai.3cdn.net/2212d2d41f760d327e_fxm6vtlg7.pdf

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Arthur April 27, 2013 at 2:47 am

That poll was conducted in the lead up to the US withdrawal when the dominant mood was worry about the future. I thought this was the most interesting finding:

“In contrast to the view of Americans, when Iraqis are asked how long U.S. forces should remain in
their country, almost one-half of Iraqis say that they would want the United States to “stay as long
as needed.” On this matter, all of Iraq’s communal groups agree with 56% of Sunnis, 42% of Shia
and 51% of Kurds all sharing this view.”

Also of interest:

1. Almost as many had an unfavourable opinion of Iran (66%) as the US (67%) this included a majority of Shia (52%) having an unfavourable opinion of Iran.

2. 65% support continued exclusion of either all or just high-ranking Baath party members from public office (minority view among Sunnis but almost as many Sunnis agreed as opposed).

3. Tunisia was the outlier among Arab countries with a less hostile view about the war than others. Interesting in the light of subsequent events.

BTW I’m pretty sure you would have large majorities saying they were worse off in the immediate aftermath of the Russian, Chinese, American, English, French and other revolutions. This says a lot about the costs of counter-revolutionary violence and nothing at all about whether revolutionary change is worthwhile – although it certainly supports the conservative opposition to revolutions.

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PatrickSMcNally April 27, 2013 at 4:21 am

That’s a faulty analogy. Russians would have been better off if World War I had never happened. The Russian Revolution only followed in the wake of that. Likewise, Chinese would have been better off if Japan had never attempted to colonize the area, and even still better off if Western imperialism had not used gunbouat-diplomacy to enter the area in the 19th century. But the Chinese Revolution only followed in the wake of World War II. If we follow these analogies faithfully, Iraq would have been better off if Saddam Hussein had simply been forced from office quietly, as was already about to happen before Bush rushed in at the last minute to keep the war on. Your analogy would only be valid if an Iraqi revolution had broken at the time of the Iraq-Iran War. Then we could validly say that Iraq would have been better off if the war had not begun, but that the revolution was necessitated by the war.

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Bill Kerr April 27, 2013 at 4:30 am

PatrickSMcNally:

if Saddam Hussein had simply been forced from office quietly, as was already about to happen before Bush rushed in at the last minute to keep the war on …

I’d like to see your attempt to justify that statement. Horrible fascists are not noted for their ability to quietly withdraw.

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Arthur April 27, 2013 at 5:17 am

Apart from the difficulty of assassinating a dictator who slept in a different palace every few days, simply removing Sadaam from office implies maintaining the Baathist regime or some similar Sunni dictatorship intact.

That was the preference of the overwhelming majority of the US foreign policy establishment. There were lots of people with a fundamentally leftist political outlook who had stupid misconceptions about Iraq and US motivations (including the belief that the US would in fact just impose another dictator, which was actively assisted by a US deception campaign to reassure Baathists that losing Sadaam would not be the end of their rule).

But actually WANTING to retain the regime in the interests of “stability” and just dispose of a particularly malelovent individual clearly refects a right-wing hostility to democratic revolution (way to the right of George W Bush and no better than his father for example).

What’s the point of pretending that you support revolution when you openly declare that you just want a kinder Tsar? This is why people with these kinds of arguments against the Iraq war are called “pseudo-left” as opposed to those leftists who just didn’t understand what was going on.

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Aaron Aarons April 29, 2013 at 4:15 pm

No, we who opposed the imperialist wars against Iraq didn’t want “a kinder Tsar”, but Paul Bremer was not even kinder than Saddam. His orders, many or most of which are still in effect, pretty much made Iraq into a neo-colony of global capital.

Neo-cons and neo-liberals (the former are mostly a subset of the latter) have no trouble with formal democracy as long as it doesn’t allow democracy to intrude on the prerogatives of capital. Just like in South Africa, workers and the poor can vote on which gang of thieves is going to rob them in alliance with foreign capital. But when, as in Venezuela, Haiti, or Honduras, a reformist government threatens the interests of capital, the imperialists will find an excuse to overthrow (or try to overthrow) a democratically elected government.

BTW, the idea that George W. Bush — friend of the Gulf monarchies, who stole two presidential elections (not counting the one in Haiti) and used the excuse of the 9-11 attacks to greatly restrict traditional democratic rights in the U.S. and wherever his kidnap squads could reach — had any interest in promoting “democratic revolution” does not even rise to being funny.

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Brian S. April 27, 2013 at 9:46 am

But not, for example, the Libyan revolution, where close to 80% confirmed that the revolution was justified in its aftermath.

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Brian S. April 27, 2013 at 9:14 am

@Red Blob: I entirely agree – and what a damning indictment of this whole imperialist adventure the figures provide:
Overall, Iraqis do not identify any area of life has been positively impacted since the United States since the United States entered Iraq.”
Only 30% think they are better off since the invasion; only 33%feel they have more “political freedom”; only 16% feel that “Government” has improved. Only 4% think the Iraqi people were “the main beneficiaries” of the war!
And what’s the legacy – widespread disillsonment with democracy (the supposed name of the game) with only 21% feeling that its both desirable and attainable.
Arthur tries to muddy the waters by citing the particular circumstances surrounding the 2011 poll – but what about the polls held each year from 2004 through 2008 which showed almost exactly the same results?

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Richard Estes April 27, 2013 at 4:09 pm

and it gets worse when you realize that the dead, which range from the low 100,000s from direct violence to over a 1,000,000 (out of a country of around 31,000,000 [2009]) when you account for the destruction of infrastructure and the disease the resulted from it, aren’t around to respond to the questions of pollsters

I think that it is fair to say that they would respond negatively

Nor do I think that anyone answered my question earlier, if there is a left case for the invasion, is there also a left case for the US supported Shia death squads of 2005-2007? They are, after all, inseparable. Is the sectarian violence associated with these death squads considered part of the purported positive legacy of the invasion, and the sectarian cleansing of neighborhoods that went with it?

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Arthur April 27, 2013 at 4:37 pm

By EXACTLY the same argument you would claim the millions killed by the Nazis agree with you that it wasn’t worth fighting them. You are mocking the dead.

No the Shia death squads that responded to the Sunni mass murders are a negative legacy of the invasion. Coalition troops fought together with the Iraqis against both forms of terrorism and both were defeated. If your opposition to the surge had been successful they would have been allowed to kill many more while you contedly bleated “not in our name”.

Note that without foreign troops the Syrian death toll is rapidly heading towards Iraqi levels and precisely the attitudes expressed by opponents of the Iraq war in this thread are being used to justify the world standing by.

Does anyone seriously imagine that the Baathist violence in Iraq would not have been many times more brutal than in Syria when Iraqis eventually rose against the regime again? They had already used gas against the Kurds.

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Richard Estes April 27, 2013 at 5:39 pm

“No the Shia death squads that responded to the Sunni mass murders are a negative legacy of the invasion. Coalition troops fought together with the Iraqis against both forms of terrorism and both were defeated.”

This is false on its face. The US provided assistance and training to the Shia death squads to suppress the Sunni insurgency. John Negroponte was sent there to oversee it, as he did in Central America in the 1980s, and the Guardian recently reported on one of the contractors, with, of course, 1980s experience in Guatemala, who provided training. If you are going to embrace the US invasion, please be honest and accept it in its totality, and don’t recycle myths about how the Coalition “fought against both forms of terrorism and both were defeated”. Beyond this, the Shia insurgency, which you reduce to “terrorism”, played an essential role in the creation of the current Iraqi electoral process, such as it is, because the US opposed it and accepted it begrudgingly.

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Arthur April 28, 2013 at 5:13 am

This story about US supported Shia death squads is typical of the Baathist propaganda from the “resistance” that was spread by its pseudoleft supporters. Basically you were on the side of the “resistance” and you saw everything through their eyes.

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Aaron Aarons May 23, 2013 at 1:01 am

Interesting that the “Baathists”, i.e., the nationalist resistance to the occupation, who had virtually no resources compared to those available to the occupiers and their Iraqi collaborators, could somehow dominate the propaganda war with lies. It’s far more likely that the story about US supported Shia death squads was believed because the evidence supported it. And what was John Negroponte’s role in Iraq, if not to bring what was, IIRC, referred to as “the Salvador option” to the struggle against the resistance?

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byork April 27, 2013 at 8:56 pm

It’s a pathetic poll, with only one thousand Iraqis sampled.

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Brian S. April 28, 2013 at 7:00 am

@byork . There’s nothing “pathetic” about a sample size of 1000. Its perhaps a bit on the low side but adequate (its the same as the “positive” poll Arthur reported for 2006). The poll designers report an error factor of +/- 3.2% (which reflects the sample size) – so its possible that as “many” as 33% feel better off after the invasion: but that still leaves 67% who don’t.

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byork April 29, 2013 at 2:37 am

A thousand people. Approx fifty people per each province in Iraq. The polls that matter are the elections, each involving 12 million men and women; elections that would never have happened had your mob been effective in the failed ‘troops out’ campaign.

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Aaron Aarons April 29, 2013 at 4:34 pm

If you have a genuinely random sample of 1,000, you get pretty accurate results regarding the overall population regardless of how large that population is. The 12 million who voted undoubtedly included millions of people who were not happy with the invasion but were making the best of it, probably largely from a sectarian perspective.

And, no, polls on specific issues, if carried out properly, are much more accurate for determining opinion on those issues than are the results of elections where many factors enter into the decision of whom, if anyone, to vote for.

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Bill Kerr April 26, 2013 at 8:45 pm

Ten years on, the case for invading Iraq is still valid

Like.

extract:

Sharp operator and orator though he is, it is hard to imagine Barack Obama beating Hillary Clinton without the help Iraq gave to his 2008 campaign for the Democratic nomination. Since coming to power, he has proved the truth of Karl Marx’s warning in the 18th Brumaire that “the beginner who has learned a new language always translates it back into his mother tongue”.

Obama learned that George W Bush’s foreign policy was a disaster, and translates each new crisis back into the language of his political childhood. If Bush was against dictatorships, Obama would “reset” relations with Russia and Iran and treat them as partners. The failure of his initiatives never deters him. Despite his efforts, Russia remains a mafia state and Iran remains a foul theocracy determined to acquire the bomb. Their peoples, naturally, are restive. Russians demonstrate against Putin’s rigged elections. The Iranian green movement tries to overthrow the mullahs. But Obama and the wider tribe of western liberals have little to say to them. The example of Iraq taught them that it is dangerous to worry too much about oppression, so they treat popular revolts that are liberal in the broad sense with indifference and embarrassment.

Russians and Iranians are not alone in noticing the reactionary strain in western “progressive” thinking. The forlorn figure of John Kerry had to beg Syrian opposition leaders to meet him, only to prove to them that their initial instinct to stay away was well-founded. While Iran, Russia and Hezbollah engage in illiberal intervention on Assad’s behalf, Kerry made it clear that the Obama administration is determined that there should be no liberal intervention in the form of arms for the opposition or a no-fly zone. Even David Cameron is keener on taking practical steps to prevent a catastrophe in the Levant than this, and when Syrians can receive a fairer hearing from a shire Tory than an American “progressive” you should have the wit to realise that a sickness has taken hold.

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Brian S. April 27, 2013 at 9:39 am

I think your critical faculties are being blunted on this one, Bill. This is a typical piece of manipulative reasoning by Nick Cohen. “For all that, I say, I would not restore the Ba’ath if I had the power to rewind history.” Of course not, but who would?
The issue here – in both the particular and the general – is whether you believe that external intervention by imperialist powers can SUBSTITUTE for internal movements for political and social change. Even the advocates of such a view (apart from a few neo-con crazies) don’t try to claim that this can be a general model for international relations and global democratization. What Iraq shows is that even in a “special case” (although why Iraq had that character is rarely explained) it doesn’t work either. At every step the US occupation authorities tried to impose rather than liberate (what would you expect from an imperialist army of occupation?) – and the responsibility for the ensuing chaos lies four-square at their door.
Its all very well for Nick Cohen to invoke the “people who wanted something better after 35 years of tyranny.” But who had the right to decide when, how, at what cost, and in what form that “something better” would be sought? Look at the opinion polls referred to above and see what conclusion the Iraqi people have drawn.

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Arthur April 27, 2013 at 12:37 pm

I don’t think any opinion polls have asked Iraqis whether it was worth it since about 2006 (a low point). From 2004 to 2006 the question was regularly asked in more or less this form:

“Thinking about any hardships you might have suffered since the US-Britain invasion, do you personally think that ousting Saddam Hussein was worth it or not?”

Answers in that period ranged from about 60% to 77% saying it was worth it (much more among Shia and Kurds, much less among Sunnis).

Needless to say far more people agree with Brian’s view outside Iraq.

The issue has been well and truly settled in Iraq, especially since the American withdrawal. Polls these days focus on the domestic politics of a (strife torn) democracy. For what it’s worth, Maliki’s approval rating seems currently better than Obama’s….

http://abunoass.net/uploads/pdf/greenbergen.pdf

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Brian S. April 27, 2013 at 7:25 pm

The 2003 poll you are referring to was carried out only in Baghdad. The 2006 poll was national but looks anomalous – it reports a 77% “worth it” rating for the invasion, but it also reports 47% of respondents being in favour of attacks on coalition troops. Indeed another survey by the same organisation nine months later found 61% in favour of such attacks.
No other poll found this sort of level of support for the invasion. The highest figure agreeing that the invasion was “Right” to some degree or other in other polls carried out from 2004 to 2008 never exceeded 49% And other questions revealed a deep and widespread distrust (or hostility) towards the occupation.
But what is important here is not the ups and downs of particular polls, but the conclusions that the Iraqi people have come to at the end: 65% feeling that they are no better off than before the invasion.
Even more damning in my view is this:
Question: Who benefited the most from the war in Iraq? (respondents could choose 2)
The US: 48% Iran 54% Iraqi elites 40% al-Qaeda 27% Iraqi people 4%
That’s the real bottom line of imperialist-imposed “democratisation” .

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byork April 27, 2013 at 8:45 pm

Brian S, once the Iraqi people in their millions went to the polls and elected their own governments, then the parliament at any time could force the hand of the government to call for a US withdrawal. This is the poll that matters most – the multi-party competition elections in which 12 million Iraqis voted. As for your figures from opinion polls, you are obliged to provide links to the full polls and data. In the past, when I have challenged people to do this, they have either declined, ignored the request, or given a link to the poll(s) which has either then been shown to not say what they claim it said or to have been flawed in its methodology. The main misrepresentation of polling that I encountered was the oft-repeated view that opinion polls showed the majority of Iraqis wanted a withdrawal of US troops. This was used by the anti-war movement leaders to suggest endorsement for their demand for ‘all troops out now’. Yet what the polls actually found was majority support for a US withdrawal once the security situation had improved to level where it could be safely done. All the deaths/suffering in Iraq were due to the unwillingness of the fascist regime to surrender to the democratic aspirations of the Iraqi people. It’s unbelievable to me that anyone calling themsleves left-wing could have supported the resistance to those democratic aspirations.

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Brian S. April 28, 2013 at 7:25 am

The opinion poll data on the timing of US withdrawal is tangled – as you say, Iraqi’s often said the withdrawal should take place once the security situation had stabilised. But what that reflected was the fact that they found themselves in a messy situation not of their making and wanted the invaders to at least clean up some of their mess before they pulled out. (I seem to remember we hashed over this before in the context of the views of Nir Rosen, who you or your co-thinkers misrepresented as being against US withdrawal because he made this point.) If you actually read the poll data, rather than cherry-pick the odd item that you can misrepresent in this way, you would see that these views were accompanied with high levels of distrust of the occupying forces, significant support for attacks by the resistance, and frequent assignation of blame to the occupation for security problems.

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Arthur April 28, 2013 at 2:36 am

I did notice a 2003 poll when looking up the 2004-2006 polls you mention. But I did NOT refer to it for the very reason you mention, it was only conducted in Baghdad (and by American TV).

I wouldn’t want to read too much into such slips which can happen for many reasons, but it adds to the general impression that you are not really thinking about this exchange but just regurgitating arguments that helped you close your mind a decade ago.

To repeat the actual numbers who said it was worth it were consistently between 60% and 77% inside Iraq. Opponents of the war simply blotted this fact out of their minds by instead focusing on the fact that conditions had got dramatically worse since the invasion and people said so. (Sadaam was only killing active opponents when he was in power. The “resistance” were just massacring people in markets and schools on a much larger scale).

Pretty well nobody anywhere favours having occupation troops staying and Iraqis consistently said in overwhelming numbers that they wanted the occupation to end and that they would support armed attacks on US troops if they stayed. Who wouldn’t? The very same polls showed majorities wanting them to stay until actually asked to leave by the Iraqi government when they were no longer needed to keep a lid on the terrorism. Again this was simply blotted out by people who desparately needed to pretend the Iraqi people agreed with their demand that they be left to fight the fascist terror without assistance.

What is true in the use of polls to support the antiwar movement is that they do reveal a much worse outcome than was expected by supporters of the war, as reflected for example by the widespread cynicism about who gained. But that confirms what a mess Iraq was and how little help the coalition actually provided (with an overwhelming emphasis on “force protection” to reduce coalition casualties at the expense of Iraqi civilians). That excessive concern with coalition casualties was of course in part due to fears that the massive campaign to play up such casualties by the foreign policy establishment and its allies in the pseudoleft might have had more success than it did.

The conclusion that the Iraqi people came to at the end was that they have won and it was worth it and the US should leave now as they are now able to crush the “resistance” without participation by foreign troops. You did everything you could to prevent that outcome, but you failed miserably.

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Brian S. April 28, 2013 at 7:09 am

You’re sidestepping my argument. “To repeat the actual numbers who said it was worth it were consistently between 60% and 77% inside Iraq.” There are no such figures – as I pointed out there is only one such poll, and it appears to be internally inconsistent and in conflict with a wealth of other poll evidence.
More importantly, you’re avoiding my point that what counts is what the Iraqi feel at the culmination of this adventure: and that is almost exactly the inverse of what you are claiming.
“The conclusion that the Iraqi people came to at the end was that they have won and it was worth it” NO: that’s the conclusion you predicted and YOU have come to. You can’t accept the evidence to the contrary because at the end of the day what goes on inside your ideological capsule is more important for you than the views (and experiences) of the people of Iraq.

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Arthur April 28, 2013 at 12:27 pm

The argument I responded to was as follows:

” But who had the right to decide when, how, at what cost, and in what form that “something better” would be sought? Look at the opinion polls referred to above and see what conclusion the Iraqi people have drawn.”

I responded head on by pointing out that this precise issue had been put to Iraqis in the same polls you cited that cofirmed conditions had got worse and they consistently reported large majorities (60% to 77%) explicitly saying that despite this it was worth it.

That isn’t side-stepping, your argument but “demolishing” it.

BTW do you have any doubt whatever that overwhelming majorities in Syria are saying loudly and clearly that their life has got much worse since the revolution started?

My guess is that there is probably also a significantly higher proportion in Syria than in Iraq who would say it hasn’t been worth it (that is just my speculation which I won’t attempt to argue, but if you happened to agree on that it would further highlight the absurdity of you judging regime change in Iraq by whether people said their lives had got worse as a result of the terror unleashed against democracy).

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Bill Kerr April 28, 2013 at 10:34 am

Brian:

Even more damning in my view is this:
Question: Who benefited the most from the war in Iraq? (respondents could choose 2)
The US: 48% Iran 54% Iraqi elites 40% al-Qaeda 27% Iraqi people 4%
That’s the real bottom line of imperialist-imposed “democratisation”

Interesting stats. That poll tells us that the Iraqi people suffered (which we knew already) and that they now feel free to tell us how they feel (which they didn’t under Saddam). However, your “real bottom line” conclusion does not follow.

If you asked the Syrian people who is benefiting most from their war then you’d probably get less than 4% saying the Syrian people are. You can’t blame US intervention for that one.

If the US had not invaded then there would have been “stability” for a while longer under Saddam’s fascist rule. Sooner or later, with or without imperialist intervention, Iraq would implode and the Iraqi people would suffer. Can you imagine what the Arab Spring would be looking like now if Saddam was still in power? Are you arguing that there would be less suffering with efforts to overthrow Saddam without imperialist intervention?

Your argument seems to amount to if people suffer during a war or revolution and then tell us they have suffered then it’s not worth it. You dress that up as imperialist intervention is always bad or at least bad in this case but the reality is that fighting against fascism nearly always leads to massive death and suffering.

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Brian S. April 28, 2013 at 11:51 am

@Bill: Your missing the point. This question (which is why I consider it the “bottom line” one) is not just about whether the Iraqi people suffered or not (ie its not just about personal experience) – it relates to their judgement on the whole process and who benefitted from it. A figure as low as 4% for “the Iraqi people” is a huge condemnation – it might as well be 0. Moreover this is at the CONCLUSION of the process. So we can’t make any comparison with even an hypothetical Syrian response. But its certainly a million miles away from the comparator that we can make – Libya – a case in which the struggle for democracy was domestically initiated and led, and the post-conflict situation was locally controlled. As Rory Stewart, former British diplomat, deputy governor of two provinces in occupied Iraq (doesn’t that title alone tell us a lot), put it – why is Libya different from Iraq? “Because we werent there”.
http://www.lrb.co.uk/v33/n18/rory-stewart/because-we-werent-there
Of course, fighting dictatorships leads to deaths and suffering. But who should decide when it is the right time to do that, how to do it, and how to manage the aftermath: the people involved or the US administration?

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Bill Kerr April 28, 2013 at 8:43 pm

Brian:

… who should decide when it is the right time to do that, how to do it, and how to manage the aftermath: the people involved or the US administration?

I did outline my disagreement with what I see as your fundamental political principles (that imperialism is bad and so will always do bad things)earlier and you didn’t respond to that.

I think you are also in error in not taking realistic hypotheticals seriously both about Syria and the future what if the US had not invaded.

You asked what you think is a hard question. How do you justify a process which concludes in only 4% of the Iraqi people thinking they are better off? I answered that question, which you regarded as “most damning”. The iraqi people no longer live in an infantalised state where they are too afraid to whisper words against the tyrant. They can now say what they think about any survey question whatsoever.

IMO that is progress, not as much progress as I would like as the survey indicates, but nevertheless progress. I recall the “hard talk” program about when Saddam decided to kill a dissident then his family was required to pay for the bullet. Others have told me that they were required to cheer and clap. Or the Iraqi businessmen whose hands were chopped off because they were blamed for an economic downturn. Such stories of course could be multiplied many time. You seem to think you are projecting some sort of better moral vision of the world with your rigid, “principled” anti-imperialism but I can’t see that. Should I conclude that you don’t understand the difference b/w fascism and imperialism?

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Brian S. April 29, 2013 at 4:59 am

Hi Bill- sorry for not responding to your earlier, reasoned post: its easy to lose track of things in lengthy threads like this, especially when multiple time zones are involved. I’ll respond to you as soon as I have had the time to take on board its arguments and reply in a suitable vein.
B.

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patrickm April 27, 2013 at 1:54 pm

Brian ‘entirely agrees’ with Red Blob because he thinks the Iraq war was a imperialist undertaking designed to directly benefit the US ruling class and presumably their running dog satraps in Britain and Australia etc who nevertheless overwhelmingly did not want it. Never mind the ruling elites did want it and did it but again never mind because by Brian’s logic it failed as they haven’t got a puppet regime in place for their ruling class to benefit from and they themselves are out of power!!

So the US ruling class has been taught a lesson and the elite can barely stay out of the dock for the ‘crime’ of destroying the lawful tyranny and launching of the revolutionary actions that produced the two ‘goods’

Strange that the non satrap French are copying the failed ‘imperialism’ in Mali. Strange how the British conservative poodles are wanting to stiffen Obama’s backbone in Syria. Curious that the anti-imperialist western ‘lefts’ are in ongoing implosion and disarray and have little to say other than more of them get out and cheer as NATO destroyed another tyranny and most will cheer when the Syrian intervention is more underway than the pathetic levels that 80,000 dead and some serious refugee causing and rubble making civil war has provoked with no end in sight.

The strategic war that us communists said was actually going to unfold in Iraq can’t be said to have failed. So that war has to be praised as a matter of good form!

‘Saddam is dead good, elections have been held good

– but lots of people were made dead or injured or made refugees and that’s bad.’

So the actual reality is that we are now only arguing about the cost! This liberation – that you have just entirely agreed is good and good – is according to you too costly and thus should have been – left to the unarmed Iraqi peoples to achieve as and when they could.

What does Red Blob’s method of revolution by polling damn? well imperialist adventure of course! Brian you could have said that since the liberation was launched and the Baathists air-power and tanks and artillery completely destroyed Iraqis don’t identify any area of life that has been positively impacted yet ‘30% think they are better off since the invasion’ and 33% feel they have more “political freedom” – or that a majority of the men still have an incredibly sexist world outlook. Maybe even 90%+ believe in some sort of god that would not surprise either of us. Perhaps 90% of the British people think a collection of communist armies invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968; that would be an indictment of something other than communist revolution and no confirmation of the existence of the flying spaghetti monster.

Brian says ‘… the legacy – widespread disillusionment with democracy (the supposed name of the game) with only 21% feeling that its both desirable and attainable.’ Yet more of it breaks out all round day by day and the armed PKK are now moving into ‘cantonment’ in Iraqi Kurdistan while democracy comes to the Kurdish peoples of Turkey and Syria. (Iran is still some way down the track but it will come and we are all worried about the price there or in Nth Korea or Russia or China!)

WW1 and WW2 shows humans don’t learn in any straight line manner that is for sure but all this despite the real downs as well as ups seems good revolutionary follow on from the 2 goods.

Such polls usually do show almost exactly the same results. Just as consumers think they get ripped off as buyers when a Marxist ought to be able to tell them that on average that just is not so.

But the real polls to set up political representation shows what? NOT troops out now like the western peace rabble foolishly sort! Rather real polls for real parties produced – stay a while longer please while we build a state capable of doing the job of making this even a remotely plausible place for Brian to even exist in!

Before the liberation it was – shut up Brian or get shot dead for opposing the National Socialist style regime that could however keep the trains running on time. Trains that wouldn’t do revolutionaries any good because we would be under the ground before our time! But at least the trains could have done our enemies some good and anyone prepared to submit to them because they were so powerful.

Who cares so long as the enemies are reduced from having air-power and tanks to car bombs on their downward direction to pressure cooker bombs or a lone Norwegian carry on.

Communist revolutionaries fight back because of oppression not because we ‘have the numbers’. Bourgeois democracy is a fraud, democracy is not a bourgeois fraud! I want real politics and real political leaders not the foolish views of the ruling class regurgitated back at me from their polling.

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Bill Kerr April 27, 2013 at 9:29 pm

Brian,
I address your arguments systematically with my blunted critical faculties as follows.

Nick Cohen. “For all that, I say, I would not restore the Ba’ath if I had the power to rewind history.” Of course not, but who would?

I read that as meaning that in a parallel world where the US did not invade the Ba’ath would still be in power

The issue here – in both the particular and the general – is whether you believe that external intervention by imperialist powers can SUBSTITUTE for internal movements for political and social change

Internal movements are better but in some cases where the fascist oppression is too strong and / or genocidal forces then we have to make judgment calls about external intervention (as in WW2, cases of genocide in various African countries, the Milosevic case, Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait (first Iraq war) and the recent Arab Spring cases which are being discussed here and which I gather you sometimes do support some form on external intervention)

I suppose the broader issue here is how do we arrive at our “fundamental” political principles, like the one you advance here. It seems to me to be a simple historical fact that external imperialist intervention has been a good thing as well as a necessary thing in some cases, the most obvious being the occupations of the Axis countries at the end of WW2. There was no alternative but to remove fascism in that way.

I don’t see how you can sustain a general argument so you will need to fall back onto analysing the *particular* case of Iraq.

Even the advocates of such a view (apart from a few neo-con crazies) don’t try to claim that this can be a general model for international relations and global democratization

Wolfowitz for example when ambassador to the Phillipines advocated that the US should stop supporting Marcos. Not crazy but I don’t full understand the neocons simply because I tend to focus on other issues and haven’t studied them in detail. Wolfowitz I find has insightful analysis into various world situations. I learn a lot from what he says. I even read Bush (W) and think about what he says even though he’s partly pure corn (very religious and totally unreflective about the nature of capitalism – easy to dismiss as a moron by us critical thinkers here at NS) mixed in with a fair bit of stuff that makes sense to me.

My general position is that bourgeois democracy is better than fascism but of course I wouldn’t advocate external intervention in all cases. (nor would the neocons) Each case has to be evaluated by both its internal and external characteristics. eg. in the case of Burma / Myanmar there has been a gradual move away from fascism owing to concerted pressure and the internal leadership of aung san suu kyi.

What Iraq shows is that even in a “special case” (although why Iraq had that character is rarely explained) it doesn’t work either. At every step the US occupation authorities tried to impose rather than liberate (what would you expect from an imperialist army of occupation?) – and the responsibility for the ensuing chaos lies four-square at their door

If you are interested then I could have a go at explaining the “special case” of Iraq in the context of a post 911 world. It can be explained.

If the US had not supported the purple fingered democracy in Iraq then I would be opposed. What you say above about them being all bad makes no sense at all to me. No sense at all. Their approach was a complete reversal of their previous approach in Vietnam, Latin America etc. of propping up dictators or replacing one dictator with another.

I would expect some fuck ups from an imperialist army of occupation and they did occur. Yes, they are responsible for what they did and the good and the bad that resulted.

Its all very well for Nick Cohen to invoke the “people who wanted something better after 35 years of tyranny.” But who had the right to decide when, how, at what cost, and in what form that “something better” would be sought? Look at the opinion polls referred to above and see what conclusion the Iraqi people have drawn

I don’t believe that you or anyone else here does politics by opinion polls. If the opinion polls looked better then would you “reluctantly” change your mind. I think not because you have expressed an opinion that in all cases imperialist intervention is bad – even though I understand that you support it in the case of Syria.

Opinion polls are being used here after the event to justify an opinion you held during the event for reasons that had nothing at all to do with opinion polls. Anyway, I see that Barry has responded to you effectively so deal with that aspect of it there.

My point is that you do not actually hold opinion polls in great respect. Bush was re elected in democratic america. No doubt we can draw some conclusion from this which is different from Bush doing the right thing. America is not really democratic of course etc. There is hardly any difference b/w fascism and bourgeois democracy is there? Maybe you expected Bush to launch a coup to continue his reign? You would explain away this somehow and then cite opinion polls from different years when Bush had a low rating. (suddenly the american people grew a brain) You don’t actually respect opinion polls if they produce evidence for something that contradicts your fundamental beliefs as a “thinking marxist revolutionary”.

I think the important opinion poll is that when the Iraqi people voted they did not choose the candidate favoured by the US. We should also consider the non existent opinion polls in the parallel universe mentioned by Nick Cohen, which you misunderstood, of all those future days in the what if world of the US not invading and the Iraqi people still too scared to even whisper a bad thing about Saddam. That opinion poll is 100% for Saddam.

Who has the right to decide? This has the flavour of a “decisive” moral “humanitarian” argument mixed in with that general perspective that neocons are crazy because they sit in comfortable rooms redrawing the world map, changing governments they disapprove of.

Obviously, if external imperialist intervention is always bad by definition then only the people suffering under fascist regimes have the right to decide. ie. they will “decide” to keep living under fascism because they are not powerful enough to overthrow it – as in North Korea, Iran, Palestinians denied of their state etc. Pity about that. But at least you are sane, responsible and moral observing their plight from “outside” in your judgement that in all cases external intervention by imperialist powers is bad more or less by definition of your fundamental principles (except for Syria, Libya? so I don’t get it)

As above, I’m not supporting imperialist intervention in all cases but responding to the flavour of your generalised “decisive moral humanitarian argument”. That is always the flavour of those who oppose the Iraq war, to scramble for the high moral ground based on gut intuition – imperialism bad, neocons crazy etc. Well there are gut intuitons that go the other way too – about how many Kurds Saddam had gassed in the 80s http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halabja_poison_gas_attack. So, I think in the end your fundamentals don’t holdup Brian and you have to look into the specifics of the global situation after 9/11, the policies taken by Bush then and the rationality of the reasons behind them. You are arguing on too many fronts to put up a very good argument IMO.

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David Berger (RED DAVE) April 28, 2013 at 10:13 am

bill KERR: If the US had not supported the purple fingered democracy in Iraq then I would be opposed.

DAVID BERGER: Are you saying that you support the US invasion of Iraq?

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Brian S. April 29, 2013 at 4:52 am

David: I think you’re a bit late coming to this argument. That’s exactly the terms of the debate.

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Brian S. April 29, 2013 at 2:08 pm

@Bill Kerr: I find your post a mixed bag: on the one hand, there are some reasoned points that are useful in defining the areas of difference between us. On the other, unfortunately, there is a cheap effort to create a straw man and evade the facts.
I think our differences are focused in two related areas
1. the evaluation of the historic nature of imperialism
2. the way in which we view the role of external interventions in promoting “democracy” in a global context.
You seem to suggest that imperialism is sometimes the bearer of good deeds in the global arena – Iraq being a case in point. But you also seem to have no theory of imperialism. (Those who share your views in this discussion mock conventional left theories but offer nothing in their place)
I also think that conventional left theories are flawed –not because they ignore the bright side of the picture or fail to appreciate imperialism’s alleged Pauline conversion to “democracy”), but because they reify imperialism and don’t understand it as a SYSTEM , complex in structure, operating on several levels, and therefore full of contradictions. The latter means that imperialist actors sometimes take actions that have a positive content from a progressive standpoint and that its contradictions can be exploited by progressive forces. But none of that changes the fact that it is a system that rests on economic exploitation, class power, and the generation of a deeply unequal hierarchy in the international system. Whatever imperialist powers do they are seeking to preserve and advance that hierarchy and its social consequences, and no one should be encouraged to entrust their fate to imperialist custody.
It looks to me that most of the “positive” things that can be allocated to the historic imperialist balance sheet arise not from any “positive” side of the system but from inter-imperialist contradictions (the democratic imperialist states in WWII; the US’s occasional flirtations with anti-colonialism after the war.)
I agree that we shouldn’t determine our attitude towards every action by imperialist states by simplistic “anti-imperialist” formulae. (Hence my positions on Syria and Libya); and that there are some extreme situations in which we have to weigh the human cost of intervention against the cost of non-intervention. But even when we come down in favour of the former we need to remember that we are supping with the devil.
Thus I believe that there is a fundamental difference between a situation in which a section of the local population has risen against an authoritarian regime, and is seeking support for that democratic movement, and one in which there is no such domestic revolt but an external power has decided for its own reasons that it would like “regime change”.
The dynamics of the first situation have a possibility of placing control of the process in the hands of the local population, allowing them to shape the struggle and direct the post-conflict situation. The struggle itself creates important political resources for the democratic movement –the mobilisation of local forces, the building of popular organisations, the creation of leaderships with some degree of popular authority. A process in which a foreign invader substitutes for a domestic revolt carries none of these benefits –it drains the power away from the local people, passing the initiative to the foreign occupiers – with potentially devastating consequences, as Iraq demonstrates.
I won’t reply to your allegation that I “do not actually hold opinion polls in great respect” which is baseless. It’s a cheap rhetorical manoeuvre to allow you to sidestep the embarrassing evidence that these facts summon up. To dismiss this through the chain of spurious objections that those on your side of the discussion concoct is to show contempt for the people who’ve had to live through this imperialist adventure.

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Bill Kerr May 17, 2013 at 10:02 pm

replying to Brian S http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=7703?replytocom=50601#comment-48594

As far back as 1973 Saddam understood the issue of “internals” being used by imperialists to overthrow his regime. He learnt this from US imperialism using internals (Pinochet) to overthrow Allende. I can type out the full quote from Saddam if you want to see it. (I’m a bit rushed at the moment). With that in mind he created a hideous apparatus of secret police where the spies spied on the people and the spies spied on the spies. Everyone lived in fear.

If you setup a state where internal resistance is always nipped in the bud by a fascist apparatus and then in addition ruthlessly suppress any resistance from rival internal leadership – Saddam executed hundreds or thousands of Baath party members as well – then it follows that the only possibility of overthrow of the regime becomes *external* (even more so following the US betrayal of the Shia by George Bush, the Elder)

I argue that that precisely was the situation in Iraq prior to the US invasion.

You may sincerely believe that you are being “left” in your opposition to that imperialist invasion. But note that your position does leave Saddam and his horrible apparatus in place. You have no blood on your hands except the blood spilt by an omission. On the other hand, I do sincerely believe that it was worth it to remove such a horrible fascist dictatorship. I have that blood on my hands and you have no blood on your hands and so in your parallel universe you can take the high moral ground. And in my real world universe I can take the high moral ground because I know that my argument that the current regime in Iraq for all its faults is far, far better than Saddam.

Note how this relates to the points raised by Wolfowitz of the difficulties of finding Iraq internals to setup a new government. When you have a whole population suppressed for decades – too afraid to speak their minds even to their own families – then it is not conducive for creating an internal alternative political leadership.

Thanks for explaining your attitude to imperialism in more detail. I can now understand your perspective wrt Libya and Syria in the light of that.

My position is that totalitarianism is at a qualitatitively different level of oppression to imperialism under a system of bourgeois democracy. Also I do feel there have been changes since the end of WW2, reflected in some of the UN stances which are sometimes pathetic and sometimes not, that do need to be factored into any contemporary analysis. You might be the sort of person who would be prepared to read Paul Berman’s Power and the Idealists for an extended argument on this point. I’ll attempt to write a more detailed response to this when I have a bit more time.

Sorry, if I went over the top with my comments about your attitudes to opinion polls. I thought after I posted it that parts of that section should have been rewritten but not much point going into the detail of that now.

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Red Blob April 27, 2013 at 11:50 am

“BTW I’m pretty sure you would have large majorities saying they were worse off in the immediate aftermath of the Russian, Chinese, American, English, French and other revolutions.”
Arthur I’m surprised that any leftist would argue that large majorities would say that they were worse off immediately after the Russian and Chinese revolutions.
The Russian revolution ended Russian involvement in W.W. One. I would have thought that people were very happy with that. The Russian Revolution broke up the great estates and gave land to the tiller again it would appear that in the immediate aftermath the revolutionaries would have been riding a wave of popular support having just addressed the 2 most pressing social issues in favor of the masses.
When Mao addressed the crowds at Tienanmen square and said that the Chinese people had stood up he voiced the aspirations of millions who embraced land reform and who wanted an end to China being the plaything of the Great powers.
sorry I know we have gone off topic but didn’t want to let that one slip through

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Arthur April 27, 2013 at 1:13 pm

Evidently you know nothing about the conditions Russians and Chinese found themselves in during and immediately after the civil war.

As in Iraq people were glad to be rid of the old regime, but it took years to recover from the damage inflicted by counter-revolutionary violence.

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Red Blob April 27, 2013 at 8:36 pm

So Arthur you are saying that people in Russia in 1918 would have said if asked ‘we were better off under the old regimen of war and feudal relations’
And in China people would have thought that the warlords, Nationalists and Japanese were a preferable option to the Chinese communists.
I apologize for ‘knowing nothing’ and I’m sure that life was hard immediately after these revolutions but I find your claim that the people of Russia and China would have thought themselves to be worse off than under the conditions preceding these revolutions to be a bit odd.
When asked the people of Iraq seem to be saying that despite all the crap that they put up with under Saddam the US ‘solution’ has made their lives worse.
My point is that when considering whether something is good or bad in someone else s country a good point of reference is, what do the people directly affected think.

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Red Blob April 28, 2013 at 12:08 am

Arthur I just realized that in your post April 27,2013 @ 2.47 am you talk about the immediate aftermath of the Russian revolution. (1917-8)
Then at 1.13pm the same day in answer to my comment you change from immediate aftermath of revolution to immediately after the civil war. (1921)
Now this is either a mistake on your part or a slight of hand where you just start talking about immediate aftermath of revolution and when it obviously doesn’t fit your argument you seamlessly start talking about the period immediately after the civil war.

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Arthur April 28, 2013 at 2:51 am

I said, very clearly BOTH that people were glad to be rid of the old regime and that conditins were worse in the aftermath and that this was true in Russia and China just as it was true in Iraq.

I suppose I should take comfort from the fact that your misunderstanding of what I said about Russia and China shows you have not grasped the distiction between wheher something was worthwhile and whether it has resulted in worse conditions at all.

Just think about what civil war and famine means and about whether it was the fault of the new regime or the supporters of the old one. You should be able to grasp that people could find themselves worse off and know who to blame for it.

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Red Blob April 28, 2013 at 4:42 am

“BTW I’m pretty sure you would have large majorities saying they were worse off in the immediate aftermath of the Russian, Chinese, American, English, French and other revolutions. This says a lot about the costs of counter-revolutionary violence and nothing at all about whether revolutionary change is worthwhile – although it certainly supports the conservative opposition to revolutions.”
Arthur you state immediate aftermath of the revolution
If you had wanted to say the immediate aftermath of the civil war then you should have said that but you didn’t. How is anyone supposed to respond to you when in one post you say revolution and on the same day you seamlessly change it to civil war

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Arthur April 28, 2013 at 5:05 am

I gather you have now understood how and why people can simultaneously say it was worthwhile to get rid of the old regime and that conditions have got worse, so you wish to change the subject.

Obviously in both Russia and Iraq far less people thought conditions had got worse before the civil war than during and after it.

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Brian S. April 28, 2013 at 12:01 pm

“Obviously in both Russia and Iraq far less people thought conditions had got worse before the civil war than during and after it.” But we are talking about the situation 8 years after the Iraq invasion – that’s 1925 in Russian terms: by which time the civil war was long over, Soviet power was consolidated, large areas of land had been distrbuted to the peasantry, and NEP was in progress leading to considerable improvement in the domestic economy.

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Arthur April 28, 2013 at 12:36 pm

Congratulations. We are agreed that the bolsheviks were much better at making revolution than the American armed forces. That’s no excuse for trying to maintain the status quo in Iraq when there were no bolsheviks and the American armed forces did, ineptly as one would expect, take on the job of removing the regime.

BTW NEP was an indication of the lack of enthusiasm for Soviet power, not a sign of its popularity.

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Brian S. April 28, 2013 at 12:52 pm

“Removing the regime” and “making a revolution” would, for most people, be rather distinct projects, but I can’t speak for you.

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patrickm April 29, 2013 at 7:37 am

Brian; It seems obvious that the only reason there was a civil war is because there was a revolution in the same sense as there was a revolution in South Africa; and just like SA, a transfer of (much) power and the launching of a system of strictly formal bourgeois democracy etc really had to be the next step out of the racist / fascist / sectarian slime of human association that had been thus far reached in both those unfortunate places.

Most people and anyone even vaguely of the left know that a favored 20% with some rights could not in the 21stC rule over 80% of other peoples without simple bourgeois rights, without bringing on a struggle for those rights and Syria is demonstrating just how bloody this gets.

Across the planet communists widely understood the line of march in SA neither condemning the ANC for the inevitable armed struggle against their oppressors nor accepting terrorist as any sort of name for Mandela who spent about as long in jail as this sites owner has been around. During those long years leftists regularly called for sanctions and then more sanctions to put pressure on the powerful and murderous SA regime. Conservatives opposed the sanctions. I can’t recall which fruitcake pseudolefts were opposed to those sanctions but I do recall that sanctions were also applied to Baathist Iraq and some people grumbled about a death toll that those sanctions inflicted on the Iraqi peoples. I do recall that lots of pseudolefts did not support sanctions and even supported Iraqi Baathists invading and annexing Kuwait. It may seem unbelieveable but it is perfectly true.

and as Paulus said back in January 4, 2007 at 6:3 9 pm | Permalink

‘Well, David, you have your answer on the pages of this blog. Assuming that Bush’s new policy is to no avail, the old style realists will triumph. The minority on the left who thought it was a good idea to actively attack tyrants, as exemplified by Christopher Hitchens, will go back into their shell; the right will turn isolationist; and tyrants will have many happy decades of ruling in peace.

Sanctions too have been discredited over the last decade, and will join military means on the list of unavailable options. So the left will revert to the old tried and true methods of tackling dictators, such as writing letters through Amnesty International, and calling for resolutions at the UN.’
As all can see the position of the pseudoleft is bankrupt but in the Iraqi case rather than negotiated by a divided minority white population the liberation of the vast majority of the peoples, that sticks in peoples throats to this day, was obviously brought about by the US led COW.

SA had a ruling class – rather than a tyrant and mass murdering crime family- that held state power. Thus SA could and did change it’s nevertheless rotten political leadership and when that one group eventually turned up that was wise enough to see genuine un-sustainability then SA could be changed and was. Iraq had no such prospect because even the collective wisdom of the 20% had no effect on the will of the tyrant.

Before the war most of the pseudoleft who thought about it had thought that another Baathist General or similar would be installed and what they understood as western imperialism would continue on in the old manner. After all if countries are to be run for the benefit of foreign ruling classes then there has to be puppets otherwise it plainly wont work. Elections destroy old fashioned WW1 style imperialism and we see post WW2 occupied Germany, Italy and Japan as the obvious examples of matter of fat transformation and supportable progress. These once occupied countries are not any 21stC US imperialist playthings and they were never ‘freed from the occupier’ by any kind of resistance force. There was zero need to shed blood for their freedom from the US just as there was zero need for resistance bloodshed in Iraq. In Iraq there was demonstrably no need to engage in anything other than shows of political will and unity in demonstrations for the type of elections as a type of election was already on the occupiers ‘to do, before we go home, list’. No one from the pro-war left doubted they were going home even from before the day the Saddam Statue was pulled down in joy.

The only reason there was a civil war during the last decade in Iraq – fought in the manner that it was – is that the Baathists had their very, very powerful armed forces disarmed of their heavy weapons but only very partially the troops destroyed or truly demobilized AND Al Qaeda types abundantly exist in the region and got to their work. The Al Qaeda plan was / is to cause a massive region wide sectarian war starting in Iraq- and they get about their sectarian work with great glee. Apparently god had provided the opportunity and it was up to them to make the most of it. Naturally they took a while to get organized but that was helped by the big errors of the GWB Administraion. “Mission Accomplished” was clearly only step 1 and the easy part at that. If he had been a Churchill style politician with the experience of reading Mao he would have understood what was probably about to unfold and have told everyone to cast aside all illusions and prepare for the very great struggle that would now unfold. He would have overridden his ministers and set more troops early. They were inexperienced revolutionaries.

Petraus and his surge of troops to re-control Baghdad were required because the US armed forces were not led well for the actual task. A task that not only they didn’t clearly understand at the beginning but that the anti-war lefts and pseudo-lefts don’t understand to this day.

The former state power and the Jihadists in the ‘resistance’ and that concentrated enemy Baathist state leadership were however themselves captured and or killed on a large scale. Those fascist armed forces were so shattered that they were reduced to fighting the civil war as an essentially – artillery less, air-power less, ship less enemy. Their large scale integrated organized industrial power base was via occupation extremely disrupted and they were all thus reduced to a much much lesser force. That force was still able to shock the world with the scale of their savagery. That force was still able to shake the will of the western worlds peoples to fight alongside the pro-democracy Iraqi forces.

Now as events have unfolded the reduction of the Syrian Baathists power in the above manner is something that young western leftists would now cheer because they now understand what these life and death issues are about. They are beginning to get what is required to win in Syria and what is required in Mali.

The Iraqi fascists and their civilians suffered more casualties as they provoked retaliation for their (from any progressives POV) not required attacks in the same way as the Gaddafi forces eventually suffered them in Libya. Plenty of Neverland dwellers in the western anti war movement ‘understood the resistance’ and ‘supported the right of the Iraqi peoples to resist the occupation’! Well who can dispute the right of reactionaries to take up arms and fight against the revolutionary transformation of the country they live in? Neverland dwellers would not under any conditions given the involvement of the Great Satan support the democratically minded Iraqi people and understood and excused the ‘resistance’ to this supposedly rotten imperialist occupation.

YET Syria so far is showing what happens to the democratic revolutionaries when this kind of force remains in tact. The peoples who want revolution are killed in larger numbers.

No mater the views of the peace people those enemy who survived the first wave (shock and awe period) of having all that killing capacity stripped from them were still highly trained well disciplined fascist troops now operating as ‘resistance’ insurgents with explosives and hand held weapons etc having set aside plenty of such stores in preparation for the civil war plainly ‘required’ to restore the old order of fascist tyranny that they pointlessly dreamed of. It weren’t going to happen. They could have had a peacefull way forward but they wanted war and they got it thrown back at them and often with the conventional Middle Eastern rules whan the locals got involved. Those who had and were living by the sectarian violence were also going to die by it as were tens of thousands of innocents on all sides of this complex struggle for a new way to associate.

That shock and awe destruction of all that Baathists war making capacity is how I want the Syrian Baathists to be made ASAP now because the consequences for the Syrian people are real high numbers of casualties otherwise. To my way of thinking there ought to have been 160,000 NATO troops crossing the border before they inflicted the first 80,000 Syrian casualties. But that is plainly not the way this world currently works and the next 80,000 dead democratically minded Syrians are just as plainly conceivable. The death rate is ramped up now so this addition to the toll will be over a far shorter period.

Even if the first tranche of this blood money for freedom was not clear to all western progressives and leftists 2 years ago the 2nd tranche IS now.

Unfortunately the Syrian people do not have John McCain as the POTUS and are coping with a dithering vacuous self promoter who seems to like drones and killing single terrorist leaders (as if that could ever drain this swamp). The Obama Administration is the blind leading the blind, and they look it.

The revolutionary left supports John McCain putting the pressure on Obama to make good on his red line threats against Assad. We’re called cruise missile lefts for the very good reason that we want them used against the enemy. We want those air bases smashed. We want Assads armed forces killed or captured before they kill the next 80,000.

The ‘immediate’ aftermath of the Russian revolution was bound to be a terrible civil war as ten days that shook our world actually became ten years that flew bye when rebellious people are trying to change the system of political power from some tyrannical system to something else. The enemy fights back and fights very well. There was no way that Iraq could escape a very big armed struggle either. Just be thankful the enemy was smashed early or it would have been far worse.

Aaron Aarons April 29, 2013 at 6:27 pm

So Patrick Muldowney thinks there has been a ‘revolution’ in South Africa!!! Does he also think there has been a ‘revolution’ in the U.S. because there is a Black president and other Black officials helping manage the empire, or at least its image?

South Africa is still run by essentially the same ruling class, with a few Black faces co-opted into it at various levels, where they can carry out the same oppression as before on behalf of the same ruling class. The condition of the poor majority of the Black population is worse than before, both absolutely and relative to the white population. Some ‘revolution’!

Arthur April 28, 2013 at 12:43 pm

PS 2011 was 8 years after the invasion, but only just after the defeat of the civil war launched by the “resistance” and when many were still predicting that Iraq would disintegrate as soon as the US withdrew (as they still hope even now). More like March 21 1921 in Russia (though such comparisons are absurd).

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Aaron Aarons April 29, 2013 at 6:48 pm

Actually, the genuine resistance, which had both Sunni and Shia support, was pretty much crushed with the destruction of Fallujah in november, 2004 and the successful promotion of sectarian violence by the U.S. and its agents, with the help, of course, of genuine, home-grown, Sunni and Shia sectarians. But some attacks on U.S. forces have continued, and those attacks were and are rightly supported by leftists everywhere.

P.S. If genuine leftists had just one Cruise missile, and had to ‘use it or lose it’, they would probably choose the Pentagon as their first target. With a bunch of such missiles that couldn’t be captured or obliterated, they could probably force the imperialists to start paying reparations, in the form of material goods, to the peoples of the world. I know it’s just a fantasy, but a better one, and one no less realistic, than expecting the imperialists to bring any genuine ‘democracy’ to the world.

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PatrickSMcNally April 28, 2013 at 5:50 am

Except that in Iraq the war was the fault of the Bush adminiostration, whereas World War I was set off when Nicholas II began to mobilize the Czarist army. Islamists only came into Iraq after the US occupation. These are not similar circumstances.

Every argument which people have made here for supporting a US occupation of Iraq could be cited by Karl Kautsky for supporting Germany’s war aginst Russia in 1914, and was. Sure, it’s true that the German war undermined Czardom once and for all, and records show that Lenin appeared excited as the war began because he was certain that this would mean the end of Czardom. Luxemburg became deprressed as war broke out and was politically paralyzed. But that didn’t mean that Lenin supported Kautsky’s decision to support the Kaiser.

If one wants to, one can cite the Russian Revolution as proof that positive developments can grow out of imperial wars. We should also mention that the British Empire was torn down by wars with Kaiser Wilhelm II, Adolf Hitler and Emperor Hirohito. Any socialist should be glad to see the end of the British Empre. But that does not tell us that German or Japanese imperialism deserved support.

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Arthur April 28, 2013 at 12:17 pm

Both sides were engaged in imperial conquest in WW1

The pseudoleft claimed that this was the US goal in Iraq (more specifically “oil”) but offered precisely no analysis in support of that theory (just endlessly repeating that the US was an imperialist power and had engaged in imperialist wars in the past – an argument that would equally justify opposition to the US fighting fascists in WW2).

What’s worse is that it doesn’t even occur to you that there might be some need to offer such analysis. You are apparantly so used to talking to yourselves that you simply take agreement for granted.

As well as being unable to analyse, you end up incapable of participating in simple political debate. Above in this thread I pointed out that the argument you presented, that Sadaam could have been displaced without a war, was the hope of the conservative foreign policy establishment for maintaining the old regime without Sadaam. I explained that it was this openly displayed preference for a “kinder Tsar” that results in people with your viewpoint being described as “pseudolefts” (as opposed to the many leftists who opposed the war because they wrongly thought the US WOULD do precisely what you advocated it SHOULD do).

http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=7703#comment-48359

Instead of even attempting to reply you wander off into repeating stereotyped phrases about what Lenin did in WW1. Such phrases may help you to believe you are a leftist but you would still have to stop advocating for a kinder Tsar to convince yourself, let alone anybody else. Conservatives who cite Lenin in support of maintaining fascist regimes in power are called pseudoleftists, not Leninists.

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Brian S. April 28, 2013 at 12:58 pm

Actually Arthur, its you who have never offered serious evidence of your absurd view – contradicted by all the available empirical evidence – that the US initiated the war as some sort of global campaign for democracy (“draining the swamp” in your colourful if misplaced terms). We’ve been over this all before and at that time I did offer an alternative, fact-based, interpretation in terms of imperialist objectives (not primarily oil) – its just that you chose to ignore it. I’m not going to repeat myself.

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Arthur April 28, 2013 at 3:17 pm

Here’s the full exchange. When you chose not to respond any further I did not rub your nose in the demonstrated sheer emptiness of what you had said.

But since you insist….

==========
Brian S. September 3, 2012 at 3:02 pm

@Arthur. In fact, Arthur,the “main alternative theory”( in fact not “alternative” but the “main theory” full stop among serious left analysts) was (and is) the one I have articulated in other threads – that this war was driven by the desire to restore / protect / advance the global strategic power of US imperialism. And this perspective was not only that of serious left analysts; it was also the framework in which George W Bush and his entourage, addressed the issue, as all the documentation on the decision making process in the White House evidences.

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Arthur September 3, 2012 at 7:24 pm

Ok, perhaps your “theory” shoulld have been mentioned too.

But in mentioning it one would have to describe it as a non-theory. Its obviously true but doesn’t explain anything.

The oil theory offers a purported explanation of why oil (or even more bizarrely the currencies in which oil is traded) made invading Iraq appear to US imperialist decision makers as something that would “restore / protect / advance the global strategic power of US imperialism”.

You don’t offer an explanation of why invading Iraq, as opposed to for example not invading Iraq, or perhaps invading Venezuela (Chomsky’s next prediction) might be thought by US imperialist leaders likely to restore / protect / advance the global strategic power of US imperialism. After all the overwhelming majority of the foreign policy community were strongly advising that it wouldn’t, and it was pretty obvious from defeat in Vietnam that invasions can result in huge setbacks for the global strategic power of US imperialism. So you have to actually explain what made the invasion attractive and you simply don’t.

Consider that exactly the same “theory” could be and is offered for the failure of the US to act effectively in Syria – they do that to restore / protect / advance the global strategic power of US imperialism.

There is simply no action or inaction that is not “explained” by offering truisms.

The Israel lobby theory offers an explanation of why the US might invade Iraq despite it running counter to US interests (ie because the lobby is able to make the US do things in Israels interests). It therefore qualifies as a theory rather than a non-theory.

The emptiness of your theory is highlighted by the fact that its advocates often simultaneously accept that invading Iraq in fact did nothing to restore / protect / advance the global strategic power of US imperialism and combine it with a theory that the Bush administration were insane. eg Chomsky would adopt your phrasing and then explain failing to establish a puppet regime as some sort of ineptitude.

It thus belongs with other non-theories I didn’t mention such as Bush Jr doing it because Bush Senior didn’t, or in revenge for Iraqi attempts to assassinate Bush Sr etc etc. or because he’s insane and heard voices from God telling him to etc etc.

http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=1995#comment-5073
===================

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Brian S. April 28, 2013 at 5:47 pm

Arthur- try stepping back a moment and look objectively at how you argue. I offer you a perfectly reasonable interpretation of the motivation behind the US drive to war in Iraq (one which as I point out is widely held and backed up by considerable documentation). You respond with a stream of vacuous, uncontextualised rhetoric (“You don’t offer an explanation of why invading Iraq … might be thought by US imperialist leaders likely to restore the global strategic power of US imperialism”: maybe because there was an major ongoing international dispute with Iraq over – guess what – WMD? remember the UN inspections, UN resolutions, etc?) And pronounce my views as a “non-theory” (handy that – saves the need for rational argument.) Ditto with your cavalier rejection of the idea that Iraq’s militancy in the oil markets could have helped put it on a US hit list. “bizarre” – so no need to engage with that.
You regularly point out that I “fail to respond further”. Has it never crossed your mind that this is not because of the scintillating brilliance of your arguments, but because there comes a point when it is a misallocation of resources trying to discuss with someone who can’t distinguish between rhetoric and reason, or fact and self-induced fantasy? Well I’m there again.
But I also note that that I do (and will) “respond further” whenever I find you worth responding to.

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Arthur April 29, 2013 at 8:27 am

Brian you said:

“We’ve been over this all before and at that time I did offer an alternative, fact-based, interpretation in terms of imperialist objectives (not primarily oil) – its just that you chose to ignore it. I’m not going to repeat myself.”

I quoted the entirety of your “fact-based interpretation in terms of imperialist objectives” along with the reply that proved I did not choose to ignore it but demonstrated that it was completely empty.

If you ever do offer a fact based interpretation in terms of imperialist objectives I will respond to it. So far you simply have not done so.

What precisely were the objectives, and how precisely would they be expected to be achieved by invading Iraq?

If for example it was WMDs why did they proceed to outrage the world by invading Iraq after Sadaam finally capitulated and allowed unlimited access to inspectors who were destroying marginally over range missiles on TV?

Brian S. April 29, 2013 at 9:22 am

This is intended as a response to Arthur below – but for some reason there’s no Reply facility there.
Arthur – you should read things before posting them:
The post from me that you excerpted stated quite clearly:
“the “main theory” full stop among serious left analysts) was (and is) the one I have articulated in other threads ” But obviously this argument in other threads didn’t meet your high evidential standards so you have blanked that out as well. However you cut the ice, all this demonstrates that your original claim that the left “offered precisely no analysis” was nonsense. I hate to break the news to you, but there is a difference between a theory you disagree with and “no theory”.

Arthur April 29, 2013 at 10:07 am

The “reply” button stops after a certain level of identation as a hint that thread has got quite intricate.

Suggestion:

1. Write a short article outlining your theory about US motivations for the invasion of Iraq. This could either be a continuation of the “10th anniversary” series or perhaps more usefully related to the currently important question of how to defeat the use made of claims about Iraq as an argument against NATO support for the Syrian revolution. (I assume we are both agreed that both supporters of Assad and others opposed to assisting the Syrian revolution do make use of “lessons” from Iraq in support of their desire for inaction and that this does need to be countered rather than reinforced).

2. Altenatively, at least post a link to the earlier comments you made that you believe I should respond to. To find them use google “site:http://www.thenorthstar.info Brian KEY WORDS” where “KEY WORDS” are a set of words that you recall using in your comments that are likely not to be used elsewhere. (But if you find them I still think it would be more useful to use them in composing an article for a new thread.)

3. Meanwhile I genuinely have no idea what analysis it is that you believe that you have presented and I have ignored. You cannot reasonably expect me to figure out how to search for it in other threads if you won’t do so yourself.

A. Dented April 29, 2013 at 10:10 pm

Now, Brian, let’s be reasonable! If Bush weren’t interested in promoting democracy he wouldn’t have invaded countries run by pro-U.S. dictatorships — countries like Saudi-occupied Arabia and the Gulf monarchies, and those countries would still be run by such oppressive governments rather than the elected, democratic governments that run them now. He also, if he weren’t a supporter of democracy, might have helped remove, or try to remove, the left-reformist presidents of Haiti and Venezuela, and he might have taken advantage of the ‘shock-and-awe’ of 9-11 to pass laws to deny actual or potential opponents of U.S. power.

So, if you look at this record, you can see that he truly was a democrat.

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Pham Binh April 30, 2013 at 10:53 am

Very funny, Aaron.

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jim sharp April 27, 2013 at 10:31 pm

bill lad!
ye arfur & meister cohen
have been spewing out the
same shit-a-gandism for
ten years now & apart
from your fella neo-liberal
comrades ye haven’t persuaded
even a six pack to your
epi-marxian analysis

coz everyday wage-slaves
instinctively use class nous
when deeming whose on the
leftside of proletarian vis-à-vis
boozh-wah class divide & the
skypilot & her messengers
don’t get an hearing

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Red Blob April 29, 2013 at 6:21 am

I think that we should take the argument about a war to bring democracy seriously because if it were true it would be a contender for left support. Unfortunately this was not the main argument put forward at the time and when it was put forward by Bush it certainly had the flavor of a convenient story because the initial story of WMD had fallen on its face.
Theres not much point in arguing about war motivation as these arguments take on a he said she said sort rhythm.
What I think is useful is to look at what can be measured.
The cost in Iraqi lives can be measured whether you prefer the lower estimates of the Iraq body count or the higher estimates of the Lancet study. These both measure deaths. In a conflict like this the wounded substantially outnumber the dead so by whatever measure we choose the casualties of this conflict must be somewhere in the hundreds of thousands if not millions. Add to this the millions that were displaced as external and internal refugees during the period of intense ethnic cleansing and we can see that the invasion directly lead to an immense amount of suffering.
Now the benefit of the invasion is a degree of democratic process. The Economist Intelligence Unit has attempted measure this and in 2011 they divided countries into 4 categories
Democracies
Flawed Democracies
Hybrid
Authoritarian
The good news is that Iraq has been raised out of the Authoritarian group and now sits in the Hybrid group (just)
143 nations were ranked in order of most to least democratic and Iraq came in at 112.
As I write this I become aware that the Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki has just banned 10 satellite TV stations including Al-Jazeera. Not a good look for a country that doesn’t want to slip back into the Authoritarian group.
Now people are free to argue that the war had noble aims but they must do so in a setting where everyone can see that it had an enormous cost for very small benefits.
As the saying goes ‘damn we cant all have shares in Halliburton’

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Bill Kerr April 29, 2013 at 7:42 am

Thank you red blob for an argument that makes sense. A quick reply but I will think about your argument more too:

1) It wasn’t possibly to say before the invasion exactly how it would turn out, the extent of the death-injury toll, the quality of the new government etc. At that point – at the start of the invasion – all that information you are giving us did not exist and could not have been part of anyones decision making process.

2) I still think the hypotheticals / parallel universes of what would have happened if the US didn’t invade then are relevant but of course impossible to measure accurately. My speculation is that things would have not turned out any better in terms of deaths etc.

3) Based on these two points I reject this part of your argument: “There’s not much point in arguing about war motivation …” because at the time that was the most relevant consideration.

Run the same criteria you regard as most important past other significant conflicts: WW2 (27,000 people a day killed for every day of the war), American Civil War (3% of the American population killed), the relatively peaceful elimination of Apartheid in South Africa given the high death toll in South Africa today. Do you then decide on the basis of the death toll that resulted in those conflicts, which no one predicted beforehand, that it was not worth supporting the clearly progressive side in those conflicts?

So the issue here remains for the Iraqi conflict as to whether one side was clearly more progressive than the other, whether an imperialism that supports democracy is clearly better than a particularly horrible version of fascism.

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Arthur April 29, 2013 at 8:05 am

“I think that we should take the argument about a war to bring democracy seriously because if it were true it would be a contender for left support. Unfortunately this was not the main argument put forward at the time and when it was put forward by Bush it certainly had the flavor of a convenient story because the initial story of WMD had fallen on its face.”

We are in complete agreement on that! Its a fact. A consequence of that fact is that the overwhelming majority of people on the left DID NOT take the argument for a war to bring democracy seriously and have in fact never seriously thought about it at all, as they had already made their mind up that it was about something else. This somehow slips into fully agreeing with the paleoconservative crtiticism that it was too costly (which for the paleos reflects the fact that they don’t value bringing democracy at all).

Take a look at Obama’s reluctance to do anything about Syria. Its clear that an argument for a war to bring democracy had no hope of Congressional funding. If it had been put forward earlier and had convinced the left (which is highly unlikely) that would only have made it more difficult to overcome the strong opposition to the war from the conservative foreign policy establishment whose entire careers had been oriented around preserving autocratic “stability”. Even now, WMDs seem to be the only argument for intervention that has much appeal in those circles.

I also agree that the (human) costs have been much greater than I expected and the benefits much less (though I view the latter as more a matter of taking much longer than I expected). That doesn’t change my mind at all. I don’t think that is because I had already made my mind up the other way (although I certainly had), but because once you view it from the perspective of a war of liberation the implications of the costs and benefits look very different from the way they look if you view it either as some sort of imperialist war (all the costs are for something bad anyway and all benefits are secondary and illusory), or from a conservative viewpoint (why waste our blood and treasure on something so worthless and unappreciated by the beneficiaries).

Imagine for a moment that you have not already made your mind up the war was about something else and try to look at the costs and the benefits from the perspective of having concluded it was a war of liberation aimed at democratic transformation not just in Iraq, but the whole region.

The fact that the Baathists and islamofascists were able and willing to kill hundreds of thousands rather than accept free elections tells me that the situation was far worse than I thought and the urgency of democratic change greater than I thought. Why doesn’t it have the same impact on you?

The costs of the war against fascism were even more horrendous. But we blame that on the fascists rather than the anti-fascists for those costs and their extent reinforces our belief that fascism had to be military crushed. (I say “we” on the assumption that you have not joined those pseudoleftists who in fact draw the logical conclusion of their pacifist “anti-imperialism” and reverse verdicts on the second world war as well – eg Kasama).

From my perspective its really quite odd to chalk up the enormous human costs as an argument against the war rather than for it. I suspect the explanation lies in the contortions liberals and leftists had to go through mentally to oppose the war while seeing coverage of the enemy mass murdering Iraqi civilians. Since you had already made up your minds it was an imperialist war (even to the point of siding with the “resistance” who were engaged in that mass murder of Iraqi civilians) you had to somehow pretend to yourselves that the casualties were being inflicted on the Iraqis by the Americian invaders (as in Vietnam). Then you could hold the troops that were fighting the mass murderers responsible for the casualties inflicted by the mass murderers.

Of course the antiwar movement could not convince anybody else about this so participation in protests quickly disappeared as soon as it became obvious the enemy were mass murderers fighting against their own people. But the antiwar people just kept talking to each other and never seriously tried to convince anybody else about anything so they never had to face up to the real implications of an enemy engaged in mass murder.

With regular mass murder bombings still continuing its an enomous achievement that Iraq has been able to establish maintain as much democracy as it has. Governments do have to clamp down in those circumstances. The longer it is taking the more obvious it seems to me that the rest of the world should not stand by while that region remains an autocratic swamp.

We can see the costs of inaction in Syria. A government far less vicious than Sadaam’s has so far killed about 70,000 and made a couple of million refugees. The conclusion we should draw from those costs is that it is urgent to stop them.

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Red Blob April 29, 2013 at 9:55 am

Arthur I take your point about all the deaths not being the direct responsibility of the US forces but having said that theres also a bit of letting the cat out of the bag. Yes the cat is doing damage but we do put some of that blame on the person holding the bag. Yes al queda in Iraq are responsible for everyone that they murder but there was no al queda in Iraq before the US opened up a political space for them.
Yes I know that the US didn’t intend this but wars have a habit of producing unintended outcomes. Who should take responsibility for unintended outcomes?

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Arthur April 29, 2013 at 2:56 pm

Take a look at Syria. The space being opened up for Al Qaeda is being opened up by the ABSENCE of NATO intervention.

The difference is that in Iraq they got active logistics support from the Baathst “resistance” (and were only crushed when eventually even the Baathists had to turn against them).

Yes, wars produce unintended outcomes. So does the failure to fight when its necessary. WW2 could have been avoided if the appeasers had not been so unwilling to fight fascism.

BTW re your response to Bill.

1. Opponents of the war were predicting massive casualties from the US invaders, not from terrorist mass murderers killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. When that did happen their reaction was to oppose the surge and just let more people be slaughtered.

2. The most likely result of doing that would still have been a Shia victory in the civil war, but with many more people killed on both sides and someone like Sadr running the show. The US did accept responsibility for dealing with the unintended consequences of its actions. It was the antiwar movement that opposed doing so (or rather its remnants – nobody actually had the appetite to mobilize against it).

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Red Blob April 29, 2013 at 5:45 pm

My memory of it was that people like Robert Fisk were saying that the invasion would be a lot less death dealing than the trouble that would follow when sectarian tensions were unleashed.

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Arthur April 30, 2013 at 2:18 am

Nope. Pretty much the opposite. He was embedded in Baghdad with the regime and between the invasion starting and it arriving in Baghdad he was echoing “Baghdad Bob” about how the Americans had claimed Iraq was ethnically divided but in fact the Shiites in the south were heroically fighting the Americans who were suffering major casualties and bogged down in a “quagmire”.

http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0325-09.htm

Here’s his famous “Iraq will become a quagmire article” – nothing about sectarian explosion, just relaying Saaam’s line.

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=story_25-3-2003_pg4_12

His main emphasis was that heavy casualties would be inflicted both on and by the US forces as the Iraqis defended their government.

As for sectarianism, his claim was that the Shia would launch a resistance against the Americans!

http://www.democracynow.org/2003/4/22/my_feeling_is_that_there_will

Your faulty recollection may result from the fact that these people are congenital liars who brazenly pretend that they said different things later.

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Red Blob April 30, 2013 at 8:54 am

No, I do remember Robert Fisk stating that if America invaded civil war would follow
George Bush crosses Rubicon – but what lies beyond?
(Robert Fisk, The Independent, 09 November 2002)
The Rubicon is a wide river. It was deep for Caesar’s legions. The Tigris river will be more shallow – my guess is that the first American tanks will be across it within one week of war – but what lies beyond? . . . For Rome, civil war followed. And, be assured, civil war will follow any American invasion of Iraq. “Cheat and retreat will no longer be tolerated,” Mr Bush told us yesterday – forgetting, of course, UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 which call for Israel to withdraw from the Arab territories occupied during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. . . . The BBC, with CNN and all the other television networks, was last night billing Resolution 1441 as “the last chance” for Saddam Hussein. In fact, it is the “last chance” for the United Nations. As the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, said, the road ahead will be “difficult and dangerous”. He can say that again. . . . It allows the Security Council to discuss non-compliance without restraining the United States from attacking Baghdad. . . . Washington wants a UN fig leaf for a war on Iraq and is willing to go through an inspection process in the hope that Iraq obstructs it. Mr Annan was talking yesterday about the “unique legitimacy of the UN”. But the cruel dictator of Baghdad cares as much about that as President Bush.
Yep he says it in the above quote in 2002
“And be assured civil war will follow any American invasion of Iraq”

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Arthur April 30, 2013 at 9:28 am

Ok, that phrase is there. It DOES say “civil war will follow any American invasion of Iraq”. But the theme of the article was “The die is cast” ie war will inevitably follow the UN decision to disarm Iraq in November 2002 as George W Bush had already decided to go to war and was not restrained from interpreting inspections how he liked.

As it happens I agree with that analysis, despite it coming from Robert Fisk. Indeed I think the die was cast when Congress approved war powers and funds in October, on the same pretext – that it would strengthen the US position in going to the UN and obtaining support for a demand that Sadaam disarm and therefore provided some hope of forcing Sadaam to capitulate and thus avoid war. Others at least pretended to be taken in by the claims the US was seeking disarmament rather than intent on invasion – eg as an excuse for voting the way they did in Congress or the UN. But Fisk’s analysis (and mine) was correct.

But although the phrase DOES specifically mention “civil” war, the context seems to be that (civil) war inevitbly followed Julius Casesar original crossing of the Rubicon and war would likewise follow Bush having just crossed the Rubicon at the UN. There is strikingly NO reference to sectarian conflict in Iraq (and as the links above showed, Fisk was claiming the opposite).

Anyway, if my interpretation is wrong, it should be easy enough for you to find a pre-war article from Fisk that unambiguously DOES elaborate on the theme of specifically civil war rather than perhaps merely referencing the outbreak of civil war in Rome. It isn’t the sort of issue that Fisk or anybody else would only mention once in passing.

Certainly there were others who emphasized that Sadaam’s dictatorship was essential for “stability” including suppressing sectarian conflict (ie keeping the majority of the people down).

I’ll be happy to concede the point if you do find one from Fisk. Here’s a link for the one you quoted that I won’t concede the point on:

http://archives.lists.indymedia.org/imc-houston/2002-November/004671.html

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Aaron Aarons May 23, 2013 at 12:21 am

Arthur Dent writes: “WW2 could have been avoided if the appeasers had not been so unwilling to fight fascism.”

WW2 might have been avoided if, inter alia, (1) the Western imperialists had not imposed the draconian reparations of the Versailles Treaty on defeated Germany after WWI, and/or (2) the Comintern had not imposed an ultra-sectarian policy — the “Third Period” — on the KPD (Communist Party of Germany) from around 1928 until after the Nazi seizure of power. Many other things could have made a difference, but those two are a start. My point (2) is more important because, unlike my point (1) and the reference to “the appeasers”, it is something that the working-class parties could have directly affected. And the genuine left makes policy for the working class and its oppressed allies, not for the bourgeoisie.

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David Berger (RED DAVE) May 23, 2013 at 12:53 am

AARON AARONS: And the genuine left makes policy for the working class and its oppressed allies, not for the bourgeoisie.

DAVID BERGER: Precisely. What we have here is a couple of “state department socialists” hot to tell the bourgeoisie what to do. I’m reminded of that wretched group of ex-Trotskyists of one ilk or another, Josh Muravchik. et al., who acting as ideologues for the ruling class. How long, I wonder, before Dent and Kerr join the ranks of these swine?

And let me add this on Syria. To those comrades who are so eager to urge US intervention in Syria, remember that this will be the intervention of the bourgeoisie. Not “your” intervention but “theirs.” Are you willing to organize demos urging a US invasion of Syria? Will I get an email soon from the Socialist Committee for Democracy in Syria? This debate 0n Iraq is actually one on Syria. And I would beware of being hasty in calling for the mother of all imperialist nations to start on more venture in nation building.

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Pham Binh May 23, 2013 at 9:36 am

Wrong thread for Syria. We have dozens. Besides, Iraq 2002-2003 is not a proxy for Syria 2011-2013. Wrong country, wrong decade, for starters.

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Richard Estes April 30, 2013 at 12:29 pm

“The cost in Iraqi lives can be measured whether you prefer the lower estimates of the Iraq body count or the higher estimates of the Lancet study. These both measure deaths.”

They measure different things. The Lancet study, which has been confirmed by at least one other demographic survey, measures deaths resulting from violent incidents plus diseases and child mortality that occurred as a consequence of the destruction of civilian infrastructure. The methodology has been generally accepted in other situations, which was acknowledged by Blair’s science advisor.

Iraq Body Count only measures deaths from violent incidents, and only those through reported through the media, at least through 2006 or so. Accordingly, it is not very reliable. IBC and the Lancet study are therefore apples and oranges, although, as noted, the Lancet study is more scientifically rigorous. The people who run IBC didn’t do themselves any favors when, challenged on their methods, they proceeded to attack the Lancet study.

The bottom line here is that if you want to try to understand the impact of the invasion and occupation upon Iraq, the Lancet study is a far more credible place to start.

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Arthur April 30, 2013 at 2:10 pm

So credible that following an internal ethics review the principal author the John Hopkins School of Public Health announced:

“Because of violations of the Bloomberg School’s policies regarding human subjects research, the School has suspended Dr. Burnham’s privileges to serve as a principal investigator on projects involving human subjects research.”

The Lancet study was completely discredited because it claimed 92% of those asked for death certificates produced them. This would imply that approximately 550,000 death certificates were issued, for violent deaths wheras only 50,000 were reported by Iraqi authorities. Death certificates are required for survivor benefits and inheritance etc and usually issued free of charge the same day.

This confirmed actual fabrication, which is not surprising since the english speaking staff available to supervise such work are overwhelmingly Baathists. (They needed jobs after de-Baathification and not many others had access to higher education in english).

As usual this propaganda lives on long after it was discredited.

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Brian S. April 30, 2013 at 4:09 pm

This is a very selective presentation of material based on cherry picking bits from this Wikipedia article which I would encourage anyone interested to look at directly to get a balanced picture: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lancet_surveys_of_Iraq_War_casualties#Death_Certificates
Another Wikipedia piece offers what is a likely “bottom line”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraq_Family_Health_Survey#400.2C000:
“Yet another, a much larger house-to-house survey was conducted by the Iraq Ministry of Health (MoH). This also found a sizable mortality figure—400,000 “excess deaths” (the number above the pre-war death rate), but estimated 151,000 killed by violence. ”

This is significant because the exclusive focus on “violent deaths” is misplaced – the death toll of the invasion includes deaths resulting from disruptions of infrastructure and essential services. So the figure of 400,00 looks like a well-established and appropriate one.

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Arthur May 1, 2013 at 9:32 am

1. The wikipedia page “balances” the discrediting of the Lancet studies by quotation of people disputing that. This cannot obscure the simple fact that the data MUST have been falsified since it implied 10 times more death certificates than were actually issued. Some of the “balancing” quotes are about the fact that many deaths could have occurred without certificates. But the Lancet surveys claimed to have actually verified death certificates that never existed. Brian’s credulity on this is similar to his still believing Jabhat Al Nusra is not an Al Qaeda affiliate after both JAN and Al Qaeda have announced that it is. There is something about the way people who have made their mind up cannot see the obvious that would be comical if it wasn’t tragic.

2. BOTH the deaths from violence and “excess mortality” from destroyed infrastructure are overwhelmingly the responsibility of the “resistance”. Whereas Al Qaeda, with Baathist assistance directly massacred hundreds of people at a time with bombings in market places, schools etc, the so-called “honourable resistance” waged a systematic attack on Iraqi’s infrastructure which was highly successful in bringing down power lines etc (which affected water supplies and so forth). Both civilians and infrastructure were much easier targets than the coalition troops, as demonstrated by less than 5000 coalition troops killed. Coalition and Iraqi forces were deployed DEFENDING the infrastructure from the “resistance”.

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Arthur May 1, 2013 at 9:54 am

3. As far as I can make out from a quick read of the link Brian provided the Family Health Study is indeed much more credible. As usual people have used it to make propaganda, including Brian’s outrageous claim:

“This also found a sizable mortality figure—400,000 “excess deaths” (the number above the pre-war death rate)…

…This is significant because the exclusive focus on “violent deaths” is misplaced – the death toll of the invasion includes deaths resulting from disruptions of infrastructure and essential services. So the figure of 400,00 looks like a well-established and appropriate one.

The page linked explicitly states:

Q: Does this estimate represent “excess” violent deaths — those attributable to the invasion?

A: No. It is an estimate of how many violent deaths occurred between the March 2003 invasion and June 2006. The study did not measure whether or not those deaths would have occurred had there been no invasion. However, the mortality rates for 2002 and early 2003 showed that mortality due to violent causes was low before the invasion.”

This (and further disputation about it) was PROMINENTLY displayed immediatly under the sub-head reporting and refuting assertions that the survey showed 400,000 excess quotes.

Brian should be more careful in making claims of a “very selective presentation of material based on cherry picking bits from this Wikipedia article”.

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ISH April 29, 2013 at 7:57 am

“Unfortunately the Syrian people do not have John McCain as the POTUS and are coping with a dithering vacuous self promoter who seems to like drones and killing single terrorist leaders (as if that could ever drain this swamp). The Obama Administration is the blind leading the blind, and they look it.” —patrickm

And there you have it. This entire thread is an embarrassment. I have no clue how these rightwing Australians actually think of themselves as leftists when they are clearly outright grade B neocons, and far, far to the right of even American liberals. They can talk of “pseudoleftists” all they like but it’s clear that the pseudoleftists here are the ones who find it interesting to openly ponder openly allying with imperialism. Is this the regroupment North Star seeks? With people who like John McCain? With people who quote Paul Wolfowitz favorably? These are literal murderers of the international working class.

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patrickm April 29, 2013 at 9:44 am

ISH; you seem to have missed the next para

‘The revolutionary left supports John McCain putting the pressure on Obama to make good on his red line threats against Assad. We’re called cruise missile lefts for the very good reason that we want them used against the enemy. We want those air bases smashed. We want Assads armed forces killed or captured before they kill the next 80,000.’

Do you agree that McCain is putting pressure on Obama? I understand that you don’t want Assads forces smashed before they can kill the next tranche that IS now on the horizon. Do you doubt or even dispute that those deaths are on the horizon.

But just to be clear are you opposed to WW2 Maoist / Stalinist united front politics and the policies directed at smashing fascism?

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Pham Binh April 29, 2013 at 10:18 am

He generally does not respond to pointed questions that get at the heart of his contradictory politics, but I wish you luck nonetheless.

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ish April 29, 2013 at 10:51 am

LOL. See. you think you’ve just had a “gotcha” moment, rather completely misreading the fact of what is actually going on. I have zero interest in responding to someone who has just made it clear he applauds imperialist cruise missiles. The mind boggles that said rightwinger would think his explanation from the next paragraph would make me suddenly agree with him. What could I possibly have to say to that?

What about you, Binh, do you also support Vietnam War criminal and mass murderer John McCain and a rain of US missiles from the sky over Syria? Quick to deliver one-liners to people on your left. Why the silence over the utterly massive pro-imperialism on this thread?

Amusing that you think consistent opposition to imperialism is “contradictory.”

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Pham Binh April 29, 2013 at 12:18 pm

There’s no “gotcha” with you because you continually evade pointed questions and refuse to debate people who disagree with you on the pre-text that they hold views that you consider to be “beyond the pale.” Your actions betray your lack of confidence in being able to argue with and defeat people you claim have pro-imperialist views and instead of rigorous argument you resort to moralistic hysteria.

Since you raise the red herring of Viet Nam, here’s my line:
“Standing with independent bourgeois nationalist governments as they slaughter their own peoples by the tens of thousands because said governments have conflicts of interest with imperialist powers is altogether different from standing with national liberation movements like the Vietnamese NLF who battled the slaughter wrought by French and American occupiers. The first is criminal stupidity, the second is anti-imperialism.” Taken from: http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=8293 which is also posted on Kasama: http://kasamaproject.org/threads/entry/eclectics-or-dialectics-unpacking-psl-s-defense-of-racist-collaborationist-tyrannies

You’re also not a consistent opponent of imperialism unless you also oppose imperialism’s decision to lift the sanctions on Viet Nam.

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ish April 29, 2013 at 12:28 pm

Sorry you don’t approve of my manners.

Speaking of evasion and rigorous argument, I’m taking it you’re with John McCain then.

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Pham Binh April 29, 2013 at 12:40 pm

It won’t be the first or the last time you misrepresent my politics because you can’t argue for your own.

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Aaron Aarons April 30, 2013 at 1:41 am

Binh writes, “You’re also not a consistent opponent of imperialism unless you also oppose imperialism’s decision to lift the sanctions on Viet Nam.” By that logic, you’re not a consistent opponent of rape unless you also oppose a rapist’s decision to stop raping a particular victim as brutally or as often as previously.

But, leaving that typically Binh-ish illogic aside, genuine leftists do not either support or oppose “imperialism’s decision to lift the sanctions on Viet Nam”. Rather, we condemn any conditions put by the imperialists for the lifting of the embargo, and, depending on the specifics, may or may not denounce concessions made by the government of Vietnam to meet such conditions. We continue to demand that the imperialists indemnify the people of Vietnam (and of Kampuchea and Laos) for the damage done to them by colonialism, wars, and embargoes. Moreover, Western leftists will support anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist struggles by workers and peasants of Vietnam, et al., including struggles against the policies of their ex-‘Communist’ rulers.

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Arthur April 29, 2013 at 1:51 pm

I think he’s answered.

Plainly, as a “consistent anti-imperialist” he would join with Kasama in opposing Mao and Stalin’s formation of a united front against fascism together with imperialists in the second world war.

If he was a less “consistent” anti-imperialist he might feel the need to actually explain and argue his position.

But Mike Ely summed up very clearly all that they actually have to say:

“Our actions (vis a vis U.S. imperialism) don’t depend on some elaborate speculative analysis of “what will most benefit the people of xxx or xxx?” — an analysis which is quite difficult to pin down (and the left is full of people who greatly exaggerate their own ability to make such judgements).

The short story is this: We oppose U.S. imperialism because (well) we oppose U.S. imperialism.”

http://kasamaproject.org/threads/entry/new-psl-book#kmt-44512

That’s it folks! That really is how they think. Nothing to see here, move along now…

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Pham Binh April 29, 2013 at 2:11 pm

Yes, they’d denounce Ho Chi Minh for accepting arms and aid from the CIA’s predecessor, the OSS. That much is clear.

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Aaron Aarons April 30, 2013 at 2:04 am

Actually, it’s not clear at all. In World War II in the Pacific and Southeast Asia, there were two rival imperialists — the U.S.-led bloc and Japan. It was perfectly legitimate for those under Japanese occupation to accept aid from the U.S. and for those under British occupation to accept aid from Japan, provided they did not subordinate their own struggles to those of the imperialists whose aid they accepted.

I can’t speak for Kasama, but they might well argue that a situation where U.S.-led imperialism was one of two contending imperialist blocs was very different from one where the U.S. is the imperialist super-power, and their statement

We oppose U.S. imperialism because (well) we oppose U.S. imperialism.

applies only to the latter. Or they may argue that U.S. imperialism, or any imperialism, should be opposed even when one has to deal with it, just as the Bolsheviks continued to oppose German imperialism in the Spring of 1918 even while signing a peace treaty with it.

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David Berger (RED DAVE) April 29, 2013 at 8:48 am

ARTHUR: A consequence of that fact is that the overwhelming majority of people on the left DID NOT take the argument for a war to bring democracy seriously and have in fact never seriously thought about it at all, as they had already made their mind up that it was about something else.

DAVID BERGER: I keep trying to get a handle on this discussion. Please clarify: (1) Do you believe that the US went into Iraq to promote democracy. (2) Do you support the US invasion of Iraq?

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Arthur April 29, 2013 at 10:35 am

As a courtesy I will explain once again that I don’t bother responding to you since you repeatedly insisted that an an article on “THE COLLAPSE OF THE ARMED FORCES” by Colonel Robert D. Heinl, Jr. in the Armed Forces Journal, 7 June, 1971 was by “Grover Furr” discredited as an “apologist for Stalinism”.

http://msuweb.montclair.edu/~furrg/Vietnam/heinl.html

http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=6830#comment-35186

I concluded then that you don’t actually read threads you respond to and are simply not worth arguing with.

Your repeated plaintive request for clarification because you cannot get a handle on this discussion vividly confirms that you simply cannot be bothered actually reading threads you comment in so naturally others cannot be bothered responding to your comments or questions.

If you ever change your reading habits it will probably take months for others to notice you have changed so I suggest that you should loudly and repeatedly apologize for your past behaviour in case anyone misses your first few apologies.

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David Berger (RED DAVE) April 29, 2013 at 11:37 am

Your arrogance exceeds my ignorance.

It does seem from your writing that you are a supporter of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq. And, if not, forgive me. I asked.

If so, why should we consider you to be a socialist and not a mouthpiece for imperialism?

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Red Blob April 29, 2013 at 8:58 am

Bill Kerr If I was in Germany 1939 I would run these criteria over the proposed war before I agreed to support starting it.
If I was in South Carolina in 1861 I would have run this criteria over the proposed war before I agreed to support starting it.
The criteria is useful for people who decide to start wars but not for those who are attacked, they don’t get the same choices.
As to South Africa I trusted the judgement of the oppressed and was influenced by their opinions.
When the invasion of Iraq was suggested Iraqi’s who were bitter enemies of Saddam were prominent in organizing anti war rallies. During the South African anti apartheid campaigns I met several ANC activists and it was possible to discuss ideas with them. That was not the case with Iraq as I had no contact with Iraqis.
Your point 1 There were plenty of commentators who were predicting a high death toll prior to the invasion
Your point 2 That will always remain hypothetical
Your point 3 You are right there is value in discussing motivation Im just tired of it as Ive heard people repeat the same arguments for 10 years
With your last un numbered point as to whether the US is more progressive than Saddam well I never put it to myself that way because I always thought that the correct comparison was between Saddam and whatever Shia group that would eventually replace him. At the time I thought that someone a lot like Muqtada Al-Sadr would end up in power.

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Bill Kerr May 1, 2013 at 2:15 am

red blob:
> I thought that someone a lot like Muqtada Al-Sadr would end up in power

So, it turns out that the analysis, which developed by arthur *before* the war began (I can’t take any credit for it), turned out to be more accurate than your analysis. ie. it turned out that the US was sufficiently committed to democracy, that they did take action designed to prevent al Sadr coming to power. From Bushes account he did make that a condition, suppressing al Sadr’s army, that Maliki agreed to, before committing the extra Surge troops (p. 374).

In that context I wanted to say something about the issue of people changing their mind about Iraq in the light of subsequent events. The events you have pointed to are high death-injury-refugee toll and a government which is flawed:

The good news is that Iraq has been raised out of the Authoritarian group and now sits in the Hybrid group (just) 143 nations were ranked in order of most to least democratic and Iraq came in at 112

arthur’s analysis in broad terms has turned to out to be “correct”. I’m not saying perfect, there are aspects of it that I question [ to provide one example, you can only partially drain the swamp if your historical ties with Israel are so strong that you turn a blind eye to their State terrorism, that you regard State terrorism as less significant than say terrorism sponsored by Arafat ] and which I’d like to discuss more (the problem being I have other commitments, I’m slow and ten years on it’s not particularly urgent or going to change the world in any significant fashion)

There are some people here who wouldn’t change their mind because arthur’s analysis is fundamentally at odds to what it means to be left in their view. eg. Brian articulated such a view and I challenged his fundamentals and he has acknowledged that I have made a case.

Others here just say WTF, you people are nuts or right wing, ie. their fundamentals are offended to the point that they don’t see it as worthy of discussion.

Others here, you are the only one I have noticed so far but there may others I’ve missed or are lurking, haven’t changed their mind not because their initial analysis has been shown to be correct (the surge prevented al Sadr from coming to power) but because the negative outcomes of the war have been so distasteful (death toll etc.) and the positive outcomes so marginal (Iraqi government is only marginally democratic according to the study you quote) then why should you change your mind since the outcome hasn’t provided you with a *good* reason to.

Note also, that Bush could have done what he did better as argued by Bush himself, Hitchens and Wolfowitz. But of course it would be fair to think at that start that Bush would fuck up because he was Bush and gave a pretty good impression, from a “progressive” perspective, of being stupid. Or you could just think that imperialists would fuck up because even if the head was thinking straight the body was too imbued with imperialist inertia – that events such as Abu Ghraib would be bound to happen. To me such thoughts before the events in particular does not rule out united front political alliances with the right as a general principle. In fact, horrible events like that are unfortunately bound to happen in broad political alliances. Hitchens response was to point out that Saddam did much worse at Abu Ghraib, which of course was true. Arthur’s response was to initiate war crime proceedings against the US military. (the link is out there somewhere if anyone is interested)

I think its normal that people do need quite powerful reasons to change their mind on a big question such as this. So, even accepting that the positives (and for the sake of discussion dropping my hypotheticals for the moment while retaining the right to bring them back at a future date) have been marginal I don’t see why I should change my mind (to the invasion was a bad thing) given that arthur’s original analysis does not offend any fundamental belief I have about what it means to be left (historically the left has formed alliances with the right) and that his analysis has turned out to be more correct than any other offered by the traditional left at the time.

I can also see why you don’t change your mind given the absence of a particularly compelling reason for you to do so.

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Ben Campbell April 29, 2013 at 12:35 pm

As an editor of this website, I originally posted this article by Chris Cutrone. However it has since come to my attention how truly awful Cutrone’s actual (“closeted”) position on imperialism and, e.g. Israel-Palestine, is. Had I known that at the time, we would not have (re)-posted this article originally — and while I haven’t discussed it with the other editors, I can’t see us running articles by Cutrone in the future, knowing what we know now.

Many of the comments in this thread are neo-con apologism, and I would also like to actively distance North Star from the views of its commenters, several of which come from this “Last Superpower” collective in Australia, and which contain overt apologism/support for the Iraq War. I certainly couldn’t disagree with them more.

I apologize that there hasn’t been more moderation on the site in recent weeks. This is largely because we are relaunching the website, and have thus become distracted. Some of the comments on various articles have been quite vile, however, including e.g. blatant sexism. As such, we appear to have failed in our moderation duties.

We are actively discussing a new moderation policy for the new website, and would appreciate the input of any of our readers/commenters.

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Arthur April 29, 2013 at 1:19 pm

My input would be that you should learn to post arguments in support of your views rather than pontifications about editorial stances.

There are any number of blogs where people can post their own views. What’s interesting and useful here is that you get genuine debate. That’s what gives the site an audience. Lose that and you will find little interest in the selection of views you approve of. You should worry about moderation less and participate more.

Nobody cares whether you “actively distance” yourself and “couldn’t disagree more” with any particular view or “enthusiastically associate” and “couldn’t agree more”. Such “pronouncements” would add nothing even if you were some kind of well known authority with a following. Making them “as an editor of this website” detracts from the excellent job the editors of the web site have been doing by providing such a an open forum. For what benefit?

What matters is what arguments you can present in support of the views you agree with and against those you disagree with.

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Ben Campbell April 29, 2013 at 1:43 pm

Arthur, I have argued with you before. I am not going to use this website to endlessly argue with people who are essentially neoconservatives. We have better things to do around here.

Yes, it is important for our website to distance itself from your terrible politics, since you and your co-thinkers insist on bombarding our site with comments. We have allowed that, in the interests of open debate — but this is not an “open forum.” Do not abuse our hospitality.

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David Berger April 29, 2013 at 2:53 pm

In what sense do you think that Arthur is in any way “left”? It would seem to me that for someone to support the imperialist invasion of Iraq and still be considered left is stretching the point.

Those wretched socialists and other leftists who supported the US invasion of Vietnam, like, say, Max Shactman, were essentially read out of the socialist movement for good reason.

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Ben Campbell April 29, 2013 at 3:00 pm

I don’t think that Arthur is on the left.

I am not sure what you are suggesting — are you saying Arthur’s comments should not be tolerated around here? Again, we are reconsidering the present (lack of) moderation policy, and would appreciate any input.

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Brian S. April 29, 2013 at 3:31 pm

I’ll send some comments by email.

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Bill Kerr April 29, 2013 at 10:43 pm

Ben Campbell:

Yes, it is important for our website to distance itself from your terrible politics, since you and your co-thinkers insist on bombarding our site with comments. We have allowed that, in the interests of open debate — but this is not an “open forum.” Do not abuse our hospitality

Moderate on style (what you regard as gratuitous abuse, ranting, gloating, labelling), “bombardment” (the guy who never shuts up even though his opinion has been heard and understood) and “off topic” rather than content. For me the underlying criteria should be does such and such a comment promote independent thought or not.

Not much harm would result from banning people who have demonstrated an ongoing inability to think beyond stereotypes. But there is not much point if they don’t create a real problem by posting too often since you then have to devote time replying to their “free speech” claims.

You control the overall, what you see as genuine left politics, since you control which articles are published initially. “Wrong” views clearly expressed provide a good opportunity for you to put “correct” views, the contrast highlights the importance of the better position.

It would be good to improve your comments thread on the home page so that older comments could be read too, they drop off rather quickly.

I also feel you publish too many articles. I think fewer and better researched is the way to go.

Thanks to NS for providing the opportunity to discuss issues with a broad range of inputs which I have not found on other sites. I think that’s your strength rather than any clear political message or line.

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David Berger (RED DAVE) April 29, 2013 at 6:54 pm

Here is the masthead statement of the website of the group that, I believe, Arthur is involved with: Last Superpower. My apologies if it has

This site was established by leftwingers who support the war in Iraq. We called it “Last Superpower” because we believe that US imperialism is weaker than it has ever been before and is no longer the almighty superpower it makes itself out to be. This is a place for people who want to discuss what it really means to be progressive and left-wing in the 21st century – and where we can go from here.

http://www.lastsuperpower.net/

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Red Blob April 29, 2013 at 10:18 pm

I agree with Arthur in that arguments should be defeated by arguments not moderation.

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David Berger (RED DAVE) April 30, 2013 at 1:03 am

The problem is that Arthur doesn’t argue. He aggressively presents assertions, then ridicules his opponents. That’s abuse not argumentation.

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Red Blob May 1, 2013 at 12:34 am

Most attention towards Iraq is currently dominated by the upsurge in violence, the ongoing protests in Ramadi and the banning of the 10 satellite TV stations but theres something else going on that deserves attention. Kurdish ministers have been boycotting cabinet, Maliki has temporarily replaced them and has now discharged 14 senior officers from the Iraqi army. While up north the Peshmerga have deployed tanks in Kirkuk province.
It may come to nothing but something is up.

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Arthur May 1, 2013 at 8:09 am

Thanks for the links. I haven’t been following recent developments but my impression is that there is indeed something up, but unlikely to be anything outsiders can help with. Eventually the Kurds are going to establish a separate state and there is bound to be some degree of conflict over Kirkuk. Sadly the Sunni uprising in Iraq appears to be inspiring some elements to push for civil war again. No doubt turbulence and some danger and bad things happening will continue for a long time as with most other major social upheavals.

PS Mayday greetings to all!

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David Berger (RED DAVE) May 1, 2013 at 8:19 am

ARTHUR: No doubt turbulence and some danger and bad things happening will continue for a long time as with most other major social upheavals.

DAVID BERGER: Yeah. Watch out for “bad things” everybody. It’s a major socialist political category: bad things.

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Red Blob May 1, 2013 at 12:36 am

sorry should say and has now discharged 14 senior Kurdish officers from the Iraqi army

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Red Blob May 1, 2013 at 4:36 am
Red Blob May 1, 2013 at 4:40 am
Red Blob May 1, 2013 at 3:27 am

Happy May Day everyone

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Brian S. May 1, 2013 at 5:27 am

Solidarity forever.

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Bill Kerr May 2, 2013 at 9:11 am

Now reading Paul Berman’s Power and the Idealists (2005) which summarises and recommends Republic of Fear by Kanan Makiya (1998).

Makiya’s book is an expose on the German, Romantic, Fascist and Nazi origins of the Ba’ath by Arab intellectuals studying in Paris which were then grafted onto Islam (180). Apparently it was Makiya, not the neocons, who first suggested that the US overthrow the Ba’ath and help establish a democracy in the Middle East, before the first Gulf War in 1991. He was then attacked by Eqbal Ahmad, hero of the Vietnam anti war movement, Tariq Ali and Edward Said (183-6).

More interesting material in the Berman book but some of it is not relevant to this thread.

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Bill Kerr May 3, 2013 at 10:18 pm

Some notes on Paul Berman’s book, Power and the Idealists, subtitled the passion of Joschka Fischer and its aftermath. It’s an interesting book. I’m not really ready to critically evaluate this book but I think people looking back on the Iraq war should be aware of its contents, in particular with regard to Germany and France not supporting that war.

It traces the changes in thinking of 1968 radicals over the years – Fischer ended up as “German Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor from 1998-2005, a term marked by Germany’s strong support for NATO’s intervention in Kosovo in 1999, followed by its opposition to the war in Iraq”

It also traces Bernard Kouchner’s thinking (also a 68 radical, who subsequently founded Doctors without Borders) who ended up as the French government guy in charge of the humanitarian mission in Kosovo.

ie. these peoples parents experienced Nazi occupation and the kids grew up with that knowledge deeply imbued of course. And so both of them supported intervention in Kosovo. No more Auswitch’s.

So, the puzzle raised by Berman is why didn’t the German and French government support the Bush W Iraq war. The politicians mentioned above were both well aware of the internal nature of Saddam’s Iraq. eg. Kouchner visited Kurdistan interviewed Kurds and also Shia in exile in Iran etc. Kouchner did support the war but was furious at Bush as well as his own government for the way in which it was being handled.

One point that Berman is making is there wasn’t really a deep philosophical difference b/w the attitudes of these people. They were all supportive of a position of humanitarian intervention against totalitarian states being legitimate.

It was more a tactical difference about how to proceed effectively coupled with a deep distrust of Bush and Rumsfeld (who tried to bully the Germans with an anti Nazi guilt trip – valid of course given the nature of Saddam but poor diplomacy) , that Bush would fuck up, which indeed he did do.

Kouchner identifies the security failure as the main one based on his own experiences in Kosovo (caused in part by complete disbanding of the Ba’ath army – as a tactical error – this is an old argument I suppose), but not the only one.

Berman identifies the bombing of the UN mission in Baghdad as crucial. ie. the UN still might have bought US and Germany-France back together into a better working alliance. Even though Fischer didn’t support the war he didn’t want it to fail either.

Some of this is a bit arbitrary or “subjective”. My thinking is that there were other possibly paths the imperialists could have taken to ensure the removal of Saddam and that the one taken was perhaps not the most effective. It led to tragedy owing somewhat to “typical american” overconfidence by the neocon type thinking of their ability to control the situation.

Berman argues there were three issues involved and an effective cross Atlantic alliance could have been built if there was better diplomacy from the Americans – the three issues being
Afghanistan, Palestinian state and the need to remove Saddam. eg. the Europeans might have wanted a different order: Palestine coming before Iraq and more negotiations could have taken place in working out a deal. Maybe.

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Bill Kerr May 14, 2013 at 9:31 pm

Imperialist intervention can be done well or done badly. Wolfowitz is arguing that the intervention in Iraq could have been done much better and that Obama in wishing not to appear Bush-like is making the mistake of not intervening at all in Syria and intervened insufficiently in Libya.

Lessons Learned: The Iraq Invasion by Paul Wolfowitz

Although our military has developed substantial capability in the area of training indigenous military forces—the mission carries the acronym FID, for Foreign Internal Defense—that is not a mission that normally captures the attention of the most promising and ambitious fighters. It is more satisfying, both personally and professionally, to train soldiers to the very high standards of the US military and to lead them in action than to deal with the frustrations and compromises of what may dismissively be called “third-world militaries.” Yet those militaries are often the key to success and the key to minimizing our own losses. So, FID is a mission we must cultivate for the present and the future

Part of a wider review (I haven’t read these ones yet):
Symposium – Lessons Learned: The Iraq Invasion

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Red Blob May 15, 2013 at 5:20 am

Wow So Wolfowitz reviews the Iraq Invasion and comes up with lessons learned.
1 That the occupation of Iraq is not very comparable to the occupations of Germany and Japan.
2 That the US suffered a price for maintaining a prolonged occupation.
3 That it was a mistake not to trust the Iraqis more.
4 That it was a mistake to let the insurgents get a years head start.
Wow that’s a short list. I guess things like lying about reasons, like lying about how the invasion would be greeted by the people of Iraq, like opening fire on unarmed demonstrations, like running torture facilities, like murdering civilians, like using outlawed phosphorous bombs, like aligning with Shia militias that were clearly operating death squads. We I guess that he might not think that the things I mention are mistakes.

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patrickm May 15, 2013 at 10:35 am

Wolfowitz reviews the Iraq liberation / invasion and comes up with strategic lessons learned. Just as my old mate Steve came up with a review of the NFZ over Iraq and concluded that he had made a very great error in opposing that effort.

Wolfowitz notes ‘Not counting Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States has intervened with its own military forces some ten times in the last thirty years to wrest control of a part or all of a foreign country from those in power, twice unilaterally (Grenada and Panama) and eight times in some sort of a coalition (Kuwait, Northern Iraq, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, Liberia, and Libya).’

Northern Iraq is what Steve came to support -and most young people who think of themselves as radical leftists haven’t even thought about this one to this day- but that assist only arose in the context of the no-brainer big assist when the huge coalition set about liberating Kuwait from the Iraqi fascist armed forces in a classic WW2 style collective security stance.

Not sure what people like Steve now make of Kuwait after they supported the Libyan tyrants army being smashed up when all it was doing was murdering and generally oppressing Libyans!

Some people try to make cost benefit analysis but that is complete junk .

Anyway Steve had been associated for many years with a Trot sect that (being of the Trot tradition I suppose) emerged from the widely exposed opposition to WW2 united front politics. Steve regretted not thinking this issue out at the time and on reflection reversed his view a couple of years back when he also backed the NATO war on tyranny in Libya. He had come a long way. He had left the sect far behind by then. The sect never reviewed the NFZ applied after Kuwait was liberated and also like Neverland generally didn’t talk about piracy and ports much because it all got a bit embarrassing. They didn’t make their arguments to any ships crews that I know of!

The Kurds got their freedoms along with the people of Kuwait as the NFZ was only then imposed. We can all recall how the real Chemical weapons were used against the Kurds just a few years prior to that. No lies from me.

The worlds changed so much that Assad and Obama both know it’s a red line game changer now and both don’t know what to do about it either. Plainly if such a use were to happen the ‘hands off’ brigade will be shamed into silence and Obama unable to dither any further. So that is not what we have; rather we have very small scale but systematic ethnic cleansing and terror use of bombs and probably chemicals to remind everyone that this scorpion has a scary terror sting. But the killing of the revolutionaries goes on.

People ought to have known

1 ‘That the occupation of Iraq is not very comparable to the occupations of Germany and Japan.’ Because the fascists in the WW2 case had been killed and captured in vast numbers but in the Iraqi case they had not already been fought to exhaustion before the country was occupied. The real war came after the occupation and that was a big issue that if they had the restart button then the mission accomplished speech would have been something like a “I have nothing to offer but blood sweat and tears” struggle style Churchillian speech. Inexperienced bourgeois revolutionaries.

2 ‘Of course the US suffered a price for maintaining a prolonged occupation.’ But given they were in uncharted waters with a hopelessly incompetent army that had to be informed of it’s real job and then rebuilt for the purpose it is surprising how well the have done.
3 It was a mistake not to trust the Iraqis more. Sure but look at how the current government is treated now by leftists!
4 I think it was thus a consequential mistake that the insurgents got a years head start! But that is not the way you anti war crowd thought. Carl is still proud of wanting the troops out and the Iraqi’s left to fight it out with ME rules!

That is a short strategic list.

Then comes the very long tactical list of things that undoubtedly harmed the war effort.

lying about reasons,

lying about how the invasion would be greeted by the people of Iraq,

opening fire on unarmed demonstrations,

running torture facilities,

murdering civilians,

using outlawed phosphorous bombs,

aligning with Shia militias that were clearly operating death squads.

I feel sure he think that the things mentioned were mistakes as and when they happened.

But the war aims were sound and the revolutionary outcome is clear and not only that Syria is demonstrating that the revolutionary transformation of the ME can get worse that that .

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Bill Kerr May 17, 2013 at 8:48 pm

red blob, criticising wolfowitz:

I guess things like lying about reasons, like lying about how the invasion would be greeted by the people of Iraq, like opening fire on unarmed demonstrations, like running torture facilities, like murdering civilians, like using outlawed phosphorous bombs, like aligning with Shia militias that were clearly operating death squads. We I guess that he might not think that the things I mention are mistakes

I’m uncertain about some of the things on that list but certainly will agree that the US committed war crimes in Iraq. My response is that those committing war crimes should be held accountable.

What seems to happen in practice in long and brutal wars is that both sides end up committing war crimes. In WW2 one side was right (the allies) and one side was wrong (the axis) but both sides committed war crimes (with the axis powers committing more war crimes). The side that loses the war is then held accountable for its war crimes and the side that wins is often not held accountable. Should we have supported the allies against the fascist powers of Germany, Italy, Japan because the allies committed war crimes? If your answer here is “No, the allies did bad things during WW2 and are not worthy of my support” then I could understand your response to the Wolfowitz article. Otherwise, I just interpret your response as a micro argument which fails to address the broader argument this time, even though you have attempted to address the broader argument in your earlier contributions.

When most people (with the exception of *true* pacifists who make up a very small percentage of the population – people who would not fight back even when their own children were being threatened with violence) think about war in a political sense (Clausewitz docrtine: war is an extension of politics by violent means) they focus on the political and strategic purposes of war (is it a just or unjust war in broad terms) and regard the war crimes issue as a secondary issue. When I apply that doctrine to the US role in the Iraq war then my analysis says that the strategic intention of the US leadership was to replace a horrible fascist regime with an indigenous democracy. That analysis has not been refuted.

I certainly don’t want to dodge the moral argument wrt the Iraq war. I did respond to your earlier argument here and it’s your turn if you want to continue that conversation.

But there are other more significant issues raised by the Wolfowitz article that you haven’t addressed and which I think need to be addressed for anyone wanting to do a serious post hoc analysis of the Iraq war.

First, it would seem that Bush did follow the advice of the “neo-cons” in very broad terms (to invade Iraq) but not when it came to rather important details. Wolfowitz wanted an analogous post WW2 France style occupation, not a Germany or Japan style occupation. Of course, this does represent an indirect response by Wolfowitz to your charges of his alleged omissions anyway, since they are Bush errors, not Wolfowitz errors.

Second, the issue of the failure to find Iraqi “internals” to run a new government is significant but I think not fully discussed by Wolfowitz. I’m happy to continue any such discussion if anyone here is still interested.

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David Berger (RED DAVE) May 17, 2013 at 9:01 pm

Bill Kerr continues to ponder the imperialist invasion and mass murder of Iraq. Apparently, we are now supposed to take war criminal Wolfowitz seriously as something more than a candidate for life imprisonment.

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Red Blob May 17, 2013 at 10:14 pm

Bill Kerr prior to the war there were two camps the pro and anti war camps.
The pro war camp boldly stated that an incoming US army would be greeted as liberators and that a smooth transition to civilian rule would take place and that the war would be self financing.
The anti war camp stated that all hell would break loose.
My assessment sided with the anti war group but at the time I told people that if I was wrong if the troops were greeted as liberators I would admit to being wrong.
Several things influenced my opinion. Pre war I could not see any Iraqis (with the exception of the Kurds) who were supporting an invasion unlike France where I think that there was mass approval of allied troops removing the axis ones.
My assessment of the post invasion government was that if it reflected the will of the people it would probably be dominated by the SCIRI (Supreme Council Islamic Revolution Iraq) and I had no faith that these guys would give democracy anything more than lip service. Instead the DAWA party became the main party of government. The situation re democracy in my opinion is still up fro grabs. Many including Kurds and Arab Sunnis regularly accuse Maliki of dictatorial actions. One worrying development is the trial of the Vice President for terrorism. If hes guilty then thats terrible because the Sunni arabs are voting for terrorists as their representatives and if hes innocent then thats terrible because that means that the government is using false legal charges to persecute their opponents.
The conclusions that I have come to are that the pro war camp were wrong to argue that it would be easy and that as a democracy the question is still in the balance, government ministries were associated with death squads and the Vice President may or may not be a terrorist.
The US invasion of Iraq is not analogous to its invasion of Germany, Japan, France or Italy. In none of the WW Two countries did the US think it proper to allow armed militias to remain let alone siding with some and providing arms to others. In Italy there was a well armed group of partisans and the US said hand over your weapons or you will be treated as the enemy. If you had told me that come the invasion of Iraq the US would work alongside the Shia militias and then hand out weapons to the Sunny militias I would have said now thats a recipe for civil war.

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Red Blob May 17, 2013 at 11:37 pm

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/oct/28/iraq-war-logs-iraq
This article supports my argument that the US worked hand in glove with the worst Shia death squad the Wolfe Brigade

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Bill Kerr May 19, 2013 at 9:22 am

red blob,

Your Guardian article links to another article http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/oct/24/iraq-war-logs-us-iraqi-torture
which discloses further evidence from wikileaks that US soldiers handed over prisoners or threatened to hand them over as an intimidatory tactic to the Wolf Brigade. Even though as your other link, as arthur pointed out, provides evidence of the US at a later date cleaning up that mess.

FWIW the allegations do make me feel sick to the stomach. I think the whole discussion does revolve a lot around *visceral* reactions often unstated. Visceral reactions against Bush, visceral reactions against Saddam, visceral reactions against the loss of life in Iraq etc. etc.

Also, the Obama administration is part of the cover up of the torture that did occur

the Obama administration, which came into office promising to be the “most transparent administration ever”, has also been the most aggressive in prosecuting alleged leakers and has extended many Bush-era claims of secrecy.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/oct/28/iraq-war-logs-experts-views

All I can say really – and I feel its lame – is that it is possible to support both the US invasion and wikileaks / Bradley Manning and campaigns to bring US war criminals to justice. But in the final analysis an anti-fascist stance, which means in practical terms support for the US led invasion, is the correct one IMO.

Another thing that might impact on your decision making is a book I am currently reading: Republic of Fear: the Politics of Modern Iraq by al-Khalil, published well before the Bush W invasion. I have this belief that opponents of the war have never delved into the details of the horror of living under Baath Party rule and its political nature. ie. they might have a vague idea but haven’t delved into it deeply.

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PatrickSMcNally May 19, 2013 at 10:25 am

I’ve delved into the Gulag more so than Iraq, but it’s still easy to make an inference. So what? Did you support Ronald Reagan in the Cold War? I would understand your position if you had. The USA has a long record of backing up various dictators (including Saddam at some points) while calling for a “war for democracy” against others. This is run of the mill hypocrisy in US politics. If you were a teenager who had just heard of some human rights abuses in Iraq under Saddam for the first time, then I could more readily understand your behavior.

As it you’ve been recycling the myth that Saddam had something to do with 911 as a way of rationalizing your favorite imperialist war. Now if Bush had argued that the 911-terrorists came from Saudi Arabia and that the US army needed to march through the whole Saudi peninsula then I still wouldn’t be cheering for it. But at least there would be a more coherent line of argument than with Iraq.

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Bill Kerr May 20, 2013 at 2:23 am

PatrickMcNally:
> Did you support Ronald Reagan in the Cold War?

I supported Polish Solidarity along with Reagan and Thatcher

> you’ve been recycling the myth that Saddam had something to do with 911

No, I never said that and have never thought it. I’d suggest that if you are arguing against a position that you take the trouble initially to find out what that position is.

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PatrickSMcNally May 20, 2013 at 7:42 am

You’ve stated several rimes that “after 911” Bush had no other choice but to invade and occupy Iraq. If he had invaded and occupied Saudi Arabia & Kuwait (where the alleged 911-terrorists are purported to have come from) then your statement might at least be arguable. It clearly is not arguable that “after 911” Bush had no other choice but to invade a country which had zero to do with 911.

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David Berger (RED DAVE) May 20, 2013 at 8:58 am

PATRICK MCNALLY: Did you support Ronald Reagan in the Cold War?

BILL KERR: I supported Polish Solidarity along with Reagan and Thatcher

DAVID BERGER: That is a consciously and deliberately dishonest statement. Did you support the US side in the Cold War?

PATRICK MCNALLY: you’ve been recycling the myth that Saddam had something to do with 911

BILL KERR: No, I never said that and have never thought it. I’d suggest that if you are arguing against a position that you take the trouble initially to find out what that position is.

PATRICK MCNALLY: You’ve stated several rimes that “after 911″ Bush had no other choice but to invade and occupy Iraq. If he had invaded and occupied Saudi Arabia & Kuwait (where the alleged 911-terrorists are purported to have come from) then your statement might at least be arguable. It clearly is not arguable that “after 911″ Bush had no other choice but to invade a country which had zero to do with 911.

DAVID BERGER: If the immediately above is true, that Kerr has “stated several rimes that “after 911″ Bush had no other choice but to invade and occupy Iraq,” this is clear evidence for conscious cooperation and support of imperialism.

Why are you here, Kerr, Arthur, et al.? You’re obviously not any kind of socialists?

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PatrickSMcNally May 20, 2013 at 9:28 am

“I supported Polish Solidarity”

More to the point, did you support the Pershing II missiles which Reagan set about building and installing? These obviously had a much closer connection to the issue of Polish Solidarity than the invasion of Iraq did to 911. Since you’ve suggested that there was no choice after 911 but to go ahead with an occupation of Iraq, it’s hard to see why you wouldn’t support the Pershing II.

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Arthur May 19, 2013 at 10:50 am

“Republic of Fear” is by Kanan Makiya

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Bill Kerr May 19, 2013 at 5:24 pm

Samir al-Khalil was the pseudonym which Kanan Makiya adopted for the 1989 version of “Republic of Fear” out of fear of Saddam’s extensive secret police outside as well as inside Iraq. For the story behind the book see Berman’s “Power and the Idealists”, pp. 173-191.

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David Berger (RED DAVE) May 19, 2013 at 10:36 pm

Makiya wholeheartedly supported the imperialist invasion of Iraq. He expected that the US troops would be treated as liberators, which makes him, as Redd Fox would say, “a big dumbie.”

He was an advisor to the US puppet government. He intended to settle in Iraq, but after a few years he returned to the US.

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Brian S. May 21, 2013 at 6:47 am

Fair comment, I would say – but I don’t think Makiya was ever an advisor to the any of the Iraqi authorities. The Coalition Provisional Authority certainly had little interest in listening to Iraqi voices.

patrickm May 18, 2013 at 12:21 pm

Red Blob; prior to the war there were from my POV two camps; the pro revolution and anti revolution camps.

Revolutionaries argued that war would bring about the destruction of the Baathist state core – the very powerful Baathist military forces. It did and the destruction of such a major fascist force is a cause for much joy and celebration.

The question arises but at what cost? Would not sectarian monsters get loose as the realists argued so perhaps they were best left to do it themselves in their own time. It would never work as a top down invasion it had to be a bottom up event to be real etc. No no no.

When asked now, after the experience of the last couple of years over Syria – a near perfect point of comparison – serious revolutionaries could never doubt the answer. Disarming this force of all it’s heavy weapons so that in weeks it no longer possessed planes, ships, tanks, artillery etc and smoothly functioning command and control and had no prospect of rearming itself with chemical weapons was always going to be the best – understood as cheapest in lives lost by the peoples that wanted the revolutionary transformation of Iraq – possible start to any revolutionary transformation of Iraq. If people are in the fascists firing line then from their POV anyone and everyone killing fascists and disarming them at the beginning of the revolution is the best way to go.

Fighting to overthrow oppression on this scale is a bloody business and doing it in this swamp of sectarian blood-lust brings all the revolutions of the 20thC into perspective. The revolutions are protracted and very expensive in the lives of revolutionaries. We can stand all the allies we can get but specially ones with real military capacity. Neverland can bellyache but revolutionaries want their lives preserved and the enemy destroyed.

As Brian and you are now presenting the question the only argument IS over the cost not over the fact that a revolutionary transformation that is a GOOD has taken place in Iraq. That assertion is now able to be contextualized against events in Syria. The Syrian regime are trying to heat the water on the frog in the hope you won’t jump and they can boil you. But they turned it up a bit much and now the Turks are calling for a NFZ.

Though it pains many good people who thought differently in the past many more people are calling for war as the events unfold. The Turkish PM, the French and the British are ready to fight as is I suspect the Jordanian King who would like to end as the British monarchy rather than end as the French.

Everybody knew the Iraqi Baathists had used chemical weapons against the Kurds and that ought IMV to have been a red line that brought down the collective response of a COW and their destruction. That force deserved to be destroyed as a political reality and it was. To the extent that it was destroyed it’s a GOOD that you praise.

The world has so changed that now that (use of chemical agents) is so obvious a red line that Assad can barely test the water of their use and the red line alarm is sounded despite Obama and his revolting backtracking.

As a result of their continued game playing everybody knew the Iraqi Baathists would try to get possession of them again if they got half a chance. Those forces were commanded by a mass killer and thus the invasion on that front could unleash a social transformation in this amazingly backward region that had better than half a chance of seeing the peoples of Iraq progress rapidly into the (quite pathetic yet magnitudes better) era that we in the west live in.

The Iraqi peoples are still fighting the war that the COW enabled but they are doing it from the front foot and even people who would not lift a finger to help in the beginning have been helping for years. Obama has had to help every day of his term! He has been dragged to help Libya. He is being dragged and is kicking all the way into helping the Syrians. He does far to little and the Syrians pay the first price but the peoples of the world will now pay the second price.

The pro war camp boldly stated that the COW would bring about the revolutionary transformation of not just Iraq but that this strategic war would begin the ‘draining of the whole swamp’ that was producing the Al Qaeda types that are the mortal enemy of all progressives. That war goes on and far from breeding them the region is becoming involved from one end to the other in fighting with them with Syria showing just how complex that is

We revolutionary communists identified the swamp as still existing in the 21stC substantially because of the former US policies that we had always opposed and As you are aware the swamp draining theory was developed by communist revolutionaries and was dismissed as unworthy of debate by other self proclaimed leftists because the real reason for the war was supposed to be about some business as usual imperialist carry on described most succinctly as oil.

Now we have the situation where these same revolutionaries have been calling for more war not less and this time there is a real debate. This time people take the issue of the revolutionary transformation of the region very seriously. I say we have the Turkish PM just in the US calling for a NFZ and as Arthur pointed out that means NATO war. We have western revolutionaries supporting the Turkish PM and others supporting the current POTUS doing nothing while they pretend to oppose him for supplying body armor, night-vision goggles, intelligence from Satelites and training and so forth (nasty imperialist meddling). They threaten to mobilize against him and yet we all ought to know by now that by the time he is forced to act the case for action will be beyond even Carl hiding from. It is now.

The POTUS does not want to do what must be done for the revolution to get the assist that it so desperately needs. So many more on the revolutionary side will die and the hands off brigade will shrug their shoulders.

A theory was developed more than 10 years ago to account for the different choice of Bush 1 from Bush 2. The thinking that had developed this theory had long parted ways with the pseudoleft that renounced WW2 united front theory as Stalinist selling out of the revolution etc.

The mistake you made at the time of not supporting the US NFZ that delivered the Kurds the liberation form the mass murdering Baathists flowed from your mistake over Kuwait but still to this day you hold the untenable position of supporting war to protect and liberate the Libyans but NOT the people of Kuwait yet then you support the air war for the Kurds!

Neverland being at least consistent rejects revolution if it means supporting the ‘Ottoman’ call for the Great Satan to join in a war with the French and British imperialists with German troops manning the Patriot batteries on the Turkish border no less. No one will listen to them but at least they are consistent.

I personally am not surprised that the Turkish are now calling for war and I am very pleased with the way Turkish / Kurdish developments have been going of late re the PKK. Peoples previous views on that have not turned out to be much cop. Te Turkish PM is doing well on the whole democracy and Kurdish national liberation front.

Practice has unfolded and the only question that now concerns people like you and Brian is that the cost was too high to get to these now admitted good outcomes that however wobbly IS the current reality. So you say ‘The situation re democracy in my opinion is still up for grabs.’ and it is but that is the way of all revolutions.

You say ‘The conclusions that I have come to are that the pro war camp were wrong to argue that it would be easy’ and the truth is that the more experience we get the more we think like Mao and are casting aside all our illusions and are just arguing for more war. More trained soldiers, more air power, more allies.

Syria is demonstrating that Iraq had the civil war built into it; the COW did not bring ‘a recipe for civil war’ to the joint. The COW helped stop one that was desired by the enemy. It is sought by the enemy now in Syria. The revolutionaries do not want to fight for one day, and we all ought to know what will bring their fighting to an end. Victory as measured by a national vote that is meaningful.

The Turkish PM is right to press for war (presented naturally as a NFZ) we should be clear that we support his call, that has been far to long in coming when the Syrian people called for a NFZ more than 18months ago. see my views back then when the toll was more than 70,000 less dead.

http://strangetimes.lastsuperpower.net/?p=2172

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Red Blob May 18, 2013 at 9:48 pm

patrickm lets look at your ‘Draining the swamps theory’
Step 1 Al Qaeda attacks the USA on 9/11
Step 2 The US ruling class decide that these Al Qaeda mosquitoes come from the anti democratic swamp the Middle East
Step 3 If the US initiates democratic revolution in the Middle East the mosquitoes will have no where to breed
Step 4 Invasion of Iraq to produce model democracy as inspirational example to peoples of Middle East
Step 5 Pressure Israel into 2 state solution
Step 6 Help facilitate movement of individual countries to democracy
The problems lie with steps 4,5 and 6
Iraq is not a model democracy. It is arguable whether Iraq is a democracy at all.
Israel has shown no inclination towards reaching a settlement and the US response under Obama is to send Israel much more money than it did under Bush. Where is the pressure on Israel that your theory states will happen?
10 years on and there are more mosquitoes.
The Middle East is alive with democratic activity and thats great but I think that it comes from the following reason. People in the middle east always wanted democracy but were restrained from putting their necks on the line because the bottom line was that these dictators had powerful backups in the form of the USSR and the USA. With the USSR just a memory and the USA bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan the peoples of the area said to the dictators “wheres your powerful friends now fuckface”

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Arthur May 19, 2013 at 6:33 am

Briefly:

Re 1-3. Accurate except re 2 shift in policy was by senior policy makers in Bush administration not decision by “The US ruling class”. Almost entire US policy establishment and most “opinion leaders” remained opposed to recognition that the anti-democratic swamp was breeding terrorism and favoured traditional policy of supporting autocracies for “stability” plus police methods (in collaboration with the dictators) to suppress terrorists. (This helped produce policy inconsistentcy as the new policy did not entirely displace the old). Also re 3, “initiates” should be more like “unblocks”.

Re 4. A lot of rhetoric was along these lines but the actual policy shift only required that the autocracies breeding terrorists cease to exist, not that their replacements become “shining models”. Some of the rhetoric even claimed that their replacemnt would be pro-American – which was patently absurd given how deeply the US was hated throughout the region as a result of its previous policies but those patently absurd claims helped both to neutralize conservative opposition (who still just don’t “get” how the US could prefer an unfriendly non-swamp to friendly autocrats presiding over a swamp). Also helped avoid any “left” support which would only have made it harder to neutralize the conservatives.

Re 5 More an obvious consequence than part of the policy shift. The war for “Greater Israel” obviously becomes untenable if Israel is surrounded by modern Arab democracies rather than a swamp.

“…the US response under Obama is to send Israel much more money than it did under Bush. Where is the pressure on Israel that your theory states will happen?”

True, Bush proclaimed how keen he was on Israel and how confident he was in the Israeli economy instead of providing the extra subsidies they hoped for. The Democrats have always been much closer to Israel than Republicans (historical legacy from liberal immigrant Jews being Democrats). What’s interesting is how far the Democrats have moved and how isolated the Israeli government has become (even among American Jews) as a result of its irrational failure to adapt to the new strategic reality. There hasn’t been the pressure there should have been for policy consistency but the unavoidable consequences of the new policy are still there and a majority of the Israeli people do know it although they have not yet rationally adapted to it.

“People in the middle east always wanted democracy but were restrained from putting their necks on the line because the bottom line was that these dictators had powerful backups in the form of the USSR and the USA. With the USSR just a memory and the USA bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan the peoples of the area said to the dictators “wheres your powerful friends now fuckface””

Fairly accurate. But “bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan” doesn’t fit the context. Try EXACTLY the same paragraph with the words “USA helping overthrow their colleagues in Iraq and Libya” substituted:

“People in the middle east always wanted democracy but were restrained from putting their necks on the line because the bottom line was that these dictators had powerful backups in the form of the USSR and the USA. With the USSR just a memory and the USA helping overthrow their colleagues in Iraq and Libya the peoples of the area said to the dictators “wheres your powerful friends now fuckface”

Can you imagine demands from the Syrian people for US support to an islamist led revolution in Syria if the US had NOT helped overthrow a Baathist regime in Iraq and supported free elections which inevitably resulted in an islamist led government?

Also, can you imagine the Baathist regime in Iraq not providing the same sort of military support for counter revolution throughout the region that Tsarist Russia did in the 19th century. Its no accident that Marx put a lot of energy into advocatig war with Russia in the common interests of revolutionary democracy and British commerce. There really wasn’t much hope for European revolutions while Tsarism could still intervene.

This is why Sadaam’s deputy Tariq Aziz toured the region warbing the other regimes that the American plan was “region change” not just “regime change” and why the old Arab was loudly (and Israel more privately) hostile with warnings about the “gates of hell” being opened. They are now open.

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Brian S. May 19, 2013 at 7:20 am

I’ve said before and I’ll sayit again: your “draining the swamp” notion is an aburdity. First, while policy wonks may fantasise in these terms, and sometimes even invoke them for PR purposes, state policies are not made in this fashion. Secondly, there is no evidence that US policy in the Iraq war was influenced by any such factor – accounts from both administration insiders leading up to the invasion, and from those involved in the post-conquest administration indicate clearly that the US had no coherent plan for governing Iraq. Their motivation was a global power play; and their subsequent conduct was classical imperial pragmatism, “making it up as they went along” as we say here. The result was the post-conquest chaos that ensued, and the bulk of the responsibility for that and the high human costs it entailed lie with the invading forces.

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Bill Kerr May 19, 2013 at 8:09 am

Brian S:

your “draining the swamp” notion is an aburdity. First, while policy wonks may fantasise in these terms, and sometimes even invoke them for PR purposes, state policies are not made in this fashion.

You need to read your enemy. Bush and Condi made several speeches about draining the swamp, without using those exact words. Bush has a Chapter 13: Freedom Agenda about it in his book. I’m not sure what you mean when you say “state policies are not made in this fashion”? Isn’t it logical that there would be a US policy change of some type after 9/11 and what other options did Bush have given then current US policy had failed.

Secondly, there is no evidence that US policy in the Iraq war was influenced by any such factor – accounts from both administration insiders leading up to the invasion, and from those involved in the post-conquest administration indicate clearly that the US had no coherent plan for governing Iraq

Which accounts from administration insiders are you referring to? Bush refers to various pre war plans for post war governance, pp. 248-50. Wolfowitz outlines his disagreement with how it was done. Colin Powell was against the whole idea in the early stages. What I am seeing is a divided administration – but that is different from “no coherent plan”. Don’t equate initial very significant failures with incoherence or incompetence. They are different things.

Their motivation was a global power play; and their subsequent conduct was classical imperial pragmatism, “making it up as they went along” as we say here. The result was the post-conquest chaos that ensued, and the bulk of the responsibility for that and the high human costs it entailed lie with the invading forces

It seems to me that there were aspects of pragmatic “making it up as they went along” as the situation deteriorated. It’s legitimate to call Bush incompetent in certain respects. But that does not contradict the fairly obvious fact that in many respects there was a reversal of US policies which could be described as an effort to drain the swamp following 9/11.

I can accept an argument that such a US policy would have limited success due to their past crimes in the Middle East and elsewhere. Also Bush made mistakes that a better leader may not have. But most of the evidence points to such a shift in policy being enacted by the Bush administration. The contrary evidence such as abu ghraib (picking an indisputable example which caused more hatred against the US) I think can be explained by the difficulty of turning around the imperialist machinery to consistently meet the needs of the leadership. As a result of that Rumsfeld was (eventually) replaced by Robert Gates.

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PatrickSMcNally May 19, 2013 at 9:03 am

“after 911”

Again, you’re just recycling the lie that Iraq had something to do with 911. If Bush had ordered a massive occupation of the Saudi peninsula with orders to put the Saudi monarchy on trial, then there might be something to debate. But Iraq had nothing to do with 911.

Brian S. May 19, 2013 at 9:06 am

@ Bill Kerr: This is the actual (as opposed to fantasy) use of the term “draining the swamp” by the Bush administration:
“Terrorists do not function in a vacuum. They don’t live in Antarctica. They work, they train and they plan in countries,” Rumsfeld said. “And they’re benefiting from the support of governments … that are either actively supporting them with money, intelligence and weapons or allowing them to function on their territory and tolerating – if not encouraging – their activities.”
He said to get terrorists you: “drain the swamp they live in,” Rumsfeld said, referring to action against countries that harbor terrorist activities.
It was a notion used to justify targetting states for actions actually committed by non-state actors in response to 9/11, as part of an imperialist power projection – nothing more; you can find exactly the same usage by Wolfowitz.

Arthur May 19, 2013 at 10:20 am

No time, but just want to emphasize that my usage of “draining the swamps” is different from that attributed to Rumsfeld by Brian.

As PatrickSMcNally indicates it simply doesn’t make sense for the US to invade Iraq as a direct response to 911. They DID invade Afghanistan as a direct response to 911. But it was obvious that chasing Al Qaeda out of Afghanistan would not deal with the root cause of the problem. Admitting that US policy of propping up an autocratic swamp for the past 6 decades WAS the root cause of the problem naturally did not have much apeal for convincing opinion leaders.

Consequently what Bill calls “half lies” were necessary and there was no real effort to explain the actual connction between invading Iraq and 911. Inevitably this left the impression that somehow Sadaam was supposed to be behind 911 (although that was never an explicit claim) or at least that the connection with Iraq was a lot more direct than the reality. The main emphasis in arguments for public consumption was on WMDs and passing reerences to a swamp breeding terrorists were (mis)understood in that context rather than in the context of what I claim was the actual policy driver.

BTW our usage of “draining the swamps” was picked up from a reference by Noam Chomsky. Follow the links from correspodence with Chomsky here:

http://www.lastsuperpower.net/docs/drain-swamps

PatrickSMcNally May 19, 2013 at 7:38 am

“actual policy shift only required that”

If such had been the case, then Bush would have invaded Saudi Arabia instead of Iraq. Are you repeating the yarn that Iraq was behind 911?

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Bill Kerr May 19, 2013 at 8:30 am

arthur:

Almost entire US policy establishment and most “opinion leaders” remained opposed to recognition that the anti-democratic swamp was breeding terrorism and favoured traditional policy of supporting autocracies for “stability” plus police methods (in collaboration with the dictators) to suppress terrorists. (This helped produce policy inconsistentcy as the new policy did not entirely displace the old)

You’ve been repeating this over the (10) years and I’ve been accepting it but now feel it requires more unpacking.

Obama understands the issues about draining the swamp. But he does not want to spend US blood there because it is electorally unpopular to do so and popular to appear not like Bush.

Clinton ditto: Iraq Liberation Act 1998 … ” it is the policy of the United States to support democratic movements within Iraq”

It is possible for US leaders to educate and change (if not the minds then the personnel) their “policy establishment”. That is their job – to promote US interests in a way that is consistent beyond their term. So, whereas there may have been short term reasons for arguing WMD as the main reason for the war (and I don’t regard putting a secondary reason as a main reason as a lie, it is more like a half truth) I think in general you bang on too much about the impossibility of the US foreign policy establishment being changeable. Everything is changeable :-)

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Arthur May 19, 2013 at 11:21 am

I agree that there has been a shift in the foreign policy establishment and that “everything is changeable”.

But Obama’s failure to act on Syria and the clear majority support for that inaction among both public opinion generally and “opinion leaders” in particular confirms how strong the resistance to the policy shift initiated in the Bush administraton has been.

BTW there was already a noticeable retreat in Bush’s second term. The opposition was and is really strong. The reason it won’t prevail is not because of arguments that convince them but reality that mocks them.

The impact on region was far greater than the impact on the foreign policy establishment. Even Obama will have no choice but to adapt to the new reality despite his positioning as the “anti-Bush”.

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Red Blob May 19, 2013 at 9:03 am

Arthur with the Bush administration overturning a 60 year old foreign policy I would have thought that this would have had to have been a ruling class shift rather than just a bright idea at the White House. On the Strange times site in a thread named UN Declares war on Gaddafi patrickm writes “IMPERIALIST INTERESTS IN THE MIDDLE EAST COINCIDE WITH PEOPLES INTERESTS” again I would have thought that for Imperialism to align itself with the people that this would reflect a change in ruling class thinking rather than just a bright idea at the White House.
My choice of bogged down was poor. What I was trying to convey was that after Vietnam the US went through a period called the Vietnam syndrome. My point should have read that the US is currently experiencing an Iraq syndrome. The people of the middle east know this and have taken advantage.

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Arthur May 20, 2013 at 6:50 am

Well I agree that the US went through a period of “Vietnam syndrome” (with pathetic celebrations of its end when they proved that they could still invade a place as tiny as Grenada!). Also its clear that there is currently an “Iraq syndrome”.

But it seems obvious that when people are holding mass demonstrations in Syria demanding immediate military intervention and denouncing NATO and the US for their inaction they are not “taking advantage” of the Iraq syndrome but suffering from its consequences.

Your arguments are usually more coherent than that. This one is a clear symptom of adjusting your understanding of reality to fit your preconceptions.

Its less obvious, but not noticing that Bush’s policies had little support from the traditional foreign policy establishment reflects the same problem. “Leftists” radically opposed to (and indeed hysterical about) the Bush administration got most of their arguments from right wing opposition eg at the libertarian site antiwar.com but you needed to not notice.

As for the the more general proposition its pretty well known that the FDR administration moved for war against fascism with most ruling class opinion as stridently “anti-imperialist” as the “Iraq syndrome” (folowing from the WW1 syndrome) and did not get support until Pearl Harbour.

Likewise the Lincoln administration fought a war against slavery despite a strongly hostile ruling class opinion in the North (with hostile Congress as well as Senate and Supreme Court). From 1776 to 1861 was a lot more than 60 years.

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Red Blob May 20, 2013 at 7:06 am

You may have a point. I’m still working on why the Arab spring happened at the time it did. I think that the Iraq syndrome is real and partly explains why the US has done next to nothing with Syria. Assad still hangs on partly because he has the military support of USSR lite ie Russia, (weapons are still flowing to him from Russia and Iran) I’m sure that the over throw of Saddam does have influences in the immediate region but the Arab Spring started very far away from the immediate region. I guess if I’m to stay true to my ideas I should start looking for the answers coming from the affected region rather than count the angels on the pin head myself.

PatrickSMcNally May 20, 2013 at 9:13 am

There is no one all-encompassing explanation as to why the Arab Spring of 2011 (or the Russian Revolution of 1917) happened exactly when it did. But I can roll off a couple relevant points to note.

1) The economic crisis of 2007-8 and its resulting reverberations around the globe.

2) Obama’s refusal to attack Iran, despite much advocacy for this from McCain et al.

The latter fact allowed the “anti-imperialist” element to recede into the background more easily. If McCain had carried out an assault on Iran then this would likely have spurred on a tendency for many Arabs to rally in defense of Iran and thereby obfuscated other issues. Also, much of the Arab Spring began as an uprising against neo-liberalism. Places like Libya & Syria had clearly embarked upon a road of incorporating themselves into a neo-liberal world order. If the global economy had been in better shape then it is likely that the old argument of “just hold on and wait because things are getting better” would have prevailed upon that guy in Tunisia who set things off. Because there wasn’t any great sign of the world economy really getting better, things were able to explode more easily.

Arthur May 20, 2013 at 11:30 am

(sigh) I left a smiley :-) as brief friendly acknowledgment of Red Blob’s comment. It’s gone. Would have thought commenting policy for substantive engagement and against one liners was directed at “snark” rather than sociability.

Anyway, more substantively, I’m glad to see RB’s most recent above. (Though I have difficulty using RB’s full hand as engaging self-deprecation from oneself can look like disparagement from others).

Re PSMcN’s comment, yes there’s no one all en-compassing explation for the Arab Spring (or anything else) happening when and as it did.

But it’s obvious things would be a lot harder if Iraq was still Baathist or if US policy was still as determined to uphold autocracy in the name of “stability” as it was prior to the Bush administration. (BTW Clinton could not even use the words “Palestine” and “State” in the same sentence).

PatrickSMcNally May 20, 2013 at 4:19 pm

By the way, how do supporters of the US war in Iraq account for the overthrow of Milosevic in 2000? Would they argue that it would have been cleaner if NATO had occupied the whole of Yugoslavia in 1999? Everything which I’ve seen recounting the run-up to events in 2003 suggests that Iraq could easily have been pushed in the same direction as had already occurred in Yugoslavia, but that the Bush administration and neo-conservatives were desperate to get a war on before that opportunity was taken away from them. Do people here argue that Milosevic was simply more benevolent than Saddam, like in the way Jeanne Kirkpatrick used to argue for her favorite dictators? Or was there some other break involved?

Arthur May 20, 2013 at 5:24 pm

PSMcN if I understand correctly you are suggesting Sadaam could have been overthrown internally without an occupation as happened to Milosevic after Yugoslavia was bombed out of Kosolva but not occupied.

No point discussing Yugoslavia in this thread. We already know what did not happened when Sadaam was forced out of Kuwait and right now we can see what’s happening in Syria.

The Iraqi regime was far more fascist than Syria, let alone Yugoslavia.

PS Any continuation should be a new top level sub-thread at the bottom of page so reply identation can work.

Arthur May 19, 2013 at 6:35 am

PS “Briefly” was a futile attempt to remind myself that I shouldn’t spend long on this due to 7 course deadlines in next 2 days.

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Arthur May 19, 2013 at 6:44 am

Typos: “warbing” -> warning. “old Arab” -> “old Arab League”

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PatrickSMcNally May 19, 2013 at 9:14 am

“under Obama”

This is misleading. While I have never cast a vote for Obama, you’re misrepresenting some things here. When Obama took office the demands by the Israel lobby were for an assault on Iran. McCain was playing up to this and talking like he meant to order an invasion of Iran the day the he gained the Oval Office. The Obama administration has defied all of those pressures from the Israel lobby for the last 4+ years.

It’s true that for the first quarter-century after the founding of Israel in 1948, the Israel lobby was mainly a creature within the Democratic Party. But that has shifted in notably ways over the last 4 decades. It’s also true that the majority of ordinary Jewish voters, even those who are fervently pro-Israel, usually tend to vote Democrat on election day. But at the same time major pro-Israel think-tanks like JINSA have more often veered sharply to the Republican side. That just reflects the complexity of political dynamics.

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Arthur May 19, 2013 at 11:39 am

Bush “defied” demands for war with Iran for two terms (and despite the rhetoric the US in fact had common interests with Iran in getting rid of regimes in both Afghanistan and Iraq that were virulently hostile to Iran).

Israel lobby has been “demanding” assault on Iran ever since it became apparant that they would have to reach some sort of compromise with their historical “existential enemy” the Palestinians.

They need an “existential enemy”, preferably far away. When they do finally accept the accords with the Palestinians that have already been drafted they will present it as a move against their”historic enemy” Iran, forgetting that their “historic enemy” used to be Palestinians.

This is similar to Nixon’s redefinition of US goals in Vietnam as “peace with honour” and specifically return of all POWs. They “won” the return of all POWs very simply by abandoning the previous war aim of maintaning a puppet regime in south Vietnam (and redefining China as a potential ally against USSR rather the most dangerous enemy of the US).

For several years conservatives in the USA really believed they were fighting a war for return of POWs. The extent of US defeat implied by that did not sink in until much later (and has still no sunk in for most of the left).

Likewise Israelis have been given several years to get used to their war aims now being safety from Iran rather than a “Greater Israel” including “judea and samaria” (the West Bank) as the latter goal is now unachievable but a distraction is needed from the total bankruptcy of their efforts for decades.

Its taking even longer than Nixon’s “four more years” but the long term outcome of redefining enemies and war aims is clear, or at any rate, should be clear.

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Red Blob May 22, 2013 at 7:34 pm

PatricSMcNally earlier in this thread we spoke about the why the Arab spring happened when it happened. There are underlying reasons poverty, brutality ect and there are immediate reasons such as the economic crisis but these things are beyond the control of people on the ground. What I’m interested is the ideas in peoples heads because that’s what changes to make a small movement into an unstoppable human tide. Why did people who had previously stayed home pour onto the streets? All the previous examples were failures, the Intifada, Syria in 2000, the anti government demos in Iran. (so it wasn’t shinning example)
My first stab at it was influenced by the Eastern European revolutions. The crucial moment in my opinion was the realization that the USSR would no longer move the tanks in to save the regimens in Poland, East Germany, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and the like.
Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain all had uprisings. What made people think that this time it could work. I’m speculating that the attitude of or the capacity of the USA had something to do with peoples decision. Just as NATO bombing of Libya would have given Syrians hope that they might get help. They need help because unlike the other countries Assad has powerful friends who are dedicated to his survival. Poor old Mubarak may have thought he had friends but when push comes to shove he didn’t. (Dick Cheney was his friend but when it counted Cheney was no longer President)
OK where am I going with this, firstly I think that politics is ideas and ideas do matter plus its what we work with. If our ideas don’t connect we go nowhere. People in the middle East have suffered the same conditions for a long time and the economic crisis may have broken the unspoken social contracts that existed between the rulers and the ruled but what makes people think that this time they can make a difference? I’m not saying I know I’m just asking the question.

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PatrickSMcNally May 23, 2013 at 8:31 am

If one wishes to diagnose the beginnings of the Arab Spring, then we should note that it began in Tunisia and then spread to Egypt before reaching Libya & Syria. It did not begin Iran, or any other spot which had been under the neocon radar. As you say, Dick Cheney had been chummy with Mubarak. So there’s no reason at all to see the beginnings of the Arab Spring as some kind of a response to neocon war games with Tunisians declaring “Mr. Bush, we stand with you!” It sparked off precisely in those regions where the latter had been completely irrelevant and only later did it start to affect places like Libya which Reagan had always had a bee in his bonnet for.

PatrickSMcNally June 5, 2013 at 9:48 am

“why did people who had previously stayed home pour into the streets?”

You can thank wikileaks for that.

http://www.businessinsider.com/tunisia-wikileaks-2011-1

Bill Kerr May 19, 2013 at 8:42 am

red blob:
> Pre war I could not see any Iraqis (with the exception of the Kurds)

I don’t like the way the Kurds are always placed to one side in these discussions. The NFZ was coming under increasing pressure with Saddam’s forces shooting at US planes daily. Clearly the Kurds welcomed the US invasion but for some reason that is not important from the point of view of those who opposed the US invasion. Each side of the discussion needs to be aware of its selective blindness, as you have reminded us red blob.

> The US invasion of Iraq is not analogous to its invasion of Germany, Japan, France or Italy

There are different arguments to do with that analogy.

The way Wolfowitz used it was to say that the US should have opted for a France style occupation of Iraq and not a Germany or Japan style.

It can also be used to make the general point that imperialism sometimes does good things when it occupies another country

But I agree that the bottom line is that the US led Iraq invasion has to be assessed on its own merits. Referring to historical precedents of imperialism taking action against totalitarianism and fascism, eg. Kosovo, is part of that assessment.

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Red Blob May 19, 2013 at 9:40 am

Bill Kerr I witnessed a great piece of theater at a Tariq Ali public address. During the Q&A session a gentleman rose to his feet identified himself as being Kurdish and invited every other Kurdish person in this quite large crowd to get to their feet. As you can imagine no one moved. The Kurdish gentleman went on to argue that the anti war movement did not speak for the Kurds.
I think it necessary to both include the Kurds and to set them aside because their position is both integral and separate from Iraq
I think that using historical examples is of only marginal use. Germany and Japan are useful only to make the point, yes Imperialism can invade a dictatorship and oversee a transition to democracy. For Wolfowitz to invoke France I say where is the Iraqi De Gaul where is the Iraqi French resistance?
I think that there is more parallel to the British army moving into Northern Ireland. The local power structures terrorized the Catholic minority who were initially relieved to have the British army halt the ethnic cleansing only to find that the Brits would not alter any of the oppression such as having all the police recruited from the protestant majority. It wasn’t long before the Brits were detaining Catholics in large numbers, firing on peaceful protests, shooting to kill suspects, criminalizing elected Republicans and torturing prisoners. Sound familiar. Oh yes and while they did this the leader of British imperialism looked down the camera lens and quoted the prayer of St Francis

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Bill Kerr May 19, 2013 at 6:00 pm

red blob:

I witnessed a great piece of theater at a Tariq Ali public address. During the Q&A session a gentleman rose to his feet identified himself as being Kurdish and invited every other Kurdish person in this quite large crowd to get to their feet. As you can imagine no one moved. The Kurdish gentleman went on to argue that the anti war movement did not speak for the Kurds.
I think it necessary to both include the Kurds and to set them aside because their position is both integral and separate from Iraq

I discussed this earlier with regard to Hitchens changing his mind following the first Gulf war.

> “Without your Mr. Bush, we think we and our families would all be dead”

If you were in that jeep instead of Hitchens what would you have said to the Pesh Merga?

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Red Blob May 20, 2013 at 12:59 am

Bill Kerr I have no problem with the representatives of the Kurdish people obtaining whatever help they deem as necessary in their struggle to gain Kurdish freedom. I have a low opinion of the current crop of Kurdish leaders as they saw fit to ally themselves with Saddam and the Iranians in their mutual effort to kill their own people (the kurdish civil war) however that is an issue for the Kurdish people to sort through.
If I met some Pesh Merga I would want to ask why they had been involved in killing their own people? I would ask why do they tolerate the ruling parties participation in the murder of journalists? I would ask what they have to say to the families of the missing from the Kurdish civil war? Yes thats the sort of thing I would like to ask the Pesh Merga.

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Bill Kerr May 20, 2013 at 2:44 am

I have heard bad things about the current Kurd leadership too. Once again, I’m not sure whether all your details are correct here. At any rate my question was a pre war hypothetical not post war. It still seems to me to be a question that you are not answering frankly when you say

“I have no problem with the representatives of the Kurdish people obtaining whatever help they deem as necessary in their struggle to gain Kurdish freedom”

In fact you do have a problem with the help they obtained from the US led COW. The NFZ was under threat. Everyone knows that the Kurds were gassed and murdered in great numbers by Saddam. That Kurdish gentleman was trying to educate those present at the Tariq Ali talk. It was a nice story. Why did he fail in his educational project?

In the past on this thread you have said there was good news and bad news resulting from the US invasion. I’m puzzled as to why you can’t seem to see the good news in this particular case.

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Red Blob May 20, 2013 at 4:17 am

I don’t know what you mean by not answering frankly. I support the establishment of an independent Kurdish nation. Short of that I support the protection of the Kurdish people from dictators ie the safe havens and the NFZ. I have supplied a link earlier to an Economist article that stated that the Kurdish leadership were very unhappy with the plans put forward for the invasion of Iraq. I thought that the intervention of the Kurdish gentleman at the Tariq Ali public meeting was very effective. Tariq was thrown back to making statements about the traditional Kurdish role of looking to great powers for protection.
If you didn’t see the Economist link please scroll down this thread to my post May 19 @9.59am
Despite my contempt for the current Kurdish leadership if the rest of Iraq had been as successful as the Kurdish region has been I would be writing you an apology for opposing the invasion, unfortunately the invasion was a disaster for the people of Iraq and it can be measured in many ways, the deaths, the refugees, the increase in disease, the decline in services, the opinion polls, the number of pro war boosters who now write shamefaced articles about why they were wrong.

Red Blob May 20, 2013 at 4:49 am

Heres an article about the most prominent jounalist murder in the Kurdish area. The journalist in question had just published a poem about how he wanted to marry President Barzani’s daughter because then he could put his snout into the lifestyle that the Barzani family enjoys. Days later hes dead and the government accuses him of having been a terrorist hmmmm!
http://kurdistantribune.com/2013/2010-murder-of-young-journalist-sardasht-osman-shocked-world/

Red Blob May 20, 2013 at 4:55 am
Bill Kerr May 15, 2013 at 5:58 pm

I’ve now read the Symposium articles. This one by Jackson Diehl outlines the *linkage* b/w the lessons learnt and not learnt in Iraq and Obama’s light footprint:

In Iraq, the US destruction of the dictatorship and mishandling of the postwar order opened the way to a sectarian war and the growth of an al-Qaeda branch that for a time controlled several cities. Iran armed and trained Shiite forces while Gulf states financed the Sunnis. Tens of thousands of civilians were slaughtered. Now much of the same scenario is unfolding in Syria—with the difference that the United States has done nothing either to start or to staunch the carnage.

Seen through the prism of Syria, the war in Iraq already looks different. The sectarian bloodletting and appearance of al-Qaeda seem less like the avoidable result of US bungling and more like the inevitable product of the breakdown of a 1960s-vintage Arab dictatorship. If Iraq had, like Syria, exploded on its own during the first months of the Arab Spring—as surely it would have, had Saddam still been in power—the results likely would have been similar.

The difference is the presence of US troops, and their role both in quickly eliminating the old regime and, eventually, putting an end to the sectarian war. In Iraq that effort imposed an undeniably high price on the United States: more than forty-four hundred US lives lost, some thirty-two thousand wounded, and hundred of billions spent. Yet Iraq today, despite continuing violence, is an island of calm compared to Syria, and no threat to its neighbors.

In Syria, the costs to the US are mounting fast. An al-Qaeda affiliate is rapidly gaining strength; key American allies, including Turkey, Jordan, and Israel, are in danger of being drawn into the fighting; hundreds of thousands of refugees are pouring across borders; and chemical weapons stocks are increasingly insecure.

Already it’s worth speculating about which will ultimately be seen as the worse US decision in the post–Cold War Middle East: the choice to invade Iraq, or the refusal to intervene in Syria. If the answer seems obvious to many in Washington now, that could be because the lessons of the lessons of Iraq have yet to be learned.

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David Berger May 16, 2013 at 12:12 am

What I would like to know, as a life-long dedicated socialist, why anyone is taking this pro-imperialist crap of Bill Kerr seriously.

The US invasion of Iraq was a crime against humanity. It’s perpetrators, from Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz, etc., are war criminals. Let’s call spades spades around here.

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jim sharp May 16, 2013 at 12:49 am

david
i asked some comrades who know them
as bill kerr lost his marbles?
or was he an infiltrator?
reply for quite a few years now bill kerr has lined up with Langer and the ‘last superpower’ mob (very SMALL mob!) who as you prob know see ‘Islamic fascism’ as the main enemy and thus supported the Iraq war. ex-(“Red Eureka”)comrades in Adelaide are pretty dismissive of him – caught up in Langer’s obsession with self-justification by differentiation – quite cult-like. he’s back in Adelaide now, and whether he remains part of Langer’s group, still clearly aligns with their peculiar politics.

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Red Blob May 16, 2013 at 7:42 am

Dave Berger, Bill Kerr is putting a similar argument to that put by Christopher Hitchens. Now I don’t agree with Hitchens or Bill Kerr but I would love to be able to argue against Hitchens as he had both left credentials and interesting arguments. Unfortunately Christopher is dead but his arguments live on and if we can’t counter them, there is something wrong. I also like to argue against people I heartily disagree with as it stimulates my thinking far more than arguing with people whom I am in agreement with. This is a thread about the Iraqi invasion and the pro invasion crowd still think that they have something to say. Well I say BRING EM ON.

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Arthur May 18, 2013 at 5:51 am

Totally agree that arguing with people you disagree with stimulates thinking. I’ve also noticed that the arguments you raise ARE from a left perspective, as opposed to the pseudo-left echoing US foreign policy establishment defence of tyranny against “instability”. The mental atrophy of the pseudo-left is both a cause and consequence of their inability/refusal to argue.

Snowed under with courses at the moment but look forward to engaging soon. Meanwhile I’ll just mention that I’m still reading the thread and followed your link to Wolf brigade.

The article does not support your “argument that the US worked hand in glove with the worst Shia death squad the Wolfe Brigade”.

Shia death squads were literally “death squads” they retaliated for the mass murder of Shia by indiscriminate murder of Sunnis stopped at check points etc. The US helped the Iraqi security forces suppress them.

The Wolf brigade was a notoriously sectarian and brutal part of the Iraqi security forces, not a death squad. Whether or not the article is accurate, there is no doubt that in suppressing the mass murder of Shia by Sunni sectarians, Iraqi security forces necessarily HAD to be harsh and this was bound to lead to sectarian excesses and brutality, which it is then necessary to suppress (as the Wolf brigade was disbanded). Similar things are happening in Syria, perhaps more extreme in the absence of outside forces. eg The FSA had to issue a wanted poster for a rebel leader who ripped the heart out of an enemy soldier and was video-taped biting it and urging sectarian slaughter of Alawites.

BTW on the related question of disarming militias. The US disarmed communist led partisans in Iraly etc because it was anti-communist. That’s not a left argument for doing the same in Iraq.

The kurdish militia (pershmerga) were part of the liberation forces (liberating both Kirkuk and Mosul before US forces arrived from the south).

Shia militias (and small communist and Sunni Muslim Brotherhood militias) were formed after the invasion but disarming them would have meant fighting the Iraqi people. I think it was far better that the US only fought defensively eg when Sadr’s militia attacked them. Leaving it to an elected Iraqi government to merge the friendly militias into official security forces was a non-imperialist response.

Civil war did not in any sense result from arming militias or leaving them armed. It was launched by Baathists and islamo-fascists against the Iraqi people choosing a representative government in free elections.

Apologies in advance for delays, more later.

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Red Blob May 18, 2013 at 7:03 am

Arthur my reading of the situation is that Shia death squads were often accused of being part of the state apparatus ie Shia militias co opted into police duties or members of the Ministry of the Interior. The Wolf Brigade were famous for imprisoning, torturing and killing. They even had a popular TV program where they paraded “terrorists” often the “terrorists” looked beaten and I read one report where the live “terrorist” was delivered to his family dead after the show. Thats pretty death squadish. The problem was not just police who kill but the governments lengthy delay in doing anything.
http://www.hrw.org/news/2006/10/28/iraq-end-interior-ministry-death-squads

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Arthur May 18, 2013 at 10:29 am

There’s no doubt there was collaboration between elements in the security apparatus and death squads, as well as other abuses that I mentioned had to be fought.

The link you provided is evidence AGAINST your claim that the US was “aligning with Shia militias that were clearly operating death squads”.

It specifically describes:

” the recent suspension from duties of the 8th Iraqi Police Unit pending an investigation into their complicity in abductions and killings. The US military has claimed that the unit was responsible for the October 1 kidnapping of 26 Sunni food factory workers in southwest Baghdad, 10 of whom were later found dead. The news agency Inter Press Service reported that the unit used Ministry of Interior vehicles and, according to witnesses, some wore black “death squad” uniforms.”

Many other police units had to be disbanded before the problem was curbed. It isn’t easy to suppress the desire for sectarian revenge unleashed by sectarian mass murder.

This is also going to be important in Syria. Unlike the Baathist and Al Qaeda mass murderers in Iraq who used vehicle bombs in market places etc the Syrian regime is using air force bombs, artillery and ballistic missiles to level entire neighbourhoods as well as some direct massacres of a couple of hundred at a time. This is inevitably breeding the same sort of desires for sectarian revenge that were unleashed in Iraq. They will certainly be better off if foreign forces are available to help restrain sectarian revenge as illustrated in Iraq by your link.

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David Berger May 16, 2013 at 9:06 am

Please note that everything in this post comes from the point of view of the interests of the United States. There is not discussion of class divisions in the US, class divisions withing Syria, etc.

When I read a paragraph like this, I wonder who these people who call themselves “socialists” are?

“The difference is the presence of US troops, and their role both in quickly eliminating the old regime and, eventually, putting an end to the sectarian war. In Iraq that effort imposed an undeniably high price on the United States: more than forty-four hundred US lives lost, some thirty-two thousand wounded, and hundred of billions spent. Yet Iraq today, despite continuing violence, is an island of calm compared to Syria, and no threat to its neighbors.”

There is nothing here about the fact that the Bush Administration engaged in an Orwellian campaign of lies about the famous nonexistent “weapons of mass destruction” and engaged in “regime change.” And we hear nothing about the half a million Iraqi children who died during the US-sponsored embargo, plus the hundreds of thousands who died as a result of the US invasion.

Kerr and Company are what we once called “state department socialists.” They use socialist rhetoric to justify imperialism.

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Aaron Aarons May 20, 2013 at 9:13 pm

Calling them “state department socialists” is unfair to at least the more honest employees of the State Department.

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Red Blob May 15, 2013 at 11:29 pm

patrickm that’s a lovely tribute you pay to your friend Steve who as you point out had the ability to change his opinion when the facts demanded rather than just repeat dogma.
Bill Kerr it is good to see people reassessing their positions on Iraq in light of what is happening in Syria. I like this guy writing in the New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/06/opinion/keller-syria-is-not-iraq.html?pagewanted=2&_r=0&ref=iraq

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Arthur May 19, 2013 at 1:05 pm

Bill Keller strikes me as a typical “blowing with the wind” liberal, though its good that has current vacillation is towards action on Iraq.

I think you will find Kanan Makiya much more interesting.

Support’s action on Syria:

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/world/101070/syria-intervention-baath-civil-war-obama-washington#

Explains how Iraq related to Arab spring:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/07/opinion/sunday/the-arab-spring-started-in-iraq.html?pagewanted=all

Nuanced regrets on some aspects of having led advocacy of action on Iraq without repudiating the necessity for action:

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2008/03/how_did_i_get_iraq_wrong_9.html

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/the_chat_room/2008/03/sifting_through_five_years_of_war.single.html

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Arthur May 19, 2013 at 2:32 pm

(sigh) typo -> “its good that his current vacillation is towards action on Syria.”

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Bill Kerr May 19, 2013 at 9:51 am

response to Brian S http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=7703#comment-50923 (the thread ran out):

I still don’t understand what you mean when you said “state policies are not made in this fashion”? Isn’t it logical that there would be a US policy change of some type after 9/11 and what other options did Bush have given then current US policy had failed.

Remarks at the American University in Cairo
Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Cairo, Egypt
June 20, 2005

We should all look to a future when every government respects the will of its citizens — because the ideal of democracy is universal. For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region here in the Middle East — and we achieved neither. Now, we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people.

As President Bush said in his Second Inaugural Address: “America will not impose our style of government on the unwilling. Our goal instead is to help others find their own voice, to attain their own freedom, and to make their own way.”

1) She said it in Egypt – that is significant given what happened in Egypt a few years later
2) She said the US previous policy of 60 years was wrong
3) She said the US is now reversing its policies
4) She quoted Bush to show she had his approval
5) The actions on the ground – supporting democracy in Iraq – matched the words

Wolfowitz:
Friday, 30 May 2003, 2:17 pm
Press Release: US Department of Defence

Q: So this notion then that the strategic question was really a part of the equation, that you were looking at Saudi Arabia —

Wolfowitz: I was. It’s one of the reasons why I took a very different view of what the argument that removing Saddam Hussein would destabilize the Middle East. I said on the record, I don’t understand how people can really believe that removing this huge source of instability is going to be a cause of instability in the Middle East.

I understand what they’re thinking about. I’m not blind to the uncertainties of this situation, but they just seem to be blind to the instability that that son of a bitch was causing. It’s as though the fact that he was paying $25,000 per terrorist family and issuing regular threats to most friendly governments in the region and the long list of things was of no account and the only thing to think about was that there might be some inter-communal violence if he were removed.

The implication of a lot of the argumentation against acting — the implication was that the only way to have the stability that we need in Iraq is to have a tyrant like Saddam keeping everybody in check — I know no one ever said it that way and if you pointed it out that way they’d say that’s not what I mean. But I believe that really is where the logic was leading.

Q: Which also makes you wonder about how much faith there is in spreading democracy and all the rest among some of those who —

Wolfowitz: Probably not very much. There is no question that there’s a lot of instability that comes with democracy and it’s the nature of the beast that it’s turbulent and uncertain.

The thing is, at a general level, I’ve encountered this argument from the defenders of Asian autocracies of various kinds. Look how much better off Singapore is than Indonesia, to pick a glaring contrast. And Indonesia’s really struggling with democracy. It sort of inherited democracy under the worst possible conditions too, one might say. But the thing that — I’d actually say that a large part of Indonesia’s problems come from the fact that dictatorships are unstable in the one worst way which is with respect to choosing the next regime. Democracy, one could say, has solved, not solve perfectly, but they represent one of the best solutions to one of the most fundamental instabilities in politics and that’s how to replace one regime with another. It’s the only orderly way in the world for doing it other than hereditary monarchy which doesn’t seem to have much of a future.

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David Berger (RED DAVE) May 19, 2013 at 5:29 pm

CONDOLEEZZA RICE: We should all look to a future when every government respects the will of its citizens — because the ideal of democracy is universal. For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region here in the Middle East — and we achieved neither. Now, we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people.

As President Bush said in his Second Inaugural Address: “America will not impose our style of government on the unwilling. Our goal instead is to help others find their own voice, to attain their own freedom, and to make their own way.”

BILL KERR: 1) She said it in Egypt – that is significant given what happened in Egypt a few years later

DAVID BERGER: Are you seriously saying that what Rice said had something to do with the Arab Spring?

BILL KERR: 2) She said the US previous policy of 60 years was wrong

DAVID BERGER: She didn’t mean it. That’s just rhetoric. The goal of the US is to dominate. If it can’t do it with a dictatorship, it will introduce a phony democracy. I’m amazed how much faith you have in people who are liars and mass murderers.

BILL KERR: 3) She said the US is now reversing its policies

DAVID BERGER: Which it did not do. It changed the color of the wallpaper. The goal is now and always will be imperialist domination.

BILL KERR: 4) She quoted Bush to show she had his approval

DAVID BERGER; Who is the biggest liar in the world? Bush, Rice, Cheney, Powell? And you believe them. Have you found the weapons of mass destruction yet?

BILL KERR: 5) The actions on the ground – supporting democracy in Iraq – matched the word

DAVID BERGER: If you think t hat the US supported democracy in Iraq, you have a great career as a stand-up comic.

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PatrickSMcNally May 19, 2013 at 8:19 pm

“expense of democracy”

Are you at all familiar with any of the old denunciations of Roosevelt & Yalta made by numerous Cold Warriors? In what way are Rice’s words particularly different? Statements of this type have a long pedigree in US politics. Right-wingers accused Roosevelt of sacrificing the freedom of eastern Europe as part of a political pragmatism which they claimed had served no purpose but to feed Soviet ambitions. Do you agree with that analysis? If not, then how do you distinguish it from Rice’s bland comments?

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David Berger (RED DAVE) May 19, 2013 at 10:24 pm

My question, Comrade, is why are you taking Rice seriously at all? She is a war criminal and a pathological liar. If she says its going to rain, put your umbrella away.

One more time, let me say that as a long-time socialist, I find much of this thread to be outrageous. Why the fuck are we giving the imperialist rationalizations of a liberal like Bill Kerr any play at all. There are plenty of website sponsored by one species of liberal or another where he can play to his heart’s content.

Let me ask people following this thread: If Kerr and a group showed up at a May Day parade with placards supporting US imperialism in Iraq and Afghanistan, what would you do?

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Red Blob May 19, 2013 at 9:59 am

Heres an interesting pre war article that claims that no one not the Kurds not even Americas paid stooges would endorse the Invasion plan (yes I know they went along with it but they didnt like it) Imagine attempting to invade a country where the whole hearted support for your plan in that country is exactly zero
http://www.economist.com/node/1580210

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Arthur May 19, 2013 at 11:08 am

Thanks for the link. I postponed a response to Bill’s recent comments on Wolfowitz because of time required to lookup this background.

I think that article describes what Wolfowitz regards as a mistake. I think he would have favoured quickly establishing a government acceptable to the Iraqi opposition parties as they demanded at the Londn conference shortly before invasion.

I believe that would have been a bigger mistake. The US WAS an occuping power and if it had handed over to others that would have appeared much the same as previous US neocolonial behaviour. (eg even the puppet regime in south Vietnam was supposedly local with no US “governor” but that fooled nobody).

By appointing a US military governor who could not even speak Arabic instead of nominating any locals the US made it clear from the start that the eventual government would in fact be chosen through free elections as promised, with no advantage to people chosen by the invaders.

BTW the reference to Saudi plans in the article are interesting. An important factor in the refusal of the Iraqi opposition to publicly endorse the invasion was a successful US disinformation campaign that they would preserve some sort of Sunni domination, perhaps in the form of a Hashemite monarchy as in Jordan. This did help neutralize immediate Sunni resistance but created real panic among the Iraqi opposition – eg Kanan Makiya published an article at the time expressing outrage at US betrayal.

Also re Kurdish rejection of US demands. They simply went ahead and liberated Kirkuk themselves, ignoring US requests (and through in Mosul as well!).

PS Please do carefully read the correspondence with Chomsky I linked elsewhere. Both you and Brian should find it interesting.

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Aaron Aarons May 20, 2013 at 4:00 am

Arthur Dent writes:

By appointing a US military governor who could not even speak Arabic instead of nominating any locals the US made it clear from the start that the eventual government would in fact be chosen through free elections as promised, with no advantage to people chosen by the invaders.

It’s not clear whether, by US military governor, Mr. Dent is referring to Jay Garner or Paul Bremer. According to the Wikipedia article on Garner,

He wanted early elections – 90 days after the fall of Baghdad – and the new government to decide how to run the country and what to do with its assets. Garner said “I don’t think [Iraqis] need to go by the U.S. plan, I think that what we need to do is set an Iraqi government that represents the freely elected will of the people. It’s their country… their oil.”

But apparently this was far too democratic for the people running the U.S. government, and Garner was replaced within two months by Bremer, who proceeded to issue, during his 13 months as head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, 100 orders that were to be binding on the new Iraqi government! So he may not have determined, at least overtly, who were going to be the players in the new Iraqi government, but he definitely wrote the rules of the game — rules that were far more detailed than the U.S. Constitution with all its amendments, and which pretty much imposed neoliberalism, including the lack of defense against foreign capitalist domination, on the Iraqi state!

Arthur Dent and his pro-imperialist co-thinkers, BTW, studiously refuse to include any discussion of the Bremer orders in their discussion of the supposed ‘democracy’ brought to Iraq by the imperialists.

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David Berger (RED DAVE) May 19, 2013 at 10:48 am

BILL KERR: Consequently what Bill calls “half lies” were necessary and there was no real effort to explain the actual connction between invading Iraq and 911. Inevitably this left the impression that somehow Sadaam was supposed to be behind 911 (although that was never an explicit claim) or at least that the connection with Iraq was a lot more direct than the reality. The main emphasis in arguments for public consumption was on WMDs and passing reerences to a swamp breeding terrorists were (mis)understood in that context rather than in the context of what I claim was the actual policy driver.

DAVID BERGER: The apologist for imperialism, bombing civilians and mass murder now tells us that imperialist lies “were necessary.” Exactly the argument used when Johnson’s lies were exposed during Vietnam.

BILL KERR: All I can say really – and I feel its lame – is that it is possible to support both the US invasion and wikileaks / Bradley Manning and campaigns to bring US war criminals to justice. But in the final analysis an anti-fascist stance, which means in practical terms support for the US led invasion, is the correct one IMO.

DAVID BERGER: Well, to quote Phil Ochs, “So love me, love me, love me. I’m a liberal: because there’s nothing in the slightest in your arguments that’s socialist, unless you want to be comrades with the German Social Democrats, when they supported WWI or the American Schactmanites when they beat the drum for Vietnam.

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David Berger (RED DAVE) May 19, 2013 at 1:49 pm

Arthur Kerr is fond of referring to Kanan Makiya as a justification for supporting the murderous US imperialist invasion of Iraq. (By the way, notice that he never refers to the approximately one half million children who died as a result of the US-led embargo of Iraq. He doesn’t seem concerned that Saddam Hussein was basically a creation of the US, who used him for war in Iraq. Nor do we find reference to the fact that the US winked over Iraq’s intention to invade Kuwait and then double-crossed Hussein.)

Anyway, here’s part of what wikipedia had to say about Kanan Makiya. (FNs deleted for continuity)

Makiya is widely known to have been a strong proponent of the 2003 Iraq War and advocated for the “complete dismantling of the security services of the regime, leaving only the regular police force intact”. As U.S. forces took control during the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, Makiya returned to Iraq under their aegis and was given the position of Advisor to the Iraq interim governing council by the Coalition Provisional Authority. In an interview with Charlie Rose in late 2003, Makiya said he had “settled back” in Iraq and that he was “in it for the long run.” However, in 2006 Makiya left Iraq and returned to teach at Brandeis University.[

Makiya is quoted as having said, “As I told the President on January 10th, I think [the troops] will be greeted with sweets and flowers in the first months and simply have very, very little doubts that that is the case.” His support for the war followed an idealistic line, as recounted in the New York Times Magazine in 2007:

“In the buildup to the Iraq war, Makiya, more than any single figure, made the case for invading because it was the right thing to do – to destroy an evil regime and rescue a people from their nightmare of terror and suffering. Not for oil, Makiya argued, and not for some superweapons hidden in the sand, but to satisfy an obligation to our fellow human beings. If it sounded idealistic, Makiya went even further, arguing that an American invasion of Iraq could clear the ground for Western-style democracy. Years of war and murder had left Iraqis so thoroughly degraded, Makiya argued, that, once freed, they would throw off the tired orthodoxies of Arab politics and, in their despair, look to the West.”

However, the article depicted Makiya expressing concern over the subsequent war, and comparing the number of Iraqi deaths since 2003 to deaths under the deposed ruler Saddam Hussein: “It’s getting closer to Saddam.”

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

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David Berger (RED DAVE) May 19, 2013 at 1:59 pm

Okay, people, here’s an update on the invasion that Bill Kerr loves:

Iraqi officials have found three mass graves containing the bodies of about 1,000 people thought to have been executed by US soldiers during their occupation of the country.

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) – The graves were uncovered in Iraq’s western province of al-Anbar. The remains are believed to be from victims killed by US forces during 2004 and 2005 in the city of Fallujah, located roughly 69 kilometers (43 miles) west of Baghdad.

“Security forces and rights groups found the three mass graves in Saqlawiyah and Ameriyah of Fallujah near a cemetery north of the city. They contain the remains of about a thousand people,” Deputy Chairman of Anbar’s provincial council, Sadoun Obaid al-Shaalan, said on Wednesday.

He also called on the Iraqi government to order DNA tests on the remains to ascertain the identity of the victims, especially since there are hundreds of families in Anbar – particularly Fallujah – who are trying to discover the fate of their lost children.

The first battle of Fallujah was an unsuccessful attempt by the US military to capture the city in April 2004.

Fighting broke out after four US mercenaries from Blackwater Company were killed, dismembered and hanged from a bridge over the Euphrates River.

On May 1, 2004, the US troops withdrew from Fallujah as Lieutenant General James Conway announced that he had unilaterally decided to turn over operations to the Fallujah Brigade — which composed of local militiamen under the command of former Ba’ath Party General Muhammed Latif.

Iraq accounts of the first battle of Fallujah put the number of injured or dead at more than 400.

The second battle of Fallujah was a joint American and British offensive in November and December 2004. The Iraqi narrative of the second battle puts the total number of dead and wounded at more than 5,000.

http://www.abna.co/data.asp?lang=3&id=420008

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David Berger (RED DAVE) May 19, 2013 at 4:57 pm

More updates on the end product of an imperialist invasion and occupation (again, FNs deleted for continuity)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/May_2013_Iraq_attacks

From 15 to 17 May 2013, a series of deadly bombings and shootings struck the central and northern parts of Iraq. The attacks killed at least 172 people and left 448 others injured in one of the deadliest outbreaks of violence in years.

From a peak in 2006–07, when more than 3,000 people died during some months, violence in Iraq decreased steadily for several years, before beginning to increase once more in 2012. In December 2012, Sunnis began to protest perceived mistreatment by the Shia-led government. The protests had been largely peaceful, but insurgents, emboldened by the war in neighboring Syria, stepped up attacks in the initial months of 2013. The number of attacks rose sharply after the Iraqi army raided a protest camp in Hawija on 23 April 2013. Overall, 712 people were killed in April according to UN figures, making it the nation’s deadliest month in five years.

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jim sharp May 20, 2013 at 12:39 am

red dave
you already know the answer
before you ask ’tis the same one
here in australia where they stay
a country mile away unless incognio

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Pham Binh May 20, 2013 at 9:15 am

Received the following email this morning:

“At what point are you going to act like socialists and not liberals and shut down the contributions of the likes of Arthur and Bill Kerr? There is nothing in the least be leftist, let alone socialist, about their posts. They are engaged in the justification of the US invasion and occupation of Irasq.

“Is it because these shits also support US intervention Syria, as does Pham Binh, that they are tolerated? I suggest that you watch out because when you lie down with dogs, fleas are inevitable.

“David Berger”

If you don’t like our commenting policy and open debate, go elsewhere. If you can’t win an argument over the 2002-2003 Iraq war, you have political problems that are beyond the ability of censorship to solve.

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David Berger (RED DAVE) May 20, 2013 at 11:57 am

(1) I didn’t know that letter to the editors were subject to posting. If I’d know that, I would have posted it straight. I think it was a low trick to post an email that was not mean for posting.

(2) You have still not explained why you are permitting non-leftist, even anti-leftist material to be published. Open debate is a fine thing. But, in general, leftist publications do not publish the work of apologists for imperialism.

(3) As to winning a debate on Iraq, a debate can’t be won where one side doesn’t engage. All that the pro-invasion “socialists” have done is sift around in the muck of imperialist mass murder looking for rationalizations. They have never replied to the charges that the US engaged in aggressive imperialist war, deluded its population with Orwellian lies and committed mass murder.

(4) I am not calling for censorship. A pro-imperialist website does not publish anti-imperialist material. Why should this website waste good bandwidth on people for whom shock and awe was a fireworks display?

(5) It will be unfortunate if the highly complex situation in Syria provides an opening for a group of people who are out-and-out apologists for imperialism.

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Pham Binh May 20, 2013 at 1:09 pm

1. I don’t take well to behind-the-scenes calls for politically censoring people you can’t win a political debate with, which is a “low trick” if there ever was one. The decision to post the email was mine as an individual. Hopefully it will discourage others from sending such emails in the future.

2. The comments policy says nothing about “non-leftist” or “anti-leftist” comments. Try reading it.

3. The pseudo-lefts-in-reverse have spent (wasted) a lot of time engaging and posting what they think constitutes convincing evidence on these issues. Asking to censor them indicates that it is not they who are afraid of engagement.

4. You asked The North Star to “shut down the contributions of the likes of Arthur and Bill Kerr.” That is the textbook definition of political censorship.

5. What is more unfortunate is your inability (like the rest of the pseudoleft) to engage in thoroughgoing and above-board debates on Syria because of things that happened 10 years ago in Iraq.

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Aaron Aarons May 20, 2013 at 8:59 pm

It is one thing to allow imperialist apologists to make their points and another to let them essentially spam the site with constant and often extremely verbose repetition of their lies, half-truths and pro-capitalist value judgments, while they continue to ignore comments refuting them. For example, they continue to refuse to discuss the role of the ‘Bremer orders’ in shaping the ‘democracy’ that the U.S. imposed on Iraq, and they continue to ignore the points made about George W. Bush — whom they call a ‘revolutionary democrat’!! — that remind those with short memories that, in general, he had little respect for even bourgeois democracy when he was on the losing side, and showed no desire to try to bring it about in cases where his friends and allies were the dictators.

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jim sharp May 20, 2013 at 9:11 pm

pham binh lad
“What is more unfortunate is your inability”
(‘like the rest of the pseudoleft’)!!!
o dear it seems you’re unaware
when you point a finger that there’s
allus three pointing back at yourself

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Pham Binh May 20, 2013 at 10:16 pm

Except for the fact that I started a site where people continually contest my (and others’) views on disputed questions like the Syrian revolution, you’re right.

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byork May 20, 2013 at 11:45 pm

And full marks to you for doing so Pham Binh. It’s so rare to find a site where there is real commitment to exchange of views and actual argument and debate about what constitutes a genuine left-wing position. When I was at high school in the 1960s, I identified with the left in a cultural way, if that makes sense, bgut didn’t have much understanding until I started debating with people and, most important, attending debates – ‘teach-ins’ – where opposing views could clash and be heard in a reasonable way. These debates educated me, and many others, and hearing people like Jim Cairns (Australian Labor parliamentarian back) debate right-wingers like Frank Knopflemacher about the Vietnam war led me to solidarity with the Vietnamese rather than a ‘cultural’ anti-war position. North Star is like an Internet ‘teach-in’, with opposing views given scope to compete and debate. You have shown ‘good form’ (as we say in Australia) in refusing to censor views with which you may disagree and excellent form in revealing the censorious attitudes from ‘behind-the-scenes’. I’m glad David Berger and people who think like him have no power or influence in society. Scary. Back in 1968, there was a French slogan – “It is forbidden to forbid”. Now I know this has limits, and can be criticized, but it captures a spirit. It can also be expressed as ‘It is right to rebel’ and ‘Let the hundred flowers bloom’.

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Pham Binh May 21, 2013 at 12:15 am

Thank you.

For all the bile my pro-revolution stance on Syria generates on the interwebz left, you’d think The North Star would be getting tons of people writing detailed refutations of the things I’ve argued. Instead, we get petty sniping on Twitter and a few other sites about me being a CIA agent, and that’s it. With a method like that, it’s no wonder these people can’t hold a teach-in about Libya, Syria, or anything else that’s really going on on planet Earth. People who can’t properly defend their views or attack the views of others don’t have anything substantive to offer in terms of building something resembling a political movement.

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byork May 22, 2013 at 12:40 am

A basic requirement of debate is to at least fairly and reasonably present the opposing view. This has not happened wrt the pro-Iraq war left-wing point of view (to which I adhere) at this site and instead various ‘straw men’ have been set up. BTW, in my reference to Jim Cairns above, I should have mentioned that it wasn’t his ‘Labor’ credentials that carried weight but rather his impressive knowledge of the history of Indo-China. He understood Ho Chi Minh’s story and the Vietnamese struggle for independence and was able to demolish opponents who argued that the war was part of a ‘yellow peril’ – the Chinese coming down via Vietnam to invade Australia. He was sympathetic to the NLF of South Vietnam too. My introduction to serious Marxist-Leninist politics came from individuals who knew their stuff on the university campus I attended. Again, it impressed me the way they could argue and I was won over not just by the strength and logic of their position per se but by how it was revealed when up against contrary points of view. Brian S asserts that it is not left-wing to support the Iraq war but I think it is left-wing to support the overthrow of fascist regimes and to support the US when it reverses its previous strategy of propping them up. I will happily take to the streets when the US props up dictators but not when it overthrows them. If/when US imperialism intervenes militarily in Syria, against Assad, there will be some interesting further debate at this site, I’m sure. I just wish there were demonstrations against the US for not intervening, for leaving the Syrian people at the mercy of Assad’s tanks and jets. This doesn’t make me a “neo-con” but confirms that I remain a left-wing anti-fascist internationalist.

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Brian S. May 21, 2013 at 8:03 am

@David Berger. “in general, leftist publications do not publish the work of apologists for imperialism.” True – but is that a strength or a weakness?
I disagree as much as you with the arguments of Arthur & Co. and have the rhetorical scars to prove it. But I think your characterisation of them as “one side that doesn’t engage” is doubly wrong.
First, I think the defenders of the Iraq invasion are not an homogenous group: just like those of us with the opposing position, they vary significantly in their reasoning and mode of argument. Secondly, its absurd to suggest that they “don’t engage”. What has all this discussion been about?
Much as I may disagree with these contributors, I find engagement with them very valuable. They regularly force me to interrogate received (left) opinion and my (and their) sources. I learn from these exchanges in multiple ways. And I know of very few other sites that I can say that of.
However, t if we are going to explicitly accept that Northstar is not confined to contributors who are consensually part of the “left” then Admin needs to consider the implication of this for the moderation and structuring of the site. I think its important that the Agenda of Northstar continues to reflect that of the left (and to be fair to Arthur & Co it was not they who started the debate on Iraq) and that the flow of contributions needs to be managed more. Partly that can be a matter of self-restraint (hand on heart) but I think it would be useful to have more precise guidelines on optimum/maximum length of posts – with the former allowing moderators to exercise discretion on the utility of particular posts, and the latter serving as an absolute cut-off

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Aaron Aarons May 22, 2013 at 2:11 am

I’m not sure what would constitute “win[ning] an argument over the 2002-2003 [sic!] Iraq war” when the people you’re arguing against refuse to acknowledge the trucks you’ve driven through the gaping holes in their argument, and there is no jury to decide the matter. There are all kinds of right-wing positions people take on various issues that would be hard to “win an argument over” if there were no jury. And even if there were such a “jury”, the result might well depend on the class, ethnic and other biases of the “jurors”.

I’m curious, BTW, if you would publish comments, even repeated lengthy ones, that tried to respond to the invocation of the “fight against fascism” by Arthur, Patrick and company by arguing that European fascism was a good thing and that Hitler and the Nazis were defending Civilization against Eastern barbarisn?

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Bill Kerr May 20, 2013 at 10:43 pm

For a fuller account of Kanan Makiya’s ups and downs before, during and after the invasion see Regrets Only?.

(He has been referred to above by myself, arthur and David Berger)

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Brian S. May 21, 2013 at 7:20 am

I was just wondering what the current views of Kanan Makiya (who I knew slightly in his far left days) were. I think he is an honest and sincere democrat, if often naive in his political judgement. As early as February 2003 he found himself in conflict with the US administration when they announced their first plans for post-war administration of Iraq, writing an article entitled “Our Hopes Betrayed”.But he seems to have been pacified by some verbal concessions from the administration. In the article Bill links to he is clearly critical of post-war developments, but attributes problems to “errors” by the US (“error after error” to be precise) and the failures of the Iraqi political elites.
But its a shallow analysis to reduce US conduct of the occupation to individual “errors” – their actions reflected the institutional character of an imperialist-orchestrated operation, and in that sense were, in broad terms, both predictable and predicted.
I’m just reading Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s Imperial Life in the Emerald City which documents the arrogance, incompetence, venality, and patronage-driven nature of the Coalition Provisional Authority – failings too systematic to be seen as some sort of accident.

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Arthur May 21, 2013 at 4:28 pm

Re Makiya, I mentioned his article “Our Hopes Betrayed” (without remembering the name) above:

http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=7703#comment-50939

Just looked it up and read it again:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2003/feb/16/iraq5

Confirms my analysis that he had been taken in by a “successful US disinformation campaign that they would preserve some sort of Sunni domination”. His fear was:

“The plan, as dictated to the Iraqi opposition in Ankara last week by a United States-led delegation, further envisages the appointment by the US of an unknown number of Iraqi quislings palatable to the Arab countries of the Gulf and Saudi Arabia as a council of advisers to this military government. ”

(He doesn’t mention Hashemite monarchy but I recall watching a panel discussion with an Iraqi National Congress representative and some “expert” bright young thing gushing about what a wonderful improvement it would be be for Iraq to get rid of Sadaam and become a moderate Arab regime like Jordan, and the INC guy replying that any attempt to impose anything like Jordan would be treated as a major insult).

“The bureaucrats responsible for this plan are drawn from those parts of the administration that have always been hostile to the idea of a US-assisted democratic transformation of Iraq, a transformation that necessarily includes such radical departures for the region as the de-Baathification of Iraq (along the lines of the de-Nazification of post-war Germany), and the redesign of the Iraqi state as a non-ethnically based federal and democratic entity.”

“The plan is the brainchild of the would-be coup-makers of the CIA and their allies in the Department of State, who now wish to achieve through direct American control over the people of Iraq what they so dismally failed to achieve on the ground since 1991.”

“Its driving force is appeasement of the existing bankrupt Arab order, and ultimately the retention under a different guise of the repressive institutions of the Baath and the army. Hence its point of departure is, and has got to be, use of direct military rule to deny Iraqis their legitimate right to self-determine their future. In particular it is a plan designed to humiliate the Kurdish people of Iraq and their experiment of self-rule in northern Iraq of the last 10 years, an experiment made possible by the protection granted to the Kurds by the United States itself. That protection is about to be lifted with the entry into northern Iraq of much-feared Turkish troops (apparently not under American command), infamous throughout the region for their decades-long hostility to Kurdish aspirations.”

Actually there were two related deceptions and Makiya was apparantly taken in by both.

1. US declaratory policy right up to the eve of the invasion was “Sadaam must disarm” with preservation of the bankrupt Arab order including the Baathist regime and army. This helped demobilize Baathist resistance and also kept opponents in the US foreign policy establishment disoriented (one of their most bitter complaints, echoed by the pseudoleft, was that they had “no plan” for governing Iraq and/or ditched the sensible plans developed within the State Department that relied on the continued existence of the old state apparatus including its army).

2. There was an interesting US maneuver to gain tactical surprise and keep Turkey out without upsetting relations too much. An elaborate charade of pressure on the Turkish government to let the US fourth infantry division invade from Turkey was maintained until the Turkish parliament narrowly rejected it. All eyes were then on the 4ID embarking on a long sea voyage to join the invasion from the south. Actually the invasion from the south was launched without the 4ID (and the invasion from the north was by Kurdish peshmerga) so they achieved the stunning result of tactical surprise despite a year or so of strategic warning, plus Turkey had itself voted to stay out, which was exactly what the Kurds had insisted on them doing. I haven’t come across any boasting about this and would be very interested to read any account of it that has been published – my guess is that none has.

Anyway, Makiya was NOT “pacified by some verbal concessions from the administration”. He was pacified by Bremer’s “Order Number 1” and “Order Number 2” for de-baathification which were exactly what had been promised and what hardly anyone believed the US would actually do (and of course by the exclusion of Turkish troops).

BTW I have mentioned the central importance of these Bremer orders that the pseudoleft hates as much as the Baathists and the US foreign policy establishment many times, which results in people I cannot be bothered engaging with complaining that I don’t mention them.

Re his current views, “Regrets Only” struck me as more an account of the journalists views than Makiya’s. Makiya is a writer and can speak for himself. I provided links to articles (eg his demand for action on Syria and explanation of the link between Iraq and Arab spring) earlier in this thread.

http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=7703#comment-50948

Re “rhetorical scars”, I would have thought both the nature of our disagreements and ability to argue them show we have more in common as both treating each other as part of something can broadly described as “left” (however misguided) than any agreement you might have with people who don’t think at all on issues where you remain obstinately determined to acuire more scars…

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Bill Kerr May 22, 2013 at 7:13 am

arthur,

An elaborate charade of pressure on the Turkish government to let the US fourth infantry division invade from Turkey was maintained until the Turkish parliament narrowly rejected it … I haven’t come across any boasting about this and would be very interested to read any account of it that has been published – my guess is that none has

If Bush was so clever I can’t see any reason why he wouldn’t be boasting about it 10 years later. But in his book he talks of his frustration and disappointment at being let down by Turkey:

On one of the most important requests we had ever made, Turkey, our NATO ally, had let America down. (250)

I prefer Kanan Makiya’s view of historical figures:

… despite the proclivity of those in public office to propaganda, rhetoric, chicanery and lies, on the whole even they usually end up saying what they mean and meaning what they say (p. vvii of Republic of Fear)

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Arthur May 22, 2013 at 12:09 pm

The reason I guessed there has probably (but not certainly) been no public boasting about it is that it involved major deception of an ally so admitting it would be unauthorsed (though not unheard of). It is even easier to undersand that nobody in the US adminisration is going to admit to either lies or “half lies” about WMDs being the main issue (though Chalabi and other Iraiqis who organized “evidence” have more or less done so).

Its a simple matter of fact that the US did achieve tactical surprise by focusing the whole world’s attention (including mine) on the 4ID being re-routed to invade from the south and then suddenly invading without it. These things don’t happen accidentally. They require effort.

BTW I do recall some public discussion at the time of the problem of how they were going to achieve tactical surprise despite so much strategic warning (planned efforts to do so is US military standard practice).

I do think Bush is a lot smarter than his critics. But there’s no reason to assume the President would have any role at all in developing such tactical plans. Personalizing things doesn’t help poliical and military analysis much. There is a reason why the institution is generally referred to as “The White House” (staff of hundreds) or “the administration”, “pentagon” etc (tens of thousands)..

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Arthur May 22, 2013 at 12:21 pm

PS After posting above I looked up your quote in Bush’s book. The whole tone reeks of being ghost-written as a children’s fairy tale. Its really weird that you take such naively childish self-serving propaganda as serious historical account.

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Bill Kerr May 23, 2013 at 8:32 pm

arthur:

Bush’s book. The whole tone reeks of being ghost-written as a children’s fairy tale. Its really weird that you take such naively childish self-serving propaganda as serious historical account

The book is a strange bird, I agree with that much

Earlier you described is as “fictional”. Now you say “childish”, “fairy tale”. Nevertheless you do think that “Bush is a lot smarter than his critics”.

Now why would a smart person put his name to a book which is a childish fairy tail ten years after the war? Bush, of course, would like to be well remembered historically and such a book would not contribute to that. So your critique of the book makes no sense to me at all.

Here is how I read his book. The political parts bear some direct resemblance to his decision making process. The other parts – mainly personal and religious – bear some resemblance to his cultural belief system.

Bush is a creature of the right and comes across as a not very sophisticated (relatively inarticulate) creature of the right. He is very religious (laughably), “pro life” (blocked stem cell research), supports capital punishment, equates capitalism with freedom. So, when Bush talks about these issues in his book they do come across as childish from my perspective.

More importantly, as pointed out by Paul Berman (Power and the Idealists) these cultural factors made it harder for Bush (and Rumsfeld) to reach unity with important European leaders about the Iraq war.

Another issue I’ve raised is that ten years on we now know that Wolfowitz was not happy with some important Bush decisions, that there were important divisions in the pro war camp. This all contributes to my sense of Bush “muddling through”. I think such factors need to be incorporated into your initial, perspicacious analysis ten years on.

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Arthur May 24, 2013 at 5:25 am

1. I haven’t yet read the book and was only commenting on the tone I picked up from looking at the context around quotes you provided.

2. “…comes across as a not very sophisticated (relatively inarticulate) creature of the right…”. That’s what he does. He’s from an elite east coast family but comes across as a red stater. It went down very well with the audience it was directed to and won him two terms (including support from fundamentalist Christians and opponents of “big government” despite not actually delivering anything much for either of those red state constituencies (eg purely symbolic block to stem cell research which did not actually block it). Liberals severely misunderestimated his unsophistication. Lots of people prefer it to sophistication and conveying an image of unsophistication is not necessarily a sign of not being smart. I would expect him to want his memoirs to bewell thought of by his constituency rather than his opponents.

3. Certainly cultural factors made it harder to unite with European leaders (and with American liberals). eg Blair’s position was in many ways more dishonest but he didn’t jar with me as much culturally. But the opposition that needed to be overcome was the opposition from the American right, which has been historically and viscerally opposed to the policy Bush implemented. Alienating liberal Americans and Europeans mainly helped demobilize the potential right wing opposition without creating an opposition that could do anything effectual.

4. Clearly there were divisions and muddling through. I responded re Wolfowitz regret at occupation government in a sub-thread you may have missed. Follow Red Blob’s link:

http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=7703#comment-50932

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Bill Kerr May 25, 2013 at 12:20 am

arthur,

I understand your primary point about overcoming opposition from the american right – that to get the support from Congress did require some deception and this took the form of the WMD argument (amusing though that when I called this a half truth you actually quoted me as saying “half lies”)

but wrt the Bush Christian culture (before his first election when asked who his hero was he said “Jesus” – his father criticised him for this as an election gambit) and the wider implication of what would be either perceived or misrepresented by Muslims as a “Christian Crusade” in Iraq. Republic of Fear does a good job of providing the background information about how the Baath accommodated Sunni and Shiite beliefs in a way that was acceptable at a certain level to practitioners. (not sure whether you have read that book from your earlier comment and referencing of Kanan Makiya. I’m still less than half way through it myself). Sorry for some incoherence here, will try to tidy up at some other time.

My main point: I’m presenting here an argument with wider implications than a broken US – Germany/France trans Atlantic relationship. I’ve mentioned Paul Berman’s Power and the Idealists before. This section captures what I’m getting at. It’s part of an argument presented by Bernard Kouchner, a 68er, founder of Doctors without Borders, the UN envoy in Kosovo, someone who had visited Iraq and understood the situation in Iraq and wanted Saddam removed:

He could not understand the American treatment of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the Shiite leader in Iraq – the most influential person in the country. The American viceroy Paul Bremer, never managed to meet Sistani. Kouchner was dumfounded yet again. Iraq wasn’t Bremer’s country – it was Sistani’s. The Americans blamed the ayatollah for refusing to meet with them, but Kouchner knew very well, that with a proper approach, any reasonable person will eventually yield to an insistent suitor. Sergio Vieira de Mello of the United Nations succeeded in meeting Sistani. The ayatollah was approachable. But, by the time the Americans made a serious effort, Sistani had already been offended, and it was too late.

I’m detecting quite a few threads like this that point to a level of incompetence by Bush forces in Iraq that did end up making a considerable difference to what happened

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Arthur May 25, 2013 at 10:13 am

I’m sure there was a great deal of arrogance and incompetence in the occupation forces. How could there not be?

But their fundamental orientation was far better than their critics.

On the particular point made by Kouchner it’s pretty clear that Sistani had a policy of refusing to meet Americans while they were occupying. (As far as I know the only exception was a meeting with Fouad Ajami, one of the architects of the invasion, who was also a Shia). Sistani met Sergio de Mello because he was from the UN, rather than from the occupation, not because de Mello was more polite. He was particularly insistent on not compromising UN Security Council authority over the occupation by a status of forces agreement and I think (not sure) he even met Brahimi from the UN despite the fact that it was Bremer going along with Brahimi’s policies that was the main source of tension.

As far as cultural factors are concerned, I think it was the Bush administration that eventually directed the more “east coast” Bremer to accept Sistani’s demands following a public campaign by Gerecht on the theme “If we lose the Shia we lose Iraq”:

http://www.aei.org/article/foreign-and-defense-policy/regional/middle-east-and-north-africa/what-is-to-be-done-in-iraq/

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David Berger (RED DAVE) May 25, 2013 at 11:56 am

ARTHUR: I’m sure there was a great deal of arrogance and incompetence in the occupation forces. How could there not be?

DAVID BERGER: “Arrogance and incompetence”: new euphemism for “mass murder.”

ARTHUR: But their fundamental orientation was far better than their critics.

DAVID BERGER: So, the imperialist invaders of Iraq had a better “fundamental orientation” than the antiwar movement, which included virtually every leftist in the US.

ARTHUR: On the particular point made by Kouchner it’s pretty clear that Sistani had a policy of refusing to meet Americans while they were occupying. (As far as I know the only exception was a meeting with Fouad Ajami, one of the architects of the invasion, who was also a Shia). Sistani met Sergio de Mello because he was from the UN, rather than from the occupation, not because de Mello was more polite. He was particularly insistent on not compromising UN Security Council authority over the occupation by a status of forces agreement and I think (not sure) he even met Brahimi from the UN despite the fact that it was Bremer going along with Brahimi’s policies that was the main source of tension.

DAVID BERGER: I love watch Arthur second guess the imperialists at their own game. Clue Arthur: “Shock and Awe” was not the name of a video game.

ARTHUR: As far as cultural factors are concerned, I think it was the Bush administration that eventually directed the more “east coast” Bremer to accept Sistani’s demands following a public campaign by Gerecht on the theme “If we lose the Shia we lose Iraq”:

DAVID BERGER: Too bad you can’t build a time machine, go back to ’03, and become an advisor to the mass murderers. They can always use a stooge like you who can provide them with a left cover for mass murder.

Arthur May 25, 2013 at 11:45 am

PS sorry for the misquote of “half truths”. It does make a point about the equivalence, but that was not my intention. I somehow translated your phrase as “half lies” when remembering it.

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Aaron Aarons May 30, 2013 at 2:08 am

Arthur Dent writes:

BTW I have mentioned the central importance of these Bremer orders that the pseudoleft hates as much as the Baathists and the US foreign policy establishment many times, which results in people I cannot be bothered engaging with complaining that I don’t mention them.

The only Bremer orders that you appear to mention, Mr. Dent, are the “de-baathification” orders, not the rest of the 100 Orders, and numerous Regulations, Memoranda and Public Notices imposed on Iraqi society and economy by U.S.-installed dictator Paul Bremer.

For those who may have difficulty, as I had, finding the texts of these orders, I refer you to the page, CPA Official Documents at the University of North Texas library web site. Some other useful web pages are:
http://www.uruknet.info/?p=42948 and
http://www.corpwatch.org/ (Use their search box!)

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Bill Kerr May 22, 2013 at 7:55 am

Brian S:
> I was just wondering what the current views of Kanan Makiya (who I knew slightly in his far left days) were

arthur: “Makiya is a writer and can speak for himself”. True. Makiya is a very good writer and has helped educate me about Iraq realities.

I’ve only just read the Makiya links that arthur supplied earlier (thanks arthur for the reminder). Here are some quotes:

2012:

I don’t really think there is any kind of a reasonable argument against intervention in Syria. Quite the opposite: There is a moral and a human imperative to act that is larger than any nation’s interests and larger than any strategic calculation. That is so obvious it is an embarrassment to have to say it. This is how I thought about intervention in Iraq 20 years ago and it is how I think about what needs to be done in Syria today
http://www.newrepublic.com/article/world/101070/syria-intervention-baath-civil-war-obama-washington# (Feb 2012)

2013:

Toppling Mr. Hussein put the system of which he was such an integral part under newfound scrutiny. If the 1991 war was about the restoration of the Arab state system, the 2003 war called into question that system’s very legitimacy. That’s why support from Arab monarchies was not forthcoming in 2003, when a new, more equitable order was on the agenda in Iraq.

After 2003, the edifice of the Arab state system began to crack elsewhere. In 2005, thousands of Lebanese marched in the streets to boot out the occupying Syrian Army; Palestinians tasted their first real elections; American officials twisted the arm of Hosni Mubarak to allow Egyptians a slightly less rigged election in 2006; and a new kind of critical writing began to spread online and in fiction.

The Arab political psyche began to change as well. The legitimating ideas of post-1967 Arab politics — pan-Arabism, armed struggle, anti-imperialism and anti-Zionism — ideas that undergirded the regimes in both Iraq and Syria, were rubbing up against the realities of life under Mr. Hussein.

No Arab Spring protester, however much he or she might identify with the plight of the Palestinians or decry the cruel policies of Israeli occupation in the West Bank (as I do), would think today to attribute all the ills of Arab polities to empty abstractions like “imperialism” and “Zionism.” They understand in their bones that those phrases were tools of a language designed to prop up nasty regimes and distract people like them from the struggle for a better life.

Generations of Arabs have paid with their lives and their futures because of a set of illusions that had nothing to do with Israel; these illusions come from deep within the world that we Arabs have constructed for ourselves, a world built upon denial, bombast and imagined past glories, ideas that have since been exposed as bankrupt and dangerous to the future of the young Arab men and women who set out in 2011, against all odds, to build a new order.

In the place of these illusions, the young revolutionaries made the struggle against their own dictatorships their political priority, just as their Iraqi counterparts had done in vain 20 years earlier after the first gulf war.
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/07/opinion/sunday/the-arab-spring-started-in-iraq.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
(but you definitely need to read the whole of that one)

2008 thoughts:

I know that I got many things wrong in the run-up to the 2003 war, but, in spite of everything, I still do not know how to regret wanting to knock down the walls of the great concentration camp that was Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. The nature of political action is that its consequences are unknowable. That is the source of the wonder, beauty, and ugliness that politics can bring into the world. Should I have let that unknowability determine the morality of the case for the overthrow of the regime in Iraq? Would we have had a moral war in 2003 if there had arisen an Iraqi version of Nelson Mandela, and are we now saddled with an immoral one because he did not appear? I cannot think like that. Perhaps it is incumbent upon those who now regret supporting regime change back in 2003 to tell us what the alternative moral course of action was. Was it to wait and watch until the time bomb that was Saddam Hussein’s Iraq blew up in everyone’s faces?

True, I underestimated the self-centeredness and sectarianism of the Iraqi ruling elite put in power by U.S. military action in 2003. I knew them well, after all. And I underestimated the extent to which Iraqi state institutions had already been dismantled by U.N. sanctions, which changed a totalitarian regime into a criminal regime during the 1990s, long before anyone thought of unseating Saddam Hussein by force. Nor did I ever imagine that the conversion of the Iraqi army into a civil reconstruction force—which is what I and others called for in the run-up to 2003—would be translated into Paul Bremer’s order for the overnight firing, without pension, of half a million or so men. Certainly, I never imagined the breathtaking incompetence of the American occupation. Then again, I supported de-Bathification, comparing it all too glibly in interviews to de-Nazification. I did so naively, not allowing myself to think that it would be practiced by my fellow Iraqis as de-Sunnification and that the committee in charge of it would behave like an Iraqi version of McCarthy’s committee on un-American activities.
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But my biggest political sin is that in spite of nearly a quarter of a century of writing about the abuses of the Baath Party, I, and more generally the whole community of Iraqi exiles, grossly underestimated the consequences on a society of 30 years of extreme dictatorship. Iraqis were, it is true, liberated by the U.S. action in 2003; they were not defeated as the German and Japanese peoples had been in 1945. A regime was removed and a people liberated overnight, but it was a people that did not understand what had happened to it or why. Iraqis emerged into the light of day in a daze, having been in a prison or a giant concentration camp, cut off from the rest of the world to a degree that is difficult to imagine if you have not lived among them.

All of a sudden this raw, profoundly abused population, traumatized by decades of war, repression, uprisings, and brutal campaigns of social extermination, was handed the opportunity to build a nation from scratch. True, they were adept at learning the most arresting symbols of their re-entry into the world—the mobile phone and the satellite dish, for example. But it proved infinitely harder to get rid of the mistrust, fear, and unwillingness to take initiative or responsibility that was ingrained into a people by a whole way of survival in police-state conditions. No one made allowances for the deleterious consequences of all this on reconstruction, identity-formation, and nation-building. Is that an argument for, or against, regime change in 2003?
http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2008/03/how_did_i_get_iraq_wrong_9.html
so good that I quoted the whole thing :-)

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/the_chat_room/2008/03/sifting_through_five_years_of_war.single.html
extremely interesting discussion b/w readers of the above piece with Kanan Makiya

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David Berger (RED DAVE) May 22, 2013 at 8:49 am

KANAN MAKIYA: I know that I got many things wrong in the run-up to the 2003 war, but, in spite of everything, I still do not know how to regret wanting to knock down the walls of the great concentration camp that was Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

DAVID BERGER: So Kanan Makiya gets everything wrong on Iraq, but we are still expected to believe that the US imperialist invasion, which cost somewhere between 400,000 and a million lives, on top of the US embargo, which cost half a million lives, on top of the Gulf War, on top of the Iran/Iraq War, plus the lies about weapons of mass destruction do not bring this man to “regret.”

If I want clowns, I’ll go to the circus.

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PatrickSMcNally May 21, 2013 at 8:21 am

Iraq in late 2002 clearly has a much greater resemblance to Yugoslavia in late 1999 than it does to Iraq in mid-1991. As far as Iraq in 1990-1 goes, Bush I had misled Saddam into thinking that the USA would have no stake in Kuwait (just as the USA in early 1950 had announced a defense perimeter which excluded Korea) and so made it easy for Saddam to invade Kuwait. The war of 1990-1 was neither a war for oil nor a war for Israel but was instead a final blow in the Cold War. It discredited Gorbachev’s attempts to achieve social democracy and detente while preserving the USSR in some form, led to the coup attempt against Gorbachev, and finally the open restoration of capitalism under Yeltsin. With all of this accomplished, Bush was not interested in playing regime change in Iraq. Saddam understood this, and the result was the mass-suppression of dissent carried out by Saddam in 1991.

The environment of 2002 was very different. Bush had made it clear that he was decided to get Saddam out. There was plenty of room for doing things in the way that Milosevic had been done. But the Bush administration was already resolved on going to war.

Regarding its likely impact on Syria, as people have already noted one of the reasons for the support of Asad by varying sectors is because many dread ending up as the next Iraq. If Saddam had been pushed out ala Milosevic then it is more likely that the swamp of Asad-supporters would have drained out a long time ago. Supporters of the Bush-war in Iraq share some responsibility for the fact that this has not occurred yet.

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Arthur May 21, 2013 at 5:27 pm

PSMcN I don’t understad your theory and it seems to unrelated to anything concrete to be worth trying to get to grips with.

I do agree that an “Iraq syndrome” is central to opposition to action against Assad. Indeed with a very small exception here, overwhelmingly opposition to action against Assad comes from people who either opposed or regret having supported action against Sadaam while people who supported action against Sadaam (ie not including who just thought it was all about WMDs) also support action against Assad.

If in some fantasy world Sadaam could have been removed more peacefully then of course in the same fantasy world Assad could be removed equally easily.

But there would be no demands for external intervention at all if people were not aware that is actually possible. Prior to Iraq the current Israeli policy of the US preferring the devil it knows could be taken for granted.

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PatrickSMcNally May 21, 2013 at 7:01 pm

By Asad-supporters I was of course referring to people within Syria, so that has nothing at all to do with an Iraq Syndrome. The latter only has relevance to understanding the cautious attitude of Obama.

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Arthur May 21, 2013 at 8:29 pm

Ok I agree that Obama’s attitude is related to “Iraq Syndrome”. Though I also think he’s deliberately following the traditional American practice of “exhausting all other alternatives” before doing the right thing, as described by Winston Churchill:

““We can always count on the Americans to do the right thing, after they have exhausted all the other possibilities.”

As for within Syria surely Assad’s supporters are worried about sectarian revenge rather than international intervention.

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Aaron Aarons May 22, 2013 at 1:27 am

So self-styled “leftist” Arthur Dent backs up his argument in support of direct imperialist military intervention in Syria by approvingly quoting praise by the leading imperialist politician of the first half of the twentieth century for the leading imperialist power of most of that century.

Do Arthur and his co-thinkers really agree that one “can always count on the Americans to do the right thing” either in Churchill’s time or in any other period? Do they share Churchill’s concept of what constitutes “the right thing”?

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Arthur May 22, 2013 at 3:26 pm

““We can always count on Aaron Aarons to say the right thing, after he has exhausted all the other possibilities.”

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PatrickSMcNally May 22, 2013 at 7:43 am

“worried about sectarian revenge”

Sure, and Iraq after 2003 (rather than Yugoslavia in 2000) is what would motivate such fears.

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Aaron Aarons May 22, 2013 at 11:25 am

My understanding, partly based from what I was reading and hearing at the time (in both imperialist and leftist media), is that sectarian violence didn’t really take off until several years after the U.S. invasion, and that most of the violence before that, and much of it even afterwards, was between the U.S.-dominated ‘Coalition of the Killing’ and various anti-occupation forces. I definitely recall that, at least during the first U.S. attack against Sunni Fallujah, there was active support for the defenders of Fallujah from much of the Shia population.

Maybe one day we will have hard evidence of the work of pro-occupation agent-provocateurs in fanning the flames of sectarian inter-communal conflict. But the work of the occupiers in encouraging Shia sectarianism in particular, and brutalizing the Sunni population, while also suppressing anti-occupation Shia, is pretty well established.

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Arthur May 22, 2013 at 12:48 pm

In case you missed it there were several years of major ethnic conflict when Yugoslavia broke up and NATO ended up having to occupy Bosnia to avert near genocidal Serbian fascist attempts to restore their domination over other groups (but delayed doing so for long enough for the West’s failure to defend muslims in Bosnia to become a major recruiting point for Al Qaeda).

Of course the minority sectarian regime in Syria fears sectarian revenge from the majority when it loses power. But it need not look at the fate of a similar minority regime in Iraq to know the danger is real. They know how they have ruled just as the Baathists did in Iraq.

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PatrickSMcNally May 22, 2013 at 2:40 pm

Those several years which you are speaking of had happened in the 1990s, at the same time that Iraq was under sanctions. The only issue here right now is over the comparison between Yugoslavia in 1999-2000 and Iraq in 2002-3. Nothing about Bosnia in the 1990s contradicts the point that Saddam Hussein could have been turned out of power in the way that Milosevich had been, without an invasion and occupation of Iraq and with just as much “democracy” accruing to Iraq as did eventually appear in some form.

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Arthur May 22, 2013 at 3:20 pm

Do you really believe that Milosevic losing power and subsequently being tried as an international war criminal in 2000 was unrelated to NATO military intervention in 1999? Fascinating, but not worth responding to.

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Aaron Aarons May 23, 2013 at 12:31 am

Milosevic was tried by a court set up by the real criminals, NATO, who excluded their own criminal acts against Yugoslavia from consideration by their court. They never had a case against him, and he died in captivity while rather effectively defending himself, despite the limitations imposed on him by the court.

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PatrickSMcNally May 22, 2013 at 9:21 am

According to the transcript of talks between George W. Bush and Jose Maria Aznar on February 22, 2003, Bush has stated:

“The Egyptians are speaking to Saddam Hussein. It seems he’s indicated he would be prepared to go into exile if he’s allowed to take $1 billion and all the information he wants about weapons of mass detruction.”

Aznar asked whether Saddam could really leave. Bush’s recorded answer was:

“Yes, that possibility exists. Or he might even be assassinated.”

Bush and the neocons had resolved to make this be something that would commit the USA to a long-term occupation, unlike Yugoslavia in 2000. Hence the determination to immediately occupy Iraq when the signals were that things could have been resolved differently.

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Arthur May 22, 2013 at 12:33 pm

Earlier in this thread you expressed the same sentiment:

” Iraq would have been better off if Saddam Hussein had simply been forced from office quietly, as was already about to happen before Bush rushed in at the last minute to keep the war on.”

http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=7703#comment-48354

I replied then:

“imply removing Sadaam from office implies maintaining the Baathist regime or some similar Sunni dictatorship intact.

That was the preference of the overwhelming majority of the US foreign policy establishment. There were lots of people with a fundamentally leftist political outlook who had stupid misconceptions about Iraq and US motivations (including the belief that the US would in fact just impose another dictator, which was actively assisted by a US deception campaign to reassure Baathists that losing Sadaam would not be the end of their rule).

But actually WANTING to retain the regime in the interests of “stability” and just dispose of a particularly malelovent individual clearly refects a right-wing hostility to democratic revolution (way to the right of George W Bush and no better than his father for example).

What’s the point of pretending that you support revolution when you openly declare that you just want a kinder Tsar? This is why people with these kinds of arguments against the Iraq war are called “pseudo-left” as opposed to those leftists who just didn’t understand what was going on.”

You did not respond further.

Simply repeating yourself instead of actually reading, thinking and responding ends up sounding like a robot (eg “Davi Berger (Red Dave)”) and will not maintain engagement.

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PatrickSMcNally May 22, 2013 at 1:13 pm

Just disposing of a particularly malevolent individual is about all that has been accomplished anyway. How has the outcome in Iraq been more democratic than that in Yugoslavia? What evidence is there that an outcome analogous to Yugoslavia was impossible or even unlikely without an invasion and occupation of Iraq? You haven’t provided any evidence except long-drawn assertions similar to what Jeanne Kirkpatrick and others used to push. Kirkpatrick et al maintained that something like the relatively peaceful restoration of capitalism which Gorbachev & Yeltsin carried out was impossible in eastern Europe. In contrast, dictators like Suharto, Pinochet, Marcos et al were all seen as moving towards freedom in a more natural way. Your attempts to argue that an invasion of Iraq was somehow necessary are based upon the same type of logic which Kirkpatrick to promote.

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Arthur May 22, 2013 at 2:57 pm

1. As I mentioned, there was also extnsive militay intervention in Yugoslavia. The Yugoslav wars lasted about as long (1991-1999) as the war in Iraq (2003-2111) and did not end without NATO intervention (with more than 120,000 killed). Foreign supervision of the government of Bosnia still continues and nominally still continues for Kosova (in practive independent since 2008) both periods substantially longer than the US military occupation of Iraq. The pseudoleft strongly opposed intervention then too, with such lack of impact that you have apparantly forgotton.

2. There is no comparison between the fascism in Yugoslavia and that in Iraq. Iraq has a long way to go before it will reach even Balkan standards.

3. Evidence that change in Iraq like Yugoslavia was not possible without invasion and occupation is provided by:

a) The fact that it was not possible in without invasion and occupation in Yugoslavia (although after extensive bombing the Serb regime had the good sense not to resist the occupation of territory it had been fighting for).

b) The experience in Iraq when Shia and Kurds were massacred in large numbers after the regime was forced out of Kuwait.

c) Current experience in Syria where millions are already displaced and getting towards 100,000 killed.

4. Your complaint was that instead of just removing a particularly malevolent individual they went to war. The war smashed the entire regime and established free elections.

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PatrickSMcNally May 23, 2013 at 8:18 am

“established free elections.”

In the weels before the invasion Iraq had promised to hold elections while also allowing 2000 FBI agents to scour the whole country for WMDs, along with the attempts to negotiate a removal of Saddam. Sure, that was obviously an attempt by the Ba’athist Party to hold onto whatever it could. But there’s no reason to believe that the outcome would necessarily have been any less “democratic” than what exists in Iraq today. The same kind of “Iraqi democracy” that exists today (insofar as that is not just a fraud) could have been attainable without the prolonged war.

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Arthur May 23, 2013 at 9:53 am

The “prolonged war” consisted precisely in the efforts by Baathists and islamo-fascists to prevent the Iraqi people choosing their government though free elections.

The reason to believe the outcome would have been “less democratic” if held by the Baathists as that they were a fascist party that killed their opponents and won electioins almost unanimously. The many elections since the very short war in which they thrown out of government have been fully competitive.

You ought to know at least that much. The reason you have to present such a preposterous proposition as Baathist elections as a solution is that in the entire 10 years since the war you have never actually had to argue a case. There were never any teach-ins etc from the “anti-war movement” so all you know about Iraq is that you opposed the war.

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PatrickSMcNally May 23, 2013 at 10:46 am

What you call “islamo-fascists” had been enemies of the Ba’athists prior to the US invasion. It was only the invasion and occupation of Iraq which created the circumstances where some former Ba’athists may have aligned with Islamists. If the alternative option of pushing for elections and the abdication of Saddam short of ivasion had been followed then the Islamists would have been supporting this to about the same degree that they are now supporting calls for “democracy” in Syria.

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Arthur May 23, 2013 at 11:51 am

Most islamists do support elections as do most other conservatives and reactionaries these days. Islamo-fascists, like other fascists, violently oppose elections. In their case, specifically as an infidel usurpation against the will of God as represented by themselves. This includes Al Qaeda in Iraq which relied on Baathist logistics for its mass murder campaign in Iraq and its offshoot, Jabhat Al Nusra in Syria.

“Pushing for elections” against Baathists and islamo-fascists basically means killing them.

But the language is quintessentially both liberal and pseudo-left. Always “pushing for” things. Never fighting.

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Aaron Aarons May 30, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Arthur Dent writes:

“Pushing for elections” against Baathists and islamo-fascists basically means killing them.

Ulrike Meinhof might have responded, “Pushing for feeding and housing the world’s poor majority against a bourgeoisie that can and do buy elections or the winners of elections means killing them.” But, even if one doesn’t choose to emulate the methods of the Red Army Fraction and other such groups, what it does mean is that winning elections doesn’t confer any legitimacy on the winners that socialists, communists or anarchists are bound to respect.

Or perhaps Messrs. Dent, Muldowney, Kerr, et al., would like to state their positions on the Bolsheviks’ dissolution of the Constituent Assembly in 1918, on the Communist Party of Peru M-L‘s attempts to prevent elections and overthrow Peru’s elected bourgeois governments in the 1980’s, or the Communist Party of India (Maoist)s’ ongoing war against the Indian state and its elected governments.

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David Berger (RED DAVE) May 23, 2013 at 12:04 am

Let me repeat and clarity the question I have sort of asked Arthur Dent and Bill Kerr before. The question is relevant because part of being a Leftist is action. So:

Since you two support the US invasion and Occupation of Iraq, including the bombing of Baghdad, did either you ever march in or organize a demo supporting the US in Iraq? Do/did you have the courage of your convictions? Or do you just post on the Internet?

And since we’re asking questions, do either of you support the US invasion and Occupation of Afghanistan?

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Bill Kerr May 23, 2013 at 9:57 pm

the nature of Baath fascism:

I think this has to be studied. Red Blob and Brian S cited opinion polls as evidence that democracy was barely existent in Iraq. But Iraq was a giant torture chamber ruled by fear before the US invasion. Those negative opinion polls represent a giant improvement on the previous situation.

How do we interpret the Baath secret box ritual?

“The number of victims are not as important as the psychological atmosphere constantly being invoked … Numbers do not capture the quality of death that remains the main issue for those still alive. … The pattern is for agents to pick up someone from work, or at night from his house. No explanations are proffered as there would be in an official killing. Unlike Central American “disappearances” in which the state denies complicity, the Baath gives the event a macabre twist. What one assumes to be the corpse is brought back weeks or maybe months later and delivered to the head of the family in a sealed box. A death certificate is produced for signature to the effect that the person has died in a fire, swimming or some other accident. Someone is allowed to accompany police and box for a ceremony, but at no time is he or she permitted to see the corpse. The cost of proceedings is demanded in advance, and the whole thing is over within hours of the first knock on the door. (pp. 63-4. Republic of Fear)

Such practices had the aim of eliminating any internal dissent through which an external imperialism could use as a lever to overthrow Saddam (as imperialism had used internal dissent to overthrow Allende, referred to by Saddam in a 1974 speech). It was not only sadism, it was sadism with a very clear political intent.

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Pham Binh May 24, 2013 at 8:32 pm

I’ll post a few remarks on the Iraq debate here since byork wants to discuss this with me and I’m tired of pseudos trying to re-litigate Iraq 2002-2003 in Syria threads to hide their political bankruptcy on what is actually going on now in Syria.

What the pseudolefts and the pseudolefts-in-reverse both miss in Iraq/Syria debates is the people.

In Iraq 2002-2003 there was no Arab Spring popular movement rising up, being cut down by Hussein, and then asking for imperialists to help them smash the fascists as in Syria today. The Bush administration didn’t give a rat’s ass about the Iraqi people; I remember shortly after the occupation began occupying forces were selling water to thirsty Iraqis, and Jay Garner got canned and replaced by Paul Bremer for daring to suggest that Iraq could and should have a state-run health care system. The whole conduct of the occupation betrayed America’s hostility to the Iraqi people, and when they protested peacefully over generally minor grievance (in Fallujah 2003 their demand was for U.S. forces to leave the school building they took over, not Iraq as a whole) they were cut down with American rather than Ba’athist bullets.

Fascist bullets feel the same as imperialist bullets last time I checked. The fact that eventually after a decade of tremendous strife, bloodshed, and calamity the Iraqis (the ones who survived or didn’t flee) ended up with some half-assed gangster Banana Republic minus the banana companies is a pathetic excuse for a retroactive justification.

If the U.S. had not butchered Iraq, the Arab Spring would have swept into the country and blocked Iran’s tyrants from sending so many guns and men to their man Assad. Hussein would’ve been executed or killed as a criminal like Ghadafi rather than die a Sunni martyr (you know there’s a Saddam Hussein brigade in Syria?); thanks to the aftermath of the occupation, the Arab Spring protests in Iraq up until recently were tiny and heavily marred by anti-Shia sectarianism rather than anti-sectarian nationalism as in Syria.

All that being said, the pseudos-in-reverse would have a point if Bush Sr. had enforced no-fly zones during the 1991 uprising in which Hussein lost control of 14/18 governates. The pseudos like Workers World used to criticize Bush’s decision to let Hussein fly helicopters into the NFZs to crush the revolution but I guess they’ve changed their minds seeing their line on Libya and Syria now. If Bush Sr. had sent U.S. troops across the Kuwaiti border to work with rather than against the uprising, then that would have been the actual realization of the fantasy that Arthur, Kerr, Patrick Muldowney, and others in this thread have about the 2003 invasion and occupation.

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byork May 24, 2013 at 9:26 pm

It was an outrage that Bush sr didn’t support militarily the Iraqi people when they rose up immediately after the Gulf War. He left them to the mercy of Saddam’s superior forces. If you really accept that that US policy was wrong, then how or why would leftists oppose Bush jr when he did actually support the Iraqi people (by which I mean their desire to be rid of the fascist regime and to have some form of basic democracy, the ability to elect government)? It seems like a dogmatic formula is imposed whereby whatever the US does, it must be wrong. This outlook takes the quasi-religious mantra of “US imperialism is the number one enemy – everything it does is geared to world domination”. No need to think beyond that. The Truth has been found – just slot reality into it. The US decision-makers could not possibly change their perception of US interests along the lines expressed by Rice in 2005 and Bush jr earlier. Its historic defeat at the hands of the Vietnamese could not possibly have changed anything – neither could the wake-up call on 11 September 2001. ‘All that is solid… remains solid’, according to this weird bastardisation of a left-wing outlook. And, following from this, of course, the US ‘butchered’ Iraq – the remnant fascists and jihadists who opposed the advent of rudimentary democracy were not at all responsible. The US made them do it. They preferred – and still prefer – the bombing of market-places to participation in parliamentary elections. They, and a minority of Shia violent sectarians, were the butchers. And they were largely defeated – but they will continue to cause havoc and misery because it needs no mass base to plant a deadly bomb in a market-place. In the real world, the vindication for the war occurs each and every time the Iraqis freely go to the polls, usually around twelve million at a time. To the pseudo-left, this could not possibly have had any influence on the people in neighbouring countries watching it on TV or via the Internet. People in their 30s in Libya and Egypt etc who had never known a free and fair election could not possibly have looked at the Iraqis lined up at the polls – courageously defying jihadist threats to bomb polling places – and thought ‘If they can have that, then so can we!’ Of course not. Why? Because “US imperialism seeks world domination and is the number one enemy”. Meanwhile, as the Iraqi people continue along a very difficult path, those who said that the US would never allow democratic elections to take place but would merely replace Saddam with a US puppet will seize on every negative, every problem (big and small) to justify their opposition to the war. You can be sure of one thing: they will do the same with Syria, when the regime is overthrown there and the instability of building democracy follows.

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Pham Binh May 24, 2013 at 11:42 pm

The Iraqi masses reacted cautiously to the invaders at first because their intentions were unclear and people hoped that U.S. would act as liberators rather than occupiers. The armed resistance to the U.S. began only after peaceful demonstrators were repeatedly gunned down. The market bombings you decry were overawed by the complete destruction of Fallujah and other devastating U.S. operations you conveniently ignore.

How many pro-occupation demonstrations were there in Iraq in 2002-2012? Why do no Sunnis or Shias wave pictures of Bush Jr at rallies? Because no one views him as a liberator or the invasion as a progressive act. It was the single most catastrophic event in Iraqi history.

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byork May 25, 2013 at 12:13 am

The Iraqi masses reacted cautiously at first because they had lived in fear for decades and could not be sure that the Ba’athists were routed. Did masses (repeat: masses) of Germans and Italians wave portraits of Churchill, Stalin, Roosevelt following the liberation of their countries in the Second World War? It’s a trivial point you’re making about the waving of photos. The catastrophe in Iraq was for the Ba’ath regime. Did the “armed resistance” support/defend the holding of the referendum to determine a new constitution for Iraq? Did it support elections based on multi-party competition? Who was it anyway? Why did it – and why does it – have so little support? I was assured a few years ago that there was an ’embryonic national liberation movement’ in Iraq. You seem to be suggesting it was more than embryonic. I don’t ignore at all the negative features arising from an imperialist army siding with the people to oust a fascist regime but you ignore the fact that democratic elections did follow from the invasion and that the Iraqi people supported them directly via their participation by the millions each time. Isn’t this what you’d like to see in Syria?

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PatrickSMcNally May 25, 2013 at 6:14 am

Masses of Germans did not rush to greet the Allies because they had been promised living space as a result of a drive to the east that would claim lands from the subhuman Slavs. The Iraqi masses were not led to expect any such imperial benefits from Saddam and so the comparison is false.

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Red Blob May 25, 2013 at 6:55 am

byork “Did masses (repeat masses) of Germans and Italians wave portraits…..following the liberation of their countries in the second world war?”
Well pretty well yes they did ok portraits might have been in short supply but heres a film clip showing the citizens of Rome greeting the allied armies one person is waving a Union Jack and at the end people are holding up news papers with headlines greeting the liberating troops
http://www.criticalpast.com/video/65675038196_General-Alexander_8th-Army-tanks_Allied-soldiers_entering-Rome

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Red Blob May 25, 2013 at 7:10 am

News flash biggest danger to US troops entering Rome is being hit by flowers thrown by massive welcoming crowds
http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/june/5/newsid_3547000/3547329.stm

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byork May 25, 2013 at 6:18 pm

Red Blob, the Iraqis had been betrayed by the US in 1991 when the Arabs and Kurds launched their Intifada/National Uprising against the Ba’ath regime. The US under Bush senior had indicated it would support the uprising to overthrow the regime but it betrayed the people. The mass-based uprising that captured the majority of provinces was put down by the usual fascistic methods (the same methods we see today in Syria). Sixty to 100 thousand people were killed and two million refugees created as a result of those two months of betrayal and massacre. I think this also explains why large numbers of Iraqis didn’t line the streets to greet their liberators in 2003. They did not trust them and feared another betrayal. The betrayal and its murderous consequences were very much in living memory in 2003 and to be betrayed against would not just mean a feeling of personal disappointment but another massacre. That betrayal was not repeated on this occasion – I would have thought left-wingers would be glad it wasn’t repeated. (Though I understand you now support the NFZs that were established in 1991 and 1992, acts of invasion designed to protect the Kurds and sourthern Shia in particular).

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Red Blob May 25, 2013 at 11:17 pm

byork you certainly have a debating style that at best is described as interesting
You indicate that Italians did not celebrate liberation.
I provide links to show that people in Rome gathered in massive numbers to welcome the allied troops.
You then post a ‘reply’ that makes no mention of your mistaken historical reference but goes back to your original argument about why the Shia from past experience would be very distrustful of US intentions and you end with an assertion that I now support the NFZ established over Iraq.
Just to be clear I think that the Northern NFZ is supportable because Kurdish people have said that it saved lives and I am happy to bow to their better judgment.
The southern NFZ on the other hand I don’t think were supportable because the Shia didn’t have a Pesh Merga to defend themselves on the ground and were at the mercy of Saddams ground troops which the US helped facilitated in their murderous campaign against people of the south. Plus the US used the NFZ to impede civilian air traffic and as a cover to increase attacks on Iraq installations claiming that they were coming under increased Iraqi hostile actions when in fact they were coming under decreased hostile actions.
At the time I did not support the Northern NFZ because I thought that it was just a prelude to yet another betrayal of the Kurdish people and I was confused by Barzani’s alliance with Saddam during the Kurdish civil war. I couldn’t see why I should support a NFZ against Saddam when the major Kurdish leadership were prepared to ally themselves with him. Since then I have reconsidered my no support of the northern NFZ and have admitted that it was a mistake not to support it

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byork May 25, 2013 at 11:32 pm

Red Blob, I asked a question, as part of which I also described as a trivialisation on Binh’s part (ie, trivilisation in that the absence of masses of people greeting the invaders does not tell us anything much about the justice or otherwise of the war nor, in the Iraq context, of its support or otherwise among the people). Of course, you are right that Italians in Rome welcomed the troops of liberation. I should have known this as a fact, as I have read about the war against Italian fascism. I then offered an explanation as to why I think it makes sense that the Iraqis would not have greeted their US-led liberators/allies in the same way that the Italians did. We were not simply talking about Rome in 1944. In two words: the Iraqis felt fear and mistrust. Had the Italians been betrayed ten years earlier by the Allies in the same way that the Iraqis were, at such a terrible human cost, then I doubt whether so many flowers would have been thrown.

Pham Binh May 25, 2013 at 11:01 am

An army that sides with the people does not shoot the people. That is what you and the self-styled anti-fascists in this thread ignore.

Sure I’d like to see elections in Syria. They won’t come about from a U.S. invasion because the U.S. learned from the Iraq experience to never dismantle a state like that again and they want the regime in Damascus intact. Furthermore, Assad will be conducting elections in 2014. Am I supposed to be impressed or supportive because the turnout will probably number in the millions?

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byork May 25, 2013 at 6:42 pm

The US military in Iraq certainly engaged in war crimes – it is not a people’s army but an imperialist one. Abu Ghraib is a well known example. The British and Soviet engaged in war crimes on occasions in WW2 – as did Lincoln’s troops in the war against slavery in the 1860s. The NLF was not pure in this regard either. The justice in those wars is not invalidated by the instances of war crimes, and you can be sure the reactionaries will use such crimes to argue against anti-fascist wars.

As for elections, there were elections in Iraq too, under Saddam Hussein and he received around 98% of the vote. The genuine elections that have occured since his overthrow and the dismantling of his state apparatus – an essential requirement – have resulted in a very different outcome because so many parties and groupings are free to compete for election. That is why you are supposed to be impressed – and that is the kind of election that will be held in Syria in the (hopefully) near future. If this happens due to imperialist interference (eg, directly arming the rebels) or invasion (NATO/US/etc military in the skies or on the ground) on the side of the people, the outcome will be no less valid or liberating for the Syrian people.

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David Berger (RED DAVE) May 25, 2013 at 8:01 pm

BYORK: The US military in Iraq certainly engaged in war crimes … .

DAVID BERGER: No, dude. The entire war was a war crime. From Bush / Cheney / Powell / Rice / Clinton / Biden / Kerry on down to every member of Congress who voted for the war, or voted subsequently to fund the war (Obama), it was all a war crime.

And you and your ilk support it.

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Bill Kerr May 25, 2013 at 8:58 am

Pham Binh:
> It was the single most catastrophic event in Iraqi history

I’m wondering why you think you know and can judge Iraqi history better than say, Kanan Makiya?

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Pham Binh May 25, 2013 at 10:51 am

Someone should do a Gallup poll in Iraq on it to settle the matter. The numbers someone posted in this thread polls asking better/worse off after the invasion and the numbers weren’t overwhelming either way.

Regardless, it doesn’t change the fact that no one in Iraq in 2002-2003 asked for help to smash the regime and that there were never and still to this day aren’t any pro-occupation/anti-withdrawal demonstrations. Maybe Makiya can make some history by organizing the first one.

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Brian S. May 25, 2013 at 11:44 am

From Red Blob and myself last month: http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=7703
Red Blob:
” Now we cant ask every Iraqi but in 2011 Zogby Research Services asked a statistically significant number the following question.
“Do you think that the Iraqi people are better/worse off than they were before American forces entered their country” The whole study is worth a read http://aai.3cdn.net/2212d2d41f760d327e_fxm6vtlg7.pdf
Brian S:
“what a damning indictment of this whole imperialist adventure the figures provide: “Overall, Iraqis do not identify any area of life has been positively impacted since the United States entered Iraq.”
Only 30% think they are better off since the invasion; only 33%feel they have more “political freedom”; only 16% feel that “Government” has improved. Only 4% think the Iraqi people were “the main beneficiaries” of the war!
And what’s the legacy – widespread disillsonment with democracy (the supposed name of the game) with only 21% feeling that its both desirable and attainable.”

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Pham Binh May 25, 2013 at 1:52 pm

They’ll grasp at any straw to avoid re-thinking their position. Hence why I call them pseudos-in-reverse. Same error, just backwards.

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Arthur May 25, 2013 at 12:07 pm

This is getting really tedious. For the third time:

“I don’t think any opinion polls have asked Iraqis whether it was worth it since about 2006 (a low point). From 2004 to 2006 the question was regularly asked in more or less this form:

“Thinking about any hardships you might have suffered since the US-Britain invasion, do you personally think that ousting Saddam Hussein was worth it or not?”

Answers in that period ranged from about 60% to 77% saying it was worth it (much more among Shia and Kurds, much less among Sunnis).

Needless to say far more people agree with Brian’s view outside Iraq.”

Brian complained that I was “side-stepping” his argument and I replied:

“The argument I responded to was as follows:

” But who had the right to decide when, how, at what cost, and in what form that “something better” would be sought? Look at the opinion polls referred to above and see what conclusion the Iraqi people have drawn.”

I responded head on by pointing out that this precise issue had been put to Iraqis in the same polls you {Brian and Red Blob} cited that cofirmed conditions had got worse and they consistently reported large majorities (60% to 77%) explicitly saying that despite this it was worth it.

That isn’t side-stepping, your argument but “demolishing” it.”

“To repeat the actual numbers who said it was worth it were consistently between 60% and 77% inside Iraq. Opponents of the war simply blotted this fact out of their minds by instead focusing on the fact that conditions had got dramatically worse since the invasion and people said so. (Sadaam was only killing active opponents when he was in power. The “resistance” were just massacring people in markets and schools on a much larger scale).

In joining this discussion Pham Binh needs to read right through the (very long) thread. That isn’t the same as having seen the posts go by while not partiipating.

Brian needs to stop just repeating arguments that have been conclusively demolished.

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Pham Binh May 25, 2013 at 1:51 pm

“In joining this discussion Pham Binh needs to read right through the (very long) thread. That isn’t the same as having seen the posts go by while not partiipating.”

I’ve monitoring and approving/rejecting the comments one by one. Now that’s tedious.

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Arthur May 25, 2013 at 2:31 pm

That isn’t even grasping at a straw. You asked a question that had already been repeatedly and authoritatively answered. The answer contradicts everything you think you know about Iraq. So instead of trying to prove the answer wrong you simply ignore it.

That is exactly how the pseudoleft always behaved over Iraq and exactly how they continue to behave over Syria.

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David Berger (RED DAVE) May 25, 2013 at 3:30 pm

Much as I often disagree with Pham Binh, he and others, myself included, have demonstrated over and over again your ideas on Iraq constitute a surrender to the ideology and politics of imperialism.

You and your ilk are no socialists. And as to that term “pseudoleft,” I’m not fond of it, but it sure works as a label for you. It’s at least as cool as “state department socialist,” but since you don’t work for the US Department of State, it will work just fine.

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David Berger (RED DAVE) May 25, 2013 at 3:06 pm

I love it: You consider an opinion poll taken by imperialist mass murderers while they are militarily occupying a country that they have bombed, to be a valid political measure.

(1) Any Iraqis who killed US forces, especially including the Blackwater mercenaries, performed legitimate acts of resistance against the invaders.

(2) Any US official who contrived this invasion, including members of Congress who voted for it, or who voted to implement or support the US forces in Iraq, is a war criminal.

(3) Any deaths in combat, or civilian deaths, including in the civil war, during or after the US invasion, to this date, are basically the responsibility of the US.

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Brian S. May 26, 2013 at 8:43 am

Yes, Arthur, I can see how tedious it must be to deliver your brilliant “demolitions” only to go unappreciated. However on the matter of reading threads: I note that in your excerpting of the thread you omit reference to my immediately subsequent post:
“Brian S. April 27, 2013 at 7:25 pm
The 2003 poll you are referring to was carried out only in Baghdad. The 2006 poll was national but looks anomalous – it reports a 77% “worth it” rating for the invasion, but it also reports 47% of respondents being in favour of attacks on coalition troops. Indeed another survey by the same organisation nine months later found 61% in favour of such attacks.
No other poll found this sort of level of support for the invasion. The highest figure agreeing that the invasion was “Right” to some degree or other in other polls carried out from 2004 to 2008 never exceeded 49% And other questions revealed a deep and widespread distrust (or hostility) towards the occupation.
But what is important here is not the ups and downs of particular polls, but the conclusions that the Iraqi people have come to at the end: 65% feeling that they are no better off than before the invasion. Even more damning in my view is this:
Question: Who benefited the most from the war in Iraq? (respondents could choose 2)
The US: 48% Iran 54% Iraqi elites 40% al-Qaeda 27% Iraqi people 4%
That’s the real bottom line of imperialist-imposed “democratisation” .
Much of the rest of the thread consists of you ignoring these points and just repeating your mantra of “large majorities (60% to 77%) explicitly saying that it was worth it” – figures which you never provide a source for – and then changing the subject.

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Pham Binh May 26, 2013 at 9:28 am

And they wonder why they haven’t convinced a single person or organization to shift to their position in an entire decade. Again, pathetic.

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Arthur May 26, 2013 at 10:08 am

I replied to your claim that I had relied on some 2003 survey in Baghdad but explaining that I had not and the source WAS THE SUREYS YOU AND RED BLOB QUOTED.

Those surveys ALL show that large majorities felt worse off since the invasion AND that large majorties said IT WAS WORTH IT.

As I have pointed out several times it is obvious that the mass murder attacks and wholesale destruction of infrastructure by the Baathists and islamo-fascists was qualitatively worse than the pre-war situation in which the regime was more selectively killing people it believed were likely to rise against it.

Likewise it is ovious that the famine and civil war in the Russia was a qualitatively worse situation than pre-revolution and that the situation in Syria is far worse for the people being massacred by the regime than before the revolution.

You can repeat yourselves and congratulate each other as much as you like but you are left stuck with the simple fact that the Iraqis believe it was worth overthrowing the despite the worst that the murderous “resistance” you are STILL cheering could do to them.

AGAIN, THE SOURCE WAS THE SAME SURVEYS YOU QUOTED AND WHICH YOU QUOTED BLINDLY.

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Brian S. May 26, 2013 at 11:11 am

Small problem Arthur: Red Blob only linked to the 2011 poll (the one we keep pointing out is most important because it provides something of a verdict on the whole process, and the one which you keep ignoring); I provided a conspectus of several polls and noted that “The highest figure agreeing that the invasion was “Right” to some degree or other in other polls carried out from 2004 to 2008 never exceeded 49%
So you can’t have used the polls I used for the figures you quoted – they aren’t there. Try again.

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Arthur May 26, 2013 at 11:56 am

Will provide the links and quotes. Can’t do it tonite.

Arthur May 26, 2013 at 12:25 pm

Meanwhile here’s a link from 2006 (height of mass murders) which also mentions the decline from earlier polls.

As I mentioned:

““I don’t think any opinion polls have asked Iraqis whether it was worth it since about 2006 (a low point). From 2004 to 2006 the question was regularly asked in more or less this form:”

“Thinking about any hardships you might have suffered since the US-Britain invasion, do you personally think that ousting Saddam Hussein was worth it or not?

That exact wording can be found on page 15 (pdf 17).

Accompanying it is the following, exactly as I said:

“A majority of Iraqis (61%) still believe that ousting Saddam Hussein was worth the hardships they might have suffered, however this is down sharply from the 77 percent who said this in January. Among Shias, the majority saying that was worth it has slipped from 98 percent to 75 percent, while among the Kurds it has dropped from 91 percent to 81 percent; the minorities
saying it was not worth it has gone up to 23 percent among Shias and 18
percent among Kurds. The numberof Sunnis saying it was not worth it has drifted upward from 83 percent to 89 percent, with only 11 percent saying that it was worth it. However it should be noted that the current level of belief that Saddam’s ouster was worth the hardships is more consistent with previous
findings by Gallup in 2004. The January 2006 finding of 77% may have been influenced by optimism over the election in December 2005.”

http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/pdf/sep06/Iraq_Sep06_rpt.pdf

As you can see the SAME polls ALSO shows that the people who thought it was worth it said that things had got worse EXACTLY AS I SAID.

Actually I probably won’t bother looking up other details. Above is enough for anyone who actually thinks about it to understand why people subject to mass murder attacks would BOTH say they were worse off AND that it was worth it to get the mass murderers out of power.

Arthur May 26, 2013 at 12:36 pm

I cannot express the basic issue more clearly than this:

“Secondly, to repudiate revolutions that lead to uncertainty, chaos, hardship, economic dislocation, bloodshed, and increased criminality because the state is smashed is to repudiate revolution as such. While Marx saw revolutions as the locomotive of history, AWL seems to see them as little more than trainwrecks.

In the space of two years, the Russian revolution of 1917 saw the working class nearly destroyed by famine, disease, and economic collapse; the soviet government cut rations for workers to 300 calories per day in 1918; 14 foreign armies invaded and three White armies formed to fight the new government. Economic collapse in the form of de-industrialization was one of the practical consequences of putting all power into the hands of worker and peasant soviets. In material terms, the masses were worse off under soviet rule than under both the Provisional Government and the Tsar.

Would AWL have opposed “all power to the soviets” as a slogan in 1917 on the same basis as it opposes “victory to the Syrian opposition” in 2013? If so, AWL is consistently anti-revolutionary; if not, AWL is anti-revolutionary on an arbitrary, case-by-case basis.”

Pham Binh “No Third Camp in Syria” May 6, 2013
http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=8683

Bill Kerr May 25, 2013 at 8:35 pm

Binh,

You made what I thought was an extraordinarily exaggerated statement, that the US invasion was ” the single most catastrophic event in Iraqi history”.

I asked you to justify that. I am currently reading a history of Iraq written by Kanan Makiya (“Republic of Fear”). I should have done such reading earlier. But anyway, given this is the tenth anniversary of the war and your site has provided an opportunity for this discussion (thank you) I thought I should do some more study. Some aspects of arthur’s analysis, which I did accept 10 years ago, have troubled me.

Your answer to my question starts like this:
> Someone should do a Gallup poll in Iraq on it to settle the matter …

This is the first time I’ve ever heard someone suggest that a historical question could be decided by a Gallup poll. Please don’t be so ridiculous. For example, it’s estimated that 200,000 to 300,000 Iraqis died in the Iraq-Iran war. Another 200,000 to 300,000 Iraqis have been dumped into Iran by Saddam. Thousands of Kurds have been massacred etc. etc.

None of these people would have be able to cast an opinion in a Gallup poll would they?

I don’t see how you can justify your statement (” the single most catastrophic event in Iraqi history”) without any reference to historical events in Iraq.

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Pham Binh May 25, 2013 at 9:05 pm

How many Iraqis do you think died as a result of the invasion, occupation, and ensuing civil war?

Iraq has a long history, but the violence, chaos, and social convulsions wrought by the invasion are without equal in their history. If you have better (really worse) examples, let’s hear them.

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Bill Kerr May 25, 2013 at 9:51 pm

How many Iraqis do you think died as a result of the invasion, occupation, and ensuing civil war?

Not sure but did have a look at the wikipedia page which does appear to be well documented.
eg.
John Tirman, who commissioned and directed the funding for the 2nd Lancet study,[192] and has reviewed various data and methodologies[193][194] has estimated “the number of war-related dead to be at least 600,000 and possibly as much as one million”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casualties_of_the_Iraq_War#Overview._Iraqi_death_estimates_by_source

Iraq has a long history, but the violence, chaos, and social convulsions wrought by the invasion are without equal in their history. If you have better (really worse) examples, let’s hear them

I think by now if you had actually read some Iraqi history you would have cited your sources or referred to it in some meaningful way. My answer is that to live in a republic of fear from 1968-2003 (Baath Party rule, equivalent to living under Nazi rule) is the worst event in Iraqi history. Suggest you read Makiya’s book about this.

The only way I can really interpret your various comments (including your references to fascism not being different to imperialism) is that you think it is preferable to live in a relatively stable society under fascist rule than a highly unstable, costly and very imperfect democracy.

Arthur did quote some stats which do seem to indicate that the Iraqi people still think it was worth it to get rid of Saddam. Here: http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=7703#comment-51595 As far as I can see no one has refuted the figures he quotes.

I’ve also been influenced by Paul Berman’s book “Power and the Idealists”. I see it as one of those sorts of questions that the children of the generation that didn’t resist the Nazis in Germany and France had to ask themselves. What should have our parents have done? The answer which some of them came to wasn’t just to support the communists (because many of them didn’t like Stalin either). The answer they came to was that totalitarianism was different and much worse than bourgeois democracy and had to be resisted by whatever forces (including imperialism) were prepared to resist it. Hence they supported NATO intervention in Kosovo, the first Gulf war when Saddam occupied Kuwait etc.

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PatrickSMcNally May 25, 2013 at 10:12 pm

“totalitarianism was different and much worse than bourgeois democracy”

This is the type of concoction which that doctored term “totalitarianism” was devised to peddle. No one in their right mind would dispute that the fall of the Weimar Republic in favor of the Third Reich was a disaster, although the Weimar Republic was only bourgeois democracy. But the term “totalitarianism” was invented so that states like Saudi Arabia & Kuwait, which are said to have been the breeding grounds for 911-terrorists, could then be readily supported to the hilt with AWACS while insisting that the USA was not supporting “totalitarianism.” It’s not a question of whether you believe that Guatemala was better off with the bourgeois democracy of Jacobo Arbenz. It’s an issue of why anyone should look at Ronald Reagan & Donald Rumsfeld arming both Rios Montt & Saddam Hussein at one point, and then expect them to go waging war for democracy at another point. The traditional answer is that the USA does not arm “totalitarian” states which are much worse than whatever current dictator the USA may be fondling at the moment.

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Bill Kerr May 25, 2013 at 10:32 pm

PSMN:
> … the term “totalitarianism” was invented so that states like Saudi Arabia & Kuwait …

Hannah Arendt wrote a book, The Origins of Totalitarianism, following WW2

I wasn’t clear where the term originated from but just looked up wikipedia which provides this account:

The notion of “totalitarianism”; a “total” political power by state was formulated in 1923 by Giovanni Amendola who described Italian Fascism as a system fundamentally different from conventional dictatorships.[8] The term was later assigned a positive meaning in the writings of Giovanni Gentile, Italy’s most prominent philosopher and leading theorist of fascism. He used the term “totalitario” to refer to the structure and goals of the new state. The new state was to provide the “total representation of the nation and total guidance of national goals.”[9] He described totalitarianism as a society in which the ideology of the state had influence, if not power, over most of its citizens

This definition is consistent with life under Saddam (except it was power exercised through torture and fear of torture rather than influence) but of course you would need to read Makiya’s book Republic of Fear to understand the full, horrific scope of it.

PatrickSMcNally May 25, 2013 at 11:56 pm

Yes, if you like you can trace the term back to Giovanni. The fact is that very few historians today would really regard Mussolini’s Italy as “totalitarian” in the way that term is used. Mussolini was even overturned by opposition and it took an intervention by Hitler to set up a new government which Mussolini was nominally the head of. Goebbels was certainly not impressed by Mussolini’s brand of “totalitarianism.” Although Italian Fascists (the real name of the party) did use the term “totalitarian” most every history today would characterize Mussolini’s Italy as “authoritarian” and hence in the same camp as Saudi Arabia or Kuwait. There even was an Italian monarchy during Mussolini’s reign, which would generally be seen as running against the “totalitarian” model.

PatrickSMcNally May 25, 2013 at 9:47 pm

Let’s not forget that Saddam was supported in that Iraq-Iran War by people like Donald Rumsfeld. But the story goes that 2 decades later Rumsfeld et al had an epiphany which made them suddenly want to support freedom. Supposedly this epiphany was due to the 911-attacks, although Rumsfeld never showed any interest in overthrowing the monarchies of Saudi Arabi & Kuwait where the purported 911-terrorists are supposed to have come from.

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David Berger (RED DAVE) May 26, 2013 at 6:12 pm

ARTHUR: In the space of two years, the Russian revolution of 1917 saw the working class nearly destroyed by famine, disease, and economic collapse; the soviet government cut rations for workers to 300 calories per day in 1918; 14 foreign armies invaded and three White armies formed to fight the new government. Economic collapse in the form of de-industrialization was one of the practical consequences of putting all power into the hands of worker and peasant soviets. In material terms, the masses were worse off under soviet rule than under both the Provisional Government and the Tsar.

DAVID BERGER: Nomination for dumbest paragraph of the thread because: (1) it was the invading “foreign armies” that gave aid and comfort to the Whites; and (2) one of those “foreign armies” that helped to mess up the revolution was that of the USA; (3) you call yourself a socialist and you blame the collapse of the revolution on the soviets or … the revolution itself.

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Arthur May 25, 2013 at 12:33 pm

Of course “In Iraq 2002-2003 there was no Arab Spring popular movement rising up, being cut down by Hussein, and then asking for imperialists to help them smash the fascists as in Syria today.” The Iraqi uprising happened following the Kuwait war more than a decade earlier in 1991. They had already been cut down by Hussein, had already asked the imperialists to help them smash the fascists as in Syria today and the imperialists had already answered by giving the regime permission to use its helicopter gunships against them.

The reason there were no Arab spring protests in Iraq, but only pathetic imitations by a tiny minority is that they had already got what the other Arab countries are fighting for – overthrow of their tyranny and free elections.

The fantasy world in which the US is supposed to have “butchered Iraq” and thus prevented an Arab spring from overthrowing the regime exists solely in Pham Binh’s head. Not even in a link to the usual sites where Pham could find the same tripe that didn’t convince anybody at the time.

Perhaps the absence of links to support such wild assertions has something to do with the fact that looking them up would be a painful reminder that the sources would be exactly the same as the “usual suspects” dishing out the same tedious crap over Syria.

As Kanan Makiya pointed out “THE ARAB SPRING STARTED IN IRAQ”
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/07/opinion/sunday/the-arab-spring-started-in-iraq.html?pagewanted=all

BTW in reviewing the thread its also worth following the links

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Pham Binh May 25, 2013 at 1:54 pm

Problem: how many in the Arab world agree with him? Are there any organizations in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, or Syria who have issued statements hailing the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq as the beginning of the Arab Spring? I wish you luck in your quest to find such material. :)

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Arthur May 25, 2013 at 3:45 pm

Well you’ve already posted some here from “Occupied Kafranbel”.

Here’s a video with the poster:

“OBAMA’S PROCRASTINATION KILLS US:
WE MISS BUSH’S AUDACITY,
THE WORLD IS BETTER WITH AMERICA’S REPUBLICANS
Occupied Kafranbel 16 12 2011”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JhPNi7kpvU

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Pham Binh May 25, 2013 at 5:36 pm

They mistakenly think U.S. policy towards their revolution would be different under Bush. That’s hardly an endorsement of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. F for effort.

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Arthur May 25, 2013 at 6:20 pm

Mistakenly or otherwise, obviously they think US policy would be different under Bush BECAUSE of the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Equally obviously Bush, Condaleeza Rice et al DO advocate a different policy so what they think happens to be correct.

It’s just inconvenient for you so you don’t want to think about it.

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Pham Binh May 25, 2013 at 6:56 pm

But it doesn’t follow that they support said invasion. They certainly have rejected U.S. boots on the ground as did the Libyans. Ever wonder why?

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Aaron Aarons June 3, 2013 at 6:57 pm

I wonder how many of the men (I didn’t see any women or girls) in that crowd would have understood that English-language sign, especially with words like ‘audacity’ and ‘procrastination’ that somebody with limited English would be unlikely to know?

I and others I know often go to demonstrations of various kinds carrying signs that perhaps most people at the demo would not agree with. And that is in situations where most of these present do understand the languages (English or Spanish) that the signs are written in.

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Pham Binh June 3, 2013 at 11:31 pm

Kind of racist to assume Syrians have limited English skills.

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PatrickSMcNally June 4, 2013 at 7:28 am

Where did he assume anything? “I wonder” doesn’t sound like much of an assumption either way. Besides, how is it “racist” in any sense to inquire about someone’s knowledge of a foreign language? Would it be racist for me to admit that I don’t have any knowledge of Polish, despite my mother having come from Poland?

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David Berger (RED DAVE) May 25, 2013 at 10:53 am

I have been around the socialist and antiwar movements for a long. But I have rarely seen crap like this touted as the product of a socialist or some kind of a leftist perspective.

BILL KERR: I believe George W Bush when he says he was shocked, angry and sickened when WMDs were not discovered (p. 262) I also believe him when he says he planned for democracy in Iraq from the beginning. (p. 232).

DAVID BERGER: Why would anyone who calls themself a socialist believe George Bush on anything. I knew way before the Iraq War, that there were no weapons of mass destruction. Why? First of all, and most crucial, there was no evidence. Anyone believing that there was such evidence was delusional.

Secondly, Bush was demonstrated to be, before, after, during and up to now, a chronic liar about just about everything. And his Administration, from Cheney on down, consciously and deliberately used lies. A perfect example was Colin Powell. he knew quite well that the evidence he was presenting to the UN on weapons of mass destruction was phony. But he presented it anyway.

BILL KERR: But when the WMDs weren’t discovered it did mean that the two point rationale for the invasion became a one point rationale which in retrospect (from George W Bush’s perspective) may not have been a strong enough rationale for the invasion. The post 9/11 two points being:

1) Saddam has WMDs and will hand them to al Qaeda who will use them against the US homeland
2) Democracy in the Middle East is the best option for the future prospering of US imperialism (post 9/11, post end of the threat from the USSR etc.)

DAVID BERGER: What we are seeing here is a person who calls himself a socialist, or a leftist, or whatever, who, contrary to all political experience of the Left (consider the easiest cases: Wilson’s lies about WWI, LBJ’s lies about Vietnam and Reagan’s lies about Nicaragua, Bush Sr.’s lies about Panama and the Gulf War), contrary to this experience, believes George Bush! That is the dumbest shit I have read in a long time.

BILL KERR: I’m suggesting that Bush was neither particularly dumb (as the “left” argues) nor particularly smart (as arthur implies). I accept most of what he says on face value rather than peering into it for deeper interpretation simply because what he says is adequate based on my understanding of the conflict. It’s more like what patrick has suggested from time to time, that he muddled through.

DAVID BERGER: And I would suggest that your “understanding of the conflict” of the conflict is based on a pro-imperialist point of view, which excludes you from the Left. You are no socialist.

Reply

byork May 25, 2013 at 9:27 pm

David Berger says: “I knew way before the Iraq War, that there were no weapons of mass destruction. Why? First of all, and most crucial, there was no evidence. Anyone believing that there was such evidence was delusional”.

The problem with David and those who think like him is that he knew EVERYTHING “way before the war”, not just that there were no WMDs. That is why he jumped in with relish to oppose the war and was willing to see a fascist regime kept in power in Iraq rather than have a US-led coalition overthrow it and support the Iraqi people in their aspiration for parliamentary democracy. He KNEW that it was an unjust war because US imperialism was involved. And he KNEW that everything US imperialism does is part of its plan for world domination. And he KNEW that ANYTHING Bush said was COMPLETELY WRONG because socialists don’t believe a word Bush says. (If you believe a word Bush says, then you cannot possibly believe in social ownership of the means of production). That’s why he was opposed to the war from the get-go. No need for investigation or argument. He just KNEW it ALL because he could slot it into his abstract dogmatic formulaic world outlook.

And, of course, all the above explains how and why he KNOWS that the Syrian Ba’athists must be defended against US imperialism and KNOWS that siding with the democratic forces opposed to the regime is just playing into US imperialism’s hands. He KNEW it from the get-go.

This also helps understand why the David Bergers are so happy with their own like-minded company, a bit like a religious community that uncritcially reinforces its own dogmas – expressed in other threads at this site by the innumerable acronyms of grouplets and sects that have little relevance outside their own ranks (and that leave me Down Under shaking my head in disbelief at how fucked up what passes for ‘the left’ really is) – and why he is so hostile to those leftists who present a fundamentally different approach and an opposing view of politics. Indeed, he wants them banned from this site. All this is the exact opposite to the approach of any Marxist-influenced, or left-wing, thinker.

Reply

David Berger (RED DAVE) May 26, 2013 at 10:37 am

BYORK: David Berger says: “I knew way before the Iraq War, that there were no weapons of mass destruction. Why? First of all, and most crucial, there was no evidence. Anyone believing that there was such evidence was delusional”.

DAVID BERGER: Correct. Anyone reading the reports coming out of the UN inspection teams knew that.

BYORK: The problem with David and those who think like him is that he knew
EVERYTHING “way before the war”, not just that there were no WMDs.

DAVID BERGER: You just dishonestly avoided several important points: (1) there were, in fact, no weapons of mass destruction; (2) that was evident to any unbiased observer long before the invasion; (3) a systematic campaign of propaganda and lies was instituted by the Bush Administration, aided by key Democrats, to deny this fact; (4) you and your ilk consistently avoid addressing this.

BYORK: That is why he jumped in with relish to oppose the war

DAVID BERGER: No one in their right mind “jumps in with relish to oppose [a] war.” I have been through too many of them — wars and antiwar movements. This fucking country is almost always at war. Antiwar work is long, difficult and often unpleasant. But one thing I’ve never done, is support imperialist mass murder, which seems to be a hobby of yours and your ilk.

I say “hobby” because I see no indication that you are doing anything about it besides bullshitting here on the Internet. If you are such a great supporter of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, did you volunteer to go as a soldier? Did you pick up a gun to support your ideals? Did you pilot a plane to bomb the civilians of Baghdad? Have you applied for a job with Blackwater? Or are you a war wimp like Bush, Cheney and the rest of your allies?

BYORK: and was willing to see a fascist regime kept in power in Iraq

DAVID BERGER: One thing is clear: You don’t know the meaning of the word “fascist,” which you toss around so easily. All fascist regimes are dictatorships, yes. But not all dictatorships are fascist. You want to use the word “fascist” because then you can link up Saddam Hussein with Hitler. Nice try, but what went on in Iraq under Hussein, bad as it was, was not fascism.

BYORK: rather than have a US-led coalition overthrow it and support the Iraqi people in their aspiration for parliamentary democracy.

DAVID BERGER: First of all, there was no “US-led coalition,” clown. There was the USA and token forces from other countries. Except for the UK, which had 46,000 troops. The extent of that commitment, based on a well-known campaign of lies, can be judged by the a comparative number: New York City has 36,500 police. And the UK forces suffered 179 deaths.

And why, pray tell, did the USA, champion of democracy and the parliamentary system, have to subvert its own system by propaganda and lies? If the US was so intent on establishing parliamentary democracy, why didn’t it use its own parliamentary democracy to start the war?

I’m not about to engage in a systematic study of Iraqi “democracy” in 2013. But I note that 700 people were killed in political violence in Iraq in the past month, which does not seem to define a functioning parliamentary system. A proportional number for the US would about 6000 political deaths in one month. That is not a stable, parliamentary democracy.

BYORK: He KNEW that it was an unjust war because US imperialism was involved.

DAVID BERGER: In my lifetime, the US has fucked with, for the purposes of imperialist domination (from memory) Iran, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Chile, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Lebanon, Panama, Haiti and let’s not forget Afghanistan. I would say that the likelihood of the US engaging in a just war under George Bush is about as likely as shit floating upstream.

BYORK: And he KNEW that everything US imperialism does is part of its plan for world domination.

DAVID BERGER: Well, if you don’t think that imperialism is a system of world domination, what is it? A game of chess? Jesus are you naive.

BYORK: And he KNEW that ANYTHING Bush said was COMPLETELY WRONG because socialists don’t believe a word Bush says.

DAVID BERGER: Somehow you think its an epistomological or moral failure to assume that on any important issue, Bush is a liar. Well, a dose of reality: he has lied about virtually every political issue he has ever been involved in, whether it was the War in Vietnam or the No Child Left Behind Act. The burden of proof that Bush is telling the truth about an invasion that had to be systematically lied about to the American people, is on you. I suggest you get down off your high horse because, frankly, your ass is showing.

BYORK: (If you believe a word Bush says, then you cannot possibly believe in social ownership of the means of production).

DAVUD BERGER: What you believe in abstractly is entirely beside the point. I’m sure, for example, that Shactman still called himself a socialist when he supported the invasion of Cuba and the War in Vietnam. But socialism, Comrade, is the unity of theory and practice. And, frankly, your practice is support for imperialism. (And “social ownership of the means of production” is an awfully bloodless way to describe socialism.)

BYORK: That’s why he was opposed to the war from the get-go. No need for investigation or argument. He just KNEW it ALL because he could slot it into his abstract dogmatic formulaic world outlook.

DAVID BERGER: To paraphrase comedian Robert Wuhl, if there’s a conflict between facts and the legend, post the legend.

I have pointed out, from the first, that there was never any evidence for the existence of the weapons of mass destruction. The UN investigators, Hans Blix, et al., said so. I began with the evidence (or lack of it).

Likewise, I began with the evidence that the US ruling class would do in Iraq whatever it thought served its interest. It supported Saddam Hussein originally. Encouraged him in the Iran-Iraq War. Winked at him and conned him into thinking we would permit an invasion of Kuwait. Left him in power after the Gulf War. Embargoed the country and caused half a million deaths, mostly of children. That, byork, is evidence upon which I based my correct assessment of what the US was/is doing in Iraq.

Your evidence of US intention amounts to a speech by that master of truth, Condaleeza Rice.

BYORK: And, of course, all the above explains how and why he KNOWS that the Syrian Ba’athists must be defended against US imperialism and KNOWS that siding with the democratic forces opposed to the regime is just playing into US imperialism’s hands. He KNEW it from the get-go.

David Berger: Truth is, as I pointed out in another post, I have not expressed my opinion on Syria as I don’t feel I have all the facts. In the mean time, why don’t you go along and play Risk with Paul Wolfowitz, or maybe Josh Muravchik; he once called himself a socialist.

BYORK: This also helps understand why the David Bergers are so happy with their own like-minded company, a bit like a religious community that uncritcially reinforces its own dogmas – expressed in other threads at this site by the innumerable acronyms of grouplets and sects that have little relevance outside their own ranks (and that leave me Down Under shaking my head in disbelief at how fucked up what passes for ‘the left’ really is)

DAVID BERGER: Your rants show me that you know precisely zilch about the American left and even less about me. I wonder how you are involved with the left in Australia?

As a member at one time or another of six different unions, and an elected shop steward in three of them, an active member of Occupy Wall Street and a person who has not been a member of a left-wing group since the late Seventies, I would like to say, gently but firmly, that you do not know what the fuck you are talking about concerning me. Your attitude toward me is precisely your attitude towards imperialism: “Damn the facts. I know what I know is the truth.”

BYORK: and why he is so hostile to those leftists who present a fundamentally different approach and an opposing view of politics. Indeed, he wants them banned from this site.

DAVID BERGER: I am hostile to you because you are not a leftist. I have been one for a year or two, and I think I can recognize a comrade as opposed to an imperialist stooge. I would like you gone from this site like I would like any imperialist stooge. I wouldn’t let the likes of Penn Kemble or Tom Kahn post here either (if they were alive).

BYORK: All this is the exact opposite to the approach of any Marxist-influenced, or left-wing, thinker.

DAVID BERGER: Ignorance is bliss, byork. Stay happy.

Reply

jim sharp May 26, 2013 at 6:10 pm

DAVID BERGER said:
ignorance is bliss, byork. stay happy.
dave he ain’t unaware coz he’s pillar
of society an OA order of australia
no less & i don’t need to tell you that
the ruling class don’t hand out gongs
to”genuine revolutionaries” go figure!

Reply

Red Blob May 26, 2013 at 8:14 pm

I don’t see what purpose this serves. Its a personal slur rather than arguing through the issues.
What next will you be asking me to give the knighthood back?
Sir R Blob

Reply

byork May 27, 2013 at 2:26 am

Actually, I did receive that award for my services to anti-fascism and international solidarity. Naah! Only joking. It was for services to research and recording of immigration history. Hardly surprising given the extent of my contribution to that field nearly three decades. Jim Sharp and David Berger need each other. Ignorance is bliss indeed. Meanwhile the real world continues to pass them by and the Syrian anti-fascists continue to demand foreign military support. (Why did I bother?)

Reply

David Berger (RED DAVE) May 27, 2013 at 9:40 am

BYORK: Actually, I did receive that award for my services to anti-fascism and international solidarity. Naah! Only joking.

DAVID BERGER: Too bad it’s a joke. What you deserve is a reward for services to imperialism.

BYORK: It was for services to research and recording of immigration history. Hardly surprising given the extent of my contribution to that field nearly three decades.

DAVID BERGER: In the US, socialist historians don’t get rewarded by the government.

BYORK: Jim Sharp and David Berger need each other. Ignorance is bliss indeed.

DAVID BERGER: No, but evidentally you need the government of Australia to feed your ego.

BYORK: Meanwhile the real world continues to pass them by and the Syrian anti-fascists continue to demand foreign military support. (Why did I bother?)

DAVID BERGER: Why, indeed, since this thread is about Iraq. Apparently your skills in “research and recording” don’t let you distinguish between Iraq and Syria.

Reply

byork May 28, 2013 at 1:16 am

For all that, no US administration will again be able to impose a dictator onto the Iraqi people. And some European governments are about to lift their arms embargo paving the way to send arms to the anti-fascist Syrians. Your problem is that you are on the wrong side – it’s that basic.

Reply

David Berger (RED DAVE) May 28, 2013 at 8:48 am

BYORK: For all that, no US administration will again be able to impose a dictator onto the Iraqi people.

DAVID BERGER: That has nothing to do with the US ruling class. If the Iraqis have shown some sense of unity and dignity, that has nothing to do with the fact that the US ruling class invaded them, murdered them, ran their country for them. And in order to do this, it promulgated lies to its own people, thereby accelerating the loss of civil liberties here.

And you justify all this. You are ignoring political realities because you are so anxious to crawl into bed with one ruling class or another. Socialists do not usually accept membership into “orders of chivalry.”

BYORK: And some European governments are about to lift their arms embargo paving the way to send arms to the anti-fascist Syrians. Your problem is that you are on the wrong side – it’s that basic.

DAVID BERGER: Listen, fool, as I have said, many times, I haven’t entirely made up my mind about Syria. In fact, I support the US “arming” the rebels. However, I know what that usually means: arming the most disgusting factions.

Reply

Brian S. May 27, 2013 at 7:13 am

” And he KNEW that ANYTHING Bush said was COMPLETELY WRONG because socialists don’t believe a word Bush says.” I would say that eternal skepticism of anything an imperialist politician pontificates about is a pretty sound working rule of thumb for a socialist. Naive acceptance of everything they say, on the other hand, is not a good rule for anyone capable of rational thought, whatever their political persuasion.

Reply

byork May 28, 2013 at 1:11 am

Skepticism, sure. Automatic kneejerk rejection based on reactionary dogma, no!

Reply

David Berger (RED DAVE) June 4, 2013 at 10:45 am

BYORK: Skepticism, sure.

DAVID BERGER: When dealing with US imperialism, a little more than polite skepticism is in order. We begin with the notion that we are dealing with world capitalism, which we are dedicated to overthrowing. We also know that imperialism lies about everything. Having established that we are dealing with a system that deals in lies as a routine, we then go to the facts and, sure enough, lies again.

BYORK: Automatic kneejerk rejection based on reactionary dogma, no!

DAVID BERGER; The “reactionary dogma” is yours, byork. You are in support of imperialism. How much more reactionary can you get. When you wrapped a cake made of shit into a fancy box, it doesn’t come out as chocolate. Using socialist terminology doesn’t make you anything but an imperialist mouthpiece.

Reply

David Berger (RED DAVE) May 25, 2013 at 7:00 pm

Fascinating that none of the war-wimpying cheerleaders for the imperialist invasion of Iraq will comment on:

(1) The invasion of Iraq was a war crime.

(2) The invasion was preceded by a massive series of lies promulgated in the US, based to deceive the Congress and the people into supporting the war.

Are the Iraqis better off now after half a million dead in the US embargo and half a million dead in the invasion and subsequent civil war? If they are, it is no credit to the US but to the Iraqi people who succeed in spite of “shock and awe” and other war crimes.

Reply

Red Blob May 26, 2013 at 8:21 am
Arthur May 26, 2013 at 10:39 am

I already provided link to a more detailed version of same survey in this thread a month ago:

“The issue has been well and truly settled in Iraq, especially since the American withdrawal. Polls these days focus on the domestic politics of a (strife torn) democracy. For what it’s worth, Maliki’s approval rating seems currently better than Obama’s….

http://abunoass.net/uploads/pdf/greenbergen.pdf

Reply

Red Blob May 26, 2013 at 8:14 pm

yep my bad

Reply

David Berger (RED DAVE) May 26, 2013 at 2:26 pm

Often when discussions get mired down like this one, it’s instructive to go to the other side of praxis: political practice.

The Left in the US, which was/is universally against the US invasion/occupation of Iraq, has built UNAC, the United National Antiwar Coalition, worked in Occupy Wall Street and has participated in May Day and other events, all of which have a strong antiwar character.

What has your group of pro-invasion/occupation people done? Did you enlist in the armed forces to be part of the invasion and occupation? Did you oppose Australian withdrawal from Iraq? Did you send birthday greeting to Paul Wolfowitz?

Just for dessert, let me remind you that Kofi Annan called the US invasion illegal.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/3661134.stm

Or do you sit around and post shit on various websites apropos of nothing?

Reply

Bill Kerr May 26, 2013 at 8:27 pm

The September 2006 Opinion poll that arthur quotes from http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/pdf/sep06/Iraq_Sep06_rpt.pdf it seems clear that there were distinct phases in changing opinions in Iraq to what followed from the March 2003 US invasion:

1) High approval of the free elections that followed in December 2005 from the invasion and which would not have occurred otherwise

2) A declining approval (but still worth it overall) once sectarian warfare broke out

See p. 17:

A majority of Iraqis (61%) still believe that ousting Saddam Hussein was worth the hardships they might have suffered, however this is down sharply from the 77 percent who said this in January. Among Shias, the majority saying that was worth it has slipped from 98 percent to 75 percent, while among the Kurds it has dropped from 91 percent to 81 percent; the minorities saying it was not worth it has gone up to 23 percent among Shias and 18 percent among Kurds. The number of Sunnis saying it was not worth it has drifted upward from 83 percent to 89 percent, with only 11 percent saying that it was worth it.

However it should be noted that the current level of belief that Saddam’s ouster was worth the hardships is more consistent with previous findings by Gallup in 2004. The January 2006 finding of 77% may have been influenced by optimism over the election in December 2005.

So it is clear that the Shia and Kurds preferred the post Saddam situation whilst the Sunnis did not.

No flags were not waved by Shias but purple fingers were waved. Without the US invasion those purple fingers would not have been waved.

That is consistent with my analysis – based on reading Kanan Makiya – that Saddam’s Iraq was based on fear with the certain knowledge that you would be tortured if you stepped out of line, that democracy is preferable to Nazi type fascism etc. That is obvious to me and it is obvious to the Shia and Kurds (although not supported by the Sunnis).

At the start of the report (p. 4) it says that:

Support for attacks on US-led forces has grown to a majority position—now six in ten. Support
appears to be related to widespread perception, held by all ethnic groups, that the US government plans to have permanent military bases in Iraq and would not withdraw its forces from Iraq even if the Iraqi government asked it to. If the US were to commit to withdraw, more than half of those who approve of attacks on US troops say that their support for attacks would diminish.

It’s also clear that the fear that Iraqis had that the US would not withdraw when asked was unfounded.

So, Brian S, Pham Binh where does that leave you?

For Pham Binh the bottom line is a formula: “Imperialist invasion =/= revolution”

Brian S expressed the view above that formula’s were not enough:

I agree that we shouldn’t determine our attitude towards every action by imperialist states by simplistic “anti-imperialist” formulae. (Hence my positions on Syria and Libya); and that there are some extreme situations in which we have to weigh the human cost of intervention against the cost of non-intervention. But even when we come down in favour of the former we need to remember that we are supping with the devil.

That leaves opponents of the US invasion with a problem. Given that the US did invade, that they did support free elections and they did withdraw when asked by the government then the reservations that both the Iraqi people and the “anti-imperialists” had – that the US would behave in “typical imperialist” fashion and not leave when asked and set up military based against the wishes of the Iraqi government etc. – did not in fact live up to expectations. I see a need for “anti-imperialists” to update their analysis so it matches events in the real world.

Reply

David Berger (RED DAVE) May 26, 2013 at 11:27 pm

BILL KERR: That leaves opponents of the US invasion with a problem.

DAVID BERGER: Only in your mind, which is not the clearest.

BILL KERR: Given that the US did invade

DAVID BERGER; The US ruling class did more than “invade.” They contrived a criminal invasion and therefore a war crime. They bombed cities and engaged in massacres, torture and severely damaged the US economy and thereby the economy of the world. Approximately half a million Iraqis are dead, to top the half million who died as a result of the embargo.

In addition, the US ruling class engaged in a massive propaganda campaign, which involved out-and-out lies. Every who Iraqi died died to further US policy. Every American who was killed was killed to resist an illegal occupation. They were used as pawns by the ruling class.

All this, you ignore. I sincerely invite you, next year, to come to New York to the Left Forum to present your position. If you have the guts. And, by the way, how do you and your ilk feel about Afghanistan?

BILL KERR: In order to do this, the that they did support free elections

DAVID BERGER: Elections held during the occupation of the country are not free. When parties that opposed the invasion and occupation are not permitted to participate in the election, the election is not free. When an elections was stolen in the US, in 2000, as a prelude to the invasion of Iraq, that election was not free.

BILL KERR: and they did withdraw when asked by the government

DAVID BERGER: And if it didn’t suit the US ruling class, they wouldn’t have left.

BILL KERR: then the reservations that both the Iraqi people and the “anti-imperialists” had – that the US would behave in “typical imperialist” fashion and not leave when asked and set up military based against the wishes of the Iraqi government etc. – did not in fact live up to expectations.

DAVID BERGER: The expectation was that the invasion and occupation would serve the interests of the US ruling class. It did that. You are assuming that the scenario that you outline above is the only one that would serve the US ruling class. Obviously not.

BILL KERR: I see

DAVID BERGER: You see, on the basis of your pro-imperialist politics.

BILL KERR: a need for “anti-imperialists” to update their analysis so it matches events in the real world.

DAVID BERGER: And I see a need for you and your ilk to get nice comfortable jobs with some agency of one ruling class or another and stop bothering socialists with your bullshit.

Reply

Pham Binh May 27, 2013 at 1:27 am

It leaves us where it always has — on the right side of this issue. Because there were never any demonstrations in favor of the occupation (and may, many against it), you are forced to equate electoral participation with Iraqi approval of the invasion in the futile hope of legitimizing a criminal and bloody enterprise that ruined the country for many decades.

Revolutionary Syrians and Libyans continuously and correctly reject U.S. boots on the ground because they have learned the lesson the of Iraq that you, Arthur, and others here refuse to: don’t let the U.S. military set foot on your soil.

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Red Blob May 27, 2013 at 1:40 am

Bill Kerr the Iraqis clearly say that they think it was worth it if the US military go. But the rise in approval for the attacks on the US military is clearly linked to the idea that the US military planned to stay. I wonder where the Iraqis got that idea, maybe they were listening to the US government
“Those posts were among the bases set out by military planners as an “enduring” part of the U.S. presence in Iraq following the 2003 invasion. At the time, Bush administration and military officials openly discussed the possibility of using bases in Iraq as long-term staging points for U.S. air power relocated from Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Persian Gulf.

In March 2004, then-Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, a deputy commander of operations in Iraq, told The Chicago Tribune that enduring bases were “a blueprint for how we could operate in the Middle East.””
Just maybe the increasing approval for attacks on the US military convinced the US that Iraq wasn’t the place that they thought it would be. If that’s so then the Iraqi resistance did play a positive role in getting the troops out. I may have to rethink my anti resistance ideas.
Quotes came from a Stars and Stripes story “US Base projects continue in Iraq despite plans to leave” June 1 2010

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David Berger (RED DAVE) June 1, 2013 at 8:17 am

Just to keep things in perspective, in the past two months, the model democracy that the US set up in Iraq has had 1200 political murders.

Now, Iraq is very roughly 1/10 the size of the US, so that would, comparatively, mean a situation in the US of 12,000 political murders in two months.

And this is what some people here who call themselves socialists are in support of. I sincerely hope that at least one of the advocates for this position will show up at the Left Forum next week to defend this very new development on the Left.

Reply

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freds garden furniture November 17, 2015 at 5:07 am

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Pham Binh May 26, 2013 at 1:49 pm

Imperialist invasion =/= revolution.

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